Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Love List On The Radio

A sudden burst of orders for Pieces For The Radio: Vol 1 this week suggested something had been broadcast. Prime suspect, Verity Sharp – Late Junction. Sure enough, scrolling back through her playlists we find it: Stan’s Cafe: Love List, 10th May, 23.44. Well done Verity, nice one.

We’ve had a few things played on the show before. Amanda and I were in Wolverhampton checking out the Metro prior to Space Station when I got the first tip off, out of the blue, possibly a year after I’d thrust a CD into a producer’s hand in Edinburgh. A hazy memory says it was Graeme who phoned to say he’d heard it. That moment was as thrilling as any I’ve had with Stan’s Cafe and I still get a huge kick each time something goes out. Because it's not really our field and because of the company we keep on that show and because of all the tracks they could have chosen but instead they chose ours, the satisfaction of having a piece played on the radio seems especially sweet.

The burst of sales that accompanies each broadcast is a pleasant side issue that continues to take me by surprise. It’s no great shakes in a commercial sense – half a dozen / a dozen copies – but still it seems miraculous. One play, close to midnight on Radio 3, then listener has to find out who we are, visit our website and – before our new e-shop facility – write note, a cheque, find a stamp, an envelope and put the whole ensemble in the post to a bunch of strangers. What staggering dedication, faith and commitment. How many CDs could you shift if you were played four times a day on Radio 1 with your stock stacked by the checkouts at HMV – it’s frightening.


Friday, May 19, 2006


A Day At The Market

Today was one of those strangely moving days we encounter from time to time. Year 4 from Forestdale Primary School took six stalls at the Bull Ring open market and showed everyone the dioramas they had made out of fruit and vegetables.

It was fantastic to see them confident enough to call out and tout for custom. It was rewarding to hear them explain how the landscapes had been made and how they are best viewed. The teachers put in a lot of work to help the logistics run smoothly and they got busy with the school laminator to great effect. The stalls looked good. We had fun throughout the project. The students seemed to get a lot from it and a number of parents made the serious trip from Frankley into the City Centre to see it all happen. Now, a little after Midnight, Ed is photographing the artworks as they wilt over time and under his lights. By tomorrow they will be composting and before long images from Fruit and Veg City should be on the website.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Specialist Outlets

Arvo is correct, one of the true joys of Birmingham is that whatever you need, you can find. Somewhere, in some back ally or trading estate, there will be a small industrial unit entirely devoted to selling nothing but the item you require.

Once Graeme had persuaded a Social Club to sell us their reserve Bingo Ball Blower for Bingo In The House Of Babel (“what could possibly befall your frontline blower?") we needed to put it on casters. A bit of research took us to Allways who claim – with little fear of contradiction – to be Faster For A Caster. A small unfurnished reception area houses a display line of casters and ends in a counter giving tantalising views into the unit proper; floor to ceiling metal racks rammed with casters – a delight.

Tuckers Glass in Sparkbrook is By Appointment as well, having delivered five sizable mirrors for The Black Maze. There’s the water pump place out in Hall Green that Craig has kept as his personal trauma enshrouded secret; the friendly electrical trade place on Stratford Road that, I’m sorry to say, has been usurped by the intimidating SND Electrics in the more convenient Gun Quarter. If we want to impress visitors we don’t take them to admire our Great Civic Architecture, we take them directly to Express Polythene the DRIVE–THROUGH plastics retailer – good for Gaffa Tape, pond-liner and much more besides.

Now add to this roll of honour LVP Packaging Ltd on Florence Street, yards from New Street Station. We’ve spent a deal of time there recently sizing up cardboard boxes for the Fruit and Veg City diorama. Their roller shutter is always raised, leaving them open to the street, which is a welcoming start. They have a great range of boxes to choose from, display boxes sit on great looming stacks of their unassembled selves. To be let loose in such a specialist environment is a rare privilege.

The show is looking good. On Friday everything the kids came up with looked like a load of chopped up vegetables dumped in some cardboard boxes. Now the piles of chopped up vegetables are starting to look like buildings you would recognise or cities you would love to live in. Roll on Thursday.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006



Finally I have finished the Creative Partnerships’ Summit DVD. This is the third time we have documented the event. In previous years we delivered a Quicktime movie and poem, this time I foolishly suggested we do something more elaborate.

Inspired by seeing Craig put shows onto DVD I suggested this format would allow the event to be covered more fully with extra movies and slideshows. It did and has, but not without some quantity of cursing. Ed managed to conjure another fine set of photographs from most unpromising circumstances and Robert Shaw – AKA the great Mighty Math – did an impressive job creating a soundtrack that is both musically seductive and chock full of voices from the event. It was bending iDVD to my will that took the time.

It’s all been fun, a headache and time consuming. In moments of high frustration I couldn’t help thinking “you wouldn’t catch The Wooster Group doing this!”. I wonder if doing this kind of thing is essential to us – not doing things you wouldn’t catch other people doing but doing a combination of things you wouldn’t catch other people combining?



Chopping Up Vegetables

With so much time at the moment spent trying to organise the tours of existing projects or trying to set in motion new projects, it is refreshing to be working on a bit of art again. That we were collaborating with a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds in Forestdale Primary School makes things even more refreshing. On Tuesday we reached the edge of chaos as 34 of them got stuck into building fantasy cities out of fruit and vegetables. The results were great, but looked a lot better ‘live’ than they do in photographs. On Thursday we go to the markets together, check out City Centre architecture and finish the day looking at Birmingham from the top of a Ferris wheel.

This project culminates in a day presenting a load of dioramas made by the kids on stalls in the Bull Ring Open Market. That promises to be a hairy; we’re still scratching our heads over how to make it work for the kids as well as their art. I love the markets but looking at them from the perspective of an 8 Year Old stall holder it suddenly seemed very loud, chaotic and intimidating.

Much respect goes to Duncan Watson - Year 4’s teacher - he’s doing a great job of coping with us and them. I suspect we are learning more about teaching from him than he is learning about chopping up vegetables from us.


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