Category Archives: city

Critical Event Studies Symposium: a Friday in Manchester for #CritEvents

There’s a growing momentum around the idea of ‘critical event studies’, which has led to the publication of this edited book (including a chapter from me!). Themes include research methods, history, ideologies and encounters.

img_7199 img_7200My chapter is titled ‘The Strength of Festival Ties: Social Network Analysis and the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival’. It takes a broadly research methods focus, applying whole network analysis to the employees of the EISF on the eve of the 2014 festival. There are plans and hopes that this ‘critical’ agenda can lead to panels at conferences, further publications, and more symposia and gatherings.

 

Last Friday (9 September, 2016) saw the first Critical Event Studies Symposium, held at Mad Lab, Manchester. What follows are my bullet point notes from the day. Further material from the day is being posted to the main site, and the Twitter hashtag is #CritEvents. The format of the day encouraged discussion and conversation, critique and questioning. And some excellent note taking!

 

Making Events Critical 09-09-2016

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Critical Event Studies Symposium

Friday 9 September, Mad Lab, Manchester

Opening panel

Maurice Roche: background in mega events, particularly sporting and world’s fairs.

    • Outlines growth in events work, including HE.
    • Critical Event Studies: a response to burgeoning interest in events, and their meaning. Going beyond practise, operation and economic dimensions of events.
    • Events need to be understood in terms of conflict and contest: should be aware of this when we look at events, going beyond mainstream interpretations.
    • Contexts are vital: political and cultural, in addition to economic.
    • So what’s new? Roche sees this as a re-animation and re-discovery of existing themes. (See Roche: ‘Mega-Events & Modernity’.) Example of 1936 Nazi Olympics: what was happening in Germany, what was the IOC doing at the time? But a need to justify and explain this to other academic fields.
    • Roche in Sheffield: strange time in the city as economy crashes (steel, coal), while also planning for 1991 World Student Games. What was driving it, what was the legacy? Result being 25 years of debt, thus opportunity costs as a negative legacy. Therefore… conflict and contest.
    • Recognition of the complexity of events; the rise of the global east; contexts are changing; changing contexts influences changes in events; what of ‘the future’ and where are we going; Roche predicts a strong future for events, coming out of the recent growth.
    • Threats to events: see issues relating to FIFA, IAAF, IOC and other global institutions. Existential threat?

 

Beatriz Garcia:

    • Notes value and good timing for this focus on ‘critical events’.
    • This is the right time, following 30 years of theorising around events. Time to bring this together with the managerial angle, to build bridges and look at common terms, and themes can be looked at afresh.
    • Anthropological angle: myth and ritual and their place in events. Contemporary myth making. City branding on one level, but also how we see ourselves and how are we presenting this to ourselves and to the world. How do you tell the story? How do we judge whether an event is a success or a failure?
    • Notes Brazil: a sense of pride around opening ceremony, perhaps unexpectedly, a sense that the Olympics weren’t going to be a failure after all.
    • Events and festivals: differences between them. Events as to be experienced, mediated, global, building a new reality for the Olympics since the 1980s. The Olympics sells access, sells exclusivity, sells sponsorship opportunities… but this brings pressure from the needs of the media, so that the real experience is the televised one, rather than the live experience. Limited resources need to be spent where the greatest pay off can be found. Festivals are more about the lived experience, hopefully paying attention to the needs of the local audience. How to recover the festival from within the event city?
    • Garcia: personally inspired by 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where the city was overtly integrated into the narrative, ‘the city as a protagonist’. However, always a struggle to get the city into the picture. Saw 9/11 as a spur to retreat back into arenas, where they can be controlled. Since then security is a key priority.
    • ECOC: different from sporting mega events on the basis of scale, length, motivations, focus. See cultural events as being a harder context in which to justify position. Are they really a mega event? Do they get the media coverage that help to define sporting mega events? Is it possible to link the ‘business’ angle of cultural events (which is vital) with broader objectives relating to society and culture?
    • Notes that Olympics are broadening their scope, to take on board cultural elements. See ‘national houses’ dimension, presenting a mini World Expo.
    • New: the way we deal with the public realm, in that cities can’t really be shut off, so how to deal with protest and debate? Particularly in the context of social media. How to create a festival around a mega event in this context?
    • New: a discussion around how to tell the story. Does the 1980s vision of exclusive media access, the experts on screen, etc. still hold true? Where is the multiplicity of voices that is expected today? What place experts today? Stories are being told simultaneously through multiple media, that no one can control.
    • Challenge: making use of the expertise available. The ‘caravan of experts’ that exists around each mega event, who will provide a festival model for you (at a cost): importing ideas into your city, because they worked elsewhere. How is this providing an answer for the needs of your city? They can’t, without creating ‘non-places’, where anything that doesn’t fit the model gets covered up and ignored. How to make the most of knowledge transfer, while responding to what’s difficult and challenging and specific to each destination?
    • Agrees that we need to value place making, and how do you combine the necessity to learn and provide legacy, with the need for wonderment, and for each host to question the situation it finds itself in.

