On Ideas: Sónar confirms new music, tech & creative talent

Love new music? Love new ideas? Love Barcelona? Then Sónar is the place to be. The epic festival got in touch this week to tell us about some of the 2016 line-up. And its looking pretty amazing.

Much, much more than a music festival, The SónarComplex stage at Sónar by Day is the place to go for inspiration across tech, art & ideas.

This year Sónar by Day includes two new shows perfectly suited to the festival’s ethos. “Field” by Martin Messier is based on the creation of sounds from electromagnetic fields usually imperceptible to the human auditory and visual senses.

And “Soft Revolvers” by Myriam Bleau - where the Canadian artist manipulates four transparent acrylic disks emitting light and sounds as if it were an illuminated vinyl dj set.

If its music you’re after, then Sónar 2016 has added new live shows from Jean-Michel Jarre, James Blake, Flume, Roots Manuva and Kelela. It’s also programming two 7hour DJ sets – one by Four Tet and one by the legendary Laurent Garnier.
Sónar Barcelona has also confirmed some of the year’s most progressive sounds. Boys Noize, John Talabot, Jamie Woon and hot UK grime talent Stormzy are added to the previously announced line-up. This features New Order, Hudson Mohawke and Skepta among others. There’s more artists to be revealed throughout February. Stay tuned on the festival website.
There’s more artists to be revealed throughout February. Stay tuned on the festival website.

On Creativity: working with England legend Stuart Pearce

They say never work with your heroes. Well, this week I broke that rule by bringing iconic footballer Stuart Pearce out of retirement. The legendary left-back signing for the UK’s worst football team, in one of deadline day’s most unexpected moves.

Why, you might ask? Well the story is part of the creative work we do for insurance brand Direct Line. Unity deliver the #directfix work for the brand, which means we solve everyday problems all around Britain.

For this piece of work, we decided to help Longford AFC – statistically England’s worst football team. The Gloucestershire team have lost all of their 19 games this season and conceded almost 200 goals.

So, we stepped in with a unique #directfix, the shock transfer window signing of the former Wealdstone, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest player.

It became the number one talking point among sports fans this transfer window, with more than 80 pieces of coverage, it was trending on Twitter, and was even part of a special feature on Sky Sports News. Even Fifa.com ran the story on its official channels, sharing the news with its 9million+ Twitter followers.

Now, the world eagerly awaits Stuart Pearce’s Longford AFC debut…


But first, a trip down memory lane to that brilliant summer of 1996..

On Culture: How is the internet changing art and creativity?

I love The Whitechapel Gallery, and very excited about seeing its new exhibition – Electronic Superhighway. This major exhibition brings together more than 100 works to show the impact of computer and Internet technologies on artists from the mid-1960s to the present day.

by Addie Wagenknecht

With thinking digitally being such a big part of our day-to-day lives, this exhibition promises to be incredibly fascinating. The show’s title is taken from a term coined in 1974 by South Korean video art pioneer, Nam June Paik, who predicted many of our global connections through technology.

It’s a mixed media show examining the fabric of art tech history; bringing together film, painting, sculpture and more – showcasing the work of 70 artists over the past 50 years.

Our Neighbourhood: The marvellous Wanstead Flats Park Run

Lots of things to love about living in E12. High up on the list is the Wanstead Flats Park Run community.

Part of the worldwide #ParkRun movement, there’s a timed 5k race around the glorious Wanstead Flats every Saturday at 9am.

It’s an amazing way to kickstart your weekend, there’s a great bunch of people there, and the Wanstead Flats are so much fun to explore. Can get pretty muddy, bringing back memories of cross-country races at school.

But there’s a friendly and knowledgeable crowd there – we love it. (Got round today’s rather muddy course in 21.44).

It’s free to do, and if running isn’t your thing they’re looking for new volunteers too. There’s directions and more information on the website here.

On Music: 80’s icons Duran Duran set for Common People

CultureJukebox guilty pleasures Duran Duran are the latest headliners to be announced for the Common People festival.

The band, who had hit songs such as ‘Hungry like the Wolf’ and ‘Ordinary World’ will play in Oxford on Saturday 28th May and will close out the festival in Southampton on Sunday 29th May.

Duran Duran will be joined by an eclectic mix of artists such as Craig David’s TS5, Primal Scream, rap legends Public Enemy, Ghost Poet.

The Kurupt FM crew are also on the bill, we wonder if Craig David will join them..?

This year the festival takes place across two sites: Oxford’s South Park and back to its roots on Southampton Common. If you fancy a bit of luxury, check out it’s Nook Bar. This boasts main stage views, superb cocktail bar and some of the finest street food around.

The May Bank Holiday festival is looking like a hot ticket. More details on the full line-up and buying festival ticket online.



On Learning: Education in the online world

I used work in education – for EMAP for The Education Show – and was part of a tight-run race to become The Education Sabbatical Officer at my University. So, I always keep a close eye on developments in education and learning.

And one thing that has undoubtedly changed the way people learn is the internet. The digital age means things move more quickly, we have more “ideas” and we’re surrounded by advice. But how do you know it’s *good advice*?

There’s a rich seam of information across the internet, across social media (particularly Twitter and Reddit – two favourite time-sinks of mine). But, what is out there to help people structure this information? Perhaps there are people out there searching: “pay someone to write my paper”? Or, maybe people eager to learn these days simply feel overwhelmed?

There are two things that can help.

On Focus

The first thing I’ve been thinking about in 2016 is the priceless value of focus. I recently read Cal Newport’s brilliant book called Deep Work. In this fantastic read, the author and professor writes about the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.

