What I did on Thursday


On Thursday night I went to the Emerson Green Quilters in Bristol to give a talk on my Laura Ashley project.  It was a really good evening.  I was delighted to see how much they loved the things that I had taken with me, and how much they loved handling the stuff and reminiscing about the brand.  They gave me a set of great stories to add to my bank of narratives, and an old friend gave me a pile of pre-cut squares in a design that I don’t have.  I love this particular group and always say yes to an invitation to go and talk to them.  They really seem to go for a great night out and don’t give off even a whiff of ‘come on, then, impress us’, which I have encountered elsewhere in the past.  I was a bit surprised when one of them came up to me and said she was disappointed that I hadn’t talked more about my academic work in social sciences.  That’s something I’ve never heard, and never expected to hear.  So I gave her a quick run through the theoretical background which seemed to be enough.  It did make me think about developing a talk on the sociology of cloth, which is a subsidiary interest of mine.

This all came after a day discussing sustainability and enterprise in the curriculum.  The last speaker of the day harangued us yet again about how deficient our teaching methods were and how effective his were, based on psychology and design theory.  No matter how valid these ideas always are, I get very fed up with it, and the constant droning on about how ineffective lectures are.  ‘When did you last have a great idea or feel inspired?  I’ll bet it wasn’t in a lecture.’  And so on.  I’m not sure about this.  I have always found Mark Steele’s comedy lectures engaging and thought provoking, and I am pretty sure that the women who turned up to hear me last night were creatively engaged in thinking about their relationship to the brand.  The Medieval Historian, who had accompanied me, said that they were all talking about Laura Ashley and what they felt about it as I passed round my examples and samples.  I concede that we should think about how we lecture and what we do to students that makes them potentially so passive by the end of the first term, but to dismiss lectures in general always strikes me as rather shallow.

The Medieval Historian was there, by the way, because I had tripped over the mat and bashed my temple and was in a bit of shock as I was loading the car.  I am not seeking sympathy here, but rather wanted to make a point that I have noticed throughout my career: adrenaline is a wonderful thing.  It will get you through any performance of any kind.  So you hear people say that they have terrible colds and their voice might give out, but it never does, because of adrenaline.  I didn’t fancy driving in the dark and rain, but I knew I could do my performance and that the minute I stopped I would be exhausted.  And I was right.  But it was worth it for a lovely night at Emerson’s Green.  I hope they invite me back soon.

4 thoughts on “What I did on Thursday

  1. I’m glad you had a successful evening and I hope you recover well!
    I can certainly vouch for the effectiveness of your lectures. The talk you gave last November at the Embroderers’ Guild in Oxford left everybody reminiscing in memories of Laura Ashley and her designs as well as inspired by the way you had used her fabrics in your work. It was lovely to have met you!
    Happy New Year!
    Ulrike x

  2. Hi Ann, lots of agreement here that the ‘lectures are uninspiring’ brigade have it wrong. They do have one good point though which I think your talk to the quilters points out really well, the expectations of your audience are really important.
    If you do develop a talk on the sociology of cloth, you might want to consider international perspectives. Tapa cloth in Fiji has a fascinating significance for local culture and community.

    1. Such a good point – they were there for fun. I wonder how students are quite so emptied of that expectation quite so quickly. On the other hand, I don’t much want to get involved myself – I prefer to sit and listen, which shows how passive my learning style has become – for which I blame television.

      The sociology of cloth would have to include all sorts of world textiles, I think, and I might think about doing it, were it not for the day job!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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