Cultural markers in the East of England

Month: January 2015

Spirituality and Spiritualise

Spirituality, a report - pdf versionThe RSA has recently published a report, called Spiritualise – Revitalising Spirituality to address 21st Century Challenges, compiled by Dr Jonathan Rowson, Director of the Social Brain Centre, RSA.

(You can discover the action research pages of the Centre here at the RSA. ‘The RSA’s Social Brain Centre seeks to improve public awareness of how prevailing understandings of human nature, need and aspiration shape practice and policy’).

pdfIcon4 View, print or download a copy of this RSA report here…

Below the Reverend Sue Martin, FRSA briefly reflects upon the theme…

“…this is an interesting report of some depth and brings spirituality into the open for all groups of people; faith and non faith, intellectual and pragmatic. Encompassing a multitude of dimensions the report draws on cultural psychology, embodied cognition, the divided brain and neural plasticity. If you venture into these chapters of the report you will find profound research and questioning.

(Jonathan Rowson gives due credit to The RSA for provision of the important institutional framework to allow the research to proceed, and provides details of the contributions of the many philosophers, psychologists and cultural specialists et al whose workshop activities informed the research conversation).

Before you get too deeply into the exacting mental science behind ‘spirtualising’, take a moment to dwell on what is spirituality, how do we know if we have it, and what should we do with it, if and when we get it?

And the following questions, seemingly simple, pose thoughts for us even if there are, annoyingly, no immediate direct answers;

  • Is there something more than just this time and place?
  • What happens to us when we see or hear something that makes us have ‘goosebumps’?
  • When was the last time you found yourself thinking about those you love?
  • If we spend all our time in gaining material goods and wealth, how do we know when to stop, and when is enough, enough?

Dr Rawson tackles many areas of spiritualising and in section three of the report addresses belonging or being, from love and death, from self and soul. “ Love, death, self and soul were selected, not as an exhaustive or exclusive map, but to illustrate why the spiritual is not fringe or niche but right at the heart of our lives.” (Spiritualise – Revitalising Spirituality p.56). This is followed by a number of illuminated pathways to personal, social and political transformation, including a section from happiness to meaning and back again.

In a Christian dimension, happiness and blessing are much the same thing and we look here in the report beyond the straightforward aspect of being happy, which can be rendered  over simply, to see  it can be a constituent of a deep and fulfilling spirituality.

The Dalai Lama in his book The Art of Happiness, links happiness to a quest for learning;
We don’t need more money, we don’t need greater success or fame, we don’t need the perfect body or even the the perfect mate… at this very moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.

The Himalayas

A Himalayan view…

Spirituality is like the tip of an iceberg, or rather a view from the top of a mountain. We think we know it all because we believe what we see is all that there is. Yet beneath lies a volume of intellectual matter and reflection that deeply conditions our existence.

Dr Rawson has produced an excellent research report and I wonder if this is something that  RSA Fellows in the East can pursue in further discussion and reflection; not seeking the ‘answers’ but in seeking meaning and understanding”.

Reverend Sue Martin FRSA, Diocese of Norwich



(Is there potential for a regional group to combine, reflect and look to create a project that can carry forward the theme of spirituality, social change and the human condition? Respond to Sue Martin’s rallying call using our ‘contact us’ service above and we’ll post a project proposal on these web pages to help the idea coalesce…Ed.)

Photo credit: Nepal and the mountains – courtesy of Sue Martin.



Chelmsford Remembers
– Mental Health and the Armed Forces

Chelmsford Remembers Banner2 image

As part of the Fellow led Chelmsford Remembers Project there is an upcoming joint meeting of RSA Chelmsford and The Civic Society at Anglia Ruskin University , Chelmsford.

Date: Monday 9th February, 2015 – 5.45pm for 6.00pm start

Venue: Room 001, The Sawyer Building, Anglia Ruskin University.

