Category Archives: The Arts

Cambridge Open Art 2019 diary date!

Dates of the next Cambridge Open Art Exhibition are:

Friday 11th October 2019 to Sunday 13th October 2019

At Swavesey Village College, Gibraltar Lane, Swavesey CB24 4RS

See more of the work of the Cambridge Open Art Exhibition – https://coax.org.uk

You can join the COAE mailing list here

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Arts & Business news

Cambridge Open Art Festival 2018 - image and web link
Read our original article here…

Just updated: 17th September 2018

Open Art Exhibition 2018 - catalogue image and web link
Exhibition catalogue available here…

This great exhibition is almost upon us. You can view, print or download the full exhibition catalogue here.

 

We recently ran an article on our pages about the Cambridge Open Art Exhibition 2018. Well the deadline for the submission of artwork for this year’s event is very close.

We have published the key dates, courtesy of the Open Art team, below. Don’t rush, but safely head towards the deadline at a good speed. Good luck too!

 

Key Dates for Artists:
Artwork entry/image deadline Friday 17th August 2018

Delivery of Artwork to Swavesey Village College:
Thursday 11th October 2018 between 4.30pm and 7pm

Collection of Unsold artwork:
Sunday 14th October 2018 between 4.15pm and 5.30pm

Exhibition Dates:
Preview Friday 12th Oct 6.30-9pm
Saturday 13th Oct 10am-5pm
Sunday 14th Oct 10am-4pm
at Swavesey Village College CB24 4RS

Read more about this energising, artistic project here.


SupportingCambs - image and web link
See more here…
Thirdsectorweb, our community web delivery arm, has been having a bit of a tidy up. We have been cleaning up some of our web assets, some of which, although worthy, now need refreshment.
 
 
Seeded and grown by a community interest company called ABMEC, our Partnership has continued to fund and maintain their web site and content.
 
The CIC Registrar dissolved the company in August 2015. We would now like to add two new categories to the list of featured content – which is being updated again as we write.
 
We now want to add two new buttons – The Arts and Enterprise/Business to the pages of Supportingcambridgshire.com
Partly to illustrate hope, activities which cast forward and stimulate creativity – as a break from engagement with crisis. We recognise that not all newly arrived residents fit this category, of course.
 
The Arts can include any welcoming, inclusive creative activity that supports newly arrived or minority community members.
 
Enterprise/Business can be services, free at the point of delivery, which will add to the enterprise creation expertise and knowledge of our communities of interest.
 
If you have a group, or project, that welcomes any new arrivals or BME community members in these categories, drop us a line and we’ll add it to our community gazette.
 
If you write a 100 words or so to tell us what you do, that would be great too. We will support contributors by using our publication skills to develop and promote the work of groups.
 

 

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Cambridge Open Art Exhibition 2018

Exhibition Dates: 12th to 14th October at Swavesey Village College

Cambridge OPen Art Exhibition 2018 - image and web link

Call for entries Open Tuesday 12th June 2018 – see below for details:

# Updated: July 12th, 2018  – ”We had a very fast sign up to this year’s exhibition in October and the exhibition is now full. Many thanks to all artists who have applied this year – we are set for another exciting exhibition.

There are tables still available for selling cards, small gifts and unframed prints on the Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday daytime at £15 per day for exhibiting artists and £25 per day for non exhibiting artists”.

    See full details of tables, waiting list and entry here


Exhibition dates and times:

Friday 12th October 6.30 – 9pm               Preview and Prize giving

Saturday 13th October 10 – 5pm             

Sunday 14th October 10 – 4pm                            

You may enter artwork on-line from Tuesday 12th June. The exhibition is non-selective. Only the first 270 artworks entered can be accepted.

The Closing date for Entries is Friday 17th August or earlier if fully subscribed.

Source: https://coax.org.uk/2018/05/conditions-of-entry-2018/

The Cambridge Art Awards, emerging from the exhibition, will give the top twenty artists selected the opportunity to exhibit their work at the Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge during December 2018.

There will also be a Best in Show Prize available of £300, three runner-up prizes and a Win A Picture draw for visitors, the the value of £150.

You can find all the conditions for entry, fees and ‘get in and get out’ for the exhibition here:  https://coax.org.uk/2018/05/conditions-of-entry-2018/


About Cambridge Open Art:

The open art exhibition is owned and run by volunteer artists, to promote art, artists and well being through exhibition, education and participation.

