A DISCOURSE ON THE HISTORY OF FASHION c 2011

I am not sure if I am a proper woman.

I needed new shoes, ones with high heels and wanted to be a grown up but couldn’t be arsed, when the girls were trying on Ugg style boots in ShoeFayre, just raring to go for dropped insteps and walking like Nans aged 11 and 12.

Ugg boots look like they were a drawing of boots by toddlers which flew out of a nursery window one morning in a high mountain village in the alps where there is still a toymaker who makes wooden toys…and the picture flies through the window of a chalet hotel where a high class American shoe designer is staying. Under pressure from their employers for new ideas; they sit, despairing, in their room. How do they tell their family their job has gone at Christmas time? (sorry did I not mention it was Christmas? Oh and the designer will be played by Steve Martin or Adam Sandler if he’s not available) They absentmindedly pick up the piece of paper that has flown through the window and crunch it into a ball to lob in the bin basketball stylie; just then they stop, mid throw and uncurl the ravaged paper, spreading it out on the small desk and switch on the desk lamp, pondering. Quickly they take out an ancient leather case with pencils and sketch pad and are seen working through the night surrounded by sketches.

The next morning excited, and unshaven they put a call through to America waking their disgruntled boss – they have found it! A new shoe design to sweep the world, and, as in the case of the Emperors New Clothes people everywhere from Sydney to Montreal are seen sporting brown boots made from a toddler’s drawing thinking they are stylish. The film shoots to scenes of lots of newspapers spinning round and round with headlines on and the once despairing designer accepting accolade after accolade and award after award.

Hollywood stars are shown wearing the Ugg boot to the Oscars under their haute couture, nuns sporting Uggs under their habits are seen kneeling at Mass, the Queen of England does her Christmas Speech in them (as Cliff Richard, the Young Ones and all of the Spice Girls circumnavigate Big Ben in an Ugg shaped National Express coach with Richard E Grant yawning with ennui on the back seat making notes to sack his agent ) All the time the toddler in the alpine village grows up not knowing their part in all of this, and, as they flee their jobless village to end up sleeping rough in the backstreets of an industrial German town committing petty crime to feed their drug habit, they lie in the street, zoned out on crack cocaine and watching feet shuffle by, to go home, to go out, to get married, to party, to church, to divorce court, but all of them, every single one, clad in an Ugg boot…..if only……..

In next week’s fashion histories !!!!!!

How Mary Mungo and Midge felt when Vidal Sassoon stole the idea for the iconic Bob hairstyle, passing off as his own, the style created by a carpenter called Bob in the canteen of the hip 60’s cartoon. What would they all think now even Vidal, to know, that blow dried vigorously with mousse, it is synonymous with people who want to speak to the manager in any unsatisfactory retail situation.

SPECIAL OFFER! SUBSCRIBE TO FASHION HISTORIES FOR ONLY £45 PER MONTH AND LEARN ABSOLUTELY FECK ALL ABOUT FASHION; COLLECTING PIECES OF COTTON EVERY MONTH TO BUILD YOUR OWN UNIQUE THREAD COLLECTION ISSUE 1 COMES WITH FREE DISPLAY CASE.

BE THE ENVY OF YOUR FRIENDS AND LOCAL HABERDASHERY RETAILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS In case you are wondering I got some shoes – they’re black.

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Humanity Lands

This was the poem that became Humanity Lands – the title track of Phoenix Chroi’s second album

I’ve done my penance

Walked on my knees

Fixed on a star

Through the wood and the trees

And as I traversed this scorched earth

I never regretted that I gave birth

I trod the fine line

Between celebration and solace

Saw the selfie explode in its own menace)

