Monday, June 27, 2011

10 things...from Brighton in May

The following images or digital artefacts are ten things that I experienced or took part in in my home town last month.

May is the beginning of festival season in Brighton, a veritable events banquet that runs almost to the end of the year, but particularly throughout the summer. The big beast that kicks things off is the Brighton Festival and its little brother, the Brighton Festival Fringe. As previously mentioned, Aung San Suu Kyi was the (in absentia) guest director which meant that her image was plastered across the city throughout May. The picture above is from a mural on a wall in Vine Street - a really outstanding piece of work.

The Brighton Festival always kicks off with the Children's Parade, organised by local arts organisation Same Sky. I'd never managed to focus on it enough to get a decent photographic record in the past, but this year managed to plant myself on the seafront, DSLR in hand and got some pretty nice shots. The parade goes through the town and involves children (and their parents) from schools across the city and surrounding areas. A really fun way to kick things off.

I went to a talk organised by IDS (where I was once singer in the house band) on 'Can the Media Save the World?', held at the Friends Meeting House. The speakers were good and the audience were eager and attentive, almost disappointed that there wasn't more time to widen the debate. 

Some of the points raised included:
  • media is often a reflection of what's out there rather than an enabler of change
  • it can be very effective in bearing witness or for exposing wrongdoing
  • media has often played a vital role in creating public awareness of global poverty 
  • TV should try and engage audiences on important issues through other genres, rather than just news or documentaries
  • international or development-related content tends to be on niche channels - media providers therefore neglect the wider population
  • the blogosphere can magnify the impact of an issue
  • CSR (corporate social responsibility) exists and is widely practiced, why not MSR (media social responsibility)?


Probably the most impressive live event I've been to in at least ten years, DJ Shadow unveiled his 'Shadowsphere' show as part of The Great Escape, at Brighton Dome. Almost the entire show was performed from inside a giant sphere in the middle of the stage, onto which various films and images were projected that seemed to interact with the other projections behind it. One minute a basketball jumping through a hoop, the next the Death Star vanquishing all in its path, and all with a bass so deep that it felt like my internal organs were being regularly rearranged. If you ever get the chance to see this show, go, go go.

Although they are not officially part of the programme, there are often many other great things going on at the same time as the main festival that kind of piggyback onto the bigger one. The above mentioned Great Escape is one of them, and the more genteel St. Anne's Well Gardens festival is another. A real family day out, with lots of face painting, balloons and all that sort of thing, we picnicked in the park in the glorious weather and listened to a brass band as kids ran around us.

For the second year running, I went to see the Brighton Beach Boys. Last year was the show they've been playing for a long time - full live renditions of 'Pet Sounds 'and 'Sgt Pepper'. This year, the first half of the show was a bit tougher to sit through as it was all originals written by one of the core members of the band (and the audience had all come along for Beatles or Beach Boys songs), but the second half was fantastic - a note perfect and highly spirited performance of 'Abbey Road', in its entirety. Great stuff.

A little further out of town (Stanmer Park) and another one of those peripheral events was the Brighton Kite Festival. The weather wasn't so good and most of my pictures came out a little too dark, but there were some pretty cool kites on display, plus it was good to get out of the city for a few hours. I'm due to start studying at the neighbouring university from September, so it also presented a good excuse to have a sniff around the campus again too.

A clash with the Brighton Beach Boys show meant missing the remarkable looking spectacle that was 'Drôles d'Oiseaux', held at The Level. Still, we got off the bus on the way back from the kite festival and took a look at what remained the next day. Yes, they were real cars and no, I have no idea how they stayed up. Damned cool looking though.

I spent a meditative hour or two in the hulk of the Old Municipal Market, the place that was a main fruit and veg wholesaler when I was a student but now lies dormant and empty. Inside, was an installation by Turkish artist Kutluğ Ataman, called 'Mesopotamian Dramaturgies'. This consisted of a series of screens displayed at varying angles, showing close-ups of the flow from waterfalls (including Iguazu), signifying the revolutionary changes happening with the Arab spring and in the region. Although the installations themselves were pretty captivating, the space itself was also rather inspiring and I experimented a little with taking low lit black and white images in an abandoned building. Ended up pretty happy with some of the results too.

Prior to the two hours in an abandoned fruit warehouse, I dropped in to the Fabrica gallery for a sound installation by Janet Cardiff, titled 'Forty Part Motet'. There were forty speakers arranged in a circle, from which individual voices from a choir were played. The recording was on a permanent loop and the installation itself gave the effect of standing in the middle of a choir, hearing the voices as the choir hears them rather than from where the audience does. Click on the field recording below to hear a little of what it sounded like (but not get a feeling of what it was like to be surrounded - can only really do stereo here).
Of course, there was so much more to see and do. Some of it I've already mentioned here (such as the Heroes Run and Jardin Flambeau), some of it I had to miss out on for some reason or another. You can find more photos from these events and more at my Brighton Festival 2011 Flickr set.

These ten were some of my highlights. Brightonians and other visitors, what were yours?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tokyo in Pummelvision

I was recently introduced to Pummelvision - an online tool for making videos from photo collections - and used the service to make a video of some of my Flickr-held images of Tokyo. The service produces a snappy little clip with a choice of displaying the images 'fast' or 'very fast' (hold on to your hats, I chose 'very fast'). 

It's very simple to use, taking pictures from places like Facebook, Flickr or Instagram and putting them up at either YouTube or Vimeo. Once a collection of images has been chosen, Pummelvision throws them all together and syncs them with an audio clip that matches the speed of image navigation.

