Friday, 28 March 2014

[Gallery Post] - Oxford Literary Festival - Some Thoughts

If you are a writer and/or love books then the ideal getaway has to be the Oxford Literary Festival. Like all good things, such as Christmas, it comes but once a year and when it does the event is a literary onslaught of all things bookish. The just over week long event features many big names in the field of literature, broadcasting and written journalism all eager to talk for an hour about their latest published work, answer questions from the audience and stay as long as required for the obligatory pasting of their John Hancock on your treasured copy of their publication. This year marked my first of what will hopefully be many more attendances at the festival and must say that it has certainly awakened the sleeping passion in me for all that is printed and bound.

The festival runs for a whole week usually from Saturday to the following Sunday with a myriad of talks from 10 am until eight o clock in the evening. Trying to catch every single event will be impossible as many occur at the same time at different locations. The nexus of all the arenas has to be the Sheldonian, the seventeenth century amphitheatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren and official ceremonial hall for Oxford University. Stepping into this wondrous venue is like stepping back in time with the only signs of modernity being the microphones and LCD Screen at the centre. Next to the Sheldonian is the festival marquee courtesy of the most giant of books stores, Blackwells. In the marquee there are a variety of mini talks based on the series of "Very short introduction to....." series of books, a cafĂ© and rest stop (with free WiFi) and of course books for sale, including those from authors featured at the festival. The events I have attended are as follows;

Thursday 27th March

The morning kicked off with a discussion on The Future of Investigative Journalism as examined by three veteran authors and reporters David Rose, Robert Wainwright, and Stewart Purvis (guided by Christine Spolar of the Financial Times) all from different fields of journalism. This was held in the beautifully scenic Corpus Christi College Campus and proved to be a lively debate between seasoned reporter with an assortment of contentious views on the ethics and future of what is now a controversial role in journalism. The second event of the day (my first at the fabulous Sheldonian) was to hear Jeremy Paxman, whose no-nonsense approach to interview continues to hold my admiration, talk about what it was that led him to write his latest book Great Britain's Great War. Paxman's relaxed and succinct lecture made it not a only a joy to listen to but also one which to easily take notes. I was particularly impressed by the absence of prepared notes on the podium from which Paxman spoke. All the speakers I met that day were not only happy to autograph their published works freshly purchased by moi but also to shoot the breeze further on the topic at hand. Paxman was keen to impress upon me after I had shared my observations on his speaking style, that what he said was basically rubbish.

Image Credit; Duncan Hull via flickr

Friday 28th March

This day I was to be based mainly at the Sheldonian in the company of two world renowned and honoured authors with very different takes on their writing craft. First was Alexander McCall Smith (Sandy to those who know him best) creator of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street series of books amongst countless other titles. Interviewed by Financial Times correspondent Jan Dalley, McCall Smith talked of his love of poet W.H Auden as well as the recurring theme of unrequited love as a segue way to his latest novel The Forever Girl. It was an enjoyable talk with McCall Smith as funny and delightful as the vast array of characters he created leaving a very overwhelmed and star struck Ms Dalley with a sense  of genuine privilege to be in the company of this revered author.

The second talk of the day was for me a personal pleasure having grown up watching the South Bank Show on ITV (when perhaps I should have been in bed). Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg to everyone else) a writer and broadcaster who has interviewed thousands of artists from every known field of the arts. A very relaxed speaker up on stage Lord Bragg talked about what influenced him to write his latest fictional autobiography Grace and Mary. At times he was hard to follow digressing from the train of thought on several occasions but nonetheless engaging and insightful. This was reflective of a more seemingly holistic approach to his craft. He spoke of his mother and his life in general with great affection never bearing her any ill will even though she had never really paid him a compliment throughout his life.  Bragg describes his life as an immense privilege made up a series of flukes but also attributable to having grown up during a time in which people worked very hard.

Image Credit; Tim Walker via flickr

With two days left till the end of the festival and when I will sadly be back on the trains home, I can't help but feel I have seen much of the best of what this festival has to offer. I was disappointed to have missed the talk given by philosopher Roger Scruton, a man who was both the bane and pleasure of my time at University studying a two-part module titled Language and Mind. Nevertheless it has stirred up both the writer and the reader inside eager to throw myself into the latest additions to my ever increasing library and inspired to create ever more ephemeral yet informative posts as well as a return to those novels languishing in development hell.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First Feature Film In Equity Based Crowdfund Success

Supernatural thriller, The Sleeping Room, has become the first feature film to raise funds through equity based crowdfunding. Using the UK based platform Seedrs, Sleeping Room has succeed within 10 days in raising £10,000 from 37 investors in over six countries. The funds will go towards the film's completion. The success of Sleeping Room's crowdfunding efforts once again is an indicator of how the UK is leading the way in the continued growth of equity based crowdfunding as an alternative source of finance.

