Sunday, 28 November 2010

unlibrarying with kati and ruth

Unlibrary Artist in Residence Ruth Franklin  and writer Kati Rynne ran a fantastic workshop in the Unlibrary at our event on tuesday, creating beautiful books of collaborative writing for the shelves.
Here's a taste.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

dead poets society

Mick Kidd, half of the utterly brilliant Biff Comics team, came to our Unlibrary event last week and has now sent me this for wider circulation. 

Into the Mystic: the extraordinary life and poetry of WB Yeats

Friday December 10 
Free Word Centre,
60 Farringdon Road,
London EC1R 3GA

'Into the Mystic' includes readings of many of Yeats's finest poems along with a colourful account of his life, much of it drawn from contemporary sources. Drugs, love, politics and the occult all play a part, and there are notable, sometimes riotous encounters with Dublin wits, fellow literary giants – Joyce, Pound, George Bernard Shaw – and the women who changed his life: Augusta Gregory, George Yeats and Maud Gonne. The readers are Oengus Macnamara and Teresa Jennings. Music: Rick Sanders (vocals and guitar).

Friday December 10, 7pm-8.30pm.
Admission: £7.50
Nearest Tube station: Farringdon

To book tickets, contact the Free Word Centre:

Tel: 020 7324 2570

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.

And talking of great poets, tomorrow I'm delighted to have been invited to William Blake's birthday party at the Tate, 25th birthday also of the William Blake Society itself. 

Friday, 26 November 2010


Hachette History of the Book -  very helegant - hand hAndrea's hin it.

undoubted success

Infographicized instantly by Tim Cresswell, cartoonist in residence at the South Bank; illuminated by if:book's own artist in residence Ruth Franklin; with fascinating workshops on transmedia and ARGs, social networking, print on demand, video, digital art, book making and collaborative writing; a debate on the Power of Local with Shreela Ghosh, Wes Brown of NAWE and, George Palmer of Apples & Snakes and the Transition Town movement, and featuring the brilliant Andrea Levy on the library she has written all the first drafts of her novels in,  THE AMPLIFIED AUTHOR IN THE LOCAL UNLIBRARY was a thoroughly stimulating event.  We'll be posting more from it here


On Monday at the Free Word Centre I met up with Sue Davis, the digital storyteller I first met on the Sunshine Coast of Australia this May when I was invited to advise on the NeoGeography project there.  Performance poet Francesca Beard and Sarah Ellis of Apples & Snakes were two of those who came to meet her for what turned out to be an inspiring meeting for all involved.

Sue's collaborators include Leah Barclay, composer, and Judy Barrass, maker of artists books, some made in her studio, some made in Second Life (where she was neighbour of journalist Vic Keegan, another participant in Tuesday's event).

The NeoGeo project is focused on Cooroy Library, newly built with high-speed broadband and pods for creative teams to work in. It's a remarkable collaboration between a diverse group of makers, all highly experienced in their fields, and an inspiring example of collaborative creativity built on a digital framework.

Take a look at some of the results BY CLICKING HERE.

Friday, 19 November 2010

press release: Gulbenkian award to if:book and Winged Chariot

London November 16th 2010.

WingedChariot Press, a pioneer in digital ‘stories to touch’, in conjunction with the charitable company if:book have just been awarded a grant by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

This grant is for the research and development of multi-lingual digital stories and readin in a project that will run in six London schools during 2011. The schools based in Lewisham, Enfield and Bexley will be at the core of digital reading and story development with WingedChariot. Research into the project outcomes and opportunities will be led by the innovative think and do tank if:book.

Andrew Barnett, Director of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK) says:"One of the strategic aims of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's UK Branch is to help improve people's perception of each other by providing opportunities for interaction through culture and between cultures. In this context, one of our current objectives is to develop programmes that promote multilingualism and literature in translation for adults and children. We are, therefore, delighted to support the development of this innovative platform to stimulate language acquisition and new forms of creative writing, which we believe will lead to increased cross-cultural communication and better understanding between cultures."

eal Hoskins,Director of WingedChariot says :”I am delighted that the Gulbenkian Foundation has awarded us this grant for our pioneering work in multi-lingual digital stories to continue. As stories and books make the transition into digital it is vital that we study and develop these new forms that may inspire and delight children to read more and appreciate great art. Our experience and knowledge in this field can now be taken to a new level as we combine with the research skills of if:book to form a new and unique partnership in the digital world.”

Chris Meade, Director of if:book, the think and do tank exploring the future of the book in the digital age, says:"We're looking forward to working with the wonderful WingedChariot on this fantastic opportunity to look at how children and teachers can use new media to develop creative reading skills and digital imagination.”

Scruffy Kitty is very happy! 

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Here's the presentation I gave at the Digital Natives conference for School Librarians at Berkhamsted School yesterday. It's the latest iteration of the talk I've been giving for ages, but it does evolve and change as it goes along.

