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Daredevil, Heroism, and Male Teachers

“You run around dressed like a moron, beating people up!”
“It’s not that simple and you know it!”

Daredevil Cast

I was pleasantly surprised by Netflix’s new TV show Daredevil, based on the Marvel comics character.

I’m a bit over growlyman vigilantes, but it has a great supporting cast, an interesting and vulnerable villain, plus a New York where there’s plenty of languages other than English being spoken.

With its gangland politics, comic book elements, and deliberately narrow colour palette, Daredevil is kind of like The Wire, but set in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy universe. If you took the superhero out of it, I’d happily watch a show where a plump, mouthy lawyer, a woman with a troubled past, and a weary journalist decided to take on a larger-than-life crimelord and his syndicate.

I never read much Daredevil, as a kid or an adult, but Mark White in New York got me to buy a Christmas issue of the comic a couple of years back. It was an unexpectedly thoughtful story on the limits of macho heroism and the importance of education.

I wrote about the comic, and about men working in education, over at Role/Reboot a couple of years back. You can read “The Man Without Fear: Heroism and Elementary School” now.

#Citylis student feedback

Last week I talked with students on Ernesto Priego’s library and information science course for City University, known as #citylis on Twitter. You can see more, and read my notes & slides from that talk, in last week’s blog post.

One of the #Citylis students has written their own blog post with very kind words about my guest appearance:

I have to say week 9 for LAPIS was one of my favourites. What’s not to love about a lecture that talks about comics, zombies and Snoopy? Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lectures. Not only was he engaging as a speaker but his passion for literacy was actually infectious…

Read more at Thoughts on Library and Publishing In An Information Society.

Although I’ve done a lot of speaking and workshops at this point, it’s always a slightly anxious experience. I think it was the Scottish literacy guru Bill Boyd who said, “I always get nervous, no matter how many times I give a lecture, because it always matters to get it right.”

Ernesto’s students were a joy to chat with and I’m really pleased that the next generation of library students are going into the profession full of passion, play, and the desire to make a difference.

Thanks for having me, #Citylis!

#Citylis talk with library students at City University

I had a great visit to City University in London today, talking with students on the Master’s course #citylis, convened by Ernesto Priego.

Our conversation covered everything from the art history of Aby Warburg to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, tabletop gaming, and, of course, the inevitable zombie battles.

Here’s a PDF download of the notes from my talk on comics, libraries, and community, “Words and Pictures, Space and Play.”

Also speaking to the students was James Baker, curator of Digital Research at the British Library. His presentation on “Future Libraries: Considering Publishing” can be viewed here.

I often say that a neighbourhood library is like the TARDIS on your streetcorner – an ordinary box which can take you anywhere in human knowledge or imagination. If that’s true, watching James speak about the British Library’s digital innovations was like watching Doctor Who dance around the TARDIS control panel, flicking switches and levers with gleeful abandon.

You can find more of James’ work via his Twitter account @j_w_baker and his website, Cradled in Caricature.

To see more of what City University’s library students get up to, check out #citylis and #inm380 on Twitter.

Josie Long on BBC Artsnight: The importance of art for suburban communities

Writer and comedian Josie Long has made a short film for the BBC which neatly captures the reasons why arts venues and programmes are so important to suburban communities, those which are seen as “not pretty enough to be in Kent, and not exciting enough to be in London.”

The argument resonates with my work last year on Fun Palaces and the ongoing debate around arts access in Australia.

Josie Long on Artsnight

Check out Josie Long’s report from last Friday’s edition of Artsnight.

Lecture at City University London, Guest Editorial at Public Library News

The TARDIS from Doctor Who lands on a suburban housing estate

My guest editorial for Public Library News, The TARDIS on your streetcorner,” is out this week. Editor Ian Anstice offered me the chance to share my some of my experiences working with community libraries in Australia and New Zealand, and of course I worked a Doctor Who reference in there too.

Next month, I’ll be giving a guest lecture to students at City University, London. I’ll be talking about “Words and Pictures, Space and Play” alongside digital curator James Baker from the British Library and information science lecturer Ernesto Priego, who is also presiding genius at The Comics Grid.

Read more

The Library Innovation Toolkit, Out Now

The Library Innovation Toolkit

The Library Innovation Toolkit is out today from ALA Editions!

The book “encourages readers to take big risks, ask deeper questions, strive for better service, and dream bigger ideas”, with practical examples and suggestions for 21st century library services.

I wrote “Monsters, Rockets, and Baby Racers”, the chapter on working with children and young people, together with Tracie Mauro of Australia’s Parkes Library.

Readers will get inspiration and case studies from the team which picked up a 2014 national award for innovation in youth services.

If you fancy unleashing the power of play and immersive storytelling in your museum, gallery, school, or library, the book’s worth checking out. You can buy it from ALA Editions at their website.

Library Journal: Australian Coffee Cup Stories

Coffee cups on a shelf at Parkes Shire Library

Over in the US, Library Journal has just published a piece on a project which I helped to launch in the Australian town of Parkes last year. You can read “Coffee Cup Stories” at the Library Journal website.

Working with Parkes High School and Parkes Shire Council, our team arranged for local writers’ stories to be printed on takeaway cups used by cafés and venues throughout the town. This empowered local voices and gave people who might never enter the library a chance to enjoy new writing by their own community. Locals and out-of-towners all got a hit of Parkes’ literary scene with every drink they bought. This was part of my role as the town’s Reader-in-Residence. You can see TV news coverage of the project at the Prime7 website.

Our coffee cup stories chimed with the values of the ongoing Fun Palaces project, launched last year. Fun Palaces aim to give local communities a chance to take part in the arts and sciences. Parkes hosted Australia’s first ever Fun Palace last year, to great success.

Parkes High School librarian Tracy Dawson has the full coffee cup story over at Library Journal. You can also read Queensland librarian Alison Miles writing about this and other “locative literature” projects which blend place and narrative, at her blog reading360.

Parkes Library Coffee Cups

The Romance of the Machine: Quietly Writing About Love

Three essays about love and pop culture 

I have a new piece out at the Cultural Gutter, a site which hosts essays about disreputable art in all its forms.

“The Romance of the Machine” looks at Hasbro’s Transformers toys, in particular their current comic More Than Meets The Eye. My essay explores how even big-brand media can be “rich enough to speak of loss, grief, thwarted dreams, the desire to do good in an imperfect world, and, most importantly, of love.

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Sergeant Pepper-style cover

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Team Waitangi: Teaching against the grain in West London

Team Waitangi, a group of West London teachers, dress up as the cast of Cinderella

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete, West London

Team Waitangi got its name five years ago, just before Christmas. I was teaching what the Brits call infants – 4 to 7 years old, specifically Year 1 or 1st Grade – in a deprived suburban corner of West London. Our staff were pretty diverse, with teachers from New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. The school served a diverse community, too: most kids were from families that didn’t speak English at home, new migrants who had come to us from Somalia, Iraq, Sri Lanka. Celebrations like Ramadan and Diwali were more important to our kids than, say, Easter. Even more than usual, this meant I did as much listening as talking, as much learning as teaching.

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How To Draw An Alien Invasion

Louie Stowell and Freya Harrison's HOW TO DRAW AN ALIEN INVASION

How to Draw An Alien Invasion, by Louie Stowell and Freya Harrison, is in the Guardian children’s books section this month.

Louie and Freya also created the words and pictures for Usborne’s Write and Draw Your Own Comics, on which I was a consultant. Find out how to get your hands on Write and Draw Your Own Comics here.

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