Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Teachers As Pupils

Generally we’ve been lucking running A City Adventure as teacher training days for Creative Partnerships. Initial outings brought together coordinators from a range of schools, a self-selecting group of open and enthusiastic people. Later we progressed to delivering whole school staff training days, again to open and receptive schools. As the City Adventure’s reputation has grown so amongst the ripe and eager, harder cases have been thrown our way.

As a rule Primary Schools tend to be the most fun, their smaller staff teams tend to have a good rapport, exploration, playfulness and creativity seem to be closer to their everyday world. Secondary schools seem more prone to cliques, amongst the bright and energetic there are usually scattered a few who harbour closed minds and a siege mentality.

Friday’s City Adventure was a tough one. In the afternoon’s theory section I was reminded how like a class of secondary students a class of teachers can be. All my old class-mates were suddenly there, the open, the intelligent, the keen, the quiet, the reflective, the shy, the voluble and the jokers alongside the closed, limited, disaffected, reactionary, pessimistic, aggressive and cynical.

Of those who were determined to hate every minute, I wondered how they would approach teaching youthful versions of themselves. Could I keep them in detention? Could I call their parents in? If only I could grade them. At least I don’t have to work with them and Eve won’t be taught by them.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Urban Fusion

With good news of good audience numbers filtering up from Melbourne we’ve been working in the office making sure the future is as busy as the recent past.

Monday was the deadline for Birmingham City Council’s Urban Fusion fund. Word on the street is that the hefty sums involved have lured everyone whose anyone, and many who aren’t to chance their arms. Applications sound like they are flying in from all angles.

We’ve pitched for support in staging a World Version of Of All The People In All The World in Birmingham. A home town gig on this scale has always been a dream – tying it in with a possible London staging would bring economies of scale and cross marketing potential.

Originally money for Urban Fusion came as a consolation prize for not being European City of Culture in 2008. The latest batch has come from Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency. This means that criteria have shifted, there seems to be a strong emphasis on the economic outputs and educational opportunities alongside breadth and bulk of audience attendance. Beans have to be counted more scrupulously than ever.

Our application feels strong. The show has a proven international pedigree that Birmingham could buy into. It will support a local company develop its profile at home. It can potentially be seen by thousands of people. Research for the show will put it in front of folk from all kinds of groupings within the city. If, as we plan, a venue can be secured in Eastside then it will promote this as the city’s Cultural Quarter to a wider audience.

Still, it’s impossible to second guess what machinations are at work in the selection procedure, or who we’re up against, or what the big hitting Brum art Behemoths are proposing. If I was them I’d give it to us. Surely the time has come for Stan to return home in style.



Thursday, October 12, 2006


ZX Spectrum Orchestra

On Sunday, looking to distract myself from goings on down-under, I acquired a copy of the ZX Spectrum Orchestra’s debut album Basic Programming. On Tuesday morning I played it whilst Eve was working on her latest Fauvist tour de force (Sunset in Kinshasa – feltpen on paper 2006). It is brilliant – as is the album.

The ZX Spectrum Orchestra played an early gig at the old Stan Space years ago and we were all blown away. It was a noise assault of a high order. Those Geek Wundermensch had managed to rip from these tiny archaic Pacman Processors something that rocked big and loud. With a joystick wielded where an axe would have swung in an analogue world we were there when it mattered, on some kind of edge, with something that was simultanously old and totally new.

Basic Programming is beautifully structured, imaginative and witty. It travels from the wonderfully danceable C5, through delicate melodies and harsher raw tracks, to the single Dollar Power, in which the machine finds its own bleak and desperate voice “Out In Space I 1 2 B = = =”. Then more sine-wave melody and more binary white-outs before the album’s second and concluding ‘vocal’ track. The Spectrum has recovered it’s spirits is throwing a party “I 1 U 2 Move D I S C O”

Whilst Stan’s Cafe smears art ideas up the wall in felt-tip like the walls won’t be there tomorrow, the Geek Wundermensch show what can be achieved if you spend four years locked in a room with a brain the size of a planet.

Click on the link, buy the album and bow down in homage.



Thursday, October 05, 2006


Oz Radio Got Me Bad

At the hight of Ashes fervor I heard a joke comparing Australia with Yogurt due to it's lack of culture. A joke perhaps only permissible or amusing in the heat of a sporting contest. Listening to 'The Deep End' on ABC this morning confirmed that
yogurt will need to buck it's ideas up.

The Australian journalist Sian Prior was in Birmingham a few months ago, we spent a pleasent few hours wandering the streets and talking over a dictaphone about the City and Of All The People In All The World: Pacific Rim. This morning a link to the audio results of this conversation came though. 18 minutes in, after some Jazz and a learned discussion about Tasmanian Visual Art, it's us.

Listening to the package in the office whilst trying to tidy up, empty the bins, recycle the junk mail and generally smooth things over after a hectic time here and away, I found myself on the verge of tears. I get moved to tears pathetically easily, especially for someone so apparently stern, but on this occasion I defend myself. There is something genuinely moving in this package. It's probably not anything anyone else would notice, but just hearing Stan's Cafe featured seriously and professionaly on English language broadcast media after such an enormously long time was powerfully validating.

Judge for yourselves via the link (it's probably not going to be up for long, so hurry, hurry, hurry).



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