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Let’s go fly a kite…

Its been over a year since we started work on the Mapping Memory project, investigating peoples’ experiences of Liverpool in the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s. We were given a new perspective on our work by John Quirk, a former electrical engineer and avid kite photographer.

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Thought Balloons

I am working with a group of young people at Weatherhead high school, on a project exploring what our thoughts might look like, if we could see them all around us.

This week has been a good opportunity to revisit the Balloonascope, which is a 3D graphing tool made up of Balloons, weights and pulleys.

We used it to model the emotional and psychological space of a set of fictional characters created by the group.

The young people added to the Balloonascope in between scenes of a drama created by the young people. The drama consisted of three scenes and explored a classroom conflict between a Teacher and three other pupils.

At the end of each scene the rest of the group were asked to write what they thought one of the characters might be thinking, feeling or remembering, on one of the balloons and place it in the classroom according to these rules.

Rule 1

The nearer the thought balloon is to the character that is thinking it, the more intensely it is felt.

Rule 2

The higher up the thought balloon is the more positive the thought, the lower it is the more negative it is.

The highlight of the session for me was when the one of the girls placed a thought balloon by the character Charlie, who in the play had been refusing to speak in class.The balloon was very close to the girl who was playing Charlie, and very low down.

The girl placing the thought balloon described the feelings it represented.

“Charlie was quiet, because she was remembering at home when her parents kept telling her to be quiet”



What Shape Are Ideas?

I am working with Fact & a group of young people at Weatherhead high school, on a project exploring what our thoughts might look like if we could see them all around us.

So far the group have investigated ways to make connections between words and shapes, and then created different breeds of shapes to represent different thoughts, emotions and memories.

Here are a sample of some of  the shapes developed so far.

The group decided that memories are the most complex shapes, with a mixture of smooth and sharp edges, as memories are sometimes pleasant, and sometimes painful.




Screening Memories


A Small Cinema is back once more as next weekend we will put an event on in Kirkby town centre. The shop is transformed and ready, the (fantastic) leaflets and posters are out, and the film programme is nearly done.

But in someways, last week was already the highlight of the project.


On Thursday, me, John and Hannah ran a screenprint workshop with the Pingwood Arts Group in Kirkby. Together, we created cinema-style posters of the group’s memories of movies. It was a great day -the memories shared were really varied, personal and interesting, the group worked really hard and enjoyed the process, and the actual printed posters looked great.

It’s a very slow and steady process, from the discussion of memories of cinema, distilling these down to a single sentence, through to the more hands on weeding of the cut vinyl letters, and careful creation of the screen. The actual printing is very swift, and in someways becomes an adrenaline rush and a relief.

I think though, the poster activity is important and enjoyable for a few reasons:

1) It works as RESEARCH into the personal and collective experience of cinema

2) It VALUES and celebrates peoples own memories and experience

3) It crystalises the IDEA of cinema(s) into a very simple and distinct form of typographic design

.4) Screenprinting as a process encourages MULTIPLES! People can take away lots of (unique) copies of their poster, and so the ideas are shared further.

You can read more about the workshop here.



No Photocopiers!

Rule #1 – No Photocopiers (And no Albatrosses!)

From the very beginning of our collective work as Re-Dock we have attempted to adhere to a simple rule “No Photocopiers (And no Albatrosses!)”

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Restrictions 1

Revisiting the Canal& Map. The idea that ‘Restrictions make us more Creative’ will probably ring true to anyone who has seen what George Lucas did with a budget of millions, once he was able to ‘fully realise’ his original vision for the Star Wars Saga.

I’m not suggesting an absolute rule here, but this is an idea that we have always found useful when developing tools used to stimulate imaginative thinking and connection making.

As Constellation of Signs was launched this weekend, it seems a good time to share some reflections on how, as part of the Mapping Activity for Canal&, we developed a collaborative mapping activity using a restricted visual language and very simple materials.

The main benefit of the restrictions in this Visual Mapping Language were that the people building the interface could focus on mapping very specific things, so using the spatial metaphor of a map, without getting bogged down with less relevant, geographic details.

At this point it’s probably worth sharing the process of building the map.

