The insidious crime against culture… or ‘The body in the Library’

The Cranes at Waterloo,

They know a thing or two,

It’s clear from their jaunty lean

They’ve no intention of coming clean.

And there’s the announcements on the tube,

The surprise in the voice that intones,

All seems to be going according to plan

Move along sir, ma’am.

Tickety Boo. Nothing to see here.

The cordoned off corner of SoHo Square

And the silent dog smothered in handprints

Intimating otherwise. Men in high viz

Simply standing there,

Immune to scrutiny, public glare,

Or stoically prepared, perhaps,

As an eloquence of cultural folk

Descends upon the city.

I am stuffed in a crisply, contemporary Boardoom

With Baronesses, Big Wigs and Chatham House Rules.

My twitchy twitter finger lies mute.

Once grimy Soho has gained a glow

and now, most endearingly shows

A practised charm in cuddling close to Theatre Land.

One can almost smell the indolence dancing

Nonchalently out from Patessierie Valerie, drifting.

And later, vacillating from Soho to Cambridge Circus

along the Charing Cross Road, up from Southbank

Like an elastic band of cultural invaders they come.

Tally Ho! No crime apparent, yet a shadowy finger points accusing.

A tribe of disparate nomads

a merry band of players, a gallery of glamour

In the white smoke of reprobation.

The guady lights, a whiff of Chinese spice,

Embracing the hundreds of us in Multi-platform dimensions;

screen, stage, mobile media, open mic live,

Will we fade away or thrive?

Sucked down in the bowels of the city, marble topped and ornate

We flow. Expectant. Curious. Raging.

Both audience and cast in this movement of hope, this agony

of circumstance, this grind of repitition.

Epitaphs and admonitions; less talk, more do!

Action to the Word! Street talk, flourish, and prickly articulation

As we stand to save our cultural nation. Not as one, but many.

And so,

A temerity of activists? emerge blinking into the light of day

Our thumbs pricked, our comfortable consciences plucked

A tempest gathering.

The crime was more apparent on my way home.

The cranes still lowering on the horizon as I stood beneath the bleached halls of bureaucracy at Whitehall the cultural clouds now drifting away and a jolly policeman making sure he got a good shot of me as he beamed hello. I pondered the statues to fallen heroes, the architectural grandeur, an abundance of building and the Big Wheel slowly turning, rolling over the river reflective in the golden sunlit glow on the portals of power.

There’s a body in the library, you see

And it’s as much who next, as what next?

We can’t stand by and watch the glorious sun set

Now is the time, now the hour

Action to the word. Actions to the words

As one, as many, together.

J. Brain

What Next 2013 #WN2013




having a vision, ‘building healthy’ – creating spaces

Salisbury Re-vision

Tuesday October 18th,

Salisbury Arts Centre 6 – 8pm 

One of the many projects that we currently have running at The Unit is ‘Re-vision’ led by professional architect Tim Scrace of Genisis Design Studio it grew out of our ‘You Rule’ competition where we asked young people in Salisbury and surrounding district to say what they would change, if they were ruler of their postcode for a day. Re-vision began with the aim of:

Complex answer: Helping young people explore their environment and use simple architectural tools to express their thoughts about their vision for where they live – what dreams and ideas they have for how the place where they live should look, function, feel like, to be in

Simple answer: Encourage young people to take a more enthusiastic part in democracy by feeling confident enough to have their say about the future of their homes/communities and feeling confident that it will be listened to and taken note of – at the same time, having fun and getting creative.

It just so happened that locally a project was developing called the Salisbury Vision with the aim of (in rough terms) regenerating areas of Salisbury to attract more commerce and revitalise its appeal to visitors and tourists and create a robust Salisbury that is ‘future-fit’.The Director of the Vision team, Richard Walters came to meet with us alongside Scott Anderson from the South Wiltshire Economic Partnership, Economic Devlopment Team -they have been supporting        Re-vision ever since and have attended events and drop-ins, keen to get a sense of what young people hope for and need for a ‘Salisbury of the future’ and to give an insight into the realities of envisioning those ideas! In turn this has led to the shaping of an event in partnership with the Education and Outreach team at Salisbury Arts Centre.

It’s been quite a journey, from grassing over the market square and exploring the practicalities of see-through toilets and bus-stops with swings nots seats, to building a ‘Barclaycard Ad’ type chute around the Cathedral spire and across its green and prototypes for a ‘super youth hub’ with fish-tanks and chill out rooms, a roof-top cafe, climbing wall…. oh there’s a long list.

