Monthly Archives: February 2014

I spent the majority of yesterday at a fantastic conference – The Story 2014.

The Story is organised by Matt Locke. The line up this year was just incredible – I’m amazed he managed to pull that many big names together in one room.
Tech proved a bit of an issue throughout the day but it didn’t ruin the content – it just slowed it down a little bit. My phone also played up during the day, so I don’t have a photo of every speaker – which is a shame.

First up was Ben Payne from Ministry of Stories.
Ministry of Stories is a fantastic charity, helping improve literacy in the east end of London.
I’ve actually already been along to the Monster Supplies store – it’s well worth popping along to pick up some canned ‘escalating panic’ or impacted earwax.

Next up was the performance artist Bryony Kimmings.
I’d never heard of Bryony before, but she was one of my favourite speakers on the day.
Her latest piece was inspired by an annual Stamford Uni survey, that asks young children what personality traits they would like to have when they grow up. For decades, the top personality trait has been ‘kind’. But it was recently pushed from the top spot when the children decided they’d rather be famous.
The project, called ‘Credible Likeable Superstar Rolemodel’, is a claw swipe at the manufactured pop industry. Under the watchful eye of her niece she’s created a new popstar called Catherine Bennett, an intelligent feminist with mockney pipes – the idea being that if it’s popstars that children look up to, we need to make sure our popstars are suitable rolemodels. No, Miley Cyrus doesn’t count.

