Category Archives: Uncategorized

Like a Samurai’s sword

Since writing an essay on knowledge work in the construction industry, I find myself unusually alert to questions of knowledge work. Not in the narrow sense that knowledge management sees knowledge work, but in a broader sense: what, in fact, is knowledge work, how does it come about, what does one need to understand about the conditions that make it knowledge work? In fact, I think probably I’m being nudged here too, because our work on museums, libraries and archives, which will report in June. This identified two things lost to the system of work and organisation, things which need retrieving in some way. One is discipline and rigour around information and it’s handling, and the other is the fruitful downtime of the employee: those moments of wandering to the library and having the empty space to make some new, and deeper connections which put the immediate decision or piece of work into context. Or those moments, de-blackberried, uncoupled from milestones and deadlines, where someone might have a moment of new inspiration that renews the spirit and changes the lens through which the immediate task is viewed. It might be a spark of innovation, or something smaller, but no less meaningful when accumulated with other such small moments.

(A side-comment here, related, but as yet untethered and floating free, is a previous observation, in work on office space, on how the social fabric of organisations has been ripped from them with different forms of nomadic working, hotdesking, open plan, project and matrix management. New organisational systems have crushed the life out of the small repetitions of informal encounter that allow trust to ripen. (I would once have added social capital here, but I’m having trouble with the capitalist metaphors which dress knowledge management up in the language of economic value creation just to get it attention from the numbers people – surely we can be bigger of that. I don’t much like the misappropriation of the word trust either, but it’ll do for now.))

And perhaps my other impetus is that my current enquiry is into the commissioning of horizon scanning and futures (i.e. uncomfortable) research into environmental issues in a government department, and how the policymaker can be better equipped to direct, manage and assure such commissions. I’m sure this will influence where I go and what I notice for the next few months. I’ve a feeling this is quite a long intense exploration, likely to sprawl into values, craft, labour versus work, all over the place, but it might going somewhere, but for now, and to restart some kind of blogging discipline, I’m going to just list a single noticing which seem to belong under this loose working classification.

I was trying some Doris Lessing (who in a her own way I’ve quoted about the conditions for knowledge work when I wrote about her Nobel Prize winning speech and the need for the storyteller to cloak themselves in silence). Short stories, gathered in a volume called ‘The story of a non-marrying man’. The first story, ‘Out of the Fountain’ is about a diamond cutter:

‘Ephraim was a middle son, not brilliant or stupid, not good or bad. He was nothing in particular. His brothers became diamond merchants, but Ephraim was not cut out for anything immediately obvious, and so last he was apprenticed to an uncle to learn the trade of diamond cutting.

To cut a diamond perfectly is an act like a samurai’s sword thrust, or a master archers’ centred arrow. When an important diamond is shaped, a man may spend a week, or even weeks, studying it, accumulating powers of attention, memory and intuition, till he has reached that moment when he finally knows that a tap, no more, at just that point of tension in the stone will split it exactly so.’

Here’s my knowledge question for today (and in the next few days I’m going to move on to a bit of Richard Sennett, in his new thinking on craft, to Lewis Hyde’s distinction between work and labour, and to Grotowski’s description of the relationship between him and the actor, but this will do for now, from which I infer that I’m interested for now in processes of apprenticeship, of leading and following):

How many of us, in the conditions of urgent work which press hard down on us, find room to spend ‘a week, or even weeks…accumulating powers of attention, memory and intution’? Do we give ourselves permission? Are we given permission? Do we, perhaps need to start taking permission rather than wait for it to be given?


‘We notice trends before anyone else’ – Chris McCabe of the Poetry Library

There’s so much I want to write about – the structure of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, everything about Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, but above all the epilogue, cunningly inserted well before the end, in which the author blatently footnotes his sources and plagiarisms while discussing the book with the protoganist who, in some respects, knows more about what has happened to him than the author has.  It’s only a short skip to Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ which has always been one of my favourite plays, and one which determines the slowly emerging structure of my own lightly fictional work ‘Fist:  sundry items recording the breakdown and recovery of a middle-aged woman’.  Sundry items came from the shopface of an artists supply shop (now sadly defunct) I used to drive past in Highgate:  E Ploton (Sundries) Ltd.I digress.  I hope I do write about Six Characters, Lanark, Paranoid Park – they are all worth it.  

