Dreams to Reality at TEDxExeter 2016

Each year I summarise the posts I write for TEDxExeter on the theme of the annual conference. In 2016 it was “Dreams to Reality”; in 2015 it was “Taking the Long View” ; in 2014 it was “Ideas Without Frontiers”; in 2013, “Living the Questions”; and way back in the mists of time in 2012 it was “Sustainability and Our Interconnected World”. Here belatedly are my 2016 posts.

  1. Living the dream
    An introduction to the series… Once upon a time, the Old English dream meant “joy, mirth, noisy merriment” or “music”.
  2. First a dream
    “All we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.”
  3. Dream succeeds dream
    In the UK, the dream of suffrage has been succeeded by the dream of full equality for women.
  4. “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”
    For Carl Jung, dreams were a window on the unconscious, enabling the dreamer to communicate with and come to know the unconscious, and tap into it as a source of creativity.
  5. Killing dreams
    Tread softly because you might be treading on others’ dreams… or your own.
  6. Dream world
    When you wish upon a star, you’re a few million lightyears late. That star is dead. Just like your dreams.
  7. “Einstein’s Dreams”
    In his dreams, Einstein imagines many possible worlds, set in the towns of his homeland, in the valleys of the Alps, on the banks of the River Aare
  8. Technicolor Dreamcoats
    What is your dream? Are you willing to let it upend your reality?
  9. Dreamtime
    Some individuals have forgotten the songlines. They have become alienated from the land and cannot bear too much reality.
  10. I have a dream
    Martin Luther King dreamed of a better world, and he had been to the mountaintop. And yet it wasn’t about the mountain, but about the view over the mountain to what lies ahead.
  11. Dream location
    How we can help shape the place we live, through local government and at the grass roots.
  12. Dream team
    Even in football, it is possible to have dreams of community, to play as a team instead of individual starlets.

World Origami Day

I completely managed to miss Blog Action Day 2016 in October, but all was not lost, as I could mark World Origami Day on 11 November instead.

In modern times, origami has been used as a beacon of hope, with the tradition of folding one thousand cranes. Many fold cranes hoping for healing. Others fold them hoping for peace, so 11 November is a particularly apposite day.

Last year, I created the origami “Soul Cube” (2015) to help me reflect on my self and my activity in the world. Like many others, I have a powerful critical voice in my head, so I needed a way to access that deeper nurturing wise voice that speaks words I need to hear. This year, I offer it in the hope that others will find it fruitful.

You can download the images here and print it yourself, or contact me for a ready printed sheet. All instructions are included.


Download outside image | Download inside image

1. Cut along the dotted lines
2. If you wish, decorate what will be the inside (yellow) or outside (blue)
3. Fold the square to create a cube
4. Breathe into the cube to inflate it
5. Sit with it in both hands for a time, and allow healing words and wisdom to surface from your unconscious into your conscious mind
6. On these strips of paper, write messages that your conscious mind needs to hear and remember
7. Roll up the messages and post them into the cube
8. Place the cube somewhere in view to help you remember



TED and TEDx things that interest me

I’ve been the TEDxExeter Storyteller since the beginning, mainly blogging articles inspired by each year’s theme, and then live-blogging from the back of the theatre during the event itself. In 2016 I started a new series of things that interest me which have a TED or TEDx angle. These might be my responses to watching TED and TEDx talks, or interesting things that TED and TEDx talks could shed some light on…

  1. Five go to the voting booth
    Brexit and young people and how to get them to vote.
  2. Watching TED talks to know you’re not alone
    There are myriads of reasons why people watch TED and TEDx talks, and myriads of outcomes.
  3. Giving TED talks to know you’re not alone
    The benefits of collecting so many statistics on the number of times a talk is viewed and the related web pages are accessed

The Porch Magazine

A message from Porch editor, Gareth Higgin, via me…

Don’t despair! The world might seem like it’s in crisis, but I think it’s the story we’re telling that needs the most healing. The good news is, we have some medicine!