 

James McVeigh: Festivals Edinburgh

    • Edinburgh Festivals context: 1947 to 2017. Festivals rooted in the destination, with both historical and contemporary links to the festivals. Lends ‘authenticity’ to the festivals.
    • Impact assessment report (2016).
    • 2007 ‘Publicly-funded culture and the creative industries’ text started debate over the role of the public funding and later commercial successes.
    • Fault line between ‘important work’ and ‘popular work’. Led to ‘Desire Lines’, to pick out the influence between the festivals and the year round cultural provision.
    • Resident versus tourist: who are the festivals for?
    • Social impacts: who are the festivals for? Scope: festivals are more than fireworks… they last longer that just the moment of experience. Where is the voice of the resident? How to find the voice of different communities? How to bring audiences and communities into the conversation?
    • Festivals in the broader cultural economy: how to establish the link between festivals and broader cultural work, when this is poorly understood? Note that Edinburgh festivals are seen as a place to see new work, and recognised as such by the artists themselves.
    • Festivals’ role in audience development: why do people do things differently at festival time? See new work, engage differently.
    • Festivals Innovation Lab: how can festivals adapt and change, act as a laboratory of new thinking. Festivals should be at the vanguard of cultural thinking.
    • Societal importance of festivals: from Holi to Tomatina, Day of the Dead, etc. Festivals interrupt the day to day. They introduce work into new spaces. They can help you reimagine your city.
    • 1947: context of post-war austerity and European conflict, yet Edinburgh held a party, for the ‘flowering of the human spirit’.

 

Ellie Turner: Walk the Plank

    • Critical events: community participation and relevance. Giving people and communities a sense of place, and pride. Working at all scales, on land, sea and air. Telling a story through their work, their artists, makers, musicians, etc. Bringing international artists together with local artists, to build the capacity of NW to deliver such projects. ‘Impact’ is delivered from the start.
    • Key to connect with the community that you’re working with.

 

Q&A:

    • Have we been held back by a focus on mega events?
      • The biddable nature of sporting events means that they get a lot of attention, have to be able to justify themselves and get support. How do we define mega events: does it include ECOC? In Edinburgh festivals are seen as a concentration of space, time and activity… so a year long festival doesn’t make sense, it’s a branding exercise.
      • The distinction between attracting events and supporting those you already have and are created yourself. Where should funding come from: different pots of money for these different types of events?
      • Distinction between local and global: how to reflect both. How to retain knowledge, experience and expertise within the destination.
      • James notes timing of festivals’ founding, often in a time of change and/or crisis: post-WWII, 1968, post-Berlin Wall.
  • Where’s the critical? Are we being constrained by orthodoxies and how do we overcome them? How do we think radically?
    • BG: bring new people to the table.
    • JMcV: Edinburgh’s engagement with tech sector, viewing the festivals as a laboratory.
    • Should events and festivals have a limited life time? That they exist to fulfil a particular need, but that they should be allowed to die once that need has passed.
    • KW: notes opposition to Paralympics and whether this ‘circus’ is meeting the needs of its various communities.
  • Institute of Event Management and professional recognition:
    • How will outputs be disseminated from today? LP highlights today as a starting point, but that outputs will be disseminated centrally and by different participants.
  • What of local/global and other dichotomies:
    • Looking to roots of festivals: to what extent are there common factors in different places?
    • What happens when you take an event from one context to another, with a different cultural context?
    • How to address the complexities of societies and cultures and destinations: disconnected communities, etc.?
    • How to reflect the diversity of a community or destination? How to avoid the standard white, middle class audience? The diversity of a city can be its strength, but is this reflected in the producers, consumers, participants and audiences of a festival?
    • How ‘local’ are local festivals, which are produced by external organisations? E.g. Walk the Plank getting a contract to deliver events in your city.
  • Distinctions between festivals and events and processions:
    • JMcV: points to FE criteria for being a member, which includes lasting for at least three days.
    • Cultural context important, because what works for one location might not be applicable elsewhere.
    • Different conceptualisations of ‘public space’, and how some places seem to ‘discover’ phenomena that are common elsewhere.

