Friday, 21 December 2012

No One Can Save You From Christmas

The Thinking Practice is now closed, not thinking but cooking. We'll be back on 3rd January, and boy will we be raring to go. Huge thanks to everyone who's read this blog, talked to me about stuff, employed me, worked with me or simply listened to me go on during 2012.

The 'Xmas Card' above is a remix of the cover of the book what I wrote, out next year. It's by Lou Robinson.

Here is a rather lovely song by Sufjan Steven, too, just in case you're not feeling in the spirit yet.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

2012: 5 Lists and a photo

I like arbitrary limits on writing, so have decided to wrap up 2012’s blogging ventures in the same format, roughly, as I used last year. I am very ‘Green’ like that.

Here’s a bad photo of the cultural event that moved me most this year.

1. Some awards...
Award for Heartbreaking Daftness: The Government, for so many reasons. Runners up: a ties between Newcastle City Council and Preston City Council for providing my cultural low lights with proposals for 100% cuts and 100% demolition to iconic and City-defining work. Labour Councils caught, like Elvis, in a trap. 
Clive Dunn Memorial 'They Don't Like It Up 'Em' Award: Jeremy Hunt for sacking Dame Liz Forgan.

2. Places I’ve been to for work reasons: Newcastle, London, Whalton, Ashington, Preston, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Glasgow, South Shields, Sunderland, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington, Durham, Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Middlesbrough, Richmond, Adelaide, Goolwa, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney. (I should point out I will work beyond the North East in places which are not sunny or capital cities: just ask.)

3. Most visited blog posts in 2012: Cuts and Choices, …and always wear the happy faceWhat does resilience mean anyway?, Chairs Missing, 12 for 12. (I should probably return to that last one and see how accurate my predictions were.)

4. Nice Work If You Can Get It column ticked big style this year, by everything of course, including some fascinating time thinking about artists and value for Exchange/MMM, getting the chance to mess about with poems, numbers and analysis for Sponsors Club, working with some great people kicking off a re.volution, but also by talking about adaptive resilience to a lunch of senior folk from South African arts institutions (the kind, to be frank, I rarely get to talk to here…) in Grahamstown during the National Arts Festival, and by my speaking tour of Australia, courtesy of Country Arts SA, Kumuwuki, Positive Solutions/Board Connect and others. I won’t kid you: although it was Hard Work, it was unarguably Very Jammy Indeed. Which is how I feel most of the time actually. It’s been a hard year in many ways - I lost a couple of grandparents, amongst other things – but getting to work with creative people on making sure the negatives in our culture don’t win feels like something worth doing.

5. Cultural highlights: my mind goes blank… Too many. Nothing moved me or made me feel the power of music to really mean something to people as much as moments in the Springsteen gig at the Sunderland of Light. My albums of the year both came out on the same day, weirdly enough: Field Music’s Plumb, and Punch Brothers’s Who’s Feeling Young Now? I loved Graeae/La Fura del Baus’s Prometheus at SIRF. John Tranter’s Urban Myths. Preston Guild. If there was a colour darker than black... at Kumuwuki. The Futureheads starting their gig at the Georgian in Stockton with the hardest acapella version of Richard Thompson's 'Beeswing'. Lots of things in AV 12, including my SloWalk. Elizabeth Price at BALTIC. The chimneys and NHS bits of the Sports Day Opening Ceremony – and lots of the sport too. And your thing, that was great too, obviously.

2013 is going to have some extreme weather conditions I suspect. One thing which will brighten it up for me is Smokestack Books publishing How I Learned To Sing, my ‘New & Selected Poems’. I’m most excited about publishing the new things after a long, long gap, but typing up the ‘surviving’ poems from my old books – having nowhere to put my floppy discs, oo-er Matron – was kind of revealing too. Available for readings, performances, weddings and civil ceremonies from August 2013.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I remember now...

There have been lots more going on around the Newcastle situation talked about in my last post, as I’m sure you’ll be aware. I will admit to rather misplacing my blogging-mojo after that post, even though more people read it than anything else I’ve written this year. I also had lots of other stuff to do, and a family bereavement, so what follows was (nearly all) written and then never got posted. Here it is. I’ll return to the Toon in the New Year I think. Suffice to say: ‘a luta continua’.

I’ve been busy recently writing recently for some other places.

Axis asked me to look back to mark their 21st birthday. So I did, thinking back to my first days working professionally in the arts. As this coincided with Arts Council England publishing more details – I’d say details but well, the info isn’t that detailed – about how they will meet the government’s demands for 50% reduction in admin costs, I also shared a slightly nightmarish vision I’d had of the future. My worry – alongside a concern for the individuals affected by the cuts, especially my old friends in the North East office – is that this accelerates the loss of diversity in the funding ecology, just when we need more. I also draw on my previous career in catering. You can read the piece here.

I’ve also commented on the ACE review for a-n news. I draw attention here to the dog that doesn’t bark in the information put out by ACE so far: decision-making and governance. This was a major bone of contention [enough with the canine puns – Ed] when ACE took over the regional arts boards, but seems to be something unmentioned and to be sorted out in private, which is not really good enough, for me. ACE did tell me on Twitter that a review of non-executive governance has been commissioned from David Norgrove whose findings will be considered in the next 6 months. There was no information about this on ACE’s website, bar a reference in some heavily redacted minutes from the May National Council meeting, which you may, should you wish, use as the basis for a writing exercise, until I pointed this out to them. Which I find, er, interesting. You can read about (briefly) here.

You can also, more seasonally, see here what I (and other people) suggested to a-n readers they ought to buy for Xmas. (My New Year’s Resolution is to stop being sarcy about visual artists by the way, no need to suggest that.)

Finally, the good folk of Arts Queensland asked me to reflect on my sense of the adaptive resilience of the arts sector I saw when I was there, for their voluminous and rich blog. You can read my conclusions here