Lincoln Drill Hall

Lincoln Drill Hall
Lincoln Drill Hall

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Drill Hall Raise the Roof Gala Night

What a night!

Very many thanks to the wonderful Julie Fox for being mad enough, brave enough and sufficiently determined to bring it all together.
It must have taken many hours of rehearsal by the wonderful young performers from the Lincoln Academy of Theatre Arts Theatre School to perform excerpts from CATS, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Thanks to them and the juniors, who were very simply a delight.
Thanks to Stephen John Davis and former LATA student, Alex Lodge, from coming up from West End productions to sing so wonderfully for us. And what about Jamie Marcus and his son, Harry: some serious talent.
Drama from Common Ground, and their forthcoming Waiting for Godot. A scene from the 2012 production of Calendar Girls was a total delight. But don't rest on your laurels, the FishTank performers have some wonderful promise.
Saturday Sessions are a vital part of the Drill Hall life and the two acts performing showed serious talent.
Performance poet Gemma Baker made us think about how we have power to keep this wonderful place. Together we can, so Be A Brick and Buy A Brick.
A delighted audience at the 2018 Lincoln Book Festival with thanks to Phil Crow

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A sideways look at Victoriana

In this year’s  Lincoln Book Festival, we want to look at the Victorian period in a different way. So, we look first at its obsessions and then at its distractions. We examine crime and how fiction may have initiated the criminal act. We look at the people who met the Queen and what they thought.

The line-up features prize-winning authors and critically acclaimed new works of history writing and historical fiction. Among the literary celebrations of Victoria and the Victorians, highlights include:

We celebrate John Ruskin and, the Brontes, and, through Lincoln’s wonderful archive, Tennyson.

Its not all Victoria. We open with a celebration of young persons writing with young adults author Melvin Burgess. We have Sarah Hogg with her novel set in her home at Kettlethorpe. We welcome back the wonderful Susan Fletcher with her House of Glass. We have letter writing, trains and food with Leaves from a Tuscan Kitchen

We have four great fringe events. David Starkey talking on a Monarchy of Misfits at Lincoln Drill Hall, The French Lieutenants Woman at the Venue and two pieces of short theatre at Lincoln’s Oxfam Bookshop

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Karu Limited Book Festival Sponsorship

The Lincoln Book Festival is massively grateful to Ruth and Kate of Karu Limited, who are sponsoring our launch event at Lincoln Drill Hall. Karu is ceasing training and the book festival sponsorship is 'the last hoorah of support that we are doing as our farewell'.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Employment in the 21st century symposium 18 June 2019

It is a subject that politicians won't talk about, except for one party promising new jobs and another to trumpeting record employment. Reports talk about robots taking over, but what is the truth; what is the evidence? What of the creative industries? More to the point, what is to be done?

One hundred people from across all stages of education, local government and industry came to Lincoln Drill Hall to hear presentations by people (see below) immersed in the debate. I offer here my reflections on a very thought provoking day.

I begin with my prejudice, which is a fear that AI (artificial intelligence) will cost jobs. This was dismissed as the Luddite Fallacy, harking back to the fear of early 19th century millworkers to the coming of machinery.  I also began with a strong feeling that 'middle order' jobs have already been lost and replaced with poorly paid unskilled work with variable hours. I am reminded of the brilliant TV drama Years and Years. I am also still worried.

The first speaker offered much needed evidence by showing just which jobs are vulnerable to AI, and they are largely those middle order clerical jobs. (This struck a chord with me in relation to my own writing where I uncovered photographs of massive offices for clerical work in support of army supply in WW2.) 
There could be a lot of clerical jobs at risk, perhaps 30% of all current jobs could to be lost. On the positive side new jobs will be created, many as Robot minders, which surely begs another TV drama. Those undertaking the new jobs will need to be trained and certainly those set to lose jobs might see it as a challenge beyond them.  This is Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution this time with the focus on interconnectivity. A key issue to emerge from this process of job loss and job creation is the time lag between the two.

For me a fascinating insight came at the coffee break where I spoke to my old neighbour who works in a senior role in the care sector. We had both seen that care work was among the least likely to be replaced by AI. It is work that needs human empathy, however it is seriously undervalued. Later a questioner suggested that people without high aspirations could become 'hair dressers or care workers'. Without being dismissive of hair dressers, care work surely needs to be recognised as a profession and paid accordingly. It would be good if this debate could shed light on this.

What other jobs are 'safe'? Not artists, it would seem. AI can make perfect copies of great masters. I digress into some other of my own work pointing to JohnRuskin, (whose voice needs to be heard more generally in this debate - he was fearful of the impact of industrialisation on the wellbeing of workers), but who in this context, could, at the age of 21, copy the style of all the significant painters of his day but who only discovered 'true art' when he began to paint from nature. This gives a focus on what AI cannot do: General Intelligence, Value Judgements to name but two.