But today I want to write about poetry, and in particular the poetry library housed in London’s South Bank Centre. There are three things I want to say about poetry, to start and guide my year.  I would also like to thank Angie Dove, with whom I am ‘broken friends’ as someone once described it, for her introduction to the library.  Thanks Angie.  It was a gift I much appreciate. 

Firstly, poetry as essence.  In a recent article exalting the Poetry Library, the author, Lisa Mullen, opens with some Ogden Nash ‘Poets aren’t very useful/Because they aren;t consumeful or very produceful.’  Which goes to the heart of our current enquiry into knowledge transfer between libraries and business.  Please read ‘The Gift’ by Lewis Hyde, which says a great deal more about the collision between poetry and consume-producefulness in our society.  What is value? What’s the point?  Is the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath in winter any less value for money, as the Corporation and the accountants would have it, because only a handful of hardy drooping ladies mostly of a certain age or beyond, with sturdy white knickers, totter there for a frozen dip?  Or is it beautiful and of value beyond compare for exactly that reason.  That we can all hold the dream of our reddened skin as we totter from the ponds on painful feet to know that we embraced, and were held by, nature for those few moments in a way that makes our souls sing, even while our bodies scream with the pain of hands crusted in cold?

Secondly, the same extolling article in Time Out (Jan 2 – 8 2008) had Chris McCabe, acting joint librarian, saying

‘One of the privileges of working here is seeing all kinds of poetry come in…we notice trends before anyone else. For instance, there has been a real swathe of political poetry since the war in Iraq – it does interest a lot of users.  And that goes against the idea that poetry is a totally quiet and reflective activity; there are lot of poets making a noise about things that are upsetting them.’

There’s one for the futurists and horizon scanners.  Stop looking to science, pay less attention to science fiction, and start watching the poets if you want to understand what’s going on and where things are heading.  Believe me when I say I’ll be making this point as we move from the MLA work into the Defra commission to help create a governance framework and guidelines for policymakers handling horizon scanning and futures research.  More poetry for Defra I say.  We’ll find musicians and poetic writers like Richard Mabey and the late great Roger Deakin, and fiction writers like Jeanette Winterson, and pithy sharp writers like Will Self, John Lanchester, John Berger, and blockbusting writers like Michael Crichton and line them all up persuade people on all sides that beauty and provocation in finding and conveying the essence of ideas has as much to recommend it as ticking the boxes of policy essentials.  

I wrote recently in a post elsewhere that metaphor is essential is opening up new channels of communication in organisational settings – not the thudding cliches of silo, blue sky and out of the box thinking and not the dangerous appropriation of a handy but superficial label (shall we windtunnel anyone), but the narratives of possibility which draw people in to conversations they never realised they needed to have. 

Which brings me to Barrack Obama and his trouncing of Hillary Clinton in Iowa.  A glorious article in the Guardian that I’ve mislaid quotes someone as saying that you win elections in poetry and govern in prose.  And there he is, making poetry just by standing there, even before he opens his mouth.  I’m a Clinton girl myself.  I think Hillary Clinton is the thinking person’s President, but Barrack Obama will win it with poetry. 

Empty space for the storyteller

I’ve been entirely inspired by Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize speech, her views on the fragmentation of the world today, the loss of books, the role of storytellers and the need for tellers to find themselves the empty space in which to find their stories: piece I like best for now, but from among so many parts to chose, is about the empty space a writer has to make for themselves: 

“Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a processor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.  If this writer canno find the space, then poems and stories may be stillborn.  When writers talk to each other, what they ask each other is always to do with this space, this other time “Have you found it?  Are you holding it fast””


He was an eminent marine biologist and world expert on the taxonomy of barnacles

Alan Southward

There’s a man to have been. 50 years ploughing the same marine furrow. At work the day before he died. Deeply expert in a narrow and important field. Who would not want to be remembered as a world expert on the taxonomy of barnacles. It’s magnificent.

I liked that part of working in the Islamic world very much. The koranic education invites a very deep reading and re-reading of a small number of texts which is not intuitively an approach we value in other educations where breadth counts for more than depth. I’m not saying dismiss breadth, but I do think that without depth there can be no third dimension.

Of course this can go wrong, but there’s much to be said, koanically too, for an intense, repeated, experience which takes you to deep understanding.