I wiped a tear that stole its own path

Slapped my own face to wake my own heart

This blighted star hangs so futile

Amidst terror cruel law all the while

Waits Blinking a beacon of hope

And we have to wait too enlighten folk

But wait for what and wait for who

Hope springs in the heart of you

It’s you who fixes you who builds

You who paints and you who guilds

You can make believe and propagate lies

Or feel the truth see with own eyes

There’s absolutely only one truth

To make a better place starts with you

Pull out your heart and hold it up high

Use its rhythm to move the star from dangerous sky

Spin your tales rewrite the law

Show your children what it is all for

Stand stand stand

The ground is yours now

Take no more milk from their sacred cow

Open your mouth drink in the rain

From high from sky from heaven again

Shout in the face of the despot who dares

Belittle your truth stamp on your cares

Throw off your shackles

There’s no prisoners here

Just the jail made from lies divisions and fear

There’s no ballot box that controls your heart

Take back compassion

March on from the start

The Giants who stood who knew what to do

Had hope in their hearts and holes in their shoes

The once insignificant voiceless few

Felt rage in those hearts but knew what to do

Because rage can be love Set on fire

And rage can be care whose purpose is higher

Take back your lives and hold out your hands

Your people need you

when hope flies

Humanity lands

copyright EMcGinty 2015

Sword

Even

as my hands

poised over the keys

I asked myself

If I still believe

If I write a story

When so uncertain

Would regret be result

Of pulled back curtain

The WiFi unstable

The resolve shaken

Even committing the words

And feelings forsaken

Never a guarantee

Aught would be read

The chamber of laying

Became chamber of dread

And so as always

I curl my fingers in

Too shy to write the extent of his sin

And so

I sit, contemplate madness

For that is what happens

When you crush your sadness

I try to prevail

Find strength and rally

But dark is the road

And narrow the alley

Bright sharp

pinprick of light

And pen, mighty sword

Will take up your fight

Beautiful and Woking ……………….

Beautiful the musical in Woking – the story of Carole King: As a line in the show uttered by her character says ‘I’m just a normal person, who wants to hear a normal person sing?’ Clearly the packed theatre confirmed they did and were interested to hear the story of one of the most successful songwriters of the 20th Century woven around the songs that made her so famous first as a writing partner with her then husband Gerry Goffin and later as a solo writer and performer.

Jukebox musicals are always popular. Whilst telling their story they allow the audience to add their own memories associated to the songs they share. As a vehicle to encompass, especially for those who may not know and assign the credit to performer rather than writers, the vast catalogue and contribution King made to modern music it serves so well.

The story centres at first around her relationship with Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry) and as part of the songwriting stable of impresario Donnie Kirshner (Adam Howden) they compete with friends Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves), as to who can produce the most hits. Including their work which was often then taken up by Phil Spector’s artists gave an added, welcome dimension to the piece – hearing the basic versions of songs pre Spector orchestration allowed the imagination to add that in and remember The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals, Righteous Brothers and the finished songs.

The friendships between King, Kirshner, Weil and Mann seemed to sustain her through troubled times with Goffin. His frustration at feeling inadequate in the wake of the new artists playing their own work and poets such as Dylan coming on the scene as well as his behaviour in the marriage finally contributed to its end and in a heartening scene her mother reminds her that she did write lyrics once and could again.

Her success in her own right came quickly after and the show tracks her reticence at being a performer to her concert at Carnegie Hall.

I admit to being still at odds with some of the songwriters I like getting the big musical treatment, though on the other hand happy to see people get deserved recognition I haven’t yet seen how ‘musical walking’ fits in – a style of sashaying across the stage that is so prevalent. Let’s face it though, if we don’t see it in real life that is only because we are all doing it in our heads going up the bread aisle at Asda and down the escalators in the Peacocks centre. It’s not just me…everyone does it, definitely.

I liked that it celebrated a diffident success “I’m just a normal person’ a person who had such a talent that she couldn’t not do it and who wrote regardless of fame, whose songs have provided a soundtrack to more than one generation even if they were flashbacks – The Locomotion- I remember jumping up on stage with the band at my sister’s wedding shouting that out, loudly, out of tune for three minutes – whatever- people danced and next day they did a whip round for singing lessons for me – never looked back- ha doubters! Anyway back in the room, Take Good Care of My Baby – sending that via private messenger to a teenage daughter’s boyfriend because I am so hilarious, a view not shared by her – philistines to my comedy. I Feel The Earth Move – doing an aerobics class, leg warmers (remember them) doing a grapevine in the wrong direction and knocking the rest of my line down like dominos, my sister (different sister, I keep spares) rolling her eyes and pretending she didn’t know me Around the theatre people were happily engaged in their own reminiscence.