It isn't just AI and Robots, digital technology generally, not least digital printing, is making a big impact in improving the service offered to customers by Lincoln's biggest manufacturing employer, Siemens. This company has also seen huge benefit from empowering groups of employees and truly seeking their ideas: digital crowd sourcing. Nevertheless another key issue is the inevitable internal opposition to change.

All generations are different and of course none are understood by their parents. Generation Z, those aged between 8 and 23, are very different: they have no emery before 9/11; they have only lived in financially challenging times; they have only ever lived with digital technology; they are better informed, have strong opinions and feel empowered; they value tolerance and equality and reject being labelled. How will they fit in the changing work place? At Siemens they would be welcomed, but is it true of all employers? The voices we heard, can be heard in the form of a drama piece, Youthquake at Lincoln Drill Hall on October and on tour.

In looking at the economic changes that have taken place in the lifetime of Generation Z, significant are the decoupling of wages and productivity, the polarisation of the labour market with few highly paid, many low paid and a reducing number of medium paid jobs.

So, what is to be done, particularly in the context of Lincolnshire where geographical areas and differing groups of people have been untouched by general economic growth? Are there specific actions that can improve their lot? Incidentally there seems to be a correlation between these forgotten areas and those where people voted 'Leave' in 2016. A possible answer emerged in the thinking behind Inclusive Economics.

I look forward to follow up work from this day, for in truth this was but a start. We didn't begin to talk about job satisfaction, Universal Basic Income or the financial viability of careers in the arts.

Those speaking, introduced by University of Lincoln Vice-Chancellor, Mary Stuart, were Marc Hanheide, Professor of Intelligent Robotics & Interactive Systems University of Lincoln; Yuval Fertig, Economist at PwC; Neil Corner, Managing Director Siemens Lincoln; Toby Ealden, Artistic Director Zest Theatre; Dr Neil Lee, Associate Professor of Economic Geography, LSE. The event concluded with a panel of students questioned by Professor Libby John, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln and a reflection session with Liz Shutt, Director of Policy, University of Lincoln/Greater Lincolnshire LEP

Monday, 20 May 2019

Can we learn from history?

I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s carefully argued book, Team of Rivals, the book at inspired Barack Obama. It is about the incredibly complex and divided political landscape that surrounded the American Civil War. A hopelessly divided country.

One of the many things that struck me was the immense care the new Republican (anti-slavery) Party took in selecting the right leader in the person of Abraham Lincoln. There were four strong candidates, all with principles passionately held. Three of the candidates were far better known that Lincoln. Those making the choice were seasoned politicians who understood not only their parties(the Republicans were a joining together of smaller groups) but the electorate as a whole.

They chose Lincoln for his undoubted gifts but also because he would attract wide support.

Perhaps our Brexit riven country could take a lesson from this?

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Polarised debate

Team of Rivals is a fascinating book, dealing as it does, with the biographies of the four men who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1860.
So what?
The winner was Abraham Lincoln and the battle ground slavery.
Dories Kearns Goodwin traces the slavery debate with the Southern States fighting for their treasured way of life, the Northern States fighting for emancipation, not only on moral grounds but also to unleash the economic benefit of many more free Americans. In the middle politicians seek endless compromise designed to keep both sides happy, but ending up pleasing no one.
Does this ring a bell?
The debate is characterised by violent expression of feelings particularly from the South with deep longings to keep things how they used to be.
The arguments revolve round the will of the people, the astonishing power of the press and the inability of Congress to reflect this will and power in legislation that will command a majority.
I read on. It is a long book. The parallels with the Brexit debate are chilling.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Concentrated wealth as a major drag on national prosperity

The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is a drag on any economy. So said Adair Turner in his book, Debt. Such wealth is frequently saved in the form of nonproductive assets. In contrast, wealth more widely distributed is circulated within the economy to the benefit of most, if not quite, all.

Quite why I had seen this as a 21st century phenomenon, I don’t really know. It was the case in 19th century Britain, but many of those with wealth then invested it in industry which in turn created employment and, to a degree, distributed wealth. 

In her masterly book, the Team of Rivals, Doris Kearny Goodwin tells of the Southern states of America before the abolition of slavery. 

‘Slavery trapped a large portion of the Southern population, preventing upward mobility. Illiteracy rates were high, access to education difficult. While a small planter aristocracy grew rich from holdings in land and slaves, the static Southern economy did not support the creation of a sizeable middle class.’

In contrast of the Northern states, she sees a land ‘teaming with bustling, restless men and women who believed passionately in progress and equated it with growth and  change; the air was filled with the excitement of intellectual ferment and with schemes of entrepreneurs.’

I can’t help seeing a parallel with 21st century Britain, where we are told that employment is at an all time high but so much is part time and low paid, and that wealth is again concentrated in the hands of the few and invested in such as empty London penthouse apartments. Employment for middle earners is shrinking. This is before we look at the wider world and the plight of refugees.

Schools in poorer areas, for all the efforts of teachers, are not enabling upward mobility. Our public schools, great educational establishments though they are, are overwhelmingly the preserve of the wealthy whose children go on to Oxbridge and well paid jobs.

Are we so different economically from pre-civil war USA?