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Friday, 4 June 2010

On the Birmingham Mainline

On the Birmingham Mainline
I have some time on my hands, my next work a week away; various domestic tasks looking too arduous. Serendipity becomes more probable. Phone call to fix visits - to the Plymouth Archive, to see Paul Peacock and family in their new home - lawn mowing, bicycle maintenance, housework, measuring for shelves in what was Amy's bedroom that will be a study and film editing space instead, a 9 pin to 4 pin firewire cable from eBay - £4.50 as opposed to £19.50 from the Apple store. Little lists from which I can cross out small errands, and in the process think of something else that's essential.
At a One-to-One session at Apple in town - packed with iPad enthusiasts, I'm getting familiar with a 'prosumer' video camera using HD, filming 16.9 instead of 4.3, possibly getting my tutor - Niko Mytikiotis - to give Lin and me lessons in modern Greek when he's free. Dropped into campus to join a meeting with Ian Briggs and Graham Sanson, Ian speculating for Graham from ACELG. our guest from Australia, on the Coalition Government's plans for local government.
"We aren't going to be clear on this until the Emergency Budget in a few weeks...on the bigger ideas - maybe not even then...'localism' - Cameron's vision of that?...not sure what that will entail...commerce and commissioning - a subject we've been teaching at inlogov for several years...strategic grip on public service commerce...a commissioning agenda combined with public understanding of how public spending is done...commercial nous in local government...inherent tension around definitions of performance - public vs. commercial...I see people at strategic board level in councils called Director of Commerce...concepts of 'public service commerce', 'public value commerce' (see previous HM gov't site)."
I found myself intrigued at this search for ways of governing at the margins of chaos, using a combination of political, professional and managerial diplomacy to steer and drive policies that avoid the collateral damage and unintended consequences of socialist or capitalist solutions, eschewing charismatic leaders who confront wicked problems as Alexander the Gordian Knot. Asked about my focus on this I described approaches to recording conversations in political-management space, seeing theory at work and tapping into practice to understand and explain the human interaction that makes government. I mentioned the paper John Martin and I had written recently - Probing the heart of democracy - describing the evolution of a method for capturing conversations between politicians and managers on film, making them available for shared analysis with the permission of those filmed. I quoted my kitchen analogy (scroll to 'midweek cabinet seminar') - drawn from a chapter written in 2008:
... leadership ... not only transformational charisma but a distribution of wisdom across a network. Many management trainers and organisational theorists immersed in the apolitical spirit of managerialism recognise the need for this dispersion but fail to grasp the need, at the same time, to disperse skills in negotiating political-management dilemmas. The capacity building to be worked on, if government is to be diffused as widely as those who drive the modernisation agenda desire, is that which mediates the inevitable and continuing tension between two enduringly separate forms of action. This is the defining characteristic of political-management leadership and the key driver for continuous improvement and public credibility. A postscript to Norbert Elias’ magisterial work on the links between interpersonal behaviour and the making of government, compares relations between people to ‘the mobile figurations of interdependent people on a dance floor…’ (Elias 2000, p.482). ‘In the tango’, as one chief executive said, ‘who is leading and who is led is only clear in the most formal sense, and to get it right you have first of all to learn the dance’. Baddeley, S (2008) ‘Political-Management Leadership’, in James, K & Collins, J (eds.)(2008) Leadership Perspectives: Knowledge into action (PalgraveMacmillan) pp.177-192
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Cycling to and from campus on the canal towpath was a delight - as usual. Lots of people, greenery, ducklings and a white shaggy dog - a blend of English sheep, Pyrenean mountain and Sealyham - lent over the gunnel of a narrow boat, gazing around as I passed