I want to tell you about The Porch, a new magazine and community that I’m writing for – the first issue is available today!

The Porch is born out of the idea that the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better; that beauty is the antidote to fear and violence; and that a conversation is better than a lecture. It’s a community embodying creativity, hope, and peace of mind amid a noisy, depressing, dysfunctional media landscape. If you like Third Way, The Wittenberg Door, or The Sun magazine, I think you’ll love The Porch.

The Porch lives in four ways:

  • Our magazine, published at least six times a year, committed to one thing – great writing telling a better story, making a better world.
  • Our festival, where everyone is invited to come together for a long weekend of creative conversation, music, laughter, challenge and inspiration.
  • Our online community, where we learn from and encourage each other to live hopefully, even when it seems really dark out there.
  • Surprises – subscribe and you never know what gifts await!

I’m delighted to be involved in The Porch, which brings together so many of the streams of work and passion that have been part of my life: storytelling, peacemaking, activism, laughter, and most of all, good conversation about making a better world. I’d love to have you with us.

So I’m inviting you to do two things:

1: Consider joining the conversation, by subscribing here. Subscriptions are available to anyone, regardless of ability to pay.

2: Like the Facebook page, and tell others about The Porch – we want to grow this community to make a genuine impact in our lives (and, at a time of challenge for writers and publishing, we also want to pay our writers well).

Thank you for your helping nurture a slow conversation about beautiful and difficult things. I hope that The Porch contributes to your own peace, wellbeing, and sense of community.



We’ve sold out young people, but not in the way you think

So, in the fall-out from the EU Referendum, here’s the much-shown graph of how three-quarters of young people polled said they would vote Remain, and how they were sold out by older people voting Leave.

EURef - Voting

But wait a minute… Sky’s final poll says only about a third of people aged 18-24 may have voted.

EURef - Turnout

So the votes for Remain as a percentage of eligible voters could actually have been the lowest in the 18-24 age group.

EURef - Adjusted

Why was turnout so low? I don’t know. Maybe it always has been. But I suggest our young people are so disengaged now because we sold them out a long time ago. What do we do about it?

And why were there no exit polls, which would give us better information?

Data sources

  Turnout Remain Leave
18-24 36% 73% 27%
25-34 58% 62% 38%
35-44 72% 52% 48%
45-54 75% 44% 56%
55-64 81% 43% 57%
65+ 83% 40% 60%

Projected voting adjusted for projected turnout

  Remain Did not vote Leave
18-24 26% 64% 10%
25-34 36% 42% 22%
35-44 37% 28% 35%
45-54 33% 25% 42%
55-64 35% 19% 46%
65+ 33% 17% 50%

Free Art Friday Exeter

I started Free Art Friday Exeter in July 2015 as part of my “Particulart: Up in the Air” exhibition at the Glorious Art House in Exeter.It has its very own Facebook page.

Free Art Friday is a worldwide movement that has existed for many years. Artists leave pieces in public places to be discovered and taken for free. Its founder My Dog Sighs has given a talk at TEDxWarwick. He wrote this description of the movement on its Flickr group page:

Artwork placed on the street for any member of the public to enjoy and take home — go on, make someone’s day! Post only pictures of free art please.

Free Art Friday is not an original concept. There are many artists across the world making art and leaving it out on the street.

There are no rules. That’s the joy! In order to keep a record of exclusively free art you need to make sure the work is easily removable and does little or no damage to its environment.

Some put out canvas. Others use materials found on the street. Cardboard is popular but your imagination is your limit.

P.S. It doesn’t have to be Friday!

The concept of Free Art Friday has many strands.

For the artist, it is an opportunity to create work free from the constraints of commerce, to voice an idea, shout a political message or just amuse and confuse the viewer.

