steveslack.co.uk

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

More money for Maidstone museums?

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on August 26, 2009 at 8:50 am

You might not think it, but Maidstone is a hotbed of cultural funding.

The town has had 53 grants to date from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which have seen over £8.4 million invested there. And now they are asking for more, for a huge redevelopment of Maidstone Museum. Fair play to them, I say – the money is there for the taking (after a long and complicated application process) so good luck to them.

The designs look great – the usual swathes of glass and steel, but sensitively balanced with the charming exisiting red brick building. and they plan to uncover previously unseen Tudor walls inside the building. It’s all been designed by Hugh Broughton architects, who are a small, but award-winning practice.

They are due to hear back from the HLF in September about their current application, which is detailed in my recent article on Museum [Insider].

Craftsmen and happiness?

In Dulwich OnView, happiness, new content on August 25, 2009 at 8:08 am

A few weeks ago I went to Peckham to meet a craft artist called Nic Webb.

He’s been working recently with a huge pile of wood from Dulwich Picture Gallery. The swamp cypress tree there was cut down last year because it was sick. He’s been turning the wood into, wait for it, spoons. So off I trundled to meet the spoon man. And here’s the result – an article on Dulwich OnView.

These aren’t any ordinary spoons. They’re beautifully crafted pieces, all very individual. Meeting Nic was a wake up call to the power of the craft maker movement in London at the moment. He spoke about how the design for each spoon is led by the natural shapes and patterns in the wood – there’s no one design he works toward. Each piece is an individual.

We’re bored nowadays of having mass-produced rubbish in our homes from Habitat. Let’s go back to having hand-crafted, beautiful objects with some integrity. And let’s get to know the people who make these things for us – craftsmen, designers and makers all have great stories behind them and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of them of late. I wrote pieces recently about glass designer Sue King and local artist Gail Gosschalk.

I think there’s a bit of an overlap with my happiness project. I suggest we’d all be happier if we fill our homes with objects that have some integrity to them, rather than flat pack furniture and cheap crap from Ikea. Of course, that’s easier said than done – hand-crafted items are usually comparatively expensive. But meeting Nic and talking with him about his work certainly made me appreciate the power of the craftsman once again and I believe it’s a movement worth supporting.

I’m going to look for craft artists to include in the happiness project. Let me know if you have any good suggestions.

Happy Monday all

In happiness, what i'm reading on August 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

It turns out that Mondays aren’t that bad after all. In fact, they’re the second happiest day of the week.

This piece in The Guardian reports a really interesting piece of research – a long-term study of the content of blogs and their relation to collective happiness. They trawled through a load of content and analysed how ‘happy’ people were by what they were writing. Words like joy, happiness and fun got put in one bracket, while words like sad, boring and loss went in another. And then they looked at not only who was happiest, but when we are happiest. 

There are countless ways of measuring happiness, all of which have their flaws, but this seems like a clever way of indicating happiness on a global scale.

According to this methodology, Obama’s first day in office was the happiest for the world in a while. Interesting stuff. It’s all reported in full in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

What’s in a name?

In Dulwich OnView, new content on August 23, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I just found some more stories behind local place names in south London. There’s a piece about them on Dulwich OnView.

Do take a read of the article if you’ve ever wondered where the names Lordship Lane, Herne Hill, Breakspeare, Champion Hill or Gipsy Hill come from.

Disciples and gurus

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I’ve just had a bit of a diversion from normal writing service. I’ve spent most of this week editing a conference paper. It’s by an evangelical pastor who basically ran out of time and steam and wanted me to knock it into shape for him – so it was a creative editorial job, basically.

It’s a really inrersting topic. He spent some time discussing the nature of ‘discipleship’ – i.e. following in the footsteps of the disciples of Jesus Christ. He then wrote to 150 evangelical pastors in the UK and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about how they see discipleship in terms of their ministry in their churches. The results are actually quite surprising. The author was showing that there’s a tension within evangelicalist movements at the moment. Should the main aim of such ‘seeker’ churches be getting as many people as possible to convert to Christianity, or is it more about getting ‘good’ Christians who really understand what they’re believing? Is it a numbers game or a project of spiritual enrichment and development? Which is more important – quantity or quality?

The author of the paper suggests that there need to be some changes in the way such churches operate and, while he’s fully committed to the principles of evangelism, recommends some pretty major reforms for the church.

I got this piece of work through guru.com, the free online service marketplace for freelancers. If you’ve got a trade and you want to show yourself to the world, then get yourself on there. And if you’ve got a piece of work you need doing, then stick it on there and see who bids.

Or if it’s a writing/editing job, give me a call!

Big plans for Westminster Abbey

In Museum [Insider], new content on August 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm

There’s a large piece of consultation going on at the moment about proposed plans for an overhaul of the visitor experience at Westminster Abbey. They’re planning to update the visitor facilities and overhaul their education service (like everyone else does).

But there are also exciting ideas around about new exhibition galleries high up in the building, in a presently unused area called the triforium. And they’re even thinking about adding a domed top to the building which, they say, isn’t techincally finished yet.

As always, there’s a piece all about these plans on Museum [Insider].

Think happy thoughts (about yesterday)

In happiness on August 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

Research shows that simply thinking about one event that went well in your life the previous day can improve your happiness levels instantly.

Try it. Just think back to yesterday and remember something that went well. It can be quite simple – seeing friends, a good cup of coffee, reading a good blog, or just the weather.

Pyschologist and quirky mind stuff man Richard Wiseman has been writing about this on his blog at the same time as running his ongoing happiness experiment. It makes for really interesting reading. There’s a short video on his site encouraging us to think about nice things that happened yesterday.

Do you feel any better now?

Magna Carta to go on display in Lincoln in 2015

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Lincoln Castle is due to put in a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major renovation of the castle buildings. At present Lincolnshire Crown Court shares the building with a visitor attraction, but the two are not natural bedfellows. When high profile cases are being heard, visitors to the castle are greeted with added security patrolling the building and a throng of media presence – not the greatest visitor experience.

Once the court has been relocated to a new building in Lincoln, the plan is overhaul the visitor experience. The castle holds one of the only four remaining copies of Magna Carta, which was signed in 1215. So, the plan is to revamp the museum in time for 2015 and a spectacular 700th anniversary re-display.

As always, there’s an article about it on Museum [Insider].

Eat your way to happiness?

In happiness on August 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I find it quite hard to wander the streets of London and not leap for my camera every time I see the H-word.

I was walking past itsu the other day, the healthy food outlet in the centre of London, inspired by Japanese cuisine. Their motto is health and happiness. A catchy strapline, I thought.

On closer inspection of their website, I discovered that their marketing claims:

health – because itsu food is light, full of goodness & won’t make you fat
happiness – because it tastes amazing. You can eat lots without guilt, sorrow and pain.

Hang on a minute. So, itsu food in itself won’t actually make me happy? It’ll just make me not experience guilt, sorrow or pain.

Hmmmm. I don’t really buy this argument. Firstly, I’m not sure whether we’ve actually bottomed out that whole ‘absence of pain is pleasure’ issue. And secondly, there is a certain amount of pain in buying lunch in itsu, as it’s so incredibly overpriced.

Clever marketing, but I’m yet to be convinced that eating a bowl of beansprouts for £7 is going to make me happy. Well done for trying though.

But it does reinforce the fact that happiness is an excellent marketing tool.