Ken Robinson on education

In conversation with friends this morning I mentioned this brilliant TED talk by Ken Robinson about the failings of our current education system. I thought I’d already done a blog about it but realise I’d half written it.. so decided to finish it off…

It is one of the excellent series of RSA Animate cartoon lectures which bring a different slant to fascinating topics on eduction, economics, communities, social change, science, creativity and much more.

This one by Ken Robinson highlights the problems of our current ‘sausage machine’ education system.. and how it actually inhibits their ability to think and collaborate.

Ken has done a few TED talks on the subject of education over the years and you can see them all here

Tidjane Thiam on Desert Island Discs

I love Desert Island Discs and this one with Tidjane Thiam from 2012 is probably one of the most extraordinary episodes I have ever heard.. some great songs too ranging from opera to traditional Senegalese music.

At the time Tidjane was ‘The Man at the Pru’ (he is now CEO of Credit Suisse) and amongst other things he talks about political upheaval, Yes Minister and The Archers, his fathers imprisonment, being offered the presidency of Ivory Coast, and why he took 2 suits to big meetings!

Click on the photo to hear his Desert Island Discs .. or find it here on iplayer

Intro from the Desert Island Discs website

He’s chief executive of the Prudential, but he’s about as far from the archetypal “man from the Pru” as you can get.
The seeds of his success were sown amid the complex political terrain of the Ivory Coast with an extended family heavily involved in politics and a father imprisoned for his beliefs. His life quickly took on an international flavour from West Africa to Morocco, Paris to Washington, but in his early 30s a coup in his homeland left him high and dry. He says “I had no job, no career, nothing at all. It taught me a lot about myself. If you’ve been in a situation where you have nothing there’s nothing much you’re afraid of.”

The entire archive of over 3000 Desert Island castaways is now on the BBC website and worth a browse through..


Mark Lawson talks to Gilbert and George

Gilbert and George are probably best known for their similar appearance and demeanor but you may not know much about their lives or their work.

They have been a huge influence on many artists and musicians and are very rarely interviewed.. so it was lovely to see Mark Lawson talk to them about their lives, work and routines. Mark seemed a bit star struck and this adds a nice almost reverential air to the interview.

Well worth a watch.. and if you haven’t come across Gilbert and George before there is more on their website about them and their work – be warned – they like swear words!

Dodgy Money and Good Banks

Many people do not really think about where their money goes when they put their wages in a bank. High street banks often support, loan money to, or own shares in a range of ethically dodgy businesses such as arms dealers, tobacco, logging, oil and energy companies to name a few. Many have also been implicated in dodgy deals like the Libor fixing rate or money laundering too.

The recent Panama Papers leak showed how many large banks helped customers to set up off shore investments and tax avoidance schemes. HSBC and Credit Suisse featured often in these documents and both were quick to say they don’t condone tax avoidance – see this article in The Independent.

The controversial decision to allow fracking in North Yorkshire also highlighted that Barclays own 97% of Third Energy, the company applying to do the fracking.

So.. if you have an account or a mortgage with a high street bank and aren’t happy about about their business practises there are some websites to help you make an informed decision. The Good Shopping Guide has lots of articles and blog posts about a range of ethical shopping choices including this one on ethical banks and building societies and the table below comes from that article.

Ethical Money_Banks and Building Societies TableAnother useful source of information is Move Your Money who also talk about other forms of finance like crowdfunding, peer to peer lending and credit unions.

Not all the best ethical banks do current accounts but if you are looking to put savings somewhere you can be assured the top ones are doing really good stuff with your cash.

It is often said people are more likely to get divorced than change bank, but switching accounts is now much easier than it used to be after rules changed in 2013. The excellent Money Saving Expert website has an article about the changes and 7 day current account switch service.

I have had an account with our local credit union for a while but recent banking scandals have prompted me to move as much as I can to ‘Good Banks’. Unfortunately, our mortgage is with a slightly dodgy institution, but at least I’ve made a start!

If you are interested in finding out more about this subject see my previous blog about the free online course Just Money: Banking as if Society Mattered.

just money

Henry Moore – Arena documentary

Buried deep in the archives on the BBC website are a collection of wonderful old films and documentaries including this one about the sculptor Henry Moore.

This was an Arena programme broadcast to celebrate Moore’s 80th birthday and is a collection of several films collated by John Read who interviewed and filmed Henry Moore six times over a 28 year period.

There is a decidedly old fashioned and almost reverential tone to the programme but it is a times a beautiful ‘fly on the wall’ documentary and a wonderful insight into the life and work of Henry Moore.

henry moore arena documentary

His huge sculptures can be found all over the world but many of his large pieces are actually not far from us at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield.

I think my favourite part shows the laid back attitude of Henry Moore. He goes off for lunch on his bike while a team and a crane are trying to move an enormous sculpture out of the workshop. It breaks in various places and Moore returns to find chaos and panic – his response to months of work being damaged was beautiful – ‘it can be mended’ 🙂

More old Arena programmes can be found at

And there are a huge number of photos of Henry Moore sculptures on flickr for your perusal.


