Tagged: places

Experiments and reflections on digital media community exploration

As someone with a huge passion for  exploring my local environment and digging into the history and architecture of an area, and ways of presenting this creatively I am rather taken by a project which I found on Twitter called “Walk My World”, the invention of William O’Byrne who is based in Newhaven, USA.  The idea is that you carry out a journey, once a week, and then record and share that using various digital media tools (he suggests Twitter, Vine and Instagram and produces a handy guide for newcomers to these on his site).  There’s still an opportunity to take part if you wish… join in!

I personally have not used Instagram much as until fairly recently I didn’t have a phone with a very good camera (it was quite a low resolution), preferring to play with my SLR, but since I got a new phone in November I have been playing with the many free and low cost apps which allow you to snap, shoot and share your view of the world.  The Walk My World project seemed a good time to try out Instagram.. so I took a wander around Govanhill in Glasgow.

A wonderful multi-lingual community cafe, in an Evangelical church hall, which asks for only donations for breakfast:

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Multi lingual coffee

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Said free/ donation breakfast (which was lovely, as were all the people in the pop up cafe):

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#walkmyworld coffee stop!

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Library exhibition on wartime experiences:

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library exhibit on wartime life and stories #walkmyworld

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The library history exhibition, including a little alcove devoted to R D Laing, an influential psychiatrist born in the area:

The many languages of Govanhill:

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Some of the many languages of Govanhill #walkmyworld

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International peace garden:

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International peace garden #walkmyworld

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Community baths (I had visited these at Doors Open Day before):

Wonderful tenements, a Glasgow architectural icon:

I discovered a lot about the area, even from this short walk!  I had not created a video in Instagram before, and also played with the tagging and mapping functions.  I know Instagram is not exactly “new news” but it is funny how sometimes we need a reason to play with new stuff.  I also learnt that embedding Instagram posts in WordPress only needs the URL, not the embed code.  I like to learn through play, and this sort of project is “right up my street”, thanks William!

I completely agree with the comment in William’s blog post that educators should create an online brand for themselves (thinking before they share), I am quite aware of my “digital footprint” and in some ways my background may appear somewhat diverse (town planning, conservation, education, creative media) but I am lucky enough to be able to combine all of these through the various strands of my professional work (on reflection, I am needing to revisit my own website to better represent this; although I was very happy with it when I created it at the time and I have gradually added content such as my “Are You Here” project exploring family history links and the environment of Bristol and Brighton, my professional practice has evolved to represent a variety of skills).

As well as undertaking freelance illustration and digital interpretation projects in arts and heritage, and volunteering my time for Planning Aid Scotland, in my other professional persona I am currently working as Educational Co-ordinator at the University of the West of Scotland, on the Digital Commonwealth project.  This is a project which is designed to help marginalised communities (such as those who live in areas of socio-economic deprivation) develop digital media literacy skills using readily available technology and tools.  The project is framed around the digital reporting of Queen’s Baton Relay for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, with projects based around the topics of people, place, culture and exchange.  I have been really impressed with the creative results of the #walkmyworld project beginning to be shared on Twitter and it made me even more excited about the possible results of planned creative digital media projects which will take place as part of the Digital Commonwealth project!

Here are some of my favourite #Walkmyworld posts so far:

Vine poetry:

Happy Twitter dogs!

  More dogs (but Vine):

The wonders of Islay:

The fabulous benefits of creating enthusiastic online communities!

Happy exploring, creating, learning and sharing!

The azure sea and beautiful white sands of the Outer Hebrides

Today’s unconventional advent calendar is a short in words but rich in imagery; in today’s rather dark and dreich weather I was thinking about the wonderful colours I saw on a happy trip to the Outer Hebrides.  It was a kind birthday gift, and a rare treat to see the world from an entirely different perspective as  we got to go on one of those tiny wee planes out to Benbecula.  The weather was stunning, we flew over lochs and islands and felt very privileged indeed.
Uist and Harris link

From a cultural planning perspective, I was considering the links between the islands and their shared heritage, but unique identity.

