Friday, April 27, 2007

nmrg blog: participation

I have just posted about 'participation' to the new 'nmrg' blog. This is a collaborative blog which is being conducted by members of the new media reading group of the School of Media, Art and Design at the University of Bedfordshire.

It is nice to be part of this collaboration. It takes the pressure off me to keep posting. It is also nice to be part of a research community which is interested matters similar to my own interests. I enjoy the delicious tag 'nmrg' almost as much as I enjoy the post!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

From Morph to Flushed Away: Peter Lord

From Morph to Flushed Away
Peter Lord, 15th May, Cope Auditorium, Loughborough University

Loughborough University School of Art and Design is pleased to
announce its public lecture series exploring dynamic issues in
contemporary art and design.

PETER LORD is co-owner and Creative Director of Aardman, which he co-
founded with his long-time collaborator David Sproxton in 1972. As a
director, Lord has been honoured with two Academy Award® nominations
for Best Animated Short, the first in 1992 for Adam, and again in
1996 for Wat’s Pig. He has also earned BAFTA nominations for Adam,
The Amazing Adventures of Morph and War Story.

In 2000, Lord teamed up with Nick Park to co-direct Aardman’s first
full-length feature Chicken Run, starring the voice of Mel Gibson,
which was a commercial and critical smash. Lord also
produced the Oscar-winning first feature length film starring Wallace
and his faithful canine sidekick Gromit. Wallace and Gromit - The
Curse of the Were-Rabbit was released in 2005.

Lord was involved in the production of Aardman’s latest feature film
Flushed Away which was produced in collaboration with DreamWorks in
Glendale LA. It was Aardman’s first foray into CGI and was released
worldwide at the end of 2006. Peter continues to be heavily involved
in the development of Aardman’s future feature films.

Peter Lord is a visiting professor at UWE and also attends numerous
animation and film festivals to give talks and sit on jurys.

In 2006 Peter Lord and David Sproxton celebrated 30 years of Aardman
and were awarded CBE’s in the Queens Birthday honours list.

The talk will be accompanied by an exhibition of Aardman archive
material, includng a cartoon history of Aardman and a special
screening of short stop motion animations made by local students as
part of a series of workshops held over the Easter Break.

Tickets for this event are free, but must be booked through Animation
Academy. Please contact Gareth Howell - to
book a ticket.

Kindly supported by the Helen Jean Cope Trust.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007: Soulbury Millennium Green

I have just found out that it is Earth Day today. This is a pleasant coincidence since I have just been up at Soulbury Millennium Green on a working party day. It was great to see how much this project has developed since the 1990s when I first worked as volunteer putting in a dipping platform over the pond. I was impressed by how much the vision set out in the run up to the year 2000 has become a reality.The fruit trees have mature and everything looks less raw. It was also nice to working outside again on a fine Spring.

Sometimes this small planet of ours is a joy to be around!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ever wondered what happens to all that stuff that folks chuck into the canal

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Cycle Protest at Wing Road Roundabout

I was up at the Cycle Protest on the roundabout on Wing Road this morning as a citizen-journalist. I was happy to support this cause because a bridge is required to provide safe access for school children and adults commuting between Linslade, Leighton Buzzard, Wing and Aylesbury.

The bridge was promised in the original plan for the Linslade bypass but Bucks CC now say they will not build the bridge because they have run out of money. The ill-considered actions of Bucks CC have been condemned by a wide cross section of the population and by local and national politicians including Andrew Sealous, MP.

You can see more pictures on flickr at

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Boris Johnson at the University of Bedfordshire

What to make of Boris Johnson?

I know this an unlikely question for me to address on 'Betwixt and Between' however the question arose because the University of Bedfordshire played host to the Shadow Minister for Higher Education today and I was lucky enough to attend the Q & A session that marked the end of his visit.

I have to say that my first impression of Big Boris is that he is something of a caricature. He bumbles and mumbles (and his hair resembles a peroxide haystack). However, he also has charisma and is quite capable of delivering both wit and charm. For example, he began his opening remarks to the gathered audience of students and staff by noting that he was glad to be in Luton as “it was one of the few places in the UK that I have not insulted”. He then followed this up by re-iterating (apparently from memory) many of the bullet-points made by the VC over the course of the day that placed the University of Bedfordshire as a “top” institution. This was greeted, needless to say, by crowd-pleased applause. We were not quite eating out of his hand but we were not throwing eggs either!

