Category Archives: napier

#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 09: Edinburgh festival shows, part three (18-24 August 2014)

EIF James PlaysOnwards to another list of shows and events, this time Week 3 of the Fringe, which is Week 2 of the Book Festival and the International. After a quick flourish of stand-up at the beginning of the week, followed up with a lovely work night out to a party, complimentary barbecue and 90 minutes of music, there was little Fringe action this week. The International Festival took centre stage, adding some theatre and discussion to the concerts of the previous week. Back to the Fringe for one final time though, in the sweat box of the Underbelly: definitely expressing an end of festival vibe through its pores and the looks on the faces of the battle weary staff. They’ve done well.

The James Plays have been held up as a triumph of this year’s International Festival and I really enjoyed seeing them. I appreciate that some have felt some of the characters to be stereotypes, the plots drawing out limited pictures of Scotland. Still, they contained some very strong performances, taught me a lot about 16th century Scotland and have a real pace to them when required. Maybe I was only in it for the entertainment value, or was too knocked back by seeing all three on the same day to process it all in enough depth. (That’s seven and a half hours of stage time, give or take.)

Special mention must be made to Cecil Baldwin, part of the cast of ‘Too Much Light’. Cecil is the narrator and mainstay of Welcome to Night Vale. I urge you to spend a little time immersing yourself in Night Vale and its small town idiosyncrasies.IMG_3408

The next edition of #10wos (10 weeks of summer) will be the last one. That might mean that it’s nearly the end of summer. Let’s hope winter doesn’t last for all 42 weeks until I can do this again.

#10wos 08: Edinburgh festival shows, part two (11-17 August 2014)

IMG_3383Another week, another list of Edinburgh shows to take the place of a proper review of the week. The first such lists came in the previous ’10 weeks of summer’ post, just here. Week two of the Fringe means the first full week of the International Festival (although from 2015 they will be realigned, with the EIF moving forward a week). I also went to Charlotte Square to see a Book Festival event – more on that below. So, this is what I went to see and do…

Fringe Week 2, and Week 1 of the International Festival and Book Festival

My attendance at the Book Festival event was part of a project we’re running at Edinburgh Napier. Because of our links to World War I through the Craiglockhart campus we have set up a blog where we can cover some of the events they are running to mark the centenary of the Great War. The blog is here: http://blogs.napier.ac.uk/world-war-one/, with my write of David Reynolds here.

I was also in a Fringe show! The first time in years. My friend Xela ran the ‘arts admin’ session at Fringe Central and asked me to be on the panel. There were four panel members and around a dozen in the audience, but I think we did a pretty good job of covering the subject in the time available. Xela heads up the Fringe University, among other things.

Of the other shows, Nick Helm was raucous and went on late into the night. Alex Horne has since been nominated for the Comedy Award. Phill Jupitus was very open, very honest and very engaging in his poetry hour, which was a Free Fringe event. It’s less easy to be enthusiastic about the EIF show ‘I AM’ I’m afraid, which was long, slow and not particularly uplifting – social media wasn’t kind to them, though The Guardian tried to make sense of what they were seeking to achieve.

Here’s Nick and flag wavers, trying to hold the UK together:

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‘The Great War’s Grand Legacy’ – David Reynolds, 13 August 2014 | World War I

During the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival I’m taking part in a project being run by the EIBF and the Festival and Event Management team at Craiglockhart. With the Festival’s help we’ve highlighted a dozen or so of their events that have a particular focus on World War I.

The first event that I attended took place a couple of days ago and you can read my blog post here:

‘The Great War’s Grand Legacy’ – David Reynolds, 13 August 2014 | World War I

Over time there will be others on the site, contributed by a mix of staff, students and graduates.