For a 30-second clip, it's quite nice. I'm sure that such a tool could have some effective classroom uses, such as producing a video to showcase steps of a project or something like that, but at the moment it's also fairly limited. There is only one choice of song, for example. Still, a bit of fun all the same with potentially wider uses. 

Enjoy the video.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Winter In America' - a tribute

I first became aware of Gil Scott-Heron around the early to mid-nineties, while I was at university, although it was a while till I actually got where he was coming from. He was often listed on posters around town as playing at something like that year's Jazz Bop or some festival or other. Regrettably, I never did see him live. 

His recorded music, however, became something very special indeed. A combination of deeply soulful and funky tunes, with a killer voice and a unique ability to tell the truth in song - in ways that few others ever came close to matching. His final album came out last year (listen to it in full here) and although he was clearly sounding more frayed than in his earlier years, it was glorious to hear him producing something new and equally up to standard as the rest of his work. Turned out to be his swansong.

I now never will get the chance to see him live, but when I heard that he had died, I immediately wanted to pay some form of tribute to the man. The above video is the result. The audio track is taken from an audience recording of an NYC show from '88, shoved out into the public domain and left on The images are largely a combination of Creative Commons images sourced from Flickr and scraps of cutting-room-floor footage from the BBC's 'Digital Revolution' doc, plus a few other bits to pad it out.

The video is probably a little scrappy, both in audio quality and in the state of the editing (both feel free to diss it in the comments), but I hope that it can make for a slight contribution to the range of other content on YouTube that serves to give those that never listened to the man a chance to do so. I also hope that for those that know him or his work well, they'll feel that this humble clip is a worthy tribute, however slight.

RIP Gil.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

'10 things...I want to do next year'

It gives me great pleasure to welcome my first guest poster onto this blog! Launched just two weeks ago, the new '10 things...' feature prompted my first comments in a while and a wee flurry of interest by other bloggers up for a go at it. I'm delighted to hand a platform over to Eva Büyüksimkeşyan for this post.

Eva lives in Istanbul and has been teaching English for more than 20 years. She says that she loves her job because it is challenging, it enhances creativity, it enables her to stay young and it helps her to become a life-long learner (can certainly agreed with each of those points regarding teaching!). We met at the Blogging Forum at this year's IATEFL, so she makes a very appropriate contributor for a guest post. Eva blogs here and tweets here.

So without further ado, over to you Eva.


Some people love making lists. They have lists everywhere on their notice boards, in their agendas, on refrigerators, etc. I’m also in favour of lists for many reasons. When I make lists,
  1. I feel I’m more organised.
  2. I will be less stressed.
  3. I know that I won’t put off the things I have to do.

Teaching is a very challenging job and we need to be organised and well-planned to achieve our goals.

I decided to write a 10 things ... list that we can prepare before the new term next year to help us be more organised.

Here is my list:

Before you enter your new class next year, make your first-aid lists. Create a folder for them.
  1. Create a ‘10 things I want to do before the end of this academic year’ and highlight your aims.
  2. Create your initial list of strategies to deal with difficulties and classroom management. Leave space to add more strategies as you experience your new class.
  3. List the things you do to improve yourself. Have a list of people or groups whom you can rely on when you need help. A PLN list on twitter or FB is ideal for this purpose.
  4. List your favourite tools and leave space to add more to your initial list.
  5. List your-must-be-visited-as-frequently-as-possible list of websites.
  6. Organise your files and bookshelves and have an easy way to reach whatever you want when you need.
  7. List favourite games and activities and have it somewhere you see every day so that you can use them frequently.
  8. Decide how you will praise and motivate your students and list a few statements you can use to encourage good work. (not the usual clichés)
  9. Create a list of ‘10 things I should never do and say in my class’.
  10. Make a list of ‘my strengths and my weaknesses’ and find ways to change things for better. 

That's a highly useful list of lists, I think. Quite a few things I've never really thought of. If I even managed half of those, I'd be a far better organised teacher! I'm currently going through number 6. at the moment - being the end of two different courses, one long, one short - and it's making quite a difference to how prepared I feel for my next classes.

Over to you now readers. For the teachers among you, how do you prepare for a new term? For non-teachers, does this list translate across to your profession?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron at the Bottom Line

A short post here - the music will speak for itself. 

I've been putting together a video tribute to Gil Scott-Heron, but these things can take a little while to get to a point where they're ready to put out. In the meantime here's a New York live show from 1977. 

For those of you that haven't heard the man before, you've just got to dig it. For those of you that have, you'll know what a treat you're in for. Either way, it'll be two hours of your life very well worth spending.

In other news, this blog is about to get its first guest poster!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Remix Libya

Being an aficionado of the protest song, I was recently wondering whether there had been any tracks produced about the current conflict in Libya, particularly from remix culture. 

I turned to SoundCloud - rapidly becoming my audio search engine of choice - and discovered two such tracks. The one above is by Dimitri Stuer from Belgium and the one below is from the British Dave McKeown (not his first musical comment on conflict, it seems).

Have a listen and let me know your thoughts on the two tracks.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

An evening in the Fire Garden

This set of pictures were taken at the Jardin Flambeau (Fire Garden) in St Ann's Well Gardens, Hove, as part of the 2011 Brighton Festival. It was an enchanting event, with all sorts of breathtaking fire installations and sculptures, plus an array of musical performances in near darkness - low-lit by the glow of the surrounding fires. Organised by French company Cie Carabosse, I'd never seen the likes of it before and was thrilled to have been witness to it.