Musings on Retreat

I’m writing this while on a retreat in deepest Cornwall with some women I know through a mindfulness group. It has been a lovely few days doing not a lot.. a guilt-free escape from our usually busy lives.

When was the last time you stopped and did absolutely nothing? I realise for me it has been a very long time.. partly because we live in the Yorkshire Dales, so any holidays or trips to friends or relatives involve a long drive and usually a whirlwind of activities and visits.

We have been lounging around reading, journal writing, meditating, sketching, walking, cooking, drinking lots of tea and wine and generally recharging our batteries.

It really has been an interesting experience to be properly ‘away’ with very limited mobile signal.. and actually quite liberating to do nothing.

The wind is whistling through the windows but the sky is blue and the crows are playing in the wind… this is my view…

view from Trefreock

Pretty good eh  🙂

Madame Zucchini the vegetable entertainer

I really love the strange world of twitter and have found all sorts of inspiring and amusing people and stories I doubt I would have found anywhere else… Madame Zucchini is one of those wondrous discoveries.

Based in Sheffield she really does make a living as a vegetable entertainer.. bet they never mention that as a career option in school! As you may already have realised from my previous post about Animals made from Vegetables I am a big fan of quirky vegetable based art so I urge you to check her out on twitter @madamezucchini  for many entertaining pictures of her vegetable chums or check out her website

madame zucchini vegetable entertainer

Some regular vegetable friends include… Darth Tater and Leek Skywalker..

darth tater leek skywalker

and I particularly like her vegetable homage to Donald Trump..

veg donald trump

This is a clip of Natalie being interviewed on Radio 4 as part of a You and Yours programme about self-employment..

Just Money – Banking as if Society Mattered

I have mentioned the U.Lab course Transforming, Business, Society and Self in a previous blog and this free course Just Money: Banking as if Society Mattered is from the same team at MIT. This time they look at how money moves around the exisiting banking ‘system’ and at examples of financial institutions working for positive change and doing things differently.

Hardly a week goes by without some story of dodgy behaviour from big banks so it may surprise you to discover that many credit unions and some banks are actually doing great things with their clients money. Understanding more about how this works gives you the knowledge to make an informed choice about what you do with your own money.


The 5 week course is free and runs on the platform and starts mid-April 2016 but you can register any time and work at your own pace.. blurb from the course page says..

What do you know about banking? Do you know what your bank does with your money? The recent financial crisis highlighted some of the most fundamental issues with the mainstream banking system.

This course looks into banks that operate differently, namely, “just banks” that use capital and finance as a tool to address social and ecological challenges.

This course is for anyone who wants to understand the unique role banks play as intermediaries in our economy and how they can leverage that position to produce positive social, environmental, and economic change.

The instructors of this course have worked for over 10 years with just banks from around the world, as well as in the fields of community development, economic democracy, and social change.

No previous knowledge of finance or banking is needed to take this course.

For more info or to sign up go to the Just Money page on

This is the first of several spin-off courses from the original U.Lab course and by 2017 there will be more from the same team of people on a range of topics.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg

I love In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg.. 45 minutes a week on BBC Radio 4 and you know you will always learn something new!

The thing that amazes me most about these programmes is how Melvyn seems able to ask pertinent question regardless of the topic. He is surrounded by people who have spent years studying a particular subject and he always sounds like he knows what he is talking about whether it is the history of Mali, The Salem witch trials, X-Ray Crystallography or Rumi’s poetry.
Only once have I heard him flummoxed.. and must confess I was too.. so have a listen and see what you think about this classic discussion about Bertrand Russell and his work on Analytic philosophy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. In his important book The Principles of Mathematics, he sought to reduce mathematics to logic. Its revolutionary ideas include Russell’s Paradox, a problem which inspired Ludwig Wittgenstein to pursue philosophy. Russell’s most significant and famous idea, the theory of descriptions, had profound consequences for the discipline.

Have a browse through the comprehensive A-Z with all episodes broadcast since 1998 and I’m sure you’ll find something that takes your fancy.. from the A of The Abbasid Caliphs to the Z of The Zulu Nation’s Rise and Fall.  

A Lost Dinosaur

There is something quite wondrous about the quirky local news stories that crop up from time to time.. but this was a pretty good one from the Isle of Wight spotted on the BBC website.

A dinosaur was left in the middle of a high street courtesy of some “drunken pranksters”, it is believed.

A 25ft (7.6m) model triceratops had to be removed from High Street in Godshill on the Isle of Wight after it was dragged from the Jurassic Garden.

Owner Martin Simpson said he was shocked to see the model appearing on social media over the weekend.

The dinosaur is part of Mr Simpson’s shop garden, where he sells prehistoric gems and fossils.

He said: “It takes about five blokes to move the dinosaur a couple of inches, so it was definitely a concerted effort and drink was probably involved.”

He added he would now be securing the dinosaur to make sure the incident did not happen again.

A photo of the obstruction was taken by Chris Hollingshead, who spotted it when he was driving home from work on Saturday morning and later posted a photograph on social media.

triceratops on the street

Full article can be seen here on BBC News website