A sceptic's take on being human – or should that be virtuous?
Birmingham – 2nd City – provisional format
The thing about the centre of Birmingham is that it seems to reinvent itself at least once a decade – which means it’s now in the middle of its fifth reinvention since Dr Who began time travelling, and daleks were made of wobbly cardboard. But I love its self confidence. I love the fact that so many really great public buildings were not inherited from wealthy families fallen on hard times, but especially built for for the people. I love that they don’t mind blocking main roads for a year or so to build a tram system. I love the way that when a building in the centre doesn’t work any more they knock it down and build a better one. I love that it’s a shared cultural space where everybody gets to join in. I love the fact that the museum and art gallery put on such edgy exhibitions and manage to express the local community rather than uphold the status quo from somewhere else.
– and finally I love that I can still do a bit of field botany – with a fingernail – by scraping moss off a bus shelter
I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun.
When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths.
What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs.
But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more.
Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.
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