Tuesday, 30 June 2009

kidmapped by tim

Tim Wright, digital artist and Blakewalker for songs of imagination and digitisation, is walking in the footsteps of Kidnapped. Follow him and read along as you do at

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Friday, 26 June 2009

jackson by le busque

The Guardian reveals time lord involvement in Jacko death:
"POLICE FOCUS ON DOCTOR WHO" - Headline, Guardian, Saturday 27/6/09

Thursday, 25 June 2009

A place that makes you go “aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh” again

Here's my article written for Sarah Butler's www.urbanwords.org.uk and the basis of my talk next week.

In 1991, Tom Pickard made a film for the Arts Council about fellow poet Roy Fisher, in
which Fisher states: “Birmingham's what I think with. It's not made for that sort of job, but it's what they gave me.”

I lived in Sheffield for twelve years and thought a lot with that city, but, visiting now, I find the place baffles me. So much redevelopment has taken place, so many new squares created, familiar buildings renovated beyond recognition, routes redrawn. Many landmarks have gone completely – like Arundel Gate, known locally as the Hole in the Road, its demolition celebrated at the time in a witty poem about bags of its nothingness being sold off in the nearby supermarket.

Now Andrew Motion’s ode welcomes me as I walk into town from Sheffield station.

Of course when I visit I’m not really thinking about architecture, but about the time I spent there, what ifs included. City centres are made of concrete, glass, steel… and consciousness.
We each use these buildings as screens onto which we project our personal thoughts and

I made that metaphor real in 1998, when I was commissioned, with public art and playground design company Snug & Outdoor, to make a temporary installation as part of a programme of public art works in Hackney. The project involved interviewing lots of people who lived, worked and walked about in Morning Lane, Hackney. Our starting point was to ask people where they went in their heads as they passed through. If I could click on this passer-by, where would their hotlink lead – to memories of an old affair, or plans for a future holiday?

“…Sirens. Lots of buses.
Ravel’s Bolero on the stereo.
Drove the wrong way down a one-way street, but the police didn’t notice.
I park by the Town Hall - got married there two years ago,
went to Brighton on a one day honeymoon, then to Southend On Sea.


Today the weather was warm; it’s OK here. I’m a Westerner now.
I haven’t any wish to live anywhere else.

I open my book
on the bus
and I’m gone… ”

I made a poem from snippets of these interviews and we projected a looped tape slideshow of local memories, stories and reflections onto the windows of a small brick fish stall, renamed the Imagination Station, outside Hackney Central Station.

In the 1980s, community arts organisation, Yorkshire Arts Circus, made books in a day using Amstrads and offset litho printing. Quotes were gathered from people in a library or community centre, the names of contributors credited in one long list at the back of the book and all of them were invited to a launch party. The editors were on the look out for stories and interesting facts, but more importantly for those turns of phrase which give an anecdote colour and personality, like the line which became the title of a book about photographer Jack
Hulme: “He’s world famous round here.”

Over the years I’ve adapted this technique in my consultation work with Snug & Outdoor. I make group poems with local residents and children, in which I aim to include comments from as many as possible, to create not so much a snapshot as a thought bubble revealing what’s going on in their minds.

Consulting with the public is an obligatory part of the design process but how can a
community imagine new spaces without reverting to the safety of the familiar? And we all know how annoying it is to be asked for our opinions by people with clipboards when nothing ever seems to come of what we say. A poem is an end result in its own right; it can be performed out loud by a class at the end of a school day, turned into a poster on display at public meetings, published in the local paper… and sometimes even etched into the fabric of whatever finally gets built.


When I’m dead and buried I know one poem of mine will linger on. Evergreen Park in
Hackney has carved into it a text I wrote in a morning with children from a nearby primary infant school, a lyric as psychedelic as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

In Everseen Park we hide
and seek for electric spark,
do stunts, freeze time,
being invisible in the world.

Sat on Blue Mountain
eating brown buns, we spy
gladiators in the daffodils,
talking trees with minty leaves,
slithery snakes and rubbery ladders,
hopscotch on a trunk of oak..

In Purple Park be still.
Beneath our feet Infinity Green
in Evergreen Square
rolling over and over.