Visual artists Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard took to the stage after Bryony.
I thought they were brilliant. They’ve just finished filming a documentary about Nick Cave, called 20,000 days on earth.
They had a beautiful disarming way of presenting and you could tell they really love their work.
They’ve worked hard to make sure their documentary isn’t like any other rockumentary – drawing inspiration from the Stones film 1+1 Sympathy for the Devil and the Led Zeppelin documentary The Song Remains the Same. To do this, they worked to a number of principles.
Firstly, they decided they didn’t want to tell the biography of him, so they (1) reset expectations – showing the first 19,999 days of Nick’s life in the opening credits. (2) They decided they should embrace the myth – they didn’t want to create a documentary that showed the man under the mask (i.e Nick washing the car). Instead, they wanted to show Nick as he is – the man with the mask – a sort of hyper reality. (3) The best things come to those who wait. Endurance interviewing with a psycho analyst for 2 days gave them much better footage than they could have got from a string of half hour chats. And (4) they used mnemonic triggers to ensure Nick talked about the right things – showing him certain objects that would illicit memories from different periods in his life.
I can’t wait to see the documentary.
I hadn’t heard of Kyle Bean, but I’ve seen his work an awful lot.
I’ve even had his work set as my laptop background – without knowing it was him behind it!
He’s a great illustrator, that makes beautiful images out of physical things. he calls it ‘tactile illustration’.
He always tries to make his work topical – even his degree piece poked fun at technology news (he created a book-cum-laptop called ‘the future of books’. He talked a lot about his love for juxtaposition – combining two things in an unusual way to make a point. One of his most recent pieces involved creating an NSA branded whistle, with a USB stick for a mouthpiece – it was used for an article on the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Kenyatta Cheese spoke next.
He was a bundle of energy, getting us all to stage fits of laughter for a photo shoot.
He talked about the history of the .gif file, through snow white gifs.
It was fantastic – a really impressive speaker.
Next up was Stella Duffy.
Stella had been through cancer surgery only two weeks before the conference, but she was up on stage running around, dragging up audience members to participate and lots more.
She started by taking us through dionysiac story structure (it wasn’t planned but she decided to do it after listening to Kenyatta’s talk.) After that, she explained the concept of a ‘Fun Palace’ and how it was her mission to create a number of these across the UK in 2014. The Fun Palace was originally concepted by Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price, under the motto ‘Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist.’ The palaces aim to take art and science to the masses, as art and science HQs tend to be a bit scary and off-putting.
It sounds like a fantastic project – and I hope lots of people get involved. You can read more here:
Barnaby Smith took to the stage after lunch.
Barnaby is a Foley artist – a rather random job that involves creating bespoke sounds in a studio that sit as incidental sounds in film and TV. It generally involves creating three tracks: the movement track (body movements etc), the footsteps track (across any surface, in any shoes) and the spot FX (everything else – from scratches to explosions.)
He performed for us live, which was amazing – and showed us how each sound was made. Interestingly celery snapping and overcooked penne are used to create gory sounds.
And then he showed us just how important that sound is – sharing with us a scene from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (a film that he worked on) with and without foley.
Next up came Bill Wasik.
Bill is an editor at Wired magazine, and (amazingly) the inventor of the Flash mob.
In 2003 he wondered what would happen if you took a viral email (FW: FW: Fwd: FW: Fwd: FW: Funny) and made it physical, creating ‘The Mob Project.’
The Mob Project involved sending a viral email out, stating everyone was to meet at a certain place at a certain time. The first email pointed at Claires Accessories in NYC. When he arrived at the shop, there was a line of police waiting for them – and the mob was cancelled. The next attempt worked – with 200 people descending on the rugs department in Macys. It was written about by a Californian blogger, who called them a flash mob, and the name stuck.
Bill’s recently written a book about the nature of things going viral – it sounds interesting.
Tony Ageh spoke next. He was my favourite speaker of the day.
He co-created the BBC iPlayer, conceived ‘The Guide’ at the Guardian, and helped launch Wired UK.
He decided when he was younger that he wanted to make the world a better place, and work in the media. So far, I think he’s done that!
He defined the media as the movement of thoughts and ideas through time and space. I like that.
Whilst working at the magazine ‘What Mortgages?’ he wrote about the government’s Right to Buy scheme with the headline ‘Wrong to Buy.’ After a clash with the publisher, the piece didn’t go ahead.
He quit his job when the publisher said ‘You think magazines are about information. They’re not. They’re just vehicles to hang advertising off of.’
The story of the iPlayer was an interesting one. When he joined the BBC he became the Head of Search listings and Core navigation sites. One day, a BBC website about a show featuring the model Jordan went up, and the beeb was accused of going ‘softcore’. The website came down and Tony was asked to sack the person responsible. He took the guy for a drink and told him that he’d been asked to sack him, and that they were going to sit in the bar until they’d come up with an idea that was so good, the management couldn’t sack him. After many drinks in the 24 hour bar in Bush House, the stumbled across the idea of iPlayer and popped home for a few hours kip. Tony called a friend in the middle of the night, in case he forgot the idea due to his current state of inebriation.
Bleary eyed the next morning, Tony got the softcore guy to write it up and email it to him. He forwarded it on to his boss, saying ‘He can’t be sacked, he’s got the best idea the BBC has ever seen.’
After Tony, we had the writer Meg Rosoff.
She’s read a lot of mediocre books in her time, and has most recently been trying to hunt down where mediocrity comes from. She used a horse-riding analogy – throughness (when a horse is perfectly submissive and working at one with the rider) to explain her views on the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind. The more you can work to access and control your unconscious mind, the better your work will be. Nice.
Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals came up next.
He talked about a Welsh explorer called John Evans that mapped the Missouri river, and tried to hunt down a tribe of Welsh speaking American-Indians. Gruff recently recreated the journey that John took, with a puppet version of John Evans in tow – and wrote a song about the experience.
Phil Larkin spoke next about writing and his experience of using vines for storytelling. He used a quote about how constraints inspire creativity. I like that. It’s why the tighter briefs are often the best briefs. And why branding briefs are the hardest of all.
Lisa Salem talked about her project ‘Walk LA with me’. It’s a nice project, that aims to reconnect people with the city around them and the people that they inhabit it with. Her next project is called ‘Please hold with me’ – aiming to brighten up the on-hold experience that you get with customer services.
Finally, Alan Rusbridger spoke on his experiences of the Edward Snowden case.
He talked about the corporate redefinition of the Guardian that occurred due to the new media age – and this led to the hiring of Glenn Greenwald – who wasn’t a traditional journalist, but also a lawyer and activist.
Rusbridger described Greenwald as highly knowledgeable (his articles are almost scholarly) and obsessive about civil liberties and internet privacy. When Snowden made contact with Glenn, Rusbridger brought in personal friend and trusted employee Ewan MacAskill to work on the story with him – as it was such a high pressure piece.
Rusbridger came across as highly intelligent, friendly and opinionated. I’m sure he’s a fantastic person to work for.
That’s it – thanks to Matt Locke for organising such a great conference!
An amazing list of things the iPhone has supplanted.
The number of industries that must have been crushed by one tiny device – it’s unbelievable.

