More events for 2015

Added to the West Mids events 2015

14th-15th March 2015:
The Beauty of Letters : text, type and communication in the eighteenth century. A joint annual conference of the Centre for West Midlands History and the Baskerville Society. University of Birmingham.

12th June 2015:
Controlling Crypto-currencies. One day conference at Birmingham Law School.

Edge question for 2015 – in Kindle .mobi format

The world’s leading thinkers on the Edge question for 2015: “What do you think about machines that think?”. Since the single page is the length of two novels (130,000 words), and Instapaper et al will choke on it, I’ve taken the liberty of making a simple free Kindle .mobi conversion which looks nice and has proper —’s and spacing. This is for those who want to read the page on their Kindle ereader device. It’s unabridged.

EDGE_Question_2015 in Kindle .mobi format
(670kb zip)

Wired UK redesign

Wired UK redesign. Finally, a magazine that realises that a widescreen desktop PC is not an iPad. Who knew?


I’m still reading their article list in stripped-down RSS, though. And then pushing interesting articles through Instapaper to my old-school Kindle ereader. Sorry, designers. Very pretty and all that, and it even scrolls sideways. But until I get a large tablet — that can handle a double-page magazine spread while still being readable — it’s still really just the words that I want.

Details on the UK’s postgraduate loans

The fine details have emerged on the UK’s forthcoming postgraduate loans funding for Masters degrees: 120 universities are to be funded with a share of a £50m loans fund, with a small core of five (including Birmingham University and Manchester University) assured of getting more than £1m each. Both full and part-time course will be eligible for loans. No restrictions are being placed on the choice of subject or course.

The loans are meant to be focussed on those… “who have paid undergraduate fees since 2012-13, and who are from groups underrepresented at taught postgraduate level.” Universities who have had the most success in recruiting those types of undergraduates will be rewarded, with funding allocations based on the existing… “number of students at each institution from areas with the lowest participation in higher education, and the number receiving Disabled Students’ Allowances”. It was also announced elsewhere that the loans will be restricted to those aged under 30, which seems a little harsh on a disabled 32 year old who’s just finished a degree.

The new loan scheme will start for the 2016-17 academic year. I imagine (my guess) that funding may turn out to be oversubscribed at the student application level, as there’s only a limited pot, high demand and universities must match-fund half of the £10,000 loan. So the most eager prospective students will probably want to secure their loan-funded places early, applying in Jan? 2016 for an Autumn 2016 start.

Loan paypack terms will be the same as the undergraduate loan — which means that most artists, writers, actors etc will never have to pay it back, because we tend to have annual earnings below the payback threshold. Hopefully individual universities won’t discriminate against these sorts of courses at the application level, in terms of which applicant gets a loan, and the loan applications forms will be blind to course choice.

Typographic Hub

The Typographic Hub at BIAD, has a 2015 diary online for their Birmingham talks. Students and staff only, apparently, but I daresay if you know your boldface from your dingbat then they might let an interested local designer sit in at the back.

2013 UK creative industries statistics

The new government report Creative Industries Economic Estimates: January 2015 is now available for download. It’s good news, albeit conveniently released at just the right moment to try to mute reaction to David Cameron’s stonkingly stupid promise to ‘outlaw all software that uses encryption’, which is what his statement amounts to. I was pretty sure that Labour authoritarian types would be dim enough to try this if they won the election, but I didn’t expect it now and from the Conservatives. I’d heard that Cameron had banned his Party from mooting half-baked policy ideas, in the run-up to the election. But obviously he makes an exception for himself. Anyway, we’ll see what happens when the next government has to announce the outlawing of Facebook (messaging + encryption par excellence).

The new creative industries figures are actually for 2013. Apparently it’s the first time they’ve been available, what with the statisticians in Whitehall being a year behind in their tallying. They’re also important because it’s apparently the first time the figures have been tallied under the new creativity criteria, which supposedly prevents the likes of your local electronics superstore from counting as a ‘creative industries’ employer. 2013 saw the UK creative industries grow by just under ten percent, sustain 1.7 million jobs, and pump out 8.8 percent of all exports of services exports (£17.3bn). And hey, we lead Europe on e-commerce and ecommerce exports. Which relies on, erm… strong encryption, with no kludged-in backdoors or possibility of clandestine access by corrupt officials.

