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Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Russell Brand on happiness

In happiness on October 28, 2009 at 10:11 am

One of the things I’m really enjoying about my research project into the nature of happiness and what it means to us today is that everyone has got something to say about it. Some of what people say about it might be seen academic and high-brow – and the idea is that my book will contain some of that kind of content. But it’s such an emotive topic that there are also some really personal and straightforward responses to the question ‘what makes us happy?’.

It’s a huge topic, and everyone has got something to say about it. That’s why I’m trying to interview people from as diverse a background as possible.

It appears even Russell Brand wants in on the subject. His latest stand up set is called Russell on Happiness and recalls some of his recent experiences of staying in Angola State Penitentiary. Apparently in these shows he’ll be interacting with the audience as he shares his thoughts on the subject, which will be filmed for an ongoing documentary project.

I wonder what the documentary is all about. Will have to investigate …

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Quiz at Dulwich Picture Gallery

In Dulwich OnView, Museums, new content on October 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

It’s that time of year again when Dulwich Picture Gallery gets ready for the annual Gallery Quiz. Teams of six compete in the grand setting of the Gallery – surrounded by beautiful paintings in the famous enfillade – and see their scores projected onto a large screen at the end of the Gallery. There’s a piece promoting the quiz live on Dulwich OnView today.

Spotting a trend in heritage planning

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 26, 2009 at 11:07 am

I’ve been writing quite a few pieces for the online magazine Museum [Insider]. The articles are usually about huge development projects taking place in the heritage sector – often around the construction or renovation of museum buildings. Museum [Insider] tries to get the inside word on what’s going on and give its readers an edge in the competitive world of tenders and contracts.

Some trends have started to become apparent in the way in which some of these projects are managed. Something that has struck me of late is the way many ambitious building projects don’t get planning permission approved when they are first submitted to their local authority. Someone always comes along and voices opposition to the scheme. But after a small redesign and resubmission, the plans often get waved through.

It’s happened quite a few times on various different projects. I’ve picked it up and explained my theory on how it happens in the most recent article about the plans behind the relocation of the Design Museum’s headquarters.

Bonnie Greer sets Nick Griffin right

In Museums on October 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

Last night’s Question Time on BBC1 caused quite a stir, primarily because of the presence of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party on the panel. He is an odious man and managed to show himself to be the complete and utter fool everyone knows him as, on national television. I’m pleased the BBC allowed him to be on the show. Giving him the chance to spout his nonsense in a primetime public arena, means we can all now openly criticise him for not only being misguided, but also wrong and stupid.

It was great to see Bonnie Greer on the panel as well. And well done to her for recommending that Griffin visit the British Museum to brush up on his ancient history. Watch the video of Bonnie putting Nick Griffin right on his history.

I worked on the interpretation for the Ancient Europe Gallery (Room 51) at the BM, to which Bonnie Greer referred. Do pop along and see the display if you’re interested. We used a moving map to show the migration of settlers onto the UK mainland after the last Ice Age. And there are objects in the display from the first hunter-gatherers and famers who inhabited Britain. Perhaps you’ll spot Griffin in there, brushing up on the history of migrating peoples.

How many museums can a boy see in a week?

In Museums on October 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Phew, it’s been a bit of a hectic week for museum-visiting Steve.
I’ve been working hard, honest, but in the last seven days I’ve managed to visit:

The Wellcome Collection to see Exquisite Bodies, an exhibition about 19th-century anatomical models, some of which were pretty gruesome and explicit. But a good show, now sadly closed.

Bunker exhibition at the Barbican Centre. It’s an imaginary WW2-esque bunker (of indeterminate location) where visitors are free to wander the network of rooms, filled with props, dust and a working underground postal train!

The British Museum to see their Power of Dogu exhibition – a lovely group of ancient objects from Japan which haven’t really been displayed before in this country. Great interpretation (well done Claire E.)

The Life at Sea exhibition on board HMS Belfast, which gets people of all ages imagining they’re in the Navy.

The British Library for their great interactive sound exhibition about 20th-century speeches, called The Sound and the Fury. And I can’t resist a visit to Magna Carta whenever I’m there too. As the Americans would say, it’s just so old. And it’s important too.

