Tag Archives: community

Zero Feet Away: An experience

My love and I have ten minutes to find the venue and we’re lost. As we back track up Hindley street, we see a familiar face pop out of an alleyway and relief washes over me. We’ve found it. The alleyway is framed by posters for the show on either wall. I don’t know how we missed it. Others arrive at the same time we do, unexpectedly they are familiar faces that fill me with affection.

We are handed an instruction sheet to choose our nickname and log in to the show app. We make our nicknames and they wave us through. Down the alleyway and we swing left, down stairs and into a small room scattered with chairs. There is a small bar to the right and another small room with chairs. We can buy drinks at the bar and we continue to stumble into some of my favourite people as the venue fills up. We picked a good night to attend.

People gather in groups, some sitting on the scattered chairs and some standing, everyone waiting for the show to start. We pick out the actors by the small microphones taped along their jaws, they are dotted among us. The room has white sheets taped at various locations, we see the rolling projection of audience nicknames appear. We try to match nicknames with new people coming in. The projections match the app screen appearing on our phones. We’re all logged in and ready for whatever this is going to be.

Throughout the show I stand, I sit, I stand again. I eat crisps. I drink coke. I laugh. I cry. I feel the weight of sadness, of grief, of collective shame, of joy, of hope.

Technology is rough and ready, gritty with texture, projection sheets are slightly crooked, projectors are installed in milk crates. Actors look like me. Actors look nothing like me. Actors tell their own stories. Actors tell other people’s stories. Ushers are audience, are wait staff, are aware. Music is quiet, barely noticed but powerful, perfect, necessary. Audience can interact with their phones, or not. The phone app creating a tweet-stream like back channel, another way to listen, to learn, to question, to contribute.

This is the theatre I want more of. This is the theatre that I want to make more of. This is the theatre that I want to see more of. This is the theatre that I want there to be more of. Theatre that tells stories of here and now. Theatre that moves me. Theatre that reminds me. Theatre that pokes and prods. Theatre that unites and celebrates. Theatre that closes my throat with hurt. Theatre that fills my fingertips with hope. Theatre that is not perfect, does not try to be perfect. Theatre that is contextual and nuanced. Theatre that doesn’t have all the answers but has some offers. Theatre that takes me to old places in new ways or to new places in familiar ways. Theatre that does neither and both all at once.

It might not be your cup of tea, it might have a completely different effect on you. That’s okay. Not everything is for everyone.

 

*

 

ActNow Theatre

Zero Feet Away

January 25-28 2017

Ancient World

 

Director, Developer and Performer –
Edwin Kemp Attrill

Associate Producer –
Chiara Gabrielli

Divisors and Performers –
Matilda Bailey, Melissa Maidment, Jamila Main, Jason Masiglia

Composer and Musician –
Matthew Gregan

Lighting Design and Technician –
Alexander Ramsay

 

Another Deck #writeme30

 

Layers too vague/ too sunk in history stink/ too heavy with rant/ go flag wave in some other window/ we don’t want it//

 

The Photo:

 

American Flag photo from Ben Duggan                              Photo supplied by Ben Duggan

 

The Response:

 

I’ve started and changed this response three times. Because there are many things this particular photo stirs in me.

 

I started thinking about the American education system, which got me thinking about the Australian education system and the many complex feelings and interactions I’m having with our system. I’m not in the right head space to share some of that, and also because of how it reflects on my son’s experience, I’m wary of both how I represent him and respect his privacy. I need to percolate more to find the right time and way to share some insights on that one.

 

The other big thing that sprang to mind in response to a photo of the American flag is #blacklivesmatter, which hopefully you’ve already seen and read about all over the internet. (If not, some places to start here and here and here). This is an important movement and conversation and I think the backlash against it speaks volumes.

 

Then I realized I was over thinking it all and trying to come up with something intelligent to add to the conversation and actually I’ve got nothing to add. Except my support that #blacklivesmatter.

 

So then what else could I write about for this #writeme30 post? My last few posts have all been quite personal and heavily poetic/creative writing. I wanted to step away a little this week and do some a bit more non-fiction.

