Our article for the British Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania.

Yes – our friends at BCC Lithuania asked Nikky to write a few words about how Brexit is feeling for changing cultures. So here’s what she had to say: –

Brexit from a UK Creative’s Point of View. 

I think those of us who work in the arts, cultural and creative sectors are more inclined towards collaboration, finding new ways to work with fellow professionals to invent fresh experiences for our audiences. Even those who make their art in a solitary situation require the collusion of others to bring it to the attention of the public. Perhaps this is why so many of us are feeling shaken by the Brexit vote.
So far, I haven’t spoken to anyone who works in our sector who didn’t vote to remain. Reaching out across borders, making new connections, constantly learning about our fellow travellers on the human journey who are living different cultural experiences is all the stuff that feeds our imaginations and creative processes. Much mojo has been lost!

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Established organisations are continuing to make the kind of high quality cultural experiences that give the UK such an enviable reputation for all things creative. Those of us who supply creative services across the broader marketplace, including for businesses, now find that we are a little more affordable to our overseas partners since the fall in the value of the pound. And as people who specialise in finding solutions within uncertainty, used to creating a tangible something out of an amorphous nothing, we are well suited to finding innovative ways to move forward. It’s the shift in what is happening at grass roots level that is more disconcerting.

The widespread occurrence of arts projects and residencies in schools, community centres and local hubs has been hit hard over recent years due to the lasting policy of austerity. The money just isn’t there any more. In addition we have had education ministers who have undermined the value of developing artistic and creative practice within the system. The ‘Leave’ vote feels like another nail in the coffin. There is something in the mood of Brexit that gives validation to an attitude that dismisses creativity as something unnecessary and indulgent, frippery for the liberal middle classes that has no place in a good old fashioned independent Great Britain.

And that’s the main issue – it feels like a step backwards, precisely the antithesis of creating something new, trying to go back to something that went before. Which is after all a fantasy.

So – it’s going to be a struggle. But I think what’s needed is that intrinsic creative spirit that is so very British, and we need to ensure that those starting out have opportunities to develop their own unique methods to solve the challenges of the future. We need creativity more than ever, and it needs to be nurtured. As do the strong connections and relationships that we have with our colleagues in Europe. For those of us who are dedicated to working with and across our entire exciting continent, no vote will ever change that.

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Creativity to Save the Human Race!

The doomsday story of the creation of a generation of robots who turn around and destroy the human race has been told many times, but, as I read recently, the lecturer and author Yuval Noah Harari fears a more numbing existential threat – that it is our fate to become totally useless.

Harari is following up his 2014 success, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, with ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’.

School-ExamsPut simply, the premise is that the cliché of not being able to predict what skills current generations entering education will need when they leave, reaches it’s logical conclusion. No-one studies anything relevant, and everyone enters the workplace completely useless as Artificial Intelligence gets smarter and smarter. He says, “Children alive today will face the consequences. Most of what people learn in school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50. If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and again, and faster and faster.”

Harari thinks that humans have two kinds of ability that make us of use; physical ones and cognitive ones – whereas robots need only to be able to do the required task well.

I would go further and say that what really makes special (useful?) is our creativity. . . there is no reinvention, or indeed invention, without it.

Those of us who believe in the power of creativity, and it’s value in our education system will see Harari’s scary viewpoint as nothing new – but our ability to change, to shift, to meet this inexorable development is almost embarrassingly slow.robot teacher SS

Many of us are doing our best to encourage our children and young people to think creatively; to play with and without purpose; to make real their own ideas, no matter how unusual they may be, and we need all the help we can get to convince those who lay down the law that our way is more important than box ticking.

Harari argues that development of A.I.
should be on the political agenda and not left to scientists and private corporations who,   ” . . . don’t necessarily have the vision and the legitimacy to decide the future course of humankind.” And that although the state will probably be able to provide for the people, “What might be far more difficult is to provide people with meaning, a reason to get up in the morning.”

So I hope that the prospect that we may need creativity to save the human race might ruffle sufficient feathers to swing the educational behemoth a little further round to our way of thinking  . . . before it’s too late!!


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Dare To Be Different

Coming to the end of a run of conferences, it’s been interesting to check out current trends.

