What kind of cheese is your organisation?

Organisations look pretty imposing from the outside: pictures of corporate serenity, coherent matching wall paper and carpet, an organism at one with itself and its surroundings. A well sorted business entity.

However, you’ll soon realise after working with organisations for a while, that this appearance of solidity and uniformity, is in actual fact a mirage and that all your average organisation actually is, is a large piece of cheese: smooth and daunting on the outside, but full of holes in the inside.

An organisations’ holes become apparent when messages get lost, staff don’t return calls, emails get unanswered and letters get returned to sender. Things fall down the cracks in the middle of departments, never to be seen again.

Apparently,, the cheese industry calls holes in cheese “eyes”. This is particularly ironic for those organisations whose infrastructure is so shot to pieces, they resemble slabs of Emmenthaler or Appenzell – the cheeses with the largest holes in them. If one thing a holey organisation doesn’t have, is eyes: or ears too for that matter.

And most times its digestive system doesn’t function properly either, from one end of the organisation to the other. the organisation which resembles a chunky piece of Emmenthaler tends to leak from both ends, often simultaneously.  You just have to look at the recent track record of the British Government to see a piece of Swiss Cheese in action and see integrity, intelligence, truth and vision draining away by the day.

Scientists say that the reason Swiss cheese is so holey is not due to hungry mice or over exuberant bacteria but due to the buckets being used when the milk is collected from the Swiss cow being contaminated with hay. Scientists are yet to establish why the UK government is leaking so profusely from all pores and both ends, but chances are it has very little to do with mice, bugs or hay.

Poetry on the Hoof: The (rail) road to Barra

ALL TOGETHER NOW LADS!

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you want from a
Wind farm blade.

We’re all going on a beer hunt lads!
From hanging town, brief encounters,
To Holke hang out, submariner sheds,
We’re getting our names up in those causeway lights!

HEYSHAM HIGH HOPES

Spot the jogging bishop with a mitre on a Sunday!
We’re talking rhubarb triangle with legs to spare,
A mammoth onion off the old green road.

They’ll split the atom here Bob in the years to come,
There’ll be lock downs, sirens,
Ever Ready for us, the pervasive threat.

Heysham 1, Heysham 2
It’ll be a football score Bob
In the years to come, when we get home.

One goes down, the other goes up
Two little boys Bob, that’s what they’re like,
Seismically protected to Gas Mark 7.

But there’s no more time for:
Haff netting salmon
in the skinny dipping Lune;

No more time for:
Sticking toffee pud
Up the old girls duff.

Cos we’re heading out to Barra,
Prepping for the Somme,
And all her sail in her.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you need from a
Wind farm blade.

ARNSIDE’S HUNTER GATHERERS

It’s a long way to Tipperary,
A very long way indeed Bob,
You’ll be needing your khaki trousers ,
and a hat to shield you from the blaze.

Hats with fascinators fascinating,
Travel hunters hunting and
Heath and safety instructing:
Don’t forget your shorts.

Don’t forget your sun cream.
Don’t forget to write son,
We’ve got your Grand-dad round at Christmas
He’ll want to see you standing

Arnsider,
Tamesider,
Wearsider,
Humbersider;

Bloody Merseysiders, Scouse not English?
(Always kicking off in their socks and shades,
A disgrace to king and country,
Just who are they trying to kid Brian?)

Scouse lads! Manx lads!
We’re all in this together lads
Cockney lads! Toon lads!
Even Maccam lads can walk on the Kents Bank waters!

Climbing over ledges,
Diving down in gorges,
Geo-physical, geo-logical,
Geo-temporal, neo-natal.

Head line shock,
Culture block.
Road up ahead,
Detour to the Humphrey Head.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you earn from a
Wind farm blade.

FURNESS FEARS

Grange over the sands,
Wind over the waters,
Steam over the causeway,
Fog on the time and we lose our way;
Lights up ahead and we shield our eyes
From the light on the horizon.

Don’t be daft Bob,
It’s just the moon on the river,
No need to stress, no need to sweat,
It’s just another brick in a wall.
No dark lions in the wardrobe,
No more air girls on the dole.

Ulverston oh Ulverston,
I still see your home fires burning,
I still see your water wheels turning,
I still hear your sea winds blowin’,
I still see the dark coal glowin’,
I was 21 when I left Ulverston.

Last wolf in England,
First turn on the left,
Water catches fire,
The air stops breathing,
But we dig deep down for leading lights
Tractors turning, gas flame burning, submarine yearning.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade,
Everything you covet ‘bout a
Wind farm blade.

BARROW IN FURNACE

Cor strike a light!
Blow me down!
If ever I cross this side of town
I’m dead, I’m gone,
A shadow of my former self.