Impact Hub scholarships

Birmingham’s Impact Hub has now gone beyond £60,000 in fundraising, and so will start a scholarship fund. The application period for the first scholarship will open March 2015. There’s also an associated ongoing photography project.

“We drive, drive, drive, on the Aston Expressway…”

Where better than industrial Birmingham for a conference on Kraftwerk’s early days and influence? Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty-First Century: Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany. 21st-22nd January 2015, Aston University in Birmingham.


A rough guide

“Birmingham? Why send tourists there?” warbles Tim Moore in the Telegraph. His key points seem to be…

* Brum is being over-hyped and mis-sold by the city’s PR professionals. The City Centre has shopping and eateries plus a little unchallenging culture, but so do plenty of other places.

* Concrete 1970s horror still lies in wait just outside the inner ring road, and sometimes within.

* Brummies are too clever by half (“the city still employs more than 100,000 people in specialised engineering and manufacturing”), and they have the cheek to do it with a Brummie accent.

We’ve heard such idle carping from Bored London Journalists before, of course, and I won’t bore readers with yet another counterblast to it. He obviously hardly knows the city, or else he would have mounted a far more devastating attack. I’d just note that such limp attacks are perhaps not ameliorated by those who feel obliged to regurgitate inane PR piffle from the other direction. Such as the dismal boilerplate corrective that the Telegraph felt obliged to append to Moore’s article.

Three days to Impact

The Impact Hub, featured on D’log back at the start of December, is now tantalisingly close to its Kickstarter goal.


New Year Mummers’ Owd Tup

From Addy, S. O., “Guising and Mumming in Derbyshire”, Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, XXIX, Jan 1907, pp.31-42. The New Year tradition was to have a sort of combination Wassail / Mummers’ procession, but without the Mummers’ story element, headed by either a Owd Tup (Old Ram) figure or a Owd Oss (Old Horse).


D’log’s West Mids events 2015

D’log‘s events listings page has flipped over the calendar, and is now West Mids events 2015. Complete with an initial roster of the more interesting digital and creative events set for 2015, mostly in Birmingham.

Penkhull Wassail

A quick little 2-minute video I made of last night’s Penkhull Wassail, a successful revival in urban Stoke-on-Trent of the ancient New Year wassail folk tradition. The Penkhull Wassail joins Barlaston, in the south of the city, in having an annual New Year wassail. The local morris dancers were Penkhull’s own Domesday Morris, and the whole procession and series of performances took about three hours. The video only comes from the Honeywall bit, which is about a mile from Stoke-on-Trent’s intercity train station.


2020: Tracking Optimism

New Year, new blog.

The Art of Smallfilms

Had a book token for Xmas? The Art of Smallfilms is a beautiful oversize art book of the props and cut-outs used in the era of classic children’s TV, on shows such as The Clangers, Noggin the Nog, Pogles’ Wood and Ivor the Engine. Which, of course, now live again on YouTube and DVD. A YouTube search for “Oliver Postgate” also brings up several short tributes to the creators, though unfortunately not the lengthy documentary Oliver Postgate: A Life in Small Films.


Jobs per sector, after the recession

An interactive New York Times infographic of who benefited and who lost (per sector) as the USA came out of the great recession…


People’s Archive of Rural India

People’s Archive of Rural India, a major new venture from the former Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu newspaper…


Kitty Cafe

The first cat cafe in the Midlands, Kitty Cafe is opening in Nottingham in February 2015.

The Wrekin Giant

The direct express train service from London to Shrewsbury has been reinstated — and it’s not a piffling two-carriage trundler, either. It’s now pulled by a Virgin Super Voyager named ‘The Wrekin Giant’, no less.


New research report from Nesta and Bloomberg Philanthropies, i-teams: the teams and funds making innovation happen in governments around the world, from nudgers to nerds…

This report tells the stories of 20 teams, units and funds established by governments and charged with making innovation happen. They work across the spectrum of innovation – from focusing on incremental improvements to aiming for radical transformations.”

The new NESTA magazine (iPad design, so deeply annoying on a desktop PC) also has an article from Charles Leadbeater, “Hooked on labs” on the recently profusion of innovation labs and similar outfits.