This difficult skill is very hard to master, but produces incredible results. According to the author, Deep Work makes people better at getting results and offers a true sense of fulfilment that comes from craftsmanship.

This must-read book argues that Deep Work is going to become a super-power in the 21st century digital economy. Unfortunately, many young people, have lost this ability. Instead, they spend their days in a frantic blur of Instagram, email and WhatsApp and don’t realize there’s a better way.

“As automation and outsourcing reshape the workplace, what new skill do we need? The ability to do deep work. Cal Newport’s exciting new book is an introduction and guide to the kind of intense concentration in a distraction-free environment that results in fast, powerful learning and performance. Think of it as calisthenics for your mind-and start your exercise program today.” ~ Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite.

Newport_DeepWork_HC 2

Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

For any students or people struggling with learning, or just getting work done in the digital age this book is an essential read.

On Structure

The second thing that students can do is to check-in with new type of experts – like Edubirdie.com or Paperial.com – who can offer research into a subject, comparison of key points of view, and expert citations.

A good way to think of this service is like pay for research paper – an AirBnb for expertise. Here’s a YouTube channel with some background.

These sites  are there to answer big problems in education: 1) there’s too much to do (including part-time jobs to pay for education) 2) there’s too much to do outside of the structured learning and 3) there’s not enough tutor time. All this means the focus on studies is getting harder and harder.

These sites (like pay for essay Edusson.com) have a good variety of subjects too. Including literature, philosophy, history, psychology and more.

There’s a lot to learn about education, that’s for sure. And as for me? I’m back to my Portugese lessons on DuoLingo.

On Music: New Order, M83 & Hot Chip Confirmed for BBK Live

I’ve got some really happy memories from the Spanish City Bilbao – so delighted to read that it’s back for it’s 11th year this summer.

Bilbao BBK Live is retuning - welcoming 40,000 revellers to the beautiful Basque Country for a long weekend of progressive music against a stunning backdrop of green mountains and scenic views across the city.

Check out the festival on its website.

A unique setting, sure. But the music really makes this one stand out. New Order (LOVE their new album), M83 and Hot Chip are among the big electronica names already confirmed for the bill. On the alternative side of things, Pixies, Jose Gonzalez, Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett and We Are Standard are all set to take the stage.

Here’s a video from last year’s festival:


With more big name acts still to be announced, this looks like a really class festival. It’s going to be a huge year, up on that super atmospheric Kobetamendi Hill. Tickets, priced at £69.00 + bf are available now at www.bilbaobbklive.com.

On Creativity: The Spectacular Woven Rainbow – From 60 Miles Of Thread

Was recently sent a gallery of images that really impressed – with their colour, creativity and imagination. Born and raised in Mexico City, Gabriel Dawe is an amazing mixed-media artist who uses miles and miles of bright gradients of coloured thread to achieve his beautiful works of art.

Using a careful calculation of color selection and thread placement, the individual strands seamlessly meld together to produce what looks like an amorphous ray of colourful light that you can pass right through.

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Gabriel Dawe is currently living and working in Dallas, where he continues his exploration of textiles in order to investigate the relationship between art and architecture. Find out more on his website.

Our Neighbourhood: Untold History – Friday @ The Old Manor Park Library

What should a library do? What can a library be? And who exactly are they for..? A new creative space in East London is trying to answer these questions and make sense of libraries in 2016 – in one of the capital’s most beautiful listed Carnegie buildings.


Manor Park is our local train station, and it’s been fascinating to see how the Old Manor Park Library project has evolved over the past year.

One of the most exciting aspects is the  Rabbits Road Institute, which is a new public space for community, educational and creative activity. It draws on the incredible history of the Old Manor Park Library building, the Rabbits Road Institute celebrates the Free Public Library and Worker’s Education Movements by creating an open space dedicated to self-education and independent thought.

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The artists behind the space (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) promise to promote the development of culture, ideas and debate through everyday knowledge and experience. A fantastic addition to this part of East London. The Rabbits Road Institute is a space for new ways of thinking and creating inspiring activities that are open to all.

In this spirit, the venue hosted a talk from star archivist (starchivist?) Stefan Dickers from Bishopsgate Institute and activist Julie Begum from The Swadhinata Trust – who talked about local, radical and immigrant histories and cultures.

It was incredibly fascinating to hear about a people-focused approach to archives, history and storytelling. Stefan urged people to re-think what is important, arguing that the stories of normal people and everyday lives are equally and perhaps the most important record of our time. Julie gave a passionate talk about the power of organising, and people working together for a collective good.

Perhaps most interesting was hearing just a few snippets of stories from the local Manor Park people in the room. Stories of sugar deliveries, stories of thriving streets full of independent traders and stories of people and cultures coming together. It really whetted the appetite for what’s to come in this truly remarkable space.

Want to stay up to date with what’s happening at the Old Manor Park Library and the communities involved? This is a great place to start.

Continue reading Our Neighbourhood: Untold History – Friday @ The Old Manor Park Library

On Creativity: Massive Attack’s future sensory music experience

Fusing tech and music, Massive Attack’s brand new Fantom app is a “sensory music player” that actively remixes pieces of music based on the user’s heartbeat, location, local time, and movement. There’s even a version that connects to the Apple Watch too.

The creativity, the tech and the look & feel of the app is exciting enough. But the app is also the showcase for four new Massive Attack tracks: “Dead Editors,” “Ritual Spirit,” “Voodoo in My Blood,” and “Take It There”.

Fantom allows users to hear and warp fragments of all four songs by moving around, pointing the camera in different directions, and using it at different times of day. Users can also capture clips of the “remixes” you create and share them as videos.

Although the app is iPhone only right now, you can also experience this online here.