Hope on the Edge – Prayer Our City

Wellsprings Together Bradford and Welfare Reform Impact Bradford are local organisation (or which I’m a part) help inspire and coordinate poverty responses among the faith groups. Twice a year they put on an event called Hope on the Edge at Bradford Cathedral which aims to bring together those working to alleviate poverty and transform communities.

On Sunday May the 7th our gathering this time will focus on HOPE for our Bradford Episcopal Area. Representatives of churches, groups and organisations from across the district are invited for a time of creative reflection and prayer.

You will be able to engage with a range of varied prayer styles – explore stillness; reflect through art and music; pray corporately, urgently and creatively.  Listen to Stories of Hope emerging in Bradford – seeds that indicate the new potential in times of adversity and disappointment.

Join us for an evening of creative prayer in Bradford Cathedral on Sunday May 7th from 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm.

Just turn up or let us know you’re coming on this link

More info info@wellspringstogetherbradford.org.uk

 

Longing to see something new

Why we take photographs is something for each photographer to answer in their own way, but it is often about self fulfilment and the urge to make something other people will appreciate. It  might also be about learning a skill as a means of building self esteem and achieving something. For many people it’s just a way of keeping a record of people and events. At its best though, photography is about watching and waiting to be captivated by something mysterious – to explore and discover images we hadn’t planned or expected to see.

Bark Calvery

If we go into the field with a preconceived idea of what we are looking for, the ideal photo, then there is a good chance we will not see what is actually there. We are conditioned to see the world in a particular way and to filter out anything that doesn’t conform to our expectations. This is deep stuff because what we think is true about the world may only be what we allow to pass through our particular coloured lens.

So, it seems to me, photography is about submitting ourselves to the possibility that there is more – more than we expect or can imagine. To make this shrouded world visible we have to be open to nature and not control it, to be willing to spend time getting to know it.

When I search the Internet for inspirational landscape photos, as I often do, I am mostly disappointed. It seems to me that many people (including me) are striving for the textbook photo – a well composed shot of a classic vista at dawn in the style of a celebrity partitioner. I picked up a small book recently offering a guide to classic Yorkshire landscape locations. The guide is full of information about location, time of day, composition tips. It makes me wonder whether this isn’t more reflective of our desire to be accepted and feel we belong to the club.

If our creativity doesn’t challenge and disrupt our normal patterns of  feeling and seeing then it is simply a nice piece of decoration.

And so as I sit in the wood near my home I am waiting in the silence to be found by nature and introduced to something I haven’t seen before. I am looking for a connection not just with the natural world but with its creator and longing to be immersed in that relationship.

 

 

Be nice if the CofE could do some proper brand advertising

It concerns me that the Church of England for whom I work sometimes equates the transfer of text based information with communication. A word written or read out loud is not the same as a word received.

The written or spoken word in a religious context is often a kind of legal transaction which establishes the terms of membership. The words are a statement of what we are signed up to. We are connected in a formal sense but it requires creative expression to bring the meaning to life. I wish we could be more like the advertisers, or at least learn from them.growing-younger-header.png.576x260_q100


In fact, I spoke too soon! Birmingham diocese has grasped the advertising thing with both hands in this message – “we’re growing younger”. In an unconventional move the diocese wants to install significant numbers of young people in positions of leadership.

Yamaha places a piano in a shopping area inviting the pubic to play.
Yamaha places a piano in a shopping area inviting the pubic to play.  An accessible and creative brand. A live product demonstration.

It has been said that St Francis of Assisi urged his followers to preach the Gospel, “use words if you have to”, but maybe he never said those words, I don’t know. The point is that it’s the stories that make the communication – every colourful detail of how we live our lives becomes our sermon.

We are compelled to tell our story by whatever means we have at our disposal. It is no use saying that words are better than pictures or any other medium for that matter.

What matters is the connection. The famous theme at the start of EM Forsters Howards End is “only connect”. That’s just it – THE CONNECTION. We live in fragments searching for a connection and in the end that’s what we strive to achieve.

Lloyds Bank advertising in Leeds
Lloyds Bank advertising in Leeds positioning banking as part of your life story and values. It takes no time at all to read.

I think it is fair to say that we live in a time where the captured image is the medium of choice when it comes to communicating stories; from films to magazines, to websites.  The power of the photograph to connect with people is extremely powerful.  But we must remember that according to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. I understand from this that the words on the printed page can be spoken, and that the voice may convey images, and that the images can embody the stories.