As a vehicle to celebrate her work it, for those who know of it, and to present just how much she did for all those who didn’t realise, it is excellent. The early pop tunes to the later more introspective work and (ahem..) darker indictments of surburbia like Pleasant Valley Sunday and her release of an updated version of One Small Voice in 2017 on Donald Trump’s inauguration track her career. The cast were dynamic, especially Bronte Barbe in the lead role who reprised her poignantly, you really felt for innocent Carole who wanted to do the best for everyone. At times when the ensembles were singing the sound was very bright and as it only occurred when it was groups on the stage in big numbers – it seemed as if the performers couldn’t hear themselves over the music or the frequency was high, perhaps something only from the first night.

If it were to be said to be a musical about Carole King that centred more around her marriage than her work it wouldn’t be true, the King/Goffin collaboration was a success, it is also a celebration of friendship, You’ve Got A Friend seemed to sum up what her songs have done for people; been there in all aspects of their lives, and her attitude to her work and talent. I went with a friend, felt very friendy when that came on then I accidentally burped and looked at her in disgust so she would get the blame – as I said, friendship.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical runs from Tues 27 February to Sat 3 March 2018 for tickets contact http://www.atgtickets.com/woking 08448717645

Lessons In Leadership

Two weeks ago I attended the Oxygen Conference organised by Wavelength. As I had graduated from the Community Business Leaders Programme run by RSA/Power To Change/RIO/SUMS they invited me along with other graduates from different parts of the UK to take part to benefit my project The Phoenix Cultural Centre CIC and gain insights from leaders across all sectors.

Everyone needs oxygen an analogy often quoted in life, when dealing with personal stress, stroppy teenagers and projects crashing together on your head it is always the first advice from a wise friend ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’. Is it that it’s often the case with social projects, businesses, charities and start ups that the very nature of what they are leaves their founders exhausted and overwhelmed with doubts and risk combined with a resolve that it is important to carry on regardless, where the need remains the driver despite the difficulties along the way.

Power to Change contacted those of us in the Community Business Leaders programme with an opportunity to take part in the Oxygen event put on by Wavelength. Since the CBL programme has ignited a boldness I was on it like a rat up a drainpipe, and intrigued and excited to learn more, to connect with a gathering of business and social leaders from a diverse global arena. There was everything to be gained to give my project and my own leadership some reflection and insight. Power to Change have published some of our insights here.

Connecting with the organisers beforehand enabled them to understand exactly what we needed from the event. To be able to be open about the challenges that leadership brought, as well as what we felt our project needed, was a refreshing change. Opened by Liam Black one of the founders of Wavelength, it was explained to the room that in order for the event to be successful it would operate under Chatham House Rule; sounds Jane Austenish doesn’t it but it is more like Fight Club – as in, first rule of….. By setting the context this removes the barriers between corporate and charity, large business owner and start up and becomes honest conversations between humans trying to make good sense of how to make good things happen.

Richard Addy introduced the concept of story telling, his strong example of a story of achievement and success swiftly accompanied by story two – the reality, that interwoven in all of the leaps and pinnacles were dark days, situations and struggles with circumstance poverty and integrity. He stressed the importance of putting ourselves into the picture, our real selves and what inspired us to act. Many have said that social enterprise is borne of sadness, an impetus to fix something that has gone wrong or something inside us that we want to heal and help the healing in others. The truth of it is that we can often mask our pain by channelling into social good, deflect it into building something to stop others bearing that. Telling a truthful story can allow others to see the integrity of the issues we are trying to face together and make them part of the social change movement. An authentic story shows situation to complication to resolution people want to see good news and bad news and that problems can be overcome for a better future.

PURPOSE DRIVEN BUSINESS

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

Cecilia Weckstrom from Lego told the tale of how it started, how children should have only the best and how success can be a curse if you forget your ‘why’ – why you exist what you wanted to do/change/be. Diversifying income streams can be a saviour to finance but a killer to concept and companies, large and small, corporate and social have to stop and take that risk. Acknowledging that others do and you must, go back to basics empowers your own belief in your own singular ideal. They went back to talking to children ‘if you want to create change you have to work with young people’. We now know where the large companies were seen to be untouchable and see a return to the core be successful, to hang on to the principle and grow again actually gives some hope when so often our perception is that large, global business seem to be the root of what we believe to be wrong.

Dr Aravind Srinivasan from Aravind Eyecare System who successfully treat eye problems and blindness in India spoke about keeping the purpose and efficiency at the heart of your business so that you can design for non customers – people who can’t access your services – why not? Can you innovate to make it better, easier? He used the example of how a surgeon can do twice as many operations by having more nurses and they trained girls from local villages to be eye nurses a job that a specialised nurse would not undertake, this meant that the surgeon could have nurses preparing two instruments, two tables, one taking place whilst the surgeon worked on the other – twice as many people helped that way. It also highlighted the extra benefits your projects can bring. By extension another purpose is found as a result of the main purpose – in this case young women from nearby villages received education, upskilling and paid work as a result of the need for more nurses to work this way.

‘Intelligence and capabilities are not enough there must be a joy of doing something beautiful’ Dr V – Founder of Aravind Eyecare System

There is nothing bad about profit but, the process to profit needs to be examined. Profit was described as oxygen however, as Dr Aravind pointed out – pure oxygen will kill. Both speakers were using the point that whilst profit has oxygen in its pure state it is dangerous and pointless and this is reflecting in the sea change that has been happening in the last three years – that employees need a purpose, they look for purpose in their roles no matter what they are.

A refreshing change seeing large companies whose leaders are more aware and in touch, knowing the traditional CSR model isn’t working (and yet even now seen as a new thing by so many companies) that they cannot ‘bestow’ favour on grovelling and grateful charities and socially driven organisations as good pr and marketing for them and no gain for anyone who needs the help. Whilst they are busy people with targets, so are the people who they are offering their help to who have left their duties paid or unpaid as well to help develop your CSR strategy (motivational shortcomings) as someone said ‘ don’t tell me you can offer me people to paint a wall when I need access to your health and safety advisers, don’t use up a day of my time telling me your people will fix our strategy when they haven’t understood what we are trying to achieve, don’t use us as a way of motivating your employees – it is not my job to stop your employees hating their jobs – make it actually mean something’ In other words – make it really be what it is: Social and Responsible as well as Corporate. For social businesses it was good to meet global leaders who really believe in social impact and that the two need not be mutually exclusive.

Don’t allow your drive or ambitions to be suppressed by your environment change it or ship out – this is where resilience so needed in this type of business comes in, the very environment change that is needed to allow drive and ambitions will kick back when that is the very point of your existence as a project to change and grow – if it means your project is giving more people a voice in an environment hostile to that then its very nature means it must face these difficulties and stick it out, to give up and ship out isn’t an option especially as the remit we generally all work under and certainly lots of funders require is that we are locally rooted and dealing with locally rooted needs.

Peter KeenCBE – Director of Sport Advancement – Loughborough University has successfully coached many olympic gold medallists and gave insights into how all the elements of excellent performance are needed to proceed and succeed. Martin Narey who ran the Prison Service and Barnados spoke of listening and learning, the loneliness of leadership and David Pemsel Guardian CEO of remembering the principles of your organisations existence and adaptive leadership.

Photo by Sam Mgrdichian on Unsplash

The themes from speakers at the height of their professional careers or who have been there seen it and done it were refreshingly frank, the idea that families, health and easy fixes of having a healthy walk, getting enough sleep, putting boundaries around your time are really that simple and yes really that effective. That to lead requires humility as well as boldness and the best key to everything is to listen, that it is ok to doubt yourself and happy to dispel the myths of leadership. The days of hero leaders are over people look for purpose, collaboration, boldness and kindness in equal measure and a listener who will take advice on organisational decisions.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Self doubt, fear of failure and anxiety will be your constant companions so the purpose has to be there, if you can’t make sense of your business how will someone else. Plan and protect time to think – some decisions are intuitive – but do ensure there are times to think slow, with logic, be willing to let go. In terms of out performing the great performers outlearned others, assimilating and transferring and successful businesses encourage and tolerate a culture of constant questioning.

It is ok to feel doubtful, intimidated and out of your depth, everyone feels the imposter syndrome, keep at the incremental improvements bit by bit everyday that is where the real work happens.

