We had a wonderful time at the festival this year. A dear friend introduced me to folk music by inviting me to join him for an evening about fifteen years ago whilst I was setting up at a nearby bible week in Stoneleigh. Well the bible week stopped in 2002 and I think I’ve attended virtually every Warwick Folk Festival since then. What started out as “Dad’s weekend away for some time out with mates and music” has over the years become a calendar fixture for the whole family. My eldest two daughters both brought a friend each this year and introduced them to the world of folk music.
So this years highlights for me
The blur beside me in space where a daughter and friend had been sitting when ahab invited folks to dance with them on the stage
Hearing the blue haired Lucy Ward who reduced me to tears with her aptly described most miserable song
Kristy Gallacher’s very astutely observed song about depression
Listening to Matt Tyler and Kristy Gallacher and eating tapas in the Catalan restaurant
The Women’s song session including ballads from Lucy Ward and Kirsty Bromley
Pound and Walsh’s late night set
Keith Donnelly being silly and especially at 1am after completing his gig with the impersonating a piece of bacon thing, as we were all leaving, he overheard the 12 year old lad with me saying he’d had a great idea for an impersonation. So Keith asks him what and then in the side passage of the Bridgehouse theatre promptly performs yet again as “man falling off cliff” – class act.
Tom McConville band playing just really great folk music
Reaching the really mellow Sunday afternoon at the festival feeling having relaxed through much good beer and great music.
How the beer tent saved the best till last and put Kelham Island on for Sunday night.
The way listening to real people play real music inspires young people – as I type this my eldest daughter is teaching my youngest to play guitar !
How the festival’s marketing team brought twitter to the festival for the first time – kind of special to bounce messages to and fro with artists who are also on twitter.
The average age of the morris dancers seems to be getting lower
The number of young children on site is increasing as more and more families come – I remember about five years back there was an increase in the number of teenagers at the festival, perhaps there’s a link here.
This year there seemed fewer ‘big acts’ and for me the festival was no poorer for it
The site was really clean – probably the Action 21 volunteers going round keeping everywhere tidy
The trading area didn’t seem to quite work. Great to see so many stalls and what might have been a village concept of little lanes, some somehow it just felt a bit tucked out of the way. Notwithstanding that we bought a load of stuff including a nettle fabric shirt!
I wished the festival had more of a political voice. Given the strong tradition of social justice in folk music it was a little surprising that I heard no protest songs. Would have been good to acknowledge the massacre in Norway and express solidarity with the Norwegian Labour Party in some way. I expect had Tony Benn, Bob Fox or John Tams been there this year they would have said or maybe sung something.
Thoughts for the future
Wonder if it would work to sell tickets for next year on the last day of the event. I remember buying Greenbelt tickets for this month’s festival on the last day of the event last year. Might help with cash flow for the festival.
Following on from the inspiring maps of Bill Rankin showing ethnicity across Chicago I thought I’d try doing the same kind of thing for UK cities.
So as I happen to be working on a community cohesion project for Cardiff, here’s a map based on the last census:
Which is probably better viewed as a PDF of Disperal Map from Census Ethnicity for Cardiff
Great example of a cartogram, or map squashed to represent proportion or population by James Cheshire using ScapeToad which I must play with:
Inspired by Dominic Campbell of FutureGov Consultancy (@dominiccampbell) I played with Friend Wheel on Facebook to produce the following Social Network Analysis of my contacts on Facebook.
Which I thought was rather fun !
A marked shift away from an intimate society was described by Elaine Storkey in her book “In Search for Intimacy”. The longstanding patterns of urban society, providing close-knit communities, physically gave way to a spread of detached suburbia. In patterns of living, both those climbing the ladder of success and those forced to flee from depressed areas seeking work, uprooted and relocated. No longer do people live their lives in the midst of parents, brothers and sisters, cousins and extended family within walking distance. She argues that the intimacy of regular contacts between ordinary people is being eroded from our lives. A couple of examples:
Neighbourhood shops, where were known, have given way to large supermarkets where we accept service standards of anonymity and indifference as a way of life.
How many people’s daily commute often consists in intimacy avoidance, may consist of sitting in silence amid a crowd, ironically surrounded by advertisement portraying closeness and intimacy to sell their wares.
Elaine Storkey tracks the influence of individualism in the 80’s and 90’s, noted in Thatcher’s phrase “there is no such thing as society (only individuals and their families)”, to a negative impact on personal relationships.
I should confess to being one of life’s radicals. On my daily commute I walk into town and I try to greet a number of familiar strangers which I see each day. Only rarely has this lead to anything more substantial , such as once when I bumped into a ‘familiar stranger’ not in the morning but on the tube travelling back back from London in the evening, we talked at length about our lives and how we came to pass daily. Even without developing beyond a brief ‘good morning’, I’m convinced that this simple act of meeting and greeting familiar strangers is life enriching.
In this recent blog,A return to the “old skool” – Social Media challenges in the Public Sector, Carl Haggerty commented that social media is starting to help “people to reconnect in convenient and timely ways” and that this may be the underpinnings needed for genuine transformation of the public sector. In a similar way, I’d like to raise the question how far can Twitter go in re-introducing intimacy.
By way of positive examples, I’ve noticed in recent weeks there’s been a great many messages between twitter users discussing matters of health, especially passing on best wishes to those succumbing to swine flu. Indeed whilst suffering a recent chest infection I’ve been cheered by a fair number of well wishes from those I’ve never physically met, but with whom I’d only exchanged messages over Twitter. Isn’t it also interesting how one feels slightly bereft when a friend on twitter is wrongly suspended – not just that sense of injustice but also a lack of intimacy when someone you’ve connected with is removed from you. I’m thinking here of both @karenblakeman and @alncl (with the ensuing #freealncl campaign).
Twitter too favours the strong
Storkey highlights a fundamental dilemma, that the individualistic society naturally favours the stronger individuals – they have the resources and the drive to pursue their goals whilst weaker individuals are marginalised. Unfortunately, the networked nature of Twitter naturally follows this pattern, those with great reach in their networks can exploit their networks more effectively. We should seek to make twitter more accessible to all and be careful to welcome newcomers.
Twitter favours the elite
The demographic on twitter is notably not representative of society. Judging by the network of friends I’ve developed there’s a definite bias towards the educated professional with values of respect, liberty and justice. However, this won’t build directly build a more cohesive society in our locality unless we can build stronger local networks. Perhaps we should deliberately seek to connect with other Twitter users in our local area rather than just those we connect with through our usual professional and personal networking.
As a first blog post it seems appropriate to explain why I’ve chosen the moniker prestolee.
Whilst I grew up in the northern mill town of Bury, Lancashire, I developed an enduring passion for canals – their history, their restoration, walking or criusing alongside them. The nearest canal was the Manchester, Bury and Bolton Canal – named a really cunning way so that you might even guess where it went. That said there were plans for extensions over to the Leeds and Liverpool near Horwich and near Helmshore, or even more boldly over the penines via Sladen – though these came to naught.
The highlight of the canal must be a location called Prestolee, near Little Lever, and confusingly also known as Nob End. This is where the Bury to Bolton line of the canal which ran on the level met with the line coming up from Manchester. To drop down the side of the valley there were two staircases each of three locks, and to cross the river Irwell, the mighty Prestolee Aqueduct.