Daimohk!

Daimohk Poster 2009

Since 2005 I have been a Trustee of Peacebuilding UK (full name Centre for Peacebuilding and Community Development) which supports and builds local capacities for peace in the North Caucasus.  I have recently been appointed as the Chair.  So, it’s a huge honour to spread the news about one of PBUK’s most exciting and ambitious projects.

Daimohk is a Chechen Children’s Dance Ensemble, formed by celebrated Chechen Dancer Ramzan Akhmadov and his wife, Aiza in 1998, to give children surrounded by violence and aggression a positive creative focus and room for emotional self-expression.  Their achievements over the past decade are truly phenomenal.  Coupled with the breathtaking talent and energy of the dances, each performance is a truly uplifting, emotional experience.

They will be visiting the UK this month for several performances.  Information on dates, venues and booking is all on the PBUK website. To whet your appetite I have added some links to past performances and reviews.

We are just awaiting confirmation of their visas, but all being well the group should arrive early next week, ready to wow new crowds at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod and at several venues in London.

You can help to promote this event to others and get involved by RSVPing to our Facebook event page, adding your own photos to our Daimohk Flickr Group and if you use Twitter you can also follow us and spread the word, we’re at http://twitter.com/PeacebuildingUK

Get your tickets now to avoid disappointment, this is their first visit in three years and we anticipate sell-out shows!

Jelly

I’m off to the Birmingham Social Media Café again this Friday (last Friday of every month in the Coffee Lounge, Navigation Street). This month I’m planning on sticking around for a while afterwards to see how I get on with a spot of ‘Jelly’ type activity.


What is Jelly? from Amit Gupta on Vimeo.

Jelly is the name of a co-working scheme that started in the States.  Everyone brings along their shiny laptop (many of the attendees are freelancers or run small businesses ) and gather somewhere with free wi-fi, comfy seating and refreshments to get some work done.  The cost?  A cup of coffee.  And maybe some cake if you feel you’ve done enough work to treat yourself!

The idea is simple, but if, like myself, you spend most of the working week working from a home office, the idea of having a bit of company, even if it’s just a handful of people in the same room for an hour or two a month, is a welcome relief.

I’m convinced that so many projects and businesses fail because people feel trapped and isolated without the support networks and sociability that come with the work environment.  ‘Working from Home’ seems to be the magic wand for saving us from recession, being better parents or lowering our carbon footprint.  However, I’ve yet to see anything really address the emotional aspect of making this transition.

Silly name, potentially fantastic idea. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Viv’s website

Over the past few years I’ve been part of the campaign to save Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath. As a group we’ve had some fantastic events and produced some great work. Not only are all the members of the group incredibly passionate about the building and the need for swimming in this inner-city community, they all seem to have a multitude of talents!

One member who has shared her skills for the campaign is Vivienne Harrison. A few years ago she took some wonderful photos of the building for our Strategy Document which outlined the group’s proposals for turning the building into a viable swimming and community facility. The fact that a voluntary organisation with limited resources was able to put out such an impressive looking and beautifully laid out booklet was really testament to her hard work and skill.

Last year she also worked on bringing these images to life through the Moseley Road Baths Virtual Tour which takes visitors to the site through the whole building, including areas not currently open to the public.

So, although shamefully I’ve not made it to any of her exhibitions yet, I’m pleased to let you all know that a selection of her work is available to view on her new website at www.vivienneharrison.co.uk. Please have a look and keep an eye out for upcoming exhibitions!

Social Media Surgeries

Here’s a plug for a really useful event happening this Wednesday. These guys know their stuff and I know people who have been to previous surgeries have really benefited….

If you belong to a Birmingham based community or neighbourhood group of charity please come and join us for the April 22nd 2009 Surgery.

When & Where

Drop in anytime between 5.30pm to 7.00pm at Fazeley Studios, 191 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 6DR. It’s opposite the Bond and a go kart track. Push the large pale blue door with the silver door knob.

Lots to learn, little to lose. We promise you friendly advice.

These surgeries are organised by volunteer members of the informal Birmingham Bloggers group. Non of them are getting paid to provide the help.

What happens at these surgeries?

Volunteers from the Birmingham bloggers group are offering to show voluntary and community groups in the city how you can make best use of social media. It doesn’t matter if you are the head of communications at a major charity or an active citizen in your neighbourhood, if you’re at all curious come along.

No boring speeches, no jargon.

Tools like blogs, podcasts, video and social networks can give a real boost to campaigning organisations, often for no or little cost. So these experts are offering you approachable one to one help and support because they believe it can help. You may just want to see what is possible and go away and think about it. You might be itching to set up a blog and start using it.

Perhaps you think video might help you tell your story but don’t know where to start? All is possible. There’ll be no lectures, just people with knowledge, ideas and a passion to help you make best use of the internet for your organisation.

For more information and to sign up in advance go to www.paradisecircus.co.uk or contact Nick Booth on 0777 909 5692

Library films

Of all the projects I’ve worked on I think the filming I have done for Yardley Libraries has been one of the most enjoyable. I have fond memories of going along to my local community library with my Mum as a kid, and it’s wonderful to see kids getting as much enjoyment as I did when browsing the shelves.

Yardley Libraries are doing some really innovative stuff to ensure that families get the most from their visits. I’ve eventually got round to putting the films of these projects online so why not check them out?

