Wednesday Recommendations – stuff to read and listen to.

So it’s official, this is ‘Wednesday Recommendations’ post number 2, which means that <muted fanfare> Wednesday Recommendations has become ‘a thing’. Time will tell whether that is a good thing, or a bad thing, but here goes – this is some of the stuff we’ve been reading and listening to in the last couple of weeks that we found interesting, and think you might find interesting too:

LISTEN: Reasons to be Cheerful podcast episode 37 ‘Rethinking Economic Success’ – Ed & Geoff chat to Kate Raworth, author of ‘Doughnut Economics‘, recorded live in Hay-on-Wye. The basic concept of doughnut economics challenges the assumption that unlimited economic growth and ever increasing GDP is inherently good, but rather explores sustainable ways of increasing prosperity fairly for all the people on the planet. This is a really interesting listen – Kate Raworth describes the principle really simply and it just makes so much sense. There are some good, challenging questions from the audience too. Really thought-provoking and definitely worth a listen.

READ: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a pithily practical companion to her earlier book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, based on her (highly entertaining) TED Talk of the same name. It’s a short, insightful and thought-provoking book, originally written as a letter to a friend who’d asked for advice on raising her baby girl a feminist. It also contains this lovely paragraph: “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world. She must know and understand that people walk different paths in the world and that as long as these paths do no harm to others, they are valid paths that she must respect.”

LISTEN: The consistently entertaining and slightly irreverent Fortunately Podcast from Jane Garvey and Fi Glover has become required listening at TBHQ. Pick an episode, any episode, and enjoy…

That’s it for now. Let us know whether you followed up on any of our recommendations and, if so, what you thought – and if you’ve got any recommendations for us. Cheers!

 

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Wednesday Recommendations: things to read & listen to.

Things we’ve been reading and listening to this week that you might enjoy too:

READ: No More Plastic by Martin Dorey – a short and very readable collection of achievable quick-win actions every single one of us can take to reduce the plastic in our lives (and therefore in the world), this book is also full of gently provocative prompts to consider lots of bigger ethical, social justice and sustainability issues. One of the great new-to-me examples of positive actions to join in with is Morsbags (a kind of craftivism billed as ‘Sociable Guerilla Bagging’) which involves keeping fabric out of landfill by making it into shopping bags which you gift to strangers, thus helping cut down the number of plastic bags needed. Genius.

LISTEN: There’s only 2 days left to listen to Meeting the Man I Killed, a Seriously podcast from Radio 4. This is a remarkable piece of radio telling the story of a man who killed someone in a road traffic accident that wasn’t his fault. Through meeting people who knew the man that died, the driver tries to get to know the man he killed – in order to come to terms with both the accident and the far-reaching effects it has had on his life and sense of who he is. It’s thoughtful, moving (you will need tissues) and provocative – and says so much about humanity. (40 minute listen)

LISTEN: Another great podcast is Reasons to be Cheerful (by the way, anyone in Hull or Coventry might also be interested in Episode 26 which is about The Power of Culture) and this week I listened to a special bonus episode from a couple of weeks back, called “Reasons to be Pirate“. Here Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd are talking to Sam Conniff Allende about his new book Be More Pirate, discussing the positive (and accidentally rather progressive) rule-rewriting done by ‘Golden Age’ pirates organising in opposition to the status quo (slightly surprisingly this involves fair pay, cooperatives, social insurance and equal marriage). The book suggests what we can learn from pirates, and how we can apply some of their methods (but probably not the psychotic ones…) to make the modern world a better place. (37 minute listen)

Well, that’s it. I’d be interested to know if anyone read or listened to any of these (before or after the recommendation!) and, if so, what you made of them – leave a comment…?

JV

 

F13 – where it came from…

Armed with a massive pile of homemade pizza and a collection of Ikea’s kids’ cups and plates, Talking Birds convened the first meeting of what was to become the Friday 13th (or F13) network in December 2013 (Friday 13th December 2013 to be exact!). At that point, as the notes reveal*, Coventry City Council had a new leader and there was the first mention of City of Culture in the air – presumably because Hull’s win must have just been announced.

