Tag Archives: ideas

Family History Project Day 1 of 28

Today was a thinking day. Starting a new project. Well, choosing a new project first of all.

Last weekend I went through the cards I’ve been using for the last 28 days and wrote down what project idea I had for each of them. Just the first thing off the top of my head. Today I looked back over it with a view to choosing something. As I read them I realised that a couple of them had the added benefit of helping me to clear up my physical working environment and that that is quite important to me.

So I chose the Family History one, which I’d written down as “a memorial of some kind to Tony, using the stuff I’ve got of his and about him to make a something, not clear exactly what yet.”

Tony in Minehead 1973

So today I turned this into: cataloguing, digitising and writing about the materials I have from my father (he died six months ago, suddenly and unexpectedly). I have personal documents, letters, notebooks and diaries, but I also have lots of photographs of him playing music, some recordings and then press and publicity materials. And then there are other bits that are from his work as a computer programmer, again marketing materials, but also descriptions of the work that he did for ACT/Apricot in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

So that’s it. He’s not notable enough (I don’t think) for a Wikipedia page, but it would be nice to have some sort of organised memorial to him on the web, working from all the physical evidence I have and helping his descendants know who he was.

That’s it, that’s as clear a project brief and product description as I can muster right now. I think the next thing is to have a think about what might be a realistic product in 28 days, working around existing commitments and the day job, so that I can make a better plan.


Writing this reminds me that not all blog posts have titles. I mean it’s annoying to have to come up with something. Next blog software needs to not have it as a requirement, just let me write man.

Make Something Every Day – Film 001

I pulled “Film”. That’s tricky – make a film, on a Bank Holiday Monday… starting….. now! My first reaction was to cheat it, by applying it to all of the actual bits of film that I have lying around in various states of processing.

One way of looking at this way of working (I hesitate to call it a project) is to say “OK, if you were going to work on your most important and interesting XYZ project today, what would that project be and what next right steps would you take?” To which my creative inner says “Fuck off, you’re trying to get me to project manage again.”

I do think that part of this work is to allow the bumbling and improvisation to come through in the structure. The prompt isn’t a kind of trick to make me make a film or write a book or whatever, it’s a way to safeguard today from all the other things that could come invading in, if it weren’t there and allow the bumbling to stay roughly on one path instead of going into the long grass because I can’t remember why I started this sentence in the first place.

So although there are films I’d like to make and bits of film (moving picture) that I was thinking of when I wrote “Film” on the card, it’s OK if I spend some time with old (or new!) negatives or gels or filters or plastic bags, I suppose. It’s up to me how far is too far to stretch. I don’t think Film is ever likely to be “I watched Netflix all day” but it’s not always going to be tiny sober progress towards a magnum opus.

A little while ago I made a kind of soundscape thing called Grunt & Shuffle made out of sounds I recorded within a few steps of my front door. The idea came to me today to add some visual layers to that, perhaps put some shots from down by the river together with cars speeding past on the main road and that made me think of a kind of double-exposure thing, perhaps swapping the focus from greenery to road and back again in some way related to the sounds. I popped out and shot a minute or so of cars passing (it’s quiet on a Bank Holiday) and decided not to get fresh stuff from the river but to delve into my archive.

I thought I knew how to use a cutaway in iMovie to do a double-exposure effect, but I didn’t so I had to look it up. Even then, I had to poke around a few times and then restart my computer before I got it to work properly.

I chopped the cars going past up a bit to get the rhythm that I wanted. And I took off the audio. Then I slowed it down by 50% this sets the time at about 1 minute.

I took a very short clip of my feet walking up St Catherine’s Footpath from a couple of years ago and copied it several times so that it loops over the car track. Then I saved this as it’s own file so that I could put more overlays on. I remembered to start writing some notes (you’re reading them now, isn’t that neat?!) while the cogs grind in the software machine.

Now the question is, when you’re building up layers, do you start a new iMovie project (yes, I’m still using iMovie, stop judging me) so that you’ve got something to rewind to, or do you get rid of it, knowing that it was so simple and made out of things that you have saved, and you’ve written notes to remind you of what you did anyway, so you could just redo it if you needed to but you probably wouldn’t need to. That all feels complicated, so I just cleared the workspace and started again with the new one.