It is a not-for-profit, self-funded organization run by volunteers.  Presently the volunteers are assisted by the local Arts Development Manager at Swavesey Village College. We are actively seeking business sponsorship to support the exhibition. We work with a charity partner and are hoping to gain a media partner“.

See more at: https://coax.org.uk/who-are-we/


If you are already preparing your palette good luck from us all at conversationsEAST.

Enlightenment in the East of England

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Once Upon A Festival – Suffolk Libraries

We love libraries!

 

 

 

 

In 1851 J.W.Hudson, speaking at the opening of the Mechanic’ and Apprentices’ Library in Liverpool, opined that a visit to the library would, for the reader, lead to them ‘…receiving cultivation, not in reading the latest accounts of mis-demeanours and local calamities…but in imbibing instruction and high gratification from the perusal of select and valuable works whether they lead him with the traveller, across the pathless tracts of oceans, or cheer and console him, with moral sketches of human nature’.  (Source: Mid-Victorian Britain 1851-75, Geoffrey Best, Fontana Press, 1985, London, p.232)

Once Upn a Festival button, image and web link
See more about the Festival here…

Whilst the publicly accessible library, after nearly a century or more of rising literacy in our country would then clearly stir the intellectual interest of Everyman (and Everywoman and Everychild too – Ed.) the message is still clarion today, stimulating the autodidact to seize the high ground of undiscovered knowledge and learning.

The adult, or child reader, will today find a mesmerising range of interests available at their local library that carries the long echo from that opening event in mid-nineteenth century Liverpool. Experience is still to be garnered for the mind, in the face of closures, funding cuts and, perhaps, even a topical turn away from the intellect towards ‘accounts of mis-demeanours and local calamities‘.

Suffolk Libraries web button - image and web linkSuffolk Libraries, during June 2018, are teaming up with Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds to host five performances as part of the ‘Once Upon A Festival’ children’s arts festival.

The Suffolk Libraries festival programme looks like this:

Once Upon a Festival: Pied Piper

Sat 16 June – 1045 to 11.30
Bury St Edmunds Library

‘When the Pied Piper plays his flute the rats run, the greedy mayor rubs his hands and the children dance… Norwich Puppet Theatre’s humorous and irresistible one-person show combines a skillful mix of puppetry, foot-tapping music and storytelling and will have audiences young and old entranced’.

Once Upon a Festival: The Children in the Moon

Sat 16 June – 1430 to 15.15
Newmarket Library

‘The Children in the Moon is a wonderfully visual and original take on centuries old children’s verse, packed with puppetry and live music this is an ideal show for all the family. Tickets for this show are £1 per child’.

Once Upon a Festival: Graffiti Classics

Wed 20 June – 1530 to 1630
Newmarket Library

‘6 strings, 8 dancing feet and 4 voices with 1 aim: to make classical music wickedly funny and fantastically exhilarating for everyone, young and old. Graffiti Classics burst the elitist boundaries of the traditional string quartet with their hilarious all-singing, all-dancing musical comedy show’.

Use the Suffolk Library links to check out these gems of ‘library performance’ and kick-start the 7 to 13 year old auto-didact in your family today.


Context and Editor Notes:

Libraries and the Arts are deeply embedded in our culture and history. By the 1680’s, in England, libraries were growing more common, from the large installation in the affluent country house, to ‘the more modest bookshelf in the yeoman’s farm‘. Public libraries, as we might understand the term, were extremely rare outside Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1684, the Rector of St. Martin’s in the Fields, working with Christopher Wren, set out to build a library ‘for public use’. The Rector and Wren built a large house in the grounds of the churchyard, using the upper story as an accessible library and the downstairs as a ‘workroom for the poor’.

Thus beginning, arguably, the long tradition of the library as a multi-use space, feeding the individual mind, raising community social capital and road-mapping the way to the intellectual horizon.

Everything we might want today.

(Source: English Social History – Chaucer to Queen Victoria, G.M.Trevelyan, Penguin Books, London, 1978, p. 279)

Once Upon A Festival is now in its fourth year and aims to make performance art more accessible in theatres, schools and communities by taking the performances to children in their school or community. For more information visit www.onceuponafestival.co.uk   

Melissa Matthews, Suffolk Libraries Art Programme Co-ordinator, says: “We’re delighted to host these events. Once Upon A Festival delivers high quality dynamic performances from a variety of companies and libraries are a great place to host exciting events like this in the community. We want to deliver more events like this as part of our Arts programme to open up new and accessible arts experiences for children and young people.”