The nuclear dump,
The ever present hump,
Of the guy in the trench,
Standing doubled over the stench
Of the lads in the earth
And the girls in the air,
Waving, waving farewell, adieu, auf wiedersehen,
To their boys on a train sliding into town.

Pink Shap granite, Pink Shap granite
Archaeological dig in bullet rich sand;
Turbine, turbine,
Slicing up the seas in a frenzied fit of
Fission, fusion,
Grasping the cushion of a nuclear safety net of
Caste iron furnace, caste iron furnace,
Grenades to launch ten thousand ships to pieces.

It’s just a rumor that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding,
Well I ask you
The boy said “Dad they’re going to take me to task, but I’ll be back by Christmas”
We’re all in this together Bob,
It was like this way back when Bob,
Digging our trenches into the heat of the night.

Guiding lights in Barrow lands.
Trig towers point to trig points in the ground.
Landing lights in the estuary guide boats by.
Staging posts act as half way stops mid river.
Help us navigate this wilderness.

Wind farm blade, wind farm blade
Everything you ever loved ‘bout a
Wind farm blade.

Help me fight young people’s homelessness with the CEO Sleepout

Following on from my last ‘CEO Sleepout’ at Notts County FC 2 years ago, I’m repeating the experience on 11 October this year to raise funds for not only Emmanuel House and The Friary, but also now for The Mighty Creatives (TMC) too.

I’m doing it through JustGiving:  you can visit my page here.  

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

The Sleepout involves spending a night out on the football pitch of the club, armed with not much more than a sleeping bag, a pillow and a piece of cardboard.  Whilst it doesn’t come close to emulating what homeless people go through, the group I was in 2 years ago raised over £50,000 which went to Emmanuel House and The Friary and so had a direct impact on the services they could provide their service users.

Homelessness has also been an issue that I’ve been particularly exercised by in the last year or so too: this article in the Nottingham Post was a particular eye opening experience for me.

This year, CEO Sleepout – the organisation who run the sleepouts – have agreed to allocate 32% of my fundraising directly to TMC.   If you can help the cause, anything you can give would be hugely welcome. And if this isn’t possible for you now, please feel free to spread the word to your family, friends and colleagues too.

Thanks in advance for your help!

 

Poetry on the Hoof: Soz.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I’m very, very sorry,
For the delays, the disruption, the chaos, we’ve brought
To your daily routine.

We’re sorry the tram stopped running,
We’re sorry the bus driver forgot to turn up for work,
We’re sorry the road’s been dug up over night,
We’re all sorry, sorry, very very sorry.

Sorry your tickets out of date,
Sorry your life style made you late,
Sorry you look the way you do,
Sorry your dog demanded a poo
On the high street before your very eyes,
Sorry you forgot to clean it up,
Sorry you have to listen to this.
It’s nothing to do with us, sorry.

Sorry for having to apologise.
Sorry we’ve got to listen to this.
Sorry for being sorry.
We apologise. We really do. Soz.

Do charities do more harm than good? Take more than they give?

Why do we have charities?

I’ve some great thought provoking responses from colleagues about the CEO SleepOut campaign I’m involved in which have got to the heart of the matter.

Such as, why don’t the organisers invite some homeless people along to the evening and enable them to talk directly with participants? And isn’t what homeless people need is to be given respect rather than been seeing as beneficiaries of charity? I’ve raised these questions with the organisers so we’ll see what they say about that.

But more fundamentally, these questions ask some important questions about why we have charities at all, what the relationship is between donors, charitable organisations and beneficiaries, and whether the act of ‘doing good’ or ‘just giving’ actually does more harm than good (in that it just provides short term, superficial Elastoplast solutions to things which require more systematic, substantial solutions to deep rooted social issues): or actually takes more than it gives (in that campaigning takes the focus of the problem away from the root cause of that problem and ‘gives’ the focus to those people who are on the receiving end of the charitable ‘give’.

One obvious answer is that if charities didn’t do what they do, no-one else (e.g. The State) is going to step up to the mark to address the short term pressures that people face here and now, rather than in some distant future when the state might have stepped up. So if a charity’s purpose can only be short term – then that’s because the long term is too distant a proposition for those who need solutions, right here, right now.

But there’s lot to think about here so many thanks for your responses!

But in the meantime, if you can contribute to the campaign, it would be great to hear from you just here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Nick-Owen8

Campaign against homelessness

I’m taking part in ‘CEO SleepOut in Nottingham on 13 October and are looking for sponsors who might be able to contribute to reaching my target of £1,000 which will go to local charities who are working on the front line with homeless people.

I am raising funds through a Just Giving site: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Nick-Owen8 so just wanted to let you know about it, in case you are able to help out in any way you can.