For other calendar entries, have a look at these posts.

December 16th unconventional advent calendar

Image taken from page 59 of 'Gill's Imperial Geography ... Illustrated with ... maps and ... woodcuts ... Revised edition'

Today’s unconventional advent calendar celebrates archives and the release of over 1 million images owned by the British Library on Flickr.

I previously blogged about the Glasgow image I found, but there are literally millions to see, from all over the world!  You can also add tags to any of the images yourself, and use the usual “favourite” tool in Flickr which will make it easier for you to re-find what you’re after again.

Some of my favourites are below, this time with a tourism and transportation theme… for cultural planners this is an amazing research resource.
Image taken from page 233 of '[Our own country. Descriptive, historical, pictorial.]'

Image taken from page 5 of 'Wensleydale and Swaledale Guide ... Illustrated'

Image taken from page 328 of 'A Text-book of Ore and Stone Mining ... With frontispiece and 716 illustrations'

Image taken from page 313 of 'Pariserliv i Firserne ... Med talrige Illustrationer'

Image taken from page 2 of 'Paterson's Guide Book to England and Wales. With maps and plans ... 1886, etc'

For previous unconventional advent calendar entries see this link.

Romantic stories and cultural planning

Blackpool tower by CrenellatedArts
Blackpool tower, a photo by CrenellatedArts on Flickr.

Today’s unconventional advent calendar includes a wonderful story from Blackpool. I loved seeing the little plaque (featured on the calendar), which is from the Winter Gardens, acknowledging the stories as part of the  character and history of the building.

Earlier calendar entries are listed in a previous blog post.

Some thoughts on cultural planning

I am currently enrolled in a cultural planning course and uploaded some content reflecting on some of the approaches mentioned in the course

UWS 2013 Cultural Planning Course

Since we did the last session of the course I have been periodically tagging things on Twitter with #culturalplanning; some of these have been my own posts with photos, and others retweeting things of interest.  I thought I would compile all of these in one place for easy reference and discussion next week.

I enjoyed the visits to Paisley and Govan, particularly the new Govan Stones exhibition as the last time I visited was some time ago (2011, I had written a short blog post about the day out, also exploring some artistic and community facilities nearby).

At a Renfrewshire Witch Hunt day conference I also heard a little more about the stones and community projects

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Things I love about Glasgow, number 1


The Mitchell Library… Wonderful source of inspiration and information. A beautiful place by day or by night, as anyone who has passed by whilst it is illuminated would agree. The famous landmark dome is part of the 1904 fabric, and I did not know until today that it is rumoured to have been included after Council requests, not as part of the original design which was undertaken after a competition (heritage leaflets, another great thing within the Mitchell!).

Part of the library has a huge cafe, where one can browse the newspapers and use the wifi. There is a good selection of food, from simple snacks to more substantial mains, and some particularly tasty coffee. Adjacent to the cafe there are public computers, free to use, and really handy even if you have your own at home, because these give access to a huge range of electronic resources; I did a lot of family history research here as part of my most recent art project, you can research worldwide records at no charge. Glasgow libraries also subscribe to online magazines, so back at home you could download electronic versions of your favourite magazines; I love that I can read .net, Countryfile, Marie Claire and Olive on the move from my iPad now, Zinio is so handy!
If you are more of a paper fan, head upstairs where one can browse technical journals and magazines from a wide range of publishers. I have spent many a happy hour lost in obscure but fascinating articles.

The Glasgow room is a wonder, part book store and part archive. Have you ever wanted to see street plans for before your home was built? Photographs or postcards of Glasgow transport? Wondered what that shop looked like many years ago? This is the place to find out. You may even find original plans to a famous building, or your house! The Virtual Mitchell gives you a taste of some of the digitised resources to discover. The staff are all really knowledgeable and will help you find what you need, just ask!

