Craft is a quiet word. It does not scream revolution.

But craft is the deliberate scuffing of shoes, a badge on a school bag, the shortening of trousers and the loosening of waistbands. It is sellotape, sugru and thread. It is an adaptation of the world to fit our needs. It makes the anonymous personal and the bland beautiful. It is the human hand on the mass produced. It brings utility and beauty to the old and unloved. It starts conversations. It is an expression. It saves money and makes money and makes money irrelevant for a short while at least. It is what we were made to do. It is problem solving, tinkering, art. It gives us power over our objects. It makes us engage in the process not the product.

Craft is not the preserve of middle class mums and old people (although they do it well). It is a small persistent counter current to consumerism. It makes us creators. It gives us power. It makes us human.

Craft may be the punkest thing you’ll ever do.

From time to time I come across friends and allies putting on events that I feel would benefit from a web presence. Being of the old school they tend to ignore me. So this time I am trying to prove them wrong by posting their fabulous events from my blog and introducing the world of cyberspace to the tradition of story telling.

Storytelling in Bedford
Bringing performance storytellers to an adult audience

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Simon Heywood

From Sheffield, twenty years a professional, the hairyscholarstorytellerfasttalkingguitarstrummer.

Like all the best storytellers, he’s one of a kind.

This time he’s in the green, unpleasant land of…

Darkest England

Friday 4th March, 8pm

5 Lansdowne Rd

Book your ticket now £7
Phone Mark 01234 217575 or Jane 01462 711815

An evening of lesser-known stories from the dark side of the tradition. Advisory: may contain extreme peril and violence, black dogs, dead moons, flying children, rose trees, Charles Dickens’ least favourite bedtime story and a man from the Cambridgeshire drug squad.

This post is about secrets, puzzles, treasure, and maps.

Everyone loves a treasure hunt don’t they? For those of us growing up in Bedfordshire the story of the hunt for the Golden Hare seeped into our imaginations – a treasure hunt told through a childrens book, Masquerade by Kit Williams, with the golden prize found in Ampthill, a sleepy Bedfordshire market town. It was before my time (being published the year I was born) but the mythology surrounding it intrigued me, and still stories about the hunt surface from time to time in the national press.

There may not be golden hares buried in our towns but our iphones can reveal the hidden worlds around us.

Geocaching caught my attention a few years back. These high tech treasure hunts involve romping through places to find hidden caches which contain a mini log book and sometimes some treats to swap. You need a GPS device to find them, and when you turn on that GPS device you will be amazed to find that geocaches are all around you, some easier to find than others. Lucky for us an iphone can do the job well. There is such potential for tourist boards, country parks, schools and communities to make use of them.

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Two other digital mapping applications are worthy of a look. Flook and audioboo (complementary in my view). Flook describes itself as a location browser. It encourages users to post the kind of local secret knowledge that you won’t find in the tourist information office. Audioboos allow you to attach sounds to spaces and places, or stories of course. Both allow you to attach digital data (audio clips or photographs and text) to a geographical area. Others walking through with the same application can find your information. I’ve screen-grabbed a couple of my flooks for you and inserted them above. You can also see my card stream here

So what does this mean? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Oh dear reader, this means that we, the people can map our spaces and places in any way we like – we can share secrets, spread our local info, allow visitors to our towns to go “off piste”. It is a democratization of mapping, no less. We can create business for our local businesses, the ones who really do make the best coffee in town, we can show the sides of our towns that we are really proud of, or that intrigue us, or make us laugh. We can talk about spaces places or things with others who share our space. Things that maybe only a few people know. It is the way that people will navigate their way through new locales in the future. Local knowledge made global.

This excites me beyond measure, BUT there is a catch. I am writing this on my shiny apple mac and access flook & audioboo on my iphone. I wish I could claim that these things were as a result of my cutting edge technological coolness but alas they are not. I simply happen to have them. Others simply don’t. If we decide to harness these incredible tools we need to think about those who have the knowledge but may not have the gadget.

I am organising a ‘Hidden Bedford’ day soon. An informal gathering of people with and without iphones. I hope to gather around an actual map (made of actual paper) and ask people to think about their favourite places in the centre of our town. Patterns will emerge on that map – routes will suggest themselves, and I hope, we can match up those with the technology and those with the stories to tell. And then we go for a stroll, mapping it as we go. We will need each other. We will learn stuff. We will own our town just a little bit more.

If you would like to come, let me know.

I would just like to profess my love for artichoke

They create public art of the best kind

They do impossible things (often before breakfast)

Which is why I’ve just booked my ticket to Dine with Alice

And so should you

When I was young my Dad gave me a picture of a cartoon man picking up a paving slab in a city and finding grass beneath it.

The French 1968 rioters cried “Sous les pavés, la plage!” as they found the beach under the paving slabs they were hurling at police.

Something happens when you look at a townscape and reframe it. It is not easy, and sometimes your mind only sees it for a moment. But if you focus on the trees or the rise and fall of the ground, the landscape underneath pops out and dominates, like the two faces popping out from the vase. You see the town as built on soil rather than the grass verges as decoration of the town.