Physical objects fully supplanted by iPhone 4S with retina display:

1) 50 pounds of books (via Kindle, iBooks)

2) Kindle e-reader

3) daily newspaper

4) pocket digital camera (via built-in camera)

5) holga film camera (via Instagram, ToyCamera app)

6) pocket foreign language dictionaries

7) scanner (via Genius Scan)

8) bank ATMs (via USAA’s app, which allows deposits via snapshot)

9) GPS device

10) road maps / printouts from Mapquest and Google Maps

11) reporter’s notebook (I find tapping out notes isn’t any slower than writing them)

12) voice recorder

13) handwritten grocery lists (via DropBox-syncing Plaintext)

14) Nintendo DS

15) iPod

16) radio (via NPR app / Hype Machine / iTunes / Spotify / Pandora)

17) paper comics (via Comixology)

18) set-top box remote (via the Roku app)

19) paper receipt file (via EZ receipts)

Partially supplanted:
20) television

21) business cards (via CardCloud)

Will be supplanted:
22) Credit and debit cards (via app, NFC or QR codes)

23) loyalty cards

Could be supplanted:
24) set-top boxes

25) driver’s license or other forms of ID

26) laptop (via a docking solution)


Compared with the Sherlock Holmes museum, this offered up the fact-finding goods.

It’s a beautiful looking space.

The Order can trace its history back to Jerusalem.
A hospital was founded there in 1080, to care for pilgrims travelling to the holy land.
Known as the Hospitallers, they cared for anyone, without distinction of faith or race.
The Hospital itself was named after St John the baptist.

In 1095, Pope Urban II declared a crusade to reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity.
These crusaders captured Jerusalem, and set up city states within it. Trading routes across the middle East and Europe brought new goods and ideas to the West.
After this first Crusade, the Hospitallers became a religious and military order under its own charter.
They became known as the Knights of the Order of St John.

The Knights lost the Holy land in 1291, and retreated to their lands in Cyprus.
There they owned rich estates, and funded their hospital work with the profit of mass sugar production.
In 1522, 400 ships (under the command of Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire) forced them to leave and they created a new headquarters in Malta.

As the Order grew, the Knights of the Order were given land across England and Europe.
This land was controlled by Priories in each country – and the Priory of St John in Clerkenwell (where the museum now sits) was the Order’s headquarters in England.

When King Henry VIII became head of the church in 1534, he began to close down religious houses. All of the buildings, land and wealth of these religious communities, like the Order of St John, was transferred to the crown.

Although the Knights no longer had a home here in the UK, the order continued (largely unaffected) in the Mediterranean, until Napoleon invaded their base in Malta and they lost their stronghold in the Mediterranean.

In 1888, a new British St John organisation was set up, aiming to help those in sickness, distress, suffering or danger.

Innovative thinkers, such as Peter Shepherd, helped with the set up of the organisation, who was among the first to give medical knowledge to the public though first aid.

Ordinary people formed a trained network, the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, that were willing and prepared to help the cause.

Various membership grades are offered, and support is rewarded with medals like the ones below.


In the late 19th century, they used a litter – a primitive wheeled stretcher – to help their patients.

Now of course, you’re more likely to see them on one of these.

Today there are approximately 30,000 members worldwide.

#1. After the UK Knights dissolution, the priory buildings housed the Office of the Master of Revels (royal festivities.) Thirty of Shakespeare’s plays were licensed on the site.

#2. Christ is believed to be buried in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, next door to the St John Knights Hospital in Jerusalem.

#3. Charles V offered the Knights the island of Malta as a new headquarters, in exchange for token rent of one falcon a year.

#4. In the 18th century, ‘The Gentlemen’s Magazine’ was published from St Johns Gate. This was the first periodical to use the term ‘magazine’.

35. The youth section of the St Johns Brigade is called the St John Badgers.

1. Cartoon Museum
2. Churchill War Rooms
3. Cinema Museum
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum
24. The Stephens Museum 

Housed in a beautiful old building that borrowed materials from ‘Albertopolis’ is the V&A Museum of Childhood.

Outside it looks quite normal.

Inside, it looks magnificent.

The first thing we did was look through the moving toy section.

