Tag Archives: RSA

 The North as a digital, innovative powerhouse for change and growth…


The great Northern Powerhouse concept has it’s detractors, as well as those who warmly embrace vast spendiing on infrastructure projects betwixt North and South. The whole designed to energise a swathe of our country, and its economic and social infrastructure, at a stroke.

Larry Elliot, writing recently in The Guardian, declares that the Centre for Cities think tank has the right view and that George Osborne is wrong. Namely that investment is needed in cities and conurbations ‘North of Watford’ in order to achieve the right mix of enterprise, social energy and innovation.

In his article Elliot looks at the productivity and infrastructure links between several Randstadt and Rhine-Ruhr cities. Already much more productive than similar cities in the North of England, he argues, the real difference is that investment has been made in the cities, not between them.

Whether transport, high speed internet or enterprise culture are stimulated, the key difference on the Ruhr/Randstat axis is the level of skills available to feed growth in research, output and market identification, he argues.

A new RSA report argues ‘… for a departure from the usual way of ‘doing tech’, where digital businesses operate in siloes, often untethered from the places in which they operate. It is within the North’s gift to forge a different path…’

View, print or download this report here…pdf

It is this focus on the sub-region, on the drivers of city based innovation, that when aggregated as evidence creates a new paradigm of achievement for the wider region. The sweeping gesture, the Osborneian grand statement, is proven only by examining the microeconomic context of the city regions as an ensemble, we would argue.

In this new report from the RSA (.pdf), Benedict Dellot et al approach the North of England with this city hinterland and regional sectoral analysis in mind.

The new work, Digital Powerhouse (.pdf), uses the digital economy of the north of England as both metaphor and research instance to examine and make suggestions for development. The findings are striking…

‘…the North’s digital economy is creating jobs at ten time the rate of the region’s non-digital sectors. In the last five years the productivity of the digital economy grew by 11.3%. The figure was 2.5% for the non-digital economy’.  Source: Infographic, p.2 of Digital Powerhouse

The DIgital Powerhouse report makes fourteen profound recommendations to capitalise on the digital premium recognised in the North of England.

These range from the creation of a ‘Procurement Powerhouse’ social enterprise to link tech businesses with public sector procurement processes. An adjunct to this suggestion is a move to persuade public sector commissioners and buyers to declare a ‘problem based’ commissioning approach, affording opportunities for innovators and researchers in the tech sphere to be just that, innovative, in order to get a seat at the table of ‘government spend’.

Similarly Dellot et al call for a new ‘contract portal’,  suggested to bring together opportunities to supply both the public and private sectors with tech innovation. Also on the supply side, the report suggests the championing of ‘tech co-operatives’ in the North. Striving to achieve critical mass and drive to market by tech innovators in the North, through closer co-operation and affiliation.

The regional recommendation aspect of the report make it easy to argue that this research could be the basis of a meta-development framework of policy and practice for any region with growing technology sectors. North or South.

As Eileen Burbidge, Chair of Tech City UK says in the report ‘…this report shines a brilliant light on all the assets and opportunities already underway which serve as a foundation for the growth of the new Digital Northern Powerhouse‘. Source: Burbidge, introduction: p.5 Digital Powerhouse

You can see a fuller RSA narrative on their web pages here. This report is freely available to all on the web.

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Benedict Dellot of The RSA has recently authored a new report on the growing phenomenom of Maker Spaces. There’s one near you…did you know?

The report defines MakerSpaces as ‘…open access workshops, hosting a variety of tools, from 3D printers and laser cutters through to sewing machines and soldering irons’.

These unique spaces attract hackers, roboticists, traditional engineering and technical enthusiasts, along with a variety of arts and craft specialists. There is something of a William Morris, Arts and Crafts revolutionary aspect to their public face. Offering as they do, spaces for making and experimentation in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere.

See more here…pdf

Morris would have it that you should ‘…have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’. Perhaps in the 21st Century, in a MakerSpace context, their motto should be ‘…beautiful, useful and technically collaborative’. (…great sign over every MakerSpace door?…Ed.)