Time is two modes

From Freefall, written in 1959 by William Golding, he of Lord of the Flies (I do feel that there must be an EDRM joke in that – Lord of the Files?)  

‘Time is two modes. The one is an effortless perception native to us as water to the mackerel. The other is a memory, a sense of shuffle fold and coil, of that day nearer than that because more important, of that event mirroring this, or those three set apart, exceptional and out of the straight line altogether.’


Sparknow, the odd little network formerly known as Spark Knowledge is ten today.  I find that entirely extraordinary.  The shuffle fold and coil of ten years.    So many things exceptional and out of the straight line altogether, but so much effortless time, water as to mackerel.  I find, as I grow a little older that I want more empty space, in which to grow reflectively, and be present in the world, and have less appetite for the urge and push of constantly pushing things and people a little further together, a little further apart, dextrous manipulations or bludgeoning and hammering to make shapes and knots and spaces which will allow some new possibilities to unfold.  And at the same time I’m willing to invite in the unexpected guest of an unlikely and impossible challenge and see where it leads.  So my appetite for the unknown and unknowable seems to grow.  There’s nothing much I want in the way of challenges, but nothing much I’d turn down.  I’m not waiting, but somehow I’m ready.   I’ve made a few decisions though.  One is to find book time.  Time to write in some clearer and more backboned way of the work we’ve done, the thoughts we’ve had, the ways we’ve developed, the philosophical musings we’ve entertained.  There must always, in my view, be time to sit existentially at Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank, chain-smoking and speculating argumentatively on what is and could be.  All that nose-to-the-grindstone planning and product and delivery has it’s place of course. But without random ranting and guesswork about how the universe works, it means very little.  And that’s something else as I get older, everything, including doing nothing, must mean something.  An absence of mind, distraction from the essence of things by peripheral anxieties must make way for presence.  

Here’s my plan, in a different typeface for reasons that are beyond me.

I’m clearing a space, the biggest possible empty space, a breathing space.  And I’m going to breath it in.  I’ll only take work that holds meaning for me.  Not necessarily passionate meaning, but meaning.  I’ll look people in the eye as equals, with respect and honour and warmth and I’ll expect anyone I encounter in the context of work to do the same.   I’ll continue, as I strive to, to conduct myself with integrity, never lose my curiosity, and hold onto my instinct (which has never wavered, although has sometimes felt like a radio tuned into a faulty FM signal while pirate stations bounce their waves off Alexandra Palace) that there is a better, more soulful way to conduct work, which is not at the expense of science, or balance or rigour.   The language of narrative and metaphor bounces off the language of Facts (I want Facts, nothing but Facts, say so many in the world of work) and the space that is opened up in between in the space in which conversations can thrive and multiply.

The multiplication of conversations so that they weave an organisational fabric of a new and vivid kind is my goal I think. 

I want more mackerel time and I want more memory time.  And probably that’s all I want in life except the health and wellbeing of my nearest and dearest. 

And what of Sparknow?  Well probably plenty to be done in new narrative enquiries mostly.  And they too should be unembarrassed and straight-backed, standing tall. Humble, but not servile, although always servants to a cause, which is still to change the fabric of society in some way or another.  Not the end of the pier show, just because ‘once upon a time’ creeps in, and not some mystical voodoo.   Although there can be something profound, perhaps enchanting, about what narrative makes possible in work contexts, there’s nothing special about it really.  And I should know:

I made that armour myself.

Its not magic.

Its just shiny’

From the The Brothers Grimm, as one brother rides off into the forest to battle a monster, leaving the other behind. 

Will the logical Grimm brother to the beautiful maiden while Jake the storyish Grimm brother gallops off into the enchanted forest. 







‘Culture is the one thing we cannot deliberately aim at’

I see I’ve fallen silent for rather a long time. Holidays, laziness, avoidance. But most of all I’ve had in mind a blog on culture cooking and I’ve been looking for my copy of TS Eliot’s ‘Notes towards a definition of culture’ which he wrote in about 1940. I can’t find it, but googling gives me a bit of what I’m trying to look up as a starting point at least:

“For if any definite conclusions emerge from this study, one of them is surely this, that culture is the one thing we cannot deliberately aim at.”