The main hall of the Mitchell is home to temporary exhibitions, some of my favourites have been George Wyllie, Alasdair Gray and also a history of Loch Katrine. The Hall and some reading rooms also play host to Glasgow’s literary festival, Aye Write.

Always something to discover, a quiet place to stop and spend time browsing, a place for some serious study or just popping in for tea, happy days at this lovely landmark. This is part one of a series I intend to post about what I love about some of my favourite places, just look out for the “things I love about” category on the side of my blog. I’d love to know what you love about your favourite places too!

West Pier, Brighton, a sad shell of its former self

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I had heard about West Pier before (and indeed glimpsed it from afar on a previous visit to the city) but I went for a closer look yesterday and was deeply saddened to see its demise.  Only the seagulls can view those iron beams and beautiful decorative elements properly now.  I have created a slideshow of the images so you can see different views.

When my relatives were here it would have been a wonderful sight to behold, and also the “new pier” opened in 1899 (the one which now has the flashing Brighton pier sign on.. as this postcard from the Old Stratford Upon Avon Brighton section shows).

Sneak peek at my current work in progress: Letters to my Ancestors

This is a “part one” documenting my work for the sculptural pieces I am doing as part of my current project, planning for an exhibition in July at Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh.  The works form part of a filmed and photographic work, incorporated into an e-book which will be debuted at the exhibition and then released online after this.

I have now completed the letters, shown here with their first coat of paint.

Work in progress, part 1 of Are You Here

Work in progress, part 1 of Are You Here

The letters of the project “Are you here” are arranged and re-arranged to form various statements, at three temporary on site locations in Bristol and Brighton, where two lines of my family come from.

These works are designed to question the nature of family and genealogical links to places, making us wonder whether it is a coincidence that we are instinctively drawn to places or if we actively try to create links with places where we have connections (no matter how distant or close).


The pleasure of public displays of art

Had the joy of seeing the results of the social media week project on public art being put up today..I had contributed a few pieces and been keeping an eye on others contributions through Twitter.  Here is the result…

A beautiful panoramic image of the space, courtesy of GOMA!  Such a wide variety of works, and also some interesting interpretations of what constitutes public art. The results of this collaborative work can be seen until the end of this week.

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

Industrial Scotland, golden postboxes, un petit peu Francais and townhouses of all types

Even though I have been to Edinburgh many times I still feel like I don’t know the city that well so I enjoy the opportunity to explore a familiar city whilst it still feels unfamiliar.  It is funny reading the brochure and going “Gogar… is that near such and such” or “new town, yes, I know where that is, but where is Great King Street?”.  My A to Z was an invaluable accompaniment for the day, and our happy band of four started the adventure with a paper Doors Open booklet picked up at the tourist office off Princes Street.  It was ideal photography weather, a crisp blue East Coast morning setting us up for a days wanderings.

Crisp Edinburgh weather- building in Prince Street

Crisp Edinburgh weather, excellent photographic opportunity!

First stop.. bus stop as we had purchased an additional item on top of the train tickets (on family recommendation, thanks for that tip!).  Getting a “plus bus”  ticket meant we had all day travel on all the buses as well as our train journey and it was a very reasonable additional price which actually represents a saving on the normal buy on the bus price.  You can also use it on more than one company so it’s ideal for resting tired feet on an all day exploration.  The novelty of holding out a train ticket to get on the bus is quite amusing too.

Plus bus tickets for Edinburgh Doors Open Day

Plus bus tickets for Edinburgh Doors Open Day

From North Bridge we headed towards Newington, to the splendid Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)  which is located in Bernard Street, off South Clerk Street.   I have used some of the online RCAHMS sites before, but never been to their actual offices, so I was excited to see what lay inside.  As we walked through the doors we were greeted by a very friendly team, as well as a huge 1940’s aerial photograph of Glasgow (Park area).  We were offered us the chance to book on some talks and explore the search rooms, the first talk was on recording work so we donned our green booking stickers and headed upstairs.  The theme of the Doors Open Day was industrial Scotland so there were various displays reflecting this.  One of the first images I saw was a rather terrifying depiction of the Forth Road bridge under construction (use your imagination to consider how someone might access their working area for the day, even if you had a head for heights getting to the highest platforms of the largest suspension bridge in Europe would have been quite some feat in the early 1960’s).     There were also videos showing the Clyde cranes, 3D images, and aerial photographs laid side by side so you could see the changes over the years… and books, lots of lovely books.  At this point we all quickly realised that we could quite happily stay in here all day (which, absorbing as it may well have been, would not quite have sat with our aim of “doors open-ing” all day long!).

