Funland in situ

Thanks to everyone who has ordered I like postcards. They're going like hot cakes. Glasgow readers can now pick up a set from Hitherto in Ingram Street (in the back of Tinderbox). This is far and away the best shop in Glasgow, full of the most amazing stuff. There's a great selection of wonderful hand-made crafty things from Glasgow and other bits and pieces from around the world. Mostly within budget as well with lots of great things for under £10.

What's been great about making the postcards is people getting in touch when they get them and (1) saying thanks and (2) saying which one is their favourite. Some people like Rich (above) even take photos when they arrive. So far I think Funland is marginally out in front, although Chalet and Jug of Tea are close behind. I'll send any remaining orders tomorrow so please order here if you want to get in quick. Free badge while stocks last.

We're going to Norfolk next week. Any recommendations? So far the ziggurats of UAE, Louis Tussaud's craptacular House of Wax (coming soon to Nothing To See Here) and the Dad's Army Museum at Bressingham are all on the list. Hunstanton and Cromer come recommended for old-style seaside fun. Any others?

Is it just me or is everything nice?

Russell has prompted me into putting something up about my interesting2007 talk. I'd come to the decision that it was a sort of live experience that couldn't really be recreated online. That makes it sound like Robbie Williams or something. Not quite. But just saying here are the slides and this is what I said didn't really sum it up.

So, saying that, I've put the slides onto Slideshare (which I've never used before - hope it's okay) and the notes onto Flickr. This is the more of less the jist of it - maybe not exactly what I said, but what I meant to say. There's an underlying theme which Eugenie from We Are What We Do said better earlier in the day - a belief that small actions can change the world.

I'm interested in stuff. All kinds of stuff. I get this from my dad. He has always had a series of peculiar interests. He's just joined the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Being interested in stuff led me to be a librarian and being a librarian led me into I like because I spent a lot of time helping people to use the web. I wanted to know how it worked and how websites could be better designed so I wanted a space to practice. And the only thing I could think of to write about what what I like. People talk about blogging like it's broadcasting - "it's all about ego" but for me it's like librarianship, looking across everything and picking out the best bits the putting somewhere that people can find them.

That sounds simple, but why is it so shameful? There's a complicated and unwritten hierarchy of things it's okay to like. It's okay to be into classic cars and wine, but not sweet wrappers or shopfronts or postcards. This is confusing when they're all things that are quietly doing their job. They were designed for a specific purpose and they carry it out in a beautiful way. I used to look after a special collection full of cook books and learnt that one cook book won't tell you much, but put them together in a sequence and you can see everything that happened in society - the economy, family size, kitchen technology, cultural influences, health concerns, etc. So with the things I like I'm not sure what they all mean but think it's important to collect them because one day someone might be able to pick out these patterns. And collecting these small, everyday things seems even more important because they represent real life.

I like is very much based on real life - travelling about the country trying to keep ourselves and two wee boys amused. We end up in lots of places that are cheap and warm like old cafes and museums, and these places have real atmosphere. The overall picture is a world that isn't going to hell in a handbasket but quietly surviving. And lots of other people see life like this too and document it on sites like Flickr where there are groups for everything and people are indulging their passions.

People on Flickr, and the web in general have good manners. There's a lot of encouragement - nice comments and people inviting other people to join in. It reminds me of growing up in Glasgow in the 80s. The 80s were quite an ugly decade and then came lots of c86 bands like The Pastels who weren't musical in a conventional sense but were really fresh and charming. They were very individual with a distinctive, immediate voice. The whole scene had little to do with being successful or making money but everything to do with making a stand against a mainstream culture that wasn't working for a lot of people. Within this scene were the fanzine writers, often anonymous, who documented it all and spread it around. That's the sort of thing blogs remind me of - people being nice and enthusiastic and supportive isn't anything new. Just basic human behaviour.

The support I've had has encouraged me to set up Nothing To See Here to build an alternative tourist map of the world. It could only work through being collaborative and I'm still amazed and delighted that people are willing to write for it for nothing. It's meant to be represent things and places that some people find beautiful and interesting - faded seaside resorts, power stations and strange attractions like The Knitted Village in Lancaster. A team of (old?) ladies and men made this, for no apparent reason. It's the sort of initiative that couldn't have made its way into a business case or past a commissioning editor but it's a totally amazing thing - made with a lot of love and a lot of care. They really went to town, knitting little beach huts and even a funicular railway. My impression is there are a lot of people knitting vilages at the moment, because they've got the space and encouragement to do it. And this is a very good thing.