As part of the RSA report (Ours to Master…)a survey finds that people, when asked, express an interest in Maker philosophy and practice, and would be interested in accessing such facilities. The survey found…

  • 26 percent of people regularly make things for their own use, 49 percent fix things that are broken and 21 percent modify products to better suit their own needs
  • 57 percent would like to learn how to make more things they and their families could use
  • 61 percent would like to have a better understanding of how the things they use work
  • 78 percent think our society is too materialistic and our economy too dependent on consumption
  • 43 percent often feel confused by the pace of technological change and struggle to keep up
  • 24 percent would be interested in using a makerspace in the future

You can read more about MakerSpaces on the pages of The RSA. here. (The report is freely accessible to all).

Maker Spaces in the East of England?

Ipswich Makerspace:

‘Ipswich Makerspace is a Suffolk based group of like minded makers who get together to learn, build and experiment with a huge variety of hardware, software, and technology in general’.      (Source: Ipswich Makerspace, December 2015)   See more here.

Chelmsford Makerspace:

‘Chelmsford Makerspace is a non-profit, community of makers in Chelmsford. We are a group of makers and hackers that get together to share tools and knowledge’. (Source: Chelmsford Makerspace, December 2015). See more here…

Colchester Makerspace:

‘We are developing a maker workshop offering affordable access to basic equipment such as workbenches, pillar drills, soldering irons, sewing machines and saws etc’. (Source: Colchester Makerspace, December 2015). See more here…

Cambridge Makespace:

‘Makespace is a community workshop in Cambridge for making and fixing things, meeting people, working on projects and sharing skills’. (Source: Cambridge Makespace, Decembre 2015). See more here…

Hitchin Hackspace:

‘Hitchin Hackspace is a community organisation devoted to providing everyone with a place to explore all kinds of creative technologies and crafts’. (Source: Hitchin Hacspace, December 2015). See more here…

Thank you to Benedict Dellot for another interesting and cutting edge report. It is interesting to see old concepts of craft and sharing being developed in contemporary communities, to deliver accessible, technology related products and learning. ‘Social engineering’ in its purest form perhaps?

We are surprised, in our brief survey of MakerSpaces in the East, to find no representative group for Norwich. If you know of one, use our contact form and let us know. We’ll run a supplementary piece to spread the word about them, if we missed an opportunity to do so here. Happy making! Ed.

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The Chelmsford Ideas Festival is almost upon us again this year.

chelmsfordideasFestivalimageThe programme of events continues to engage and stimulate Festival-goers across a wide range of cultural, artistic, heritage and innovation themes.

When:  19th October to 1st November 2015

Where: Chelmsford, Essex, UK.

Web: See more details here

The Chair of Changing Chelmsford Malcolm Noble and Ideas Festival Director Leonie Ramondt , and their teams, have put together a well designed and informative Festival programme – with the creative input of the Anglia Ruskin University Design Collective. (Thanks go to Jeff Bray, Becky Lockwood and Daniel Tubl).

pdfIcon4  You can downoad a pdf copy of the programme here.


A couple of key highlights in the programme are offered below…

Engineering Fair at Anglia Ruskin University

Friday 23rd October, 2015 – 10.00am to 4.00pm

Host: Department of Engineering and the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin

Robotics…. Be part of world level engineering breakthroughs, achievements, and products being designed and developed in Chelmsford and Essex. You will have the opportunity to take control and get involved in various activities such as engineering design, 3D printing, using advanced computer models, robotics, aerodynamics, medical engineering, Raspberry Pi and many more. Learn about the change and impact that engineering in Chelmsford and Essex makes nationally and internationally.

Extra Information: Booking required: www.anglia.ac.uk/ community or call 01245684723

Essex Police Future

Thursday 22nd October 2015 – 7.30pm to 9.00pm

Venue: Anglia Ruskin University    Host:  Nick Alston, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner

Essex Police is 175 years old this year. Nick Alston CBE was elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex in 2012. He is currently Chair of the Board of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chair of the Police ICT Company Board. He will give us an overview of his experience as Commissioner, reflect on policing in Essex and provide some pointers on the police service of the future.


A strong theme of the Festival this year is the notion of Creating the City of the Future. Ideas for city change, walks through the concept of change in Chelmsford and harnessing the power to create – a three part, multi-location event.

Matthew Taylor of the RSA will be exploring the Power to Create the City, harnessing the thematic concepts enagaged in the Society’s Change Aims.

Enlightened City Making

Host:  The Royal Society of Arts   Venue: Chelmsford Cathedral   Date:  21st October, 2015 – 10.00am to 2.30pm


Creativity is at the heart of innovation, enterprise and good places to live. But we are increasingly expected to be resourceful and self-reliant to shape our communities, with the help of amazing digital tools. The RSA says everyone has the power to create and to stival play a role in enlightened, active communities. Using the RSA ‘Change Aims’ we will look at the power to create the city with Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA.

