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Community photography

Innovation and analogy

I’ve been photographing old buildings just lately and although the one pictured is used as a ‘community and cultural hub’, whatever that is. I have been wondering if these buildings are really being put to good use.  Some of the buildings I’ve seen are boarded up and no longer used. Maybe, with a little innovative thinking that could be brought back into use or used to greater advantage?

Self service was an innovation that changed the way we do things. It was originally an American idea and was used in stores, back in 1917. It was 1950 before it was introduced into Britain by Sainsbury’s. Now it’s all pervasive and getting even more so. Checkout staff are disappearing from supermarkets. I went into a petrol station not long ago where there were no staff at all. We are dealing with machines like ATM’s more and more; personal service in many cases is being phased out in favour of efficiency.

Innovation can mean more personal service, not less. We like personal service and a store that tries to give us an experience as well as sell us goods will be more popular. When I thought about these old buildings, I looked for an analogy. Could an idea from overseas make these buildings more viable? Maybe an idea from another disciple? I looked at the Venice Simplon Orient-Express. That seems to work and using a well known train they have created an experience for people that they enjoy and pay a lot of money for. Maybe these old buildings could be used to provide people with an experience. A blast from the past, perhaps? They already do old time dancing in this old town hall as a way of keeping some older people active. I don’t think the weekend wrestling and the Zumba dancing quite fit in to the same image though. Can you imagine the Orient Express being used for Zumba? No, me neither…  You have to be quite consistent to create and innovate an experience. It takes some imagination and attention to detail.

Could our public parks be made more interesting in a similar way? They seem to be going down the same road as councils try to force more exercise onto people. They are putting keep fit equipment into my local park and a skate board thingy. They had bowls and tennis when I was younger and people less active could sit on a summers afternoon and have tea on the verandah of the pavilion and watch the bowls. Am I getting a bit too nostalgic for a time when there were more relaxing pursuits and more relaxing music too? Music is important, although I’m not that keen on brass bands they did add to the atmosphere of the Victorian parks of yesteryear. I do like a little 1930’s style jazz sometimes and listen to the Ink Spots, when I’m in the mood.

Maybe I am getting too nostalgic, I like looking around small art galleries and museums. There is a new library in Birmingham, it cost £189 millions at a time when small community libraries are closing down because of lack of funds. I suppose the person running it will get a super-salary running into 6 figures… I wonder if that building will still be around in a hundred years?

What do you think? Do you have any innovative ideas? Will you be visiting the new iconic library in Birmingham? Please share your thoughts in the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter for updates.

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