Archive for the ‘enterprise’ Category

App app and away

The summer before last I commissioned the fresh, green loveliness we know as Landshare (www.landshare.net) from Keo Films and Mint Digital. It has now sprouted a verdant little app, currently featured on the App Store.

The Landshare website and campaign has sparked a nationwide revolution over the last year. It connects would-be growers of fruit and veg with people with land to share – and they share the produce.

There are currently 2 growers to every 1 plot offered and the new app is designed to enable the public to take action.

  • Councils will be held to legal task to provide allotments according to their statuary obligations
  • tens of thousands of acres of wasted, unproductive land around the UK is to be identified

The Landspotting function was an idea I originally came up with inspired by a long-empty plot at the end of my road, a wasted gap between the last house and a tyre workshop on the corner.

The app functionality includes:

  • using the camera with geolocating technology
  • giving users live access to expert growers for instant advice
  • extending accessibility and full integration of tools with social networks

The Landshare App is free

The app also gives users direct, on-the-move access to the core Landshare tools – extending its ability to match growers to land, through a postcode driven map and listing database, and more. Already, Landshare has seen more than 3,000 acres of land offered and matches in every region of the UK.

It has been cited by the House of Lords, New Local Government Network, the international Wikinomics team and most recently – the Food Ethics Council – as changing the landscape in food accessibility and security.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall spearheads Landshare and says of the new App: “Landshare has always been, literally, a ground-breaking initiative but now it’s set to really push the agenda. We know there are 100,000 people on council waiting lists in England alone, with up to 40 year waits, plus a significant amount of waiting lists that are actually closed! This app will ensure that councils can no longer shut the door to their legal duty to provide.

Landshare has been at the forefront of the debate on land use and accessibility – it is no longer acceptable to say that the land is not available because most of us pass derelict land in our travels every day. By bringing attention to the scale of space that is already on our doorsteps with “LandSpot”, we hope to help enable this potential to be realised and for much more land to be made fertile.”

The Landshare app launched on Friday (6th August 2010) and can be downloaded free at www.landshare.net/iphoneapp

Users without iPhones can also make use of the new tools at www.landshare.net

Some Landshare facts & figures:

  • Landshare is a movement of more than 50,000 people – and it’s growing daily.
  • The idea came out of Channel 4’s River Cottage, when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall helped some Bristol families grow food on disused council land.
  • More than 100,000 people are on waiting lists for local authority allotments in England.
  • An estimated 16% of council waiting lists in England are closed.
  • Despite having a legal duty to provide allotments, some 12% of councils do not know what the status of their waiting lists is.
  • The Local Government Association reckon that 200,000 allotments have disappeared in the last 30 years
  • 6 million people in Britain are estimated to be interested in an allotment.
  • There is 60,000 acres of unused rooftop space in London alone.
  • There is an estimated 80,000 acres of official derelict land in England.
  • In Scotland, more than 44% of derelict land is in urban areas.
  • Landshare addresses concern among policy makers about future food security and greenhouse gases from industrial farming and food miles.
  • Landshare was recently cited in “Food Justice: The report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry” published July 2010
  • It’s one of the best things I’ve commissioned at C4.

And the last word to a happy customer on the App Store: “this app literally changed my life”.

Silver Lining

hi ho silver lining

hi ho silver lining

Here’s a rather salutary assessment of the economy from our Chairman here at Channel 4, Luke Johnson, in the FT. I have to say, it resonates for me – I’m pretty much a “a house is for living in” kinda guy.

For too long it has been more profitable in the west
to finance consumption rather than production.
That cannot continue. I am afraid that the west’s credibility
– and luck – has run out.

In the early days of Simple Pleasures 4 I began reflecting on what people really need, a stream of consciousness prompted by a Demos gathering which reminded me of a book which had really gotten me thinking – Coasting by Jonathan Raban.

Been meaning to get back to that post, Reflections on the Fundamentals of Life, for ages – nothing like a bit of financial meltdown to encourage thinking about the principles of economics.

So what did Coasting prompt? Looking back I seem to have re-invented Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. Still, no harm working out stuff for yourself.

What struck me last week, the week of the US presidential inauguration, was that Britain is in desperate need of a bit of self-confidence. With the City fucked by its own petard and North Sea oil drying up we’re really going to have to work out where we add value to the world.