4am

The Birmingham Social Media Café has put me in touch with some lovely, lovely people, Karen Strunks being no exception.

Not only did Karen badger me to sign up to Twitter (@RachelGillies if you’re wondering!), but she’s the brains behind the inspired 4am Project. What began as Karen wandering the streets of Brum taking photos in the early hours has led to a global photography project with people posting up a whole host of images documenting the world at 4am.

As if dragging people from their slumber wasn’t ambitious enough Karen is asking people to rise early (or stay up for those with enough stamina!) to get some snaps of the world wherever you are at 4am on 04/04 – that’s 4am this coming Saturday. She’s asking people in Brum to converge at the Bull in the Bull Ring for some nocturnal adventures round the markets, followed by a cuppa.

Have a look at the 4am website for more details and to get some inspiration.  More photos are appearing by the day!

How RSS feeds work

The RSS symbol

The RSS symbol

For a while I’ve been badgering the students I teach to begin using RSS feeds to access a whole host of interesting and relevant information. Eventually I’ve found a (slightly cheesey) YouTube video which outlines what they are and how to set them up. I use my AppleMail programme to access my feeds, and prior to that I used my Firefox web browser. Go with whatever works for you… have a think about where you access the net and how you like your information to be organised.  Check out the video – RSS in plain English

Wonderful people

I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment that have got me quite excited. The kind of projects that make you want to shout from the rooftops about good people doing great things!

I’m currently completing an edit for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust. I’ve been privileged to interview some great people who have spoken openly and frankly about the warmth, kindness, care and attention they have been given throughout their treatment. Whilst the media often portrays the NHS as a huge, unwieldy, impersonal organisation, it’s heartening, and absolutely vital, that these human stories illustrate just what a great service the NHS can provide. If you were one of the patients interviewed, thank you so much for sharing your story!

Another group of amazing, caring people are working away tirelessly at CATS, an organisation based in Balsall Heath which provides respite care for families of children with disabilities. It’s an absolutely vital service which the parents I met so eloquently described as making a world of difference, yet it currently operates on a shoestring, short-term budget. They provide a unique service, through one-to-one care, playscheme places for siblings and plenty of varied and exciting trips and activities!  I had a great time meeting parents and exploring the ThinkTank with the group!  The website, produced by the lovely people at Matrix Graphics is due to launch soon and the film will be added to the website soon after that – links to follow soon!

CiB wins!

I’m really thrilled to pass on the news that Created in Birmingham has been announced as the winner of the Best UK Blog at the 2008 Weblog Awards!  A huge thanks to everyone who voted, I’m chuffed to bits that Birmingham is setting the standard for innovative and constructive ways of using the internet!

What’s more, the campaign around the voting has been brilliant, with more and more people chatting, networking, tagging, twittering and commenting.  The beauty of CiB is that it is all about interacting, about dialogue, a social tool for constructing something positive and tangible in the real world.

Hopefully it signifies a shift away from this horrible adversarial blogging style, where ‘commentators’ post up their vitriolic opinions which are then followed by hundreds of comments from people who enjoy picking fights.  Yes, Melanie Phillips, I do mean you.

The thing that really excites me is that CiB will have a whole new community of readers and contributors so the hope is that it will go from strength to strength, and in turn, so will creative activities around Birmingham.  It makes such a huge difference to me to feel like I’m a part of something so exciting.  Like so many ventures, it’s really the sum of its parts, so the onus is now on us to get involved.  Yes, that means you as well.

To get you started, please have a read of this CiB blog post about how to use RSS feeds.  If you don’t already use them it is well worth having a look at, I use my Apple Mail program to access my feeds, and in the past I’ve used the Firefox Web Brower but there are many other methods, just choose one to suit you.  The CiB post also has links to a number of excellent Birmingham Blogs which you may find useful.  Oh, and don’t forget to add me too!

Created in Birmingham – vote now!!!

VOTE NOW!!!

Brummies are notoriously bad at shouting about the things that we’re good at and when we do we generally end up reeling off names of bands that haven’t seen the inside of a recording studio for the past two decades.

That has changed in the past few years with a whole host of blogs springing up to draw attention to some of the great stuff happening (or not happening as the case may be!) across the city.  Just take a look at Up Yer Brum for an eclectic mix of photos and stories voted on by the public.  Or the ever entertaining Birmingham It’s Not Shit run by Jon Bounds who brought us Talk Like a Brummie Day and urged us to spend 11 hours on the 11 bus route!

Amongst the best blogs is Created in Birmingham which does pretty much what it says on the tin – a one-stop shop for finding out about the creative goings-on in Brum.  It’s been nominated for the 2008 weblog awards and stands an excellent chance of winning.

Not only would this be a huge boost to the creative community in Birmingham and the people who have put so much time into developing the website, it also heralds a new era where people can link up more easily than ever.  I’m currently teaching film-making at Matthew Boulton College and Created in Birmingham  is an excellent means of encouraging students to share their work with others and breaking down traditional barriers between the supposed ‘Creative Industry’ and those who are making their first tentative steps into their field of choice.

If I’ve not convinced you, have a read of this post from another nominee, Pete Ashton, urging you to vote for Created in Birmingham.  I’ll save my blood pressure and let him explain why the current leader, Melanie Phillips shouldn’t win!

You can vote every day until 13th January – VOTE NOW!