The structure of the Q&A session was also an insight into the world of Boris. The VC offered him a chance to make some opening remarks (Policy on the hoof? Remarks about Conservative plans for the HE sector?). However, our guest avoided making a speech and instead made some well-received remarks - about the importance of getting positive male role-models into primary schools - the need to support physics in schools and universities - and then conducted a straw poll on the renewal of Trident. He then moved on to the questions from the audience.

One of my colleagues raised the difficulties faced by students with disabilities. This is an important issue. The UoB, for example, has 900 students with registered disabilities and we are keen for them to complete their degrees. However, many students across the country are dropping out of courses due to lack of adequate funding. Boris gave the impression that he was listening and willing to take up the issue in Westminster.

The issue of the Aimhigher scheme also came up. Boris avoided the obvious oppositional stance noting that he thought this scheme was "good" before noting that it might necessary to question whether its methods are working.

Boris made a number of commitments to social justice and equality of opportunity while answering questions. For example, he argued that it was important that every child could read and write properly ('synthetic phonics', 'grammar' and 'zero tolerance of errors in punctuation' were the dish of the day). He also sounded convincing when he argued that we needed to give VCs more autonomy so that they could run their institutions as they see fit.

However, I felt that some of the questions from the floor were dealt with without recourse to a substantive answer. Questions about the RAE, student funding and others got short, rather vague answers. Boris was, however, willing to ask questions which gave me the impression that he was genuinely keen to hear an answer to the question that audience had posed him. Sometimes, however, this willingness to listen also gave the impression that the MP for Henley did not really know what his policy might be on these key areas.

Boris was never without a quotable word. He is sound-bite man. I found myself jotting down his quips even when I found his answers disappointing. For example, the Q&A drifted onto the subject of the governance of Oxford and Cambridge. Boris noted that despite the financial issues it was highly unlikely that either of them would become a private institution, noting that they were a "hotbed of cold feet".

I began this posting by asking a rhetorical question. What to make of Boris Johnson? Well he is a mix bag really. A colourful, energetic and charismatic man with a rather odd manner. Whether he will make a good minister of state is another question. I recommend seeing the man up close and I also recommend that you see through his charm and ask yourself about his answers (as well as his hair do).

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Flickr = 2000 views

I noticed today that I have clocked up over 2000 views on my flickr account. It seemed fitting to post one of my latest pictures to mark this small milestone event.

My five most-viewed pictures make some interesting reading:-

Number 1 is an image of Pat Kane ( WetWetWet?) playing lego at Playtime! last autumn (140 views). He's a pop star so I guess his fans are looking at this one ( though I would be intrigued to know how they come across this particular image - tags? search engine?)

Number 2 is a picture of the the toilet queue for the Big Green Gathering BGG (107 views). There are no famous people in shot, however, I included this image in a flickr group dedicated to the festival and I am guessing that there are a number of people ( like me) fascinated by the pragmatic side of big public events.

Number 3 is a photograph I am actually proud of. This is a an image of a 'green goddess' piece of art work I shot at the BGG last summer ( 106 views).

Number 4 is a also a rather nice shot of a group of kids playing with a large inflatable world (93 views). I am proud of the fact that a couple of people have even made these last two images favourites. I am not a photographer so it is a great honour to have a stranger pick out one of my snaps.

Number 5 is an image from 1989. I loaded up some scans of the pictures I took in Berlin when the wall came down (85 views). This is clearly still an important event as a number of my images of this historic moment have been looked at over the last year.

The image that accompanies this post is a detail of the air conditioning system on the tower of the Space Centre in Leicester, UK. I rather liked these bits of pipe because they reminded me of hands clutching the side of the building. Let's see how well this image does in Gavin's photo chart 2007.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Nexus: Call for short films

As part of it's programme of art on the metro, Nexus presents a video showcase of short film work at Gateshead central station. The project has been made with Nexus working in collaboration with local practitioners. We wish for the screen to be a public resource. It's initial run will be for the next 3 weeks, from Saturday 24th March, but if there is enough enthusiasm for the projection we will be extending it's run. If you feel you have a work that you would like to contribute to the screen, a short film you think we would find suitable 1-5mins in length, and viewable for all ages, and would suit the environment then please email:

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PhD Graduation - University of Beds

Gavin's PhD Graduation
Originally uploaded by gavinandrewstewart.