Young people who have been involved with Re-vision have come up with some playful and inspired ideas for building design and best use of urban spaces and at our event on October 18th we have linked up with artist and Director of Creative Ecology, James Aldridge who continues the sense of playfulness as he invites those present to help him ‘build a den’ (yes really!) in the main performance space of the Arts Centre whilst the re-vision team invite you to ‘google sketch’ your ideas or use the concept wall to plan and explore plus the build a city: room by room corner (which actually involves glitter and spangly stuff – just because it can!). There will be Lego and there will be Playdough and a chance to win a prize by filling out our questionnnaire and more, so much more, all packed into just two short hours.

So if you’re aged between 13 and 20 yrs COME ALONG

(or if you are reading this and know someone who is – tell them!) Most importantly it’s free to come along and thanks to the imagination and expertise of Tim and James it should be fun.

Feel free to RT, Thanks very much



Teaching an Old Dog New tricks

My day has been lost to The State of the Arts (#SOTA11) Debate a conference hosted by ACE National and the RSA. Like many people actually working in the arts (a huge,  eclectic and diverse sector) I couldn’t afford to attend and the actual conference is largely full of the heavy weight art organisations and sector *players* or dinosaurs of the industry as they are rapidly becoming not least ACE, for its slowness in embracing openess and digital communications and held back by it’s over awareness of ‘brand’ and ‘message’ and ‘City Centric’ culture. I can say this because they do not fund me, and it is my own opinion, which I can have because they do not fund me. I have worked with them, been to their conferences and events and some of their staff have inspired me with their dedication, understanding and knowledge of the sector but not many. My finest example being an Ace officer who would send out emails as if they were a primary school teacher and we were their class… “Hello lovely people, I’m here on the beach, in the hot sun (Clearly being overpaid whilst we are slaving in grimy dark spaces, doing overtime to get a project finished, with little hope of holiday…..)  or “How are you all doing with the changes in the world of Child Protection? anyway onto more important matters…. (Who let this child into the Arts Council Office’s email system, find their parent and get them out of there!!!). It’s not that inexperienced people shouldn’t work for ACE it’s just that I shouldn’t be expected to respect them just because they do. For me, ACE has become ‘the elephant in the room’ and dislocated from the people it purports to represent: that’s audiences, the public and artists and arts organisations and arts bodies. It is kept propped up by organisations who are too reliant on their funding support and approval to step back and take a good look at themselves.

#SOTA11 is an example of the distance, ACE are hosting this important, unequivicable event but it is geared for, chaired by and aimed at ‘the old arts establishment’ building bound, funding led, old established organisations and arts figures who once may have been challenging, provocative, innovative, demanding, progressive but got comfortable along the way and underneath all the posturing really don’t want change if it involves any form of ‘prickly discomfort’ or embarrassment. There has been a valiant attempt to re-dress this via, a somewhat underwhelming livestream and @SOTAflash there has been talk about cultural bush fires, that the young are not the saviours of tomorrow but the audiences of the now, capitalism v. consumerism. We have heard people saying things like “We must build better relationships with our Local Authorities” Hello! Name me one arts organisation worth their salt who hasn’t been doing exactly this ever since God created the apple and the snake! They’ve been doing nothing but. Why did no-one say we’ve done that, it isn’t working not even NALGAO has managed to crack this one, what else should we be trying, doing to change this? We’ve heard Culture Minister Ed Vaizey proclaim his unchartered thoughts, it wasn’t inspiring. Andy Field did his bit, I like what he says and the twitterati have tweeted thoughts, questions and responses and their utter disgust/anger at panelists views, statements and ideas but where’s the connection between what is felt, what is known and what is learnt? Distance, white noise, worm holes of parallel universe’s this is SOTA11

That’s not to say important discourse has not occurred but whilst apparently Local Authorities still don’t know how important the arts are (as they sit watching their TV’s and listening to the radio, reading the papers….planning the new look for their City/Town/Village centres…) and we all have to go away and grow our own Philanthropist and collaborate (because we haven’t been doing any of that over the past ten years either, have we!!?) I can’t help but wonder where some of the people at the conference have been these past few years? Thank goodness for twitter and the #SOTAflash team and those in the room who made it worthwhile. We’re artists, we’re communicators, we’re expressive, we bleed when cut and we shine when you hold us up to the light.

What price *Value*?

If you’re a twitterer or a facebooker you may have come across the ‘I value the Arts’ campaign. A campaign that admirably strives to bring to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunts attention the fact that the Arts is important and valued as such, by large no’s of people in this country and to alert him and our government to the potential disaster of introducing ‘stringent’ cuts to the arts budget. It invites you to nail your colours to the mast and display the ‘I-value-the-arts’ logo on their avatar, icon, website, blog etc.

