Found Materials Network and NALD invite you to


Creating projects, making links, doing differently

11 Feb, 1.00-6.00pm

Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA

Join NALD, Found Materials Network and friends for an afternoon exploring ways to create and nurture innovative literature projects in a new political and financial landscape. Have you got an idea you need help with or suggestions of how to get it off the ground? Are you looking for new connections, a sounding-board, encouragement and inspiration?

You can come along as an audience member or put forward a proposal to be discussed with our panel of professionals covering the areas of literature development, business support, marketing and social media, producing and project management, and continuing professional development CPD. We will consider 6 proposals and then open the floor for wider conversation.

This opportunity is offered as a free event to arts professionals and is supported by NALD, and by Found Materials Network through the Cultural Leadership Programme (Meeting the Challenge)

Submitting your proposal

Proposals are invited before the event.

Please email one-side of A4 outlining

  • your idea
  • what you most wish to develop, achieve or learn from your idea; perceived stumbling blocks and opportunities
  • some of the issues you would like the panel to address
  • to wefoundmaterials@googlemail.com by 12pm Friday 28 January. We will respond to the proposals that have been selected by 5pm Monday 31 January.

PLEASE NOTE: we are reserving places on our guest list for those who submit proposals so that they will be able to attend the event (as we request proposals via email and not the event brite booking process)

Attending as an audience member

Bookings can be made via http://foundmaterialsnetwork.eventbrite.com.   Places are limited and are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

About Found Materials Network

Found Materials Network comprises a consultancy (Urban Words), an architectural practice (ADOP), a literature production company (Tilt) and a creative writing centre (Ministry of Stories) and was formed in 2009 to foster and disseminate our leadership priorities, through funding by the Cultural Leadership Programme.  We seek to develop high quality environments through participation, curation, innovation and creative approaches.

About NALD

NALD connects people working in literature through offering networks, intelligence and information, mentoring and professional development, advice and advocacy. We define ‘literature development’ as the area of work or activity that develops reading, writing and literature audiences. We are the professional body for all involved in developing writers, readers and literature audiences http://www.nald.org

The audio for the conversation: Online:Offline:Online, from 3rd November 2010 is now available online.


I’ve just got home from the Online:Offline:Online conversation at the South Bank Centre, with a head full of questions. I was really pleased to have such an eclectic mix of people in the room, and took some really interesting thoughts out of the main debate – particularly ideas about digital littering, about how we preserve and curate memories and representations for future generations (and our future selves), the potential freedom of online space in countries/regimes where people do not have the luxury to meet and debate physically, questions about whether we should refigure the metaphor of space in relation to digital stuff and think instead about a range of tools we use to inhabit the world we live in, and much more. A big thank you to everyone who came along and participated.

One of the most interesting things, perhaps, was that there ended up being two conversations, one in physical space (the SBC) and one online on twitter (#wefoundmaterials). Unfortunately we didn’t manage to find a way for those two conversations to interact with and inform each other. We deliberately didn’t project live tweets as I for one have been to events where I’ve found this extremely distracting, but it’s interesting that one agreement we seemed to reach was that it’s where on and offline meet that the interesting stuff happens, but that didn’t happen in the event itself. I find it intriguing that different things were said on and offline – was it a matter of time and etiquette, or does digital space (which we can broadcast into without having to wait for others to make a point or finish a line of questioning) allow us the freedom to say things we aren’t comfortable saying in a room of people?

This opens up questions, relevant I think to Found Materials as a group of people interested in conversation and debate, about how you create spaces for meaningful conversation. We were particularly keen to get a wide range of people in the room with different experiences and ideas – which obviously means people are coming from different angles, with different vocabularies and different levels of experience. How can we find ways to connect across disciplines and experiences to push, challenge and develop our own thinking?

And then finally there was an element of debate about whether we were having an ‘old’ debate (and whether that mattered), and then indeed, what it was that was worth having a conversation about at all. What are the ideas, the nubs of contention in this realm of place/narrative/digital/physical that are worth exploring?

I’m really interested to hear peoples’ responses to the event – and to these themes (above): the content and strands of conversation – what’s worth talking about? And to the question of how we create spaces for meaningful exchange and debate.