(Source: Suffolk Libraries Press Release, June 2018 – https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/news/once-upon-a-festival/ )

Love your library, whatever age it is – we do!

Enlightenment in the East of England

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Artist in Residence, Culture LAB: Arts in the Community

We publish a continuous arts job feed here:

Ipswich County Library

Week-long, mixed media residency working in partnership with METAL

Sullfolk Libraries web button 4 - image and web linkMonday 30 July – Friday 3 August 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘As part of Year 1 of the Suffolk Libraries Arts Programme, we are inviting Suffolk artists to take over the top floor of Ipswich County Library to explore the role creativity plays as catalyst for nurturing confidence and well-being in young people’.

Source: https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/about/jobs/ipswich-artist-in-residence/

In April 2018, Suffolk Libraries were awarded NPO status by Arts Council England. Following the residency, artists may be approached by Suffolk Libraries to be commissioned to deliver pilots of their projects from September 2018.

Discover this arts opportunity, and others, on our regularly updated arts job news-feed here.

See the job description, duration, remuneration and audience focus for the work. Check back regularly for updated feeds on arts-centred employment in the East of England. See more here.

Enlightenment in the East of England

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Finnish art in the Public Domain

The Finnish National Gallery has made twelve thousand works of art available in the Public Domain. Free to use, they are licensed and distributed under the CC0 license.

Not all of the Finnish national holdings have been released, but this substantial artistic trove can be deployed for teaching, as well as research and for commercial use.

An arts journey in the Public Domain courtesy of The Finnish National Gallery

This featured image, entitled  Sarjasta Suites francaises 2 (1999): Léscapade á bicyclette, by Elina Brotherus is an example of the contemporary works that can be found on-line. See more here

You can search the Finnish National Gallery archives by artist/creator, date, theme and technique using the search pages here.

Finnish artists like Helene Schjerfbeck, Albert Edelfelt and  Hugo Simberg represent home land creativity. However, you can also find internationally famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch.

The Finnish National Gallery also makes the collection meta-data freely available as an API, so that you can add standardised biographical data to your web installation or application, if using the API. See more details here

We like the international flavour, and the wide variety of images, contained within such a flexible license, immensely. We know that we will be using this resource in our creative projects in the future.

Other freely licensed image collections are available. We have added a flavour of the resources below.

Bravo Finland and its artistic freedom!


Other Public Domain Art resources:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York Public Library – Digital Collections

Public Domain Archive

Getty Museum – Open Collection

Yale University Art Gallery

A Euoropean art resource to be savoured can be found on the web pages of Europeana – see https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/collections/art

Europeana also offers its readers a very sound Public Domain Charter – helping users of Public Domain works to better understand and deploy items in their own works. We recommend it.

See more at… https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/rights/public-domain-charter.html

 


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Whither libraries?

Too old, too big…too little used?

Article update: 28.10.2017  – A really sound article on the utility of libraries by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett –  No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish  from The Guardian of Thursday, 26th October, 2017.

In it Cosslet takes to task the political pundit Andre Walker, for his omnipotent vision of the library service in the UK. Namely that no-one visits them anymore and they should all be closed down and the books given to schools.

Is there something Presidential in this decimation of the library service by Twitter?

Rhiannon goes on to thread her story with her use of the public library when young – developing intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, knowledge of the world and taking up the rich opportunity public libraries offer to graze the landscape of the word, six books at a  time.

We recommend the article to our readers.


Original text: In the Spring of 2015 the Adam Smith Institute published an article entitled ‘The End of Local Authority Libraries‘. As the economic ice age of Osbornian austerity descended upon us, the Press was full of cultural turbulence about the closure and operational rigidity of our national literacy assets.

Although the general  Press attention has diminished, it is telling that the dilution of the library service has continued unabated, albeit with increasingly diminished media currency, as we have been further overwhelmed by matters of political moment in and about Europe, perhaps.

View, print or download the full report here…pdf

Central government, arguably, remains enthusiastic and espouses a positive vison for the library service. The recent report Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 from the Libraries Taskforce, is almost entirely upbeat about the half decade ahead. They offer a vision of a multiplicity of supported delivery systems for a local library in section 6.3 of the report.

