Wednesday Recommendations: Wilding, Doughnuts & Eating with Strangers

It’s been a while since there’s been a moment or two free to write a #WednesdayRecommendations post but, it’s Wednesday and I’ve got 10 minutes so here goes:

READ: ‘Doughnut Economics’ by Kate Raworth. I got hold of this after listening to the author on the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful‘ podcast, and I’m so glad I did! This is one of those books that totally changes the way you see the world – causing you to totally re-examine everything you think you know about the way things are done, or have been done – and why. It challenges our modern understanding of ‘growth’ and how we measure value – and is therefore much wider ranging than just economics. Laying out a compelling vision of how things could be (and need to be) done differently – the book is full of hope and practical steps for how humanity can re-organise to truly prosper, whilst re-generating our ravaged planet.

READ: ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree tells the story of her family’s decision to end the loss-making intensive agriculture farming business they inherited at Knepp on the South Weald. The book charts their incredible 20 year journey of discovery as they stopped ‘conventional’ farming, and gradually allowed (and prompted) nature to re-colonise and essentially heal the land. In common with ‘Doughnut Economics’, this book turns accepted views, and ways of doing things, upside down. I’m particularly struck by the way that this has been written as a summation of 20 years of quiet observation, and how that observation leads to a far deeper understanding, which in turn leads to (eg) the radical suggestions that the early British ‘wildwood’ must have been closer to wood pasture than forest; and that our understanding about the preferred habitats of many wild species are based on where they were able to survive when their really preferred habitats had been denied them by human activity.

LISTEN: The Food Programme ‘Eating With Strangers‘ which was broadcast last year, explores various examples of where strangers get together to eat – from Supper Clubs to Sikh Temples. It’s a fascinating programme on a number of levels, but particularly resonant for me, having recently enjoyed the Curating Coventry Supper Club at The Pod, the Stories on our Plate supper, and having linked up with the amazing Langar Aid during Spon Spun Festival. There’s lots of discussion about the connective potential of food but the clincher is probably “You can’t really hate someone you eat with.” Definitely worth a listen!

As always, let us know if you take us up on any of the recommendations – and what you make of them – and let us have your recommendations for reading and listening too. Cheers!

IMG_2251

 

Advertisements

Wednesday Recommendations: Co-ops, artist-friendly cities & change-making football.

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.

Wednesday Recommendations – it’s all about Volgograd…

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.

LOOK: at the 1943 tablecloth itself – the online version – the real cloth is displayed in the Panorama Museum in Volgograd, although it did visit Coventry in 2004, and was displayed at The Herbert.

EXPLORE: Our 2006 exhibition Other Coventry <> Other Volgograd, including this sonic collaboration by Slava Mishin and Derek Nisbet, recorded at Herbert Media.

WATCH: The video of the world premiere of Twin Song, a symphonic poem created by Talking Birds to mark the 70th anniversary of the twinning and performed at Coventry Cathedral.

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!)

dsc_0009-scaled1000

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!

 

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