I like the way that the changing light levels in the walking clip shift the double exposure effect, so my eye switches between which layer I’m focusing on.

And then I needed some greenery – I chose a shot from the bottom of Ferry Lane across the river, a bit shaky and I think the camera was a bit overwhelmed by the green and made it a bit yellow, but I tried adjusting it and messing around generally and none of it worked, so I rendered that over the top of layer one as layer two.

To complete the video bit, I added some clips of a buttercup blowing in the wind. I chopped it up and copied a few bits to fill out the one minute clip. Then I popped a fade to black on the end before going hunting for the audio.

The only copy I could find was on soundcloud and I had to fiddle to download it onto this machine. I started with the very beginning, but that was overwhelming so I picked a piece that fitted the roughly one minute of video and which was a bit more calm. And I totally obsessed about how I could get the audio footsteps and my feet on the film to be better synchronised before remembering that really what was important was the realisation of an idea. And that was complete, if not perfect.

Here you go.

ADHD notes

I lost an hour (at least) yesterday looking for my old developing tank and thermometer, the final bits in the developing kit. Laura knew exactly where they were when I finally gave in and asked her – they were in the box that she puts her laptop on when it’s plugged into a monitor, so she sees it pretty much every day. She really can’t understand why I can’t remember that we put them in there together a few months ago when she was helping me organise. Nor can she understand why I would go through every other box in the bedroom, under the bed, in cupboards before asking her (partly because she knows that she knows where everything is)

BBS Culturematic inspired by @Documentally

Christian just tweeted with a link to lists of old BBS’s

And so I ended up looking at this list for the UK in 1994 and thinking there’s a culturematic in doing the following:

  1. Bring the STD codes up to date (mostly “add a 1” but there have been other changes)
  2. Call each of the numbers on the list to see what response you get.
  3. If you talk to a person, write up the conversation. If you get a modem (!) there’s another project in finding out what’s going on.

Just y’know, if you like.

Unpave Paradise

280420091359I love demolition sites. Not for the potential new building that will take place there, but for the old view, blocked out for so many years, that gets set free again. Sadly, the view is usually lessened by the big hoardings that keep out people who might get up to no good, and then, sooner or later, some other ugly pile of bricks, glass or concrete will be shoved up and obscure the sight line again. It’s called development and I understand the economic imperative. But.

Someone asked me recently “What would you do if you just had shedloads of money, more money than you knew what to do with?” I really thought about it for once. Or rather I didn’t think, I just let something tumble out of my mouth. And when I heard it, I knew it to be the truth.

“I’d buy up old, ugly, useless buildings in the city and knock them down. Then instead of building something new on the site, I’d make it into a park, a green space, perhaps with a tree or two. And no-one would be allowed to build there again.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be a better legacy than putting up yet another building (however beautiful or well-designed) in a city that already feels like it has too many?

I think so. I also think it’s too good to wait until I’ve got shedloads of money, more money than I know what to do with. I never say never, but it might be a long time coming. I think a better idea is to crowdfund it. How much would we need to raise to buy something small (but ugly) tear it down and make something beautiful and natural in its place? What sort of organisation would it take? What planning obstacles might there be? Anybody want to take it on as a juicy co-operative social enterprise? Anybody already doing it?

Projects for Funding






Originally uploaded by _Gid

OK, I’ve had three projects knocking around in my consciousness for a while now, that I know would be cool to get done and as I accept the Social Artist tag more and more, I see that they’re things that I need to do.

The question is how to get to do them, while still paying the bills – these aren’t just spare-time, pootling in the attic projects, they require getting out and talking to people and then thinking and writing about what they say. It seems that this is not an unusual position for artists to be in, so I’m asking people how they pull money in to support their projects, but I’m also going to try some creative ways too, y’know using the “power of the social web” sort of ways.

And I’m also finding it difficult to work out which project’s more important or useful or popular or whatever, and this reminded me of the thing in Waitrose where you get given a token at the end of your shop, to vote for local charities.