The Sleeping Room is production company Movie Mogul's second film following the success of their debut production Panic Button. The use of crowdfunding as a means to finance their ventures is in keeping with their mission to maximise the emergence of the ever changing digital landscape through Web 2.0 in the development of  innovative cinematic projects.  The history making funding success of The Sleeping Room also mirrors the continued trend setting efforts of the crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Since it was launched in 2012, Seedrs has grown exponentially as an enterprise breaking ground along the way as a founding member of the UK Crowdfunding Association as well as playing host to the first  local authority to invest in a business, and even succeeding in self funding efforts securing £2.58 million for expansion into Europe.

Set in present day Brighton, The Sleeping Room has been billed as a creepy tale of Victorian revenge. The crowdfunding campaign through Seedrs sought to raise £10,000 representing a total stake in the project of 4.19%. Within ten days Sleeping Room not only reached the funding target but has exceeded with more investments being recorded. 
The success of the campaign clearly demonstrates the emergence of an alternative funding route for indie producers to break down existing barriers in seeking out private investors, by connecting us directly to individuals who clearly have a desire to invest money into producing original films. - Gareth Davies, Producer Movie Moguls

The success of The Sleeping Room is another example of how the UK has embraced equity-based crowdfunding as a viable investment route, creating greater and even safer investment opportunities for businesses and ventures.  Click here for more information about the project and its crowdfunding success.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Making The World Safer for Women and Girls Through Open Innovation.

There are many challenges facing the global community including poverty. A recent UN report indicates that women make up a majority of the world's population living in poverty. As part of a five year plan to refine international aid, open innovation platform OpenIDEO has partnered with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and established a programme to tackle such challenges with the first focusing on improving the safety of women and girls in low income urban settlements. OpenIDEO will call on its 58,000 strong community of creative thinkers and designers to come up with innovative solutions to worldwide concerns for the safety of poverty stricken women and girls.

Founded in 2011 IDEO is a non-profit organisation dedicated to tackling extreme poverty through human-centred social innovation, i.e. bringing ideas to fruition that focus solely on the needs of the people. Through their open innovation platform OpenIDEO, an online collaborative environment has been fostered bringing together its community of designers and researches to find innovative solutions to some of the world's challenging social problems. Since then IDEO, through their platform have tackled a wide range of issues including clean drinking water, sanitization and immunization programs.

The aim of the Amplify Program set up by IDEO, in partnership with the Department for International Development, is to help fight the effects of extreme poverty around the world. Over the next five years Amplify will seek out ten innovation and design solutions through  the OpenIDEO platform. The first challenge focuses on the safety of women and girls in low in come urban neighbourhoods. According to a recent UN habitat report, women make up 70% of the world's population living in poverty. They face grave safety concerns which include, gender-based violence, unsafe housing as well as inadequate facilities such as poor sanitation. With more migration from rural areas to cities women and girls face even more safety concerns. The open innovation challenge will task designers and researchers to determine how to utilise the existing infrastructure of low income urban neighbourhoods and make them safer for women and girls. Factors to be considered feature the inclusion of men and boys to tackle the problem, co-ordination of safety points such as schools and bus stops, essentially finding ways to leverage the high population density to improve safety.

Currently the campaign is in the early stages of research with nearly 500 contributions made to date. At this stage, the community is bringing together as much information as possible including case studies, tools and examples that will help build a collective understanding of the problem. The community will then move onto formulating ideas for the campaign before moving onto selecting the best ones and refining them before the final shortlist scheduled for May. From the ideas collected the ten best will be selected for support by the challenge sponsor.

OpenIDEO is drawing knowledge and resource from its community of 58,000 innovative designers and creative thinkers from around 130 countries a mix amateurs starting out or veteran designers from all walks of life. Registering is essential for participation and OpenIDEO welcomes interest from any creative individuals. Click here for more information about the campaign and to register.

Image Credit; Wikimedia Commons