This week was also fairly tough in that we had been re-writing all the courses for re-validation and to make them not only more specific - for example, my own course is now much more about fine-jewellery and is very industry-focused - but also to allow them to have elements which can be accessed not only across the School of Jewellery, but also across the whole Arts, Design and Media School within the University. Anyway, it has been fairly stressful and this week saw the final validation and us letting off steam, which included my colleagues, Jo Pond and Sally Collins posing with giant courgettes...
I have no idea!
The highlights of this week have definitely been the Research Matter(s) conference which was held at the University on Friday.
This brought together researchers from across the faculty to present their work in exciting and interesting ways and there was not one single boring paper or event: how many research conferences can claim that? Organised by the PGR Studio, this managed to be intellectually challenging as well as genuinely interesting.
Partly organised by my colleague from the School of Jewellery, Sian Hindle (taking a photograph in the image above), it was brilliant to be able to find out not only what direct colleagues are doing but also to meet with other people from different departments (and universities) and to discuss 'ideas'; something that we don't get enough chances to do. For me, it was especially interesting to hear from the PhD students from the Conservatoire, and Andy Ingamell's presentation was not only hilarious but very engaging.
Sian herself invited us all to rip up her research:
And there were "happenings" throughout the day:
Add to that a rather good lunch with evening canapes and drinks on a sun-drenched roof-terrace afterwards and it all adds up to a fantastic day.
In the evening, I headed off to St. Chad's Basilica for a performance of some organ works by Messiaen which I had not previously heard. This was part of a "Messiaen Day" organised by the Conservatoire and performed by Colin Andrews.
St. Chad's is a remarkable building by Augustus Pugin, austere to the point - as my friend James pointed out - of appearing Hanseatic from the outside but which is bursting with colour and light inside.
The programme was mixed, with exciting works by Joseph Bonnet and J.S. Bach which I had not heard before, a really dull piece by C.M. Widor and a selection of movements from Messiaen's "Livre du Saint Sacrement".
Messiaen's organ works have an improvisatory feel to them, which is unsurprising as they are based on the music he improvised throughout his lifetime for the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris and although the works are ostensibly 'religious', they transcend any notion of faith, indeed notion of utility and become music in the purest, most abstract sense.
You can hear Messiaen improvising on the organ here:
The music was thrilling and even the horribly uncomfortable seats ("Consider the Agony", I think!) couldn't detract: it was all over too soon but we were invited to the crypt for drinks and to have a look round the collection of 'stuff' and the Pugin-designed chapel there:
Spent today with Zoe Robertson and Steve Snell (of The Dual Works) in Bourneville, the model village designed and built by the Cadbury family around the turn of the last century and which was today hosting the National Gardens Scheme tour of local gardens of note, starting at the amazing Selly Manor, a remarkable 14th Century building bang in the middle of Bourneville with a beautiful Tudor garden.
I was especially taken with the topiary rendition of the Six Wives of Henry VIII:
I especially like the two "wives" missing their heads!
The interiors are excellent:
And there is a dressing-up box for taking Tudorbethan selfies:
I probably have Tudorbethan nits now.
The whole tour was wonderful but it was really hard to photograph the gardens in any meaningful way - they ranged from the precise, through an eco-garden (brilliant) to a suburban jungle (also brilliant) and a Mediterranean garden where we quaffed homemade lemonade. Tea and live music were a bit of a theme: