Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Social Networking Site for those interested in writing and regeneration

Chris Meade will be presenting his paper A Place That Makes You Go 'Ahhhhh' at Shortwave, Bermondsey, London, this evening, and will then be in conversation with Sarah Butler from UrbanWords and Kate Cheyne from Architects in Residence.

We have set up a social networking site so that those at the event, and those who were unable to make it, can continue the conversation about writing and regeneration online. The site is open to anyone who wants to join, at: www.shapingplace.ning.com. It's easy to get to grips with, but to help you along, we've written some notes on getting started below:

What is Shaping Place?

Shaping Place is an online space for writers, urban designers, architects and planners interested in creativity and place, hosted by UrbanWords using the social networking tool Ning.com. Its aims are:

1. To provide a contained online space for interested people to discuss issues, share best practice, and test out ideas about how writers and urban design professionals can work together.
2. To create a space for writers and urban design professionals to profile their work and interests.
3. To enable people to get in touch with each other to take forward individual projects and conversations.

Sign Up in 5 easy steps

1. Go to www.shapingplace.ning.com

2. Click ‘Sign Up’ on the right hand side of the page.

3. Enter your email address, password, date of birth (you can choose whether to display this publicly), and the security code shown.

4. Enter your profile name and basic details. Upload a profile picture if you like.

5. You now have access to the entire Shaping Place network and can add blog posts, events, forum discussions and comments. Use the tabs at the top of the page to explore the site. We encourage you to add text, images, weblinks, etc. to your profile page to enable other Shaping Place members to find out more about you and your work.


Q. How private is ShapingPlace.ning.com?

A. Non-members can only see the main page. However, anyone can sign up to be a member, so you may wish to avoid giving out personal contact details – see below for information about how to contact other members through the site. We want the site to be as open and easy to use as possible, so currently we are allowing people to sign up without moderation. We will monitor this, and change it if necessary. You can choose your own privacy settings by clicking ‘Settings’ underneath your profile box, displayed on the right hand side of the main page.

Q. Will I receive email notifications from Shaping Place.ning.com?

A. Only if you choose to. You can choose what kind of notifications to receive by clicking ‘settings’ (as above) and then ‘email’.

Q. How do I send someone a message?

A. To send another member a private message, you need to add them as your friend. This is why creating a profile is useful as it allows members to contact each other directly. Of course it’s up to you if you want to add your personal contact details or just be contacted through Ning.com.
Alternatively you can leave a public comment on any member’s wall.

If you have any questions, please contact Miriam.nash@googlemail.com

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Place That Makes You Go Ahhhh....

Prior to the discussion event, Writers Shaping Places, on Tuesday 30th June, UrbanWords has commissioned a new article by writer Chris Meade, drawing on his experiences of working with designers and public artists, Snug and Outdoor. It's an engaging read, which offers concrete examples of how writers can facilitate creative consultation and make a valuable contribution to the design process. The article - "The place that makes you go ahhh.." is free to download from the Articles and Critical Thinking section of the A Place For Words site.

Chris will be talking about the issues and examples he raises in his article at Writers Shaping Places, on Tuesday 30th June, 6.30-8.00pm at Shortwave, Bermondsey Square, London, and will then be in conversation with Kate Cheyne from Architects in Residence, and Sarah Butler from UrbanWords. There are a handful of (free) tickets left. Please call Spread the Word on 0207 735 3111 to book a place, if you haven't already.

We are setting up an online networking site to enable people to continue the conversation after the event, and to bring in people who cannot make the event, but are interested in the issues raised in Chris's paper, and in broader ideas about writing and regeneration. The site will be launched on 30th June and I will post up details of how to sign up on that date.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Place For Creativity? RUDI Conference thoughts

I spent yesterday at a conference in Manchester called A Place For Creativity?, organised by RUDI (The Resource For Urban Design Information) and PlacesMatter (an organisation focused on generating a strong sense of place in environments throughout the Northwest).
It was a good day – lots of interesting presentations, and a couple of arguments! I wanted to blog about2 things that came out of it that I think relate particularly to writing/literature.

1. Throughout the conference architects, urban planners and artists kept talking about finding the story of a place, discovering the narrative, getting under the skin of a place. ‘Every town’s got a story if someone takes the trouble to find it’, one speaker said. Sans Façon are a really interesting collaborative arts practice (2 guys – 1 an English artist, the other a French architect). They talked about how they ‘read from’ place – which I thought was an interesting phrase. It strikes me that this is what the poets on Apples and Snakes' My Place or Yours project are doing – getting under the skin of the places they are connected to. It also strikes me that this kind of understanding of place is like gold dust for those developing masterplans, strategic frameworks etc. for regeneration projects.

2. Paul Kelly is a name I’ve come across before connected to a fantastic project in Liverpool in the 90s called Further Up In The Air (a series of artist residencies in a tower block destined to be demolished – which included a residency by Will Self – I’d encourage you to find out more, on Neville's site, and A Place For Words ). Anyway, he’s now a project manager for Heartlands and is working with Liverpool Biennial on a public art commission on the canal in Bootle, Merseyside. He talked about the incredible low aspirations of residents and the council in Bootle, how he is consistently told: “you can’t do anything here, it’s Bootle”. Which brings me to another hobby-horse topic of mine. I think that story can be really powerful in this context – that sometimes places (and organisations, and individuals) get stuck in a cycle where they keep telling themselves the same story (Bootle’s rubbish, nothing exciting can happen here, for instance). For me, regeneration is about telling a new story, about opening up the idea of change, and through describing this new narrative for a place, creating the space for that change to happen in.

And finally, this gorgeous project by Sans Façon. As part of Glasgow’s Festival of Light in 2005 they created this piece with 2 theatre spotlights attached to a streetlight, and then camped out in a building with a view of the street to see what happened: everyone who entered the ‘limelight’ performed. I just think it’s beautiful!

Friday, 12 June 2009

UrbanWords at Leeds Festival of Design Activism

I will be talking about UrbanWords at the Leeds Festival of Design Activism Practitioners Conference on Friday 4th July. It's a Power Point free conference, which is a refreshing thought. Visit the website to find out more and book a place.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

My Place or Yours

I am guest blogging for a couple of weeks at My Place or Yours, a project which has placed 5 performance poets in 5 places (including an allotment!) across the UK. The site is well worth an exploration. The poets and their mentors are using blogging as a way of 'laying bare' their process and keeping in touch with each other and a wider writing community over the life of the project.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What do you do with 250 fictional booklets about chairs?

You plant them in Ikea... Click here to see the photos...

Which I think is genius (credit goes to Yemisi Blake!)

For more info on the Barking Metamorphosis project, visit the project blog.