How quickly it comes to pass, that the attempt to find a new way…..when presenting, eschewing the podium in favour of wandering around the audience, with the sound man desperately trying to keep your radio-mic from feeding back, and the lighting guy wondering why he bothered to take so much care focusing that onstage light just so, for example…..becomes what is now the expected._DSC0679_BEDA_Milan15_LGardiner

It’s a struggle for the rows and rows of exhibition stands to find ways of standing out – a fresh give-away; a branded smoothie; some interactive game play; live animals!

But there’s also a fear at play I think, a fear of being too radical, of moving away from the format or formula that everyone expects … so that innovations have to be shoehorned into a certain level of convention. The organisers of any event feel pressure to provide something that meets expectations.

But why not break out of the bounds of normality?

The really key aspect might be to ask yourself what do you want your conference or meeting or event to achieve? What does a successful outcome look like, and how can we best engage people to reach that outcome? What if we dispel the conventions and just try to get to heart of it?

Also – let’s make it enjoyable, let’s make it fun, let’s make it inspiring and memorable for people.

We worked with the Bureau of European Design Agencies on their General Assembly Plus event last Summer, and the impact of how we framed and dressed the day prompted one delegate to say, “This is already a hundred times better than last year”, at the point of signing in!  Merely because we had prioritised the human experience, boldly moving away from the accepted formula and introducing an element of play to let delegates know they were being encouraged to think creatively, to bring their true selves to the meeting and that getting the work done and having an interesting time didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

So happy meetings, and go on…….live a little!


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Beautiful Belgrade

I’m very proud to have been invited by the British Council in Serbia to speak at the ‘New Technologies in Education 2016’ conference in Belgrade this weekend.

It’s my first visit to the country, but I have heard nothing but positive thingIMG_2965s from friends and colleagues who have previously visited – so I’m lucky to be able to discover and explore for myself.
I’m giving two presentations at the conference; one dealing with the importance of a strong pedagogy and personal feedback within an increasingly digital educational landscape; the other sharing some experiences of using technology (amongst other tools) to engage pupils with special and additional needs, inside and outside of a mainstream setting.

As part of the second talk, I share some of my favourite (mostly) free resources, so here are the links I mention:





IMG_0350 http://soundplant.org





and also here’s my TED talk:

So I hope you enjoy or enjoyed my talks, and once again – thank you for having me!



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This piece was originally commissioned by and published in “Teach Secondary” magazine:

“It’s a curious dichotomy we live with when it comes to the notion of performance, I think. On the one hand it feels like every other young person you come across is all set to win the X Factor and become the next big thing, and on the other hand we’re brought up being told that no-one really likes a show off. . . talk about mixed messages. . . where does this leave us with our attitude to performing within our school environment?

I’m also intrigued as to how one word can have multiple meanings, many contradictory – a tiresome procedure on one hand, worthy of applause on the other – all coming from a root which simply means ‘to do’, but is much more loaded than that in pretty much any context.

Despite the breadth of meaning, when we talk about ‘Performance’ within an educational setting, we tend to mean the Performing Arts students putting on a show – and if it’s in any other context, it’s an add-on, a mostly unwelcome extra effort for staff and a distraction for pupils who should be concentrating on their ‘proper’ work. But does it need to be that way?

If we go back to the root meaning, ‘to carry out or do’ – then should not the opportunity to be able to show your peers and teachers an example of your mastery of a certain thing, be a useful tool to raise confidence and increase motivation.

Where I believe performance is at it’s most powerful, it’s most useful, is when it is used as a way-in to a much deeper engagement – and surely engagement is what we’re all after. If we consider how much understanding it takes to have to read a thing, versus how much understanding it takes to have to perform a thing – that’s justification enough for the inclusion of performance in any subject. When handled correctly, the inclusion of performance in the classroom actually means the teacher doing less, rather than more, work.

Many of the greatest leaps in progress I’ve seen in young people, come when they start to understand their role in the classroom, and in the learning process – that they are not just passive recipients of knowledge delivery, but that they have an active responsibility to themselves as well as the wider setting. Performance can play a key role in helping the children understand the whole dynamic of the classroom, and to make a greater contribution to it.