Extra Information: Booking required. Please book online or ring 07421061054

The conversationsEAST team will be at this event, mapping and reporting on this key Festival conceptual driver. Watch our web pages for a full report…Ed.

See you in Chelmsford! See the full Festival programme on-line here.

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The Fling Festival is taking place today on Saturday 4th July at Hylands Park in Chelmsford.

Where is the The Fling?

‘An abundance of local talent across four music stages, including Paolo MorenaLittle Donkey, The Midnight Barbers, Secret Company, Stealing Signs, The Kubricks, Creme de Chevre, ukulele group D’Ukes,  Band of Fools, Tall Dark Friend, Ady Johnson, Animal Noise, Papa Shango,  Bakerside and 12 piece group Nat & The Noise Brigade,  who will be bringing their eclectic mix of brass, wind, strings and more to Hylands Park…’

However, there is talk set amongst all the music and song.

This RSA Fellow supported event runs from 12.00 to 21.00 in Hylands Park on Saturday 4th July. Adults only. Tickets from £22,  There are over 300 performers in the programme including live music and cabaret.
Malcolm Noble FRSA, the Fellowship regional Chair, is leading a debate in the Provocative Forum tent. The motions being debated include:
  • Who cares if the Scots go for independence?
  • The UK needs to leave the EU now.
  • What’s wrong with a Tory government anyway?
  • Who needs Human Rights?
  • The only way is austerity.

Nothing contentious there then? Looking forward to a great day!

The Fling Festival is produced by the Cultural Events Team at Chelmsford City Council


This month Benedict Dellot of The RSA has, in the report The Second Age of Small – Understanding the economic impact of micro-businesses, produced a provocative and informative clarion call to recognise the sustaining energy and output of the micro-business in the UK.

See more here…

In his detailed analysis Benedict informs us that the micro-business excels in sectors where relationships are the key to business and operational success. ‘Microbusinesses (excluding sole traders) are 4 percent more productive than the sector-wide average in human health activities, 20 percent in education and 38 percent in social work’.

In a well argued section of the report Benedict looks back at the proto-industrial period, pre-1750, when the notion of industry was tempered by the small, local producer – often the basis of what we might now call the ‘family firm’.

It is the Twentieth Century and The Age of Oil which reconditioned our thinking, the RSA Action and Research Centre argue, to believe that the large corporation is the sole standard bearer for commercial enterprise success.  Writing in the 1970’s…

E. F. Schumacher, who, in his book Small is Beautiful,
lamented that his generation suffered from “an almost universal idolatry of gigantism”, and instead called for “production by the masses, rather than mass production”.

The data presented in this RSA Report underscores the importance of the micro-business to the welfare of the UK economy, as well as recognising that the small business is a driver of social welfare in the localities that they operate in. ‘There is also a geographical element to consider. Evidence shows that small firms are more beneficial than large firms for the local economies in which they operate’.

To those of us who work in the social business sector, helping charities and mainstream businesses to actively adopt sustainable business practices linked to social outcome, we clearly recognise the power of this observation.

The Dellot thesis draws nine principal conclusions from the analysis

1. The UK’s micro business population is booming
2. Many see this as a bad economic omen and a sign of a fragmented labour market
3. But our research finds that micro businesses may help to spur productivity
4. … and innovation
5. … and job creation
6. In any case, the value of micro businesses is not well captured by conventional measures
7. Five key factors help to explain why micro businesses have become more economically viable
8. Rather than be preoccupied with micro businesses we should pay more attention to the activities of oligopolies
9. We can shape our economy – the status quo is not predetermined nor inevitable

Each of them, in the report, is well argued and provides comfort to the small business owner, and should give the nascent micro-business entrepreneur confidence for the future. If you have spent years working for yourself, or have just joined the entrepreneurial drive to create socially minded businesses, then a high level of satisfaction to be gained awaits you.

Micro business employees are the most satisfied workers – Microbusiness employees score highest on most indicators of job satisfaction, including influence over their job, involvement in decision-making and good relations with management.

Detailed, thought provoking and telling in its analysis. We commend the latest Dellot opus to our readers.

