A prized possession: a photograph from shortly after the First World War of a group of young people, in an architect practice clearly relaxed and friendly. The only woman in the photo is neatly but fashionably dressed. Her name is Chrissie Millar and she is stenographer. Both parents are dead and with her elder brother in Australia, she is supporting herself and younger sister Peggy by working. Chrissie has learnt shorthand and typing and landed this respectable position. We can assume, despite her skills, she would not be as well paid as the men. She also did not have the vote. Yet women like Chrissie were central to supporting commercial and telecommunications boom taking place at that time. Keyboard and shorthand skills, not known to many men outside journalism, were, and continued to be regarded, as women’s skills. Stenographer became typist, became secretary, became PA. Continue Reading »


I was in Edinburgh for six days during his year’s festival season, saw bunch of shows, couple of exhibitions, walked in the Botanics and caught up with friends and family. However what stuck in the mind now I am back home were three sessions at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. There was a revealing exchange between two great political cartoonist from the Guardian- Steve Bell and Gary Trudeau and an entertaining hour with Chris Mullin, former MP and political diarist whose latest volume has just been published and has been serialised on BBC Radio 4. (Sound much more entertaining than you-know- whose political memoirs also published last week). And looking ahead there was a debate on A Manifesto for Culture which was excellently chaired by Charlotte Higgins again from the Guardian and had a panel of Vicky Featherstone, National Theatre of Scotland, Penelope Curtis, Tate Britain, and Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government.
The first striking aspect of this event (apart from the fact it was packed on a rainy Saturday evening) was the line up of women. It is tiresome to constantly go to events where all the contributors are male and while I prefer a balance of all sorts, this was refreshing in its distinctively female voice. What it lacked in the cut and thrust of political debate (a point well-made by a young woman from Austria in the audience), it made up for in a thought- provoking introduction by Vicky on the responsibility of cultural institutions to artists and a some pointed comments from Penelope on how collaborations across art forms had led to some terrible work. But what about the politician? Fiona, (for that is what everyone called her, not Minister or anything so formal) banged the drum for her brief and was robust in declaring how important arts and culture is to her SNP Government in terms of education, tourism and economic development. There was an acknowledgement of the tough times to come but no suggestion that the arts and heritage are being singled out — quite the opposite.
The UK is facing the first major reduction in public expenditure since devolution. As the late Donald Dewar, (first) First Minister of Scotland said about devolution in 1999, ‘ This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.’ The whole point of the parliament and assemblies is to reflect values and priorities of the nations. It is cultural.
Today it is easy for an SNP government in Edinburgh to say warm things and then wash their hands and point to Westminster when the cuts come. The weekend saw an announcement of projected big cuts of £3.7 bn over next four years in the Scottish budget. It is unlikely that Fiona Hyslop’s department won’t take a big hit. Elsewhere in the UK, The Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland has warned of difficult times ahead and Arts Council Wales has begun the process of making cuts to its budget.
But what about England? The Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, was one of the first out of the starting blocks in offering up cuts to the Treasury. The mood music from London is distinctly chilly towards the arts and heritage. So, what would happen if the cuts were less savage elsewhere in the UK? Would we see a talent drain away from England? What would happen if artists, the heart of our creative output moved to Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh – or just as likely Derry and Glasgow? A global city like London could cope with this, but how about Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol Newcastle/Gateshead? It would also have an impact on smaller cities like Coventry. Culturally -led regeneration may be on the way out but it is dead if the artists leave.

Christine Hamilton


 I wonder if anyone will ever realise how wonderful it all was?

Mimi, Chinchilla, Robert David MacDonald, 1977

The biggest mystery of the last few weeks is how passive  civil society has been about the  cuts in public expenditure.  The reasons usually proffered for this are, first, the complete  absence of political  opposition and second, a compliant media, generally supportive of the coalition government.  Third, the trade union movement has industrial muscle in some sectors, but little political clout.  And this is not the whole story– as Joyce Macmillan, one of the finest journalists in Scotland has pointed out in her blog: the SNP is also rolling over to the cuts agenda despite having the power to raise taxes  and with no Tory/LibDem support left in Scotland.  http://joycemcmillan.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/the-dog-that-did-not-bark-or-the-strange-silence-of-the-snp-column-31-7-10

It could be, of course, that wholesale public sector  cuts is the correct response to our desperate financial situation.  This is indeed the triumph of the Cameron/Osborne strategy: having bought off the LibDems, and with Labour in a post election stupor, not only have they the political clout, they also have succeeded in persuading us to believe a new story.  For,  it’s not all the fault of greedy bankers.  No, it’s public sector workers who are to blame.  In a twinkle of an eye the ‘public sector’  has changed  meaning from ‘the services needed by us all’ to ‘leeches living off the state’.  Never has a term been so completely transformed since ‘asylum seeker’  stopped meaning fleeing ballet dancers and became ‘economic migrants taking our jobs’.   And many do believe cuts in public sector jobs and services are inevitable  but the severity and brutality and long term nature of these is perhaps not yet apparent. Of course the other great change in rhetoric is around taxes- remember when LibDems advocated  1p in the pound tax rise to support the NHS?

