The Kindness of Strangers

My trip to the exhibition in Minden last week was great fun. Even though unplanned changes to my travel arrangements there and back did their best to derail me, I resolved not to let any delays get me down – after all, what can I do about it anyway?

Outward Bound

After rerouting into London from home to avoid a fallen tree on a line, a 100 minute delay departing London, and a 30 minute hold up in Rotterdam meant I missed my connection to Minden from Amsterdam Central. Arriving at Amsterdam I visited the international ticket desk, where a very helpful person allocated me a new reservation on a later train. The same person wrote me a note to show the guard, explaining the reasons for delay were beyond my control, so would they please honour my now expired ticket. He stickered and stamped the note and with a smile, assured me everything would be OK. He was right – the guard on the train happily accepted my unofficial travel documentation and on we went. The kindness of strangers.

I disembarked at Minden, feeling a little tired and disoriented having passed through England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands prior to my arrival in Germany. I was greeted on the platform by Ulrich – someone who I had met briefly last November when the idea of this adventure was first suggested. I’d no idea Ulrich was going to be there, and a huge smile and a warm welcome were just what I needed. An invitation to the house to meet Irene was gratefully accepted and soon we were enjoying a late dinner, a glass of wine, and an excellent conversation. Ulrich dropped me back at my hotel later that evening. The kindness of strangers.

On Location

I met many friendly people while orming* about town, all of whom were helpful and tolerant of my lousy German, but hey, at least I tried…ich spreche nur ein bischen Deutsch. The friendly atmosphere at the exhibition was outstanding. A genuine appreciation of the work by all of the artists, reciprocated to the organisers who had worked hard to set everything up. Lots of guests milling about, enjoying our time together. I was introduced to Josephine, who had found a piece of free art I made. The art had been sent on ahead, and news of it was in the local paper. Josephine gave me a lovely framed photograph and we spent time talking and laughing.

Homeward Bound

Before we parted company, Josephine asked about my plans to travel home. I described the route, 08:15 departure from Minden to Dormund, Dortmund to Dusseldorf, Dusselfdorf to London, London to home. ‘I don’t think you can get from Minden to Dortmund tomorrow…one of the stations on that line is closed this weekend’. Sure enough, Josephine was correct, one of the stations on the line was closed for engineering works. The train was still running but it was taking a two hour detour, just enough delay for me to miss my flight out of Dusseldorf. Fortunately – there was an earlier train leaving at 05:15, so I got up at 04:30 and six hours later, boarded the flight. If it hadn’t been for that conversation I might still be abroad somewhere. The kindness of strangers.

The flight was duly delayed a while after we boarded, and when I eventually got to London Victoria, I discovered my local train station was shut for engineering works – you couldn’t make it up! I travelled to Croydon instead, and Carole kindly came to pick me up from the station.

I (just about) succeeded in keeping a smile on my face through the delays, and more importantly – I benefitted from the kindness of people I did not know, which all helped turn a good trip in to an excellent one.

*”orming” – wandering without intent, meandering, walking with pleasurable aimlessness (English regional, esp. Lincolnshire; supposedly derived from the Norse word for “worm”). With thanks to Robert Macfarlane for the definition.

That Is What It Was : This Is What It Is

I’m in Minden, a fascinating historic town in the North Rhine Westphalia region of Germany. The main reason for my visit is to take part in an art exhibition as part of a cultural festival celebrating the relationships Minden has with its twin towns, one of which is Sutton. I’ve been made to feel very welcome here – and I’m enjoying being a tourist, wandering around town appreciating the history, which sits alongside more contemporary aspects of the place.

While I’ve been here, the political shambles in the UK has continued to unravel, and the people I speak with In Minden are completely bemused as to why we are trying to leave the EU. I don’t have any answers for them. Something I have noticed and am continuing to notice, is how often people who voted to leave, factor narrative around the first and second world wars into their rationale. It’s depressing.

I’m bringing this up now, because Minden was a prisoner of war camp in WWI, and suffered heavy bombing from US forces in WWII. These things are parts of our history, they’ve happened, they cannot be changed, and we learn from them. What we shouldn’t do is colour everything else we know and experience about something, based on awful events which happened many decades ago.

The exhibition preview is in a few short hours, so I’m off to get ready for that. Until I write again, I’ll leave you with a new piece of art titled ‘Arohanui’, a Maori word meaning, much love, with deep affection.

Arohanui. Pencil and acrylic on paper

Developing and Sustaining A Culture of Creativity

This is the beginning of a curation of some recent talks, projects and workshops on developing and sustaining a culture of creativity in the workplace. This space will grow into a mixture of words, pictures, and practice, and the first thing I want to share is a series of annotated images, which I used to support short talks at Workplace Trends and Clerkenwell Design Week. There were four talks in all, each one slightly different, yet similar enough that I hope this one set of notes covers all the main points.

In summary the talks focused on:

  • Scene setting : some evidence about why creativity at work is important
  • Reluctance : some thoughts on why we don’t use creative practice more readily
  • Getting started : A few ideas on how to bring business and the arts together
  • Creative prompts : Simple steps to spark and sustain the creative process
  • Age of Artists : An introduction to the evolving Age of Artists framework
  • The Free Art Project : Be curious, start something, keep going
  • Reading list
  • Thoughts on managing a creative culture : Taken from the book Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Here’s a link to all the details. Sustaining a Culture of Creativity. I hope you find them useful and if you’ve any questions – feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

More to follow…