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Open space

Questioning the role of ‘experts’

  • What is an expert?
  • Where is the expertise: local authorities?
  • What are graduates coming out of university equipped to do?
  • It sounds as though we need experts within the events industry, to avoid problems and potential catastrophes.
  • Research as an element of developing expertise.
  • How can Event Management courses be developed to meet the needs of industry: bringing the academic and/or the practical knowledge? How to address the variety of types of events, facets of the industry and so on?
  • Industry experience: situations where industry has to rescue event plans that go off track.
  • Experts having a clearer idea of realistic scale and scope for festivals and events, based on available budgets.
  • What of having experts from one city delivering events elsewhere: a means to the end of sustainability for the company? How to avoid the risk of damaging the original brand?
  • Expertise: tied to credibility? Each source being judged on its authority and justification. So, in the events context who carries that authority and validation?
  • Does the expert have to have the qualifications? What place experience? Perhaps the expert is the one to say ‘stop’.
  • Development of the events management education: skewed towards the operational, instrumental and evangelical? What have we done to this generation of graduates? Highlight the value of work placements and experience to build on the academic.
  • Different models of placements and internships within degree courses: concentrated, spread out, etc. A need to develop work based learning that suits the student and the employer – trying to avoid negative experiences that will put partners off in the future.

 

Is event management superficial and self-congratulatory?

  • Following on from Rojek’s critique of events (‘Event Power’).
  • DMcG: following up on this by identifying the critical work that has been done around events.
  • How does critical event studies avoid superficiality?
  • A sense that event practitioners are also blinkered in their approach to the industry… and yet look at Walk to Plank’s recognition that they are contributing to sense of place and pride.
  • How to take a critical approach, that draws on a range of ideas (authenticity, commercialisation, etc.), to deliver events that reflect those ideas. Easy to overlook these things in the need to be successful and sustainable.
  • Funding regimes: a need to satisfy funding requirements in order to get support.
  • How to educate students so that they can deliver events that are successful, can get funding, and can draw from the need to meet a range of objectives.
  • Rojek’s argument carries weight (though there are criticisms of how he delivers his argument).
  • Events education: moving away from hospitality and tourism. And yet… how does what we do match up with what employers are looking for. (Some might prefer the previous model!)
  • Legal matters: how to integrate legal content into an events management course? A dedicated module that covers ‘what you need to know’? Events students need to be aware of the broader legal context in which you operate, which includes some of the reasons why people might be protesting against your event.
  • Events struggling to have an epistemology and philosophy that defines it as being different. Without it, there will be questions over credibility, coming from other academic areas.
  • How are these courses then judged: on their level of academic criticality? NSS ‘intellectual challenge’?
  • The foundations of a programme might be crucial in its development: growing out of hospitality and tourism, or appearing independently of them?
  • Events literature: how to reflect and support the more critical work? See how Tourism has diversified, yet Events is still primarily publishing management/operational work in such journals? Critical work is being done, but it’s often published in non-events journals.
  • A possible parting of the waves? Management courses, and studies courses?
  • Do we see many students taking events courses purely for the academic side? Not really… the better academic students may well be generally switched on in all areas, or others are less keen to get involved in the volunteering side of things.

 

Events and festivals as liminal, radical spaces

  • Not quite every day life, but there are still rules.
  • Phases of ritual: liminal is central, the phase where someone goes from one state to another and is open to new ideas. A transformative phase.
  • What happens when the person goes back into the normal world?
  • A space of potential: other things are possible.
  • Venice Carnival: the wearing of masks to deliver equality, or at least anonymity.
  • Festivals that turn things on their heads: performances in different spaces; juxtaposing audiences and performers; altering the geography and flow of a place.
  • Transformative: do we see people being changed?
  • Ritual, carnival and liminality: Bakhtin, etc. …the potential for people to come back from a festival experience a different person. Does this work only at the individual level, but not for broader social change? Yet the individuals are what makes up society, and they have agency.
  • Thresholds: what does it take for an individual to let themselves go?
  • Examples: Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh; LIFT in London. Starting projects in order to produce and provide spaces in which new ideas can be discussed, phenomena created.
  • Does liminality apply in a sports context? Crossing a touchline into a space where different rules apply? Yet liminality suggests there are no rules.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in practice: a morning’s reflection with students from HKU SPACE. #edfringe