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


Book your place here…

The Conference:

As the conference season gets under way, here is a key date for your Fellowship diary. Our Eastern regional conference is taking place athe UCS Waterside Building in Ipswich in Suffolk.

You can see the conference details and book your place on the Society’s usual Eventbrite pages here.

See more conference detail here.

Location: Waterfront building, University College Suffolk, Neptune Quay, Ipswich IP4 1QJ       

The Market Place:

marketButton4 (copy)
See more!

The Market Place forges connections among the regional Fellowship and has become a lively feature of the annual conference.

interneticon  Visit the dedicated Market Place web pages here.

If you are interested in having a stall/conversation point at conference please make contact with the Market Place team here..

emailIcon4  helpmarket (at) conversationseast.org

Stalls are set up for a variety of projects which fit well with the RSA mission. They may be community based or extend across the region but the common feature is that they are a great way to connect face-to-face with Fellows and others who are engaged with the Fellowship in pursuit of their social change and support aims.

Stallholders invariably have a passion for their project and are looking forward to showing how they are empowering people to apply their creativity to emerging opportunities and challenges.

The principal Market Place activity will be in the main Foyer (where lunch is also available) from 12.30 until 2.00, but conversations will be taking place with exhibitors all day we are sure.

So either avoid the initial queue for lunch or grab your lunch-bag and graze the stalls.

You’ll find plenty of highly nutritional ideas and stimuli in The Market Place.

See you there?





This month’s conversationsEAST sponsored Coffee with My Councillor session will be held in Chelmsford. It is an opportunity for Fellows to meet and talk directly with their Fellowship Councillor in the East of England.

Tim reports that conversations he has had, so far, have fallen on stony ground in his search for female Fellows to champion a new Female Fellows group in our region.

Why not come along to the Ideas Hub, a great open and friendly venue, see below, on the 18th and explore the starting of this new group. Designed to support and promote female Fellow led research, social and community business projects or to lobby for family friendly services at our meetings, conferences and get-togethers.

He’ll also have his camera and keyboard to hand, if we can help you complete your Fellowship profile on the new RSA web pages. Read more about the rolling Coffee with my Councillor programme here.

Saturday 18th April -10.30 to 13.00 Chelmsford in Essex

The Ideas Hub, 1-4 Market Square,
High Chelmer, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1 1XF

  • The beginning of an Otrera Group, supporting female Fellows in the region
  • Working alongside the new Public Services and Communities RSA thematic initiative
  • A Fellow, a keyboard, a camera – completing your Fellowship profile on the new RSA web pages.

See the work of the Ideas Hub on-line here.


Jenny King FRSA opens proceedings…

(A year has passed since the 2014 World Autism Day. We suspect that the clarity and depth of knowledge about  neuro-diversity still has a continuing development need across all our communities.

We publish below a review article of an event at the University of Hertfordshire, held a year ago. Jenny King FRSA ends the piece with a call for action – an opportunity to repeat and expand the work that was started at  this well attended and well received regional event.

If the filmic evidence and the narrative below inspire you to engage and help, do make contact with Jenny  and offer support for this important project…Ed.)


A review of an evening forum for local professionals in Health and Education held at the University of Hertfordshire April 2 2014, World Autism Day.

Aims in 2014:

  • To raise awareness of the talents and needs of high functioning neuro-diverse young children.

To clarify:

a) the best pathway to early diagnosis and

b) the most appropriate intervention from families and educators to maximise strengths and minimise challenging behaviour.

Objectives one year on in 2015:

  • To encourage Fellows to “roll out” similar events across the Country.

This unique Forum hosted by the University of Hertfordshire and the Royal Society of Arts, provided qualified practitioners in Health and Education an opportunity hear first hand information on young, high functioning neuro-diverse children and their traits and behavioural challenges. The aim was to facilitate conversation  on the need to recognise the potential in the children’s often exceptional talents, and focus on their needs. The chief of these to try to clarify a pathway to early diagnosis and consequent support.

Two hundred and fifty representatives from health and education were invited: GPs Paediatricians, Health Visitors, Clinical and Educational Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Headteachers, SENcos – Nursery and Early years Managers, Family Support Workers, Counsellors, HomeStart, and support groups working specificially for Neuro-Diverse children, including members of the Hertfordshire County Council and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.