The inside story on a days photographing traditional structures expertly unfolded before our eyes as we saw stunning A2 prints of various examples of RCAHMS work from all round the country at the behind the scenes talk on recording buildings.  I was particularly keen on two images, showing what you can do if you have the knowledge (and proper kit). Stone crosses and Pictish engravings can be seen all over Scotland but anyone who has ever tried to take their photograph knows that getting the right angle to see engravings and markings can be quite tricky.  Image one was a snapshot showing the size of the cross and the colour of the stone, a nice enough image but nothing particularly notable about it.  Image two was the same structure, this time with the judicious application of a number of flash bulb kits.  What a difference.  Every little detail and carving was shown and the level of work which had gone into creating that piece (along with the effects of gradual erosion over time) was beautifully showcased.  C’est magnifique!

RCAHMS building

RCAHMS building

The detailed process of recording structures such as breweries and watermills was also showcased.  The on site measurements allowed a beautiful and accurate hand drawn image of plan, sections and elevations to be formed, with the surveyors piecing together a unique record of a structure. Laying this together with additional data taken from laser scanning, and perhaps combining this with photographs and previous archival sources (especially with the help of knowledgeable locals, adding in some vital insight and oral history) gives a precious record for future generations, preserved in archives and accessible in person or on line (I am sounding like an advert now, do go, its absorbing!).

Our next venue was The Queens Hall, located just across the road.  This is a former 19th Century church designed by Robert Brown, now incorporating the main concert venue, bar and artist facilities.   It was quite amusing to be greeted by the ten commandments written on a huge panel displayed in the hallway as we went upstairs, not perhaps what one expects whilst going to view a performance (which may well not quite sit with those instructions) but a beautiful nod to the buildings history.  This history is also reflected in the fittings and fixtures of the hall, the pew style seating in elegant colouring offering a pleasant space to sit and enjoy the unfolding festivities.  Later we got to experience the stage from the artists point of view, as the lights shone down we saw more people sitting at the balcony and the Steinway piano rose from the floor.  We admired its shine through the lift door, and wondered just how many famous people had tinkered with its ivories (my piano playing skills are somewhat lacking but I can imagine that the acoustics of the auditorium make for a beautiful atmospheric experience, both from a performer and concert goers point of view).

Queens Hall commandments

Queens Hall commandments

Queens Hall view from the stage

Queens Hall view from the stage

Heading back into town we decided to go to explore the New Town.  Princes Street greeted us with a gold postbox- I had forgotten that I wanted to see one, until I got stupidly excited to see it!  I think this is a great touch by Royal Mail, I hope Sir Chris Hoy enjoys this, I wonder if he has seen it yet?

Gold postbox!

Gold postbox!

Feeling like a behind the scenes peek at one of those famous gorgeous townhouses, we headed for “Institut Francais d’Ecosse”, located in Randolph Crescent in the West End.  The helpful leaflet provided told me this Georgian beauty was acquired by the French Government in 1945,  and had previously been a maternity hospital.  The cornice work has been restored, and there is a good view up the stairs to the atrium skylight which brought light flooding down the ironwork lined stairs inviting us to explore further.  An unexpected treat was the chance to flick through the pages of an 18th century book.  We donned the archival gloves and saw stunning engravings, these 1739 maps (known as the Turgot map ) showed a beautiful perspective on the city, with elegant lines depicting large boulevards, tree lined avenues and private courtyards in precise detail.  One day, I will go to Paris!