A behind-the-scenes look at the new Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which opens on 7 November. I’ve been working with them over the last month, writing the new audio tour for the museum. It’s looking fab back there – such a creative and well thought out museum space. While in Oxford I checked out an old favourite – the Museum of Natural History and the recently re-opened Pitt Rivers Museum, which looks much the same but is greatly improved in terms of getting round the building. Yes, I saw the shrunken heads. Yes, they’re still really cool.

Also in Oxford I made a trip to Modern Art Oxford to see the Karla Black exhibition. When I look at modern art I generally don’t like to say ‘I could’ve done that’. It’s a rather crude and simplistic assessment of someone’s work. But sherbert on the floor and a giant condom full of custard really don’t do it for me.

Yesterday I was at the Tower of London to see the crown jewels, beefeaters, ravens etc. And also to see Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill in the White Tower. It’s not been made by HRP, but by the Royal Armouries. And it shows. There’s some great film of shiny armour and clashing swords. Real Tudor video and everything.

And this morning I put my nose around Moctezuma at the British Museum. It’s got some fab objects never seen before outside Mexico, and a real twist in the tale – hard to achieve in a narrative museum exhibition. The BM also opened another Mexican-inspired – Revolution on Paper, which features some really striking posters and political art (along with other things which inspire me less.) I always marvel at the size and breadth of the BM’s prints and drawings collection. It’s just huge.

I think I might need a period when I don’t visit any exhibitions. I’ve definitely got museum fatigue!

Working with the British Library

In Museums on October 19, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I’ve just started a really interesting piece of work with the British Library. They have two spaces at the St Pancras site which they use for temporary exhibitions. They have plenty of ideas about what they want to put on in that space – almost too many, in fact. So, I’m going to be working with them to them decide which ones to run with. I’m going to be running some interviews with members of the public and also chairing some focus groups for them, with targetted audiences, analysing visitors’ initial reactions to the exhibition ideas and trying to gauge whether there is a ‘market’ for some of their ideas more than others.

It’s going to be happening throughout November, so I’ll be spending a lot of time in their lovely building. And probably their cafe too!

They have a lovely looking photography exhibition opening next week called Points of View.

Have we solved the problem of Stonehenge?

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 15, 2009 at 11:05 am

In many ways, I don’t want to get started on Stonehenge. It’s been a long, hard struggle for the many organisations involved, but after nearly twenty years of wrangling and non-decision making it looks like English Heritage and their partner organisations (such as the National Trust) are ready to move forward with Stonehenge.

Years ago, it was agreed by the many stakeholders that the A344 road should not pass so closely to the stones for reasons of conservation. It’s been a long time in the planning, but everyone has now agreed that the road will be moved and how visitors will interact with the stones there. Plans submitted to Wiltshire Council now indicate a bespoke visitor centre, set into the hillside, 1.5 miles from the stone circle. There visitors will be able to learn about the historic landscape in which Stonehenge sits – it’s huge and stretches for miles – and then get into road trains which take them up to the stones.

The reason it’s taken so long os that there have been so many people involved in the decision-making process. Plus, with changing governments who see it as more or less of a priority than their predecessors, it’s been difficult to get any real leadership.

Everyone is now hoping that the plans are passed by Wiltshire Council. They will, of course, be undertaking their own consultation on the plans. But if they get the go-ahead, the visitor centre could be open in time for the Olympics.

There’s a piece analysing the plans and giving more context to the Stonehenge debacle on Museum [Insider].

Back in the classroom

In Dulwich OnView, Museums on October 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I’ve had a great day today, working with Dulwich Picture Gallery and a couple of local schools. The Gallery are running a project which sees sixth-formers from two schools coming together to create a local online magazine about cultural life in the area. There’s an arts focus of course – it’s being paid for by an art gallery – but it’s thought that it will reflect more than just DPG.

They are using the free software from WordPress we use for Dulwich OnView and which I also use for this site.

I taught a session about online writing – how that differs from writing for traditional media and some helpful hints about writing in the world of the blogosphere. We’ll be following their progress on Dulwich OnView. Their magazine is due to go live in about a month of so.

New cultural quarter for Great Yarmouth

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on October 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Great Yarmouth is working on a really exciting project to turn a listed, but ignored, church building in the town centre into the hub of a new cultural quarter. It’s going to be turned into a theatre space, which will hopefully attract visiting production companies. They have big money for it, and big aims too. They also intend to renovate other lsited buildings in the area and get loads of arts organisations to move in.

Exciting times. There’s an article about the renovation of St George’s Chapel on Museum [Insider].