Category Archives: What I’ve Been Doing

Singing For The Mind

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I wrote this, and my manager Graham kindly read it, for the service last Sunday about the music work we do with people living with dementia and their carers.


“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Twenty voices in unison releasing for a few minutes the individual identities we brought into the room. On Wednesday mornings at Singing For The Mind we put aside whatever descriptions we arrived with: “person living with dementia”, “carer”, “community worker” and lift our hearts in song together, joining in an act of communal music-making.

It may sound obvious, but singing together is different from talking together. On alternate weeks, we do talk informally together over games and crafts, coffee and biscuits and those conversations are important to help people remember who they are and get to know each other better. It is good to talk. But we try to balance that with the opportunity to all do the same thing at the same time, to transcend the separation that comes with this illness and lose ourselves in the one-ness of group singing. It is not only a rare opportunity for physical expression of the spirit but also an affirmation of our community.

Half of the people in the room may struggle to remember what they did yesterday. The other half deal with the challenges that this condition presents, some of them with loved ones that they’ve known for half a century.

Together, we not only create a bigger sound, but we also create a space in which the strongest can carry those who are feeling physically or mentally weaker. Working with familiar words, melodies and rhythms awakens parts of us all that we might ordinarily allow to doze off.

There isn’t any hard work to be done, the music is simple and the sounds we make are not always sophisticated but when we join in song we join in spirit whether that’s singing along to a rousing gospel choir’s “Amazing Grace” or just joining in with the “clap, clap” in “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five!

Women’s work #IWD2016

I don’t work for free, that’s a firm rule.  But when Helen asked me to help with making a series of podcasts with women in tech for International Women’s Day, I said yes without hesitation.

I’m proud of the work we did today, all of us, in collaboration.  I know that you’ll get great value out of listening to the stories of the women we met and worked with.

But whatever the financial value, whatever I might have been paid ordinarily for a day like today can only represent a tiny, tiny fraction of the value of unpaid physical and emotional labour as well as financial support given to me by the women whose homes and lives I’ve shared over the years, support which continues to today.

Thank you, all of you, mother and sister, grandmothers and aunts, girlfriends and wives, I love you all.

Audioblog 160220 – Why So Serious?

Download 5.7MB

I recorded this on Waterloo Station shortly after the Devoted & Disgruntled Vaults Festival Open Space on Saturday. The space was opened to discuss “Let’s stop romanticising depression and marginalising other mental illness” and I called a session called “Why So Serious?” about the issue of taking oneself too seriously, dealing with other people’s expectations, the link between adopting a serious persona and depression or burn-out.

I reported like this mainly because I’d called a session at the previous week’s space but had then spent the whole week not being able to write a report.   It’s reminded me how much I like making this format.  Expect more…

First #neweconomics event with @johnmcdonnellmp

A couple of weeks ago, John McDonnell MP, the shadow chancellor, announced that he’d be organising a series of events on New Economics to “broaden the debate around economics in Britain.”

I booked up for the first four in London straight away. The first lecture was last night at the Royal Institution. It was good, I heartily recommend you getting along to others in the series if you can. I had a few reactions to it that might be expected by regular readers here.

  1. I’m not very good at lectures. Mariana Mazzucato was a great speaker in that unstoppable Italian-American way. And I stuck it to the end, but it was a hard exercise in concentration for me. That aside, I’m left wondering if it was worth it – one person talking for an hour, even jumping around her slides, is something I can watch on YouTube and I get to pause it to have a cup of tea and a think half way through.

  2. I’m not very good at Economics. I spent a good deal of my second year at University rebelling against having to do Economics 101 and I’m very glad to say that last night had no mention of inelastic pricing, but I was on my guard for long explanations of this model versus that model. I’m glad I got to hear what she had to say (big takeaway: don’t forget that all of Silicon Valley’s invention is built on the foundations from large publicly-funded programmes [DARPA, NASA, CERN etc]) but I had to work hard for it (probably a good thing).

  3. I’m really not good at post-lecture Q&A. There may be some people who enjoy it, who get to hear things they didn’t hear before, but I don’t think that justifies the mic-hogging and mansplaining and all of us having to sit through another half (if we’re lucky) hour of one person speaking at a time.

I came away really wanting to know who else was in the room (other than Jeremy Corbyn) and what they thought. And what all of this was doing to “broaden the debate”. I may just be being impatient. Let’s see what the next one (on Tech & the Future of Work) is like. I’d much rather have some Open Space/Unconference events where people really get to talk about this stuff and we all have an experience we couldn’t have had through a screen.

Which ties in conveniently with two evening events I’m doing in February at WeWork on the Southbank! After the Future of Work spaces we did before Christmas, I wanted to continue the conversation but with a more practical angle. So rather than talking broadly about new technologies, I’m asking “What are we actually going to do?”