Sadly, planned new buildings and parks sometimes don’t get made at all. There’s no sign yet of a new Children’s centre for Kings Cross, but the group of teenagers whose opinions were canvassed did enjoy the visit to the Bloomberg Building which we arranged to inspire them.
The poem we made together was a blast to perform; it also speaks volumes about what the young people felt such a building should represent.

…I am The Centre.
I stand tall.

I am open, bold, full on,
I'm a place to belong.

I'm home from home feeling,
open - warm and vulnerable,
welcoming, lending a hand.

You can see through me.

I'm saying:
"Hope for a brighter tomorrow!"
"Test all your senses!
"Is it possible for a building like me to be this cool?"

Then there’s a proposed park in Southampton, named The Spark Park by children from Cedar Wood Special School, and aiming to set new standards for inclusive play. This extract from our poem may not be great literature, but it gives a clear reflection of students’ fears and excitement, and the whole piece is stuffed with their own images of what fun feels like.

I flew all around the world with no help on my own
Dreaming of the gates of the garden of play
You think: will I dare to go in there?
Is something going to bite me?
Will I feel something sticky – yucky,
What the heck!
It’s ok – it feels good inside
Familiar, like home but not.

This garden of play is buzzing and gorgeous and generous –
a place that makes you go “aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh…”

How do these texts influence the final designs? Indirectly but fundamentally. The poems are part and parcel of the experimental process. With local people, I’m making a style guide of colours, stories, textures and feelings to provide a source of inspiration to the developers, visual artists, designers and planners. I’m picking up on frustrations and aspirations, some of the history of the area and the preoccupations of its current inhabitants. The writer can garner opinions on local issues and community tensions yet rise above them, developing conversations on the basis of having influence on but no ultimate control over the final scheme.


Of course poets could also be employed to be nice to grumpy local residents and produce text that’s far cheaper than bricks and mortar and so vague that nobody can tell if it’s influenced the final designs or not. But then poets are pretty good at standing up against such cynicism.
Trust between commissioner, designer, writer and community is essential.

Last year Snug and Outdoor and I worked closely together on a consultation exercise leading to the design of a play park for Dublin Docklands Development Agency. We involved children and some very sceptical local parents concerned about the constraints on young people’s play. The final design was much more exciting than the bare football ground parents had initially demanded. It included gigantic brightly coloured tree shapes based on plasticine models made by the children, a climbing wall which provided a contained outlet for vigorous physical risk-taking, and lines from the poem we’d made carved in the wall. Sadly, the recession struck before the play trees had been made, but the poem and many other features are in place now beside smart hotels and community housing.

So what skills do writers need to work in this field? That depends, as there’s such a
continuum of possibilities. My experience and interest is in providing a channel for
community voices. I reckon it’s important to be diplomatic in a dynamic rather than passive way, to think on one’s feet, to be able to engage and inspire people of all ages, to listen well for real meaning and quirky idioms, then quickly turn these into words that have some depth and bite as well as perzazz. But it is also possible to find ways for poets whose strength lies in their literary talents and knowledge of a place, rather than in their skills at facilitating community engagement, to create great writing that has lasting value for a place.

When I was Director of the Poetry Society we ran the lottery funded Poetry Places scheme, which included a mass of public residencies and commissions. We put Benjamin Zephaniah to work alongside Michael Mansfield QC; Simon Armitage wrote a 1,000 word millennium poem for the Dome. Simon’s piece, Killing Time, was broadcast on Channel 4 on the last day of the 20th Century. Tobias Hill was in residence at London Zoo and Sue Hubbard wrote a public poem which can still be seen in the underpass under the IMAX cinema. These kinds of residencies have a life of their own, with writers of substance exploring themes and communities on many different levels.

In 2008 I set up a new charitable company called if:book, a think and do tank exploring the potential of new media for creative reading and writing.


With Snug and Outdoor we’re currently working on ideas for an adventure playground in
Wisbech, with digital artist Toni Le Busque animating the words of local stakeholders for a website to inspire community discussion.

In future it would be wonderful to have a longer term residency in an area affected by
change, so that a small team of writers and makers could work in schools, project images on walls, make writing with communities online and off, and produce some lasting pieces of public digital art, exploring the new media means available to reflect local consciousness amidst the concrete and steel.

