Prepare For Trouble / Make It Double: Pokémon Go @ State Library of Queensland

The Pokémon Go game is bringing crowds of players to all kinds of public spaces, so of course museums, galleries, and libraries are working to attract these people, get them through the doors, and engage them.

It feels like every cultural institution worth its salt has used social media and friendly signage to let Pokémon players know they’re welcome. The smart team at Queensland Art Gallery / Museum of Modern Art, just next door to where I work, put out Pokémon lures at the weekend to attract extra players to the South Bank. Read more

Brisbane Writers Festival

Brisbane Writers Festival Logo

I’m appearing twice at the Brisbane Writers Festival this September.

The program is out today in papers across the city and you can see it online at the website of organisers UPLIT.

On Saturday 10th September from 4-5pm, I’ll be at Queensland Art Gallery speaking on “The Rules of Engagement“, a panel with Kate Pullinger and Caroline Keins exploring the changing ways that artists, institutions, and communities interact.

Then on Sunday 11th September, I’ll help a panel of scientists and science-fiction writers to explore science, imagination, and identity. Join Dr Maggie Hardy, Prof Tamara Davis, Ellen van Neerven, and Dr Maree Kimberley for “Science and Belonging“, which I’ll be moderating from 11.30am-12.30pm at The Parlour in the State Library of Queensland.

Find out more at the UPLIT / Brisbane Writers Festival website.

Queensland Heritage Leaders Workshop

Back in May, I led a couple of sessions for Queensland’s Heritage Leaders Workshop, exploring ways to turn audiences into participants and expand the conversations we have at panels, keynotes, and other events.

Videos from the day are now online and you can see more from Queensland’s Heritage Leaders event at the QANZAC 100 website.

Queensland Fun Palaces 2016

“We believe in the genius in everyone, in everyone an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in community can change the world for the better.

We believe we can do this together, locally, with radical fun – and that anyone, anywhere, can make a Fun Palace.”

– Fun Palaces Manifesto

October might seem far off, but plans are underway for Fun Palaces across the Sunshine State in 2016.

What’s a Fun Palace? It’s the opportunity for a community to come together and explore the arts and sciences for free.

From fancy inner-city venues to radio stations, theatres, websites, suburban parks, swimming pools, remote tropical islands, people’s back gardens, and, yes, libraries, Fun Palaces are a way for people to get together with friends, family, neighbours, workmates, and strangers in their community, to celebrate the artist and scientist in all of us.

Theatre director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price came up with the idea of Fun Palaces back in the 1960s. They imagined “a laboratory of fun” that would serve as a pop-up community venue for both art and science.

Today, Fun Palaces take place all over the world on the first weekend in October, allowing communities to be part of something bigger, setting off sparks of inspiration and connection which lead to lasting benefits for the people involved.

Fun Palaces illustration

Fun Palaces are for all ages and all members of a community; they can be big or small, low-tech or high-tech, dramatic or domestic. In the small country town of Parkes, New South Wales, we devised a 2014 Fun Palace that let kids and adults join forces to create superhero games from recycled materials.

In 2015, I was co-producer to 11 simultaneous Fun Palaces across a 13-mile stretch of South London. Football clubs and firefighters, jewellers and businesspeople, comic stores and kickboxers, university students and lecturers, plus many more all joined forces to celebrate the arts and sciences in the London Borough of Lambeth. London’s 2015 Fun Palaces also included an online comic maker built for us by the State Library of Queensland, where I’m currently based.

If you’re a Queenslander who’d like to get involved with Fun Palaces this year, our team at the State Library can give advice and support, or connect you to venues which are already running Fun Palaces across the state – including every single public library in the city of Brisbane. We’re also equally excited if you just want to make a tiny Fun Palace in your office or your garden or your kitchen, with your mates or your neighbours or your family.

We all have something to offer, we all have something we’d like to learn or explore. If you’d like to join the adventure in Queensland, either contributing to a Fun Palace on the weekend of 1-2 October, or helping Fun Palace organisers in the run-up to their event, contact the State Library’s Signature Team.

Chalked Fun Palace sign from Brockwell, London
Image by Shelley Silas

State Library of Queensland: Something Wicked This Way Comes

How can we support regional communities without stifling their creativity?