#10wos 03: Meta event (7-13 July 2014)

SNA detailFor the past few years I have been fortunate enough to attend some excellent academic conferences through the summer weeks. For 2014 I went one further and was on the organising committee for the 2014 LSA Conference, hosted by the University of the West of Scotland. My experience of conferences seems to have changed somewhat, for I didn’t leave this one with a raft of notes that I felt needed to be integrated into my modules. This time around it was more a case of hearing updates on a wide range of projects, research approaches and discussions. From David McGillivray’s (@dgmcgillivray) keynote on digital technologies and events, to Daniel Turner (@DanielTurner27) reflecting on Aberdeen’s experiences when bidding, unsuccessfully, for the 2017 UK City of Culture. Gayle McPherson (@gmp01) did a fantastic job as conference chair and it was great working with her and the rest of the team. Potential projects could follow, we’ll have to watch this space for more. Some slightly random notes from the conference follow in the bulletin points below.

Firstly though, I presented the fruits of some research the my Napier colleague Jane Ali-Knight and I have been doing with the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I’ve been talking about social network analysis for a number of years, but now have some actual data! Very exciting. The image that accompanies this post is from the resulting work: a close-up of what the SNA software (Gephi) has done to identify some communities within the overall population. I was happy with the way it went, though I probably spoke to quickly to try to cover everything I wanted to say. There were questions, interesting points raise and generally a successful proof of concept. The next step is to present the information to the Science Festival to see what they say.

Other conference contributors had this to say (with apologies if I’ve misrepresented or misinterpreted their work):

  • James Higham: 65,000 people went to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to watch Wales’s 2011 semi-final in the Rugby World Cup, even though the match was in New Zealand. The live audience was a capacity sell out, of just 60,000.
  • James Higham: challenges being faced by sports events today include the reproducibility and transportability of the event, so how can they stand out?
  • James Higham: sport has strengths in terms of authenticity – the competitors’ effort, uncertainty over the result, fans seeking unique experiences, co-creation opportunities, access to ‘back stage’ coverage.
  • James Higham: sports event administrators must make a choice between producing events which are footloose and transportable, or deeply rooted in local cultures.
  • Kath Woodward: on the topic of ‘time’ and the way events link past, present and future.
  • Kath Woodward: a sports event will look back to past records and competitions; to the present with the breaking of records and writing of new chapters; to the future with the qualification for tournaments and the accumulation of league points.
  • Kath Woodward: noted that she decided to write a text in real time during London 2012, which I did as well as it happens.
  • Debbie Sadd: reported on Bournemouth University’s FAME model for assessing events, linked to FestIM.
  • Debbie Sadd: they’ve been using social network analysis to pick out relational data in social media (Twitter) exchanges, based on Gephi and NodeXL software. Noted differences among events which manage to extend the social media conversation beyond the event itself.
  • David McGillivray: accelerated leisure in the digital age… seeing distinctions breaking down between work and leisure, with time and space no longer demarcated as once they were.
  • David McGillivray: there is a pressure on us to be connected, with digital communities increasingly focused on those we share physical proximity with as well.
  • David McGillivray: discusses the efforts of some event owners to try and protect their properties (and sponsors), alongside efforts of social media, Citizen Relay and Digital Commonwealth.
  • Daniel Turner: noting that Aberdeen doesn’t fit the bill of an industrial city now in decline, for it is wealthy; but it’s isolated with a transient population, many of whom go to London for their culture.
  • Daniel Turner: on Brighenti’s work on bidding for events (2005) – bids need to be (1) technically strong; (2) communication of the narrative is key, as is having a narrative; (3) lobbying is important to get support from stakeholders. Aberdeen suffered in these respects in its UKCOC bid, though there may be positive outcomes from defeat.
  • Dave O’Brien: ‘neoliberal’ is now a catch-all term, used by the left to describe and attack people they don’t like. As a concept it entails replacing political judgements with economic ones, manifested in monitoring, auditing and target setting.
  • Dave O’Brien: 2010… DCMS carried out a study into how it should operate, the result of which was a market based principle for justification of involvement in projects. Hard for both left and right to feel comfortable with this.
  • Dave O’Brien: so how else to value culture, other that woolly ‘it’s not economic’? 10 years of debate in UK has led to many documents and reports.
  • Dave O’Brien: ACE ‘Arts Debate’ (2006): pitched themselves as unique, with their research saying they were great! Heritage Lottery Fund: seeking to create evaluation framework… but how to measure intangible issues? Do any of these approaches produce the sort of data the Treasury wants?
  • Dave O’Brien: issues of both validity and reliability when measuring cultural value… the underlying questions are wrong and the tools available aren’t suitable.
  • Joe Aitken (GCMB; expert panel): cites ‘Strategic Major Events Forum’ as decision making forum for Glasgow. GCMB has policy of ‘people in, images out’ that underpins their work. Glasgow 2014 as part of a trend for the city, with past events over the years and much to come.
  • Paul Zealy (Glasgow 2014 ; expert panel): G2014 legacy is key and always has been. Economic legacy in contracts, apprenticeships, local training and future tourism. Regeneration also happening, though much is intangible. 10 year legacy research commitments have been made through ‘Assessing Legacy 2014‘.
  • Jill Miller (Glasgow Life; expert panel): decision was made to attract events in order to accelerate policy in a range of areas. Looks back to 1990 ECOC as helping to change attitudes. Glasgow has learnt lots from previous hosts and is passing this on to the next. Delhi handover as a dress rehearsal for working across all 32 local authorities. Anticipates £25m of value from £3.6m investment [not sure where this money is going, sorry].