So in the spirit of this I've made postcards, which is something I never thought I could do but I had the help of Davidthedesigner who helped me out for nothing. There is a nice ecosystem of people with different skills coming together to make things, and this is where it's getting interesting. To summarise:

  • Everything is interesting
  • Everyone has a place
  • Do something YOU like
  • Find your own voice
  • Make something that you're happy with
  • Share it

Lloyd Davis drew what it sounded like and there's a great drawing of the whole day.

Goods

Okay, I've got some kind of payment system worked out. I think. If you'd like to buy I like postcards the details are here. Any questions please let me know.

I was saying at interesting2007 that this is quite a proud moment. I love postcards so much, it's exciting to have made some. I do worry about what the web is doing to the world's postal services so it's good to be putting something back.

Update: The link doesn't seem to be working in some browsers. Sorry. Can't figure out what's going on. I'll need to look at it tonight when I get home. Please bear with me.. OK. The link should be fixed now. Order here.

gormley.jpg

I spent Sunday morning admiring Antony Gormley's handiwork in and around the Hayward Gallery. Event Horizon puts lots of little Gormleys (as opposed to one big one) across the London skyline. Walking over Waterloo Bridge you catch sight of the first rooftop figure and as soon as you see one you can't help looking around to find them all. I like the way it's proper art, but it's beautiful and playful at the same time. Not for anyone traumatised by Dr Who's Blink although they look pretty placid by comparison.

Inside the gallery there's a variety of other works in case you think he just spends all his time making effigies of himself. Blind Light, a walk-in foggy box is completely disorienting but in a very pleasant way. Like standing in a cloud. Back outside I enjoyed all the Brutalism. Lovely, lovely concrete. Following the debates in this week's BBC Magazine about Britain's most unpopular buildings, I wondered if people still hate the ones on the South Bank or is it okay if they've got art in them? The Hayward Gallery is particularly lovely - proper brutal with all its jutting angles and hard edges. For the rest it's a hard one to call. Of the 4 buildings up for debate I've only seen one - Owen Luder's Get Carter car park in Gateshead. I think it's fab and having parked in it, can attest it does exactly what it's supposed to. It always seems like the same half-arsed debate though - some outraged local who wants to knock it down vs someone from the Twentieth Century Society who doesn't have to look at it every day but reckons it's very important. Having sought out a few carbuncles lately the reality is more complicated, with every building having different pros and cons depending on what and where it is. It would be good to get beyond the mudslinging and talk about it properly 'cause I can't help feeling this isn't helping architecture any. I'm wondering if tomorrow's building will be King of the Carbuncles, Cumbernauld town centre. We went there last week and can see why it provokes strong opinions. Visit report coming soon.

Well, interesting2007 was a blast. I liked so much that it's hard to know where to start - Rhodri Marsden playing Wichita Lineman on a saw, Dave Funkypancake's breakneck-speed tour of London's pavements, Tom's knots, Andrew's swimming, Deb's listening, Richard's taster tape, Chris's fantastic live cookery demo and Matt's patron saints. Away from the speakers there were scones and smoothies and beautiful things from the nice chaps at Folksy, as well as perfect surroundings in Conway Hall, dedicated to ethics and free speech.

It's being blogged and flickrd like crazy and everyone seems to be in agreement that it was a fab day out. It was nice to meet those of you that I met. Sorry I didn't meet more. Blogging creates new etiquette dilemmas sometimes and being there was a bit like being at the end of Fahrenheit 451 when you know people more for the works they represent than for what they look like. I quite like that, but it does make it hard to find the people you want to speak to. So thanks Russell and everyone else involved for a fabulous day. Here's to many more.

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Quick plug for the new, appropriately streamlined website for The Midland Hotel in Morecambe, as seen on last night's Coast (although I missed it being in that London). Kate who introduced the Knitted Village to Nothing To See Here designed the website for the Friends of the Midland Hotel - they've done a tremendous amount to make sure that the restoration gets the place back to its wonderful Art Deco glory. It only costs £5 per year to support this very good cause. I'm joining up now.

