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Comedy club welcomes back author of The Gig Delusion

Worthing's Matt's Comedy Club welcomes back Andy Kind for its next gig on 12 September, with his acclaimed mix of stories, banter and winning observational comedy.

The affable Stokie, now resident in Manchester, has been treading the comedy boards since 2005 and has won an awesome reputation on the circuit, as well as playing numerous festivals around the UK.

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Back in 2003, the idea of a website where people could have their own profile page, write their own content and leave comments on what they read was something special. That shows how far we’ve come in under ten years; that’s the everyday stuff that we’re all familiar with now.

But when James Fryer from BabyLamb suggested it to Revolutionary Arts in 2003, we knew it could be something that caught on. A sign-in for users, their own profile page, a content management system that made it easy to become a citizen journalist and the chance to upload images too all made the site a success.

Over 1500 users have since contributed nearly 3000 events, reviews and articles to the site. Initially focused on Worthing, the site soon spread across Sussex and the South Coast, and as Revolutionary Arts worked further afield the site followed.

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Take action on Portas Review proposals

The Empty Shops Network has welcomed the government's response to the Portas Review into town centres.

Funding is being given to 100 towns from a new £10 million High Street Innovation Fun. £100,000 will be given to the 100 towns in England with the highest empty shops rates, and that funding can make a real difference to our failing town centres if it unlocks local potential.

However, it is being given to local authorities and a similar initiative under the last government saw mixed results, as councils could choose how to spend the money and were not held accountable for how effective their ideas were.

So we're calling for Grant Shapps, the minister reponsible for the money, to:

  • Encourage a Big Society approach, with local authorities urged to work with local residents, independent business and especially young people to form alternative Town Teams to tackle problems
  • A pledge from the government to measure, evaluate and report openly about how the money is used and the impact it has - with failure a perfectly acceptable outcome if it means testing ideas and innovative thinking
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The W12 Centre Shepherds Bush – a bit like Westfield, but different.

The W12 Centre in Shepherds Bush now stands in the powerful and glamorous shadow of Westfield, which opened only several feet away a few of years ago. The W12 Centre started off life as a normal local shopping centre, but now is really only comprised of an Argos, a Peacocks, and a Poundland, alongside several empty units that haven’t been able to stand up to the new competition. So what do the little places do when the big guns move in? They seem to get creative.

Over the past few years the attempts by the W12 Centre to stay a float have at times been a little comical. There was the strange dance fashion show that took place on a Monday lunchtime, the fish nibbling pedicure tanks that were set up right next to the make-shift fruit and nut stands and an assortment of strange and jolly decorations that now hang from the ceiling all year round, including a giant plastic trainer with the word Morrisons embroidered along the side.

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Wanted; the Big Society fixer

You want to put on a street party, but the people helping you to organise are worried. What about health and safety? What about insurance? Isn’t it going to be a nightmare to get permission to close the road?

You want use an empty location or you want to use the local the park as a temporary comedy club, but the more you think about it, the more you can only see an unfurling map of headaches dealing with all the bureaucratic hurdles. You want create a floating craft market for the town, it will move around and pop up all over the place… a short-term sculpture park on an unused patch of land … you have a dozen ideas for doing things, and you want to manifest these great thoughts, but you dread the struggle.

In my decade as a local and national journalist, there was always a steady supply of stories about the problems people faced when they wanted to do something. Interviewing them, the frustration they felt always connected with me. These were clearly people who wanted to offer and do and who were thwarted by a system that seemed focussed on regulatory compliance rather than enabling its citizenry to act, to create. The refrain always the same: “I just wish someone would make all this stuff easy.” Or “I just want to be able to go and see one person and them to tell me what I need to do and help with the forms.” or “There are a lot of people at the council paid to stop things happening, who is being paid to make things happen?”

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Creative collaboration

She Makes War is the solo project of Laura Kidd - who I recently bought down to HQ in Worthing. She's a multi-instrumentalist, filmmaker and video director, photographer, blogger, and sometime session musician (previously for I Blame Coco, Tricky, Alex Parks and Lil' Chris).

While the office has been reverberating to the turned-up-loud sounds of her grungey dystopian gloom-pop, that's not the most exciting thing about Laura; that's her take on DIY culture and creative collaboration. We spent an evening at Worthing's Coast cafe plotting and planning.

It's one example of something big that's happening in the UK's arts, creative and culture sector right now. Watch this space as (here in pretty much the same format since 2003) changes in 2012. But for now, enjoy something from She Makes War...

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£30 million pounds is enough

It's another big rollover in the Euromillions lottery. An estimated £126 million. That's enough to make anyone sit up and listen, and want to buy a ticket. I play the lottery once in a while, and Euromillions even less frequently. I put my hands up to being sucked in to having a go when the big money rollovers come up. And why wouldn't I, the money would come in handy?

But I started thinking on the way to work this morning. £126m is a lot of money. An awful lot of money. Does anyone really need to win that much?

I remember when the National Lottery launched, and the jackpot was about £6 or £7 million. That seemed like a lot of money back then. It was, and it still is. But next to £126m it sounds like small change. I have been involved in conversations to that effect, where it's hard to imagine anything other than disappointment at winning the Saturday draw, and missing out on the big one.
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My thoughts on #riotcleanup

This week, we've seen anarchy on the streets of London. The amazing thing I've come to realise about anarchy though is that it's actually a neutral platform.

Anarchy, says Wikipedia, may be 'a complete lack of authority or political organization,' but it can also mean 'a social state characterized by a lack of a state, ruler, or libertarianism'. So while the lawlessness of people smashing shop windows to steal trainers or burn furniture shops down was anarchic, so equally was the mob who, without any leaders or instructions, gathered brooms and dustpans and brushes and took to the streets to clean up on Tuesday.

They hadn't signed up to a manifesto or an agreed set of rules or beliefs. Nobody was in charge of them, or told them what to do. They were hundreds of individuals who, without leadership or state intervention, took to the streets and worked out a new way of doing things.

Twitter, of course, was similarly neutral. On Monday night, the message in the media (which always needs a clear, simple idea) was that Twitter was a Bad Thing. That it had somehow caused the riots and looting. By Tuesday teatime, Twitter was a Good Thing, bringing back the Blitz spirit. It was neither, of course. It was just a channel.

And actually, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered around a diverse set of Twitter accounts relating to the Riot Clean Up, that's not why people were on the streets. It helped, but so did word of mouth, and seeing your neighbour walk down the street with a broom, and so did hearing somebody on the radio, and so did watching people sweeping the streets on television. The anarchic spirit of the riot clean up spread quickly across all of those neutral channels as well.
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The Future of the Arts

This is a response to Lee Cavaliere's article Visions of the Future, which looks at ideas, trends and opinions informing the future of the UK's arts scene.

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Report shows visual arts professional development hit

A new report looks at the likely impact on artists after the Arts Council England (ACE) decisions on fifteen previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) that were unsuccessful in the new National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) process application.

It shows that a disproportionate number of artists’ membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations lost core funding, despite ACE’s aim of creating a “balanced portfolio”. Many of these organisations are ambitious, punch above their weight and play a crucial strategic development role within the visual arts ecology.

Organisations include galleries Artsway and Castlefield, production companies s Folly, Isis Arts and PVA and membership organisations NewWorkNetwork and Contemporary Glass Society. They have all developed bespoke professional practice activity and expertise over a number of years across diverse visual arts practices, and provide significant, quantifiable opportunities for artists at early and mid-career. Consequently, they feed strategically into the work of bigger organisations that have neither capacity nor remit to undertake this depth of specific artist-centred development work.