* * * On 2 June the respected Spiros Savvanis (see our first introduction at St.Isadoras on 30 August last year), village President of Ano Korakiana, delivered an encomium on the Korakiana website, lauding the success of a Corfu High School in performing a play by Gregory Xenopoulos, 'a flower-filled garden at the heart of Modern Greek theatre'. Dr Savvanis thanks those involved and writes of his wonder that 'despite the ugliness of life...young people, so often paralysed by a spirit of lonely superficiality, amid isolating trends, and a grim decaying economy, have engaged in a drama that 'unfurled the flag of creation; producing a 'demanding, cool, disinterested, original theatrical performance.'
Μέσα σε αυτή τη θλιβερή πραγματικότητα είναι πραγματικά ένα θαύμα το πώς βρίσκονται νέα παιδιά, που έχουν χίλιους λόγους το καθένα να σιχαίνεται και να φτύνει το κοινωνικό μοντέλο που τους παρασκευάσαμε οι μεγαλύτεροι, και να μας προσφέρουν μια προσεγμένη, με απαιτήσεις, δροσερή, ανιδιοτελή, με μια λέξη, γνήσια θεατρική παράσταση. Πως βρίσκονται αυτά τα παιδιά που έχουν το κέφι να περισώζουν και να μας θυμίζουν το πλούσιο ελληνικό ηθογραφικό θέατρο.Ο Γρηγόρης Ξενόπουλος και το θεατρικό του έργο, αποτελούν ένα ολάνθιστο μαγιάτικο περιβόλι στην Ιστορία του Νεοελληνικού Θεάτρου. Είναι μια αξιοζήλευτη νεοελληνική πνευματική παραγωγή. Είναι ο αντίποδας και ο θώρακας στον ευτελισμό και την χυδαιότητα, όσο και όταν εκδηλώνεται, που παλεύει να επιβληθεί σαν αυθεντικός νεοελληνικός θεατρικός λόγος. Η θεατρική ομάδα του Δ’ Γυμνασίου, πέρα από την καλλιτεχνική της προσφορά (σημαντική και ποιοτική), αποτελεί και ένα αντίδοτο της αποθάρρυνσης, της απογοήτευσης και (γιατί όχι) της απελπισίας για πολλούς, που καλλιεργούν οι μέρες μας.Τα παιδιά έδωσαν κάτι παραπάνω από όλο τους τον εαυτό και γι αυτό τους χρωστάμε πολλά «ευχαριστώ».Ένα ευχαριστώ για την σύνδεσή μας με τον νεοελληνικό θεατρικό λόγο.Ένα ευχαριστώ γιατί σε ένα περιβάλλον στείρο και εχθρικό για νέους ανθρώπους, τα παιδιά ξεδιπλώνουν τη σημαία της δημιουργίας και μας θυμίζουν ότι παρά την ασχήμια η ζωή συνεχίζεται...
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I've posted the following message to the Jack's Back website run by Steve Hardy - to be moderated:
With the help of Jennie Constable at SWFTA (South West Film and TV Archive) I've recovered and added titles and credits to a clip of my stepfather fishing for Black Bream out of Littlehampton with Richard Hill and friends. Richard wrote to JH about the device he'd invented for delivering ground bait in a way that improved on the 'rubbi-dubbi' method of sliding a ground bait dispenser down the anchor chain. J decided to make a programme and this was the film he made, without of course the introduction from the studio 'shed'. Jennie replaced this part of the soundtrack with stills. None of this would have happened if Richard Hill, living in Havant, had not asked me if I could find the original film of that day he'd been out fishing with J in the 1970s. I've since had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Richard and his wife Wendy and, with his permission, described my day on a blog that also contains the film or go direct to the film on Vimeo. There's a lot more Out of Town film in the SWFTA. My family own the royalties. We've been relaxed about J's films circulating on YouTube etc. It's great to see them and read the almost invariably positive comments they attract. Reading them I learn more about my good fortune in having such a parent. If we can cover the costs of 'excavating' this 'new' material, marrying sounds on reel-to-reel tape to mute 16mm film clips - mostly by Stan Bréhaut - and transferring them to DVD I'll post some more on line...


  1. Wonderful heartfelt writing about a wonderful gentle man. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for posting the audio recording of Jack’s “last broadcast”, it is fascinating (as Jack Hargreaves always was).

    However, it is not the broadcast that went out on the day he died. Meridian’s programme on 15 March 1994 was an episode of “Southern Gold”, a nostalgia series introduced by Fred Dinenage. This episode was dedicated to Jack and in it he made one last mini “Out of Town” episode.

    I believe your soundtrack is almost certainly the last Southern Television “Out of Town” episode in 1981.

  3. Simon,

    I have a copy of the broadcast and also Meridian's tribute from the following week.

    Please feel free to email me -


  4. I've altered the blog Ian. If I find the last broadcast I'll repost at a later date. Thank's so much for pointing out my mistake.


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