This was brought to mind by a glorious description in Hari Kunzru’s book ‘The Impressionist’ (which starts very well and then gets a bit artsy and clever, but I’ll read his others) of a railway station in India earlyish last century:

‘The crowd on the platform at Fort Station throbs like a single body. Dirty-collared clerks, hawkers of tea and sweets, beggars, newspaper-sellers, pickpockets, raucous British Tommies all prickly heat and dirty songs, neatly dressed babus, clipped subalterns soon to be kicking the babus out of their reserved seats, displeased memsahibs leading lines of porters with trunks balanced on tehir rag-padded heads, peasant families sleeping three generations in a row using baggage for pillows,….and dining rooms – first second third and purdah, veg. and non-veg., Hindu Muslim and English all spin together….’

The scene this evokes conveys more surely than any abstract noun a kind of jostling vibrant culture. And reading it reminded me of the bit in ‘Notes towards a definition of culture’ where T S Eliot describes Englishness as cricket and strawberries, beetroot for tea and other things which now escape me.

I want to find a piece of work where the grandiose amibition of mission statement and value falls away and we work with the organisation through object, and observation and descriptions of how it is to make visible the raw fabric of the cultures (never just one) and weave together, through small stories and images, and properly condensed pithy and living description of how people want to live breathe play and work in that organisation.

People do it unofficially: they can describe with sharp and pointed insight the day to day reality of how the organisation gets work done (and often avoids getting work done), and the normally severe reality gap between those values the organisation purports to espouse and how it acts in practice. But that’s a kind of negative culture statement. The same acute witnessing could perfectly well be put to an appreciative exploration of what the organisation stands for and the cultural self-descriptions evolved from here collectively rather than imposed by the communications committee sub-committee on values.

We must stand up and fight for real words, stories and actions, imbued with the deep meaning of shared experience not the distressingly shrivelled, trivialising meaningless summary of the organisational mission statement, normally accompanied by the excruciatingly patronising values scrapbooks, tied to the threatening control of the appraisal system and to workshops through which the culture programme is ‘rolled out’ (and over people) which are either second rate and derivative or candyfloss entertainment whose impact lasts, in the coinage of Ratner, about as long as the shelf-life of a Marks and Spencer prawn sandwich. (Here surely is the pithiest and most honest culture statement ever to have changed the fortunes of a man and a company.)

We must make descriptions of what organisations are and aspire which vault over the prosaic thudding half-baked controlling ambitions of mission and mission control.

We must use poetry to engage the heart, not thump on about ‘heart values’.

It’s very important to be constantly restless in wriggling free of the strait-jacket assumptions that the designers and deliverers of culture and change programmes shove us into (and that includes me as a purveyor of such so-called products and experiences).

There must be a ceaseless toiling towards the vibrance of a lived reality.

This is not going to be easy.

I said in Sparknow’s founding essay (or at least I say about it) that we want to change the fabric of society.

I still mean it.

I must go away and gird my loins for the next battle.

The triadic relationship between persons, tools and a new collectivity

There was a recent article in the Observer about how French policemen, who have taking to writing novels and poetry, drawing cartoons, and rapping in an attempt to voice their grievances.

‘This is a totally new phenomenon,’ said Frederic Ploquin, a crime correspondent and police expert. ‘Before, the only people writing books were retired senior commissioners and your average plod was just a worker or peasant. Now a new generation of police with university degrees and culture are finding ways to express themselves while still serving in the force.’

(I’d be keen to know what ‘your average plod’ was in French.)

But it doesn’t suit everyone:

‘If the cops start rapping, what’s left for us?’ said Ahmed Messaoui, a teenage aspirant hip-hop star in Paris’s 20th arrondissement. ‘If he doesn’t like being a policeman, he should leave. Otherwise he should stick to arresting people and let us do the music.’

The article was brought to mind this morning by an interview on the Today programme on radio 4 about a new exhibition just opened by the National Army Museum. Thought to be the first ‘heritage display’ of an ongoing conflict

“The interactive exhibition depicts the troops’ experiences from the start of their tour of the region in April 2006.
Personal items, including worn-thin combat shirts, “contact” calendars, mugs made from mortar bomb packaging and pieces of shrapnel kept as mementos of war wounds, form part of the display.”