Centre Of The ActionTomorrow morning, 20 August, I’ll be with twenty students from Hong Kong University SPACE for three hours. They have been in Edinburgh and Scotland over the past couple of weeks, and our task tomorrow is to discuss their experiences, particularly in relation to the Festival Fringe. Rather that producing a few dozen slides to keep us ‘entertained’, I’ll be armed with marker pens, boundless enthusiasm and some useful links. Where better to host those links than on this here blog, which I’m also going to put up on the screen during the session… hello HKU!

All suggestions gratefully received! The focus will be on practical and operational considerations, with some historical context to help show how and why things developed the way they have. We’ll go through a year in the life of the Fringe and some of its key stakeholders.

There’ll also be time for some group discussion, around questions like…

  1. Which have been your favourite festival shows and venues? What did you like about them and what made them special?
  2. Which shows had the best marketing and why did they stand out to you?
  3. What makes Edinburgh a ‘festival city’?
  4. What will you take back to Hong Kong: what have you seen happening in Edinburgh that could be done in Hong Kong? What would be the challenges in making it work?

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Photo credit (CC): ‘Centre Of The Action’ / flickr.com/photos/dfluff/3889328855/

2014: how was it for me?

davidjarman.infoLet’s not use the word ‘resolution’ for my plans for 2014, but a review of what I hoped to achieve returns a mixed scorecard. It won’t take long to run through a bullet point or two…

 

 

 

  • Blogging:
    • My WordPress review of 2014 tells me I posted 25 times to this blog. Once a fortnight doesn’t sound too much, but of course the distribution wasn’t even. There were months with nothing, then a spurt in the middle of the year. I’m glad I put together the ‘10 weeks of summer‘ series, which got me writing again just at a time when there was plenty to say. The intention was to get in to the habit of posting more frequently, on a wider range of topics and perhaps through shorter posts. It’s not really happened that way, but the blog lives on and hope springs eternal.
    • Twitter has been good fun, as usual. 1,390 followers… who they all are I’ve little idea! As the years go by I make more connections with students past and present, which helps keep me in check with the words and pictures I post there!
    • Edinburgh Napier / Edinburgh International Book Festival: I helped lead a project through work where we covered a wide range of Book Festival events, all linked to World War I. The blog is here, with stuff from me, Napier colleagues and students.
    • Podcasts: on the subject of Edinburgh Napier, I’ve posted many podcasts for my students using Audioboo, which renamed itself Audioboom at some point. What’s more I now have a microphone and have started to investigate and use Garageband to record them. The files go up, I embed them in my online teaching spaces and that’s that.
    • Blipfoto: I had a plan to post a photo a day between 17:07 and 20:14. The inspiration for this? They be the dates between the Acts of Union between Scotland and England, and the independence referendum. I couldn’t keep it going, so the Blipfoto project fell by the wayside. It was good while on trips though, so I filled in some days while in New Zealand. Maybe that’s the best way to use that platform, as the basis of smaller projects, with the images then embedded on the blog.
  • Trips and travel:
    • Two trips to Hong Kong, with work. This was teaching based, with the second one unlike anything I’ll ever see again because of the protest camps. I’ve written some of that up here.
    • The first Hong Kong trip fell just before the Easter teaching break, so it seemed reasonable to take the next fortnight off to see friends in New Zealand. It all went very well indeed.
    • Berlin, Riga and the Positivus Festival in northern Latvia: this was a great trip, I loved all these places and would happily do the whole thing over again in 2015.
    • The Netherlands is becoming an annual excursion, where I head to NHTV Breda University and carry out some external examining. It’s a lovely town, they’re all lovely people and it would be a happy privilege to carry on with this in 2015.
    • Walking: there are two plans on the go, both of which could easily have been completed in 2014, but weren’t even attempted. A ‘missing’ day’s walk on the West Highland Way needs to be filled in, then I’ve ambitions to walk from Leith to Milngavie. These things can be rolled forward.
    • Airbnb: I used Airbnb in three capital cities – Wellington, Berlin and Riga. They were all good experiences, so will be doing this again. I haven’t yet organised to have anyone to stay at mine, but it seems silly not to give it a go before 2015 is over and done with.
  • Other:
    • Arthur’s Seat: I had a plan (again) to climb it once a month, every month. I achieved three out of 12 it seems. JFxxMxxxxxxx
    • Running: I wanted to get 52 half hour runs under my belt through the year, but managed ten it seems. That’s terrible.
    • Novels: I wanted to read two novels, but managed only about 100 pages of one of them. (Nick Cave’s ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’.) Again, a terrible performance.
    • Hamonica: having been gifted a blues harp for my 35th birthday (2013) I figured I should learn a new trick or two on it. Not really managed that either.
    • The RSA: I’m still an FRSA, still sitting on the RSA Scotland Team, still enjoying it.