So we arrive on earth like the Terminator, naked and balled up as a package with the basic needs outlined in that earlier post. The economics of our existence start from the need to cover those basic needs by doing the equivalent amount of work or value adding. But those needs simply meet our bestial basics. As King Lear argues, we need something over and above that to make life worth living.

“O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”

Watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona the other week, what constitutes that ‘something over’ has got really out of whack. The New York life-style portrayed in the movie (through Vicky’s impending marriage) was truly repellent.

The shift of emphasis from consumption to production and adding value could be the silver lining of these dark clouds. Is this the moment when we reflect and recognise what is true value and what matters? These are themes that have been on my mind over the last couple of years such as in this post prompted by  a Buffalo Springfield classic.

The schadenfreude around the collapse of the banks, or more so, the bankers stems from the fact most of them don’t produce anything or add value – they guess and they gamble, they speculate and they risk, they continue to short-sell bank shares the moment the ban is lifted to profit as usual at other people’s expense.

Talking of profiting at other people’s expense, Luke’s article reminds me of a bafflement I had as a teenager about just how did the economies of the West and the rest fit together. How come American’s have those huge fridges and South-East Asians live in huts, scraping together a bit of meat to go with their bowl of rice? How come we get paid hundreds of pounds a day when for equal effort and more they get pence? How come poverty here comes with a 32″ telly? A good friend of mine lent me when we were teens a copy of a JK Galbraith book, The Nature of Mass Poverty I think it was, which I struggled with but didn’t ultimately come to grips with – I’d probably get on much better with it now as the interest is truly there.

Luke raises similar questions: So why should industrious Asians earn a tiny fraction of what citizens in the west earn? Especially when they have so much of the cash and productive resources, while we have deficits, high costs and poor demographics.

Now what I know about economics you can fit on the back of an ATM slip – hence this second stream of consciousness thinking out loud.

Around the JKG time I was also baffled by how can this constant growth add up? How can countries expect to grow year on year with finite resources? How can we expect pay rises as a given year on year? Doesn’t there come a point where no matter how clever you are about squeezing the most out of existing resources and in creating technology to increase productivity those two graph lines eventually run into each other and cross?

My gut feeling about this moment is that we must use it as a time to readjust our values, to refocus on what is really important. We must use it to refocus as a country and as individuals on what value we can add. Having said that, it was a bit depressing to see the reactions to falling oil prices – after a few weeks of people really thinking about the car journeys they were making, the headlines swiftly reverted to ‘Supermarket forecourt price wars!’

The next three commissions on my plan are Landshare, where people who want to grow their own food are linked to people who have bits of land which can be grown on; the Secret Millionaire online where the online community get to give a million pounds to community groups and small charities which quietly add value, largely unseen; and a project on Adoption that tries to highlight the value of each and every child and enable it to be realised fully. I feel they are the product of a particular positive, back-to-basics  vibe. Despite the grimness of the IMF report which ranks Britain’s economy as the most adversely impacted this year of any major economy and the Lords scandal which ranks Britain’s high ranks as smelling as rank as it comes, I can’t help but feel there’s opportunity here…

Thought for Food

Landshare map

Landshare map

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage

eBay, Couchsurfing, Freecycle, Park At My House – one of the greatest strengths of the Web is connecting and aggregating supply & demand. Landshare plugs into exactly that power – it links people who want to grow their own fruit & veg (but can’t get an allotment) with people who have bits of land they can grow it on. This could be an arthritic granny who can no longer do her garden, a property developer with some wasteland, a hospital with overgrown former gardens, a church with glebe land, anywhere where unproductive land can be safely used to grow your own and the resultant produce shared between growers and land-owner.

The project started last summer when the series producer of River Cottage came in to Horseferry Road with members of the Keo Films team who produce the show. The idea was to develop a story featured in the TV series by exploring how the Web could facilitate the kind of land sharing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had highlighted on screen. What immediately appealed was the simplicity and clarity of the proposition, and the fact that it revolved around this core strength of the Web. It also felt very much of the moment – even more so now, 6 months on.

We started by building a first phase site at www.landshare.net to test the level of interest. Using the Autumn series of River Cottage as a springboard, we had 15,000 registrations within 10 days. The mix was healthy in terms of the balance between would-be Growers and Land-owners. We also had people register as Landspotters – participants who might know of potentially usable land in their locality – and Facilitators – participants who could help vulnerable people, those in need of help on the computer front and anyone requiring extra support to take part. Like-minded groups and organisations were also able to register interest.