Pictures have always been engaging and in our busy, mobile world pictures are now also extremely convenient.  An image can communicate an idea far more quickly than a paragraph of text. It is this convenience in our speeded up world that is the important thing to remember. This surge of interest in photography is not to diminish the power of words at all, it is simply to say that in our busy lives we need to keep it short. In fact pictures can assume tremendous power when accompanied by a few words of text. Poetry is a wonderful form. This leads me on the Twitter.

Twitter is a social media channel that restricts posts to 140 characters with the option of accompanying image, as you may know. The two most striking observations we can make is firstly that brevity (both in expressing and reading) is important and secondly that the message does not persist, by which I mean that it is designed to be visible only for a short time.

iPhone 6
The on-screen image is the message of this iPhone ad. Design and creativity.

So, the way we consume messages today is in the fleeting moments available to us.

As a society we are expected to be in sync with the conversations going on around us as they happen. These fragments of conversation are connected to other fragments of conversation and eventually coalesce into coherent ideas. We must be alert to the conversation.

The ideas are forming collectively with many voices participating. There is a flow and a rhythm to the dialogue which can be a beautiful thing. The connectedness of these conversations is a step towards being connected as humans and so here lies a wonderful prospect.

Yes I love photography and I love advertising because those who excel in these arts have understood that communication is about connection and  relationship not simply the transfer of information.

Points for a personal strategy I must not forget

You know how it is, you start out with the best worked out aims and then over time the world crowds in on you and you end up fire-fighting and responding to everyone who asks for help.

When I switched jobs a few months ago now I wrote a note to myself for fear of being absorbed BY something rather than IN something. The note wasn’t particularly detailed or comprehensive, it was just a reminder of a few things I’d picked up. Here it is again as a reminder to me, and for you if you are interested.

  • Prioritise communication – with prayer as a fundamental part of this.
  • Generate and capture ideas as a habit.
  • Look for and tell stories of success (news, blog etc).
  • Look for diversity of input, thinking and leadership (particularly involving younger people).
  • Provide the tools to explore and discuss challenging issues openly (media, art, film etc).
  • Encourage independence, resilience and sustainability.
  • Follow the energy, look for emerging opportunities for organic development.
  • Form a strategy for the work but be flexible and constantly review.
  • Convert best ideas into well run projects (suggest ideas look for resources).

Saltaire Conversazione – ideas for the future

On Saturday we nipped over to Saltaire  in Bradford to visit the Conversazione event held at Victoria Hall. The demonstration that caught my attention particularly was the 3D printer. I’d not seen one before but what an amazing thing! A 3D printer builds complex objects layer by layer in much the same way as a paper printer does but as functional objects.

3D printing is relatively new technology but, as the man said, it is a technology at the discovery stage. We don’t actually need 3D printers, but creative minds are now figuring out what to use them for. In due course there will be applications for 3D printers which will revolutionise the world in ways that we cannot yet imagine.

So here’s a point. Do we only invent things that solve today’s problems or do we take a risk for the sake of the future? To invest in new ideas sometimes means pursuing something which appears to have little practical business benefit – at the moment. Creating a tool, or a space, or a structure which is not yet strictly needed may be the requirement for future progress.

In my present role working with the Church of England of England we are discussing new ways of doing things in the West Yorkshire and Dales diocese. Whenever change is on the cards there is a temptation to evaluate the proposed changes on the basis of present needs. There is an old saying, “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it”. But inventing new technologies requires us to imagine that we can only grow and be transformed in the future if we take a step of faith today.

Creative thinking requires us to do things which may not seem rational – driven by play, instinct, experimentation. Once we have made something new there will be critics who can’t see the point of it. There will be others who are inspired to make something of it.

It may be good strategy to deliberately break what we are doing today in order to promote transformation in the future.

Waiting to be found

I am trying to be less calculating and rational about taking photos. There is a sense in which it is important to be found by an image rather than to search for it. It was something Simon Armitage said about writing poetry – about not thinking too much but allowing the words to find you. Bishop Nick Baines of Leeds said something recently about discovering that we (all of us) have already been found by God. This inspired me in so many ways.

So here I am wondering what else is going to find me., words, images, ideas. There is something wonderful about not being so intent on searching but being still and listening, watching, waiting. The less we struggle to find something the more likely it is that we will be found by it. This seems to me to be an important element of creativity.

14585109686_08dbe7b2c1_zThis photo and the idea behind it found me. What struck me most was the way the gate post seemed isolated in the field. This field is near Swinsty reservoir.