Setting Up the Map
1. Clear a space in a Community Centre/Shopping Centre/Retirement Home etc.
2. Throw down the rope, and arrange it loosely in the shape of the Canal between the Albert Dock and Seaforth, introduce the idea that that this rope represents the Canal.
3. Place a Liverpool Flag at the liverpool end, and the Seaforth Flag at the other.

Tuning Up the Map
1. Take the cardboard cut out landmarks, and ask people to place them, where they think they should go, along the Canal.
2. Negotiate with others where these different landmarks should be placed in relation to one another.
3. Ask each person to make a quick drawing of something you might see along the canal, blu-tac it on a plastic dome, and place it where they are most likely to see it on the map.


Adding Content to the Map
Ask each person to…
1. Make a sketch of a memory that you have of the Canal, place it on a different coloured plastic dome, and place it where it happened on the canal.
E.g. “My  husband was walking the dog, which is blind, along the Canal. He was looking the other way, and the dog fell in the Canal. ”
2. Think of a suggestion for something amazing that could happen on the Canal in future, based on your memory,  someone elses, or a combination of a few different ones.
E.g. “An annual sponsored ‘Throw Your Husband into the Canal Day.”

“My husband let our dog fall into the Canal..”

“Sponsored ‘Throw your husband in the Canal’ event..”



The simple restriction for this interface was to  work with just three categories of colour coded nodes to be placed on the Map.
1) Views of the Canal
2) Memories of the canal
3) Suggestions for the future of the Canal,
Over time this allowed for some really complex interactions with the Map.


What was produced with many different variations, depending on the people, the space we were in, and the atmosphere created, was a very simple map, plotted with an incredibly rich constellations of memories and ideas.


“Robot Sharks..?”

Even if the conversations we had with people around the Map often went around the houses, the things that it captured were Memories of the Canal, & imaginative suggestions for it’s future.

People were able to combine and recombine this limited set of places & memories, and use them as stimulus to make weird connections and suggest something new for the Canal.

Artists, most famously the Surrealists, have been using random combinations of limited data sets for years, as a way to stimulate their own creativity, throwing just the right number of ideas up in the air, and seeing what caught their imagination.

What was interesting with this activity was that by using the reductive visual language of the mapping interface, plotted with Constellations of Memories and Suggestions,  we were able to share this process with large numbers of people, many of whom were communicating & collaborating without ever meeting.



Simple (BIG) Interface

A couple of weeks ago I took part in DIY Music Day at the World Museum, Liverpool. The event was organised by Ross Dalziel of Sound Network, as part of a series of events called  How Why DIY? which aimed to open up technology to a wider audience.

This event explored ways in which people could engage with sound, from making their own thumb pianos from simple materials, to more complex (but still available) technologies such Arduino, as well as performances and sound interventions from a.p.A.T.t  and Noise Club.

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Mutate and Re-Mix

A Small Cinema” has grown beyond our control and, like all great 21st century ideas it has gone VIRAL! We really hoped this day would come (but we hadn’t realised that it would be quite so soon!).

Tonight a small cinema opens in Oldham, operating out of an empty shop and showing a run of feature films.  The project, has been set up by 17 year old organisor Sophie Barrott and started from a Facebook group calling for a “Summer Cinema Project for Oldham“. A fair few months ago Sophie got in touch with Sam and asked for advice regarding how to make a series of cinema screening events work for her community in Oldham.

We were really delighted to help – setting up cinema screenings through your own initiative is exactly what “A Small Cinema” is all about & we really admire and support Sophie’s energy and initiative. 6 weeks ago she emailed us to say that she had found funding and that Oldham was going to have its own Small Cinema Club.

Aside from the design, it looks like Sophie’s event itself has managed to find its own approach, with a great selection of feature films, and gothic stylings for the actual venue.  We weren’t anticipating the name to be used exactly as it was – it feels strange seeing our brand attached to someone else’s work – but the phrase by its generic nature, wants to be passed around. So, we decided to roll with it, encourage the remixing and mutation in this case, and see where it went.

If our project – “A Small Cinema” – is about anything, it is about community, and Oldham’s Summer Cinema Project has raised some important questions about how we are going to share our stuff in the future, and what kinds of tools we need to make available to facilitate that sharing. We really hope that, as Oldham’s Summer Cinema Club develops, it can find it’s own voice, and develop its own community.To see the full programme of events for Oldham, check out sophie’s blog –

Also, you can see an article about the event on the BBC website.