“The stories that we tell matter because they indicate how we see the world, and whether we believe we have the power and capacity to shape it for the better. Stories are one of the main ways that we make sense of the world, and understand and interpret our lives and experiences.
(The Dreaming City: Glasgow 2020 and the Power of Mass Imagination, Demos)

“The contemporary convergence of mobile phone, camera, wireless Internet and satellite communication — the key ingredients of the digital handheld — accelerates the reconstitution of place from real, occupied space to a collage of here and there, past and present. But digital technology’s effects do not only blast us out of place; they also bore us into the sights right in front of us — those in our viewfinder. Our sense of place is augmented by information wired from the World Wide Web.” (Mitchell Schwarzer, A Sense of Place, A World of Augmented Reality)

image: Bruce Berrien

Where is the horizon when you’re online? What is the relationship between the physical world we inhabit and the online world we ‘surf’? Are we different people in each space, and if so, what happens if these two worlds aren’t as separate as we might have imagined?

Found Materials, a network of four professionals interested in how arts and creativity impact on places and ideas, wants to explore this relationship between the online and the offline through the prism of place and poetry/narrative. A recorded round-table debate will take place as part of the South Bank Centre’s International Poetry Festival on 3rd November, with an invited audience, and the opportunity for anyone to pose questions beforehand or live through Twitter.

We want to provoke a conversation about how story | poetry | literature | language impacts upon our relationship with place. How might a story make sense of a place? How might poetry change a place? Where does language sit, and what role does it play, in the world of architecture, construction, and landscape? And then, in this ‘digital age’, how might we redefine, or complicate, our idea of place to include the digital, not as a separate place, but as an additional dimension that has a direct impact on our physical world?

Global Poetry System, initiated by poet Lemn Sissay and the South Bank Centre, is just one example of an online map-based poetry project that looks to articulate the connection between place and language. A global map of found and place-specific poetry, it spans the physical and the digital world, enabling connections, journeys, and explorations. This is a participatory digital project initiated by a physical venue. What is the relationship between the two? What is the value of one to the other and vice versa?

The digital world is a ‘text heavy’ place, constructed through language and image. It faces similar issues and possibilities to physical public space: safety, community, participation, communication. Increasingly our understanding of place is influenced by our online investigations and communications. Map and post-code based online projects give us stories and information about physical places. Augmented Reality enables us to occupy multiple places at the same time – past, present, future, digital, physical. Multi-platform story-telling is a rapidly developing field of artistic endeavour. We are interested in this collision between the online and the offline, what its impact is on the places we are connected to, the way we operate within them, and the stories we tell from them.

The Conversation:

Before the event we are inviting participants to ask and respond to each other’s questions on this theme. The question for the first respondent is:

What do you think is the relationship/correlation between public space and digital space?

GPS Guest Blog

It’s been a pleasure to dip in and out of the selection of poems on GPS all day. Dipping in head first to Spain I find a delicate delightful poem Golden Wine, suitable for teetotalers and drunkards alike and no doubt with the recent football, about to make a comeback.

I’m on a high this evening having returned from a enlivening Royal Institution talk between Sir David Attenborough and sound-recordist Chris Watson. Sir D is a deserved national treasure, a dapper picture in the cream suit of the seasoned navigator.  The camaraderie, gentle jostling and the way both speakers warmly responded to audience questions was a joy.  By chance I was sitting next to Bill Oddie.  Another delight (The Goodies was part of the poetry diet I gorged on as a teenager). After making sure I’d recognised him correctly followed by a bit of light conversation I told him that I had grown up watching him (on TV).  ‘You can’t be grown up then’ he jokily retorted.  Playfulness is just as important as the serious stuff I responded.  Which brings me to the witty and very playful Airy Mouse by Rosie Luff.

Sir D A described how female birds are discerning and perspicacious when it came to choosing the right male.  They distinguish minute differences between the song of male birds, can distinguish between a 39 trill composite trill sounds – the super alpha male variety – and the lesser specimen of 35 composite trill sounds.  This level of discernment is suggested in the evocative poem-song by Tamara Parsons-Baker in the An ex lover and a sperm whale video posting by Henry Stead.  Consisting of two pieces, the song performed by Tamara and a poem by Simon Armitage, the posting captures the buzz, rapid drinking, and excitement of a student poetry night, what some in the arts sector would term ‘live literature’.  ‘It’s like an old fashioned poetry reading’ guest poet Simon Armitage quips.  Certainly it’s compelling and shows poetry in its best live element.

Moving from Oxford to Reading, I find an old favourite The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.  Beautiful phrasing, musical wordplay.  As a youngun thought it was about reading, and directing one’s efforts. One can read much too fast.

Earlier today after rewatching Howard Hawks film ‘Bringing up Baby’, I browse for poems on a play or journey theme. Find The Journey to le Repentir by fabulous Guyanese author Mark McWatt, posted by publisher Hannah Bannister of Peepal Tree.  The text reminds me of the multi-form architecture of GPS and anything, or anyone, aiming for scale and breadth. Lattices of connections, a textural world wide web of memories and imprints, in a post post colonial new world still fringed with what went before.

Onward to Liverpool, a city of fond memories, I find poem Birkenhead by Rosie Frost.  Enjoy the way it conveys a suspension of the stuff of fear and judgement between two people.  And is suggestive of the times when a couple – whether friends or lovers – are present to each other.

Earlier today, dipped into my notebook to check for poems or text I could add to the mix.  Found this phrase ‘to name something is to wait for it in the place you think it will pass’ by Amiri Baraka

The simplicity is deceptive, so much said in one line about patience and resilience. Years ago I witnessed Baraka performing to a rapt 2000+ audience, with a backdrop of the ocean, on Treasure Beach, Jamaica.  It was as if he was Loki commanding the winds and sea.  A blustery day and too much rum as it happened. For someone so controversial to many and often written off as belligerent this simple phrase casts a different sheen, showing depth and a restrained presence.

Looking forward in a few hours to a day at Edinburgh Fringe to catch some gigs and yes, some are poetry shows.  Kate Fox, Tim Clare and Ross Sutherland among others are waving the poetry flag!  Let’s celebrate your fortunes.  As the Fortune Teller wording says,

You’re next

It’s August, month of holidays, and the Found Materials team have been invited to bring a new perspective to Southbank Centre’s poetry map Global Poetry System.  GPS is a user-generated world map of poetry, based on the idea that poetry is all around us, from gravestones to graffiti, from birthday cards to blogs, in the landscape and in our memories.  We’ll be selecting our favourite uploads to feature, and blogging about what we find on the poetry map.

Anyone can curate their own collection of the poetry they like on GPS, by using the Favourite function (at the bottom right of each poem). Not only do your favourites appear in a collection with your own poems, they also contribute to the featured content on the home page. Next month the featured content will be chosen by readers of the site, so get exploring and choosing your own poetry anthology of place.

We hope you enjoy our choices and have fun choosing your own favourites.

Mel curated a great 3 day event, Re:Freshers,  at the Wellcome Collection last week, bringing together people who had gone through any of the Cultural Leadership Programme’s schemes.

For the reception on Wednesday evening, 22 people at different stages of their careers were asked to talk for up to 90 seconds on the theme of leadership in the 21st century.

I just thought I’d put up the script from my own 90 second contribution….

I’m a writer and I run a literature and regeneration consultancy called UrbanWords, which initiates, delivers and thinks about work where writers engage with the regeneration and place-making agenda.

I want to share 5 words with you that sum up my approach to the work I do.

The 1st word is Inspiration: I have found an area of work that brings together my passion for the arts and my passion for place and community. I am inspired by what I do, and I aim to inspire others through my work.

The 2nd word is Fear: I believe in doing what terrifies me – it stretches and challenges me and keeps me fresh and on my toes.

The 3rd word is Reflection: I make space to think about the work I deliver and strive to always learn from and question what I do.

The 4th word is Action: Without action, reflection and thinking aren’t much use. I believe in content marketing – in delivering high quality work and then sharing the outcomes.

And the last word is Generosity: I want to work in a sector that nurtures and supports. I am generous, with contacts, time, ideas, energy, and have seen how the more generous I am, the more I get back from people.

Looking at my buddies’ blogs and observing that they started this Found Materials group blog in September last year, it only leaves me to introduce myself as the slow one, the late starter.  yes   that about sums it up.

I love words but have for many years preferred speaking them and presenting them through speeches, conversation, presentations, meetings, chit chat – anything but  sharing my written work in public.  Took me an age to muster up the strength of will to speak out and up for myself.  On uncovering this facet, verbals became the emphasis.  Within a group blog context a change of style and pace may be good for me.  Still a little tentative though…

I’m a curator and producer of literature and spoken word, someone who derives a great deal of pleasure working in the arts and combining creativity and business and making new work.  I surround myself with words – songs, snatches of conversation, cinema, old VHS videos and DVDs, morning radio including the rather brilliant Neil MacGregor’s ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ daily broadcast, Chris Evans and his breakfast radio voice (somehow he sounds different on TV), ipod touch, billboards, afternoon radio and most of Radio 4, flyers, brochures, letters and of course – books of all kinds.