Objects and small items, containing personal stories of all kinds. Not just physical objects but media objects such as assaults recorded on mobile phones and posted to YouTube. Which takes me right back to yesterday’s draft blog, never completed, which was all about objects as it happens. If I can manage it, I’ll come back round at the end to what seems to be going on with these new kinds of voices and oral histories.

Yesterday was full of gifts, and if I were feeling cleverer I’d no doubt spin off into a nice philosophical detour about gift economies. Another time.

The first gift was an email from a client, who sent me a link to this New Scientist blog on Sherry Turkle’s new book ‘Evocative Objects’. Sherry Turkle has coined, or borrowed, the phrase ‘objects-to–think-with’ and talks of the way objects can evoke and contain memories and ideas. This is not a new idea, but I’m sure it’s well handled by her – she’s a good and thoughtful writer. Plus it’s interesting to see how many posts the blog has sparked off, which gives you a clue as to how intuitively people understand and appreciate that

‘just asking yourself what they mean to you can unlock a rich stock of memories, associations and insights into your thought processes that you may not be able to get at any other way’

We’ve used objects right since the very very beginning of sparknow’s work, in fact in the pre-history of sparknow. Partly in that evoking-and-containing way – and for developing this I owe a great deal to Steph Colton, the anthropologically inclined storytelling who no longer works with me. We’ve used them, for example, at lessons learned workshops at the end of knowledge pilots, as a way of accessing some real insight and emotion. People bring objects (a conker, a postcard of a swimming pool, a packet of chewing gum) and use these to say how they feel about the pilot. The conker ‘at first I thought it was just a game, like the children’s game, then as time went on I realised that actually it was also the start of something, a seed and the conker says both’. The swimming pool. ‘I felt as though I was diving off at the deep end.’ We take polaroid pictures and make a kind of postcard display immediately to create a kind of evocative lessons learned environment through having the exhibit both of pictures and of the objects themselves. And digital pictures which allow us to make a kind of object story book which can act, for them, as an aide-memoire later and in some unobtrusive way provide a closing ritual or touchstone as a memory for the whole experience.

Or this, for fun, which led to a 5 year engagement with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation:

“A few years back Sparknow attended the Knowledge Management Europe conference in Den Haag. In among a sea of laminations, screensavers and glossy brochures about technology, we ran a couple of workshops on story1. Transforming a previously neutral space – a ceiling-free pen in an aircraft hanger-style conference centre – we strung up washing lines, pegging to them objects and assets developed through our story work. To open our session one of our associates – a traditional storyteller – performed a story we had commissioned from her a couple of years previously about our first knowledge management project. Performing in this space she filled the whole exhibition hall with sound and music. People came to find us from all over the conference.”

Our client, Manuel, found us because of the singing and the objects and gave us great backing to work in all kinds of ways with story as a knowledge instrument in SDC over the next few years. I’ve attached probably the best object story which came from that time. (It’s at the end of the pdf if you want to speed things up).

Tales from a Bedouin Tent

The other gift from yesterday was from Clive.

I whipped down to Cass to have an emergency potboiler session and pick his brains about this 7,000 words I’m supposed to be cooking up on knowledge workers (again, if only I knew what a knowledge worker is). Anyway, after updating me on his marvellous Mystery Business MBA elective, on which I’ll write another time, I asked the normal question about whether I should do a PhD. No, but he put me onto the most glorious one done by a woman called Daria Loi, who presented the entire thing, objects, in a suitcase. She had to make 5 copies, so 5 suitcases:

‘lavoretti per bimbi – Playful Triggers as keys to foster collaborative practices and workspaces where people learn, wonder and play

The thesis explored ways to foster organizational spaces where collaborative activities can be undertaken using design tools and methods. I argued that for co-design activities to emerge participants have to be linked by ‘meaningful relationships’, hence emphasising that, before embarking on co-design processes, participatory design activities require participants to feel comfortable with each other, to be able to collaborate and to communicate shared languages.

Within this context I developed a series of tools called Playful Triggers and proposed them as effective tools to elicit relationships among their users so that they can learn together how to work together before undertaking co-design activities.

Due to the participatory methods and tools proposed in the research, I explored the opportunities for a thesis to become a place for participatory practices to emerge and to be an artefact where readers can physically, emotionally, and conceptually experience ideas rather than just read about them.