 

So flags huh? Oh yeah flags.

 

Flags are a powerful symbol. We use them to show our allegiance, our pride, our sense of connection to a place and associated ideas of that place. How unfortunate that the Australian flag represents such a narrow experience of what it means to be Australian. And how unfortunate that it is most often flown by ‘everyday’ people in a show of racism dressed up as patriotism.

 

“In representing only Australia’s British heritage, the flag is anachronistic, and does not reflect the change to a multicultural, pluralist society. In particular, the flag makes no mention of indigenous Australians, many of whom regard the Union Jack as a symbol of colonial oppression and dispossession.”

– Source unknown

 

When the flag was decided on (by voting on competition entries) it was 1901. Aboriginal people still had murky voting rights and certainly considering how racist we still are – who do you think ‘decided’ on our flag and who and how it would represent us? #justsaying

 

Symbols can and do change over time. And so they should. Words come to mean new things. New information and sophistication in our thinking changes how we view events and ideas from the past. And so it should. So it should.

 

Our flag is frozen in time. It doesn’t represent who we even were then, let alone who we are now. Nor does our national anthem. So why do people want to hold on so tightly to a symbol that’s past it’s use by date? To hold onto a symbol that discounts the history and feelings of our first peoples (not to mention our new peoples)? Why does the mere suggestion of changing our flag create such anger and hostility?

 

Why, indeed?

 

And then after all of this stopping and starting and digging for something to say for this post – I realized that actually that’s all I really want to say about flags too.

 

“Sheldon Cooper: Why are you waving a white flag?

Amy Farrah Fowler: I’m surrendering… to fun!”

– Big Bang Theory

 

The Contributor:

 

Ben Duggan, founder of Raising Hope and another of the YSP tribe. Bless his cotton socks. Ben is embarking on a new adventure next year with Teach For Australia. He is pretty much a rockstar in a well tailored suit. I’m a fan.

 

*

 

Get a REAL job #artslife

 

This life. These creative pursuits.

They are not my hobbies.

They are not something I enjoy doing and so choose to ‘find’ time for in my life.

 

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This is my life.

My career.

My journey.

Sometimes, my obsession.

And absolutely my ‘real’ job.

 

And it’s evolving all the time.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time this year trying to articulate what and why I do. Trying to pin the words to paper. Trying to find words that make sense and ring true. For me and for everyone else.

 

The other YSPers and I have given time at every residency trying to articulate our missions over the last 12months. The ‘why’ driving what we each do. We’ve brainstormed together and solo. We’ve written and spoken draft after draft after draft. And I’ve struggled. Really struggled to pin to paper what it is I do and why.

 

For anyone who lives a creative life or a life that’s ‘offbeat’ in any other way, you know why you do it and what it is. And you know how hard it is to explain to everyone else what it is and why you do it. It’s something that has no words because it needs no words for you. It just makes sense (you think). It’s what you do and who you are. So when someone asks you to put it into words, it’s pretty darn difficult.

 

This year I’ve played with and explored various mission and vision statement iterations, including:

 

  • I want to be the kind of person that offers something meaningful to the world. The kind of person who experiences life as frightening, confusing and painful but as deeply, deeply precious and worth my effort.

 

  • Our mission is to create systematic change in how people think about failure. For us that means making quiet trouble with everyone we meet by interrogating and responding to rage inducing situations through an artistic lens.

 

  • My personal mission is to continue striving for opportunities for myself and others to claim our sorrows as a journey to joy and to create space in our lives to sing our heartsongs with passion, hope and courage.

 

  • We empower and enable regional communities to reshape and claim personal and civic narratives using an artistic lens.

 

  • We challenge communities and individuals to reclaim failure as a crucial ingredient in resilience and joy.

 

  • Our mission is to challenge and inspire young people in regional communities to use to arts as a mechanism for social change and empowerment. As part of this mission we also support regional communities to support and foster the skills and aspirations of their young people.

 

  • My mission is to use the arts to be an agent of change – to inspire, support and provoke individuals and communities to actively shape the world around them for the better.

