Folk tales and gigs Meetup – Brew Dog, Birmingham

meetup imagesI had 5 people at my Meetup! Record! We went to BrewDog and heard Green Man Rising, amongst others. The variety of real ale they have is great. Some of the ale is 18% which is mental. but they put it in 25ml glasses so not so bad! The illustrations on the walls are really funky. There is a secret place under the stairs, ok not so secret, but comfy hidden-away leather sofas for a good old chat. Nice.

DSC_0651The girls’ toilets evidently have to be more intellectual than the boys’ toilets’ “A history of beer” (a source told me about the history of beer. Promise I didn’t venture in!



Scouts – Entertainer Badge Night

scout logopic

Make your own Puppet theatre

I ran this night and I was really pleased at how successful it was! There were some really creative ideas from the Scouts. The Scouts wrote a Stage Management list for backstage. One even had a lighting rig, a headtorch and crepe paper for a gel (to make a coloured light).

– I’ll add the info about Pepper’s ghost, which I got off the internet and tried but didn’t work. I think I’ll have to put some more thought into how it works practically. Any comments on how to do that would be great because I think our Scouts would’ve loved it! Link: PEPPER and Dirck’s ghost

Here is my plan!

Basic ingredients: Tables, shoe/wine boxes or big bike boxes (Sainsbury’s/Cult Cycles are very obliging with boxes!), cardboard, bits and bobs (bells, material, string) coloured paper, sellotape, headtorches, crepe paper, pritt stick, eggboxes, chalks, paints, possibly a CD player and classical music (The Planets has a good range of scary, love, war etc. or Now 70, whatever works for your Scouts!)

Timing: We didn’t do a game in the two hours so we just stuck to this activity and tidying up. You could probably fit in a short game of Cat and Mouse/Tig, though depending on how messy it gets!

Leader numbers: 2

1: (5 mins) Scouts get out the tables

2: (15 mins) We sat and chatted about Theatres and I showed them pictures of local theatres, exciting sets and asked if they’d been to a panto/play. We discussed their favourite sets (Had to say what a “set” was) and plays

Scouts – Plays and puppet theatre 2003 – This link is to a file with pictures of plays like:

Robin Hood in the RSC Main Theatre: A massive tree was hung from the rig, they had a 50 foot grass-covered slide on stage and flying characters.

Doctor Faustus at The Globe: I showed images of monsters from Doctor Faustus where actors come from Hell (using a trapdoor under the stage).

3: (5 mins) Explain the task: “Work in groups of 5 to make your own Puppet theatre (very clear Youtube video of how to do this with a shoebox!), puppets and stories. You have massive cardboard boxes so think what you want to do with them before you cut them up. Everyone needs a job so one person can write a scene of a story, one person does props, etc.” (Our Scouts decided to make flyers to advertise and used a sponsor) Best one gets haribos. I used a scorechart to make it professional 😉 (scores based on teamwork, sets, originality, story etc.-could do a clap-o-meter or raise of hands if there are lots of groups.)

4: (40 mins) Leave them to it and offer help/ideas if needed.

5: (10 minutes) “Start your tech and dress rehearsals! 10 minutes left!”

6: (10 minutes) We all sat together and watched the shows. We only had two groups so it was short. You may need to adjust for more groups.

So now they can get their Entertainer Badge! Yay.

An idea for next time 🙂 Shadow Puppet Theatre

Looking back at my Research Proposal for focus

I briefly mentioned my research proposal so I thought it might be useful to show the ideas which I have been looking at from that. At the moment I am comparing Education programmes, the feel of both places and people in those places. I have created a table in a Word doc. but it’s still in its infancy. I wanted to figure out how to evaluate it first. Anyway here are some things I’m pondering and trying to pin down at the moment. I have the whole day tomorrow to think about it. I am reading about A Postmodern Puzzle: Rewriting the Place of the Visitor in Art Museum Education (by Melinda M. Mayer) for my Current Issues in Art and Design Education course and looking at how Walsall Art Gallery and Tate Britain’s programmes are similar so hopefully this will give me more of a more theoretical context in which to place why the way the Education programme is run is so important and the impact It will have on the future of The Arts.


Aims: what do you hope to achieve and why?

Potential title: Blogging a comparative study of Traditional Arts Team (TAT) vs. New Art Gallery Walsall (NAGW)

I want to discuss these ideas in the blog. (Some of the elements here may simply continue as I use the blog in the future. For example, the festivals will not come to fruition until June):

–          Arts Events Management

–          Community Arts

–          Arts Education in galleries

–          Event/journal reviews

–          Planning festivals


–          Educational outreach programmes: I will research how they market and manage events which encourage engagement and participation within the local community. The scope of what can be done sometimes relies on funding so it is possible that NAGW has more capabilities regarding what they purchase or what they do for school groups.