How easy is it to elicit poetic responses? There are tricks. I have a set of poems ready to open up minds to playful possibilities. In particular I introduce the idea of kennings, names based on the Nordic tradition of putting two words together - like ‘fire water’ for spirits, ‘head splitter’ for axe. Then once I’ve stirred up the elements of the spell I hope imaginations will alight, and they do eventually. It’s a wonderful moment when someone opens their mouth and says something brilliant, like the woman in the pet shop in Hackney who began reminiscing about “when horses grazed on Morning Lane” and told us about the weird pets owned by people in the locality.

Then there was our project to redesign a mobile library in Windsor. I did all my wizardry with a classroom of children and asked, “So - what is a library?” A boy raised his hand, straining to be picked to answer.
“A room with books in?
Yes – yes that’s good but… The next few answers were just as prosaic.

Then a girl cried out, “It’s a brainsparkler!” And we were off.

© Chris Meade, 2009

to the future of media and beeeeeeeeeyondddddd

'Telephone Sheep', Jean Luc Cornec, Museum für Kommunikation, Frankfurt am Main

CLICK HERE for information on Beyond Broadcast, Friday 3 July, Bloomberg Auditorium, London, EC2

The media sector is facing unprecedented challenges as we move ‘beyond broadcast’. What does this mean for the future of media?


"The winners of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets have been announced and demonstrate the rich spectrum of poetry being published in the UK. Elizabeth Burns has won the pamphlet award for her lyrical and elegiac The Shortest Days (Galdragon Press)and experimental Oystercatcher Press has won the UK poetry publisher award."

The winners were announced last night by Ian McMillan, Chair of the judges, at an awards celebration at the British Library. Ian was hilarious as ever, Daljit Nagra did a great job as MC and Richard Price gave a witty and erudite talk on the history of the form.

I bought a copy of QUOT by the poet and artist known as Seekers of Lice who deigned to sign my copy of her beautiful booklet printed on see through paper.

This new poetry award is a partnership between the British Library and the Poetry Book Society - of which I'm now a member of the board - with the generous support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.

I find the whole topic of pamphlets incredibly inspiring for our work online and came away with loads of ideas for if:booklets which I will try to put into some order shortly.

Meanwhile we've had a wonderful response to our call for vounteers to try out the FICTIONAL STIMULUS. Thanks to you all - we'll be in touch soon.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

i window in b flat

My friend Dave Pescod sent me the link to this wonderful thing http://www.inbflat.net/ and asks if there's a literary equivalent. Somehow this hbo site, recommended by Naomi Aldermnan, seems relevant: http://archive.bigspaceship.com/hbovoyeur/

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

fictional stimulus


At last an end to those bored bookgroup blues!

You love books but are interested if sceptical about what ebooks, iPhones and laptops might do for literature? Re-ignite your passion for reading this summer -
make sure you get if:book’s FICTIONAL STIMULUS,
an amazing experience in digital reading which will be delivered to you by email, download, webpages and post in six segments and added extra bits.


Presented by novelist Kate Pullinger, including new writing by Cory Doctorow, Naomi Alderman, Kate Pullinger and poetry from Jacob Polley, Daljit Nagra, Eva Salzman plus new media renderings of classics by Rudyard Kipling, Williams Blake, Shakespeare and more, the FICTIONAL STIMULUS is an introduction to the future of reading in the 21st Century and beyond.

Produced by if:book, featuring newly commissioned work from our groundbreaking project MOTFOTHOTBOOK (Museum of the Future of the History of the Book) and designed by Toni Le Busque, the FICTIONAL STIMULUS is for bookgroups and individual readers who know what they love about books, and want to see what might be gained from new ways of reading.

The FICTIONAL STIMULUS includes a signed limited edition handmade ‘menu’, a complete downloadable ebook and links to a range of specially commissioned litchbits from writers asked to imagine the future of stories.

The FICTIONAL STIMULUS will give you plenty of fodder for a fantastic bookgroup or discussion with friends, and there’s the chance to WIN A PRIZE by sending in your own stories, poems and opinions on the future of reading.


at the classroom door

"Mobile internet and social networking have found their way into the everyday lives of those on campus but have not yet followed university students and teachers into the classroom, a think-tank has claimed.

A report published today by Demos argues that technology needs to become better ingrained into universities’ thinking about teaching and the student experience.

It came as the Government announced a new task force that will aim to make UK higher education the first choice across the world for online distance learning. In support of that, the Government also launched a £10 million match-funding scheme."