 

  • I bring together professional artists, doers, thinkers and change makers to work with young people as mentors and provocateurs on community arts projects to unlock their possibility.

 

All of these things are partly or wholly true, but still none of them quite sit right. They feel too full of jargon or they rest on old ideas about myself (and how I work) so don’t capture the space I’m really in RIGHT NOW.

 

At ATF last year OK Radio asked why Theatre?

“Theatre people are all very nice people […] And I wonder if that is our problem,” asked Liska. “We choose an art form where we can sit next to each other and touch each other and we’re very good people.”

“Revolutions are not often caused by polite people, or good people,” said Cooper. “Sometimes we wonder if we have to stop making art to get something done. I really like art but I have a lot of questions about what it’s good for and if it’s needed.”

–        Kelly Cooper and Pavol Liska (OK Radio, Nature Theater of Oklahoma)

 

Last month during Future Present, surrounded by a bunch of socially aware artists, again this idea. Why art? Is that the best use of your time, does it actually achieve your mission? Or would you be better off using your time as an activist, a social worker, a teacher, a farmer?

 

And going deeper throughout YSP, talking about ‘impact’ – how do you measure it? What impact does your work actually have (and is it the impact you want to have)? How can you have the greatest impact with the limited hours in your life?

 

I care about many things. I believe in changing the world. As more than just rhetoric. I believe I have a responsibility to leave the world better than I found it. To use whatever small skills and talents I have to help. I love teaching and advocating and activating and making and creating. I am driven to do many things. I am also a parent, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a friend. My time is limited and precious.

 

And so, I toss these questions around. Over and over. In my head. In my mouth. On paper. I spin myself around in circles. The questioning is hard, partly because there is no one answer. And there is no clear answer. And mostly because no one can answer for me, what it means for ME, only I can discover that.

 

Last night I stumbled across a free ebook titled “Making Your Life As An Artist” and though I didn’t relate to every single word, the book as a whole REALLY resonated with me.

 

There were moments when I read a paragraph and realised I was holding my breath, caught in these words someone else had pinned to paper and how they so neatly echo words I’ve circled around and around and come back to in my own heart.

 

“Just like scientists, we begin with a question, something we don’t know.

We go into our studio and research that question.

(…)

Just as in science, a negative result is as important as a positive result.

Finding that a certain drug does not cure cancer is a crucial discovery. And an artistic experiment that fails produces important information.

When you are working beyond what is known, when you are questioning assumptions that haven’t been questioned, you generate a lot of useful failure.

Failure in science and art is a sign that the process is working.

(….)

diverse ecosystems
 are more resilient, more able to respond to disturbance. The same is true of culture. Diversity of thought and imagination makes us more culturally resilient, more able to thrive in times of great change.

– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)

 

Many things that had me nodding along. Catching my breath. Gripping the edge of the computer. But perhaps most of all this:

 

Artists have a lot of effects on the world: our work impacts education, citizenship, multiculturalism, urban renewal. But those are effects of our role; they are not the role.

Our role is to ask rigorous and reckless cultural questions, do our research, and share the results. When we do our role well, all kinds of other things happen.

– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)

 

And so last night I sat and I wrote exactly in the moment who I am and what I’m doing (or trying to do). The last seven or so years of thinking, dreaming and doing coalescing and coming together to pin some words to paper.

 

It’s not finished, because it’ll never be finished. I’m evolving and growing all the time. And that’s okay. It’s G.E. for right now.

 

Transparency and sharing the journey publicly (to be of benefit to others) is important to me. So, you can read the words I finally pinned to paper last night where they’ve become my new ‘about’ section here.

 

I’m feeling good. It’s nice.

 

Green Sleep Dreams #writeme30 #YHMD2014

Let these dreamers sleep. With cracked fingernails and grime to coat their inner ear. Let these dreamers sleep and fish for hope on shores far from here.

I met Lauren a few years back when the two of us were participants in Australian Theatre for Young People’s National Studio (read about my experience of National Studio here). Lauren is a theatre maker and writer with a really wicked sense of humour. Our theme at National Studio was ‘death and dying’ and Lauren’s monologue was one of my favourites in its fun and quirky interpretation of the theme.