What is the role of major cultural institutions in helping people across remote, rural, and suburban areas?

Just how many carny folk are there working at the State Library of Queensland?

This week’s edition of my column at Library as Incubator explores the work of the RAPL team at the State Library of Queensland, who work with regional and public libraries across an area three times the size of France.

Advancing Queensland’s Public Libraries: A Report

What are libraries trying to achieve? What’s helping them, and what’s getting in their way? What should a big organisation like the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) be doing for its smaller siblings across the country?

Advancing Queensland's Public Libraries report cover

These are some of the questions discussed in Advancing Queensland’s Public Libraries (PDF download), a research report prepared by SLQ and the PwC Chair in Digital Economy at Queensland University of Technology.

It tells us:

Results indicate that local governments, who own and manage libraries, do not always see the positive impact libraries have on the community, and this limited awareness keeps governments from investing more resources and giving the libraries free reign.

However, free reign and resources are the primary things libraries need to make an impact. Strategies that help overcome this challenge include proving impact through evidence, gaining freedom in communication, using innovative methods to circumvent red tape, and acquiring resources locally.

Pointing out that many non-library-users and even library staff are unaware how much libraries have changed and what they can now do, the report’s authors encourage librarians to connect with peer organisations, source skills and resources from their local community, and identify “low-cost yet high impact marketing techniques.”

The report recommends that Queensland’s State Library builds “an inspirational network of equals to stimulate mutual exchange…develop and realise visions together, and share success stories and mistakes”; it warns that “combining services should only be pursued if there really is insufficient funding to offer services separately […as] combining services primarily means that library services suffer”; and it tells us that in Queensland,

the community’s appreciation for their library seems to be highest when, on top of preserving and guiding access to collections, libraries also stimulate and guide

  1. Access to newly emerging technologies,
  2. Creativity,
  3. Community exchange,
  4. Connection, and
  5. Fun.

And you know what THAT makes me think of.

You can download a PDF of the full report, Advancing Queensland’s Public Libraries, now.

Marvellous, Electrical: Adventures of a Wandering Cook

Angela Hirst of Wandering Cooks tends the garden at her Brisbane food incubator

Brisbane is just shading into winter now, and while it doesn’t get too cold in subtropical Queensland, you still need to make a little effort if you want a place to feel cosy.

On the fringe of the cultural quarter, entrepreneur Angela Hirst is doing just that, as she plays host to the city’s most adventurous chefs and diners at her “food incubator” Wandering Cooks.

In this week’s newsletter, Angela explains the links between philosophy, architecture, permaculture, and her attempt to create a special place for culinary innovators in the heart of Brisbane.

You can read this week’s Marvellous, Electrical here.

Beyond Panels: The Presenterless Future?

Our quest to mitigate guest speakers’ privilege, plus include audiences as participants in workshops and panel discussions, continues.

Last week I spoke at USQ – where audience members were invited on stage as part of my live-streamed presentation – and I also delivered a workshop “Are we asking the right questions of our digital future?” at Broadband for the Bush.

For the latter, I wanted to create a way of talking about the future that was open to all and could even be held in venues with limited access to technology.

I put together twelve provocations: 400-word texts, followed by questions which served to prompt discussion. Workshop participants were invited to choose one or two of the twelve provocations, read them, and then discuss them with their tablemates.

Read more

Dimestore Futurism

This week I spoke at both the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and the national Broadband for the Bush Forum. The Forum is an annual gathering of people working to improve access to digital communications in remote and regional Australia. You can watch the USQ talk above.

Both events aimed to get people questioning their assumptions and exploring what they exclude or overlook in their visions of the future.

Read more

A Speaky Week

On Tuesday, I’ll be over at the University of Southern Queensland, giving talks and workshops to staff and students across faculties. You can follow them online via this livestreaming link – the fun kicks off at 11am Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Then on Thursday I’m joining the Broadband for the Bush Conference on rural and regional access to digital technology and communications, running a presenterless workshop session on planning for the future. I’ll be drawing on science fiction, Afrofuturism, and comics alongside debates around copyright, government policy, and the presentation of financial data.

You can follow via the hashtag #BushBroadband on social media. I feel like non-Aussies are going to think that’s something far more salacious than it actually is…