Read the rest at Times Higher Education

Monday, 22 June 2009

I've worked with many school groups on texts/poems about play as part of creative consultation work undertaken with Snug & Outdoor. I'll be talking about the process at the Urban Words event on June 30th. The following was written with children from Orchard School in Wisbech.


What do we want in our Adventure Playground?

Can there be a seesaw that seesaws
and spins around and bounces up and down?
A spinny pounder – an up down and around and rounder –
And please make it electric so it goes one hundred miles an hour.


Will it be truly playful Can it send us all speechless?

Can there be a virtual reality obstacle course
Something like a car seat and you can steer
something in front of you like a little screen?
Can there be obstacles on a roundabout please that you have to jump over?

Oh, and we need a soft foam carpet in case you fall off.


Can it smell of strawberries,
You know, of fruit and stuff
Like those Airwick sort of things?
As you pass it can you stop
and all sorts of food and drink come out?

But no roses please because my mum’s allergic.


Make it an I-don’t-want-to-leave-I-want-to-go-back-again-place please
And can it have a great big tail that shakes and you have to hold on?
Make it a Mindbreaker – able to help you out of the very worst mood.

Can it be fun for everyone?


Whatever age you should enjoy it even if you’re 100 like miss
Or even as old as Doctor Who

Can there be a blue box leading to an underground slide
With a whole earth that you can climb up?

Yes – a blue box with kind of like a floor and it undoes and its eternal and you go through to some virtual thing and there’s an obstacle course. And then it brings you out into another blue box and it’s the end.


Can we have mythical animals
A dinosaur, some three headed
Dogs, dragons of course,
maybe a minotaur?

Can it be absolutely fabitastic
Utterly fabulilious?
The original amuser? A unique astonisher?
Can it be like that, please?

ta2 2

t'internet n'tattoos

Kate Pullinger is writing interesting blog posts for INTERNET EVOLUTION.
Read what she has to say on Facebook and the Literary HERE

if:book associate Toni Le Busque is writing and drawing interesting things on her ARM, part of her ongoing tatooification. Take a look:

Friday, 19 June 2009

"A place that makes you go ahhhh..."

An article of mine on poetry, public art and creative consultation can be downloaded here at Urban Words, in preparation for:

Writers Shaping Places event

UrbanWords has teamed up with Spread the Word, the writer Chris Meade, and Architects in Residence to host a free event exploring how writers can work with architects, designers and planners to explore and interpret people's relationship with and aspirations for a particular place. It's on Tuesday 30th June at Shortwave, the fantastic new community cinema, bar and production facility within the Bermondsey Square regeneration scheme. The event runs 6.30 - 8.00pm and will be followed by the opportunity to network. You can download a flyer for the event here. For further information contact:sarah@urbanwords.org.uk. Places are free but limited, please call Spread the Word on 0207 735 3111 to book.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

for book fetishists everywhere

red hot and filthy library smut
found via a Twitter strand on libraryporn.

But of course now we live in a Digital Britain all this is doomed.

Monday, 15 June 2009

googlification continued

Thanks to Clevercelt Mick Maguire for sending me this link to the latest on Google and their mission to eat up every word in the universe.

Friday, 12 June 2009

story out loud

I’ve been meaning to write about the Reader Organisation whose workshop I attended in Manchester a few weeks ago. The Reader Organisation is "a charity dedicated to bringing about a Reading Revolution - making it possible for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to enjoy and engage with books on a deep and personal level". Dynamic founder and Director Jane Davis has developed a format for a sort of book group out loud which seems for me like the missing link between the reader development work I’ve been involved in for many years and what I’m doing now.

The workshop in Manchester, run by Jane and Training Officer Casi Dylan, was an introductory day on their principles and practices. The participants were health workers and others interested in running groups. A major part of the day was taken up with the reading of a story, in this instance a surreal tale by the brilliant Russell Hoban which was read aloud by Casi with occasional breaks for discussion. It’s not an Eng Lit class nor bibliotherapy but a live, shared encounter with literature, less like a conventional bookgroup, more like the experience of reading to yourself shared with others, but of course it can be enjoyed by those without literacy skills.
Their groups meet in libraries, community centres and healthcare settings.

And although one deep pleasure of the course was Casi Dylan’s beautiful live reading of the literature we talked about, of course the format would work well for digital literature: bringing a group together to watch a presentation then discussing not just its form, but also content and intellectual and emotional impact.

