Right – this is going to have to be a bit of a quick one – running out of time today! Going to begin by showcasing a new discovery (to us) in the Podcast department, which is the Guardian’s ‘We Need To Talk About…’ series.
LISTEN: There’s a pretty robust (think that’s the modern term for a bit of disagreement) discussion demonstrating how emotive the issue of food choices is, in ‘We need to talk about the rise of veganism’. The panel comes at it from various angles with a range of opinions and looks at the issue in terms of personal wellbeing, animal welfare and – most pertinently – environmental (including climate change, deforestation and pollution). Early on, one of the panel details the shocking statistic that 14.5% of human-caused emissions are attributable to the livestock sector, which is more than the global transport industry combined (all the planes, trains, cars etc total about 13% of human-caused emissions)! Definitely worth a listen, regardless of your eating preferences.
READ: This fortnight I’ve been reading ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and ‘Purple Hibiscus’, catching up on the back catalogue of Chimamanda Ngozei Adichie – both of them were quite brilliant, although I think ‘Americanah’ is still my favourite of her novels. Worth reading all three.
LISTEN: Another Guardian podcast ‘Why is positive news coverage so vital in today’s world?’ – discussing solutions-focussed journalism and whether it can counter the depressive/disempowering effect of much of today’s rolling news. This is a really interesting discussion – particularly in the details offered on traditional journalistic training and the equation of ‘bad news’ with ‘serious journalism’ versus ‘good news’ with ‘frivolous’; and the psychological evidence offered on the empowering effect of more positive reporting. This tied in for me with the fantastically inspiring ‘Hope in the Dark‘ by Rebecca Solnit – and the train of thought Talking Birds has been exploring for a while around the responsibilities of artists/TV/filmmakers who represent the world as hopeless and corrupt, in unwittingly making these theories self-fulfilling. (We have written about this before – in more depth and much more eloquently of course – but – sorry! – don’t have time to find the link at the moment!)
As ever, let us know whether you read/listened on one of our recommendations and, if so, what you thought.
Here’s ‘Wednesday Recommendations’ post number 4 – this is some of the stuff Birds have 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 episode 41 – another cracking episode from Ed & Geoff! This episode explores cooperatives as a resurgent business model of choice, alongside other socially responsible models currently growing in popularity, such as community interest companies, non-profits & social enterprises. The second guest in particular (Joe Guinan from the Democracy Collaborative) describes the very clear advantages (think stability, stronger local economy & job security) of such socially responsible company ownership models to the areas in which they are based vs the de-stabilising effect of the constant change of ownership that happens with big corporations and the way that non-local ownership just siphons profits out of the business and out of the area, or even the country.
Slightly paraphrased, he says: ‘If you have a real stake in the business you work for, you tend not to export your own job overseas and are more aware of the environmental impact of your method of production because you also live there and so you’re unlikely to pollute the water or air your children are going to be drinking/breathing … it’s a more embedded form of ownership’
READ: Art hotel & the ‘artist-friendly city’ is a really interesting blog post from MAIA, who I’d not come across until I head Amahra speak at the a-n Assembly event in Birmingham the other week. One of the projects she’s heading up is working towards creating an Art Hotel in Birmingham. This paragraph rings really true, but also echoes back to a lot of things about co-ops in ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’. “We work with socially-engaged artists, practitioners and citizens with a deep-rooted investment in their environment. Fundamentally, given the broad parameters of which their work interrogates, when you make a city more equitable for artists and makers, everyone benefits. Of course, there is the awareness that in order to do that, it takes a societal shift, to renegotiate our understanding of what being an artist is. For too long, ‘artist’ has held definitions too contained, too narrow and too exclusive.”
READ: I’m not really into the football, but this article from historian David Olusoga totally shifted my perspective – if you’ve also been known to get slightly uncomfortable around a St. George flag, give it a read.
That’s it – as ever, let us know in the comments if you’ve followed any of the recommendations what you thought – and if you have any recommendations for us.
This time, the Wednesday Recommendations (a day early!) are all about Volgograd – you may have heard the name – we understand there was a football match there last night…
Coventry and Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, it was renamed in 1961) have a lot of history – being the first twin cities in the world and effectively inventing the idea of twinning after WW2. Talking Birds has had a connection with Volgograd for a while now, beginning when we found about the tablecloth in 2004. To mark the 60th anniversary of the twinning, Talking Birds created the ‘Twin 60’ project to explore what the twinning had achieved and what it meant to citizens in the two cities after 60 years, through the creation of a “Virtual Tablecloth“, which you can still find and explore online here.
As we wrote in 2004: Coventry and Volgograd’s…is a friendship that persisted even during the darkest days of the Cold War, and has led to many exchanges between the two cities – whether civic, cultural, educational or personal. It is interesting to ask whether the twinning has made any permanent difference to the thinking and actions of its citizens. And if so, what are they? What do we have in common?
There are issues of regeneration and image that might be explored, as well as the issue of a city’s relationship with its past. We should be careful not to try to make too many direct comparisons between the experiences of the two cities during the war; but we might be inspired by a concept of twinning which cannot be controlled by national governments, and might not even reflect national relations, yet persists and flourishes and has the potential to encourage change on a national level.
What does it mean to be a city of peace and reconciliation?
What does it mean to be a twin?
So, after that bit of background, this week’s Wednesday Recommendations are:
READ (in English or Russian!): About the origin of the link between the two cities, which began in 1943, when Emily Smith, Coventry’s Mayor, and 830 other Coventry women (and some men) signed their names onto a tablecloth. Each one paid sixpence to sign and the money raised went towards medical aid for Stalingrad (now Volgograd). The names were embroidered by Mrs May Adams over the course of the next two years. In 1944 the relationship between Coventry and Volgograd was cemented and the cities became the first to twin.
BROWSE: The Twin Story blog, an umbrella for our Volgograd projects, including Coventry-Volgograd Pecha Kucha talks, children’s art exhibition and more!
FURTHER COVENTRY-VOLGOGRAD READING FROM OTHER SOURCES:
Article in The Guardian from 2016 by Trevor Baker “The issue of how to create links between communities and individuals without endorsing political regimes remains problematic. Even so, there are those who still think that twinning agreements can make a difference to life in our cities. This could be even more true in the case of countries that don’t agree on a political level. In 2014, to celebrate the original bond of friendship, Volgograd Children’s Orchestra visited Coventry and performed a piece of music, Twin Song, written by Nisbet. It could have been disastrous timing, as relations between Russia and the west were at the lowest they’d been since the cold war. The orchestra travelled soon after Russia annexed Crimea. “I was a little bit worried about hearing some questions from people about politics. But luckily there was nothing like that,” says orchestra leader Yuri Ilynov. “We only heard nice things about the orchestra.””
Article in The Conversation “I love Volgograd” by Catherine Danks, Senior Lecturer in Russian and Soviet History and Politics, Manchester Metropolitan University (which also mentions our projects!)
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!
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…?
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).
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!
Applications 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.com