Two Fellows of the RSA, Jenny King and Sue Hind Woodward, put together this event after sharing a conversation at an RSA East Herts function dinner at Hatfield House about their concerns for the lack of recognition and support for the majority of young, high functioning neuro-diverse children. Those whose extraordinary gifts and talents could ultimately change the world, but whose extreme behavioural challenges prevented their recognition and progress.

Following the best tradition of the origins of the RSA in the coffeehouses in London in the 1700s, Sue and Jenny progressed their discussions at a Costa Coffee shop at a service station on the A1(!), halfway for both, against the clamour of travellers and fruit machines etc. Not quite the same cerebral atmosphere but nonetheless the idea was developed and they parted bent on growing their conversation to reach the people who could make a difference. Sue coined the phrase “Unleashing Potential – Crucial Beginnings” which encapsulated their aims.

Some research prior to the event showed that primarily there seemed to be a lack of knowledge of the traits of neuro-diversity e.g. Autistic Spectrum, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Bipolar and related difficulties. In particular even when the traits had been identified there was no clear route forwards to diagnosis. Getting help was a frustrating performance for parents trying to demonstrate that their child was challenging for a reason unconnected to their upbringing. Delays were up to two years for a first appointment with an NHS specialist.

Looking into the situation more closely it appeared that some GPs were unfamiliar with the traits of neuro-diversity and did not know where to start with a referral. Health Visitors, possibly with more involvement supporting low-functioning children with behavioural problems, tended to direct parents towards family counselling which implied failure in parental terms. Family Counsellors visited were often equally unsure about further diagnosis for the child. Some schools, already frustrated by the challenging behaviours exhibited by neuro-diverse children, were not always sympathetic and were not well informed about traits, or how to address the difficulties experienced, and the routes to follow for help.

With these discoveries, Sue and Jenny met with Lyn Bhania Senior Tutor in Education who takes a focus on Special Needs at The University of Hertfordshire. Lyn and her colleague Lewis Stockwell were invaluable in offering advice and support for the function and facilitating this at the University. Once the evening’s format was established, Jo Massie at the RSA proved invaluable in helping with administration, managing Eventbrite for ticketing etc.

Contacts were made and eminent Speakers invited on the topic, and a panel of experts to take Q & A. The University helped with their contact lists and specially designed invitations went by snail mail and email across the county. It was decided not to include parents of neuro-diverse children as owing to their frustrations and difficulties this could have brought controversy to a proceeding aimed at bridge building. Thus the event was strictly for professionals. However two of the main Speakers each had an autistic child, so parents were represented. Jenny King FRSA (a retired Headteacher with a specific interest in neuro-diversity) introduced the event with its aims and objectives.

This was followed by the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Simon Williams, PhD, FRSPH a former Research Fellow at Cambridge University, current Research Associate Feinberg School of Medicine, and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Public Health. His focus: Public Mental Health Policy and the Effectiveness of Early Diagnosis.

Dr. Williams travelled from the US to become the Keynote Speaker. He opened his talk by stating his wish to discuss a proposal for the introduction of school-based universal screening, for the early identification of risk of emotional, behavioural and mental health problems in children and adolescents. He would also discuss some evaluation research of a school-based counselling intervention, which could be a model for what post-screening targeted intervention would look like.

Dr. Williams went on to add that “in the long term, the spirit of ‘neuro-diversity’ urges us to reconfigure social and cultural institutions and customs such that neuro-diverse conditions are seen as normal variations in the human condition. To put it simply, the spirit of neuro-diversity urges that it is Society and not the individual that has, or causes, the ‘problem’.

Changing social and cultural perceptions and assumptions takes time. In the short term it is prudent to look at ways of improving current diagnostic and intervention processes. Doing so can reduce diagnostic delays and disparities and ensure that more children with ASD or ADHD for example, can access the support from which they could benefit. “

The content of Dr. Williams’ speech can be found on YouTube. Link given below. He covers:

  • Pre School Screening for ASD,
  • Universal emotional and behavioural mental health screening
  • School based Mental Health Intervention
  • Criticisms re: labelling and stigma, harmful false positives, opposition from parents, overburdening of health and educational services
  • An evaluation of school based mental health intervention

See the movie on YouTubeSee the original YouTube post here…

In conclusion, Dr. Williams explained that because no matter how effective the intervention is once the children are in the system, the problem is that so long as it relies on referrals it is likely that a substantial proportion of children with emotional and behavioural problems, particularly those with internalizing problems, will fail to be identified in the first place.