The website Public Libraries News, in July, declared that now ‘there are at least five hundred libraries that are staffed, if not entirely run by volunteers’. On the one hand, this is a sign, we would argue, that there is profound suport for the local library at grassroots level. But it is also a sign, looking at the plethora of continual changes and negative reviews of library services across the country on the website, that there is no clear, effective and equally profound form of new governance emerging for libraries.

One that, at once taps into localism, yet satisfies the need for an eclectic and near universal access to knowledge and leisure, free at the point of delivery for those who need it most.

The trade union Unison are to hold a National SOS Day on the 19th of October, 2017. Save our Services is designed to show that ‘...libraries are a hub and a haven in our communities. They offer a place for people to work, relax, discover and think.They are a source of local knowledge and history and give everyone access to books, DVDs, music and more, for free or at a very low cost.

But libraries also do a lot more than lend books. Many hold events, anything from story time for children to yoga classes for adults. Library workers help people look for work, advise on using IT, organise talks by authors and so much more‘.

Source: https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2017/08/sos-day-17/

The debate, then, continues to have currency. The Adam Smith Institute argued, in its article by Eamonn Butler, that the free market was the solution to the ‘library deficit’ issue, as to be expected. That exemplars of library innovation, in the shape of American organisations such as Library Systems and Services, were to be the saviours of a moribund library market.

However, research shows that the accession of LSSI to the pinnacle of library stewardship has not been entirely successful in the USA. An earlier article in the New York Times shows how both library staff and users, even in the more affluent cities where LSSI has obtained contracts, have been happy to lead protests. Dissenting voices to the ending of  unionised services, diminution of book stocks and antagonism towards the ethics of ‘libraries for profit’.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html

The City Library, Birmingham

The Butler argument, from the Adam Smith Institute, saw the then new Birmingham City Library building as an example of ossification of service. The £188 million building began to operate on a ‘self-funded’ basis for events, for example, in the context of author events or arts activity. Both previously seen as draws to footfall for the library service. Indeed key activities in a wider cultural obligation for libraries, we would argue.

However, debate about the capital cost of a building in austere times is one thing, but the Institute author’s position somewhat fails to recognise that it is free market policies which have led to the very fiscal landscape that has so diminished the library service.

If a library is battered by exogenous fiscal policy upheaval, it is somewhat unfair to blame the librarian for lack of service, or diversity in activity, surely?

Is there hope for change? We think so.

We were pleased to see that there is widening acceptance by Councils that the community should have control of libraries as a community resource. At the beginning of August, for example, Derby City Council declared for the cessation of control of ten libraries, which will see ‘…the loss of at least 39 library assistants’ jobs and two library managers, of almost 100 staff who work for the authority. Community groups will get £17,500 a year each to fund their own managed libraries until 2022…’

Source: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/attempt-stop-biggest-ever-shake-265614

What is concerning, in this case, is the timetable and the level of grant in aid ceded to the community organisations in the City, to effectively manage the transfer and creation of a new community organisation to deliver the service.

More positively again, Bury Council this month have approved a new community asset transfer plan. ‘The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents‘. The landscape of community opportunity grows!

Source: http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/15439093.New_policy_hopes_to_make_it_easier_for_groups_to_take_ownership_of_council_buildings/

However, it is entirely possible, we would argue, to imagine the creation of community libraries as Social Enterprises, where the not for profit governance model delivers a mix of volunteer and employee led services, bolstered by an admixture of social business services to support and maintain the core library provision.

A community cafe, a learning centre, a gardening or horticultural project…the list could easily be imaginatively extended by a dynamic, active community. The whole focused upon the creation of ‘…a place for people to work, relax, discover and think‘, to remind us of the Unison observation.

If the trade union are having an SOS Day, why do we not start a new think-tank movement, LASER – Libraries as Social Enterprise Renewal.

Write to conversationsEAST if you are interested in social enterprise, passionate about libraries and learning and keen to develop governance-sound, community led, not for profit library buildings.

We’ll publish a web site, host a meeting and give the idea traction?


Additional narrative – 20.08.2017

Read more here…

We have just come across a recent article in Wired by Susan Crawford, where she argues for a resurgence in phiilanthropy to revitalise the library service.

In the text, in response to a recent tweet by Jeff Bezos asking for suggestions about a new shape for his giving, she argues for an Amazon/Bezos programme of giving to libraries.

