Posts Tagged the story

Long time, no blog

Well, it’s that time when I take a look at the blog and realised it hasn’t been updated for two months. So it made me think on what the hell I’ve been doing for the last couple of months and realise things have been pretty busy since settling into my new Cardiff home. Here’s a quick recap on some of it (for myself more than anything).

London calling

Guardian Open Weekend

Guardian Open Weekend

I’ve found myself going to London quite a lot, for work and pleasure. I’m just about getting used to landing in Paddington rather than Euston now. A lot of my trips have been to deliver Talk About Local training sessions, which is when I definitely see quite a different side to London than I do as a regular visitor/tourist. I find myself visiting areas I’d never think to go to otherwise, such as Walthamstow (for a Nesta Neighbourhood Challenge project training session), the Priory Green Estate in Kings Cross and Lambeth North (for training with Peabody Housing).

I find I’m learning to a lot about London’s places and people as a result. During the last training session with Peabody I heard Steve’s story about the Cumberland Market Estate, previously owned by the Crown Estate. Steve was an active part of the residents’ Our Homes Are Not For Sale campaign to prevent the estate from being sold to private developers when the Crown Estate announced their intention to sell in 2010. The campaign worked well, influencing the Crown Estate’s decision to sell to social landlord Peabody.

But not all the London visits are all work and no play. I also found time to go to Matt Locke’s gorgeous The Story and Carl and I managed to create a lovely long London weekend break around the Guardian Open Weekend, where I took part in a panel discussion on hyperlocal journalism. The event itself was great fun – full of good food, thinkers and things like The Book Barge and that guy who dances like a lobster.

Back in Brum


Carl and I found ourselves drawn back to Birmingham for the brilliant Flatpack Festival. We spent Saturday night at The Edge, which had been transformed into a remote Peruvian fluoro village in the mountains with equally colourful locals for the Outersight Overnight Psychedelic Psynema Psleepover. Despite the cinematic strangeness being projected over our beds I slept like a baby until we were awoken the nest morning and invited to watch the sunrise on the roof. It really was quite magical and I left feeling I’d spent the night in some far-flung land rather than familiar Digbeth.

The next day I had a Filum Afternoon in the Spotted Dog as part of Flatpack, screening some Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland archives and Nichola Bruce’s haunting, dream-like film I Could Read The Sky. I loved this film when I first saw it a couple of years ago – Dermot Healy plays an old Irish immigrant padding around his London bedsit whilst he recalls his life, which has been far from easy. Certainly not a ‘feelgood’ film but I found it beautiful all the same. Being back in the Spotted Dog for Filum made me reminisce for the good old days, I do miss those gentle Monday nights in the pub, watching Irish films whilst drinking tea and eating cake!

I’m back in Birmingham again this weekend for the #TAL12 unconference, which we’re a busy bunch at work gearing up for. I’m particularly looking forward to providing Friday night’s entertainment – giving people who are there the night before a guided tour of Digbeth!

Staying local

Digital storytelling – Train the Trainer courses

As well traveling a fair bit I’ve also been busy at home, getting to know my new Cardiff neighbourhood and what’s going on locally. I was delighted to be asked to speak at the February WordPress Users Wales meetup about working with WordPress with Digbeth is Good and in my Talk About Local work. I met some great people there who really opened my eyes to the Cardiff’s emerging hyperlocal scene, which prompted a lengthy blog post detailing some of the very many sites and projects around.

I also worked with anti-smoking charity Ash Wales, assisting them with their interview process for their new role of Social Media Expert Officer. It’s a fantastic position and unsurprisingly there were many applications, which made for a full days’ interviewing. One thing I learned from the exercise is there really is no way of foreseeing what will happen sometimes. Before the interviews, I created a series of questions, one of which was ‘Describe a particularly effective social media campaign that did a lot to raise awareness of and engage new audiences in a worthwhile issue. What about it do you think made it so successful?’ I was basically looking to see how candidates were watching what other were doing online and taking away lessons from that. But of course, just before the interview date Kony 2012 went and happened!!

Rather than go away for the Easter break I stayed at home and attended a ‘train the trainer’ digital storytelling course in Ebbw Vale facilitated by Breaking Barriers Community Arts. I was tempted by this when I saw a previous run of the course advertised last year but couldn’t attend then, so was very happy to have gotten to go this year. It was great 5 day intensive, which focused as much on the process of drawing out and developing a good story as it did the more technical aspects of building a digital story. By the end of the course we had all created a short digital story film – I’ll be sharing mine on here shortly, just as soon as I’ve made some little tweaks!

Chilling out

Bute Park by Snowshot

Bute Park by Snowshot

When I last saw my nutritionist she advised me to meditate or do some sort of activity to help me relax. I’ve not gone for meditation but I have been making sure to take some time out – long evening walks in Bute Park, the odd lunchtime picnic in Llandaff Fields, getting my drama fix from Netflix and filling Carl’s Facebook profile with costume dramas as a result.