Of course there is almost no better way to test how well you know something than to try to teach it to somebody else, and I remember using this premise in a Year 9 English class. Splitting the class into groups of 4 or 5, each group had to decide which element of the study text they were going to teach; how they were going to teach it; and who in the group was going to do what. It was a short, rapid fire kind of a task and the energy was high – particularly from one boy who always tended towards disruptive and attention seeking behaviour. It was a surprise to see that when it was his turn to ‘be teacher’, he approached the front of the room full of cocky swagger, but when turning to the class and actually having to face them and perform, his demeanour changed completely. There was a visible shift in his understanding of what that task entailed, of how hard it was – that just showing off wouldn’t cut it here – he had to properly perform, and he was completely thrown off guard. But not forever . . . and the sea change in that child affected the whole class positively.

Performance doesn’t have to be just the domain of Drama and English faculties though. I’ve had a great deal of success in progressing disengaged students in many other subjects using performance. In a Year 11 Chemistry class, I saw how much more interested the students became when they were involved in a practical experiment, but that there were limited opportunities for that involvement. So we set up a group of commentators and a panel of ‘pundits’ and treated the whole thing like Match of the Day, with the microphone wielding commentators describing every action the (almost silent) teacher made in conducting the experiment, with the panel discussing what might happen next and why.

And it doesn’t have to be live even . . . in an age where young people are completely at home with recording their lives on camera, whether still or moving pictures, those who are perhaps a little less comfortable with getting up in front of others in real life, can glean the same benefits that performance brings, via a screen.

In a more conventional use of performance changing cultures worked with a large Special Needs School delivering many aspects of their curriculum through the creation and performance of an original stage show, involving as many of the pupils as possible. Some of these young people had serious emotional, behavioural and mental health challenges, and for them, the thought of being on a stage was too overwhelming. So we went to them, and made short sections of film that were then incorporated into the performance. The expressions on the faces of those young people when they saw themselves on the screen, in front of an appreciative audience, in a professional theatre, showed what a massive impact that experience had on them.

That impact can happen in the classroom too. Working with a Year 7 history class to produce a news item around the murder mystery of Julius Caesar – with eye-witness accounts from plebians, senators, and soldiers amongst others – it was the most chaotic girl in the class who came to the fore to organise the structure of the piece; it was the least keen writers who prepared the scripts; and it was the shyest children who suddenly had the most to say. In addition, the respect they showed each other during the process of creating the performance stayed with them for this, and future debates, around the events of history. . . and it’ll come in handy when they get onto Shakespeare!

Like never before, young people are experiencing almost everything as a performance, recorded, shared, liked or disliked – it’s never been more true that, “All the World’s a Stage” nor that “Everyone’s a Critic”. So apart from anything else, we owe it to our children to be well prepared for the unarguable real world applications of performance.

So then – a tool that increases engagement, understanding and attainment; that increases the soft skills that employers say they want, like communication, collaboration, organisation, decision making; that grows confidence and that takes the work load off the teacher and puts it onto the children? Well you’d be mad not to use it – so why not have a go? Just remember to clap nice and loud!”

 5 ways to nurture performance in a busy secondary school

  1. Remember it doesn’t have to be a big deal, just the opportunity for a child to present a piece of work to the rest of the class will have an impact.
  2. Don’t shy away from using performance if you have weak students in your class, asking them to teach 5 minutes of the lesson, alone or with another, can really help build confidence.
  3. Performance can be used in any subject – why not ask your Science students to make a Health and Safety video?
  4. Use existing TV show formats; The Culture Show for Art; Top Gear for Design and Technology; Great British Bake Off – even Take Me Out for Roman Gods and Goddesses. The children will probably have loads of ideas themselves.
  5. When your children achieve something they’re really proud of, why not ask them to present it in an assembly, or even to Governors.


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Lovely Lithuania

Lucky me! I’m in Lithuania again for the beginning of November.   Vilnius_montage2

Vilnius is such a beautiful and historic city, filled with lovely people and great food.

On this occasion, I’m giving a couple of presentations and running several training sessions, so for those of you who would like a closer look at some of the visuals or references I include – here are the relevant links.

Thank you for having me!

