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A very civil evening

On thursday night we were very honored to be invited to be part of the judging panel of the Birmingham Civic Society’s Next Generation Awards Programme. The project has involved over a thousand young people in several schools across Birmingham. Teams are made up between 6-9 pupils and are asked to consider life in Birmingham 20 years from now, the social issues Birmingham may face and what they might to do to solve the associated problems.

The final was made up of the top four winning teams from King Edward School, Baverstock School, Priory School and Small Heath School who each made a presentation to the panel. Issues covered litter, graffiti, and the environment however it was Small Heath’s presentation on the elderly that came across as the best thought through, most personal as well as most entertaining - suggestions included more bungalows, Nintendo Wiis and better anti-wrinkle cream!

We were joined on the panel by Rob Langley of Clarke Associates and (the recently graduated graduate-apprentice) Jason Norris now of Deloitte. It was a very different way to spend an evening anyway, brilliant fun, and reassuring to know Birmingham will be in safe hands in years to come - and a free Nintendo Wii on retiring is a great prospect.

Kerning from alpha to beta

We’re about to start trialling a forthcoming Business Link West Midlands/Birmingham City University scheme called Kerning – it’s a kind of KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) thing.

Here’s how it’ll work:

A BCU graduate will do a placement with us and, for a couple of the days that they’re here, the university will organise for someone to come and teach both us and the student ... ummmm ... something! Okay, details are slightly sketchy just now – there’s definitely going to be an element of ‘find what works and then run with it’ I think!

To kick things off, we’ve been matched with a recent graduate called Laurie. He’s done some fantastic work and judging from yesterday’s meeting is also a fine fellow and a good fit for Supercool. His degree specialism was typography – a subject close to our hearts – so that’s going to be the main focus of Laurie’s time with us. (And what an apt topic for a scheme called Kerning!)

To use techy terminology, we’ve come to the project in between the alpha and beta testing stages really; there’s a loose framework for us to follow but how things go with us will influence how the whole scheme will be structured in future. So, it’s exciting to be involved right near the beginning.

The finer points are still being worked out but watch this space as we discover more about Kerning ...

The meaning of rice?

I went along to the Stan’s Cafe show Of All The People In All The World (aka The Rice Show) today, not really knowing what to expect other than heaps of rice representing various people-related statistics.

I’d heard good things from people who’d seen the small version of the show but I still wondered, how interesting could different-sized piles of rice really be?


I was by turns moved, amused, amazed, shocked and disgusted by a surprisingly diverse collection of statistics. There are so many representations; from the population of India (which made me gasp out loud), to the number of people at the 2008 Moseley Folk Festival (I was there!); from babies growing up in UK jails, to the total number of space tourists there’s ever been ... and even Condoleeza Rice.

The juxtaposition of certain stats gave me pause for thought too. For example, how on earth did Liverpool’s population explode so dramatically between 1770 and 1773? The answer’s at the show – and is particularly sobering.

For me, a great deal of the show’s power came from the fact that I was wandering around it with a single grain of rice clutched between by thumb and index finger. Everyone picks up a grain – which represents themselves – when they enter the show and, to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of this was at first. But when confronted with colossal mountains of rice, and knowing that each grain represents just one individual, that miniscule speck between your fingertips gives you an acute and actually quite overwhelming sense of perspective.

New stats are being added and existing ones updated all the time to keep the show current, so it’s different every time you go. And I’ll definitely be going back. The show’s at the AE Harris Factory near St Paul’s Square until 5th October – check the Stan’s Cafe website for details. Go – and be completely awestruck by 112 tonnes of rice.

(There are more Of All The People ... photos by me and others here on Flickr.)

Record breakers

James and I went along to The Big Picture mosaic unveiling earlier today (if you don’t know about the project, check out the website) and I’m thrilled to announce that I - as a contributing photographer - am now a joint world record holder! Woo-hoo!

Okay, so, I share this accolade with the thousands of other people who also submitted their photos, but still ...!

Supercool did the project’s e-flyers and designed the ‘We’ve Done It’ leaflet (yes I did know which was the winning image in advance of the unveiling!) so we were invited along to the lunch reception and speeches bit before the big reveal. It was interesting to hear some background to the project, as well as seeing all the people who’d worked really hard and been instrumental in pulling it all together getting some well-deserved recognition and applause. (I was the loud clapper at the back!)

On to the grand unveiling itself - of eight shortlisted photos only one had been mosaic-ified and the shortlisted folk didn’t know whose image had been selected until the tarpaulins were pulled back. Tense times for all the finalists! Happily, Nick Booth over at Podnosh captured the moment when Lucy Moore realised the photo of her grandad had been chosen as the winning shot. Not a dry eye in sight!

I’m not sure how long the mosaic’s going to be at Millennium Point but if you can possibly get to see it, do. It’s utterly, completely incredible that all of those raw photos can make up such a precise replica of the winning image. Awesome. (I just wish my photography did it justice!)

If you can’t get to see the real thing though, have a squizz at the clever e-version over on the Big Picture site. I’ve not found my photos yet but I’m gonna keep on searching - yep, they’re in there somewhere. Amongst 112,896 images ... so there goes the Bank Holiday!