Art is so often tied to a need by the artist to ‘make a living’ and constrained by gallery and dealer issues. FAF focuses the artist on the act itself, giving complete artistic freedom as opposed to considering financial and commercial limits.

Many Free Art Friday participants’ work is humorous and good natured, hoping to cheer up the walk to work of the viewer. Hoping to make them question everything. To expect the unexpected and realise that along with the need to sell, promote, fight the system and rebel, there is also a need to embellish and entertain in a non profit way without the need to cause damage to property.

The act of removing the work intrigues. Almost an act of situationist art itself. Is there guilt? Why is it taken – as part of a street cleaning operation, consigned to the rubbish heap? or coveted and displayed? Are they artists themselves? Kids, willing to steal and destroy purely for the act of rebellion or someone never faced with something completely free, not promoting or selling? After all how many things do you know that are completely free, no strings attached?

All street artists, whether producing static or removable art, hope to promote discussion in one form or other: “Talk about me and my work”, “Question the images thrown at you”, or “Use your political power”.

(My Dog Sighs ’07)

I started by trying to give away my prototype for Particulart, the carbon dioxide that ended up a bit too big and time-consuming to knit. A bit of a wrench! The lady on Reception in the Exeter Civic Centre couldn’t quite grasp the point of Free Art Friday (“It’ll disappear within 5 minutes”… well, yes) and thought it better if I didn’t leave my carbon dioxide molecule there. So I took it to Exeter Library instead, and left it on a table in the café. Did anyone find it, did anyone see it and was intrigued but didn’t dare take it? Was it just binned by the café staff? Deafening silence!

There it rested until the new year and new resolutions, and I thought I’d get it going again. So I rolled up one of my prototype Soul Cube sheets into a scroll, tied with a ribbon, and nestled it among the Oxo Cubes in the city centre Tesco. Again, a deafening silence.

And then I met Cleo of Miss*C’s Graffiti Academy at an Exeter Visual Arts Forum. She knows the FAF founder My Dog Sighs, and was immediately interested, and started to crochet some beautiful butterflies to leave around Exeter and further afield.

I left a Green|Blue greetings card under a tree in Fore Street, and suddenly had my first find. I donated another carbon dioxide to a fundraising raffle for refugees (held on a Friday). After all, climate change was one factor leading to the unrest in Syria. Our last offerings (at the time of writing) were Mini Fashion Statements, tiny scrolls made in a Craftivists Collective workshop on craftivism, and left in the pockets of clothes for sale in stores around town.

Free Art Friday is what it is. Any one can get involved, leave art for others to find, and post on the Facebook page. My art is typically more political. Cleo’s butterflies are jewel-like and beautiful and have reached more people. She also inspired the set-up of Free Art Friday Exmouth, which has formed a group and will do its first drop during Exmouth Festival.

Interested? Go on, make someone’s day!


God’s eye view

I’ve been working on a set of 21 images of flood risk around the south coast of England, from Sussex to Bristol. That sounds so prosaic. What has emerged is a beautiful forest of sometimes fragile, sometimes twisted trees. I’ve called the series Green|Blue, and you can see more on my website. It channels my enjoyment of playing with data, my wonder at the beauty that can be found in unexpected places, and my concern for the environment and the way we see our place within it:

The view from above has become normalised. Google Maps and OS Maps, city centre plans and ‘you are here’ stickers on the boards at local nature reserves, give the impression of omniscience and omnipotence. The very notion of ‘flood risk’ calls both our knowledge and power into question in the face of uncertainty and the force of nature.

What seems to be the most solid and robust is in reality the most fragile and vulnerable. Changing the perspective, looking slant, confers a new understanding and humility.

Exe-productIf you are interested, I’m producing the images as archive quality prints and greetings cards. I was honoured that TEDxExeter thanked their speakers with gifts of prints and supporters with greetings cards, both of the Exe. I think they make great gifts… although I might not be impartial!

Here are also a few related links that I like: