Throwdown Threes from Paul Gorman

  • Posted by tim
  • 16 January 2009

This week the world renowned author of great books on music, art and culture Paul Gorman has chosen three songs to lead us into the weekend. Paul has just finished his latest book which i mentioned on the site a while back. "Reasons To Be Cheerful" is Pauls latest book which features the artwork of the counter culture legend Barney Bubbles whose work is soon to be exhibited at the howies Bristol shop on the 5th Feb. Details of the exhibition will follow next week on the blog and in the press. 

Englishman Barney was "a legend to all young designers" said the New York Times. 

Here's to the weekend and the worship of saturn and the sun, with the tail end of Frigg thrown in for good measure. 

Strange Overtones by Brian Eno and David Byrne

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Teenage Head by the Flamin Groovies

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I Get Lifted by George McRae

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evan williams

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

Dear Evan,

Would you come and speak at the do lectures.

I know you are busy and we are far away, but with a name like williams you must have some welsh roots. Let us know, glad twitter is doing well. all the best. David.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Blogger Should Do

I was recently asked about the "death of blogging" for this article in The Economist. I didn't get back to the reporter in time, though, so my comments ended up, ironically, on his blog. (Conclusion: I don't believe blogging is dying, but...it's complicated. Like in most healthy ecosystems, new species are breeding. Whether or not they're called "blogging" is a question perhaps best left for scientists, but there are many new forms that are undeniably part of the blogging genus.)

Last night at the Churchill Club, I was quoted as saying that Twitter "will dwarf Blogger." I do believe that, but it will be no easy task and will not be soon. Blogger is big. Really big. That chart was from six months ago. Is it losing traction? I don't know. It doesn't look like it was then. And since then, the team over there seems to be kicking ass. A glance at Blogger Buzz show's they've been launching feature after feature the last few months. Launching any features when you're that big is usually a daunting task. Shows that a lot of years building a solid platform have paid off. 

So, the question is: Where do they go from here? Part of that, I suppose, will be determined by where the Google powers-that-be decide Blogger lands on their priority list, given the leaner times. Clearly it's not one their cash cows, but it's also not a side project they're dabbling in. I've heard it makes money (from AdSense on blogs they host), but I really don't know. In fact, I know so little about Blogger these days, I feel like I can actually write about it as an outsider. 

From a product perspective, I do feel like they could get more out of the capabilities and incredible usage they already have. Here's an unordered list of some of the ways I'd look to do that if I were in charge:

Build a Network of Networks: Building more interconnection between users and blogs is clearly part of the focus now with "followers." It's something we realized we were remiss in not doing more of way back when we built the (not very good) profile pages in 2004, when Friendster was the big thing and Orkut was launching down the hall. There are a ton of mechanisms to do this, but one thing to consider: Don't try to make one big network. Perhaps enable anybody to create a blog network/community thingy. (There might be a doc around there about "Blogger Hubs" -- not sure if it's still relevant.)

Point People to Good Content: When it comes to interconnectedness, don't just try to make it more "social." Social is important, but pure socialness can be achieved elsewhere. One unique thing about Blogger -- vs. say Facebook or MySpace -- is the content. How can you make the content more interlinked and use the network to get more attention to the good stuff, thus rewarding the creating of more good stuff? You know what the most-viewed/commented/linked-to post on Blogger was today. Show it to me! I bet it's interesting! (Even better: Show me what's most popular within my blog network.) BTW, if revenue, not just usage, is a priority, this plays to that, because it's the content focused blogs that can make the money.

Get More Out of the Navbar: The toolbar you have at the top of millions of blogs could do so much more. This is where you can put the feedback mechanisms, interlinking mechanisms, etc. NextBlog could be a whole thing! Make that so I never wanna stop clicking because it always shows me something awesome. (Think StumbleUpon within the Blogger network.)

Prettier Templates: When it comes down to it, many people just want a page that looks good. This a large part of Tumblr's appeal, in my opinion. You gotta upgrade those templates. I know prettiness is not a focus in your culture, but bring them into 2007 at least web design, if not 2009. 