The thesis was consequently articulated adopting an anomalous format that: enables readers in constructing extra layers of meaning; includes them in asynchronous dialogues with author and future readers; lets readers appreciate the tools described in the thesis by touching and playing with them besides reading about them; and expands the thesis content beyond what words can define using textual and non-textual means.

A cardboard suitcase is the main container of the PhD research – a complex system incorporating textual and non-textual content that complement and amplify each other using metaphors as converging points.’

Now this line of thinking about containers and contents, objects, play and tools, must lead past Ivan Illich and his tools for conviviality (1973):

‘To formulate a theory about a future society both very modern and not dominated by industry, it will be necessary to recognize natural scales and limits. We must come to admit that only within limits can machines take the place of slaves; beyond these limits they lead to a new kind of serfdom. Only within limits can education fit people into a man-made environment: beyond these limits lies the universal schoolhouse, hospital ward, or prison. Only within limits ought politics to be concerned with the distribution of maximum industrial outputs, rather than with equal inputs of either energy or information. Once these limits are recognized, it becomes possible to articulate the triadic relationship between persons, tools, and a new collectivity. Such a society, in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers, I will call “convivial.” 3M (039)

After many doubts, and against the advice of friends whom I respect, I have chosen “convivial” as a technical term to designate a modern society of responsibly limited tools.’

A society in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers. Exactly so. I think that takes us rather nicely back to where we started. To our politically interrelated French rapping and poet policemen, to our serving army officers. Whose managers and chief superintendents and commanding officers are no doubt quite nervous at the loss of grip on the channels of communication. We now see the underbelly – work as it really is, our institutions and their authority as they really are. It puts me in mind of John Berger’s glorious post on Open Democracy a while back.

‘The secret of storytelling amongst the poor is the conviction that stories are told so that they may be listened to elsewhere, where somebody, or perhaps a legion of people, know better than the storyteller or the story’s protagonists, what life means. The powerful can’t tell stories: boasts are the opposite of stories, and any story however mild has to be fearless and the powerful today live nervously.’

There’s something else here about the implications for authority and leadership in a world where the voices of those lower down in the system can no longer be shut up because the new ‘tools for conviviality’, the loss of relationship of trust between the front line and the top (which means the deterrent to sharing your own story is no longer there), and the growing conviction that individuals can have their say, make organisational systems so leaky and vulnerable. Of course, in vulnerability lies the greatest strength of all. But most leaders aren’t ready to go to that place. Yet.

But before I finish I want to hang onto the idea of the container, the suitcase as it were. A suitcase, not a black box or a strong box. nothing which needs a combination. A suitcase which is easy to open, full of objects which evoke and contain memories and ideas. I need to get a bit messy and theoretical here and point out that I’m constantly trying to yoke together my two great intellectual loves when it comes to objects.

The first is the avant-garde. The notion that art, artistic performance and objects are to unsettle the status quo. But after the first wave of futurism, dada, surrealism, situationism, whatever, the wave inevitably crashes on the shore of bourgeois acceptance, the shock settles, and a new movement of disturbance starts. The the artistic ‘object’ is embedded, like a piece of grit in an oyster, in a place where it can rub things up the wrong way and get something happening.

The second is exchange-traded instruments. Here the container (the notional suitcase if you like) must be described in such a way that it contains objects (bonds, equities) which are similar enough to each other to create some kind of coherent experience which can be wrapped in a legal description which will allow the bundle to stick together and invite traders of all kinds to come and exchange transactions with each other.

I always bear this in mind when we design a piece of work. We always look for the ‘objects’ (reified, boundary objects, depending on whose terminology) which might be negotiated by individuals into becoming a collective definition of that particular community. I get confused at this point because I really that I’ve taken Jane Jacobs Guardian and Trader Systems of Survival and laid them over each other in my thinking in a way which I can’t quite pull off – and thrown in a little avant-garde disruption for good measure.

I think Ana Antonio Gill might be able to help me here. Her project ‘the value of memories’ points up very nicely the gulf between the sentimental and the financial value of a posession.

Whatever is going on here (whether community is one end of a spectrum and market at the other, both destructive at their extreme tendencies, or whether one can be laid over another in ways which hold onto their distinctively good qualities) , my instinct tells me that while I fumble to describe what it is I see when I lay out the programme for a piece of work in my mind, I’m heading in the right direction, even if I must for a short period be bundled into the woodshed and left there undisturbed while I think it through.