In some of the reservoirs around here there are abandoned buildings beneath the waters which occasionally reappear when the water levels fall. This gatepost is in a field, a reservoir of grass and wild flowers, but it evokes the feeling of an abandoned place which is slowly, but not quite, being submerged by nature.

Communities Creating Change – Join #OblongLearning on Twitter

As you may know I work part time for a charity in Leeds called Oblong. I’m proud of the achievements of Oblong which has taken on and refurbished a community centre. It delivers transformational projects for communities and individuals including volunteer programmes, mental health courses, arts and social events. There’s a cinema event every month to showcase and support local filmmakers, a media collective undertaking design and communications projects, language classes. There are now more than 50 volunteers, a significant proportion of whom achieve employment not unconnected to the experience they gain at the community centre.

The culture is one of respect for every individual and creation of an environment where they can flourish independently and in partnership with others. The projects we establish come from the volunteers and are led by them

ob-bobThis weekend Oblong is running a two day course called Communities Creating Change for people who want to create real change in their communities and in themselves. Participants will discuss their community’s needs and strengths, learn how to collaborate, engage and think together, practice new skills and make a plan for action. The course will include a look at how we establishing the needs and hopes of the community, how we gather information, communication, collaborative thinking, creative ideas, project management.

The course is full now but the reason I mention it here is because there will be more courses in future and tomorrow we will be extending the discussion to social media by using the Twitter hashtag #OblongLearning . I will try and post a timetable of the discussions tomorrow and schedule some opportunities to join in. In any event there will be nuggets from the group on #OblongLearning from around 10am tomorrow.

Let’s connect.

 

Change the way we see

I’m often encouraged to believe that how we see things can be a matter of choice.  Someone said, if there’s something you can’t change you can always change the way you see it.  If I am feeling depressed and negative about the world there may be good reason for that, but there is always a choice in the way we look at each situation.

This photograph is of a common tree. There’s nothing unusual about the tree and if fact it’s the kind of tree you can see everywhere.  But this tree is seen through a filter, a lens, from a particular angle. The exposure and contrast is chosen and the colours rendered in a particular way.   So is it the tree we are seeing but the effect?  Does the treatment mask the object?  I like to think that the choice of treatment helps us to see something we may otherwise have taken for granted. The treatment helps draw attention to the wonderful nature of this structure with its flowing form and delicacy.

 

Inspiring people

I’ve spent the day at Woodhouse Community Centre getting a few admin tasks done and trying to figure out how to get volunteers working on a citizen journalism project.  I feel that writing, photographing, observing, asking questions – just being curious – is such a life giving thing.  When you’re slumped in a chair doing nothing or complaining about the world it’s probably because you haven’t noticed how interesting it can be.

For this reason I’m cooking up a plan for volunteers to go out and find stories and work together on them. Woodhouse Stories in fact.  The simple act of talking about what we can write about and what will make a good picture is somehow energizing.

As if to affirm that this might be a good idea I chanced to meet a lady called Annie Hawkins who has been helping to run a social session for some older people at the centre.  It turns out Annie is a renowned bass player who has played with, and recorded with, many great exponents of New Orleans Jazz. A story which began in the late 50s and she’s still playing.

Now there’s a story we might want to follow up. Here’s a portrait of her by Peter Butler

Marvellous Manningham – a Photo Walk on Saturday

I’ve been working with three churches in the area to look at communcations – particularly online. The aim is to identify and master appropriate technology and to get great stories out into the public domain. Of course there’s no point in having a communications platform if there is no content – content is king, as they say.

 

Manningham buildings 053 (1)

So the end game is not simply to have a facebook account and a website, but also to have a passion for making and reflecting stories.

St Paul’s Church is Manningham has devised a community photo walk which will bring together people who perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily talk with one another to see the community through each other’s lenses – literally.

 

 

I hope there will be some discussion about the nature of the community, some thought provoking photos and some new friendships. Of course there will some great content for the website.

MARVELLOUS MANNINGHAM PHOTO WALK
Saturday 1 June, 12 noon

Join us on a short walk to take photos that illustrate signs of hope in
Manningham. Meet in St Paul’s church hall, Church St (behind the Library)
for lunch (bring your own food but drinks are provided) and a chat with
photographer and media producer, Mark Waddington.

Choose one of the prearranged walks and return half an hour later to St
Paul’s to look at the first results. The best photo will be chosen by Manningham Parish Council and a selection
will be displayed in the church hall and on the parish website.

For more details, and to book a place, contact David Hartley on 01274 494018