The plan is for the next few months to see the design and build of the service, as well as the follow-up work on partnerships with all manner of enthusiasts small and large, local and nation-wide. The focus is on amplifying the inspiring work of existing land share-type initiatives and champions in the field, as well as helping the sharing of best practice and providing a UK overview – as opposed to stomping in with great big broadcaster wellies.

Issues of legal compliance have been considered and worked through from the off. Since the process involves transactions and meetings in real life a good deal of thought has gone into how to make those work effectively and safely. Projects like School of Everything (in which Channel 4 has invested via its Education department and 4iP initiative), which likewise involves real-life encounters, have provided useful precedents and approaches to such issues.

It’s always a good sign when a project has an organic feel of wholeness and rightness and Landshare has that vibe for me. The new year saw it flagged up as a trend-setter for 2009 in The Guardian and rippling over the pond to be picked up by Huffington. It has caught the eye of the Scottish Parliament. All these are promising indications that Landshare is the right idea in the right place at the right time. So here’s to a fruitful 2009…

Giving me excitations

Girl with a one-track mind - abby leeGirl with a one-track mind - abby lee

What an exciting day! I get in to work this morning and this plops on the electronic doormat:

“Dear Adam,
I’m delighted to inform you that your entry ‘Big Art Mob‘ has been short-listed in the Community Engagement category of the inaugural MediaGuardian Innovation Awards. The shortlist will be formerly announced in MediaGuardian on 28 January and the winner at the awards ceremony and dinner on 6 March at Indigo2, O2, Greenwich. The debate at the judging day was lively and hard fought, so congratulations on reaching the shortlist stage of an event which we hope will become a benchmark for innovation in media in the UK.”

Next up a message from the fellas at LG15 that they’re coming a’visitin’.

Then a note from the boys at Preloaded that Picture This has 11.4% of its audience staying for over 30 minutes at a time and 4.7% over an hour.

Then the gorgeous Slugger O’Toole over in Beal Feirste points his dedicated audience in the direction of the excellent ’3 Minute Wonder’ tomorrow night on Channel4 (at 19.55) complementing the Picture This series. It looks at the disappearance of the fortified RUC police stations in Northern Ireland. As someone who got married in Derry, I’ve a certain familiarity with these particular architectural fantasias. I remember sitting in a pub in Forkhill in South Armagh and admiring the painting on the wall of the locality from which the police station had already been disappeared, years before the Good Friday Agreement.

Finally a lovely young laydee comes up to introduce herself at the climax of the Cultural and Creative Leadership Mentoring Programme at the ICA (on which I have been mentoring Caroline Bottomley of the Radar Festival). Said laydee is none other than Zoe Margolis aka Abby Lee, the Girl with the One-track Mind, in the flesh.

Now that’s a good day by anyone’s standards.

But not as good as yesterday when I found out my mum’s cancer had not come back. Now there’s really good vibrations.

There’s snow business like show business

Floating in the sky

Took the Enfants Terribles last night to the 25th anniversary celebration of The Snowman, one of Channel 4′s first commissions, originally TXing in November 1982, the month the Channel took to the air. It had been commissioned that February from John Coates (who also produced Yellow Submarine for The Beatles) – he was at the event yesterday evening at the Peacock Theatre near Lincoln’s Inn. Camilla Deakin, former Channel 4 Commissioning Editor for Animation, introduced me to John, a stalwart champion of British animation.

I’m currently working with Camilla and her business partner at Lupus Films, Ruth Fielding, and the comfortable creatures at Aardman in Bristol to explore where the next 25 years of Channel 4 animation may go in the networked, on demand world we now inhabit.

I bumped into David Baddiel for the first time in a long while and his charming Mrs, Morwena Banks of Absolutely Productions. In the wake of his recent BBC1 documentary on the question of restitution for property stolen from Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators in Germany, Poland and Eastern Europe, he is keen to move beyond Jewish and football themes to explore lively approaches to documentary in other areas, more allied to his novel writing themes.

Fellow comedian Rowland Rivron, as dapper as ever in a pinstripe reminiscent of that other groovy fella Jools Holland, seemed to be an afficianado of The Snowman stage show, highlighting variations of scenes and costumes from the previous times he has sat through it over the child-rearing years. Since returning purified from Extreme Celebrity Detox, he seems to have lapsed a bit from the strict regime of vomit-inducing fluids he bravely tested out on behalf of Channel 4 and is comfortable again sipping a drop of wine and downing a petite mince pie.