At the conference Nicola McNee, a librarian hugely passionate about social networking and all kinds of digital tools for teaching and school libraries, said that none of her Year 10 class knew about RSS feeds.  This is important.
The older generation like to say that young digital natives understand the web and oldies never will. This is nothing but a cop out.
Actually being used to a technology doesn't amount to understanding it. I grew up taking TV for granted but still don't understand how the box works, or instinctively know how to structure a programme.
Young people hang out on Facebook and know how to click their way around websites, but of course  they need professional guidance on how best to use digital means to research and inform themselves in an educational context.
RSS feeds, Twitter, Delicious, Readers etc are information tools which those who work with information should be able to explain and promote, whether or not they personally feel comfy using the web.
It's no different from a librarian helping students access books they don't like or understand the content of.

At if:book's AGM last night, trustee Fiona O'Brien showed us round the library at Westminster University where they've created a range of spaces for solo and group learning, silent reading and thoughtful chatter - all very relevant to Unlibrary thinking.

I'm delighted to announce that if:book is developing a collaborative relationship with the Centre for Democracy at Westminster University whose Director, Ricardo Blaug, is the author of How Power Corrupts. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

rare chance to meet a NeoGeographer

On Monday 22nd Nov at 12.00 I'll be at the Free Word Centre Farringdon with Dr Sue Davis who I met when I visited Noosa on the Sunshine Coast for the launch of if:book Australia. If any colleagues would be interested to meet Sue, please join us at 12.30 in the big room. Bring a sandwich/lunchbox and she can tell you more about her fascinating work and the NeoGeography project she's been engaged in.  

Dr Sue Davis is a lecturer and professional learning consultant at CQ University (Noosa Hub).  For the NeoGeography project Sue ran a series of community based workshops in digital storytelling and photostories. Participants used photos, text, music and sound to create photostories uploaded to the PlaceStories website – a web 2.0 application created by Feral Arts for communities across Australia to share their location-specific stories.  She also ran a series of workshops with children where they created fictional creatures and results included digital stories and a blurb self-published bookSue also explored a significant story of the region – that of the shipwreck of the Stirling Castle and the tale of what happened to Eliza Fraser – through blogging in role and creating a multi-media performance . 

 Sue has extensive experience as a drama practitioner running projects and workshops in schools and community contexts. Her recent research and creative practice has focussed on exploring the ways that new media and drama can be combined through forms such as cyberdrama and digital storytelling . Sue has initiated processes to engage children and young people in community and cultural events including the ‘Noosa Longweekend’ (Noosa Scrubs 2008), the ‘Great Noosa Campout’, ‘Floating Land’ (2009), ‘Treeline’ (2010) and Noosa Biosphere Day (2010). She has extensive experience in writing and directing performance work, predominantly with and for young people.
The NeoGeoGraphy project has involved five Sunshine Coast artists (Leah Barclay, Judy Barrass, Lyndon DavisSue Davis & Steven Lang) using arts practice and digital media to explore stories about place.  The project also had a focus on using the spaces and facilities at the new Cooroy library and cultural precinct.
This project was supported by the Sunshine Coast Council and the Queensland Writers Centre, and arose from the 3Cs project developed by Jock McQuinnie in collaboration with Arts Queensland and the Australia Council for the Arts.

If you're planning to come along, please leave a comment here.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

heaven is a place

Last week I went to the University Campus Folkestone to talk about potential collaborations.
There's been some impressive development there of a cultural quarter all brightly coloured and eager for activity. The words of the great David Byrne look out over the town.

animated ken

We've had very exciting news, more of which soon, re. a project we're undertaking with and generally thinking hard about how best to develop our work with schools under the new regime. This beautifully illustrated RSA talk by TED talkgod Sir Ken Robinson has been recommended to help us refocus our minds

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


We've extended the space we're using for our conference THE AMPLIFIED AUTHOR IN THE LOCAL UNLIBRARY so there's still places available for the amazing FREE event featuring ANDREA LEVY and many more.  Book now at

And here's how the Unlibrary looks today, with a beta version of the collaboration wall and user profiles.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Last weekend I went to Poole to chair a panel at the new literature festival there. The panel discussion was the opening act leading up to the announcement of the winner of the first New Media Writing prize, set up by festival Director Sue Luminati (whose surname I covet).  The panel involved Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot, Chris Stevens, maker of the astounding Alice for the iPad and Maureen Scott of Ether books, purveyors of short stories for the iPhone. It was a fruitful session I thought and hope audience members agree. Here were three practitioners who have come from very different starting points to make books for i-Gizmos. Chris was a journalist, Neal a 'conventional' publisher, Maureen "occupied the mobile content space", and their work is all high on my list of favourite book apps. The conversation was about how to make brilliant digital literary works and why, and it took place in relation to the work of new media writers many of whom have been using the internet as a creative publishing tool for years, without reference to the book world at all. There are challenges for all as these worlds draw closer. The quality of writing online comes under scrutiny as the literati pile in, and

Judges included moongolfer and bookmapper Tim Wright and Andy Campbell of Dreaming Methods, both highly experienced digital writers and artists, plus Michael Bhaskar, head of digital at Profile Books.