–          Social media: I will compare the use of social media at NAGW and TAT. Social media is a major tool for marketing to a younger audience, especially as Young Storyteller of the Year becomes more popular. I am learning to be a storyteller and attending an art class and this helps me to understand what we are marketing as well as showing me what the organisation is about.

–          The venue itself: NAGW white box art gallery vs. TAT which is accommodation cum workspace

–          Community arts: This is principally about engagement rather than success/finance and the most apparent question is about justifying the spending of money on the Arts.

I mentioned writing reviews to Graham at The Traditional Arts Team and he suggested I could review some of their work too. This will help if I have to write copy in the future.

The use of Space

–          Assessing the idea of how a Space is used is interesting to me. Working in an office environment in a venue seems to drive inspiration and focus (for employees), through constantly seeing the product which is being developed and sold.

–          I will look into the difficulties of moving into someone else’s space and trying to have an impact on their work whilst conforming to their infrastructure. I would also like to assess the idea of an organisation being event-centric and what this changes for the organisation. There is not, for example, one main event but a continuously rolling schedule.

Research email

So I whittled it down to just a few questions in the end, having looked back at my research proposal notes and tried to focus my trajectory so that I gain some interesting research. I am reading a Hein paper on Constructivism and I want to get two books on Thursday when I’m in town, (Smith, Deborah, The New Art Gallery Walsall (London, Batsford 2002)) and (McGregor, Sheila; A shared vision: the Garman Ryan collection at the New Art Gallery, Walsall(London, Merrell Holberton, 1999)) which I didn’t find before when I searched New Art Gallery Walsall in the library catalogue.

The New Art Gallery Walsall
The New Art Gallery Walsall

This always seems to happen, I find books which are really pertinent halfway through my reading research when I go back to the start and think through what my focus is before I go into the more critical writing.

nagw shared vision
A Shared vision – The Garman-Ryan Collection at The New Art Gallery Walsall

I suppose this reflective journaling is different in a way because it’s not like I’m going to pool all this knowledge into one places. It’s come out in my blog like a string of sausages. The evaluation part will probably be at the end, though, so the end sausages will have venison and fancy interesting bits in (I hope!).



I hope you are well.

As I am not seeing you for a while would you be able to answer some of these questions for me? They might seem a bit random but I think they’d really help me to make some decisions as to where my research is going and my deadline is 22nd April so I’m trying to make some headway.

I understand you may be busy but any brief answers, links or suggestions regarding these ideas would be really useful to me.

–          How do you see your own development within the Art Gallery? Would you consider yourself as a reflective practitioner? If so, why is that important to your work? Would you say that your theoretical context lies in constructivism or with any specific theorists?

–          How do you adhere to New Art Gallery, Walsall’s mission statement? Do you have any examples of how you might adhere to the ethos of the art gallery? Does your event plan come first or does what needs to be done for the gallery (and its future ambitions) or for the local community have more weight?

–          How do you find working in one venue (as opposed to running events in different venues)?

–          Do you think the way New Art Gallery, Walsall, runs is similar to any other galleries or wants to follow the practice of any other galleries? If so, what galleries and in what ways?

–          How does the space you work in evoke different emotions/habits from other places you have worked in?

–          What are the most important things which you consider when planning an event at the gallery?

– Does New Art Gallery, Walsall have an outreach programme? If so, do you find this more/less useful than children coming in to the gallery to learn?

Any responses would be greatly appreciated!

Kind regards,


Extra Curricular Fun, you say?!

I thought I’d just write a short post to say why I think these posts are at all relevant to my Research in Practice.

Firstly, I think organising any events and being part of fundraising or gaining experience as a volunteer demonstrate what sort of person I am and give a well-rounded idea of what I do. If I want to write about my Research in Practice then it’s good for people to get a feel of why these things interest me.

I suppose it’s also gratuitous.

Ok, reflecting on what I’ve just written I’ve probably just lied. I like writing about the things I do because they are important to me. I blog for Mary Arden’s because I think it’s worth going to see it and I want people to experience the fun I have there and I want it to do well as a place. I like to share my Meet Up Group because I only have 9 people so far but I am really happy about it because it is something which I started and which brings people together who I can socialize with and go to gigs with which makes me happy. Bringing people together is a great feeling and I like that. I guess that’s why Arts Management attracted my interest. I’m always trying to organise people to do fun things. The Arts gives me the chance to do that for a day job!

Reviewing new venues is a way for me to encourage my brain to remember great places I went to and what gigs I saw. It’s good practice for writing copy too. I like writing newsletters and things. I won an award when I was younger, The W H Smith Young Writer’s Award ’95, and I think I owe it to little Alex to keep it up.

W H Smith Young Writer's Award Publication
W H Smith Young Writer’s Award Publication

It’s part of who I am. So that’s why I have, “Extra-curricular fun,” which I suppose, will be, “Professional experience,” when I graduate from my Masters course and have to write a CV of what I have actually done to suggest I would be good in an Arts and Project Management job!

Alex out.