Other points of note from the week included the conference dinner (taking place while Germany took Brazil apart in their World Cup semi-final) and the post-dinner ceilidh (which was very warm). Then conference drew to a close in time for me to get through to Edinburgh for a very enjoyable Creative Edinburgh ‘Glug: Haptic‘ event. All that’s left, as we progress towards Sunday evening, is to see if Germany can overcome Argentina in the World Cup final… quite a prospect for those travelling to Berlin the following day.

#10wos 02: All the colours (30 June to 6 July 2014)

David and Liedewei in Breda10 weeks of summer continued with a trip to Breda in the Netherlands, I think this was my fourth trip and I’ve blogged about some of the others before. As you can see from the image of Liedewei and me they were all out for the Dutch World Cup effort at the time. I’m writing this post on the day of the third place playoff, featuring the Netherlands and Brazil: for many people this is always their high point of the whole tournament. Really. I’m sure.

Also featured: they got me riding a bike through Breda. Very odd… an upright position, one gear, no brakes (you gently pedal backwards to slow down) and we were on the right (thus incorrect) side of the road skipping between bike lanes and city streets. Highly recommended.

As in 2013 I was given the chance to head out to Breda, via Schiphol, to help with the end-of-degree interviews that their International Leisure Management students go through to finish their four year programmes of study at NHTV. The students deliver a ten minute presentation, then sit through 30-40 minutes of questions before we the interview panel decide upon a grade and congratulate them on completing their studies. It’s a very rewarding experience. Some of the key things I took away from the 2014 experience were…

  • The interview brings together some really interesting elements and it’s hardly revolutionary in its content. Students are asked to reflect upon their thesis and their time at university, to deliver a vision of sorts for their industry (on a theme of their choosing), and to comment on how their studies have set them up for the future.
  • While it has elements of interview, that’s not really doing it justice. The presentations tended to use Prezi, with some incorporating video that they had made themselves. The questions and answers often became more of a conversation with different contributors putting forward their own perspectives on particular topics.
  • Those topics varied widely, from co-creation of experiences to uses of technology and the sharing economy. Perhaps unsurprisingly there was some idealism in the ambitions of the students, but what’s the point of a vision without ambition?
  • I was also keen to ask the students about their experiences of a ‘competency‘ based education process – where they develop a series of competencies during their time at Breda. This approach sees them cover areas such as internationalisation and imagineering at different stages of the degree. It is partly intended to help them show potential future employers that they have the skills and experience to fulfil the requirements of vacancies that they would like to fill. The students generally found that some points of the course were stronger than others in delivering on this, with the later years cited by some as particularly effective in competency development. As a way to thread the programme together I can see that it has great potential as an underpinning of the students’ experiences and I’m glad I’ve been exposed to it in recent years.
  • The last thing to pick up on is the international elements of the programme, by name and by nature. The students travel regularly, picking up credits and experience from a wide range of destinations, organisations and projects.