So, I thought, why not let the readers of this blog (and anyone else on the internet who might stumble here) decide by putting their money where their mouths are, so to speak. I’m setting up 3 chip-in funds for these projects – they’re all the same – £3,000 (currently $4,800) to get each of them started and give each of them a month or so of my time – maybe that’ll be enough for one of them, maybe another will grow and I’ll need to look for more support, but that would give me the space and time to get them started.

The progress of each of them will be reported on a separate wordpress.com blog – they don’t need fancy infrastructure, especially at first – the money will go on creating content, getting round the country to collect it, and on my time writing about it and working out what to do next. The people and institutions who contribute to each project will get acknowledgement on each respective site.

I’m not necessarily expecting to raise so much money directly from you, my regular readers and twitter followers but I am hoping that you will be able to say to other people: “There’s this bloke I know and he does some interesting stuff on the web and he needs some financial support for some new projects, so why not bung him a few quid?”

These are the projects:

A New Generation

According to ONS, “in 2002, women who were aged 65 could expect to live to the age of 84, while men could expect to live to the age of 81. Projections suggest that life expectancies at these older ages will increase by a further three years or so by 2020. The expectation of life for people at 70 and 80 has also gone up. At present there are more older people aged 70 and 80 than ever before.”

There is, undeniably, a New Generation of people, a social group that simply did not exist in any significant number in the past. But these men and women are not only living longer. A large proportion are also living out their ‘old age’ very differently to their parents. Some occasional volunteering or fund-raising won’t satisfy them. Those people who started their working lives rebuilding our entire nation after the war are not necessarily ready to settle into retirement at 60, 70 or even 80. Many want to go on contributing fully to the economy and to society.

And when they do relax, gardening, bingo, golf and a couple of pints down the pub are not enough for this generation. They started partying in the fifties and sixties – these people know how to have fun!

This generation has appeared in media a lot talking about the past. What was it like growing up during and immediately after the war? How did you deal with post-war austerity? What do you remember about the beginnings of rock and roll?

This project will start as a videoblog highlighting the voices and stories of this fascinating new segment of society but focusing on what life is like for them now and how they see the future.

Among other things, we’ll be asking people:

  • What is your experience of being a member of this “new generation?”
  • What grand schemes have you initiated recently?
  • What would you do, if you knew you had another thirty years of productive life?
  • How did you envisage later life when you left school or got married?
  • How’s it different now?
  • What’s it like being 70 years old and still having your mother alive?

Chip in to make this one happen


What’s the Web for?

This one’s simpler – a collection of short video responses to three questions:

In your opinion:

  • What is the web for? What is its primary purpose
  • What do you mostly use the web for?
  • What do you think your parents use the web for? / What do you think your children use the web for? (Depending on age of participant)

You may remember this from when I did some initial try-outs with Tuttle people. This project is about asking a broader range of questions and opening it up to a much broader population. My guess/prejudice is that there are at least two main groupings: those who see the web as being about connecting people with information and those who see it as about connecting people with other people. But I’m also interested to see what shades of grey there are between these groups, what perspectives I’m ignoring and whether there’s a difference between generations. There’s also something interesting about what people say they do and what they think other people are doing.

Chip-in to make this one happen


Townhead’s Communities

In 1974 my aunt, uncle and two cousins sold their home and bought into a community housed in two terraces of mostly derelict railwaymen’s cottages at Townhead, on the edge of a South Yorkshire moor. As kids, my sister and I spent a few weeks over a couple of occasions staying with them. My memory of those times are of cold, the wind howling in the chimneys, woodsmoke, tobacco smoke, dope smoke, someone making cheese in their room, no meat, lots of beans, rice, vegetable stews and soups and weetabix (and beans). But this project isn’t about me and my short experience of the place, it’s about the lifetime of those buildings and the communities that have lived in them over the years.

What’s interesting to me is investigating and documenting the life of a community, of the people who have lived there as well as how and why change arose. Through writing and a series of interviews in a variety of media, I intend to tell the stories of the people who have lived at Townhead working back through time, starting with the present day and what they know of the place and the people who were there before. For residents present and past, what drew them to this place, what have they learned there and what if anything they think is special about those two rows of terraced houses.


Chip-in to make this one happen