Help People use the Layout Engine: The new templating system does everything anyone would every want. But you kinda gotta be a programmer who likes programming in production, in a textarea, in a language you've never used, to tap into it. Yes, there's point-and-click design and widget goodness, but it seems...hard. Can you make it seem fun? Can you make it so pseudo-developers can figure it out and others can leverage that? Layout sharing perhaps (kill two birds)? 

Make it Fast: You've made some progress on slimming down the posting form page (at least in Draft). But I don't know if we've fully embraced the Google mantra of speed is every. I predict you'd see a 30% increase in posts if you made posting twice as fast. (That goes for the whole workflow, not just the posting form.)

Become the Aggregator: One possible answer to the question to what role does the stand-alone blog live in the age of a million-and-one generalized and specialized participatory web experiences is as a personal aggregator that reflects back the other stuff one does on the web. Yes, I'll load all that stuff into FriendFeed, but that's not my "online presence" as we used to say back in the day. Everybody (or at least a lot of people) needs an URL -- and one without a ? in it. I want my tweets, and my photos, and my whatevers to show up on evhead.com (hosted by Blogger) in an attractive way. 

Put Ads in the App Interface: For example, the published landing page alone must get millions of views a day. And it's the perfect point for someone to go elsewhere. See if you can target it off what they wrote about. No one will mind (much). And strengthening your revenue story will strengthen your position in the company. 

Do Something Radical: I almost feel like this list is way too conservative. Not that I think Blogger's in trouble. But I suspect there something potentially more awesome that you could pull off by leveraging what you already have. You probably have those ideas. When there are so many great things to do that you know will work, it's hard to not focus on them. But it might be time to try something wacky.

Sorry, I know you've already thought of these things. When you're working on a product and people on the outside tell you what you should do, acting like they're all smart, it's annoying. The hard part is building stuff, not thinking it up. Carry on. (But seriously, the prettier templates thing.)

Tea manifesto

  • Posted by howies
  • 9 January 2009

i am a tea junkie.

right now i am doing my normal january thing - no choc, no coffee, no alcohol and no tea.

i miss the no tea the most.

i made everyone a cuppa tea this morning, including myself out of habit.

then had to watch it go cold as i remembered it was january.

anyway, i saw this the morning.

http://teaappreciationsociety.blogspot.com/

we even get a mention.

pete, if you are reading this, lets ask them to do a piece for the catalogue.

pete, if you are not reading this, where are ya?

 
OUR MANIFESTO
Manifesto of the Tea Appreciation Society 

1. We want to sing the love of tea.

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be loose leaf tea, boiled water, a tea pot, a china cup and a biscuit.

3. Literature has up to now magnified idleness, and slumber. We want to exalt these slow movements of ecstasy, feverish boiling of the kettle, the pour, the perilous stir, the rattle and the clink of the spoon.

4. We declare that the splendour of the world has been enriched by an old beauty: the beauty of tea.

5. Beauty exists only in considered brewing. There is no masterpiece that has an aggressive character. Poetry is not a violent assault on the forces of infusion.

6. We want to glorify peace - the only cure for the world - militarism, patriotism; these destructive gestures kill the beautiful ideas of the human race.

7. We want to visit museums and libraries, encourage philosophy.

8. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work; the revolt, smashing the supermarkets; we will rejoice in the baking of bread; the polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern music as we play our ukuleles: the nocturnal vibration of the worms in our compost; our spirits suspended from the clouds by the thread of cup in sleeve tea bags; and the gliding flight of creativity whose propeller sounds like the sipping of enthusiastic tea drinkers.

Categories:

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He's gone but Ron will never be forgotten.

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Thinksyncfilms

  • Posted by tim
  • 6 January 2009

 

I am a big 2 Loneswordsmen and Andy Weatherall fan, no doubt about it. I just got off the website of thinksyncmusic who represent them and found this really great competition they are running for filmakers. here's the lowdown.