Your help will of course be hugely appreciate – not just by me but the many homeless people which this campaign is supporting.

Arts Infrastructure: what do we need?

So, we get it that a lack of arts infrastructure means no audiences in theatres, library closure and artists consigned to talk to themselves for ever and a day, trapped in the basement of their own imaginations: but what type of arts infrastructure is it that we need?

The ‘just in time’ type exemplified in Wallace and Gromit’s train chase in The Wrong Trousers where Gromit has nano-seconds to lay down the track in front of him?

Or a 50 year plan which is built on the Big Data of today? But which might fall apart after the next election when experts are finally shown the door by No. 10 Downing Street and we’re left with the ‘I know what I like and I like what I know’ approach to building the nation’s cultural railways?

Whatever it turns out to be, we can be pretty sure that doing more of the same isn’t going to address the inequalities which are rife in the arts. Perhaps it’s not so much of needing Gromit to build our infrastructure, but the equivalent of a hyper loop travel system which can connect young people to artists to platforms and venues and audiences directly, immediately and without any of the paraphernalia that chasing a penguin with a colander on your head entails.

Arts infrastructure: you’ll notice it when it’s gone.

There’s been a move afoot in recent years which argues that you don’t need an arts infrastructure and that all arts funding should go directly to front line organisations. It suggests that if the larger theatres and museums, for example, could develop big enough education and outreach departments, these would be enough to increase audiences, develop new work, engage more young people, connect with more schools and improve cultural diversity. All the current ills facing the art world would be solved if you just did away with the infrastructure and handed over the cash to the deliverers.

This is all very well but imagine a scenario in the physical world where you did away with national power, transport and water infrastructure and allowed individual cities or regions to generate their own infrastructures. You’d have at least 17 different types of railway gauge across the country, none of which connected with each other; 53 different highway codes, none of which could be remembered by anyone; and power supplies which favoured the wealthy and cut off anyone who couldn’t afford the tariffs or had access to the countless plug adapters which would proliferate as a result of the dismantling of the national power grid.

There’s a lot that needs improving with the U.K’s arts infrastructure: but systematically destroying it isn’t the solution. It’s like the roads, the railways and the National Grid: you’ll only notice it when it’s gone.

Arts Infrastructure? Give it a rest!

People ask me, what are The MightyCreatives then? And what’s an Arts Council Bridge Organisation when it’s at home? And what does being an arts infrastructure organisation actually mean? And why don’t you just give the money directly to the organisations that are actually delivering the arts? And cut out the middle men? I used to ask the same question myself a lot.

But now I get it – and it’s very simple. An arts infrastructure organisation builds infrastructure much like architects and civil engineers build roads, railways, water supplies and the national grid.

Without civil infrastructure, people would never have travelled, economies would have stalled, cities would never have grown and public health would have been an impossible day dream.

Civic infrastructure is not a particularly sexy subject and although there is some romance to roads, railways and wind turbines, we generally don’t enthuse about how wonderful infrastructure can be – until it goes missing.

Arts infrastructure has similar functions: it gives young people the chance to learn and progress; it provides opportunities for people to experience cultural richness on a scale that would have been impossible if the only resources they had access to was an out of tune upright piano in the parlour. Without artistic infrastructure, civic health and well being would be unimaginable.

We’d soon know the importance of arts infrastructure if it disappeared overnight. Auditoria would be empty; libraries a thing of the past and you’d only be able to remember 3 tunes on your upright piano which you’d play over and over again. You’d go mad, and you’d take everyone with you.

So, a lack of arts infrastructure means no audiences in theatres, library closure and artists consigned to talk to themselves for ever and a day, trapped in the basement of their own imaginations: but what type of arts infrastructure is it that we need?

The ‘just in time’ type exemplified in Wallace and Gromit’s train chase in The Wrong Trousers where Gromit has nano-seconds to lay down the track in front of him?

Or a 50 year plan which is built on the Big Data of today? But which might fall apart after the next election when experts are finally shown the door by No. 10 Downing Street and we’re left with the ‘I know what I like and I like what I know’ approach to building the nation’s cultural railways?

Whatever it turns out to be, we can be pretty sure that doing more of the same isn’t going to address the inequalities which are rife in the arts. Perhaps it’s not so much of needing Gromit to build our infrastructure, but the equivalent of a hyper loop travel system which can connect young people to artists to platforms and venues and audiences directly, immediately and without any of the paraphernalia that chasing a penguin with a colander on your head entails.

That’s what organisations like The Mighty Creatives do. We help fill your theatres, open doors to knowledge and experience and stop you driving yourself bonkers with inept renditions of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.

It’s not a sexy job but someone has to be the cultural architects, planners and engineers of the future. That’s a pretty romantic thing to aspire to.