The built world is so very real, so concrete. We fit into the town and follow its signs. We bend to its will, somehow.

What would happen if we went barefoot in Tescos? What if we experienced buildings in the same way we experience sand and soil?

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I have been attending some of the Konvertible workshops in Bedford. Konvertible is a project led by artist Lisa Cheung and funded by the Arts Council and Bedford Creative Arts. The aim is to have local people create goods from materials sourced locally (for the main part), to be sold via a purpose-built mobile kiosk to local people. People take part for free, the materials are supplied and all profits go back into the project enabling more workshops to be held. I’ve been to two workshops, and babysitter willing, will attend my third tonight.

I have been quite moved by my experience, and unexpectedly so. I knew I wanted to take part, I absolutely love to take part in art projects, so it is no surprise that I have been enjoying myself. But I have been moved in other ways.

I am famously anti-social. I don’t mean to be. But in any social gathering I am usually closest to the door and often make an early exit. I also, often don’t make it through the door in the first place. My good intentions often get me to the place, but fail at the final push. I don’t know why this is. I am rubbish at small talk, having been born without the internal censor that tells me when to speak and when to keep my trap shut I often find that when I do talk I say too much, too fast, and it is often easier to avoid social gatherings entirely. Social spaces with strangers are not always easy for me.

Konvertible has felt different. I attend the easy-making workshops. The photos above have been provided by the good folks at Bedford Creative Arts. There is a good mix of people, mainly women, but a sprinkling of men, and an age range that probably goes from mid- twenties to early seventies. The difference is in the making. There is a wide choice of things to get involved in and Lisa presents a range of options to participants giving a gentle steer to things she would like us to tackle or finish. The woodworkers work downstairs, sewers huddle around a machine or the main table, and the ceramic decorators huddle together. I am a ceramic decorator. I use transfers and decorate second hand or plain mugs and bowls. It is easy and quick and gets great results. I have noticed how quickly things get serious. Now, lets not fool ourselves, the skill level required for putting transfers onto mugs is around that of a 5 year old, the process being exactly the same as needed for the temporary tattoos that used to come in bubblegum wrappers… but after the initial chit chat people begin to focus on their projects with the concentration of a fine artisan. It becomes important and the room gets quiet.

It is a non-threatening place. Another Lisa, Lisa Tilley of uoldbag fabulousness makes tea (always one too many) and there is a friendly kind of feeling to the whole affair. Anyone who comes becomes part of it. I was caught off-guard when a young man came upstairs looking for ‘Kate’ because he wanted to do ceramics. That must be one of the organisers, I said, I’m not sure of everyone’s name yet, but I can show you how to do it if you want… It took a while to dawn on me that Lisa had sent him up to me, because I did know enough to share the skill. He was looking for Kayte.

Lisa has asked us to supply our own drawings so that she can make new transfers with our own images. The instructions were to keep it simple and use pencil. The more basic the picture, the more imperfect, the better the outcome. You see, Konvertible, is about imperfections, it is about creating a little space around goods for us to add our mark to them, to transform factory made goods into something else, something more fun, more characterful, more human. It is a tiny counter current against the mass produced. We are becoming creators as well as consumers. We do not have to accept products as they are, we can add our mark, adapt, and even show a willful disrespect for the intended outcome for the product (if you have ever seen a bag knitted from shirts then you will understand).

We are going to sell our goods. Our simple work adds value that can be charged for.

It made me think about those empty shops spreading through my town. It opened up my thinking. We don’t need to court multi-nationals, or chain stores to breath life into our ailing towns. We need to get access, create goods or services, and open them up. I have thought about winter concerts – an empty shop, deck chairs, blankets, flasks of tea and a busker or two. I’d pay a few bob for that.

So it made me feel part of something, it made me feel that I my efforts are valuable, and that I could, somehow, maybe, make some kind of a difference to my hometown. Pretty good huh?

The Konvertible Kiosk hits Bedford Market on the 5th November. I’m going to bake some gingerbread. See you there.

I can hardly contain my excitement at the participatory arty crafty locally sourced making extravaganza that is landing in Bedford this Autumn.

People, come and make stuff with your own bare hands with things from round your way and fueled with creative juices that are in your head.

They want knitters, sewers, makers, tinkerers, enthusiasts, hobbyists, people with skills, and people without (thank god).

They’ve even got a mobile kiosk that is going to sell the beautiful wonderful home-grown-hand-made-lovingly-crafted-by-you stuff!

AND IT’S FREE!

Hurrah for Bedford Creative Arts. Hurrah for The Arts Council. Hurrah for Bedford!

I’m IN!

If, like me, you haven’t got round to making your appointment at the opticians and need that leaflet sent to you in BIG TYPE, don’t be shy, just email me at kayte@goodthingsltd.com and I’ll send it to you, some of the best people I know can’t see past their noses.