Going up in The Public

Jon is a proper artist!

From 18th July until September the large glass edition of the Birmingham Music Map is going to be on display at The Public in West Bromwich as part of their Summer Exhibition. It’s free to visit and has a rather nice coffee shop-cum-bar.

Thanks to Jez from the Birmingham Music Archive for his continued support of this.

You can still add your memories to the map, here. And paper editions are on sale.

Twitizen Kane

Yesterday, I tried the Twitpanto method on “the greatest film ever made”. As part of  ‘Yarn presents Five Stories High’ at Flatpack Festival, I re-interpreted around ten minutes of Citizen Kane. It was a tight deadline, so plans to do something really different fell behind just writing a script and getting together a few ‘actors’ I could trust.

In a live setting I was interested in how the audience would understand the language of the Twitter feed just being projected on the wall. I hoped to get heckles and confusing stuff too.

The script, is here. We got ‘moved on’ (for reasons of time I suspect) just before the bit about the principles, which I thought was the crux of it. Never mind.

I’m not sure everyone got what was going on but this quick review from another participant means that at least someone did:

[blockquote]”obviously, members of the audience start tweeting using the hashtag, and it was just hilarious. And silent, and awkward, but in a brilliant way.”[/blockquote]

The weekend’s other Flatpack activity for me was to chair a Q&A with Lawrence (ex of Felt etc), that was both more conventional and a little better received I think. Great fun, and really nice to meet a musical hero.

Road Trip: Round the Wrekin

This post was written by chum Pete Ashton, about a project we applied for together.


A few weeks ago an Arts Council funded commission came over the tootvine which looked pretty interesting. Turning Point West Midlands and Writing West Midlands were looking for a writer and visual artist to undertake a road trip across, you guessed it, the West Midlands and create some art during and about it in return for £4,000. My writer chum Jon Bounds suggested I put my photographer hat on and we apply for this thing, bringing Jon’s frequent writing partner Danny Smith on board as well. It was one of those rare occasions where you read something on an art funding website and think, hang on, I not only understand this but I reckon I could do it.

Neither of us had written a proposal like this before and while Danny has a fine art degree he was bad poorly with the sick and I don’t think he ever went in for that proposal writing thing anyway. But we have friends who can do this sort of thing in their sleep so advice was to hand and in the end we put together something fairly coherent.

Yesterday the rejection emails were sent out and we got one. Apparently there were 78 applications which apparently is a lot. And apparently an organisation which is in part there to assist artists in the pursuit and creation of their art isn’t able to give feedback on individual applications (and I do understand why writing 77 feedbacks isn’t necessarily the best use of public money) so we don’t know if we were in final shortlist or throw in the round filing cabinet right away.

It strikes me that while the whole arts commissioning thing has some fundamental flaws. There exist 77 ideas for a road trip across the West Midlands which will never see the light of day. Even if we apply Sturgeon’s Law and assume 90% of them were shite ideas that’s still 7 good ones. And think about all that time those people spent on their applications, time that could have been spent on something more productive.

More importantly, there are 154 people (2 per application) who aren’t going to do a thing they were intending to do. That strikes me as a terrible shame. Yes, the ideas wouldn’t exist without TPWM/WWM sparking them with the commission but that’s one hell of a bottleneck.

I hate bottlenecks.

We’ve decided to make our application public for anyone to read.

Here’s the PDF and here it is online.

We’re putting it out there for a few reasons.

Firstly to get a bit more feedback on this thing. We’d really value any comments, positive or negative from people in the industry.

Secondly to publicly demonstrate what we’re capable of and willing to do. We’d like to get paid to do this sort of thing more often and we think this document helps that cause.

Thirdly to see if anyone else wants to commission us to do it or something similar. The bid is written with TPWM/WWM’s raison d’etre in mind and we can probably adjust it for other box-ticking requirements.

Fourthly because it seems a shame to spend so long writing something and to only show it to a handful of people. We are natural bloggers after all. To not publish it feels weird to us.

But mainly to test the water for a crowdsourced crowdfunding exercise.

On the one hand we could try raising a sustainable level of cash to enable us to do it. Not necessarily four large but enough to put dinner on the table.

On the other hand it’d be really interesting to get the funders to collectively write the commission. Bear in mind I’m making this up as I type and haven’t consulted Danny and Jon at all, but let’s say we decide on the How but you decide on the Why. You give us our remit, our focus.