Lauren has provided this beautiful photo for me to respond to as part of #writeme30. Her words describing the photo, “Homeless and asleep in Tokyo. I took it on a school trip when I was seventeen and still able to be shocked by a world with concepts like homelessness”

The Photo:

Homeless and asleep in Tokyo_Photo from Lauren Sherritt                              Photo Credit: Lauren Sherrritt

The Response – Green Sleep Dreams:

These green sleepers dreams, dream their way into my bent elbows. I wait for morning. Behind windows fogged by my fingertips and fears.

The car I sleep in is blue. It is my car. My XF Ford Falcon and though I can drive it, I do not have a license. I do not know the rules about sleeping in your car. Can I get in trouble for this? I am parked only two blocks away from the house I am meant to be sleeping in. I am parked in front of a chicken shop and my hair smells like oil and burnt deep fried food. I am five months pregnant. I am 17. I am too proud to ask for help. Too proud to admit that I am not safe. Too proud to admit I don’t know what to do. Too proud. Too scared. Too small. Too silent. Too invisible. I am what I have made of myself.

I go back to that red brick house the next night. With its yard full of dry yellow grass. Its slightly leaning grey wire fence. Its dirt stained front door. Its rooms that smell like all the mistakes I’ve made. I am swallowed into its chipped paint. With my hair still smelling like oil and burnt deep fried food.

**

Homelessness in Australia is often misunderstood, stereotyped or invisible. Homelessness isn’t just sleeping rough on the streets, although for many that is the reality. Homelessness is characterized by a lack of access to safe, affordable and appropriate accommodation. This includes examples such as couch surfing between friends and family (not a long term solution), having somewhere long term to live that isn’t safe (ie. Domestic violence situations, room mates selling drugs etc) or living somewhere where the costs of that accommodation are more than 50% of your income.

The Chamberlain and MacKenzie 2008 Counting the Homeless Report 2006 (ABS) provides the following more detailed definitions of the various types of homeslessness:

Primary homelessness includes all people without a ‘roof over their head’. This means people who are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars or trains as temporary shelter.

Secondary homelessness includes people who frequently move from one type of shelter to another. This includes people living in homeless services, hostels, people staying with other households who have no home of their own and people staying in boarding houses for 12 weeks or less.

Tertiary homelessness refers to people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long term basis (more than 13 weeks), who live in accommodation that does not have ‘self-contained facilities’ for example they do not have their bathroom or kitchen and who don’t have the security provided by a lease. They are homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard for housing.

In Australia, we often think of homelessness as older men sleeping rough (these are the images we often see associated with homelessness in the media in particular), but the statistics show that in fact 42% (!!!) of people experiencing homelessness are under 24 and the gender divide (across ages) is 56% male and 44% female. It’s also worth noting that homeslessness happens in both metro and regional communities, though it can be harder to spot in regional communities where it’s easier to see a tent by the river and just think it’s a regular camper.

It’s Youth Homeslesness Matters Day in two weeks time (9th April), which is an annual National awareness day for youth homelessness in Australia. Now is the perfect time to get involved or think about hosting an event – more details about how you can support Youth Homeslessness Matters Day through advocacy, sharing or hosting an event can be found here.

Also check out One Night Stand (Melbourne) and Street Smugglers (Perth) – two awesome organisations tackling homelessness in entirely different ways, led by two awesome young men I’m lucky enough to know through the Foundation for Young Australian’s Young Social Pioneers Program.

You can also find out more information on the realities, stats and what you can do to help at Homelessness Australia.

I had two experiences of homeslessness as a teenager – the one I touched on briefly above (with my trusty XF) and the second a month or so of hopping between houses, including a week in a house with no electricity, hot water etc where the actual tenant was staying elsewhere – because they had upset their drug dealer and were afraid they would be tracked down to the house and bashed! I was 7 months pregnant by that stage.

People who know me now struggle to place me in those situations, struggle to reconcile that I am the same person. Sometimes I do too. Much of that period of my life feels like a story I’m remembering about someone else. A dream.