Breda really is a lovely place. If I was better organised perhaps I would have spent more time out there, but I’ll be back one way or another.

The trip to Breda left just enough time for Edinburgh Napier’s graduation ceremony. There are some reflections here to ponder, but suffice it to say that the university does a good graduation. From the glorious Usher Hall to the relaxed and well supplied reception back at Craiglockhart it’s a good day out. I recommend it.

Then on Sunday I learnt a new piece of software which helped my draw some pretty social network analysis graphs. But more of that in the next #10wos.

Colours: Breda: orange; graduation: black, red, white, greenish; social network analysis: lots!

#10wos 01: Ties, reflections and projections (23-29 June 2014)

Brass monkey10 weeks of summer is a new project to get more stuff onto this blog: it’s all very well calling it ‘Intermittent notes’ but there really should be some notes to go with the intermittency. It will also help me track the passing of time, as we make our way towards the inevitable heat death of the universe. So #10wos is a prompt, a tool, a thread and who knows what else by the time we reach the end of August?

I’ve titled this post ‘ties, reflections and projections’ because in the space of a week I was prompted to think about the past, present and future from a mix of perspectives. Four events that as the week passed looked furthest back and peered furthest forward.

Part one: I work at Craiglockhart War Hospital. It’s not known by that name any more, these days it’s the Craiglockhart campus of Edinburgh Napier University. It’s quite possible that the building wasn’t known as ‘Craiglockhart War Hospital’ during the years in question, but that’s what Wikipedia has decided to go with. Over three years, from 1916 to 1919, the Craiglockhart Hydropathic was a place of refuge and treatment for soldiers in the Great War suffering from ‘shell shock’; patients who these days would possibly be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and similar conditions. What has kept Craiglockhart’s war history alive and relevant is its connection to Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen other ‘war poets’ and their publication ‘The Hydra‘. On Monday of this week I helped plan a project the university is running with the Edinburgh International Book Festival: we will be running a blog through the summer to cover some of their World War I centenary related activities, with student and staff contributions. The campus and its archives offer something unique to the festival and its visitors, which we are very happy to share with their world – there’s a small museum on campus, always open to the public. Later in the summer I’ll report back on the process of compiling the blog, as well as thinking about the events that have been put together by the Book Festival. These include ‘The Poetry of War‘, which has been produced with contributions and sponsorship from Edinburgh Napier, on Sunday 24 August.

Part two: Thursday of this week was my grandmother’s funeral. While not quite encompassing a full century, she had plenty of tales and memories from the twentieth century’s other World War and a lot more besides. Though this isn’t the platform to say too much, spending three days in the Weald of Kent where gran lived, my mother grew up and other relatives of mine are based now was an opportunity to think back on all our lives. It’s a lovely area of picture postcard villages, cricket matches, farms and oast houses that even looks good from space courtesy of Google Maps. Family photos were pored over and a few mementos gathered up for safe keeping: I’ve used one to illustrate this post, smoothed from many years of careful brass polishing. Thinking of you always gran!

Part three: Back to Edinburgh for the weekend where the university celebrated its 50th anniversary as a higher education establishment with a day and a night of events, talks, demonstrations, have a go sessions and all manner of other goings on. It’s an interesting time to be in academia, at a Scottish institution. The country has a proud (long) history of education and Edinburgh Napier plays its part in the current provision, having established itself as a centre of expertise and excellence in a range of areas. Looking ahead to the future we await the outcome of 18 September and whatever it may bring, though it’s fairly safe to assume that the university will survive, that festivals and events will continue to take place and that there will be a place for those who wish to understand and deliver them better.

Part four: Universities exist to educate, among other things, so it is always a joy to see the successful completion of degree courses every summer. Sunday of this week took me to the 2014 Business School Graduation Ball, complete with waist coat and bow tie. I can confirm that the future is in good hands.