And the winner was... Christine Wilks for her moving narrative about a woman sculptor and the ghosts of the colliery she carves above. Chris is someone who has worked hard in this field for a long time, perfecting her flash and narrative skills both as part of the trAce community developed by Sue Thomas and, more recently, as a fellow student with me on the first two years of the now defunct Creative Writing and New Media MA at De Montfort. She's a regular contributor to and one of a small group of digital artists who remix each others' work at  

It's a bigger step than one might imagine to bring together these tribes. Web writers have avoided mainstream publishing on purpose and tend to resent the traditional literary types getting in on the act.
Book publishers arrive online determined to recreate a familiar world of tomes for sale on albeit digital shelves. But the mingling has begun, and it's what really interests me about the future of the book.

MEANWHILE I've been sent this photo of Jose Furtado and I at the Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon recently, Jose looking far better dressed and more eminent than I - but then he is.

transcript of an interview with Wes Brown

from NAWE Young Writers' Hub

Your Questions Answered:

What's your work with the Institute for the Future of the Book about? How did you get involved?
Question By: Wes Brown
I met Bob Stein in 2007 when I was half way through my M.A. at De Montfort in Creative Writing & New Media and had already decided it was time to move on from Booktrust and do something bookfuturish. We sat in Starbucks Kings X and Bob invited me on the spot to visit him in New York, then to become co-Director of his Institute for the Future of the Book. That was a life changing latte.

With Bob and his team I worked on the Really Modern Library project, holding discussions which included Laurie Anderson, Momus, Cory Doctorow and other fascinating people. We raised funds for Bob's idea to put The Golden Notebook online ( with a team of readers commenting on it in realtime, and my homage to Blake, which explored how text could be illuminated via digital means.

The Institute and if:book london are separate entities now, but both define themselves as 'think and do tanks exploring the shift in our culture as it moves from printed page to networked screen'. I owe Bob a lot - he's an extraordinary man.
The Golden Notebook and Songs of Imagination and Digitisation are both innovative projects and enhance what we what like about books in new ways. Do you think this is the way forward for the book as a format? That the first generation of eBooks could be a bit 2D? Similar to the difference between web 1.0 and web 2.0?
Question By: Wes Brown
First conventional publishers plonk conventional novels unchanged onto eReaders, then they begin to 'enhance' them with bits and bobs of video, then writers get the hang of it and start thinking of multimedia and reader interaction as keys on their typewriters, to use as and when they wish.

The most important thing for me about books as in works of imaginative literature is the freedom authors (should) have to shape their work exactly as they wish, in contrast to the makers of most movies, computer games, tv and radio programmes - and websites other than blogs, who must work to formulae and for vested interests. As literature migrates to digital platforms, it must retain that freedom, so authors will be as traditional and or as innovative as they want to be, looking back as well as forwards for inspiration.
Is there a danger that the likes of Amazon and Apple could gain too great a stranglehold over distribution? And have a disproportionate influence over pricing and the shape of the eBook?
Question By: Wes Brown
Yes - a danger to big league publishers, but not for authors and makers who can now put their work on the web for free, can put books directly for sale onto global bookshelves provided by the big guns. For the time being I'm not so worried about the battles raging between the digital Titans, because there are so many new ways to circumvent them and do our own things.

The app and the ebook are the latest attempts to create saleable chunks of digital material, but its still possible to make work in any shape you wish for a browser. Let's face it, on the one hand we want free access to things and on the other we want to be able to sell our stuff for profit... so every writer has a foot in both camps on the debates about copyright and freedom of information.
In the traditional model there's the author, the agent, the editor, the publisher, the distributor, the bookseller, the printer and the cover artist. With say mixed media eBooks - might we see an author working with a designer and web guys etc all at the same time? A sort of Warhol like factory? You've also mentioned authors employing people to do the digital marketing for them. Whatever new roles do you think could crop up?
Question By: Wes Brown
Yes absolutely, I see much more collaboration happening between artists, authors, editers, designers, digital 'illuminators' etc. The question is how these are paid for.

I like the idea that authors can either buy the services of those who help them publish or produce their work, or go into some kind of profit sharing agreement.

Some authors will be delighted to collaborate in this way, others will absolutely not want to - which is fine, that's the whole point: that writers have choices they've never had before- but these are genuine choices, authors can decide what works best for them.
What is an Amplified Author? How do they relate to the Unilibrary?
Question By: Wes Brown
The Amplified Author writes on a networked device that allows them to build a readership through social networking, blogs and the web in general. They're not defined by a publisher but drive their own writing life. From wherever they live and work they can reach out to readers and fellow writers. The Unlibrary is a local hub and co-working space for writers, readers and all kinds of businesses. It's a nearby place for us to bring our laptops - through which we can access a library of information - to focus on what we want to create and learn about, and to find the people and resources we need to do it better.

But we're still feeling our way with deciding what the Unlibrary could be - all suggestions welcomed.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Visitors to the Unlibrary meet up today begin to make their personal profiles. Each user will be given a space on the shelves to put up their twitter name, website or email address and create a 3D picture of their interests and activities. There's still no wi-fi in this part of the building and we don't yet have a budget to redecorate and revamp the space, but it's open now as a good place to work, use mobiles, meet and mingle.