Don’t think Tamara Beckwith downed even one of the mini mince pies – there wasn’t room in her spray-on jeans. Other glam in the place included Natasha Kaplinsky and two this-generation female Blue Peter presenters who I don’t know the names of but of whom the older Enfant Terrible asked me: are they lesbians? Not sure what prompted the question but brought to light what a different world we’re in compared to the innocent days of Valerie Singleton.

Said Enfant was delighted to chat with Duncan Ballantine of Dragon’s Den – “I wouldn’t have invested in those smiley stickers – there are loads of things like that in schools” he confidently pronounced to the tanned tycoon, evidence of the real educative value of the Den.

Meanwhile the Mrs was altogether more interested in John Simm of Life on Mars and Human Traffic fame (which was produced by my one-time flatmate and old friend of the Mrs, Emer McCourt – check out her first novel Elvis, Jesus and Me).

Reflecting back on that first month of Channel 4 chimed in perfectly with the evening before – the first annual 4Talent Awards, at which I had the honour of presenting the New Media award to Mark Bowness, the fella behind the brilliant TribeWanted. The warm, intimate event at C4 HQ in Horseferry Road was perfectly MCed by comedian Paul Tonkinson, light but respectful of the young talent in the room. And the winners – 20 selected from art forms ranging from sit-com writing to architecture, from documentary photography to fashion design – were buzzing with fresh talent. Bastards.

No, it was fabulous – and very C4. Had me floating in the moonlit sky. You can peruse them all here on 4Talent / Ten4. The recognition clearly meant a lot to the bearers of the illuminated, chameleon-colour-changing awards (from Matmos, the lavalamp supremos) and was a clear motivational boost. As Channel 4 moves into the fully digital age and its next quarter century, the kind of energy and fresh talent in the Drum (the round room in the basement of the Channel where the post-awards drinkies took place) will be central to the evolving organisation and the beat to which it marches.

Hacienda of an era

unknown pleasures

I was called to the TV in a hotel room in Lahinch, Co. Clare, to hear about the sad departure of Tony Wilson to the Big Gig in the Sky. My memories and associations of him?…

Only encountered him once in the flesh – introducing the In The City conference three years ago at the ICA, London. It had all the classic Factory ingredients of music cross-fertilising with other arts and media; waving the Manchester music flag; and all being a bit on the chaotic side, too many ingredients to fully bake. On the new media meets music front, he was quick to spot the iTunes imperative and back early commercial music download services.

The Lyceum, London: Joy Division supporting The Buzzcocks – one of the most embarrassing performances I’ve ever witnessed (only just behind Matt Lucas at the Comedy Store) – but embarrassing in a truly original way – little did I know…

It was Atmosphere which really enlightened me with regard to Tony’s Factory – so here’s a good juncture to tip the hat to Martin Hannett. The scene with the drum kit on the roof of the studio in ‘24 Hour Party People‘ captured his contribution fabulously.

Buying Pete Saville 12″ covers in that little oasis in East Finchley, Alan’s Records. Tony drew in and nurtured some wonderful creative talent around the big boys of Joy Division and Happy Mondays. His consistently extravagant praise of Shaun Ryder’s lyric writing was admirable in its loyalty and provocation …and, of course, passion.

And that pretty much summarises the fella – loyal (to his native town, to his Factoryfolk – like humouring Saville with his post-gig tickets to be proud of); provocative (the clip on Newsnight the other evening in Lahinch paying homage to The Third Man in a ferris wheel [or was it the London Eye?] “And what did London produce? …Chas and Dave!”); and passionate – a man who makes records where the beautiful sleeve costs more than the retail price of the record does indeed wear his heart on his sleeve. Enjoy the unknown pleasures, Tony, you deserve them.

Me New China

view from ICA

Hooked up with Philip Dodd (of BBC Radio 3 arts and Made in China) fresh from an appointment with posh dim sum – that fella is seriously immersing himself in the culture. He spends about a third of his life these days on planes to and from Shanghai – his carbon footprint must be of Charlie Caroli proportions.

We were talking about taking the Big Art Mob to China which would be a real kick. I hope I can interest Buddy Ling Ye of Wang You Media in the initiative (Philip connected us last year) as the reach of his outfit is way beyond lil’ ol’ British dreams.

