Saturday, 25 January 2014

What a piece of work is a man! (...or woman)

As the government ever so discreetly announces its plans ‘to spend more than $6.5* billion to purchase 657 military drones,  including 10 Reaper MQ-9s, which are armed with Hellfire ­missiles plus laser-guided 500lb bombs and can hover 20,000ft above targets for more than 20 hours’, I begin to notice the interplay between my dear children's addiction to computer games and the new-wave of arms-length war-mongering, with a mounting anxiety. Great to know our games operators can be thousands of miles away from their anonymous, pixilated targets.

On a more positive note and outside of the world of warfare and sport, the potentials of play and games as agents of change are seldom acknowledged and explored. However, the landscape of game making and playing is undergoing a radical transformation and recent developments are highlighting the possibilities of game design in engaging wider social processes, aligned to activism, journalism, interpersonal communication and community development. MMU is launching the Games and Social Change Network on Wednesday 19th Feb. You can find out more about this free event which has a range of exciting international speakers by clicking on the darling little hover-fly below, which I'm guessing, wasn't photographed over Blackpool beach..

After many long hours of travel recently, I sat, disoriented, in a damp waiting room at Crewe train station. It was as turgid as it gets, all neon chrome-yellow - deathly silent - save for the oozing ambient dribble of dub-step from my dull-eyed neighbour. All eyes down. Everyone in the room was some hideous version of me. All balding, middle aged men. Admittedly there were a few shiny and ill-fitting suits, but all blokes of a certain age and all, with the exception of yours truly, slavishly working their tablets and phones - plugged in and tuned out to all the world - other than their very, very personal ones.

Were they all really messaging friends, or were they scrolling through old mail in the hope of feeling loved? I felt very disconnected.

Then, as though to puncture my reverie, some phone goes off and everyone recoils to the sound of the ‘old phone’ ring-tone, which judging by the desperate sudden twitching of my compadres, meant a good few of them were desperately cloying for some nostalgia. We all flinch, (me too) and this particularly dim-witted fellow - tall - stooped - balding and with an air of desperation, began yelling down some invisible corded handset, ‘I’m really angry.’ I don’t know what was worse, the inane staring into the screens, or the gibbering angry idiot? Are we all really that indispensable, important people, with vital business to attend to? Or worse still, all loved up, swapping 140 character sonnets and sex-flicks? Good grief!

I must admit though, I’ve become rather slavish to my email and part of me thinks, I’ve had enough. So taking a friends advice about making changes (thank you), I’m going to test myself. My response-rate to emails is improbably high, as is my saying ‘yes’ to things that contribute to my slow decline (but sorry if I deleted you by mistake) and I am thus diagnosing myself as having, ‘internet addiction disorder’...this is real right? The DSM says so, so it must be true. I am putting down my iPhone and picking up my old phone (Ericsson t28 actually, and according to my offspring, ‘retro’) and will only have phone/text. No camera, no music, no web and no email! So, in the name of self-preservation I’m signing out of my virtual world and will only check work email from a desktop once a day, for this next month. I am told, that digital innovation is where it’s at. Well, for the next month, I’m a Luddite and proud.
*I know this is in dollars, but I’m quoting the media reports

For more details of SICK FESTIVAL at which I'm chairing a debate about the relationship between how we live and die and culture and the arts, click on the festival programme below.

2014/15 Clore Leadership Programme
The Clore Leadership Programme is currently inviting applications for 2014/15 Fellowships from exceptional individuals with the potential to take on significant leadership roles within culture. The Fellowship Programme supports the personal and professional development of leaders through in-depth learning, tailored to the needs, aspirations and circumstances of around twenty-five individuals a year, with the aim of building an innovative and resilient cultural sector. Fellows take a total of approximately eight months away from work to focus on the programme and benefit from unparallelled access to experienced leaders, a diverse peer group and extensive networks. The deadline for applications is 12noon, Friday 7 February 2014. For further details on the Programme and to access the online application form, please click on the fine wines below.

Community Right to Challenge Grant programme 
The Government has announced a new £10 million financial support scheme that will help voluntary organisations take over the running of public services in their communities. The Community Right to Challenge Grant Programme complements the wider Community Assets and Services Programme. Communities which want to take over the running of local services can apply for funding. These grants will not be available by open application but the SIB will invite applications from relevant bodies against a set of criteria which will be published on the SIB website. SIB expects that many of these service delivery grants will include a repayable element.

For more details, click on the photograph of Tory Councillor Matthew Palmer checking stocks and shares prices* during a council meeting about (amongst other things), cuts to mental health services. Cllr Palmer, have you considered you may have Internet Addiction Disorder?

New programme for disabled artists 
(England & Scotland) 
Following the successful Unlimited project which was at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and celebrated the work of disabled artists, Shape and Arts admin have been awarded £1.5 million by Arts Council England to deliver a new three year commissioning programme to support disabled artists in developing ambitious and high quality work, will be delivered throughout England and Scotland.  'Unlimited' will not only help disabled artists develop their practice and encourage the development of new relationships and collaborations with producers, venues and promoters, but will also increase distribution of disabled artists' work (through digital means and touring up to an international level), affording greater opportunities for audiences to see the work. The funding is available both to individual disabled artists and organisations applying on behalf of disabled artists. The deadline for applications is 12noon on the 17th February 2014. Read more by clicking on the sublime image of artist Sue Austin. 

The international film competition for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival is now open. Whether you are an established industry professional or an aspiring amateur, if your work engages with and explores mental health, then we want to hear from you.

In its broadest sense ‘mental health’ is a term which touches most aspects of our lives. We want to encourage films which explore all aspects of mental health. Films can address specific mental health issues, but we’re also keen to encourage innovative and diverse perspectives.

Previous winning films have examined issues including ageing, childhood, equality, friendship, grief, music and sport, as well as specific mental health conditions. 2013 attracted entries from Scotland, other parts of the UK, Continental Europe, Turkey, Israel, India, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada and the USA. Last year's Festival drew crowds of 16,000 at over 300 events in 17 regions across Scotland, making it the busiest festival to date! Entry is free. The closing date for entries is Friday 11th April 2014. Click on the logo below.

A footnote on Dementia and Imagination call for contemporary artists...although I mentioned last week, that phone calls and emails asking for more dials will largely go unanswered, because of the volume, I still received questions like this one: 'You know the mandatory training for artists - is it mandatory?' Please lord, no more.

... Якщо ви читаєте це в Україні, будь ласка увійти в контакт і поділитися своїми інтересами...

OK...take care, thank you and goodbye for now...C.P. 

*A Tory councillor has been caught checking share prices in a meeting about cuts. Photos taken from the public gallery during a Kensington and Chelsea council meeting clearly show Cllr Matthew Palmer perusing charts for various stocks on his council laptop. While members discussed issues such as cuts to mental health services and council enforcement officers, Cllr Palmer seemed to be more interested in the performance of the following stocks:
Land Securities Group Plc, Sage Group Plc, Avanti Communications Group Plc, Samsun, Electronics Co Ltd, Unilever Plc.

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