It’s funny looking back at this photo (below) taken at that meeting – not just at how much younger we all look – but to remember what the city was like then, and why we decided to get people together. It was around the time of an Arts Council NPO round and we were keen to talk with others who might be applying – in a grown up, joined up, citywide ‘what direction do we want Cov to take?’ kind of way.

The City Council’s Arts Development was, at that time, sub-contracted out to Artspace – and, though born of lack of funding, it had proved a really bold and successful move, making the city’s artists feel much more connected to the Council and to arts policy than we had for a while (although it was demanding and exhausting for Laura at Artspace).

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Friday 13th December 2013

The other thing that was in the air was a general optimism, a spirit of possibility that had emerged out of the collaboration on the city’s (unsuccessful) bid to the Portas Pilot scheme. As I remember it, this was the result of a few connected things: a Void Spaces Strategy for the Council that Dan Thompson had been commissioned to write via Artspace; the work the wonderful Theatre Absolute had started in the Shop Front Theatre; and a conversation between void-space/meanwhile space users Artspace, Theatre Absolute and Talking Birds about creating a ‘Pop Up City’ Festival (which didn’t happen, but it’s descendant is surely the inaugural Shop Front Festival which happened here in March 2018?!). The City Council generally seemed more in touch and in tune with the arts community – particularly through David Nuttall and Martin Reeves and their involvement in the Portas Pilot bid. We felt, perhaps, like culture was being taken more seriously – both in the city, having been moved into the City Development Directorate, and perhaps more widely (it wasn’t really on my radar at the time, but perhaps Derry’s stint as City of Culture also had something to do with this…).

We talked at that first meeting about Coventry perpetually being poised on the edge of greatness (yet never quite making it); a place where the people at the grassroots are really active, making all kinds of things happen; that it is the grassroots-up initiatives that are most successful; that it is the grassroots that actually lead…

This loose network (or flow, as it’s been described) of artists has continued to meet and to grow and when, a couple of years after that first meeting, the City got serious about throwing its hat into the ring for 2021, F13 (as we had decided to call the group) found itself perfectly placed to be a kind of one-stop-shop for anyone who might want to talk to the city’s independent artists and organisations, and so F13 represented the voice of the independents throughout the bidding process. In practice, as the galvanising process of bidding developed, this meant that independent artists sat on the Steering Group and Programme Reference Group for the City of Culture bid (guided by, and reporting back to the network), we were heavily consulted during the writing of the City’s Cultural Strategy and, later, sat on the selection panel for the 2021 Creative Director.

F13 has established an interesting cross-artform conversational dynamic across the independent arts sector in the city – which is important, inspiring and a little bit of a haven, in these stretched-capacity times. What happens next is yet to be written, but if we keep talking to each other, we have found that it will always, always be better than what happens if we don’t.

F13, or Friday 13th (named after the date in 2013 that we first met, because we had to call it something) is a loose network of independent artists and organisations in Coventry & Warwickshire, which, amongst other things, is proudly amplifying the voices of the city’s independent organisations and artists in the run up to Coventry’s term as City of Culture in 2021. If you are an independent artist or arts organisation in the city and you’d like to become involved in F13, add a comment below and we’ll get back in touch.

* writing that, this post suddenly felt like one of those press reports when government papers are released after 20 years, which isn’t really what I was expecting when I started writing it!

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Friday 8th December 2018, the day after the City of Culture announcement!

Open Cast – Call for Performers

o-c-imageApplications are invited for an open workshop for performers with Talking Birds Theatre Company in Coventry. This is an opportunity to meet and work with the company in a relaxed and sociable group setting over the course of a day (11am-4pm), at the Shopfront Theatre in Coventry. The workshop will be led by Richard Hayhow, friend of Talking Birds and Director of Open Theatre Company.