Institut Francais d'Ecosse stairway

Institut Francais d’Ecosse stairway

Institut Francais d'Ecosse maps

Institut Francais d’Ecosse – unexpected archival maps joy!

In the bookcases to the side of the table there were Jules Verne first editions.  Beautiful covers, I can’t quite believe we got to see these too as I remember learning about Jules Verne when I was taking French at school.  Heading downstairs we found a très jolie little café, offering a Doors Open Day special meal (we had already eaten, but made a mental note to come back again sometime soon, for the atmosphere was wonderful and the garden views back to Dean village were stunning).

Institut Francais d'Ecosse Jules Verne

Jules Verne

Institut Francais d'Ecosse Doors Open Menu

Institut Francais d’Ecosse Doors Open Menu

On the way back out we paused to explore the library.  I headed for the childrens books (about my level of French!) and found a rather amusing tale of an ant who wanted to be different, and some great Leo Leonni treasures.  I had discovered Leo Leonni when doing a project about 1950’s illustration, I liked his bold lines and collages but fell in love with his 1960’s mouse tales.  The books in the Institut were “when/ quand” and “where/ou”, you may be wondering why I like his work, you can see more online here

The Danish Cultural Institute is located a few terraces along from our last venue, here we were greeted with another beautiful townhouse (again, more elegant ironwork, I was starting to experience a little “close envy” at this point as my stairways are far less elegant than this!).  The short journey upstairs allowed us to view the current exhibition by Kurt Hoppe entitled “Hidden Spaces, Forgotten Places”, a photographic stroll round some Danish treasures.  This was highly in keeping with the Doors Open theme (and I get the feeling from absorbing the atmosphere in his photographs that he might have enjoyed our tour around Edinburgh’s treasures today).  There were striking images with a hint of wabi sabi showing abandoned buildings with peeling paint, sitting adjacent to thoughtful studies of library facilities (where the composition drew you further into the centre of the image, ready to explore the spines of dusty books and wonder what was between those focused pages).  An arrangement of theatre images on one wall were well laid out to see the similarities in “roomscapes”, concert spaces taken from the performers point of view offering a visual artists eye on a performance artists position.

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh- Hidden Spaces Forgotten Places exhibition

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

The fireplace in the exhibition room was rather unusual, mythical beasts sat in the centre casting their eye over the walls.

Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

Fireplace at the Danish Cultural Institute, Edinburgh

A stroll down from Doune Terrace led us to Stockbridge, a beautiful part of the city where the water of Leith walk passes through and you can gaze down to the Antony Gormley “six times” works.   Last time I saw this, shortly after the trail was revealed. I was sure it was upright, perhaps I am wrong, or the water energy has led the statue to take a peek at the river bed?

Antony Gormley Water of Leith

Antony Gormley Water of Leith

Noting the time, we perused the brochure to see if there were any late opening venues.  To our delight there were two just off Leith Walk, the Steel House at Hart Street and the Edinburgh Print Makers at Union Street.  These two venues were a nice unification of my artistic and architectural interests, so train ticket in hand we nipped on the bus over towards the East.  The Edinburgh Printmakers is a fascinating facility offering space for artists to work together and share excellent artwork (over 350 artists currently use the space).  The shop offered a hint at some of the diverse lithography and screenprinting products produced by those using the space, and upstairs the gallery space revealed video and printed works for us to observe.  I laughed out loud at one work “Idealy (sic) the entrance would be here” as it was right next to a door anyway, just a bit further along.  Construction printing humour.

Edinburgh Printmakers

Edinburgh Printmakers

Our next building was the award winning Steel House, a townhouse of an entirely different nature, it was fascinating to see around someones private home and see how Zone architects had fitted a new house into such a sensitive setting.

Steel House, Doors Open Day 2012

Steel House, Doors Open Day 2012

All in all, a great Doors Open Day, there was such a diverse programme of events organised by the Cockburn Association  this year.  I look forward to hearing what other people got up to as well!