My TED talk :  http://www.tedxwarwick.com/talks/talk.php?year=2013&id=16

My presentation ‘The Creativity Connection’ from the EU Presidency conference on ‘Cultural and Creative Crossovers’ is here at about 50:50 :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGLykExSkg0

My Storytelling website : http://www.thestoryteller.me.uk

Teletubbies for Business Prezi : http://prezi.com/ds5jelrave-p/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Kikas Prezi : http://prezi.com/l_jzclrmy9wz/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy 

The full study around the ‘7 Step Model’ : http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/HSMC/publications/2011/positively-local.pdf

“What’s Next?” conference Prezi :  http://prezi.com/nluje6_s_yya/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Barclaycard Project Managers Prezi, “Together Apart” : http://prezi.com/j4pr97fgtcpe/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Barclays Talent Programme Prezi, “Truthfulness and Creativity : http://prezi.com/u5muek3qamhk/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

And here is the “Creative Future” Manifesto:

What I would like to see next for EDUCATION – CREATIVITY – TECHNOLOGY

-Increased valuing of creative process and creative product throughout society

-A greater belief, faith and trust in the ability of children to figure it out for themselves

-Greater autonomy and decision making by the occupants of any given classroom / learning space

-High valuation of the importance of play as an effective learning tool

-Every Individual to have meaningful understanding and ownership of their educational development


-An acknowledgement that learning can, and should, be fun

-A re-assessment and re-valuing of the status of Creative endeavour in our society

-A recognition of the many ways that creativity manifests itself, and how everyone is capable of utilising creative competencies

-Priority placed on building self-confidence, in any individual’s learning and creativity, to maximise their imagined future selves

-More widespread use of mentoring to develop personal growth

-Greater focus on a wider cultural and societal worth, which will in turn bring monetary worth

-To fit learning to the child, rather than the other way round

-An alteration in the priorities that define success

-Technological advances that are explicit about the benefit to the ordinary populace

-Reduction of fear, replaced by support of experiment

-Rewarding creativity in school, commerce and society
To help shift education to focus more on the personal development of the child

To raise the status of creativity in our society

To use high quality and outcome-appropriate technological tools to help us get there.

To pressure government and ruling bodies

To train and support businesses, educators and leaders

To incentivise creativity in culture and commerce

To make the changes we need to build the Creative Future we want

I hope delegates chew it over and comment and so forth …..please, please engage, I’d love to know your responses.

Thank you.


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Design Favourites

Myself, Claire and Nicola are off to Milan today to run an event for the Bureau of European Design Associations. This got me thinking  . . . what are my favourite classic pieces of design?

Of course there’s so much to choose from, so I gave myself the question – What would I feel really super-satisfied with having designed?

In the 1990’s I did a lot of global travelling, particularly in the tropics, and time and again I saw the ubiquity of two design classics:

iron-roofMy runner-up is corrugated iron. We may not see so much of it in the UK these days, other than in sheds and elderly roofs, but all over the world this is a crucial material and many, many people have shelter because of it. In Australia, it’s still a bit of a hero. Of course the corrugation process is now applied to all sorts of material – and although it’s a thing we might not have given a second thought – someone had to design it, and that someone was a Brit in the 1820’s, Henry Robinson Palmer. So thank you, Henry.

My winner, though, are flip-flops. It’s a bit harder to attribute these, with the thinking being that they originate in ancient Egypt, and the modern version deriving froHavaianasm Japanese zōri, made popular after World War Two. What an amazing thought, that this footwear is so wearable, so popular, it’s continued from pre-history through to Brazilian Havaianas, and is probably worth around $20 billion today. Admittedly, I’ve never been to parts of the globe that are permanently covered in snow – but I’ve never been anywhere and not seen someone wearing flip-flops.

So what about you? What are your design favourites?


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EU Presidency Conference, “Cultural and Creative Crossovers” Latvia 2015

There are now You Tube clips available of some really fascinating presentations that took place at this conference March 11th and 12th 2015.

Nikky’s talk, ‘The Creativity Connection’ is here at about 50:50: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGLykExSkg0

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Dreaming The Digital Age

So lucky me! I’m still in the beautiful city of Riga, and am speaking at the International Education Forum, “Schools in the Digital Age” as part of ‘radi!2015’.

Once again, I give here a list of links to the researches and references that I mention in my presentation, for anyone who would like to have a closer look  – I hope you enjoy!
















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The Creativity Connection

I’m absolutely thrilled to be in Riga at the invitation of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of European Union, and to be speaking at the International Conference, “Cultural and Creative Crossovers”.

For anyone who would like to have a closer look at some of the references in my presentation, here are a list of links, I hope you enjoy!











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