Which brings me back to the question, when will the fightback begin?  Where is the focus for opposition? This has become more and more urgent critical over the last few weeks as the in-year cuts were implemented, and announcements are made about the closure of  some key agencies particularly those working on enterprise, job creation and skills.  I am sitting here in the real world of the West Midlands  —  as opposed to the virtual one –and seen the near complete dismantling of all regional bodies.  This region no longer exists.

The arts and wider creative industries is the main interest of this blog and we already have witnessed some dramatic closure announcement  in MLA and UK Film.  The Arts Council has asked for organisations to plan on 10% cuts as a minimum for next year and local authorities are battling to balance the needs of the most vulnerable and needy against the obvious advantages of a buzzy cultural scene serving all citizens.  So bad times are ahead whether or not you were thinking of a career in  museum service, setting up a new creative company and looking for some enterprise support or wishing to work in arts education.    

We must, we are told, look to private sector patronage to fill the gap.  Let’s look to the US.  Bank of America Merrill Lynch spends $40m globally,  less than Arts Council Wales.    

The  problem is we are relying on old arguments: the economic impact of our cultural sector- jobs created, tourists attracted, GVA generated, the link between the creative artists and multi million earners like Harry Potter.  Doesn’t wash.  We point to kids who are inspired,  old people engaged, disabled people who find new ways of communicating,  prisoners who repent — on it goes but does not chime with the new politics. Even heritage preserved, traditions cherished, does not seem to work with this government.

Maybe batten down the hatches and wait until tidal wave has swept all away and then start re-building is the only response. But surely there is a better one than that?

I would like to think so.  Some of us can start by responding to the invitations to contribute to the Parliamentary Select Committee http://fb.me/EJmvKRBU and pick up  and use the information provided by the Arts Council. http://fb.me/EPjj8OI8

But it has to go beyond that and really engage some creative people out there with finding new ways of campaigning and, as artists do, bear witness to what is happening..  The fight back has to start now and here.

Thurs 10th September 11.00 am – 5.00pm

F2 Digital Creative Development Programme is a 6 month project for established creative professionals,  based in the West Midlands, who want to investigate the opportunities offered by digital media, form new collaborative partnerships and develop new ideas. The programme will offer artists, producers, writers, developers and practitioners from a range of backgrounds an opportunity to explore new forms of practice and challenge them to develop innovative, interdisciplinary projects.

F2 will explore the new possibilities for creative practice in the digital age and equip its participants with the knowledge and skills to work with new media, taking advantage of digitisation and the emergence of new tools for production, marketing and distribution.

To launch the new F2 Digital Creative Development programme, the Institute for Creative Enterprise at Coventry University is hosting an introductory workshop for potential participants to find out more about this exciting new initiative.

F2 Future Forum
will be led by F2 delivery partners, Frank Boyd and Andre Ktori from Unexpected Media, a media development agency with an extensive track record of supporting innovation and creative research in the digital media. They will be joined by Chris Bennewith from Squidsoup who will be presenting some of this international interactive design group’s current projects about to be premiered at ISEA, Ireland and onedotzero festival, London.

This one day recruitment event aims to provide potential participants with an opportunity to find out more about the F2 goals, explore the programme’s themes with the delivery team and network with peers and potential collaborators.

To book a place on the F2 Future Forum
send an email to Rebecca Owen rebecca@smithowen.demon.co.uk

You should include your name and, if applicable, the name of your company and your address.

For more information, see ICE website www.coventry.ac.uk/ice

The Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE), the Health Design Technology Institute (HDTI) and the Centre for Media Art and Performance (CeMAP) are working with Dance Art Foundation to deliver a dance-in-health professional development programme focused on Dance and Older People. We are looking for dance artists who wish to develop their skills and confidence to work in community settings, with those with dementia and older people with reduced, limited or no mobility due to health conditions.

Participants will receive an introductory training in dance-in-health practice, specialised training in dance and dementia and inclusive practice with leading practitioners, and a closely mentored opportunity to gain practical experience by delivering sessions in community settings.

Dance Connections aims to support the development of dance-in-health in the region by training artists and creating new partnerships. Our plans include a sharing and dissemination event at the end of the project, which is intended to generate future employment opportunities for participating artists.

The programme is free and will run from August to September 2009.

Ideal applicants will:

  • be aiming for, pursuing or currently engaged in a career in dance in the community, particularly dance-in-health
  • be able to demonstrate a strong interest in professional dance practice and its role in wider public life
  • be an independent dance artist living and/or working in the West Midlands area

To apply, please send your CV and an artistic statement addressing the following:

1.       Your background or previous experience that is relevant to this training (this may include training; education; voluntary or professional experience)

2.       The ways you are aiming for, pursuing or engaged in a career in dance in the community, particularly dance-in-health.