It’s a dream I was lucky enough to wake from before the cycle became too ingrained to release me. I’m grateful every day for that.

Not everyone is so lucky or happens to fall into the right circles at the right time, but we can all make a difference to ending homelessness in Australia by supporting the work of the organisations I’ve shared above. So please do head to the links, do some reading and remember to share Youth Homeslessness Matters Day on the 9th April.

 

A Papermoon to see by #ATF2013

Inspiration is a compelling pursuit. (….) We can’t see the fox and maybe we never will. But we know the idea is there and well keep chasing. ATF is an opportunity to chase the tail. – Alicia Talbot

The Australian Theatre Forum ‘sold out’ before the program was released. We didn’t know what the days would hold but each of us trusted (or wildly hoped) that it would be worth a few days (or week for some) out of our work and other lives. Alicia Talbot has curated the program being presented to us and I don’t know how they all got in my head but gee #maketrouble

The outlaws and the boundary riders are the people who make it happen – Aicia Talbot

ATF in Alicia’s words is an opportunity to find the space to have the burning conversations. She was also impressed that people managed to not punch anyone this morning (during the Q and A after David Milroy’s keynote)

Alicia wished us the “best of half finished conversations“.

And then, and then. We had the pleasure of meeting Ria Papermoon from Papermoon Puppet Theatre. Ria is the founder and Co-Artistic director of Papermoon Puppet Theatre and visiting Australia as an international cultural visitor (via DFAT).

Like David, Ria’s spirit is something I could never hope to capture here. Her words were warm, welcoming and with the slightest hint of endearing nervousness.

I think some of you may have been to Indonesia. Like Bali. But you should ‘click’ come a bit further. – Ria Papermoon

Papermoon didn’t start as a puppet company, it was originally a free studio for children to engage with visual and performing arts until everything changed when over 1000 people died in serious earthquakes. People kept their kids close to them and stopped coming and Papermoon searched for and transitioned into something else.

Starting out with very simple object based puppets (found objects with eyes on them), Ria and her husband, the Co-Artistic Director of Papermoon

He is my husband so he has no choice (laughs) – Ria Papermoon

reached out for something more. In Indonesia, Ria explained there isn’t really a formal system or training to ‘become’ an artist, it’s very self identified “I’m artist. I’m artist. I’m artist. Just like that.

People thought Papermoon’s puppetry would be shadow puppetry (the traditional form in Indonesia) but Papermoon started exploring something different, something contemporary and something that no one else was doing in Indonesia. In the truest sense of DIY, Ria and her husband (and others that came along for the ride) did (and do) everything and had to learn from scratch how to make and build the puppets they wanted to create. They quite literally just started Googling things and giving everything a go.

During the process they discovered that puppet theatre could be for adults too and could explore darker territory so they’ve making work now for both children and adults.

(Worked with puppeteers from Germany and Australia including Snuff Puppets) Exchange learning that puppetry is not just for kids. Shakespeare dark gloomy stuff. Is this puppet theatre? Oh great, we can do this. – Ria Papermoon

Indonesia also has limited funding available and what is there is difficult to access so Papermoon has to find other ways to make things happen. They embody ‘doers’.

There is no other puppet company like us, because we can jump around and do whatever we want. But it’s also sad because I want to be sitting in the audience and seeing other things. – Ria Papermoon

Ria spoke about some of the specific shows they’ve created which Jane Howard covers in depth in her blog here so I won’t reiterate. Like David, earlier in the day Ria was equally inspiring, although in a wholly different way. Her willingness to ‘not know’ and to just try (and the willingness to admit it!) and the impressive list of collaborators they’ve worked with from across the globe struck a chord with me.

We learnt from the almighty Internet and google. We don’t know how it will work on stage. We just try. (…) It was sold out. – Ria Papermoon

I  love the idea of cross cultural collaborations but am scared that really I’m just a bit too boring/will say something/am too inexperienced/etc/etc/etc. Ria really highlighted the value of residencies and reaching out to potential collaborators and mentors which was a pertinent reminder for me.