Developing Jeff Bezos’s current long term view of his ‘social investments’ towards, arguably, a philanthropic delivery that would cater for the short and the long term. Mr. Bezos describes his search for a new intitiative ‘…to help people in the here and now’. Our new library programme, as described, would do that, but also cater for the long term too.

Namely a series of Amazon Memorial Libraries, or Bezos Community Cultural Centres, would benefit the communities they were placed in, but they would also create new readers and enhance human capital in the hinterland of their sites, as well as delivering a major philosophical boost to the image of Amazon as a socially beneficial company.

You can read Susan Crawford’s piece on the pages of Wired here.

We understand Jeff Bezos reads every email sent directly to him. We’ll write to Mr. Bezos and make a suggestion supporting a new philanthropic venture into the British library landscape, and explore the models that might be created.

We would argue that history has been kind to the Carnegie model of library establishment, why should not future generations look as kindly upon Jeff Bezos?

Watch this space for an update, even if we don’t get a reply!


Useful links to accompany this article:

Library over-watch!

http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/

Use it or lose it! – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/16/library-use-in-england-fell-dramatically-over-last-decade-figures-show

City Library Birmingham: Image by Gareth Williams - Creative Commons

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Bologna, books and biglietti

Animal illustrations for the Book Fair in Bologna...
Dining in Bologna at the Children’s Book Fair 2017…

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We hopped on the bus near the Ospedale Maggiore di Bologna, having purchased our biglietti for Euro 1.50, and found we could ride the autobus, through the medieval cobbled streets of the city, in any direction for ninety minutes”.

Our Partnership team were in Bologna, Italy last week. We were attending the Children’s Book Fair to meet with publishers, authors and artists, and to soak up the atmosphere of world class creativity and dynamism that is the book trade for children in Italy.

Being regular attenders at the London Book Fair, it was noticeable that, although the giant Amazon had a media stand at the week in Bologna, there was nothing like the all pervading presence they seemed to have in London earlier in the year.

Indeed, for the retail giant Italy is still a market in development. We noted that “…Amazon’s Prime service offers one-day delivery of a million products in 6,000 Italian towns and 2-3 days for the rest of the country“.  Read more here… Source: Italy24 web pages.

Bologna Book Fair 2017 image
Bologna Book Fair detail…

With a significant Amazon building and development programme in Italy under way, the diversity and complexity of the other international publishing presences in Bologna, from traditional publishers to independent writers, artists and agents, was a sign that the trade in Italy is perhaps conditioned and delivered still in a very traditional way. Affording much opportunity for disruptive innovation in retail distribution we suspect.

As a micro-publisher, establishing our own tentative foothold in the Italian market, what was stunningly noticeable was the available space and ease with which new graphic artists, illustrators and designers could display their work.

Whatever language children are reading in, the quality of the illustrative art applied to the story enhances and opens that bridge to the imagination. It is as important as the ‘book’ itself, or the page layout or font choice, we would argue. The simplest narrative story can become an exciting page turner with the addition of wonderful artistic creativity. There was much of it evident in Italy last week.

Entering the exhibition halls at the event in Bologna Fiere was like stepping into a giant gallery. With a fantastic display of artwork in the principal foyer, annexed to a series of giant display boards for the young and independent artist to display samples of their work. Although the book trade is about business, the Italian approach led with free form creativity and individual design expertise in a way that we felt was unusual in the English book trade.

Some simple highlights for us during the week

Illustration by Marco Bonatti image
Illustration by Marco Bonatti

 

 

 

 

Marco Bonatti

We enjoyed the informal display of Marco’s work. He produces character with a gentle style, with which to enhance any children’s story, we felt. Engaging, friendly but equally up to the illustration of a more challenging narrative.

Based in Desenzano del Gardo, Italy – you can find Marco Bonatti’s work on the web here.

Katie Rewse

Katie Rewse image
Katie Rewse, using blue to effect…

Katie both studies and lectures in the Arts at Bournemouth University. She also runs Seablue Designs, a wonderfully evocative title for her business, which encompasses oceanic themes and a subtle and diverse range of blue in her work.

Katie’s palette, even informally displayed,  is striking when seen from a distance, which is what caught our eye, but is equally as powerful on the page when feeding a child’s imagination.

See Katie’s work on the web here.