Alfie Dennen over at Moblog was up for the challenge of tinkering under the bonnet of Big Art Mob to take the baby on the road to China. (Which reminds me, I must ask Philip what it signifies that Made in China is based on Burma Road.)

Philip of course was formerly Director of the ICA which brings me neatly on to another highlight of the week – the Petcha Kutcha which launched the Cultural and Creative Leadership Mentoring Programme at the ICA on Tuesday evening. The programme is DCMS backed with Arts Council England, MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives) and London Development Agency support. I met my mentee for the first time, Caroline Bottomley of the Radar Festival, an annual competition and allied activities for emerging film-making talent centred on music promos (4Talent, by chance, features among their partners). I’ve only ever mentored very tall Afro-Caribbean 16 year olds before, at a comprehensive school round the corner from Channel 4, so this will be an interesting contrast.

Petcha Kutcha is a speaking format originated in Tokyo by Klein Dytham architecture. 20 speakers with 20 pictures each speak for 20 seconds per slide. It seems consistently to produce inspiring events. As a speaker, the parlour game aspect was highly enjoyable, encouraging a loose, free-flowing approach.

The people who charged my batteries this time included Sydney Levinson, a Creative Accountant, the first of this breed I’ve come across I could really call inspiring. He is Chair of Cockpit Arts and supports young creatives at the RCA, Crafts Council, etc. He seems to have had a left-field brush with punk (in the form of Generation X) and to love spreadsheets and music with equal passion, which can’t be a bad thing.

One of the speakers works out of Cockpit (and obviously loves her subsidised studio space there) – Annette Bugansky radiated the commitment of a genuine artist/craftswoman, explaining a lifetime of mastering her disciplines. She has melded an early career in tailoring and wardrobe (including cutting for Jean Muir) to a later flourishing in ceramics, in the form of white porcelain pots and other exquisitely pure pieces whose surface textures are created by literally dressing the moulds in fabric clothes before casting and painstakingly hand-finishing.

Contrasting masterly experience with youthful energy, Claire Louise Staunton was very endearing. She is the dynamo behind the Late Night Programmes at the Whitechapel Gallery, which appears to have been a hub in her lively career to date. She is interested in bringing sonic arts to museums, especially lesser known ones. (Note to self: hook Claire up with Martyn Ware if they aren’t already in touch).

Other colourful speakers included Victoria Bean with her art typographical books created at Arc, a collective of similarly oriented artists; Mark Downs of adult puppet theatre specialists Blind Summit; John Newbigin, formerly a colleague at Channel 4 and now co-trustee at 24 Hour Museum; Trudie Stephenson of Emineo Fine Art who was MD at County Hall Gallery and has evidently helped a lot of fine artists make the money they deserve.

To round off, the ever amiable Paul Bennun of Somethin’ Else took us through a day in his life – his 20th slide bringing us right up to the moment as he photographed the audience from the stage. Among the audience was Philip’s successor Ekow Eshun. And so the circle is closed.

Enterprise the Eden Way

eden

Went to Oli Barrett’s launch of Make Your Mark with a Tenner where Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden project, passed on some experience and wisdom to the students of Stockwell Park High School in Sarf Lunden.Firstly he emphasised the importance of being kind, generous and open in business. Also, trusting in your instinct.Then he expounded on his Tinkerbell Theory – get enough people believing in your vision and it will happen.The former Motorhead producer then laid out the 9 rules that he devised to underpin his business:1 Say hello to a good number of people when you arrive at work every morning 2 Each year read 2 books outside your normal sphere of interest (and review them for your colleagues)

3 ditto with a Concert

4 ditto with a Movie

5 ditto with a Play

6 Get up once a year to make a short speech on ‘Why you like working for me’

7 Make a meal for 40 people at work who help you most to make the most of your day – Tim highlighted how you have different kinds of conversation when you eat together (makes me think of the French word ‘copain’ – it means ‘mate’ or ‘pal’ but literally it is someone you ‘break bread’ with

8 Do one act of anonymous kindness for a stranger each year – a way of sharing your good luck so you’re worthy of it

9 Play the samba drums as a group – Tim drew attention to how all children like to sing and dance, but look what happens to many of us on that front when we grow up

Which points to what these 9 rules are all about, getting/staying in touch with our spirit…

And this is how I try to do that: each day I leave the house saying “I will enjoy my day…”

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