Get out of the box.
I was intent on responding to something today that is oddly close to my heart. In that, this issue makes everything close to everything – the tiny state of British housing.
The RIBA has actually come out and criticised the design of new homes in the UK today, and it’s surely about ruddy time. We are the only country on God’s Earth, it seems, to value our homes on number of rooms rather than floor space, AND to have repealed the minimum standards for human living space in building control.
I’ve said it before, but the British can be a bloody backwards bunch of banana heads. We seem addicted to making life hard for ourselves. And to helping people make money out of substandard work.
There are at least a couple of essays in there for me, I feel – one about the eternal, instinctive clash of cultures between UK Planning and UK developers, and another about the whole point of design in everyday life. Something to do with human wellbeing or somesuch.
The thing is, much as I can only repeat incessantly that you should sit yourself down for three hours and watch all three episodes of charming metro architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff’s wonderful, encouraging, wise series The Secret Life of Buildings, before preparing to rise up and take to the streets in very polite protest at the shocking shiteness of British policy towards the public realm… I’m now thinking about little boxes in general.
We seem to love them. Can’t seem to think outside them, in fact. Something I felt again lastnight, at a little event in town.
Did you know that there is a small ton of stuff going on in Bournemouth that’s creative and forward thinking?
You did? .. No, I don’t just mean whatever it is that you’re up to. Though that would surely add to the south coast’s cultural GDP on its own, I’m sure. No, I mean stuff outside. Out there. Where the others are.
You didn’t? Not surprised. I mean, where would you look to find out?
Co-ordinating comms about anything in Bomo does seem a problem at the moment, and I’ve thought it for ages. But the truth is… well, the truth is two-sided, actually. One: there’s a lot more interesting creative stuff starting to happen in Bournemouth these days than most people realise. And, two: most people still can’t be arsed to make the most of it. But if there’s a third edge, a rim, holding the two sides together, it is that truth about comms. I can’t help feeling that if you build up the critical mass of publicity, it eventually fullfills its own prophesy.
But still. There’s work to be done to really change the culture down here by the seaside in our comfy town.
Lastnight I pottered along to the first of Strawberry Lantern’s B:Reel events – a networking event for any creatives interested in film. And to pull together a decent excuse to get together, the chaps behind the initiative had also incorporated the franchise for Future Shorts – the now-international groovy short film screenings nights, of which we’ve enjoyed a few in Bournemouth over the years. You never know what’s going to come on screen next, which is wonderful.
Interestingly, the setting for the night was the now almost-one-year-old Pavilion Dance, overlooking the lower gardens in the belly of the Pavilion Theatre building.
I say interesting, because for me the symbolism of having brand new creative space in the heart of the town is significant. Encouraging. Kind of exciting. And so is the news that Arts University College Bournemouth is taking over the next door unit to do something else interesting; they’re refurbing it now. This seems like very good news to me.
Perusing the itinerary for Bournemouth Arts By The Sea fest as I drained a perhaps ill-advised free glass of Merlot on an empty stomach after a frantic circuits class, I was also reminded, as I reached for a chair, that Carol and Kerry and Councilor Lancashire have actually made an arts event happen all over town, with some mighty interesting things all over its schedule. Meant to say this to Carol, who was there, along with many other familiar creative faces and chums who I’ve been getting to know in a growing myriad of crossing-over arts and business events this year.
Thing is. I had two separate conversations with dynamic local creative forces lastnight, as we waited to wander into the auditorium. And they both made me think the same thing.
Each of them is in the process of bringing in to land a creative media event right in Bournemouth town centre. Both are about to happen at the same sort of time. And each one involves some really significant names in their industries – coming all the way to Bournemouth to share knowledge and insight about what they do. Coming right to us.
That these events are happening here should be big news on the local arts calendar. The crucial, if trivial sounding, credibility of them is a huge thing to add to what individual musicians, film makers, writers, digital creatives and performers are already doing here.
The problem is, we don’t have a cultural calendar here yet. So almost no-one knows these things are happening.
And yet that’s not the problem each of these good champions of art and business coincidentally relayed to me. The problem is with so many who DO know. ..They can’t see the value in the opportunities.
And this is the real malaise of Bournemouth; the culture it has to overcome: Life here is too comfy for many people. It’s sleepy and well fed.
Except it isn’t. One of the problems may be an issue of diminished expectations. And Mark Kermode’s blog post on the subject, taken from his new book, is as erudite a take on the issue as I have read, discovered only this morning. His passion for the problem of it all over the film industry is exactly the feeling I’ve had for so long. And I shall probably write about that separately too, crucial as creative conviction is over brainless business.
The point is, that people need to think outside their little box to make a difference. Or a dollar. And Lord knows I understand comfy little boxes; who wants to leave the warmth of the airing cupboard and the cotton wool bedding for the visceral uncertainties of the garden? I mean, it might be raining out there. And all I want to do is play on my wheel.
Maybe we’re all safer and happier being hamsters. Or kittens. But I don’t know about you, I feel the call of the wild every now and then. And I think most people do.
Shouldn’t we want more – more adventure from our lives, more life in our comfy lifestyle town?
If we want to further our experience, our skills, our outlook, our reach as artists, we need get out of the comfortable little boxes we live in. Jeepers, our job as artists is to lead the way in thinking outside the box, in exploring, in taking risks.
But I can’t help feeling that while kings and queens of innovation and encouragement feel discouraged by the same-ol’ same-ol’ of local lazy thinking, they are actually to not give up. There is something about building critical mass about this, I feel. About keeping going yet. About saying we made some shet happen.
I feel it for Momo. I feel it for Bomo: Too soon to give up, somehow.
Stepping out of things can require extraordinary amounts of faith, but I think we should demonstrate it. We should raise our expectations, and live by them.
Here, grab my hand.