So what went wrong? Did I waste my time? Probably, but hopefully it’ll be a while before I run out of the stuff and I can go again in 2015.

  • Blogging: more blog posts, more ‘journalling’ using Day One and more experimentation with other media that can be integrated with these platforms and Twitter.
  • Trips: more of this please! More Europe. Airbnb again, plus a bit of hosting to fund it.
  • Walking: I’ll get that bit done up north and I’ll make it along the canal to Glasgow.
  • Arthur’s Seat: yes, let’s achieve it this time.
  • Running: I’ll aim for 26 runs, trying out some fitness apps on the phone (maybe).
  • Novels: fine, I’ll try for the same target.
  • Harmonica: maybe I should plan to play a gig on 31 December 2015…

Writing to the future: #DearestScotland…

dearestscotland_logo_trans1It’s taken me a while, but I’ve just posted my letter to Dearest Scotland. You’ll find them here online at www.dearestscotland.com.

Dearest Scotland is a postbox to the future of a country. In their own words: ‘Regardless of which way the referendum result went, we’ve been encouraging visions that focus down the line. What might Scotland look like in the future? What do we actually think about our nation? What might our landscape, education system and high streets look like in five, ten, twenty years’ time.’ Having known about the project for a while through a personal connection I knew I would eventually put something down, though it’s take a while for the moment to feel right. Please read on if you’d like to know what I had to say, but if you’ve not got time for that you can go straight to their submission page to write something yourself!

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Dearest Scotland,

This letter is coming to you from the past, from December 2014, which might be many months or years before you read this. I’m writing it in my present though, reflecting on events that are ongoing and uncertain.

When I look out of the window I see that I’m flying at 36,000 feet. The place I departed several hours ago is Hong Kong, where the final few acts of an astonishing period of civil disobedience are playing themselves out. Civil in the civic sense, but also in the mostly calm manner in which they have been taking place in recent days. A movement of citizens, particularly students and academics, had established a sprawling, thriving camp that dominated an eight lane highway in the commercial heart of the city for over two months. When walking through the camp what you saw were the tents of protesters, a media platform from which to reach a much bigger audience, small print works, a study area powered by exercise bikes, a garden, micro kitchens, communal supplies and thousands of posters and signs. Signs demanding recognition and representation, rights and responsibilities, in the face of anxiety and uncertainty about the future. These were people who understood the democratic deficit of their situation and weren’t going to wait for someone else to do something about it on their behalf. By the time I left Hong Kong the main camp had gone, dismantled by bailiffs under a court order that riot police were helping to enforce. The protesters had, for the most part, obeyed the court and packed up; none resisted in a violent manner. The short term mission to force more open, more localised and more representative elements into the city’s governance had failed, yet the protesters remained defiant, undeterred and ultimately optimistic for the future.

Scotland, please allow me to ponder the parallels with your own recent history. It will be a stretch, but I hope you’ll indulge me. For those two months of street occupation, read your two years of debate ahead of September 2014’s independence referendum; for overbearing influence from Beijing think of a Westminster-Holyrood devolved relationship, that some have always seen as unsettled and in need of overhauling. Both campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful, yet the initial spark for greater representation spawned wider debates, about the kinds of societies that citizens wanted to live in. How should a distant centre of power relate to those on its periphery? What do the two campaigns foretell, of an inevitable move towards greater local autonomy, or the uneasy truce of a temporary status quo? What will be the impact of greater engagement and active involvement by a new, young generation who have felt politics reach out to them and taken it by the hand?

