On transformation

It’s been busy on the extra-curricular front lately and I’ve experienced such an extraordinary trio of events that it’s actually taken me a while to shape all of the amazing stuff I’ve seen and heard into something more than a rambling discourse.

Let me start at the beginning.

I love Flamenco. I’ve loved it ever since the moment I first set eyes on it in Seville in 2002. I love it deeply and passionately, like the spirit of the dance itself. And a little over two weeks ago I was in the audience for Flamenco Gala, the event that marked the opening of the London Flamenco Festival.

It was an hour and 45 minutes of pure transformation. Each piece was filled with its own essential character: intense sensuality, sartorial elegance, youthful impertinence. (And that was just the three ‘leading’ men.) There were no stage sets and no props, each performance needing only the cast of dancers, musicians and singers to capture its essence and cast it out into the audience. I reached out to grab it and never wanted them to stop.

These people transformed Sadlers Wells with their passion and fierce charm, drawing us in and holding us in their thrall until the very last compás. As the last note faded, the theatre filled with woops and bravos and cheering and my arms ached from clapping for so hard and so long. It was utterly thrilling (and may have had something to do with my insomnia that night).

The following week I went hear Thomas Heatherwick speak on surprise, ingenuity and transformation. This is the man who has hit the headlines here in London with his new London bus design and who alongside Joanna Lumley, has been inspired to transform Londoners’ relationship with the Thames through the Garden Bridge proposal. He is also the man who, during London’s 2012 Olympic Games, transformed the Opening Ceremony: an extraordinary moment in Olympic history that showed how the true spirit of the Games – a coming together of 204 nations in a single endeavour – could be epitomised in the lighting of the flame.

He has been doing many other things and for just over 2 hours, talked passionately about transforming our urban environments through a unique blend of redefining the brief and solving ‘the problem’. I didn’t love every project he showed us but I had a strong opinion on each and for me, that’s what sets this catalogue of innovative design ahead of the rest.

And then last Sunday I went to see an interview with novelist and academic Howard Jacobson. I’ve never read any of his books but I had read articles he’d been quoted in and was curious to hear what he had to say. His new book J, imagines a dystopian future where many ‘Js’ are banned – no jokes, no jazz and no Jews.

The discussion became less about the story itself (excellent, no spoilers!) and more about ideologies and the human need for argument to keep such ideologies alive. Being Jewish himself (the interview was part of Jewish Book Week), he particularly talked about the notion of Christian/Jewish argument being at the source of each of these ideologies and that without one, perhaps the other would not exist. He posed the question that if the opposing view just disappeared and there was no need to defend a position, would an ideology simply run out of steam? I thought about that all the way home.

The theme that has so enchanted me about these three events has been their ability to transform, whether in bringing a passionate past to life, a striking twist to an urban landscape or a thought-provoking version of a possible future. I love that these experiences stimulate my imagination and for days afterwards, I felt inspired creative and somehow emboldened in my day to day endeavours.

And it seems to me that these people and others like them – who keep exploring the what ifs about our world – are the ones who, with every step, design or idea will inspire us to break out of our comfortable cocoons and strive for new horizons.


Earn While You Burn…

There seems to be a bit of a theme developing what with London 2012 fast approaching.

Not only have I been mugging hugging torch bearers (OK just one then and it was before he was fired up and running) but last week I discovered some clever kinetics appearing underfoot during my commute.

In the continued spirit of running (or trotting briskly if you prefer), I have come across another brilliant idea, this time from Nike

It would appear that those south of the border (down Mexico way) have designed a pair of clever clogs…literally.

Apparently the more ground you cover, the more currency you earn. Which you get to spend by bidding for things on their auction page.

It’s called Subasta de Kilometros (Auction of Kilometres).

I wonder what I could buy for a gentle stroll?


A Special Sleeps To Go Alert: 
Did you realise that there are only 19 sleeps to go until Birthday Number 43 arrives and waves its magic wand to…well…who believes in fairy stories anyway. But the rules say it’s the one day of the year where it’s all about me so get your skates on peeps…I’ll be expecting a little celebratory sparkle.

The Spirit of the Games…

There’s the small shindig happening in London later this month. It’s happened a couple of times before. A gathering of sporty types who’ll bring their best, enter the arena and fight for the gold in front of a global audience. Dashin’ and prancin’…
…the Olympic Games are comin’ to town.
And the Olympic flame, that which symbolises the spirit of The Games, has been wending its way to London through rain and shine (but mostly rain) to inspire the people of England.
On Sunday afternoon, a few folk gathered along Hatfield Road in St Albans to eat, drink and wave a flag or two. The vibe on the street was dry (surprisingly enough) and humming with excitement and anticipation…

All of a sudden, the convoy had arrived and with it, the flame…

…and before too long, it was on its way again, safe in the hands of Huddersfield Supply Chain Manager, Glyn Carter.

Just as well we snaffled a sneaky snap while Glyn was waiting his turn…

…to show we were really there!

Only 17 days to go peeps. Are you ready for the Games of the XXX Olympiad?

This post is part of July 2012’s Post of the Month Club