3.       Your particular interest in the training and what you hope to get out of it.

4.       Your understanding of why you are a suitable candidate for this training initiative.

Please also indicate your preference to work with those with dementia or reduced mobility during practical sessions.

The application deadline is 3rd July 2009. For more information regarding the Dance Connections programme or to submit an application, please contact Jenna Hubbard on 02476 158304 or jhubbard[at]cad.coventry.ac.uk

Since this event was in same week as the Siobhan Davies ICE Seminar I (David) repeated my twitter experiment with the following results:

benno121: Q. In what way does Adam simplify? Can Lesley tap into this? A. No – not at the moment. #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Interesting observation – artistic output vs academic output. Unfortunately only artistic being considered. #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Definition of fractal – an infinite line, that’s simple http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Assign colours to numbers v similar to my approach to dance + maths, assign movement to number #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Trip to Botanical Gardens, Lesley looks for detail and Adam simplifies #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Level of maths detail a concern for Adam, can Lesley cope. Proves difficult. Oblique Strategy cards v helpful http://is.gd/i8rf #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Lesley (artist) keeps a journal, Adam (Maths academic) keeps video diary #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Warwick Uni can offer Maths BA as well as BSc – well, well,well #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Visual – Maths – Visual as overview of project…chaos theory, fractals, fibonacci sequence, fractal dimensions, #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: Barry Phipps, Research Fellow (Kettles Yard) http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/ #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: new one on me – ethnobotany. #art+maths
4 days ago from twhirl · Reply · View Tweet

predacomDom: RT @benno121: “ICE seminar – Lesley Whelan and Adam Boddison – Art+Maths=? http://tinyurl.com/ch68j7 (expand) #art+maths=?” – Just arrived for this..
4 days ago from PockeTwit · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: ICE seminar – Lesley Whelan and Adam Boddison – Art+Maths=? http://tinyurl.com/ch68j7 (expand) #art+maths=?
4 days ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

OK, so I did learn one or two things from last time – the #arts+maths tag is a little simpler – but if you don’t use it these tweets will miss the search

# Yes, I just finished a Creative Partnership project Dance n Maths so equally interested
5:19 PM Apr 30th from twhirl
was my response to @predacomDom

# good start – don’t use = in hashtag
5:12 PM Apr 30th from web
The reason I said this was #arts was only term that became a ‘searchable link’, so ‘+’ character is also a no-no. However, #art+maths does work as a search so maybe it’s the ‘searchable link’ function that does not like these special characters? Try it in Twitter, you’ll see what I mean.

# Experiment 2 for live twitter so bear with me folks
5:09 PM Apr 30th from web
Learner driver, so beware.

Do go to the project website for more information, my twittering does not do it justice.

I (David) was at this seminar not only because I’m part of the team working on the archive but also for an experiment in live twittering. Here are my tweets:

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. That’s all folks. This was an experiment using Twitter to record live – now to transfer to the blog?
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Suggestion that there will be a flurry of conceptual work and will that ‘fit’ the archive better or not?
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Observation 2: Scratch tapes reassuring that fellow dancers also ‘struggling’ with working solo in the studio
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Observation: Kitchen as a way to engage with work found difficult in the past
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Observation: website will look dated, the dance looks dated, has/will become a ‘classic’ text
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Opportunity that writer or visual artist can ‘use’ archive as source material in some way
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Q. work for the archive? A. Nervous that talk of next work being documented etc for the archive, but also…
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. These pre-show talks became a ‘diptych’ where dance was part of the conversation
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Experience of experts from other fields coming into rehearsals for In Plain Clothes, extended to pre-show talks
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Dance activity stays a live event. However need some ‘intelligence’ in wider community to support dance
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. SD now thinking of how to use archive in future – do I make work for the archive?
about 3 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. SD initially horrified at thought of past work becoming public again – now accepts this is OK,
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Difficult to visualise without the image avail
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Use ‘structure’ of dance work to also present the process ideas eg concentric circles of Bird Song
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. SD talks about her concern archive too static. ‘Kitchen’ is where process is ‘exploded’ a la Cornelia Parker

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Scrapbook feature allows user to add material as you navigate through. this can be shared with others via email
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Not only dance works but also Creative Projects – eg professional development,
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Access to dancer scratch tapes – see process of dance making.
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar. Great feature is view video stills – allows drilling down of short length video into separate 3 sec stills
about 4 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

benno121: #Siobhan Davies ICE seminar: launch end June so cannot give you a link just yet! Inc video, images and text covers 20 years of dance making

Points to note:
1. use of hashtag (#) to search for related tweets needs to be concise as it uses up valuable characters and contain no spaces (in this example #siobhan finds the above tweets – in which case anyone could use same tag in future for something unrelated)
2. is only of real value if others are following the tweets and comment – thank you @predacomDom – Q. how do others see these interactions?
3. OK – now you have a load of tweets, now what? I suspect it is all about the now, the real time event and making connecions at the time rather than for any reflective purpose.
4. Having said that, through use of hashtag, anyone can get a flavour of what happened if they wish.