I like postcards

OK, they're here. A set of 8 I like postcards all ready for interesting 2007. These wouldn't have happened without the help of davidthedesigner who offered to set out the artwork. And a sterling job he did too, as well as taking this nice photo of them. Thanks also to Gair and Marceline for suggesting local printers. James from Folksy is going to be selling them on Saturday and I'll work out next week how to distribute them to non-interesting people. Does anyone want a set?

charlie-harper.jpg

I'm very sad to hear about the death of Charley Harper (via The Skinny). It's easy to sum him up, as a wildlife illustrator with a very distinctive, geometric style but that doesn't really do him justice. I heard about him via the illustrator Bill Wray who applied his style to Dexter's Laboratory. I saw it and was hooked. He does for wildlife what M Sasek did for travel. I was lucky enough to get one of his exhibition posters which hangs in my living room (behind the old movie lights in this photo). I enjoy it every single day. It's got lots of things that I like - ladybirds and primary colours and geometry and white space. I think it's perfect. So I am genuinely sorry to hear about his passing, but glad that in times like this the web rallies together.

Overture Weekend

This looks amazing - a weekend of events (today and tomorrow) at the Royal Festival Hall to celebrate its reopening. Highlights include:

From 10 am til 6 on the saturday and 10 til 2 on the sunday there will be vintage documentaries under the banner of LONDON 1951 (including Ten Year Plan with Charles Hawtrey and the beautiful Festival Of Britain doc Brief City) plus SAINT ETIENNE's films and shorts to date including the Finisterre (acclaimed by Alain De Botton and Ken Livingstone!) and What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?

Ding dong, that's all I can say, and boo hoo that it's not next weekend when I'll actually be in London. The whole programme is on the Saint Etienne website. Anyone going?

Anything is hard to find when you will not open your eyes

A big thanks to everyone at Glasgow School of Art for making my talk yesterday such a pleasure, especially Dr. Bruce Peter and the others in the Dept of Historical & Critical Studies for inviting me in the first place. It went okay, I think. It was hard to talk for so long to people who are just sitting still, particularly when the Mackintosh lecture theatre (charming as it was) was so spectacularly uncomfortable. It was lovely to meet some of the students, albeit briefly, and I was really glad some found it interesting. I liked seeing what actually happens inside an art school. It's good to know that a lot of people, lecturers included, want to get a break from Baudrillard and Foucault and just appreciate stuff now and then.

So, if anyone is visiting for the first time because of it - I've put the photos I used in my presentation into a photo set on Flickr. There are some extras in there as I took quite a few out, but as they're in the same vein I left them in. They all have tags if you're wondering where anything is. That was the main theme of the talk - to get out and look around because small and/or commonplaces things can be beautifully designed and interesting too.

Other links & references: I also talked about This is M. Sasek (the children's travel books) and Nothing To See Here (alternative travel guide), John Hinde postcards and sweet wrappers. I showed some bits of other people's stuff namely some vintage matchbox covers, and Soviet bus stops. The little photo cards that went down a storm are made by Moo. If anyone wanted a badge and didn't get one let me know.

The last slide I had, of conclusions I came to at about 3am the night before the talk was that this is what I've learnt doing I like:

  • Everything is interesting
  • Everyone has a place
  • Do something YOU like
  • Find your own voice
  • Make something that you're happy with
  • Share it

That probably sounds a bit trite but it's worked for me and I'm constantly surprised how many people don't follow those rules. I really enjoyed talking about it so if anyone has questions or anything please get in touch.

No bums on seats

I've got a big couple of weeks coming up as I've been asked to speak at two events within a few days of each other. Nervewracking. On Thursday I'm going to be speaking at Glasgow School of Art's study day for second year students. It's a real honour to be asked as I wouldn't have put myself top of the list of people who could tell art students a thing or two, but I'll do my best.

If there's anyone reading this who's coming along is there anything you'd like to know? I feel a bit disadvantaged not knowing much about art but I suspect in this case my ignorance is my strength. I'm planning on talking about what I do, why I do it and what I've learnt along the way. That doesn't seem very earth-shattering but it's all I know. So, any questions shout them out. This will be an extended version of whatever I'm going to say at interesting2007 so requests from interesting delegates/anyone else also welcome. What do you think I can bring to the table?

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