 

ThinkSync Films 2009 was launched on December 1st 2008. From now you can download a selection of music from leading independent labels and publishers for use in your film. The deadline for competition submissions will be late June 2009 with the winner being announced at the party at the end of July. Please join our mailing list below to make sure you are kept up to date. Thanks to everyone who entered 2008's competition and congratulations to the winner, Robert Hindle. 

 

The competition
The competition rewards the most skilful and appropriate use of the music within a short film. It should not be seen as a ‘music video’ but encompass the qualities that distinguish the best in short film making. There will be a Thousand Pounds cash prize for the winner plus other prizes such as equipment and time in post for other shortlisted film makers. All entrants will be offered a discount on membership to Shooting People, the indispensible networking resource for independent film makers

 

The music
In addition to our increased presence across numerous esteemed film festivals, we have worked with many great independent record labels and publishers. In 2009 these include 4AD, Asthmatic Kitty, Bella Union, Big Dada, Digital Hardcore, Catskills Records, Bug Music, Chemikal Underground, Mute Song, Ninja Tune, Rough Trade, Rotters Golf Club, Saddlecreek, The Leaf Label and Wichita.

 

The award event and screening

After the painful experience of watching guests turned away as our last event went over capacity we are looking at new venues for next year’s ThinkSync Films screening and afterparty. It will be held in conjunction with the 11th anniversary Rushes Soho Shorts Festival. More information about the 2009 event will be on this site later this year. In the meantime all the latest news can be found on our blog.

Here's the website, check it out as there's loads of great stuff on it.

All press enquiries should be directed to Connie Farr at connie@thinksyncfilms.com.

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

  • Posted by tim
  • 24 December 2008

Categories:

Here are a few traditional Christmas customs from the National Museum of Wales.......and an assortment of songs from Welsh bands and musicians. 

Calon Lan by Cerys Matthews

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Plant yn casglu Calennig yn LlangynwydCalennig

The giving of gifts on New Year's Day is an ancient custom. In Wales it took the form of collecting calennig (New Year's Gift). Children would form groups and go from house to house, bearing good wishes for the health and prosperity of the family during the year to come. This was symbolised by the skewered apples, stuck with corn and sprigs of evergreen, which they carried in their hands. Verses were sung at the door of the house, and they would receive small gifts of food or money for their troubles.

Latterly, the carrying of the apple has been discontinued, and only the recitation of a few verses and the collecting of new pennies mark the custom in those districts where it has survived.

Here is a verse sung in Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire:

Mi godais heddiw ma's o'm tŷ
A'm cwd a'm pastwn gyda mi,
A dyma'm neges ar eich traws,
Sef llanw'm cwd â bara a chaws.

(I left my house today 
With my bag and my stick, 
And here is my message to you, 
Fill my bag with bread and cheese.)

Mari Lwyd at Llangynwyd, early 20th century

Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare / Holy Mary) was the name most generally applied in Wales to the horse-figure formerly carried from door to door by wassail-singing groups during the Christmas season.  This figure (which is, of course, represented in other countries) seems to have been once known all over southern Wales but during the present century relatively little has been seen of it outside of Glamorgan, where it is not yet completely extinct.

The attendant ritual began with the singing of traditional stanzas by the Mari Lwyd group at the door, soliciting both permission to sing and entry into the house, and issuing a challenge to a versifying contest.

Llangynwyd Mari Lwyd

Next followed the pwnco, the debate conducted to the same music in a combination of traditional and impromptu stanzas) between a member of the group and an opponent within the house.  This usually amounted to heavy leg-pulling in which the contestants mocked each other's singing, drunkenness, niggardliness, etc. 

Victory in the debate would ensure admission into the house for the Mari Lwyd group, to partake of cakes and ale and perhaps collect a money gift as well.  In at least some cases, after the end of the debate, the group would sing additional stanzas introducing its individual members and finally, after entertaining the occupants of the house, it would deliver a farewell song.

The Mari Lwyd at the Museum of Welsh Life

The Mari Lwyd ritual can be seen every December at the St Fagans: National History Museum.