The second Speaker was Tom Purser of the National Autistic Society, who is their Policy and Participation Officer and also the parent of an Autistic child.

His subject was “The Expert Parent” in which he spoke of the difficulties that beset the parent and gave an overview of Autism in general.

To hear the content of this interesting and informative speech, demonstrating Tom Purser’s in depth knowledge of this topic, follow the Youtube link:

See the movie on YouTubeSee the original YouTube post here…

The third and final Speaker was Melanie Peeke, MA Oxon, who works with ADD-vance as a Specialist Trainer delivering workshops/courses for parents and teachers. Also Founder of “Spectrum Girls” social group for girls with High Functioning Autism. Melanie Peeke is the parent of a high functioning autistic daughter. Her talk was on The Empathetic Teacher.

Many of those listening to this talk, especially from the educational arena, found Melanie Peeke’s insights on appropriate school intervention strategies for young, high functioning neurodiverse children, helpful, positive, and relevant.

Following the Speakers was a half hour break for discussion and refreshment in the main Foyer. Groups assembled under “Muster Points” for their professional connection and questions were formed for the Panel in the second half.

The Panel Discussion was chaired by Sue Hind Woodward, stepping into the breach as John Cooper QC FRSA was delayed travelling to the venue.

The Panellists were:

  • Dr. Paul Bradley – Consultant Learning Disability Psychiatrist.
  • Julia Carmichael, Communication Disorders Team
  • Dr. Anna Dillon, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Challenging Behaviour Psychology Service
  • Claire Fitt – SenCo How Wood School
  • Ann Griffin – National Autistic Society/ harc
  • Lizanne du Plessis – Occupational Therapist, Author, Public Speaker
  • Dr. Peter Shilliday – GP . Senior Partner, Spring House Medical Centre WGC

To hear the panel Q&A with the audience, please see below.

See the movie on YouTubeSee the original YouTube panel session here.

Now approximately one year on from Unleashing Potential – Crucial Beginnings, the question is “What has been achieved”. Following the event the RSA launched a Survey Monkey from which many helpful comments were gleaned. On the whole the audience felt that questions pre-formed and directed at the Panel would have been useful. The interval mid-way had not been used by the audience to form these questions so perhaps there is a lesson learned here. Workshopping was suggested in any follow up event and this is a possibility for the future.

However on the positives, members of the audience felt they left better informed and with some determination to progress discussions in their own field towards creating better understanding for neuro-diverse young, high functioning children. There is some evidence that this is happening.

A call to action:

A year on from the function, Sue Hind Woodward and Jenny King feel that a second event in East Herts might be worth exploring.

However the purpose of this article is to ask whether you, as a Fellow, might be interested in continuing the conversation in your area? In East Herts the ball has started rolling, but there is no reason why events such as Unleashing Potential – Crucial Beginnings, cannot be “rolled out” across the country.

emailIcon4If you might be one of those to take up the baton – please don’t hesitate to contact Jenny King – jenniferkate.king@gmail.com who will supply all the details you might need to set up a similar event.

Jennifer King FRSA

Sue Hind Woodward FRSA


(Image: Alberto Giacometti, with his work)

A visit to Sainsbury Centre on Friday 20th February, 2015

We had a group of seventeen fellows and friends who met up for the visit. We congregated at 10.30 for complimentary tea and coffee at the Modern Life café and then we were taken off by three guides to explore the Centre. We began with the Permanent exhibition on the ground floor and then after a short break proceeded to the basement exhibition areas to view the Reality exhibition, which was outstanding.

Curated by artist Chris Stevens, 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.

The Sainsbury Centre is one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain, and a major national Centre for the study and presentation of art.

It houses the extraordinary art collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, as well as the Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau and the University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection. Alongside these permanent collections, there is a range of temporary exhibitions, with new galleries providing the largest climate-controlled exhibition space in Eastern England. Also on offer is an award-winning learning programme of gallery talks, lectures and art workshops. (See the programme of lectures, symposia and training here).

The Collections at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts represent some of the most remarkable works of art assembled in the UK. The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection features work spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. The presentation of art from across time and place continues to inspire and surprise and uniquely presents art as a universal global phenomenon.

Picasso, 1901-2 Femme au Cafe

The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection
Permanently displayed in the Living Area Gallery, the collection includes major holdings of art from Oceania, Africa, the Americas, Asia, the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome, Medieval Europe, and including a significant number of works acknowledged as seminal examples of European modern art. Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Francis Bacon, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and Amedeo Modigliani are all represented in the collection.

The Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection
Although not formally part of the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, the Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection represents a major collection of 20th century studio ceramics, including a significant body of work by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper.

The Sainsbury Abstract Collection
The Sainsbury Abstract Collection includes paintings from the post second world war Ecole de Paris with a strong preference for lyrical abstraction and Tachisme, art movements that flourished in France from 1945 to 1960. Notable artists included in the collection are Jean Fautrier, Charles Maussion and Mubin Orhon.

The Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau
Alongside the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection sits another principle collection; The Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau, donated in 1978 by Sir Colin Anderson, a close friend of Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury. The collection represents artists working across a range of disciplines and materials such as glassware and furniture, metalware and jewelry. The collection includes pieces by leading exponents of Art Nouveau such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Emile Gallé and René Lalique.

Vorticist David Bomberg's The Mud Bath, 1914
Vorticist David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath, 1914

The University Collection of Abstract and Constructivist Art, Design and Architecture was established by the University in 1968. This Collection concentrates on the non-objective, constructive and concrete art movements of the 20th century and the related fields of architecture and design, such as the English Vorticists, the Russian Suprematists and Constructivists, the Dutch De Stijl Group and the German Bauhaus School.

All who attended enjoyed getting to know each other and spoke of possibly another visit soon. It was very much enjoyed by all and many used their ticket to linger longer in the afternoon. Also, a new Francis Bacon exhibition is coming soon. The Francis Bacon paintings are currently at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and will return for the Francis Bacon and the Masters exhibition in April.

Possibly another day out!

Christine O’Hanlon FRSA

(Public domain images are for illustrative purposes only – they do not seek to represent the collections in the narrative about this visit).


The RSA, in partnership with Google and craft marketplace Etsy, recently held a Self Employment summit. Stimulating debate and reflection about the changing landscape of employment and the rise and condition of those ‘going it alone’.

The short film below offers insights into the various debates on the day and some of the original ideas and thoughts emerging from the discussion…

See the movie on YouTubeSee the original film on YouTube here

The debate ranges across some interesting data, movements in the economy and is awash with definitions. Data seems to show that since the year 2000, the self -employed as a recognisable economic cohort, have increased by 30%. With the self-employed now representing some 15% of the total active work force in the UK.

Between 2008 and 2013, we are told, the self-employed made up a staggering 90% of all jobs created. Even more seismic, in terms of paradigm shift, is the suggestion that by 2017/2018, the self employed numerically, may exceed the total number of individuals currently working in the Public Sector.

For those of us who work across the Public Sector/Charitable Sector divide, this is perhaps not so surprising. As Local Authorities continue to divest themselves of employed core professional expertise in a number of community support, education and housing sectors, the expertise is re-hired as consultants or contractors.

What does set this change in context, however, is not the numeric rise in self-employment, whatever the sector, professional or otherwise. It is the dramatic increase in diminution of turnover.

Steven Toft, who is the author of Flip Chart Fairy Tales, speaking at the one day RSA event, opines that between 2008 and 2013 aggregate income by the self-employed has fallen by a staggering 8 billion pounds.

However you define being self-employed, and there are multiple definitions, in the RSA research, by HMRC and in the national Labour Market Survey – it is clear that there is a re-structuring of the nature of employment wholly under way.

What this movement is not, however, is an attempt to create quality of life, sustainability of earnings or the increase in cultural and fiscal capital that this change might, given the right business environment, look to build over time.

Not all self-employed people strive to be the next Richard Branson, but that for the individual, given this data, the drive might be led by a belief, actual or not, in the achievement of a better work/life balance, access to culture and the arts and an exercise of choice regardless of cost, that corporatism or global capital does not offer. We do not know.

Finally, we would have liked the debate to have extended fully across social enterprise/social business as a new model for the self employed and entrepreneurially minded.  New financial markets and new business models are emerging in these two sectors. Perhaps that is where the real dynamism in the economy is, for those who go it alone?

Other good reads for context:

See our recent article featuring Every Day Employers, an RSA report from the end of last year – offering insights and suggestions to restructure traditional employer/employee relationships. See more here…

See also Salvation in a Start-up, a RSA/Etsy report, from last summer, on the emergence of new micro-businesses. The why and how. See more here…



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News Desk image by Markus Winkler, Creative Commons, Unsplash...