Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Curl

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I always enjoy the themes that the kids choose and over the last few years we have been playing around with this they have got progressively better at choosing themes as they think about what might come in. They like to come up with a theme that is both definitive in nature but gives lots of scope for interpretation.  I often think that some of the best themes they have chosen are colours or geometric shapes but this weeks theme of Curl was definitely one of the best they’ve chosen and there have been some brilliant interpretations that have come in from you all week.

We’ve just sat down to go through them and there were so many we enjoyed and it gave a real insight into how individuals can take a simple word and interpret it but also how photographs can make you think of the world around you, whether that be nature, art, jobs etc.  I loved the photo that a cardiac nurse sent in of her stethoscope entitled ‘tool of the trade’ and the curl of the blade runner is also a very powerful image.  As always our photofun would not work without all of you who take part and we’d really like to pass on our thanks that you take the time to do so and make it so much fun.  When the pictures are all put together in the gallery they create a vibrant tableau of the world around us.  As always click on the gallery to open it and you can see the photos as they came in, do let us know which ones you like.  Lots of crackers this week we thought.

 

Summer Photo Fun – 2014 – Balance

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We kicked off this summers photo fun a week late this year due to holidays etc but while we were away in Ithaca the kids got planning on some themes for the remainder of the summer.  They are getting dab hands at this now and come up with lots of ideas to form a long list and then whittle it down to give a good mix.  As always I was unsure if people would play along with us but sure enough the Balance photos started arriving during the week and there have been some lovely photos and interpretations.  The wedding ring photo for example was sent in by someone on their 10th anniversary who said that to succeed in marriage you need to strike the right balance which I liked very much.  There were a few of you who enjoy Yoga and of course bikes feature which brings to mind Einstein’s great quote “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving”.  I particularly liked the cheeky photo of cricketer Gary Ballance scoring his 100 the other day which was certainly not a photo I’d have anticipated which is why we love doing this so much, you might think you know what will come in but we are always surprised.  I didn’t imagine a car stuck up a tree either.

As always this idea only works if you take part so a huge thanks to all of you who have submitted photos, I think the gallery looks great.  If you just click on the gallery you can scroll through each photo in the correct size.  Some of the Balance is obvious but some you’ll have to think about.  Do let us know which ones you like.  I’ve been having a few technical issues so I do apologise if I’ve missed any of your photos out, if I have let me know and I’ll update the gallery.

 

 

My Grand Depart

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A bit like Alice in Wonderland, I emerged blinking back into the world wondering if the surrealness and madcap antics of the Grand Depart had been real and reflecting back on one of the most incredible experiences.  When Yorkshire won the right to host the depart I was of course hugely excited but after going to the launch event I was worried that we would mess it up as that was a truly dreadful event.  Fortunately everyone involved clearly bucked their ideas up after that and put on a truly stunning Grand Depart.

Running the Yorkshire Festival in the build up was I think key to creating such a great atmosphere as it got all sorts of creative people and enterprises doing stuff linked to the tour who may otherwise never have got involved. The result was a huge range of art and cultural activities across the region, big and small, high art to utter madcap which helped the region raise a collective eyebrow and take an interest in what was coming over the horizon.  The Festival also, in my view, acted as a catalyst to all sorts of other events as communities got well and truly into the spirit of it all.  The result was that countless individual acts, which on their own would have been meaningless, became part of a huge patchwork quilt of yellow, green and polka dot covering the whole of the county.  A perfect example of this was the knitted yellow jersey put on the Black Prince statue in Leeds that had been knitted by 70, 80 and 90 year olds that you can read the lovely story of here.

Thursday night saw the team presentation.  I did not buy a ticket for this in the arena and was pretty miffed that the organisers had taken this approach instead of the normal free show so I decided to use the money that I would have spent on a ticket for a train fare to London on the Monday.  However there was no real need to go to the presentation as the teams did a presentation ride through the city centre, the huge crowds that lined the route giving a flavour of what to expect of the the next few days.  Some of the riders looked a bit bemused by it all but most were smiling, acknowledging the crowds and interacting, with Ion Izagirre high fiving my daughter as he road past.

I took the Friday and Monday off work, determined to soak up the atmosphere and take in as much as I could and of course to see each of the three stages taking place in the UK.  The sun had been shinning all week prior to the start but there were numerous glances at the forecasts as rain was expected on the weekend (which if it had materialised would have certainly changed the whole vibe of the event).  I mooched about on the Friday, took in the Yorkshire bike show and marvelling at the vast media empire that was swinging into action and loving all the different accents I was starting to hear around town.  It was fun catching up on tweets and glimpses of the teams riding around the area, included the lovely touch by Giant-Shimano who organised a tweet up ride in North Leeds.  It’s amazing how the nature of social media has changed the game enabling me to catch up on all that was going on while supping on a pint of Magic Spanner at a pop up bar in the old police cells.