For us Art is a medium to communicate with people. (…) We’ve survived until now because of the audience – Ria Papermoon

Also one of the Ria’s collaborators has been the fantastic Mr Ben Fox (the elusive fox from Alicia’s intro?) who is steering the ship for #RAA2014. Seriously cool.

Did I mention I’m writing #tinytwitterpoem (s) during #ATF2013? Inspired by Katie Keys #tinylittlepoems (aka Kate Larsen, Director Writers Vic) during Kumuwuki (when I was first ‘exposed’) and other events.

Ria inspired a number of #tinytwitterpoem (s), take a peek here. One of the lovely writers from the Riverland Creative Writing Group, which I facilitate has also joined in with her own #tinytwitterpoem. Yay!

#emptyshops #revolutionaryarts

The final keynote of the 2013 Creating Spaces Conference was delivered by the endearing and refreshing Mr Dan Thompson, artist/writer and starter of many things including Revolutionary Arts, Empty Shops and the #riotcleanup and #wewillgather.

Dan once went to the local music shop to buy a CD for his wife and accidentally bought the whole shop while he was there. It didn’t work out, but that’s the point. Life is about trying and failing and trying again (as Samuel Beckett said).

The keynote actually begins with Dan’s own real life roots and a photograph of the house he grew up in (and his father still lives in), in Worthing, UK. Dan shares his first experience of reclaiming spaces and invigorating community spirit with the plot of land near the house. The plot of land was fenced off (by council?) and quickly became a dumping ground and blight on the block. Dan rang the council to ask them to clean it up and was told – “No, we don’t know who the items there belong to or where they came from (and therefore who’s responsibility it is)”. So Dan said “Can I clean it up?” – “Oh no, we don’t know who the items belong to, you might be stealing.” Face palm. Giggles all round from our listening conference gaggle.

Dan – “Fuck that, I’m going to do it anyway,” so he did and others in the neighbourhood saw him cleaning up and lent a hand.

This is where I start to get an inkling that Dan is about to join my #professionalcrush list as a top #troublemaker and the rest of his keynote does not disappoint.

Dan’s keynote covered off on a range of the fab and super inspiring projects he has both deliberately and accidentally initiated, the most relevant to Creating Spaces being the Empty Shops Network and #wewillgather, although I was interested in all of his work. I was also secretly thrilled that yet again, my new professional crush is from a theatre/performing arts background (as were the Gap Filler duo).

Dan’s sharing was framed by this quote from 60s activist Peter Coyote:

A man’s vision is his responsibility. If you have an idea, make it happen; find the brothers and sisters; find the resources and do it. Your personal autonomy and power expose the shallowness of endless theorising and debate. Visions become real by being acted out, and once real serve as endless inspiration and free food for the public imagination.

The Empty Shops network is essentially a similar idea to that of Renew Newcastle, helping people to reduce, reuse and recycle empty shops and other spaces in towns and cities across the UK. The Empty Shops website follows what the Bank of Ideas calls a copyleft policy by providing a wide range of resources on their website free to use.

Since 2008, Empty Shops is a national network of people using empty shops. In the UK approximately 15% of shops are empty and it’s mostly due to supermarkets that sell everything.

“Thanks for sending us Westfield, that’s worked out really well.” Dan Thompson

There is also a very strong online economy with approximately 10% of purchases completed on line.

Empty Shops inspired a range of mini projects such as We Are Bedford. Bedford had 100% vacancy in the high street (traditional main street). The We Are Bedford project took on all the shops and ran a festival. There is now 100% occupancy. Like Renew, Empty Shops projects operate on the idea that bringing the shops to life will bring people back to these centres and subsequently attract commercial tenants (or transition creative projects into creative tenants).

Dan also called for the room (and those playing at home) to get involved with Empty Shop Day on the fourth of May (Star Wars Day!) by posting photos of empty shops on the flickr page.

Empty Shops is a project from Dan’s organisation Revolutionary Arts.

Although not directly related to Renew, #riotcleanup has a strong philosophical link (with a lot in common again with Gap Filler) and is an interesting story in and of itself.

