Among Ideal Friends – Libraries, Literacy and the Arts for children

Here are some thoughts and findings from phase one of a project I was involved in (and remain involved in phase two). Hopefully anyone interested in libraries, arts, culture and arts education will find it useful.

Among Ideal Friends  (AIF) is a touring performance project developed by The Spark Arts for Children in partnership with Libraries in the East Midlands. Working together to deliver and transport high quality family theatre performances and workshop activities, inspired by books and stories for children, families and schools, alongside training for library staff and community volunteers.”

A Boy and A Bear in a Boat (one of the AIF shows, by Stewart Melton adapted from the book by Dave Shelton)

I worked with The Spark Arts for about a year on this and it was great to be able to vary and refine the approach to evaluation throughout. As someone primarily in the arts & events field, the role of libraries in the wider cultural sector was not something I would have previously considered myself particularly well informed about. Considering that they represent a nation-spanning, universally provided range of facilities or venues usually offering free and unlimited access to assorted cultural experiences, goods and services… in retrospect, well, that seems like an oversight! Especially given the recent and emerging debates around cultural democracy and everyday participation.

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Audience surveys, segmentation and OpenAudience

How do you get to know more about what kinds of people attended an event?

Two fairly common quantitative approaches to this question are surveys and segmentation. Regarding the latter, we’re talking specifically about geodemographic segmentation, rather than sales or marketing based segmentation.

What if someone was able to do both and compare the difference in results?

Or is this more like a Ghostbusters ‘don’t cross the streams’ kind of thing? Read on and find out.

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STEM and STEAM: education by acronymisation

I think I bang on quite a bit in lectures about the differences between academic disciplines or fields of study, because I think if you “get” this, it puts everything else you do within a useful context. People don’t like to be told: “That’s interesting and original, but you only get a 50% because it doesn’t really address the question.” or “Your references are from good sources but not really relevant to the field.” The different disciplines, taken to an extreme, represent quite fundamentally different philosophical or ideological ways of seeing and experiencing the world. Perhaps it is no great surprise that there is ongoing and noisy debate about which disciplines should receive the most attention at varying levels of education. Artists are gonna want more arts, scientists are going to want more science.

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Modern Primitive Exchange

“Modern Primitive Exchange (MPEx) is a forum of art, design and ideas for living through the End Times.”

image: modernprimitiveexchange

image: modernprimitiveexchange

This project, as the image above, and their title suggests, are an interesting collision of high and low tech concepts, well worth a browse for inspiring writing and videos. Supported by The Canary Project, who, amongst other things produced the Green Patriot Posters book (that I own and would recommend)  They seem to share a lot with the Dark Mountain Project on this side of the Atlantic. I particularly enjoyed the TED talk about why TED talks are rubbish (link) and a residence described as resolutely NOT Modern Primitive (link) – a 60 storey, one family house worth over $1bn. Ouch!

Check it out, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Dark Mountain Project

“For all our doubts and discontents, we are still wired to an idea of history in which the future will be an upgraded version of the present. The assumption remains that things must continue in their current direction: the sense of crisis only smudges the meaning of that ‘must’. No longer a natural inevitability, it becomes an urgent necessity: we must find a way to go on having supermarkets and superhighways. We cannot contemplate the alternative.”

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