Or something like that.

Of course it could be that our idea is shit and should rightly be rejected by all and sundry. And if that’s the case then that’s fine. There are plenty more where that came from.

Final note – please don’t read this as sour grapes or an attack on TPWM/WWM and the whole arts funding setup which has real value in certain situations. It was our first ever application and we’re realistic about our chances. It just seems a shame to waste it.


If you’ve a comment to make, please leave it on Pete’s post for coherence. 

Birmingham Music Map

With the Birmingham Popular Music Archive I’ve been inviting the public to contribute to an online database of music culture in Birmingham, by placing venues, artists, people or anything they feel relates to music on a map. You can see and add your memories to the map, here.

Jon is a proper artist!

An editioning of the results so far was commissioned in the form of the Birmingham Music Map as part of ‘plug in’ an exhibition at mac curated by Simon Poulter. The exhibition has now finished, and the artwork (printed on toughened glass and around a metre wide by 1.4m high) is looking for a new home.  I’m happy for it to be displayed in any public place as long as they will display an artist’s card next to it and look after it — it would be brilliant if it was mounted somewhere appropriate, but if you’re interested please drop me a line at jon@jonbounds.co.uk.

If you’ve not got the room, poster/print copies are available, screenprinted on gorgeous white archival paper at B1 (707 × 1000mm /27.8 × 39.4in) in a signed and numbered limited edition of 100 copies.

Buy Now (£25 plus £5 postage and packing — recorded delivery):

Price for framed copies on application. Please email for details.

You can explore an online version here.

In the record books

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

A real traditional Christmas present for the inquiring kiddie (or adult) is the Guinness Book of Records — I spent many an hour looking up the tallest and widest things in the World in years gone by — so it was great to see ‘my’ record in the new edition. For a huge portion of 2008 I ran the web side of ‘The Big Picture‘ an Audiences Central project, where we collected photographs from the people of the West Midlands. 12,896 were then turned in to the World’s Largest Photo Mosaic by artist, Helen Marshall on a huge platform at Millennium Point in Birmingham. You can see Lucy Moore (who submitted the photo chosen to be mosaic’d) standing on the finished article above (and see a lovely video of her reaction here).

While getting the World Record was the culmination of the project, the real point was to get people involved in artistic activities in some way — and it was hard work, but rewarding. The nature of the project, engaging with those who weren’t always confident online, meant a huge amount of community management and support, but the feeling of ownership that the participants came to have over the site and the project was worth every bit of the effort.

No doubt the largest social media project (in terms of engaged audience) that I’ve worked on, and it’s nice to be reminded of it.

Thanks to Jaki Booth for the photo and the spot. You can explore the mosaic online here.

The End of the Line

When I organised the 11-11-11 eleven hours on the eleven bus day I didn’t make it too clear to people that it was art — it tends to put people off. But I’ve had a slightly different version of the idea, one that’s simultaneously easier to get involved with and has a wider remit.
The End of the Line
Get on the bus by your house and go the opposite way to the way you usually go (out of town for most people), stay on to the terminus. Record your experiences.

That’s it.

It takes time to organise though, so I thought I’d attempt to get a bit of funding behind it — to give myself some time to do it properly, to pay myself the going rate for what I wanted to do. This seemed like a good place to start, so I cobbled together a funding proposal and sent it off on Sunday (for Monday’s deadline). Just (Tuesday night) got a rejection — to tell you the truth I’m not so bothered about being rejected (it doesn’t stop anything happening), but the speed of rejection makes me worry it’s been rejected without any consideration [EDIT: I’m sure that isn’t true, but that’s what goes through your head] — if that’s true then I’d like to know so I don’t waste any more of my time with arts types and just get on and do stuff.

Bid thing after the jump in case you want to send me the dosh 😉

Continue reading The End of the Line

Campaign for Real Heritage

Are you fed up with “officials” deciding what’s important? Do you wish that history wasn’t just written by the winners?

The losers, the outsiders, the real people have history too. It deserves recognition, YOUR history deserves a blue plaque.

Campaign for real heritage

So now it can have one, the Campaign for Real Heritage will place a plaque anywhere, commemorating any event you like. Just get a sticker, fill in the gap, and stick (with permission, obviously).

Stickers available to buy here. They come in ones, tens and fifties — depends how much history you wish to create.

When you’ve made history, have a ceremony, take a photo. Place it here.