You can book on Eventbrite:

Future of Work: What are we going to do about Artificial Intelligence?

and

Future of Work: What are we going to do about The Internet of Things?

See you there if not before!

 

Ten years of online video

Last night, someone commented on an old video of mine on YouTube. It was from some work I did in 2006 making content for a site supporting a consultation around education for the creative industries. That’s as much as I remember really. Mostly it was talking to “grown-ups” about what “skills are needed by industry” but I also got to go down to Peckham and interview a bunch of young people about their experience of Theatre Peckham (then known as New Peckham Varieties).

The commenter had said “Omg is that John boyega 😭 so happy for him” And so I had a look and yes, about one minute in, there’s a fourteen-year-old future Finn looking surprised to hear that not only had Sir Ian McKellen worked in the West End, but also that he was in the (then) new X-Men movie.

Go on, watch the whole thing. He pops up later too. If you spent any time around theatre when you were young, you’ll recognise yourself and your peers in there somewhere.

It made me realise that I’ve been on YouTube for nearly ten years. 2006 was the year it all got going. At the start of the year it was some experiment that guys at PayPal were doing, I joined in the March (but didn’t fully commit to only posting video there till much later – hence the broken video links in some of my posts!) and by the end of the year it had been bought by Google. And still people were saying video on the web was just a fad 🙂

It might be time for a retrospective!

Hitched

Oh My!  I imagine that most of the people who read here will have seen the news last weekend or known anyway, but I got married to Laura Musgrave on 5th September.  And I’m chuffed to bits.

I first got married in 1990 just before I turned 26. I thought it was all about us – which means that primarily I thought the day was about me, but then I suppose that at the time I thought my life was all about me anyway.

Life has changed me.  Nearly 25 years later, I’ve done it again.  I’m privileged to come at it this time with that experience of what marriage is really about and what life is really for.  I’m very grateful for the first time round, and in particular, the two beautiful children that came from it – two young people of whom I’m immensely proud today.

Nick Holder was my best man and we went on a walk in the woods a few weeks ago as part of my “stag”.  He asked me while we walked, why I was getting married.  I said that I liked it, as a state of being.  I prefer it, as an idea, to living together without a public declaration and ritual and even all the legal stuff.  I like us being a unit – two and one.  I like introducing “my wife”.

It’s taken me ten years to come back to this position.  When I first moved out in 2005, I was quite sure that I’d spend the rest of my life alone, or in long-term relationships that didn’t involve public commitment and children.  But that has changed very very slowly, over the years.

I’ve done a lot of growing up since then and so a couple of years ago, after Laura and I had been together for a year or so, and despite me being on the road at the time, I felt ready to say that, although I didn’t know how it might work out, I would very much like to spend the rest of my life with her and have another family.

A year later I asked her formally, in the Starbucks in the King’s Road which was the place she claimed she first took a shine to me.  And now here we are, sitting in San Francisco on the first day of our honeymoon.

Lots was said at the wedding about love and marriage, what it means  to us and to all the people who were there.  Expect more details in the in-between blogging time I get while I’m away, but my wife has just arrived in the coffee shop!

And thank you, and much love to all those who helped me get here.

04/07/14 – Today at #tuttle

Some notes I made from today’s conversations which included @tonyhall @freecloud & @tibocut with a fortunate postscript one-to-one for me with @mistergough

The RFH was being used today for a graduation ceremony.  That chimed with my recognition that some people have “graduated” from Tuttle and that’s worth celebrating.

On the other side of the glass #tuttle
MayDay Rooms is a safe haven for historical material linked to social movements, experimental culture and the radical expression of marginalised figures and groups. It offers communal spaces to activate archives’ potential in relation to current struggles and informal research, challenging the widespread assault on collective memory and historical continuity. MDR is located in Fleet Street, Central London, but is informally linked in inspiration, collaboration and practice with an international network of common and concurrent initiatives.”

Thinking about archives as a way of seeing oneself through media but also recontextualising yourself – which I take to mean seeing what different things in you are reflected by your contact with archive materials.

Personal stories are much more interesting than the facts, which can be discovered for oneself – if you’re telling me a story about a stone that you picked up on a beach, the geology of the stone is the least interesting part (unless within that there is some personal connection).

There are always lots of little social things going on that no-one knows about.

What alternatives are there in the space between mesh networks and the “legacy” Internet?

Instagram and Twitter as a treasure hunt.  We leave trails of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we’re doing for others to pick up and enjoy and follow the path.

What’s this #tuttle reboot all about? What is it that needs to be revived, what’s it for, what’s it supposed to do, has it done it already?

Watson at IBM – looks amazing, looks like magic – do those explaining how it works really understand it themselves?  What is the complexity under the surface?  How much do you get to know once you’ve “signed on the line that is dotted”?