Monday, 23 November 2009

Saatchi's 'Best of British' Art Stars

Saatchi's 'Best of British' features a glittering panel of artworld movers and shakers - artist Tracey Emin, critic Matthew Collings, art collector Frank Cohen, Head of Art Galleries at The Barbican, Kate Bush, and Charles Saatchi, who select six young artists to participate in an X Factor style reality TV show designed to help them develop their skills under the guidance of leading British artists and figures from the art world. One of them will then be selected by the panel and Charles Saatchi to have their work exhibited in Newspeak: British Art Now, both at The State Hermitage Museum and the Saatchi Gallery.

The winning star artist also takes home a free studio for 3 years in London's Chelsea, from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in partnership with the Saatchi Gallery.

It makes compelling TV, but has predicatably raised eyebrows in the artist community for it's shameless emulation of arguably one of the tackiest popstar competitions on British TV - the X Factor. 'I really believe I can make more money and promote myself better without tarnishing my image through things like this than through reality TV. It is sad that the older generation like Saatchi do not yet realize that the vibrant artistic communities are thriving organically!' says one artist in response to the show.

For anyone interested in what really goes through the minds of what some would call an elite, 'cultural capital creators' - those who give value to art, and decide whether it is 'good' or not - this is essential, sometimes brutally hilarious and incredulous viewing. The whimsical mechanisms of the artworld revealed at their most raw, rudimentary level. Watch it and laugh, cry, and ... possibly cry again.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

10 Tips for Approaching Large Writing Projects

To most writers and newcomers to writing, the single most thing that puts people off tackling large writing projects, is the very thought of the SIZE of the end result. Whether it's a novel, a piece of research, a work of non fiction, or script, the thought of writing thousands and thousands of words can feel ... impossible. Darn it. Impossible. I've just approached the half-way point of a large, new writing project; I've written 40,000 words. And it feels really good. To anyone out there who longs to do the same but can't bloody well seem to get it off the ground: yes, you can do it. Here's how.

10 Tips for Approaching Large Writing Projects

1. Read often. Writers who don't read are like squeezed up lemons with only the pips left. Bitter. Read like a writer - absorb style; read like a reader - writers often write what they enjoy reading.

2. Write every day. It's an old adage, but trust me - it's essential. Writing is like flexing a muscle, if you slip up and miss a few days - weeks, even - your muscle could sieze up, and refuse to play ball next time you want to write. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to restart. Carve that time into your daily life. Then give it a nice cup of tea. It is your friend.

3. Treat your writing-self the way you want to be treated. Stay true to your word - if you say you are a writer, then write. If you miss an appointment, make up for it the next time you check in to the page and write a little more, or try something scintillating and different to cajole your writing-self. Remember: the more you muck your inner-writer around, the more likely it is to flip out and attack you with those writer's nasties - guilt, self-doubt and writers-block.

4. Time yourself writing a page. How many words did you write? How long did it take you? Now you know how many pages you need to write every day to reach your goal. You will be suprised at how little you could have to disrupt your daily Facebook habit, or post-work TV marathon to get the job done.

5. If you are someone that finds yourself wowing everyone down the pub with your incredible, BIG writing-ideas, and then ... get bored as soon as you start them so quickly give up, then try simply not talking about them. And writing instead. It can be tough holding on to that amazing thought, but is absolutely worth doing if that is your particular bug-bear. It also protects your baby writing-project from throwaway comments that could maim it for life, like: 'George Orwell, didn't he play for Coventry?'

6. If you HAVE to discuss your writing with someone, then think very, very carefully who you talk to. I've confided writing projects in other writers who have - totally unwittingly - put me off by helpfully saying things like: 'you want to write about drugs, death, and murder? Is this really something that is healthy to have in your life?' Or: 'maybe I should write it, I'd probably do it much better than you'. No matter how harmless the intention, your writer-self hears what it hears, and does not know the difference. Result: deflation.

7. Consider getting professional help. No, not seeing a shrink. Some of the best support I've received has been from published novelists whose insights into my ideas, and my needs as a writer really kickstarted me into action. It's very encouraging to have people whose work you admire give YOU and YOUR work creative input. Research courses, coaches, and tutors - support really can help.

8. Decide how long - roughly - you want your writing project to be. A novel can be as little as 60,000 words, but averages around 90,000 (for about 400 pages). A script will be less. Knowing how big your mountain is helps you to pace yourself, and to know what to aim for. This is critical when planning how to use your time.

9. Cherry pick the advice you read in writers-books, blogs, and magazines - there is a reason writers give such advice. It's because it works - but not all of it is for you. Mix and match until you find the right tips for you.

10. Stop reading this article - NOW - and write! Just. Do. It.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Join: Maker Difference

Cockpit Arts is the only creative enterprise incubator in the UK, providing professional development for hundreds of talented designer-makers and workspace to 165 creative businesses working in a number of disciplines, including fashion, jewellery and interior products.