Cate Le Bon sings "Shoeing the Bones"

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Toffee Making

Noson Gyflaith (Toffee Evening) was a traditional part of Christmas or New Year festivities in some areas of north Wales earlier this century. Families, in their turn, would invite friends to their homes for supper, usually in the form of a Christmas dinner, and it would be followed by merriment, playing games, making toffee, and storytelling.

When the required ingredients had boiled to a certain degree, the toffee was poured onto a well-greased slate or stone slab. The hearth-stone itself was used for this purpose in some houses. Members of the happy gathering would then cover their hands with butter and attempt to 'pull' the toffee while it was quite warm. It was a skilled art to 'pull' and twist the toffee until it became golden yellow in colour. Both the skilled and unskilled would take part-the one being a source of envy, the other a source of banter.

Toffee-making was also practised in parts of south Wales, especially in the coal-mining areas. As far as we know, it was not associated here with a particular festive occasion, but housewives were known to sell itfrom their homes or on local market stalls. It was known by various names such as taffidant, or 'fanny', or indeed it could be known by the name of the person who made it, e.g. losin Magws, or losin Ansin bach. Children would buy it - a six inch strip or two ounces for a penny.

The Recipe

Pulling toffee
  • three pounds soft brown sugar
  • half a pound salted butter
  • juice of one lemon
  • quarter pint boiling water (or a little more according to the consistency of the sugar)

Using an enamel or steel pan, gradually melt the sugar in the boiling water over a low heat. Stir it continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is thoroughly melted. (This usually takes from twenty to thirty minutes.) Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the lemon juice and the softened butter, and stir into the sugar. Boil this mixture fairly briskly for a further fifteen minutes without stirring it.

Toffee is broken

Gently drop a teaspoonful of the mixture into a cupful of cold water, and if it hardens at once it has reached the required consistency. Pour the mixture slowly on to a large, flat dish previously greased with butter. (Do not scrape the pan clean as this mixture might turn the toffee back into sugar.) Butter the hands and 'pull' the toffee into long, golden strands while hot. Cut into smaller pieces.

From Pennant, Montgomeryshire

In many parts of Wales, Christmas meant rising early (or staying up overnight) to attend the plygain service at the parish church. The hour for the plygain appears to have varied between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., the latter becoming more common as time went on. To await the service, young people, in particular, would pass away the time in one way or another.

In some country districts they would gather at certain farmhouses to make cyflaith(treacle toffee) and spend the night merrily, decorating the houses with holly and mistletoe, as at Marford, Flintshire, in the 1830's. According to Mrs. Thrale's journal of a tour in 1774 the inhabitants of Dyffryn Clwyd kindled their lights at two in the morning and sang and danced to the harp until the plygain.

Holly

In other districts, especially country towns, the time was spent playing in the streets. In Tenby, Pembrokeshire, for example, crowds carried torches, shouted verses and blew cow-horns, before finally forming a torch procession in which the young men of the town escorted the rector from his house to the church. A similar procession is recorded in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, and also in Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, where candles were used instead of torches.

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Plygain candles

In the countryside the plygain at the parish church was attended by people from even the remotest farmsteads. Often each person brought his or her candle to help to light the church since, until the nineteenth century, regular services were rarely held at night-time and no provision for lighting was usually made. The brilliant illumination from the candles of the attenders was an important feature of the festival. In Llanfyllin, special candles known as canhwyllau plygain were made by local chandlers in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Plygain candlestick

During the service the church was decorated inside with chandeliers holding coloured candles and, in Dolgellau, for example, decked with holly. In Maentwrog, Merioneth, candles were also fixed in sockets on the tops of standards or posts fastened to pews here and there in the building. In Lanfyllin the edifice was lighted with some hundreds of candles, placed a few inches; apart from each other, around the walls inside which made the building look very brilliant. In Maentwrog it was the carollers singing in the little gallery at the bell tower end of the church who brought their own candles for it was too dark in that part of the building to follow the service in the Common Prayer Book.