First stop – the automatons. Self operating, mechanical toys with the ability to perform complex movements.
Some of these expensive automata were actually build for wealthy adults to impress and entertain their friends.

We saw some fantastic toy cars too.

I love the styling on this one. Like an old Roller or Morgan.

And I love the sheer size of this one – that’s one spoilt child!

The walls and curtains at the museum were covered with quotes about play.
Sigmund Freud’s words stuck out to me: “There is little that gives children greater pleasure than when a grown up lets himself down to their level… and plays with them as an equal.”

I was amazed to read that children in the late 1880s were allowed to play with real steam engines, made of brass. The escaping steam would have even made the classic ‘choo choo’ sound.

But real steam engines are positively safe, when compared to spirit burning boats (or putt putt boats.)

I’d stopped to have a look at the model railway for quite a while, along with a number of other people, when Wist popped over. I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted when she told me that she could see me getting into making that kind of thing.
The most worrying thing is that I’d been thinking the same thing before she came over. Uh oh.
In the model maker’s defence – it’s stunningly detailed.

Next up were optical toys.

I loved this telescopic view of the Crystal palace at the 1851 Great Exhibition.

I also thought these toy panoramas were interesting.

An extended version of that was the Juvenile Myriorama (or Panaramacopia) from 1820-30.
These are a set of cards, printed in the UK, showing isolated elements of scenery. You can place different cards next to each other and create new landscapes, as each card fits anywhere in the sequence.

Nice to see young professionals starting so early.

Holly Hobbie – great name, awful gender reinforcement…

If ever you need a strawman argument, just annoy this guy…

Interestingly, he was also known as shock-headed Peter.

In 1952, Mr Potato Head launched. Somewhat correctly, the toy box only contained the parts and parents had to provide the potato. Eight years later, a hard plastic potato body was introduced, replacing the need for a real potato. Nothing quite beats an actual potato though.

In 1975, someone somewhere decided that kids needed a more versatile face to play with.
Perhaps Potato head just couldn’t show the breadth of emotion with all of his accessories.
Introducing… Hugo, Man of a Thousand faces.

Action man (launched in 1966 as a British version of GI Joe) has seen a number of jobs, due to public attitudes to war – including space ranger and ‘peaceful adventurer’.

This ‘puzzle cabinet’ from the 1760s used to belong to Royal Governess Charlotte Finch. The puzzles housed in its drawers were used to teach geography to princes and princesses. The maps in the cabinet chart the entire globe. The Royal children would rule a country with an international empire and learn about trade flowing around the globe.

From one cabinet to another. This time, Hamley’s Cabinet of Magic!

These holiday postcards from Gt Yarmouth and Whitstable were pretty kitsch.

Perhaps my favourite two exhibits were nearest the exit – the confiscation cabinets, and ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’

The confiscation cabinets is a fantastic project by teacher Guy Tarrant. He collected all of the items confiscated from children at schools over three decades. In his words, it evidences the everyday actions of school students. The objects in the cabinets highlight mischevious and distracted behaviour played out in the controlled school setting where children spend the majority of their young lives.

They’re hugely interesting – ranging from the depressing to the distressing.

The second exhibition near the exit was called ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ – an exploration of ‘design at the chalkface.’

It’s been commissioned in response to what the current government sees as a ‘decade of wasteful extravagance in educational architecture.’ The exhibit draws heavily upon a new study by Salford University that states ‘well designed classrooms can improve the academic performance of primary school children by up to 25%.’

The study hypothesises that there are three principles that would most affect a pupil’s brain function.
These were:
1) How natural it felt to be in the room
2) The extent to which the room felt individual to its occupants
3) Whether it stimulated them

The most significant factors for school design are therefore: circulation through the school, colour, simplicity of design, good light levels, natural light, flexibility, ownership, familiarity of classroom and good ventilation.

This isn’t a new argument.

In the first half of the 20th century, many European inventors were tasked with developing a new school desk. Jacob Happel even wrote of ‘the pernicious consequences of unadapted school desks on the physical, mental and spiritual development of a child.’
However, all of these early models with adjustable seats, worktop heights, flexible backs, footrests and arms were rejected as too complex, expensive and inconvenient and soon gave way to the mass production of more basic models.

The exhibit also displayed new layouts from children at Gayhurst Primary school – who had been briefed to design their ideal classroom. Most of the ideas allowed for more physical activity, computers and fresh air.

