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Archive for the ‘State’ Category

When you live in the inner city, people from the council or from government agencies are always coming round asking what facilities you need, or suggesting events that you should go to, that they have laid on. I never encountered government in such quantity until I came to live in a deprived area. They are involved in everything!

Sometimes I just want to suggest that the people asking the question give up their well paid job so the council can give the money to the church instead. And other times I want to say that they should come and live here instead of swanning in and trying to build “community cohesion” from outside, 5 days a week, 9am-5pm. Community doesn’t work like that. You need to be here. And you need the gospel to help you.

The Breathe Network seem to have a much better idea of what makes good community. NB From 3min30s onwards there’s no more action…

[HT Mark Meynell]

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Our family visited West Bromwich’s very expensive new art gallery this weekend. We had been at the baptism of Polly’s baby at the local catholic church and had time before the chicken roasting in the Vicarage oven was going to be cooked, so we dropped into the big black fish tank with Babapapa windows.

Is it a huge waste of money or an investment for the future?

A huge waste of money or an investment for the future?

We have been in before (for expensive coffee and a view of the glitzy loos), but the art gallery part has only just opened, so this was our first opportunity to gauge whether the £67 million that was spent has been really worthwhile.

Of course, the word on the street is that it is a complete waste of money for a town which has no cinema, no bowling alley and no swimming pool. But let’s give it a chance, eh? We loved the art gallery in Wolverhampton, where you could look at beautiful pictures, dress up as a Georgian, feel textured sculptures and eat wonderful salad selections. I would sometimes just pop in with the kids for half an hour to visit their favourite exhibits.

So how was the Public going to shape up? Would the kids enjoy it? And would the grown ups?

First off, I have to say that the curators are a bit overkeen. I like to look at the art and spend time in my own head in a gallery. And the kids like to do their own thing. So having three or four curators launch themselves at us telling us what to do was a little off-putting.  Maybe they were a bit bored – there seems to be rather too many of them.  It’s great to have them there to ask things of, but when they just started suggesting what we do, I felt rather patronised. Like we were ignorant and wouldn’t know what to do and might not be able to read any instructions or labels. It made me a bit grumpy, to tell the truth. If I want people to leap on me and ask me if I need any help, I’ll go to a posh frock shop.

Secondly, there’s not a lot there. And I don’t want to sound ignorant or anything, but I don’t think that much of it was what I’d call art. There were four sculptures and some good photos of the Black Country from the 1960s. But the rest consisted of the following:

  • What the kids called ‘dance mats’ and were basically slightly weird and not very good computer games.
  • Some fun video projectors which enabled you to see yourself sitting on a bench with people sitting on a different bench.
  • Some touch screen digital photo frames with photos of art projects that have happened at the Public over the summer.
  • A couple of short movies (one on the Public and one on Malcolm X).
  • A chance to make an animation of yourself.
  • Some gadgets which you could swirl your hands in to make coloured bubbles appear on some round projector screens.

I’d much rather look at a couple of good paintings and let the kids dress up in funky ’60s clothing, like in Wolverhampton’s pop art gallery.

Now from their latest magazine, I can see that there is more to the place than the exhibition, and we enjoyed hearing wafts of live jazz as we ambled down the long wooden ramp that most of the gallery seems to comprise of. And I liked the look of their Saturday art club and might even bring the kids along one week.

But as for the exhibition, the children enjoyed jumping about on the ‘dance mats’ and swirling their hands to make bubbles. And they liked the free self portrait photo. But the Vicar and I were pretty bored. And I can’t see the gallery exciting my kids about art, especially not compared to what they could experience in Wolverhampton. I wonder what they could have done with a cheap refurbished factory and money spent on real art instead? Or money spent on artists in every primary school in Sandwell.

So in my view, the Public seems rather like the Millenium Dome. A visionary building with less than visionary contents. The Public has so far failed to impress this section of West Brom’s public.

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Mrs Discoman sent me this Youtube clip, which made me smile this morning. It also lessened the stress caused by the prospect of having my kitchen checked out by someone who knows about catering and hygiene.

I particularly liked the line “He loves me when I waste my time by writing silly songs”. But sadly no line with “He loves me when my kitchen is filthy”.

PS The kitchen inspection is not another nanny state extension announced in Gordon Brown’s Labour conference speech along with nursery places for two year olds. It’s because I’ve just started baking for a cafe and they need to check that I won’t poison the public.

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I was telling someone recently about how churches often have reservations about accepting lottery money.

‘Lottery money (for the winners) is money you’ve not earned.’ I said. ‘So the concept of the lottery gives people the message that you don’t have to work to become rich.’

‘it’s like celebrities.’ she replied. ‘You don’t have to do anything worthwhile to be famous. Look at Jade Goody – she’s made loads of money and people don’t even like her. We’ve all been fooled by the idea of money or fame for nothing.’

I wonder how many folk in our parish have absorbed these messages and then been tempted to play the welfare system. The welfare system can be manipulated to give you a house and income (though small) for free.

I’m not sure the Department for Work and Pensions are able to supply coverage in Hello! though.

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