While no doubt the custom varied in detail from parish to parish, the brilliant illumination of the church appears to have made a lasting impression on the memories of those who have left us descriptions, and to have been a striking characteristic of the traditional plygain. As Gwynfryn Richards has suggested, the spiritual significance of candle-lighting at Christmas as a symbol of the coming of the Light of the World, may be discerned in these practices.

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The Plygain Service

The plygain itself was an abbreviated form of morning service interspersed with and followed by carols sung by soloists and parties. William Payne described the plygain in Dolgellau as he knew it in the middle of the last century in the following words:

'Now the church is in a blaze, now crammed, body, aisles, gallery, now Shon Robert, the club-footed shoemaker, and his wife, descending from the singing seat to the lower and front part of the gallery, strike up alternately, and without artificial aid of pitch pipe, the long, long carol and old favourite describing the Worship of Kings and of the Wise Men, and the Flight into Egypt, and the terrible wickedness of Herod. The crowds are wholly silent and rapt in admiration. Then the good Rector, and his curate, David Pugh, stand up, and read the Morning Service abbreviated, finishing with the prayer for All Conditions of Men, and the benediction restless and somewhat surging is the congregation during prayers the Rector obliged sometimes to stop short in his office and look direct at some part or persons, but no verbal admonishment. Prayers over, the singers begin again more carols, new singers, old carols in solos, duets, trios, choruses, then silence in the audience, broken at appropriate pauses by the suppressed hum, of delight and approval, till between eight and nine, hunger telling on the singers, the Plygain is over and the Bells strike out a round peal.'

In Maentwrog a sermon was included in the plygain service, but the rector was careful to keep both sermon and service short, as he evidently felt that the chief attraction was not the service but the carolling that followed it. In other places, such as Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, holy communion was administered during the plygain.

A Pre-Reformation Survival

Seen against its historical background the plygain is a survival of a pre-Reformation Christmas service modified to suit the new Protestant conditions. Richards points out that plygain in the sixteenth century denoted an ordinary morning service and only at a later date came to be restricted to the service held on Christmas morning. The plygain, he suggests, took the place of the midnight Christmas mass of the Catholic period and was originally associated with a communion service held later on Christmas morning.

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The practice of holding the communion service at eight o'clock ended the earlier association between the plygain (morning service) at six, seven or eight o'clock, and the High Mass at nine or ten o'clock. After the Reformation, carol-singing in the vernacular, which had hitherto been excluded from the Latin service of the church at Christmas, was incorporated in the early morning Christmas service, and, as nineteenth-century descriptions plainly show, had become the main attraction of the plygain. John Fisher has drawn attention to the similarity between the Manx festival of Oiel Verrey, held at midnight on Christmas Eve, and the Welsh plygain. He points out that both became popular carol-singing festivals soon after the translation of the Bible into the respective vernacular tongues. 

 

Far from disappearing under the impact of Nonconformity in the nineteenth century, the plygain was one of the few traditional church festivals not discarded by Welsh Nonconformist chapels, although the character of the service was sometimes changed by making it a variation of the ordinary week-night prayer-meeting. As a general custom, the early-morning Christmas plygain ceased towards the end of the last century, although in some cases it survived to a later date.

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The Carol-Singing Tradition in North Wales

In the past, all parts of North Wales shared a strong carol-singing tradition. Nowadays, however, this tradition survives at its most intense in the east midlands, in the predominantly Welsh-speaking areas bounded by Mallwyd, Llanerfyl, Cefnyblodwel (within England) and Llangynog.

For the stranger, attending a plygain service is an unusual experience. For almost two hours, the service is completely in the hands of the carol singers. No programme has been prepared beforehand and no-one acts as announcer, but, each in turn, the carol parties walk forward quietly and leisurely forward to sing. On average there will be eight to fourteen parties present and one is likely to hear between twenty and thirty Christmas carols during the service - all in Welsh and all different, since it is a point of honour not to offer a carol already heard that evening

Adapted from Trefor M. Owen, Welsh Folk Customs (Cardiff, 1959), pp. 28-33

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We'd like to thank you all for your continued support of howies. Please have this last dance with us. 