I remember walking to work on 19 September, the morning after the referendum. It seemed no one wanted to make eye contact, there was a distant expression in people’s eyes. To put it in words it was a look of… oh dear, what have we done?! A sense of having missed a unique opportunity? A vacuum of thought and discussion, for what else were we going to talk and tweet about now? Shock at the way the Prime Minister, on the tarmac of Downing Street, had already linked further Scottish devolution to constitutional reform across the United Kingdom? Maybe we were all just tired.

The parameters of Scotland’s national discussion had been replaced by a new context: oil, currency, the EU and other priorities had swiftly been replaced by tax, spend, voting rights and party politics in the House of Commons. It was a rude awakening and had the air of trap about it, seeking to catch Scotland out when its guard was down.

Only time will tell where we go from here, how many of these themes come to dominate the debate from time to time in the years ahead. There is cause for optimism though Scotland, for you have proved yourself again and again: able to engage in informed discourse, to involve the whole country in a national conversation, and to wake up the next day apparently without a damaging hangover or destructive resentment. There have been three referendum votes in recent memory: 1979, 1997 and 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have less time to wait until the next one, for this topic is alive and kicking. After all, we’re only pausing to draw breath before the next UK general election in a few short months.

Keep the spirit of debate alive, Scotland. Build upon it when you gather with your friends and families at Christmas, at the weekends, at birthdays, cafes, pubs and libraries, online and on each other’s doorsteps. Demands for greater representation may have looked different in Hong Kong compared with Hawick or Helensburgh (the ‘official opposition’ to change certainly did) but there was an energy to both these campaigns in 2014. An energy and an optimism, for whatever the future may hold citizens have found their voices and they won’t forget the impact they had.

To the future Scotland, to the future me, let’s see where we choose to go next.

David Jarman.

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The Dearest Scotland image above has been plucked from their site. I hope this will be permitted.

#UmbrellaMovement: December 2014 in Hong Kong

This Storify captures my tweets from a week spent in Hong Kong.

 

#10wos 10: Journey’s end and Edinburgh festival shows, part four (25-31 August 2014)

Usher Hall10 weeks of summer would appear to be drawing to a close. If I were in Edinburgh just now I’d be looking ahead to the end of festival fireworks, which from a distance of a few hundred miles and a disputed border I shall have to enjoy vicariously. All the posts from 10 weeks of summer are linked through this #10wos tag. Before a few reflections here’s what happened in Week 3 of the International Festival, which took in the final hours of the Fringe and the Book Festival.

So there they are, just two events. The photo on this post is carefully chosen though, showing the end of the concert from my organ gallery vantage point. The end of the event, the closed music books, the covers back on the timpani and the audience filing out. They were superb: tremendous musicians who played so well together. (Even I could tell this, though others confirmed it to me.)

Totalling up my 2014 festival events then… four gala launches for @LoveEdinburgh; four regular festival events in Fringe Week 0 and nine the week after in the same blog post; ten after that; eleven more; then the two above. That’s 40. Add in the exhibitions I’m very glad I saw at Summerhall and the Edinburgh College of Art and you reach 42. Which is the ultimate answer to the question of whether this has been a good festival year for me. This could be a record.

This is of no consequence to anyone or anything but me. I really shouldn’t be counting, let alone putting the numbers in bold like that. Really, what have I become? A target hunting cultural magpie, taking little in and giving little in return beyond mere statistics? Then to put this online through a self-indulgent blog post? No wonder my readership stats are so small.

Same again next year, then?

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Way back when, the #10wos project was a way to get me back into blogging. A structure within which to record a few thoughts and avoid memories slipping away forever. Since Week 01 started (on 23 June) I’ve been to Edinburgh, England, the Netherlands, Paisley, Berlin, Riga, Positivus in northern Latvia, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow; I’ve had a Twitter audience of 10,000 followers through @LoveEdinburgh, been in the audience for dozens of Edinburgh festival shows and events; swung through the trees at Go Ape; presented my thoughts through a festival panel and a conference presentation; congratulated scores of students on their graduation and, right about now, started preparing for the next intake. The next ten weeks may not be quite so eventful, which could be a good thing as there’s work to be done. Speaking of which, I’ve also been contributing to Edinburgh Napier’s blog on World War I events at the Book Festival.