Hence the idea for Found Materials – many sources and possibilities, exploring as a group the myriad of influences that have shaped us in our arts practice and in our lives.  The often complex and seemingly random mix of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.  How this, that and the other continues to inform how we work, play and live.

For one, the blog may encourage me to think about and articulate these aspects, to write up the scraps of notes that litter thinking, and maybe along the way of the working week devote a little more time and clarity to my influences and how they came to be.

Last weekend the four of us spent time in Paris together, for our first residential. We explored some great new arts projects in interesting buildings, and spent a good amount of time in various cafes, hatching plans for the year and getting to know each other better.
We spent most of Saturday at Centquatre, which is a mix of artists’ studios (sometimes open for viewing) and open public space, with a great bookshop, children’s space and cafe. The first thing we saw on arrival at 104 was a public Qi Gong class going on in the central hall – with intense and peaceful focus. Each of us explored the place on our own, and meeting up later, we had all found very different things to be interested in. The building dates from the late 1800s, when it was constructed to deal with the city’s dead – containing a mortuary, coffin carpenters’ studios, stables for the funeral horses. In chatting to the staff on duty, I discovered that the name 104 came about because the workers there would be mocked for working in ‘the factory of death’, so they began to use the address of the building only, and say that they worked at 104. I’m fascinated how a random number can become a name like that – it reminds me of 826 , which is the address and now name of Dave Eggers’s national network of writing centres for young people across the US.
We also visited betonsalon, another new art space located in ZAC Paris Rive Gauche, on the north-eastern outskirts of the 13th arrondissement of Paris, very close to the Seine. It’s a new development and the current project at betonsalon is to engage with the communities that live and work around there. I love this element of their exhibition – a score made up of architectural shapes. At the opening of the exhibition, two opera singers performed the score – I have no idea how they sang the shapes on the page, but it’s a strange and beautiful language. I’ve posted a selection of found poetry from the trip on Global Poetry System.

Subtlemob… I liked it. Liked rather than loved. Some of it worked for me – I loved it when people were looking up at the tops of buildings, and when we were asked to dance. But there was an uncomfortableness there too. I felt we were asked to hold positions for maybe too long – though I can see it was needed for the thing to work. I was struck by the pacing and how music/soundtracks can influence our experience of a place. I found some of the content bordering on cheesiness, but I loved how it made you stop and look at the city in a way you hardly ever do.

‘Go see’ is part of the Found Materials programme. This week I went to 2 events. The first was a talk by John Sorrell (about to step down as chair of CABE) at the Tate Modern. He was talking about the state of architecture and the threats posed to high quality places by the recession. He issued a ‘clarion call’ to architects, to stand up and be counted, to turn down compromised jobs, to fight for high quality projects. Unrealistic, maybe, but it was interesting to listen to thoughts about how architecture needs to change and how the recession offers opportunities for reassessment and questioning. He talked about ‘informing and inspiring’ people so they can make informed and inspired decisions about their environment. I asked him to talk more about this – how do we enable people to talk with understanding and passion about the places they live in, how do we empower people to get involved? His answer didn’t go far enough, I don’t think. He talked about working with local people as clients, taking them to inspiring places, educating them about architecture. Fine, but he said ‘we need to find a group of people who represent the whole of the community’ – is that possible? I’m not pretending I have an answer, but I’m not convinced that this addresses the issue that lots of people don’t feel informed, inspired or motivated to fight for better places; finding a group of 5 people with the time to get involved, even if that group is truly diverse, isn’t going to solve this wider issue.

The second event was a session this morning on culture and enterprise run by Create KX at the Hunterian Museum (which I want to go back to to explore properly). It had a strong focus on retail, so on selling things, which I always find a bit frustrating as I sell ideas and a way of thinking rather than products. Still, it was interesting to think more deeply about branding, about the need to really know what you’re offering, and to have real confidence in it. Interesting too to think about the relationship between ‘art’ and ‘marketing’ and what’s needed to make that work, without marketing and branding ending up stultifying the creative, risk-taking element of making art.