England actually has a long history of riot and revolt. Dan listed off quite an impressive list of riots and rebellions. Minus the very real blood, death and destruction, on one level the abstract idea of standing up absolutely and completely for what you believe in feels quite inspiring.

As many would know London was overtaken by a number of huge riots in 2011, which started in response to a young man who was shot by police. Dan is a prolific twitter user and logging on, his feed was flooded with people talking about barricading their doors and many fleeing because the violence was so bad.

This was a very different kind of riot, it wasn’t targeted at barons or lords in the vein of England’s tradition of rioting. This was violence that largely damaged every day people. People that run shops aren’t rich and often everything they have is tied into those premises.

In response to the violence and damage, Dan tweeted – Tomorrow we need to work out how to help the independent retailers. Dan thought he could rustle up 50 people to help those local shops to clean up. He asked people on twitter to take a dustpan and broom and go and help their local clean up. 12,000 people volunteered on the first day and #riotcleanup was born.

The most interesting thing about this ‘project’ is that no one was actually in charge, it wasn’t an organisation or a formal project with anyone telling you what to do. It was an idea and a movement started almost accidentally. People asked Dan “Can you organise something in Hackney?” and Dan would reply “Yes, YOU can, what time will you be there?”. They’d say 10 o’clock and so Dan would tweet #riotcleanup Hackney 10 o’clock and then 300 people would turn up in Hackney at 10 o’clock and manage themselves and each other.

#wewillgather is a similar principle that’s followed on from #riotcleanup to encourage people to organise small scale coming together and fixing/clean up in their communities in a more general sense. It’s about using social media to get people together to do a job that needs doing.

“People want to do things, but they needed someone to give them permission,” Dan Thompson

Rather than place making, Dan’s ethos is about ‘place shaking’. Place making is a formal and structured process. Place shaking is instead, informal, agile, frugal and about making networks. Place shaking begins place making.

As Dan spoke, the hairs on my arms stood up as I felt like he was putting a language to something embedded in my idea of community and care. Thanks Dan!

Named as one of GQ’s 100 most influential men in Britain last year, Dan comes across as humble, authentic, endearing and the best kind of doer and left the keynote with these rules:

  • Everything starts with a conversation
  • Explore, get lost, and find out what makes a place interesting ( find the little details off the beaten track).
  • Reclaim spaces for public use
  • Create collaborations and friendly networks, not organisations
  • Test, prototype and try it together

and invited each of us to be the trim tab on a rudder. The smallest tilt can turn us all in a new direction. And his tip for maintaining energy? Lots of jelly sweets.

You can read more about Dan’s work here.  He’s also the author of “Pop Up Business for Dummies“.

War Stories and Pechu Kucha Creating Spaces

The official Creating Spaces Conference sessions today were followed with an optional ‘War Stories’ at the pub detailing some of the hairier moments of space activation, I can’t share them but suffice to say – most involved toilets! Knowing how to unblock a toilet is definitely a handy skill and always have towels and gloves handy. This advice applies to life outside of Renew projects too I’d say.

To cap off the day, we were treated to an absolutely divine dinner at the Newcastle Museum, which is a fabulous space I wish I’d taken photos of!

Dinner and conversation were followed by a series of Pecha Kucha presentations by conference delegates. Pecha Kucha is a presentation methodology where presenters each have 20 slides and only 20 seconds to speak to each slide. Short, sharp and shiny, it encourages presenters to really elevator pitch their ideas.

Our Pecha Kucha included:

An old Ambulance station revamp in Nambour from Adam. Read about it here.

Penrith City Council’s Magnetic Places project, creating community places. Read more here.

Group D Creative Collective and the amazing light fish. Meet them here.

Arthive and Street Art Walking from Simone. Arthive here and SAW here.

The Feastonart Gallery in Orbost. Their (rather under used) facebook here.

Art Pharmacy – your affordable art fix (I ❤ this). Read about them here, follow them on twitter here.

And a mini taster from tomorrow’s opening keynote Dan Thompson. More about him tomorrow, but he wrote a book ‘Pop Up Business for Dummies’ which I am now rather keen to check out.

Is it bed time yet?