This isn’t about the vague love of bookishness, but the pleasure of intense engagement with specific examples of great writing. Their choice of texts is uncompromising. Some groups have read whole novels together over weeks and months – it took one nine months to read Anna Karenina in its entirety. It surprised me that the model is very much about training facilitators to run groups rather than presenting a model for groups to run themselves, but I like the rigour and vigour of the approach.

We’re hoping to liaise with the Reader Organisation on different ways to use materials from our Motfothotbook project for schools, and I will certainly learn from my experience of their Read To Lead group as we develop ways to ‘do’ new media in public, for instance at the Latitude festival where Chris and Toni are appearing along with the Pet Shop Boys, Bat for Lashes, Spiritualised.. oh and about a squillion other acts…and maybe not on the same actual stage…in Suffolk this July.

Tim Regained

Toni has just finished a fabtastic page-flippin' redesign of my magical musical digital graphical novella In Search of Lost Tim which you can access via www.insearchoflosttim.net

Monday, 8 June 2009

seeing the picture

Thanks to Jose Furtado for spotting this article from Eric Rumsey's Seeing The Picture.

Digital books will by transformed by their readers
June 8, 2009 – 4:01 pm

A few excerpts from Clive Thompson’s interesting thoughts on digitization last week:

Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn’t embraced the digital age. … Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe? … To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers … stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading. … Every other form of media that’s gone digital has been transformed by its audience. … The only reason the same thing doesn’t happen to books is that they’re locked into ink on paper. … Release them, and you release the crowd.

Thompson says that “the crowd” of readers is already at work transforming even print books. He reports on research done by e-Book researcher Cathy Marshall on students buying used textbooks — She has found that they examine books in the bookstore to find ones that have notes by previous readers — high-lighting and handwritten notes on the pages — and they prefer the ones that they judge to have the “smartest” notes. This rudimentary utilization of “the crowd,” says Thompson, is really nothing new: “Books have a centuries-old tradition of annotation and commentary, ranging from the Talmud and scholarly criticism to book clubs and marginalia.” Thompson cites current digital examples of the transformative use of the crowd:

BookGlutton, a site that launched last year, has put 1,660 books online and created tools that let readers form groups to discuss their favorite titles. Meanwhile, Bob Stein, an e-publishing veteran from the CD-ROM days, put the Doris Lessing book The Golden Notebook online with an elegant commenting system and hired seven writers to collaboratively read it.

Thompson closes with this: “Books have been held hostage offline for far too long. Taking them digital will unlock their real hidden value: the readers.”

Eric Rumsey is at @ericrumsey

Sunday, 7 June 2009

then and now

I lived in Sheffield throughout the 1980s and worked in Commonground Resources Centre where I designed this Mayday poster. Now they've opened the Electric Works digital workspaceplace, where we'd love to hold an ifsoflo unconference in the future.


I saw this floppy poster for the Annette Messager show at the South Bank a few weeks ago

then this telephonic tumble on a recent visit to Kingston for a talk to school librarians

and Andrew Motion's wandering what ifs in Sheffield

Saturday, 6 June 2009

site of one hand writing

Visit the epub zen garden to see this very beautiful edition of Middlemarch.

And here's the latest
from highly niche website e-ink info.com. It's a sighting of flexible e-paper.

O if all the sky was e-paper
And all the sea was e-ink
If all the trees were e-bread and e-cheese...

Anyone have a last line?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

hot rats

"I think it is good that books still exist, but they make me sleepy."

A great quote from the great man found in the latest bookgroup.info newsletter.

It's true that reading fiction is closely associated with falling asleep for most people. Perhaps that's a selling point for digital stories in all their backlit glory being capable of keeping us awake a bit longer at nights?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

"living content that never grows old"

A Brazilian living book, different each time you open!
Watch video on this topic with cheesy corporate backing music

Thanks to Dave Pescod for passing it on.

On Songs of Imagination and Digitisation, author Lisa Gee imagines a biography where you meet the subject and get to know them as you would a real person. Could we be chatting like this with Xbox Blake very soon, listening to his vision unfold? Read Bob Stein on books with joysticks at www.futureofthebook.org/blog

Monday, 1 June 2009

riceboy sleeps

Thanks to Alain Pierrot for showing us this beautiful bookthing from www.riceboysleeps.com