"Singer Billy Bragg has warned that the government's education reforms risk stifling creativity and leaving the pop charts the preserve of a well-off public school elite.
Bragg used a lecture in memory of broadcaster John Peel in Salford to criticise education secretary Michael Gove's plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of an English baccalaureate. He also turned his ire on and 'culture-clogging shows' such as Simon Cowell's The X Factor on ITV1.
The singer and leftwing activist said the government's proposed new education system threatened to exclude creative subjects from the core qualifications expected of 16-year-olds.
'At a time of cuts to the education budget, the pressure on schools to dump subjects like music and drama in favour of those that offer high marks in performances tables will only grow,' said Bragg.
He criticised the 'insistence that knowledge is more important than creativity', adding: 'As Albert Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the whole world'.
Bragg, delivering the second annual John Peel Lecture at the Radio Festival on Monday, said: 'Under the English baccalaureate, with its reliance on a single end of course exam, the child with the creative imagination will always lose out to the child with the ability to recall knowledge learned by rote."
(John Plunkett, 12 November 2012, The Guardian)
Billy Bragg "John Peel Lecture", photograph: Andrew Stuart/Radio Festival/PR.
Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms - often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture - were meant to belong in a well-mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew-whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post-war austerity and postmodern assemblage.
The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.
The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' - the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post-war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.
Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits - hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.
It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.
Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short-lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.
It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers - that could come in handy."
(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)
"On Friday 11th February 2011, the Coalition Government published the Protection of Freedoms Bill. ... Some of the measures came from the 14,000 ideas left on the Your Freedom website.
The Government is committed to continuing this public engagement with the content of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. This website gives you the opportunity to comment on each clause contained in the Bill. Your comments will get collated at the end of this public consultation and fed through directly to the Parliamentarians who will carry the Bill through the House of Commons (go to the Parliament website to learn about the passage of a bill). These comments will assist and challenge MPs, aiding their scrutiny and debate on the details of the Bill. This is a pilot for the 'public reading stage' that the Government wants to introduce to give the public an increased say in all bills"
(UK Cabinet Office, 2011)