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Anything You Synthesize

  • Posted by howies
  • 23 December 2008
[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/2550832[/vimeo]

Amazing video by Onesize for the song Anything You Synthesize by The American Dollar.  

(Via TEAiM)

quicktime version (HD) -much better

Long Division With Remainders

  • Posted by tim
  • 22 December 2008

Welcome to Long Division with Remainders (LDWR), a collaborative experimental music project formed in the long cold spring of 2006, by husband and wife duo Helen and Justin, and now encorporating people across the UK, Europe, Australia and the US. All the songs are available to download for free here. 

After an autumn break, LDWR is back with a fantastic set of tracks from Susan Hawkins.

Susan Hawkins is a composer and sound artist currently based in Australia. Previously known as one half of 'imaginationandmymother' (with Olivia Pisani), Susan has been developing musical work primarily concerned with exploring the conspiratorial relationship between sound, music and image in creating a platform for thought and reflection.

She has been artist in residence with CESTA (for the 11th Arts Festival of International, Interdisciplinary Collaborations, Czech Republic) and the Bundanon Trust (Australia), has participated in the International Course for Professional Composers and Choreographers (UK), and has worked on numerous interdisciplinary projects in Europe and North America. 

Experimenting with different software and sampling techniques, Susan has made four unique remix postcards for the project. Visit her website for more information about her work...

Contact: soundslikejuju@gmail.com

Thanks again to Chris Baldwin for the artwork - he is a busy man and his continued support of LDWR is very much appreciated

Welfare State International

  • Posted by tim
  • 22 December 2008

About Welfare State International

Founded in 1968 by John Fox and Sue Gill, Roger Coleman and others, Welfare State International was a loose association of freelance artists bought together by shared values and philosophy.

WSI first became well known for large-scale outdoor spectacular events. When the company began, taking art out of theatres and galleries into the street was considered revolutionary. The company's name was originally 'The Welfare State' offering art for all on the same basis as education and health.

Under the Welfare State umbrella, a remarkable group of engineers, musicians, sculptors, performers, poets and pyrotechnicians invented and developed site-specific theatre in landscape, lantern processions, spectacular fireshows, community carnivals and participatory festivals. These creations were by turns beautiful, abrasive, didactic, provocative, disturbing, wondrous and even gently therapeutic.

Some big events such as "The Raising of the Titanic" (London International Festival of Theatre 1983), 'False Creek' in Expo '86, Vancouver, and the biggest lantern festival in Europe (Glasgow City of Culture 1990) have become touchstones balancing the aesthetic with the social.

Welfare State International also exported artists, ideas, prototypes and artworks nationally and internationally.

Engineers of the Imagination', the WSI Handbook, spread ideas and techniques worldwide and is still essential reading for artists working in the community. Many artists and companies in Britain and abroad have been influenced by Welfare State's vision and practice.

From 1983 WSI championed local participation in lantern parades, street flag displays and carnival performance from its new base in Ulverston, Cumbria. Today Ulverston is known as a 'Festivals Town' where culture and economic regeneration go hand in hand.

Looking beyond public festival, the company also moved into inventing and leading ceremonies for rites of passage, creating installations, and working with children and their parents to explore imaginative play.

Here is a great mini documentary about them.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=YepZ-X1l-aQ[/youtube]

Click view to read about the Company

A Company of Artists

Artists led Welfare State International. The programme was set primarily by creative concerns. Everything we made was original, never repeated in the same way twice. Many of the prototypes generated by the company over the years have become part of the mainstream of the arts of celebration.

Artists were involved at every stage, as members of small creative teams, as project directors and as associates.

The work was led by ideas, but was practical using whatever art or craft forms were appropriate.

Philosophy and Values

The company philosophy can clearly be seen in this statement from 1999.

“Welfare State International is a company of artists who pioneer new approaches to the arts of celebration and ceremony in the U.K. and internationally.

We are seeking a culture which may well be less materially based but where more people will actively participate and gain power to celebrate moments that are wonderful and significant in their lives.