I am very lucky and very happy to have shared many of these experiences with Amy. They have been all the more important and memorable because of her.

The sun is still shining on this Sunday afternoon in England. Many miles away a few tons of explosives are being lined up and checked before they punctuate the Edinburgh night sky and bring the 2014 summer festival season to a close. Tomorrow the city will wake up and smell the cordite in the air, hopefully smiling at the memory. Then the working week will begin… except it will be September by then. September 2014 in Scotland has a special ring to it. The count down to the #indyref Independence Referendum will no longer be counted in years or months, we’ll be talking in days. Me and my vote? I’m still swithering, because although I know what the sensible, correct, right and proper answer is, the occasional shot of adrenaline makes me wonder ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘what are we waiting for?’. Well, Scotland?

#10wos 05: Parks, podcasts, protests, politics, privations and podiums (21-27 July 2014)

Parks: I found myself using parks to orient myself in Riga, for it is a city that has some charming green spaces. Some with lakes, others with temporary stages and free wifi. Flowers in some, playgrounds in others. They skirt the old town and provide both oxygen and places of reflection and shade. Once inside the winding streets of the old city it’s easy enough to lose your bearings, but if you enter from the right place you at least have a chance of getting where you want to be.

Podcasts: Those parks also provided suitable locations in which to catch up on some podcast listening. I’m a fan of podcasts and have some favourites that help me regulate my sense of time: marking the days as they pass by into weeks. Plenty of them are BBC based (Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show; Aleks Krotoski’s Digital Human) or from The Guardian. Recent American entries include The TED Radio Hour and This American Life. Standing supreme and inspiring the most loyal of followings however is Welcome to Night Vale. I urge you to seek them all out.

Protests: After three nights in Riga I went back to Berlin for a single overnight stay, en route to Edinburgh. This time I pushed further east, making my way to the heart of Kreuzberg with its cafés, bars, alternative perspectives on life and a distinct lack of the sort of glass and steel to be found elsewhere in the city. There was also a protest going on: pro-Palestine and anti-Israeli aggression. Where else but a capital city to carry out such protests, where else to find like minded protestors but in such vibrant neighbourhoods? There is of course a particular Berlin historical context here, given the religious nature of the current conflict in the Middle East.

Politics: That historical context was apparent in my final Cultural (capital C) experience of the trip. I took myself to the Bauhaus Archiv in central Berlin, near various embassies. I hadn’t realised that the Bauhaus school had only existed for around 13 years, between the end of World War I and the installation of the Nazi government in Berlin. Compared to the Victorian and Edwardian era people, politics and cultures that took Europe into that conflict, the movement must have been a breath of fresh air to all its adherents. The designs are still fresh, the concepts still have the power to inspire and surprise. The Archiv is relatively simple: a relatively large space hosting a permanent exhibition of architecture, furniture design, photography, colour and shape; next to a smaller space for temporary displays, in this case work by and inspired by Kandinsky. I loved it, from the work itself to the sense of purpose, collective vision, pedagogical alignment and personal passion of the staff and students involved. The staff at the Archiv were also fully engaged: from the highly engaged reception and shop staff, to the highly efficient and watchful stewards.

Privations: My time was up and so I headed to Tegel Airport, in a Berlin suburb. It’s not much of an airport, considering the importance of the city it serves. That said, Heathrow was unable to cope adequately with a passing thunder storm and so everything was delayed and shunted around before, during and after my stay there. Everything is run on such a tight schedule that a delay somewhere in the system knocks everything out. My fate was to wait… yet somehow, after an hour or so getting rebooked onto a different flight, I found myself in the BA Lounge. After getting my bearings I checked that I could indeed indulge myself in as much free food, drink, wifi, food and drink as I fancied. More of that next time would be most welcome.

Podiums: Back in Scotland the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games were in full swing. There’s been such a build up to these Games and Glasgow appears to have grasped the opportunity with two hands. I made my way to Hampden on Sunday for an afternoon of Athletics: very entertaining, once I had made my way through the queue. Lots of running, some jumping and some throwing. Plus national anthems of the winners – everything you could wish for. Heading into Glasgow afterwards I took in some of the live sites, street markets and other goings on. I’m sure the memories of summer days and nights out on the streets live long in the people of the city.