Saturday I wanted to see the start in Leeds, but even though I knew a lot of people would be coming into town I was still taken aback by the sheer volume of people, the whole city centre was heaving and people were standing 5 deep from about 8.30 in the morning.  I was lucky in that an organisation that I know were based right on the bottom of the Headrow in a perfect spot and so I found myself hanging out of the second floor window ready for the start (see photo at the top).  The crackle of noise that swept down with the riders will live with me for a long time, the riders looked pretty startled I thought by the sheer volume of people and noise that greeted the roll out.

Sunday I’d decided to head out as early as possible on the first train to Mytholmroyd and walk up Cragg Vale (the longest continuous climb in England).  There was again a huge sea of people and another fantastic atmosphere as thousands of people walked and cycled up the hill chatting and smiling with the local residents who were getting set up outside their houses, parties getting started and kids selling drinks, home made buns and loom bands on the roadside.  This time I managed to see the breakaway and of course the peloton sweep through treating the long drag as if it was a flat road.

London beckoned on Monday and it was strange really as after the huge party across Yorkshire I arrived in the capital to no visible sign that the tour was going to be in town.  This time I headed out a little bit and was fortunate to see the two strong breakaway on their last legs before the peloton steam through at full tilt, the sprint trains getting organised.  Quite incredible to see the speed at which they were riding.

After each day I watched the stage on the tele and marvelled at how brilliant it all looked.  There is of course a reason that Yorkshire looked so amazingly green as we get a good chunk of rain up here but the rain held off until London, if fact the sun shone brilliantly across the weekend and Yorkshire came out to party.  My abiding memory was that I’ve never seen so many people with a smile on their face and enjoying themselves.  A truly memorable and magic weekend.

 

Workers Lunchtime

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I’m on a quest. To fill that pure, unadulterated hour. Sandwiched between the two thick slabs of morning and afternoon. In my job I’m lucky enough to have an hour break for lunch and I’m looking for new bite-sized stuff to do.

I like the old, Victorian, philanthropic capitalists like local lad Titus Salt, the Lever brothers, Mr Cadbury, and the Rowntree family. Whilst counting their money they provided their workers with distractions, other than just combing wool, making soap or stirring chocolate.

These forward looking individuals knew that work wasn’t the be-all and end-all. The well-being of employees was on the agenda. Maybe it wasn’t just altruism, maybe they got more work out of a more content work force.

And those Victorian types were all for setting up societies to discuss big matters and learn more about each other and the world. From now on I’ll devote more of my lunchtimes to see what this city can offer its workers around noon.

So far I’ve been digging some mindfulness at the local Buddhist temple. Taken piano lessons again after a break of 20 years. I’ve got on my bike and cycled down river to see leaping Salmon. Discovered a lecture about magic lanterns (basically the demonic precursor to PowerPoint ). Went hunting for the grave of Pablo Fanque, Victorian circus impresario, whose name is immortalised in the Beatles song, Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite. The other week I attended a gathering of local philosophers in a pub to talk about Truth. So instead of window shopping and eating a pasty at the desk I’m going to look for lunchtime enlightenment through exploratory meanderings, lectures, travel, eating and leisure. And be back in an hour.

Bicyclism

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I’m a cyclist but I’m also a pedestrian, driver and passenger (car, bus, plane, train, ferry) but I don’t define myself by any of these modes of transportation in particular as there is something that combines them all – I’m a human being.  There is a problem however in that some cyclists and drivers seem to have forgotten that the people they are sharing the space with are in fact other human beings and instead see them as bloody cyclists or bloody van drivers etc.  As we are all human beings we are all connected, the person driving that van might be driving important medical supplies to a hospital where the cyclist is the surgeon about to use those supplies in a life saving operation for the daughter of the lady in the mini who has got up a bit too late and has not had time to do her make up so is putting it on at the lights.  If via our interactions we could see each other as human beings I’m convinced that the world (and the roads I ride on in particular) would be a safer place.

You see I’m not a cyclist, I’m a son, father, brother, lover – I’m all of these things and so are you and all of us.  If I could ask for one thing as I ride it would be that, simply to be seen as a human being.

When I ride my bikes I’m doing one of two things – getting from A to B for some reason (usually to or from work) or having some fun – sometimes I even have fun riding from A to B, but at no time am I trying to inconvenience or cause anyone else a problem.  A couple of weeks ago on my way into work the cyclist in front of me ended up under a car that hadn’t seen him.  I don’t know if he survived but I fear that he didn’t.  He was going to work but will probably never get that opportunity again.  How will his family feel and how will that driver wailing by the side of the road ever recover?  All sorts of hopes and fears flashed through my head as I struggled to hold back my own tears while cycling on to work.  We are humans we are all connected.

These thoughts and others occurred to me again when I went to see the Bicyclism exhibition at Leeds Museum which celebrates the human side of cycling.  Yes some people put lycra on to ride their bikes, they are still human beings, other people of all ages, colours, shapes and sizes ride all sorts of bikes for all sorts of reasons.  The exhibition celebrates this with a mixture of portraits of Leeds people and their bikes taken by Casey Orr together with a collection of self portraits of Leeds people and there bikes across the ages that you can also view via the online gallery.  The exhibition is also supported by a lovely Bicyclism newspaper featuring pictures, quotes and a lovely essay on bikes and cycling by Boff Whalley.