I’ve also the taken the time to learn a little bit of Welsh at Chapter Arts Centre, who hosted free Tuesday morning conversational Welsh sessions for beginners over February-April. Admitedly, I learned just a little (languages never were my strong point) but it was good fun and a nice way to meet people . I’m hoping to find some time to follow this introduction up with the help of Say Something in Welsh – a series of brilliant, free-to-download podcast lessons for beginners with regular local meet-ups for the online community that’s developed around it.

In terms of nutrition, according to Getgood Eats I’ve not eaten for over a month. A stomach upset kind of put paid to the strict diet for the moment but hoping to meet with nutritionist next month and try to get back on that wagon.

That’s all folks!

So that’s the last couple of months in a nutshell! Feels strange that what’s felt like quite a busy period can be rounded up pretty quickly. There are a couple of other things I’ve omitted that I feel warrant their own posts, from discovering the genius of Joss Whedon to eating a meal of Titanic proportions (more on those later). In the meantime, I’ve got #TAL12 to help make happen and shortly after that, the launch of an exciting new Talk About Local project which I’m really looking forward to! But it’s not all work and no play, I’ve a May camping trip to look forward to and a big personal project on the horizon – watch this space! 🙂

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The Story, Shoot Experience’s Capture Kings Cross and The White Ribbon

On 19th Feb I went along to The Story – a lovely day-long ‘celebration of everything that is wonderful, inspiring and awesome about stories’.  It felt incredibly indulgent, spending the day listening to different people tell their stories in different ways, but it was definitely a day well spent.  The Story ‘was a very selfish event’ organised by Matt Locke ‘because I wanted to go to an event like this’.  Fortunately what Matt wants struck a chord with everyone there, who thoroughly enjoyed the day.  I really hope we’ll see more of the same next year.

The real highlight for me was experiencing the genius that is Tim Etchells.  I don’t think I’ve known what it is to sob with laughter before hearing him describe a man showing someone a picture of his children by drawing stick figures on a napkin.  You had to be there.  I was fortunate enough to get the chance to chat to him over the mid-morning break.  Unfortunately, I was far too awe-struck to say anything much beyond, “That were great.”  Sorry Tim.

I decided to make a London weekend of things so stayed over in a teeny, tiny EasyHotel pod.  On Saturday I made my way to Kings Cross for the Shoot Experience Capture Kings Cross event, which explored the variety of themes and influences from the British Library’s Points of View exhibition.  It was kind of a photography treasure hunt – participating teams were given a sheet of clues to Kings Cross locations and handed in their camera’s memory card of photographed answers at the end of the afternoon. My friend Jennie and I had a great day running around Kings Cross trying to find answers and inspiration and snapping away.  Above is the slideshow of images we submitted in response to these clues – can you match them up?:

A. Once number eight of nine, a gas provider in its prime, now standing alone awaiting renewal.
B. This place of worship has proved Hardy against advancing development since AD 313.
C. This basin has long since washed its hands of ice and is now a cultural Place ft for a King.
D. For an aerial view of the Regeneration around, head to this old House – follow York and onto the Wharf.
E. From Industrial coal yard to a Natural revolution this Park is an ornately gated hidden gem.
F. Cut from the same brick as its neighbourly station, this tower of text houses the photographic history to inspire your journey today.

G. The Camera Never Lies
H. Making Tracks

I’d love to see Shoot Experience do something in Birmingham.  Although their events are mainly London ones it seems they do sometimes venture North, and there’s definitely enough people in Birmingham up for having a fun day out with their cameras to warrant it.

On Sunday I just fancied chilling by watching a film so headed to The Renoir Cinema in Russell Square to catch a screening of Michael Heneke’s astonishing The White Ribbon.  The 3-hour film (which doesn’t feel like it) tells the story of ‘A village in protestant northern Germany.  1913-1914.  On the eve of World War I.’

On the face of it village life is ordered and harmonious, with the villagers happy with their place within the pecking order of the traditional feudal system.  But strange things start happening – ‘Who tied the wire to trip the Doctor?  Who set fire to the barn?  Did you ever wonder who tortured Karli?’  The local schoolteacher takes it upon himself to investigate and discovers the seemingly idyllic society is, under the surface, rotten to the core, with those who should be righting the wrongs too fearful to face up to them and preferring to turn the other way.

Of course a lot of reviewers took this as a precursory tale to the horrors of Nazi Germany: ‘Did these events contain the germs of the tragedies that followed?’  What it screamed to me was just how contagiously toxic bad elements within communities often are, and how harmful smoothing over the cracks can be.

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