All my life I have run a personal ‘I value the arts’ campaign, I’ve argued, challenged, led by example and in more recent years researched and spent extra time attempting to seek out and capture the kind of evidence that would prove irrefutably that without the arts our culture, our everyday lives, our emotional wellbeing would be tougher, harder, fragile and bleak. I was going to say what artist couldn’t say the same? But I suspect there are quite a few people out there making a living in the creative industries who have never really gone the extra mile to validate the value of their work and belong to the ‘art is art’ you take it or leave it school of thought (as long as I’m making money, I’m alright jack). There, you see already I’ve resorted to emotive language. What did people do during the war? They held dances, watched films, made up plays and read books to keep their minds off the horror of war and raise morale. When the Romans weren’t invading countries and building roads, aquaducts and baths what did they do? They watched plays, dances, listened to music and storytellers. What is the first concern of the brain? What brings people out of comas? What stimulates people with alzheimers? There is plenty of evidence out there, so you would think there would be strength in numbers, in all coming together united in one common purpose and that I’d be stupid not to join in the cause?

I’m an artist, who has matured into a ‘creative’. I don’t sell pictures, make theatre or write for a living (although I still HAVE to do a little of all of these things to feed my soul). So what is a creative? Well it’s someone like me who works with creativity and embeds it in everything they do and connects creativity and creative people to every project and every part of their working and personal life in some way or another.  I don’t think out of the box, I am out of the box, as Helen le Broq from OYAP would say I’m a ‘maverick of the mainstream’ and whilst I don’t appreciate or patronise or even ‘get’ every part of the huge, diverse and amoebic blob that is the ‘Arts’ I do value the arts. I even know people who don’t and that’s okay generally because I know they have the radio playing in their cars on the way to work and enjoy the music as much as the travel reports and respond to colour or lack of it without being aware of the impact it subliminally has on them and probably value music, or literature or being made to laugh, peruse a museum stuffed to the gills with historic artefacts etc., etc., more than they realise. I also know that ‘value’ is not a fixed point. Everything has a value to someone, but proving and ‘fixing’ that value is open to debate.

Proving the value of the ‘Arts’ and that the ‘Arts’ is valued is extremely hard. Why? Well the umbrella title of The Arts and also Culture covers a vast, wide ranging sector from light entertainment to Opera, Street Dance, Installations, Fashion, Festivals, Film, Craft, and it moves, mutates, merges, it is an Aladdins Cave of bright objects and dull, rusting artefacts waiting to be brought out into the ight and re-discovered, transformed or transform. It means so many things to so many people but most of all it means nothing at all to many people and these are the people for whom the value of the Arts will only be apparent when they are gone, no longer exist or are no longer accessible except to the elite few. So how does a campaign reach these people, some of whom will be members of government I’m sure? A campaign alone is not enough, we have to start helping people understand that the things they surround themselves with, not just the seeming luxuries; the vases, designer curtains, lovely clothes and the pleasing design of the big building down their road but the music on the radio, the craft at the village fete, these are made possible by artists, designers, architects. That without the likes of musicians, dancers, actors, artists, photographers, film-makers, writers the world would be grey and flat. It’s time to step up to the plate and when you’re enlivening someone’s day with your art, craft or creativity help them understand just what it is they are experiencing ‘engage with your audience’ If we want investment in the arts then maybe we need to see a wider and more honest investment by artists and arts organisations in their audiences.



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Our *Put Your Music Where Your Mouth Is* debate in May was so successful but we all knew it was only the beginning so here’s advance warning of PART TWO of PYMWYMI for those of you who care about the live music scene in Salisbury and surrounding areas. If you’ve got something to say, an idea about how it could or should be then you need to come along – change is in the air – don’t miss out come and have your say.

Listen today: our debate, our questions

38 Degrees

At 1pm today, the Guardian website will be hosting our live election debate between the three manifesto-writers for Labour, Liberal Democrat and the Conservative parties.

Over 10,000 of us voted on the questions we should ask . 38 Degrees members will be putting our questions directly to Ed Miliband (Labour), Danny Alexander (Liberal Democrats) and Jeremy Hunt (Conservative). The rest of us will be able to commment and discuss their answers live through the Guardian website.

Join in and have your say during the Guardian debate at 1pm today, by clicking here:

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We’ve chosen these questions together. Today we’ll be working together to make sure the politicians answer them. That should help us make informed choices about who to vote for. It will also mean that whoever wins this election, they’ll know that there are thousands and thousands of us, we won’t settle for spin, and we’ll work together to hold them to their promises.

Join the debate today and hear politicians answer the questions we’ve chosen together:

Thanks for being involved,

Hannah, David, Johnny, Nina, and the 38 Degrees Team

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