The strange thing for me looking round the exhibition was that the theme of connectivity came through as I knew some of the people whose pictures have been taken, some actually but some just through seeing them ride their bikes.  The pink beardy guy at the top rides on my commute route and boy can he ride, he’s so smooth and effortlessly quick and he regularly flies past me.  The other thing that struck me was how similar all this was to an idea I’ve been mulling in my head called Leeds Rides – getting people in Leeds to photograph themselves riding and uploading to a gallery or using twitter and tagging everything #LeedsRides my idea was that it would help to show the breadth of people who ride in the city and by implication would show the connectivity that exists and most importantly – We Are All Human

Photo Credit: All photos by Casey Orr

 

And the roads were paved with ….

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When you visit somewhere new your eyes tend to focus upwards at the architecture around you which gives you a flavour of the history, style, and beauty (or otherwise) or a place.  This is of course perfectly natural but perhaps taking the time to focus down at the ground under your feet provides another interesting sense of place as after all the buildings around you are built from the ground up so perhaps the ground can also tell a story.

I started thinking about this as I walked up the main shopping street in Malaga recently and became aware of the smoothness of the surface, looking down I noticed that the street was made up of the most beautifully polished stone flags, so smooth they were almost marble like.  For me this gave the whole street a real feeling of decadence, then at the end of the street as I walked into Constitution Square I noticed the paving changing to sumptuous burnt red that was so inviting I slipped my shoes off to feel the smoothness and warmth on my feet.  Now I’ve never done this before but they just looked so inviting to walk on and they were spotlessly clean as I found out they they are all hosed down each morning (creating a very slippy surface for a short while if you happen to be up).

The more I walked around the city the more I started to notice the different stone patterns, all carefully selected and laid out.  There seemed to be a real history to this as underneath the Picasso museum there are some small remains from the Phoenician times and you can see careful stonework making up the street which is replicated through to the Roman and Moorish remains around the city. This trend appears to have carried through to the modern day and it made my think that anywhere that takes this much care over where we place our feet has got something going for it.  Have a look around your own area next time you are walking around and see what the paving etc might tell you.

Good For Nothing ?

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Now over the years it’s true to say that I’ve often been labelled as good for nothing but the weekend just gone is the first time I’ve actually worn an actual label advertising the fact.  I had the label as I was attending the first ever gathering of Good For Nothing Leeds (@GFNLeeds).  The whole approach of the Good For Nothing crew caught my attention as they aim to simply bring talented people together to fashion creative solutions to good causes and they do this by chucking everyone together for a weekend and seeing what happens at the end of it.  The get together happened at Duke Studios in Leeds which was a great place, perfectly suited to the occasion.

So what, I hear you ask was I doing amongst these creative movers and shakers, well I was actually pitching one of the good causes #GFNRecovery which you can read more about here if you are interested but this post isn’t about that really as that starts straying into work type stuff but if you keep your eyes on the sociable organisation blog I’ll write something up on the idea and the reaction / development there in due course.  This post is more about the concept of Good For Nothing and my experience of it.  What I will say is that it felt a bit weird taking an idea that I’ve had mulling over in my head and suddenly standing in front of people talking about it and seeing if they thought it was a good idea and whether they fancied helping.  Was this work, not work, I wasn’t really sure and perhaps it was an introduction into a different way of working (and if it is then it’s definitely a future I want to be a part of).  Now I’m not a coder, designer or anything like that but if you’ll indulge me for just a second I do think that I’m a creative thinker.  As pompous as that may sound I have, and always have had lots of ideas but I don’t really do anything with them because at the end of the day I’m perhaps inherently a thinker not a doer or just plain lazy – good for nothing even as this post explains.  I have an inherent distrust of hierarchies, structures, organisations and to be honest people but as I didn’t know anything about the Good For Nothing crew I just acted on impulse and though what the heck.

I’ve often felt that the way we structure and divide our society with regard to work – those in work, those not, perceived status given to certain things, third sector v statutory v private creates an unhealthy environment that is not conducive to actually solving societal problems.  There are great people in all of the situations and sectors I describe but it is often never the twain shall meet.  The brilliantly simple idea behind Good For Nothing is that it provides the space where barriers and egos and status and sector are left behind.  Get in a room and come up with solutions.

So after I did my pitch I sat at a table and people came around and worked on looking at solutions, they were genuinely interested and had lots of varied perspectives to offer and they came from all different sectors with mutual respect being shown.  I can’t recall many instances in my life where I’ve actually seen that happen.  Throughout the weekend people just pitched in and helped on any of the three ideas; you might need a website building, no problem someone would help you on that, same with app development, or funding or business planning or copy writing or blog development of filming or content strategy etc etc or and this should never be underestimated, getting tea, coffee and toast.  How refreshing and this photo series by Lisa Jeffries gives a good flavour of the atmosphere.

This was the first one to happen in Leeds but this could be the future, an ideas lab, bringing people together who are interested in making a difference in the city, breaking down barriers across sectors and enabling good people to do good stuff.  I felt honoured to have been allowed in.  Maybe my old teachers were right I am Good For Nothing.  See you at the next gig.