This futuristic looking classroom layout was designed by a 6 year old at the Wood School in Manchester. The furniture has been created from sawn branches.
Whilst we were there, there were loads of people that wanted to climb into it, play in it, sit in it.
I’m not sure you could say the same about a grimey old terrapin hut around the back of the assembly hall…

The V&A Museum of Childhood is a great day out – worth a visit to Bethnal Green if you have a spare afternoon.

#1. In 1840 confectioner Tom Smith introduced to Britain the bon-bon – a sugared almond wrapped in paper. In 1847, inspired by a crackling log in his fireplace, Tom hit upon the idea of making his bon bon snap. With this new noise, the bon bon evolved and became the christmas cracker.

#2. The circus trapeze was invented by a performer called Jules Leotard. The tight costume that he wore was subsequently named after him.

#3. The first electric toy car was invented in the USA in 1899. A quick turnaround to miniature form, when you consider the first car was invented in 1886.

#4. Tamagotchi roughly translates as ‘Egg Watch’

#5. The 1978 release of Space Invaders in Japan was so popular, it was responsible for a nationwide coin shortage.

1. Cartoon Museum
2. Churchill War Rooms
3. Cinema Museum
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John 
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum
24. The Stephens Museum 

Off the back of the Sherlock museum, we went on the hunt for the location of the BBC series Sherlock.

We found it just off the Euston Road, on North Gower Street.

As we walked up to it, we noticed there was something near the door.

Ah yes, some uberfans before us have left messages to Sherlock, from Moriarty.


‘twas a dreary, toothache sky Monday that we found ourselves queuing outside the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street.
Having worked on Baker Street for a number of years, I’d been looking forward to visiting this one.
The queue took almost an hour, and as anticipation built, a jobbing actor posed for photographs with tourists that have never seen a British bobby before.
I was, of course, fully away that the whole thing was a charade; Arthur Conan Doyle’s works are entirely fictional and no man called Sherlock Holmes had ever lived at this address.
But I’m not sure everyone else us was quite so up to speed.
And whatever you do, don’t try telling them…
Once inside, you climb the stairs to the first floor of the house and step inside what is supposedly Sherlock’s bedroom.
Very quickly, you ascertain that you aren’t going to see anything of any real historical significance here.
There are bits and bobs bygone, sure, but no Conan Doyle artefacts or TV/film props. 
And the stuff that IS in there, isn’t labeled. The whole experience is a bit like walking around the house of a borderline hoarder.
Which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum – very few facts for my write-up.
The décor, on the other hand, is pretty great – fantastic inspiration if you want to pull off that apothecary grime look.
So here you have it – less facts, more furnishings, from 221B Baker Street.

Loved these old tomes:

And this old fella:

Also quite a big fan of this wallpaper – nice:

A pipe rack, of course:
More tobacco paraphernalia:
And a violin too:

Every man needs a desk like this:

I really liked how understated this letterhead is:
And I also quite like this sneaky way of concealing a revolver around the house:
I wasn’t such a big fan of the strange character mannequins, that can be found on the top floor of the museum.
That’s pretty much everything that you can glean from the Sherlock Holmes museum I’m afraid.
The only thing left for me to find out was whether or not the signature deerstalker suited me as well as it had when I was younger…
#1. Sherlock seemed to have a fascination with books on bees. I spotted three.
#2. The Red Headed club was dissolved on October 9, 1890.
#3. There are some real obsessive fans of Sherlock Holmes, that write to him from all over the world. A personal favourite was the advice one uberfan sent him: “Smoke less and rest well!”.
#4. Moriarty “sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.”
#5. Sherlock supposedly received a medal in on honour of services rendered to the French Goverment.
1. Cartoon Museum
2. Churchill War Rooms
3. Cinema Museum
4. Dennis Sever’s House 
5. Dr Johnson’s house
6. Design Museum 
7. Down House 
8. The Geffrye Museum
9. London Film Museum 
10. London Transport Museum
11. Mansion House 
12. Brunel Museum 
13. Museum of the Order of St John 
14. Musical Museum 
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum 
17. Rose Theatre exhibition 
18. Fashion and Textile Museum 
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments 
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum 
21. Twinings Museum
22. V&A Museum of Childhood 
23. Bank of England museum
24. The Stephens Museum