The aim of the workshop is to identify talented and versatile performers the company can draw on for future projects (see www.talkingbirds.co.uk for examples of our previous work), particularly in the run up to Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021. We will also be inviting Artistic Directors from other regional companies to join us in the afternoon.

Travel expenses and lunch will be provided, along with any additional support you need to participate fully in the workshop.

Open Cast is aimed at expanding the casting pool for Midlands-based companies and priority will be given to D/deaf, disabled and learning disabled artists, artists from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and those based in the region.

Application is by submitting a video that lasts between 90 and 120 seconds (phone camera is fine) giving us an introduction to you, your work and why you want to come and do the workshop.

In addition to this, we encourage you to include any information that will help us consider your application. You can also attach a resumé/CV if you wish.

Please e-mail birdmail@talkingbirds.co.uk (Subject: Open Cast) with the link to the video or the video attached.

Applicants of any age over 18 welcome. The workshop is aimed at both emerging
and established artists. Full-time students are not eligible to apply.

Please note revised dates:

Date of Workshop: Friday 4th May (Coventry)

Deadline for applications: Sunday 22nd April

We will inform successful applicants by: Wednesday 25th April

Telephone number for any queries: 024 7615 8330 (please leave your name and number clearly) or e-mail access@talkingbirds.co.uk

 

Royal Mint Minds its Ps and Queues with new 10p coin

The Royal Mint has issued a new 10p coin which celebrates the pursuit of Queuing.

The move was welcomed by The Q Corporation, a Coventry-based organisation formed in 2011 to promote Queuing in all is forms.

A spokesperson for The Q Corp said: “We’re delighted that the Royal Mint has recognised Queuing as one of the UK’s great cultural traditions with this new coin. We’ve no doubt people will be lining up in a courteous and orderly fashion to collect one.”

In the run up to London 2012 Queuing formed part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad. The spokesperson said: “We narrowly missed getting Elite Queuing included as an Olympic event, as it was deemed by the IOC that UK athletes would have an unfair advantage over the rest of the world.”

However it is believed that post-Brexit there will be an unprecedented increase in Queuing at airports and other UK borders. “Without Brussels prescribing the length and shape of our Queues, it could become a major growth area for the creative economy.” It’s even been suggested that Queuing could be added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage assets, alongside Belgium Beer Culture and Poetic Duelling in Cyprus.

The Q Corporation will be helping launch the programme for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 later this month at the Shop Front Festival on 23-24 March 2018. “In 2021 people will be queuing up for cultural events across Coventry. It’s our intention that the experience of these Queues will be so good that people won’t actually feel the need to go to the events they have been waiting for.”

Follow on twitter: @Q_mob

Call the Q-line: 0800 012 2401

Ornage clad queuers wave flags in shopping arcade
The Q_Mob lining up for the Shop Front Festival (Pic: Andy Moore)

Come Queue With Us!

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Talking Birds needs volunteers to join its street performance The Q on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th March in Coventry, as part of the Shop Front Festival (the first event in the build up to Coventry UK City of Culture 2021).

The Q is a celebration of the Art of Queuing. In 2011 the Q Corporation was formed in Coventry to campaign for Queuing to be included in the Olympics (therefore ensuring a string of Golds for the UK). Now they return – still dressed in orange – to show why Coventry has the most cultured Queues in the UK, and that it’s high time for our foremost past-time to be recognised as an Artform in its own right.

What do I have to do?

The @Q_Mob is like a Flash-Mob, but slightly more orderly. To join Q_Mob you need to sign up for a 4 hour slot (with ample breaks!) during the Shop Front Festival on Friday 23rd or Saturday 24th March, during which time you will be helping form queues around the City Centre, led by our Q Corp Captains (the elite SAS of queuing).

You will also need to come to a short (1 hour) Q_mob workshop where you can find out more, meet the team and… practice queuing. There are two workshop times to choose from:

Weds 14th March 6.30pm

Friday 16th March 1pm

Both workshops are at Shop Front Theatre 38 City Arcade CV1 3HW (just opposite Argos)

Age requirements: Q_Mob volunteers need to be 18+, younger Q’ers are welcome but need to be accompanied at all times by an also Queuing Parent/Guardian.