 

 

 

Natasha Durley

Natasha Durley, pattern and proportion…

Another graduate of Bournemouth University Arts faculty, Natasha produces images of plants and animals that are bold in structure and colour, but which are always seemingly ‘anatomically’ sound and proportionally framed.

We liked her structured pattern work particularly, standing out as it did from many of her contemporaries on display in Bologna.

You can find Natasha’s award winning work on the web here.

 

 

 

 

Alessandra Fusi

Allesandra Fusi - a traditional style - image
Allesandra Fusi – a traditional style?

An artist and animation specialist, resident in Bologna, Alessandra has exhibited her work across not only Italy, but also Europe and the USA.

Her pen work was superb we thought, creating striking black and white images for her clients.

Alessandra has an ability to portray character through her artistry, but holds her style very much in the traditional fairytale mannerism, to which she expresses an enduring fascination.

You can see Alessandra’s work on the web here.

(All artist featured images captured from the Bologna Children's Fair ad-hoc display boards in 2017. Copyright remains entirely with the individual artist).

It was the artistry and illustrative energy that was the touchstone experience for us in Bologna this year. Although we were able to build a number of new partnerships and projects for 2017/2018, it is the imprint of ‘the image’ that will stay with us, particularly the energy of the work typical of the artists we have championed above.

Historical linearity in illustration:

We were looking, on behalf of another project before our departure for mainland Europe last week, at the history of children’s book illustration. The Digital Bodleian in Oxford have a wonderful new web resource featuring a number of historic children’s books and games.

You can trace a linear development between the Bodleian web holdings, many dating from the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, through to the modern day.

Not only in their stories about children, but also how the imaginative landscape is pictured, focused on illustration as we are in this article. Innovation was the driving force even then.

Colouring instruction - 1824
Colouring instruction – 1824

 

 

 

 

 

We particularly liked the game Choriama, dating from 1824, which serves as a ‘youth’s instructor’ in the drawing and colouring of landscape. The work being made up of a number of individual landscape sections, which can be folded and re-folded to create new topographies of play. See more at the Digital Bodleian here.

 

A Round of Fun - education and art? - image
A Round of Fun – education and art?

We also warmed to depictions of  A Round of Fun. Pleasant illustrations of classroom activity where imagination and fun, with guidance , are the focus of the day’s activity. Is this not how school should be?

This work, in the Digital Bodleian, was created in England but was printed in Germany. See more of the Round of Fun at the Digital Bodleian on the web here.

Our whole Digital Bodleian experience, looking back, has been resonant with echoes of  our contemporary take on the Book Fair in Bologna.

Creative and imaginative illustrations, some classical and others traditional in feel, the many with a modernist take on old themes – the whole utilising the practised hand of the artist, European production skills and education marketing.  A creative journey from the Nineteenth Century to now, following enduring first principles.

Our biglietti:

We are already booking them for the 2018 event! Perhaps we may see another blue crocodile?


Editorial note on Italy:

Italians, in a recent report, the Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries, lay claim to being some of the healthiest citizens in the world. Despite the prolonged downturn in the country’s economy and with up to 40% of the young unemployed.

It is the proximity to high art and culture, as well as a high vegetable and fruit diet, that must be responsible for the continual flowering of Italian artistic endeavour surely?

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Chelmsford Ideas – opening the Festival

 Visiting Chelmsford Ideas Festival on a Monday evening…

To Chelmsford on Monday evening, 24th October, for the formal launch of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival at the Anglia Ruskin University campus in the city, in the presence of Councillor Patricia Hughes – Mayor of Chelmsford.

ideasfest2016buttonThe assembled audience were warmly welcomed by Professor David Humber, Provost of Anglia Ruskin’s Chelmsford Campus, who went on to give a brief history of the University’s association with the Festival over the last five years.

Professor Humber also gave us news of the development of new Life Science courses and infrastructure as well as the imminent plans to open a new Medical School on the campus in 2018.

We learned from Prof. Humber that the city was host to some 93 events this Festival season, of which 20 events will take place on the University campus.

Image of Malcolm Noble
Malcolm Noble, FRSA

In response the Festival Chair, Malcolm Noble FRSA, spoke in thanks for the contribution the city makes to the Ideas Festival and how the city’s support, made manifest by the presence of Her Worship the Mayor, was most gratefully and vitally received each year.

Malcolm spoke also of a change of inflection for the Festival programme this year, involving children and families directly and threading practical arts and community focused events through the programme.