InProcessing / outOfProcessing


Last week I was kindly invited to speak about my work with Isadora at an event in Manchester called ‘inProcessing’, run by Cybersonica ( It was held at MadLab ( – a volunteer run arts space in the Northern Quarter that provides basic workshop and tech facilities to digital arts activities.

InProcessing is an event to showcase and discuss work primarily developed using the Processing language ( but also other kinds of interactive design. Some of the discussion that night was about how different creative disciplines tend to think (visually, inguistically, spatially etc) and how this affects their approach to programming.

From my own experience as a visual artist, I have enjoyed dabbling with coding in a very limited way (eg Flash actionscript), but it wasn’t until I started using isadora ( – a node based programme for creating interactive video tools – that I was able to realise my ideas more fully. This is partly the fact that isadora does some of the work for you, providing self contained modules, but it is also the interface, which is more akin to plumbingumbinglogic than text logic. Altogether, it provides me with a low enough threshold to engage with the programme and develop work.

Lewis Sykes of Cybersonica also  showed an application developed at MIT to run alongside Processing, called Kaleido ( . Kaleido allows people to create a visual layout alongside their text and use it to navigate through their code. It’s a bit like mind-mapping for coding but I think it is something which again for me might lower that threshold into engaging with Processing.



Hudds via Barnsely via Arsenal

As I entered my teens, my mum would often say to me “you don’t always need to go to Huddersfield via Barnsley”. She was doing this as a way of warning me about over-thinking things – often to do with girls, but also in relation to work. Whilst I haven’t literally been via Barnsley since taking my girlfriend to see Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ at the cinema there in 1999, I have repeatedly managed to over-complicate things, whether that be in search of romance, or on the quest ultimate (and self conscious) creative endeavour (indulgence).

Even as I’m writing this I’m jumping between paragraphs, adding a bit here, moving something else there. I’ve already written the end, and made notes for the next bit. Whilst that’s not necessarily the same as overcomplicating things, it says something of how the mind likes to jump around when being creative.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like to go the long way round because it helps you make the kinds of connections, associations and leaps of imagination that you couldn’t have gotten any other way. There, I’ve said it. We can all go home now. But in fact it’s taken me writing every other paragraph preceding and following this one, before I could boil it down to that.

In his book ‘The Element’, Ken Robinson discusses how humans, unlike animals, seem unable to just ‘get on with it’. We have to have ideas about things, and wonder what the meaning of it all is. Everything becomes re-made, re-imagined, re-interpreted. “C’est ne pa une pipe” – Magritte’s work highlights how our fluid our perception and projection of the world is, and ultimately how we love discuss it all. The mind can get lost in these ideas and all too easily bend back upon itself. My mother on the other hand is a Yorkshire woman of mining heritage, and though an extremely sensitive, open minded and creative woman herself, knows when to call a spade a spade.

Maybe its my footballing heritage that is to blame. Despite being born and raised in Huddersfield, I and my brothers were raised as Gooners (my dad’s family came from North London). Arsenal Football Club have been transformed under the tenure of Arsene Wenger from “boring, boring Arsenal” to the Barcelona of North London. Their creative style of play is a joy to watch, except when you’re an Arsenal fan and you would rather see a result than a sexy build up leading to nothing in the final quarter. My friend used to wear a t-shirt with a Nietzsche quote that said “My idea of paradise is a straight line to goal”.  Arsene Wenger clearly has his own philosophy, and Arsenal seem to have a quest for the perfect goal at times, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to change them.

I like making connections and having weird ideas on the way to a solution – that is my mind doing its ‘total football’ thing. Finding those dead ends and secret passageways. It is both a skill and an expression of myself, however, applied to all areas of life all the time, then it does cause problems. The imagination is a wild dog and it will drag you where it wants. Sometimes you have to let the dog off the leash.

I know my mum is right about not taking the scenic route all the time, but at the same time it’s just the way I like to do it. Oddly enough, the last time I saw Arsenal play was when they came to Huddersfield for a pre-season friendly last year, and they didn’t travel via Barnsley. Nor did they play as such – they fielded and team of youngsters and won 2-0. They’ll learn.