There will be FREE CAKE (and other foodstuffs) for volunteers.

How do I sign up / find out more?

Please e-mail us:  theQmobs@gmail.com

Via Facebook

Or call: 0800 012 2401 and leave a message with your name, mobile number and email address (please spell out anything tricky to be sure we can get in touch with you!)

Follow us on Twitter: @Q_mob / @birdmail

I can’t make it to the workshops but I still want to join in. Can I?

Yes! Come along and join The Q in and around Coventry City Centre on Fri 23rd & Sat 24th March.

We won?? WE WON!!

IMG_7218_crMaybe in a week or two it’ll have sunk in, but at the moment the announcement that Coventry will be the next City of Culture still has the dream-like status of something slightly unbelievable that you have been told several times, but somehow need to verify for yourself…

It’s odd that it should seem so hard to believe – as artists in the city and having been involved in the bid right from the start, we know it is blummin’ good! We know it has something of, and for, every single person in this city. Like many Cov things, it has been shaped by many hands working together; by new connections, excited discussions and throwing off the fear of thinking big.

The independent arts sector and the business sector don’t often overlap but, in the shaping of this bid, they have – each offering their own perspectives and both growing through conversation and understanding. So too the young and old have come together, shared their thoughts, hopes, memories, fears, ambitions – and the bid has grown. In understanding what this bid is, what it represents, what it could be, we have achieved something greater than any of us working alone could have done. And the city has grown.

In Talking Birds’ work with The Cart during the bid-shaping process, we asked people to tell us about what they thought a city of culture(s) could or should be and, for many, that turned out to be a surprising question to be asked. It opened up a huge, unexpected vista of possibility just to *think* about things like ‘hope’ and ‘future’: things that, for a lot of people, are not often at the top of the ‘things to think about’ list. Right now, for too many, the future is just what happens next – opportunities or the wherewithal to shape or affect it are sorely lacking.

Throughout the two years of the process so far, this is what has driven all of us forwards: What is this city’s future? How can we make this work for every single person in the city? What do we hope for, for ourselves and for our children? If all of our futures are bound up with this city’s future, what do we want it to be like? These are empowering questions for all of us, but especially for the young. Growing up in a declining city, with decreasing resources available, against a political backdrop of uncertainty and chaos, with a complete lack of confidence in national and international leaders – and the too-big-to-get-your-head-around worry of climate change, hope is a scarce commodity.

And yet hope is such a powerful force for good.

As artists, we’ve become increasingly interested in the role that the imaginations of writers, artists, theatre and film-makers might have unwittingly played in the direction the world has taken – in how much the uncaring behaviour, corrupt leaders and dystopian futures we witness daily in TV dramas or on cinema screens might have become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Visioning is often recommended as a step to goal fulfilment and, given the current state of the world, we’ve begun to wonder whether this also works in the broader consciousness? Just in case, we choose to peddle hope, social integration, conversation and understanding…

…and these values also form the narrative of Coventry’s bid. It speaks of a people-powered antidote to Brexit by placing trust in its young people, by making spaces for all the city’s people to come together, to discover and celebrate what they have in common, find an understanding: it speaks of a city that is truly the sum of its parts. And it updates the levelling effect of the famed ‘blitz spirit’, its social cohesion and the utopianism of the post-war rebuild by recognising that it is culture that holds society together, and when you mix culture and hope (as you perhaps have to when bidding for something 4 years ahead) there are no possibilities closed off to you.

When the chair of the judging panel, Phil Redmond, visited yesterday to congratulate Coventry, he said ‘It was a very close competition, but we think Coventry can deliver something that will make the biggest impact for the whole of the UK…Make it as big as your ambitions…try things, experiment…push it and see where you can get to.”

In putting youth and diversity at the heart of it, Coventry’s bid is built on, and spreads, hope. Truly, *this* is Coventry, the city we are proud to call our home.