We advocate a role for art that weaves it more fully into the fabric of our lives; that allows us to be collaborators rather than spectators:

Building our own houses, naming our children, burying our dead, announcing partnerships, marking anniversaries, creating new sacred spaces and producing whatever drama, stories, songs, ceremonies, pageants and jokes that are relevant to these new values and iconography.

We design and construct performances that are specific to place, people and occasion.

Special festivals of celebration that reach a wide audience, collaborative exhibitions and installations, original songs and soundscapes, and ceremonies for important occasions in people's lives.

WSI's artists are deeply concerned for the survival of the imagination and the individual within a media-dominated consumer society, in which art too has become a commodity. All our work - especially our generation of primary artwork - takes a holistic and educational perspective.

Our long-term aim is to establish creative communities on our doorstep: to work in partnerships to develop a creative society where the full potential of each individual may be realised in a supportive environment, through active participation and imaginative play.

We offer full access and opportunities for the dispossessed and seek a multi-generational and multi-ethnic congregation.

Art has a central and radical role in our lives. In the everyday, it's about what we value, how and why we celebrate.”

Passing On Ideas

Central to the work was the act of passing on ideas.

WSI published manuals showing how people can reclaim ownership of special occasions: 'The Dead Good Funerals Book' (1996), 'The Dead Good Time Capsule Book' (1999) and 'The Dead Good Book of Namings and Baby Welcoming Ceremonies" (1999). 'Engineers of the Imagination' (Methuen 1984). 'Eyes on Stalks' by John Fox (Methuen 2002) provided an overview of 35 years' work.

You can read more about these books in the publications section of this website and they can be bought through Lanternhouse.

Rights Of Passage

The rites of passage research programme was established in1994 building on a track record stretching over 25 years of creating new secular ceremonies within the programme ofWelfare State International. It was set up to explore new approaches to marking significant rites of passage and to demonstrate the role of artists in this work.

The research unit worked at a professional level with Funeral Directors, cemetery and crematoria managers, H.M. Coroner, hospice and care staff, primary health care staff, arts and health professionals, parenting and early years organisations, the voluntary sector, independent Church ministers and chaplains.

This work continues within Lanternhouse International and you can find out more by going to the Lanternhouse website.

Lanternhouse

Lanternhouse was devised as the WSI headquarters in Ulverston; developed with funding from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England as a centre to research the celebratory arts.

The building is an inspiration: the blue lattice spire, the towers and bridges, the green oak cruck barn hidden in the theatre workshop, extraordinary hand-crafted furniture, courtyard, garden, and flowing water.There is self-catering accommodation for four artists, a unique reference library and archive, sound technology, digital video and multimedia facilities, studios and workspaces including a warehouse/resource centre a short cycle ride away.

Lanternhouse was a major arts project in its own right - a landmark building revealing the art of work. As artist-clients WSI were able to drive the entire process, working collaboratively with architect Francis B Roberts. The building won an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. "The hand of these artists is evident in every conceivable detail.. [including] the 'star gatherer' kinetic sculpture in the lift. The building was a joy to visit."

Artists have travelled from all over the UK and the world to study at Lanternhouse.

Finale

On the 1st of April 2006 John Fox stepped down as artistic director of Lanternhouse bringing to a close nearly four decades of inspirational work. The final act of Welfare State International was the finale of Longline a Carnival Opera in a big top in Ulverston. This final event and the celebration that followed it, bought together artists, audiences, friends and collaborators from all periods of Welfare State's history for a moving ceremony and was a fitting send off to John on his new adventures.

John Fox is continuing with his peripatetic cultural provocation, personal creative imaginings and wild inventions, without the responsibilities of running an arts organisation. It has been rumoured that he has grown a beard . . . , is living in a hut by the sea . . . , and now has the look of a real artist.

For more information on the continuing work of John Fox and Sue Gill see www.deadgoodguides.com.

Sue Gill and many of the other Welfare State artists have stayed on at Lanternhouse and continue to work with the New company there.

There's a book out on the Welfare State by Methuen called Engineers of the Imagination. Amazon review here.

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