We are very pleased to announce that our guest speakers for the event  will be Air Vice Marshall Ray Lock CBE, who is Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes from the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

This event, as part of Chelmsford Remembers, links the centenary commemorations of the First World War to the effects of deployment to war zones today. Other items include…

  • Final report on the Ideas Festival 2014 (IF2014) and the initial consultations on 2015. IF2015 will run from the 18th October 2015 to 1st November inclusive.
  • Update on negotiations on future uses for the Hall Street Marconi Factory.
  • Notifications on upcoming Chelmsford Remembers event with Dr. Paul Rusiecki author of The Impact of Catastrophe – The First World War.

If you are able to attend, do please confirm with Malcolm Noble – (mnoble3211 at, or use our ‘contact us’ panel above and send Malcolm a message directly from this web page.



Sainsbury Centre – a diary date


Visit The Sainsbury Centre on-line here…

RSA East of England Visit to the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia

Friday 20 February 10.30 am to 2pm

eventbriteButton    You can book on-line here…

Fellows are invited to a guided tour of the outstanding collection at the Sainsbury Centre, UEA including the major REALITY exhibition of Modern British painting, Matisse sculptures (‘The Backs’), as well as the permanent collection (

REALITY brings together over 50 works celebrating the strength of British painting with some of the best and most influential artists of the last sixty years, testifying to the survival of painting as a medium and the impact of British painting today. Major 20th Century artists are represented such as Walter Sickert, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney, alongside contemporary painters including Ken Currie, George Shaw and Caroline Walker.

The tour will be followed by lunch in the restaurant. Lunch is self service but we have reserved a table, so Fellows can eat together and review the morning.

interneticon  See more details on our events page here…

Sainsbury Centre image credit: lucyrfisher via photopin cc


Abbey People? A great volunteering opportunity

The Fellow led RSA Cambridge Network are offering their support to the Abbey People community project.

This is a call to action for new volunteers from the Fellowship in the East of England and beyond.

Abbey People is a community group working to support residents in the Abbey Ward , located in the east of Cambridge City. This is  a dynamic, energetic and committed community that are responding to a need for change in community resources, the environment and in their economic landscape too. Can you help?

This great short film, made by Hilary Cox for Abbey People, conveys the energy and enthusiasm of the community. (…and some stirring and engaging piano playing too…Ed.)

See the movie on YouTubeYou can see the original film on YouTube here.

The group are currently looking for Trustees and other support for their governance and project development…


View, print or download this information and contacts here…pdf version

“…Trustee roles
We have bi-monthly Trustee meetings, usually on a Monday evening. In addition to meetings Trustees contribute their skills to different aspects of our work e.g. events, projects, consultation.

pdfIcon4You can download a pdf copy of the original call for Trustees document here…

Treasurer – We are looking for someone with the financial skill and experience to become our Treasurer. We anticipate this role will take approx. 5 hours per month, including meetings.

Trustee – Someone who is keen to support our aims in the Abbey ward and who has skills, time and experience to contribute. We would be interested to hear from anyone with an interest in developing a particular area of work e.g. supporting Older People, Improving our Environment

Supporting roles
We are a young community group with ambition. To help us fulfil our potential we would appreciate support from people with expertise and time to offer in these areas

• Administrative support – including taking minutes, collating information

• Book-keeper ideally a volunteer, but will consider small remuneration. To maintain the accounts using Quick Books (training can be provided) ensuring payments are made, correct recording, running payroll monthly, dealing with HMRC, liaising with the Treasurer. Approx 8 hours pcm

• Marketing and Communications – including developing our communications strategy and use of social media

• Volunteer Coordination – including recruitment, development and retention…”


We support Abbey People too! Go volunteers!

You can discover Abbey People, their projects, ambitions and enthusiasm on-line here.

As a Fellow, wherever you are in the world, the power of your imagination and the internet can help you to help the people of Abbey with their project aims.

To get connected you can download the Abbey People notice above. Or you can securely send your contact details, immediately below, to conversationsEAST and we’ll speedily forward them to Stuart, Wendy or Sam.


Thinking about the Fellowship, 2014

Looking ahead to 2015

Looking ahead to 2015

During the summer of 2014 the Society sent out a survey to the Fellowship, seeking their responses on a number of issues and asking for their views and comments.