It's an excellent model for how creative enterprises can thrive in communities and clusters, and has it's own 'Maker Difference' campaign - supporting designer-makers and hand made goods in the UK. I love it!
020 7419 1959
Cockpit Yard, Northington Street, London WC1N 2NP

Tuesday, 11 August 2009



We are all so gifted, with gifts we cannot even see.
Forest birds, salmon, poetry and coral shells sing diamond bright,
beauty inside shining aloud

of presence, things, and places we yearn for – rifts
to be healed, views to be seen, precipices
challenged, bells tolled and pealed, witch-hazel
blossomed –

and always have, if we would
simply open our hearts and minds to our own gifts.

Which if left unspent, may spread
like an acid river and darkly atrophy.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Poems For Art's Sake

Poems for Art’s Sake

Haiku drifts across the lake, a swan of stars calling you softly
Her gloves are undressed, they lie shimmering naked in this starlight
Shivering, a soul lies awake at night, dreaming of stars

What is art, but a place to make us beckon, soft?
It is unwise, unruly and nothing – incandescent, gleaming aloft.
She is beauty, so much more than the night, drifting midst dreams unstopped

What is art, but a secret left untold: silence playing in the holly bush black
Deep aureoles of peace, swimming, like gladiator lions
kissing on scorched ivy-strewn roofslats?

What is art, but a place left alone, where no-one can touch it:
a hermit crab sniggering, while mermaids fondle in the green sinewy
place that mermaids should never rupture?

Someone has polished their soul into art, and placed it out for you to see
It sits, listens to your questions: ‘is it new enough?’ ‘is it enough?’ ‘is it cutting-edge enough?’ ‘is it enough?’ ‘is it interesting enough?’ ‘is it enough?’ ‘is it daring enough?’

Revolutions can be so quiet, you’d never know they were there.

Making art is like a slow crucifixion – send it up to other people’s eyes,
let their vision define yours as you shape your creativity to
the criteria of some goddammed funding application …

Whatever happened to good old fashioned ‘beauty’?

A fleet of white stags stampeding delicate feet;
an unwise jar under the table stuffed with marmalade.
The hermit crab sniggering, these are all images – all art – feel their grace.

What is art, but insomnia unless expressed?


Conversations. Conversations. 'A Cambridge Art Space (to be continued).'

'Really, it's a need for a space where dialogue with communities' 'but with critically acclaimed art' 'can take place without the pressure to sell art. A place where artists can provoke questions ---' 'and reach out to excluded people ---' 'and doesn't exclude local artists or people, simply having an international dialogue with Amsterdam or New York or London that pushes out local artists who aren't 'names' on that international circuit ---' 'a process which can turn artists into being international commodities, in a way --' '--but is still critically acclaimed on an international level: inclusivity doesn't have to mean a dilution of quality--' 'that isn't clinical, self conscious, and over-intellectualised' '---yet still intellectual --' 'where the pressure to sell art isn't the primary function of the space ---' 'but it's still OK to do that, where artists can be paid ---' 'with classes, a cafe, and ---' 'a space for the 600 or so artists in Cambridge that have barely anywhere to show their work ---' 'for the community, that isn't elitist and breaks down the pretensions of art' 'what about? We could --' 'Or do that --' 'We should be writing this down ---'

Monday, 20 July 2009

A Cambridge Arts Centre

The recent occupation - and rapid eviction of said occupiers - of an old Bingo Hall in Cambridge has caused much debate in the community. Cambridge is one of the world's leading cultural cities, and yet lags behind its contemporaries in terms of cultural resources and amenities. There is no arts centre here. For a city so famous for culture, ideas, and creativity - this seems anomolous, and bizarre.

I've set up a little hub of artists in Cambridge with Positiveworld Studios, and helped my friend Freya Zinovieff set up Cambridge Open Art Space last year after she had the brilliant idea to create a Cambridge Fringe Open Studios that could act as a platform for more edgy art previously excluded from the Cambridge art scene. Time and time again, creatives complain to me of the lack of an arts centre here - yet where there is a need, sure there is a way?

Is it that people want the resources, but don't want to have to create them? Understandable - founding a contemporary arts centre is no mean feat, and must take considerable time and energy.

I've decided to focus some of my writing on this blog to exploring exactly this notion: what it would take to create such a centre in this city, my hometown. I'd welcome ideas, feedback, guest writers, and any support for such a notion. It's only through working together that we can achieve these things.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Changing Spaces

Our first show with Changing Spaces is up! On 82 Regent St, Cambridge, this is the first of four shows in a disused shopfront over the next two months. Showing paintings by Alice Hill, whose gorgeous work is inspired by the female form, the body, and flowers - all with a modern feel. Come and see the art! If you would like to get involved email

Creative Survival

What are the essential ingrediants necessary for creative survival? What are the barriers to creative growth? How can we best support the growth and development of a creative community? At the beginning of 2009, I started research into developing strategies for creative survival. By coaching a range of creatives from different backgrounds, it's been possible to see links between certain disciplines and successful techniques. I'm now writing up my findings as part of my dissertation for my coaching diploma, and can honestly say the whole project has been an exlosive process with some really interesting results!

It's fascinating to look at the common techniques and strategies that really support people in their creative practice. From personal experience, it's amazing what a little bit of simple encouragement can do for the soul. Community, personal support, self-belief and the right environment are all essential to continued creative success and survival. And laughing! Thank you to all the people I've worked with and wishing you luck with your amazing work!