When talking about purpose, look for friends in purpose – I help you/you help me, you understand where each other is going, what you want and need to get there and step forward for each other to help that happen – go where the good energy is, where the good people are and just push it.

Look at your eulogy virtues as opposed to your resume virtues – build your life around that purpose that virtue sung as your last sunset comes.

How you deal with change? We have a disruptive chaos and a paralysis and these things challenge us so look for your reason for being, what unites you, your stakeholders, common goals and values? If you stick to these trust is generated and value is created. Trust your instincts make sure you value your team and their differences and qualities

Within the room was an understanding that large or small, corporate or social – businesses occupy the same space, are part of the same communities, containing the same human beings with complex needs and need to work realistically together. That the needs the social sector are meeting are usually way ahead of traditional business who need to anchor into towns and cities and networks, makes them a valuable barometer indicating change in our society. Now mental health and wellbeing have seeped in as considerations for all employers to be aware of, meet sympathetically and yet people see this happening first as social projects deal with helping those back on their feet who weren’t in an environment ready to acknowledge the existence of invisible, scary health problems. The attitude of the event was that people could openly ask for help and there was no expectation that it must be given and no resentment caused or felt by answering no, by working in this way actual stuff happens rather than good intentions which as we all know pave the road to hell and whatever that is for you.

We had on day two a chance to be open about our needs and ask for help, democratically people were given the chance to voice their needs and for people to come forward everyone was very engaged with the whole process.

Many were inspired by the discussion about platform and purpose and not mixing up the two, something spoke of not forgetting that the platform was not the purpose and the need to have a healthy platform, many things in place to help you spring from. Some of us our communities are adrift of platform and though clinging tenaciously to purpose find a gap there. This is why we need help that the funding does not necessarily become just money but another layer of a platform. Sometimes all we need isn’t a pot of money (though don’t let that stop anyone ever handing some over) but belief, sometimes just an email, an introduction to someone who can open a door just by saying to lofty heights ‘I recognise this value in this project and these people’ so often we talk to people who admire the cut of the emperors new clothes but not the value of a good pair of warm knickers, until they are told warm knickers are this years zeitgeist – then show an interest. That sometimes is all we need, to undo the ‘a prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home’ or as Will Rogers definition of an expert ‘an expert is a man 50 miles from home with a briefcase’. Sometimes the locally rooted, delivering to local issues needs the expert from 50 miles away to say what they have been saying for years to deaf ears.

So many people shared honest stories of reaching successful pinnacles in other worlds having everything and realising it wasn’t enough, no purpose to it, not enough good being made from it so they changed it, took brave leaps and realigned their purpose. It made me feel inspired by them but in fact also disconnected. How for us is it when we are trying to start something from nothing and we have nothing ourselves, how is it that we are starting these things because we are inside the problem and don’t want it to continue further that we know we must act but have no platform to spring from and yet here was our chance to build one. Largely because the generosity of those who can connect reached it out to us here. Hopefully this will be the new concept and template of what real Corporate Social Responsibility is, meaningful for all and really making change and improvements in the communities that we all exist together in. The event definitely gave an oxgen burst to my resolve and purpose

http://www.powertochange.org.uk/blog/above-all-breathe/

SHE SLEEPS SILENTLY

She sleeps silently while the wind rushes

fast and silent across the sea

She sleeps on, eyelash on cheek,

I don’t think she dreams of me

I gave her a kiss and left her there

Never to see her again

But when I left only I said goodbye

silently she slept on

There wasn’t a fight or parting of ways

or sneaking out in the night or break of the day

There were many tears though I left her

to run

away from the fact she’d already gone,

And she sleeps silently despite all she gave

all while I weep mightily

by her grave

At Peace



When will we be 

At peace

With ourselves

With the layers in our bodies 

that repel

Against each other

The cancers that eat and the 

Inflammation that takes hold

Or the sadness that debilitates us

And all of those things 

We carry unending war in our DNA

The gene for this 

The gene for that

Like battle campaigns 

We walk the earth

Minds screaming to ourselves to cope

Our cries 

Sirens of warning

Our depths

Silence

Of aftermath

And we grieve

For ourselves and others

Ones we make 

and 

who we make miserable

Whether we knew them or not

And so

The world follows suit

And we are at war

Inside and out