You can discover the Ideas Festival on-line here, and see how the original socio-cultural research, which triggered the creation of the Changing Chelmsford Festival team, has attempted to fill gaps in artistic provision and increase community engagement across the city and its hinterland.

They have been successful without doubt.

The launch gathering was followed by a lecture on ESA’S COPERNICUS PROGRAMME: How is E2V protecting Planet earth? – featuring the work of Chelmsford company e2v – ‘…providing world-class image sensors and detection subsystems that can help solve the mysteries of the Universe, understand climate change on Earth and much more…

Source: Festival Programme.


Our featured Festival event for this week:

The tools of war image
A previous Chelmsford Remembers history event…

27th October 2016
Somme 100 Film
Chelmsford Cathedral, 53 New St, Chelmsford CM1 1TY
20.00 to 22.00

Live Cinema performance with Cambridge Concert Orchestra to mark the centenary of the First World War Battle of the Somme: lasting from 1st July to 18th November 1916. We will use the acclaimed score by composer Laura Rossi as commissioned by the Imperial War Museum. Laura Rossi and the Imperial War Museum Senior Curator Dr. Tony Haggath will introduce the film‘.

Book here whilst places are still availableinterneticon.

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Michael Morpurgo at Seven Stories

Newcastle - Shining City image of the Tyne
Newcastle, shining city in the North…

Continuing our theme of ‘Northern Energy’, we were in Newcastle upon Tyne this week and, on Friday afternoon, took time to visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. They have an important exhibition and research project into the donated archive of the writer Michael Morpurgo. Below is what we thought.


”Michael Morpurgo Exhibition 2 July 2016 – Sunday 2 July 2017, Newcastle UK. A Lifetime in Stories.

Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books introduces an exclusive exhibition drawn directly from Michael Morpurgo’s extensive archive donated to Seven Stories in 2015”.  


Seven Stories summer 2016 events Pic-m
View, print or download the Summer 2016 events guide for Seven Stories here…pdf

Through one of our our sister projects, Books go Walkabout, an international delivery system to get authors, illustrators and poets, and their books,  to corners of the world previously unreached, we have an abiding interest in children’s literature as you would expect.

The Seven Stories Morpurgo exhibition is certainly about a fantastic canon of work dedicated to the young imagination. However, the research team have extracted illustrative and delightful insights into, and evidence of, the writing process, using the archive generously donated to the Centre by Michael Morpurgo in 2015.

What the display and featured narrative does offer, in the broadest terms, is an insight into the creative process, the research and writing of a book, much of which in this Seven Stories gallery has taken place before the arrival and dominance of the word processor.

Not only an exhibition in praise of the work of Michael Morpurgo, but an illustration in itself of what can be achieved with a simple notebook and a pen or pencil. The imagination does not need an elecrical socket and plug to thrive apparently!

Some key exhibition elements:

Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943, and his early life was beset by sadness and conflicting tensions. It was interesting to see the detail of Michael’s school, home life and reaction to his early experiences in the British Army. This thematic thread of war and militarism can be traced through the exhibition, as in Michael’s life. His mother’s grief at the loss of her brother in the Second World War was an equally powerful emotional driver for the writing.

In 1962 Michael met his future wife Clare, and it was the summons home by his mother, with the pretence of an imaginary illness, that offered the opportunity for them to get married, against the prevailing condition that cadets of the Royal Military College Sandhurst must be single. A signal turning point in a creative life which solidified his pacifism, well evidenced and illustrated by this exhibition.

Wombat Goes Walkabout Pic-m
Comment on or buy this book from Amazon.co.uk here…

His first short book, published in 1974, was It Never Rained, an interconnected narrative about five children.  By 1999 Mopurgo was ready to publish Wombat Goes Walkabout, with wonderful illustrations by Christian Birmingham. A great story about digging holes and how a wombat can save the day.

1982 saw the release of War Horse, perhaps Mopurgo’s most famous creation. The exhibition offers the visitor a display of many of the notebooks, first drafts, corrections and re-typed double spaced manuscripts that drove the creation of this seminal work.

This series of displays offers, we thought, a powerful illustration of how writing is both a physical and an intellectually layered process, but which requires a gritty determination to see the story through to the final end – publication. It is this revisiting and deterministic approach to his craft of writing that makes a Mopurgo novel so dramatic and engaging we suspect.

