Archive: derbyshire

A Christmas Do.

Around this time of year, it all gets a bit hectic. Speed-buying presents, cramming as many parties in as possible, clients realising that Christmas holidays are around the corner and panicking accordingly. Somewhere along the line, you kind of forget to think, breathe a little.

For our Christmas do” this year we took in some proper North East Derbyshire institutions on a foggy, frosted, rain-whipped morning — proper clean your mind and lungs weather.

Grindleford, morning


We started the day off with breakfast at Grindleford Station Cafe. A legendarily grumpy outpost packed with more rules than , where there can be no changes to the Full English and mushrooms are verboten.

Café hours

After pints of tea, basking in the reassuring grease-miasma of fried slices and bacon, we headed out into National Trust land.

In various states of readiness — country-living Charles donned in all the wet-weather gear, James borrowed boots and I wore a coat that looks waterproof but is anything but — we took off into Padley Gorge.


Striding over frozen mulch, iced puddles and the occasional helpful stone staircase — all whilst being presented with the effortless Sublime of the Peak District — is a good way to freshen up your mind.


Stream, also

Hints of civilisation

The romanticism of the great outdoors dissipated a little when we reached the top in Fox House, fully exposed to the elements and windlashed with rain.

Open summit

We ended the walk at The Fox House, where we took on Christmas-style dinners, plenty of drink and the odd round of .


This is Arts Derbyshire

Last year we worked on a Making Future Work commission from Broadway Nottingham and Arts Council England.

We looked into Open Public Data in the East Midlands. We talked to data owners and compiled research (which we’re still compiling) with a view to making something with the data. We also wanted to help data owners see the value in opening their databases as well as artists, designers and developers see the potential for making new works and services out of them.

One dataset that we were successful in partially unlocking was the Arts Derbyshire membership database. This is a spreadsheet of artists, their practice and their location within the county. We were allowed to use the arts practice and location but not the name of the artist or organisation.

So, we made This Is Arts Derbyshire – a mapped visualisation of artists in the creative county.

Picture of the This is Arts Derbyshire website.

It shows clusters of artists in a location. The more you zoom in, the more granular it becomes. You can browse by ‘Artist’ or ‘Organisation’ as well as by all the different practices that are registered.

There are a few interesting uses for this kind of thing that we can see already…

For one, it shows how creative the county is. In our experience working with people like the Creative Industries Network in Derby, the creative output of an area is intrinsic to its value – both in the appeal for people thinking about moving there and for the fiscal benefits of small businesses.

It can help people thinking about doing business there. The map can show a strong network or the lack of a service, depending on the business needs.

It can help local businesses find other businesses to work with nearby.

We’re interested to hear about other uses you can think of. Leave us a comment is you can think of anything.

We’re also interested in hearing from any other holders of data who would like to explore ways in which they can present their data like This Is Arts Derbyshire or our work on the Birmingham Civic Dashboard.

Dream Society

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk at a PechaKucha Night in Derby. I took the opportunity to talk about a few things I had recently read about — seeing it as a chance to combine some ideas and see whether they could relate back to design in some way.

The first book I introduced was the late 70s best seller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I had read a few months back. I focused on its exploration of the ‘Classical / Romantic’ philosophical concept — an idea that says we see the world in these two different ways.

I used a clock to explain the Classical point of view;  to describe its’ functions, facts and things you could actually prove. I used the same clock to demonstrate that you could see the same object from a Romantic point of view; to appreciate its’ craft and beauty as an object, maybe even how it made you feel.

I transposed this Classical / Romantic duality to an interpersonal level where I talked about how some people are logically minded (Classical) and others conceptually minded (Romantic).

At this point I introduced the second book — The Dream Society — a book I had read more recently.

James at PechaKucha Derby

Imagine hundreds and hundreds of years from now when global economies equalise and wealth is more-or-less evenly distributed — this may mean that material things will come to have less value. And so future economies will revolve around evoking a strong emotional connection to stay relevant.

The book points out present-day examples of this emotional connection. These were Disney with its ‘magical’ attributes. Sporting events as they are aspirational (as humans we aspire to achieve great things: Esteem, part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). And also tourism with its’ natural, enduring beauty.

I then took the Classical / Romantic duality to industry and used the technology industry as an example. I described the fact that there has been a definite shift from the IBM days where computing was all about features, specs and crunching numbers (Classical) to the recent years with the success of Apple and their focus on usability, humanness (Romantic).

I concluded that what matters — now, but more increasingly in the future — is this emotional value. Having advanced technology, automation and everything that comes with it is great, but there will still be a need for us to be human, not merely machines.

My closing words for the talk were “Be romantic”.