Lincoln Drill Hall

Lincoln Drill Hall
Lincoln Drill Hall

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Why Art Matters

The arts don’t exist in isolation. The study of music can make you a better mathematician. Anyone performing on a stage will grow in confidence.

But for me, it is all about story. Human beings have always told stories, from the time when we lived in caves. Stories help us to understand who we are, why we are here. They help us address the big questions; they have power to heal.

Just look at some of the earliest stories that have been passed down: those in the Hebrew Bible, the stories of Homer, the Odyssey and Iliad. These are all written by people trying to make some sort of sense of it all.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes. They can be oral, face to face; they can be in a book, but also in theatre, in pantomime, in musical. They can be in film, on television, in video and computer games. They don’t need to be in words; stories are there in paintings and music.

People tell me that anyone can write a book and that is true; but can everyone write a book, a play, a film script that will engage and communicate?

Telling stories well is a gift, but also a craft, an art that the demands the long hours. The result is massively worthwhile. It matters.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Why the EU truly matters

The EU is the community of European nations that has prevented a war in Europe for 75 years. It is the community in which our children and grandchildren can thrive together and can together attempt to tackle the massive problems that now face us.

For those who have forgotten, the European Iron and Steel Community, as it was at the start,  combined the iron and steel industries of essentially France and Germany to prevent them making guns, tanks and battle ships to fight each other. Churchill was in favour but was too committed to his fading dream of Empire to join.

Over the years it grew into a broader economic community. It was Mrs Thatcher who pushed for free movement, of goods and people.

Huge issues face the world today and single nations are simply not equipped to tackle them. International cooperation is the only way, and it makes sense to base this on geographical groupings. In Europe we share a history, not always a happy one and that is a good thing. We understand what pressure can do to a nation.

Many of the issues are those which led to the Brexit vote and nationalism elsewhere. For many the world is a worse place, promises of growing affluence have prove hollow. We do not solve this by hiding in a bunker, but by working together.

For me, the purpose of the EU today is to be a large free trade/movement area, but, more so, the place where 28 nations with a common European heritage can together tackle the big issues and offer a better future to our children.

Monday, 28 October 2019

LibDems and Brexit

A great deal of rubbish is being banded about on social media on the LibDem suggestion of revoking Article 50, should they win a General Election.

There are some key points here:
  • This country would be better off Remaining in the EU.
  • The 2016 Referendum was advisory, it was beset by untrue promises and assertions, but above all it was ill-conceived. The question was and is far too complex to be settled by a Referendum; that it Parliament's job.
  • A People's Vote is better than crashing out, but would still be trying to settle a complex matter by an inevitably simplistic binary choice
Parliament is stuck with a government without a majority. It seems to me obvious that a new parliament is needed and, for that to happen, we need a General Election. Some people are arguing that we need a People's Vote before a General Election; my objection based on the complexity of the issue remains.

We need a government with a mandate to finish the business, one way or another.

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