War Horse cover image
Before the stage play, before the film…there was the novel.

In the exhibition narrative Michael Morpurgo states that his engagement with a story ‘…can be measured by the size of his handwriting in his notebooks‘. The smaller the hand written text the more intensely the creative muse has gripped him that day.

To an archivist this is vital in determining the writers emotional condition on any particular creative day. As his pen moves rapidly across the notebook page, Michael has left a marker, a measure of intensity, for later researchers seeking to determine his emotional or creative state. Something a plastic keyboard, no matter how powerful the micro-processor it is connected to, could ever offer the interested reader in years to come.

Looking at the Morpurgo ‘war’ material, we pondered on what must be a pivotal issue for the contemporary archivist or researcher. With ready access to technology, publishing processes and cloud storage – how will future archivists and seekers of process engage with material that is electronic and resting, potentially, in a thousand different formats, storage facilities and locations around the globe.

Interestingly, MIT Technology Review has just published an article on the use of computing and data mining techniques to show that there are, it contests, only six basic ’emotional arcs’ in storytelling. These are…

…a steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601848/data-mining-reveals-the-six-basic-emotional-arcs-of-storytelling/  Article – Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling  Accessed: 09.07.2016

We are intense users of the notebook and pen ourselves, in our ordinary workaday lives, but have to recognise that research and analysis would now be immeasurably diminished without technology. We wondered, travelling through the Michael Morpurgo exhibition, an historical audit trail of the creative mind, what other contemporary children’s and young adult writers take on ‘techno’ is today?

Perhaps this is a Seven Stories seminar series in the making? Pen or Processor, the creative methodology in contemporary children’s literature. We would buy a ticket! (Ed.)

A visual treat:

Towards the end of the exhibition content is a section dedicated to Michael Morpurgo’s artistic collaborators, the artists who have contributed to the written work.

It offers the visitor a fascinating insight into how the imagination is populated by the story, how the psyche is suggested a character and landscape by Michael Morpurgo’s writing. It is also, within the context of this article, a soaring endorsement of the power and durability of putting a hand to paper. Surely no machine can replace the creative evocation of story by the artists below?

The work on display includes artwork from Quentin Blake, Gary Blythe, Peter Bailey, Christian Brimingham and Tony Kerins amongst others. We particularly warmed to the diversity of images in the exhibition that depicted the sea. Whether Kensuke’s Kingdom or When the Wales Came, the original cover art to be seen provokes an imaginative dream of action, wind, water and a tale to be told.

We loved it.

(A list of artists on show…Gary Blythe, Quentin Blake, Loretta Schauer, Gemma O’Callaghan, Michael Foreman, Sarah Young, Sam Usher, Peter Bailey, Faye Hanson, Francois Place,   Emma Chichester-Clark, Christian  Birmingham and Tony Kerins.)

It was wonderful to see this collection of individual artistic work within the context of the Seven Stories Michael Morpurgo exhibition. But each artist has a separate body of work which is lively, imagination capturing and enchanting in equal measure. We hope  you can use the links above to explore this on-line collection ‘gallery of galleries’ too.

Getting to Seven Stories NE! 2PQ :

If you leave the impressive Newcastle Central Station and turn right down towards Quayside, you can turn left along Quayside and walk, past the Pitcher and Piano until you come to St. Ann’s Steps on the left. Ascend them. At the top, look back down the river to the bridges receding into the distance. Turn and  cross the road and right down to Cut Bank on the left, following the river left along for a couple of hundred yards and Seven Stories will apppear on your right.

The journey there, if the sun is shining, can be as uplifting as your visit to The National Centre for Children’s Books. This is a fascinating insight into the work of our national story teller. Seven Stories offers a whole rainbow of experience around ‘the children’s book’, whether a holidaying family looking to stimulate young imaginations, a visit to the cafe and bookshop, or a serious academic look at the sweep of children’s literature.

Editor Notes:

‘Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition from Michael Morpurgo through support from Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Collecting Cultures’ programme, which has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature’.

Source: Seven Stories web site. Accessed 09.07.2016 See http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection/collection-highlights/michael-morpurgo

The exhibition is delivered and developed through a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Seven Stories and Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

The KTP is possibly the first of its kind between a university English department and an external organisation, and is being funded by InnovateUK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

You can read Dr. Jessica Sage’s blog for more insights into her exploration of the archive here.


Image: The Shining Tyne 2016: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

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