Research Interviews – IDEAS

Having been to another tutorial session recently, I have been thinking about research interviews. As I haven’t been able to speak to Zoe (from NAGW) in person, it would make sense to email her some questions in the hope of a response which I could work with for my blogging. This seems like the perfect chance to practice a bit for my dissertation and consider what type of research interviews would be useful in order to collect data. To make this information useful to others I will write “The Subject” when referring to my research subject.

Visualizing Research - Gray and Malins
Visualizing Research – Gray and Malins


How do I get the interview?

–          STEP ONE – email/phone subject to ask, politely, if they will either attend an interview with me, or respond to an email with questions.

What form will the interview take?

–          FORM OF INTERVIEW: Send an email/call the subject requesting a meeting. I should research the company, I should know what questions to ask and I should know how to lead this interview before I email the subject so that, should they suggest I send questions (or they say they are free for a personal interview) that day or the next day, I will already be prepared. I will email the subject as I cannot meet them.

–          DIFFERENT FRAMEWORK OF INTERVIEW TIME: It could be formal/structured (Q&A), semi-structured (questions and a bit of a chat), informal (general chat to see what issues might be important, potentially in preparation for another interview).

–          PINPOINT FOCUS: Where did these answers lead me? Do some more research…

–          FOLLOW-UP: I may need to follow up the interview later with emailed questions to which the subject may reply.

What do I want to find out?

–          In this case, I want to find out the mission statement of Walsall Art Gallery and how the subject adheres to that.

–          What theoretical principles do they adhere to when the subject is doing their job.

–          I would like the conversation to lead into areas I potentially don’t know about and could research more. Potentially something niche/on-trend which would add an interesting angle to the essay for readers.

–          How does the subject choose certain ideas (for planning) over others?


The Reflective Practitioner - Donald A. Schon
The Reflective Practitioner – Donald A. Schon


1)      WHAT IS YOUR JOB ROLE? (as head of education-this may shed light on what subject is trying to do)

2)      WHAT IS YOUR 5 YEAR TRAJECTORY WITHIN NAGW? (Not sure if that’s a bit personal but I’ll try it. This could show where subject wants to take the department and how education is pertinent to the organisation)

3)      WHAT GOALS DO YOU NEED TO FULFILL AS PART OF WALSALL ART GALLERY? (might give an idea of theoretical concepts to research)




5)      DO YOU THINK HAVING A HISTORY IN ART HISTORY IS IMPORTANT FOR WORKING IN A GALLERY? (What does theory bring to practice? Mention the reflective practitioner?)

6)      POSTMODERNISM?  (something about the new kind of museum)

7)      WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST-PRACTITIONER? (maybe ask where her theoretical context lies)

8)      AS A CONSTRUCTIVIST GALLERY … (perhaps ask if she thinks they are similar to any other galleries so I could research them too… Tate for e.g.)

9)      WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CONSIDER WHEN PLANNING AN EVENT (Potential to discuss community events where many issues can be considered at once – we discussed this interesting idea before Women’s Day can be related to different cultures for e.g.)



2)      DO YOU DO MUCH OUTREACH/DO CHILDREN TEND TO COME TO YOU? (This could be an interesting point of comparison with the other company I am investigating. It would also, hopefully, start a dialogue about education in the gallery space/schools)

3)      HOW DO YOU PUT THEORY INTO PRACTICE AS AN ARTIST-RESEARCHER? (Again looking at Carole Gray[1] and The Reflective Practitioner. I will write a blog post about the definition of an artist-researcher)

What approach will I take?

–          Email to begin with

–          I want to ask intelligent-seeming questions. I want to find out things that I couldn’t answer myself.

–          I don’t want to waste their/my time.

–          How will I evaluate whether I have received good info? Through my essay and asking follow-up questions


Which resources did I use to help me?

Learning Tab on NAGW Website

Schon’s The Reflective Practitioner[2]

Gray and Malins’ Visualizing Research[3]

Hein’s Constructivist Learning Theory[4]


[1] Gray, Carole and Malins, Julie, Visualizing research: A guide to the research process in Art and Design (UK, MPG Books Ltd. 2004) 58

[2]Schon, Donald A., The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action (USA, Basic Books Inc., 1983)

[3] Gray, Carole and Malins, Julie, Visualizing research: A guide to the research process in Art and Design (UK, MPG Books Ltd. 2004) 58

[4] Hein, George E., Constructivist Learning Theory, CECA Conference: The Museum and The Needs of the People, (Jerusalem, Israel, 15-22 Oct 1991)



I noted some ideas down that I am going to share at the BIAD final show meeting. A fundraising event has already been organised for the day of the meeting. A bake sale.

I want us to do some fundraising that will engage people with art and socialising. Art walks or workshops would be something simple we could do as linked events to the final show. We could brand them as well. We are discussing the title etc. next week which should be good.

I saw the start of a fundraising event for New Writers at Ort and if we could do some sort of Artist talk there we might get a good crowd. I might email the people who ran that event and ask about their planning.