Below is a copy that analysis, garnered from the 29% of Fellows who responded, along with some thoughts from the conversationsEAST team as to how our contribution to the work of the Fellowship might be flexed, in response to the findings.

The summary findings from The House indicated the following…

“Overall responses to the survey were positive. Over two-thirds of Fellows join–at least partially–to support our mission, the quality of almost all of our outputs is seen as very high and by far the majority of Fellows are intending to renew their Fellowship. The Survey also generated a large amount of information that can be used to guide ongoing Fellowship development”.

Key findings included…

  • There is less satisfaction with local events compared to other areas of our work.
  • There are a large number of Fellows wanting to self- organise but are frustrated at being unable to do so.
  • There are a large number of Fellows wanting to self- organise but are frustrated at being unable to do so.
  • Some Fellows want to be more involved in the work we do.
  • There is a lack of knowledge about what we do. Across the seven RSA Projects included in the survey, `have not heard of it at all’ accounted for between a quarter and a half of all responses.
  • Younger people and females are less likely to recommend the Fellowship to suitable people than others
  • There are strong regional variations in how Fellows perceive the RSA.

(Key findings drawn from the RSA Fellowship summary report – Ed.)

Looking forward into 2015 we have recently published our ‘road-map’ as a journal, where we have been working with Tim, our new Fellowship Councillor in the East, to develop a series of gatherings to explore how Fellows can become more engaged with the Society.

pdfIcon4You can view, print or download a copy of the 2014 RSA Survey here


See the Survey here…

We will, as stated, pivot these, supporting Tim directly in the delivery of a series of Fellowship Councillor Surgeries across the region. This might help inform and engage the interested Fellowship directly. Offering an informal setting, with refreshments, for the survey itself to be discussed and for Tim to explain and heighten awareness of the work and input of the Fellowship Council itself. One of the findings in the survey was that many Fellows were unaware of the function of the Fellowship Council, for example.

Another way forward, we would argue, would be to foster the engagement of female Fellows, either as new Fellows, or to develop some way to engage with the Fellowship on a gender basis. We have written before in this journal and in our regional annual reports about the gender imbalances, including in the Fellowship, in our region.

(We could start an Otrera Group in every region to foster the engagement and promotion of Fellowship skills by gender, for example? -Ed.)

If this imbalance in Fellowship is ‘normalised’ across all regions, we would look to develop a campaign/project to engage by gender across adjacent regions for example. Sharing both the information in the recent survey, but garnering explicit local knowledge on gender bias as part of the project initiation work.

(Having talked so long about the matter, it seems that a short burst of positive discrimination, in terms of engagement and resources, might go a long way? -Ed.)

In our publishing activities we will develop a ‘Fellows have their say!’ web journal page. Where the Fellowship can directly contribute to the regional debate in the East. This might be particularly useful in bolstering the regional events catalogue in terms of feedback or activity recommendation. All this information will be passed directly and securely to the Eastern Region Fellowship team, of course.

We will foster and web publish a set of ‘View from the Fellowship Council’ reports. Getting Tim to write a regular review of Council activity and debate, in a generalised way, which can feed into regional meetings and, more importantly, be immediately available to the wider regional Fellowship. Helping to support and deliver a clearer understanding of its work and role.

We think the new RSA web site, arriving this month, which will enable Fellows to contact each other directly if they wish, offers an important and effective mechanism for pan regional co-operation, as well as improving inter-region project and activity development. We look forward to reviewing it on our web pages.

Also useful, we believe, will be the launch of artSUFFUSION, our sister arts focused web journal. We are refining the publication manifesto this month.

We hope that by combining the arts, crafts and making into one energy stream in the region, whilst connecting new conversationsEAST social enterprise start-up projects, we can also help convert our Society’s brilliant research papers and mission into real world examples of sustainable community business and social outcome funded projects.

We look forward to 2015, hoping that our readers will come along with us?

The conversationsEAST team.

Article image credit: David J. Thomas via photopin cc



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