Tag Archives: birmingham

5 Minutes With…..The Artist Taxi Driver

Ahead of his scheduled Talk at Fircroft College on Thursday 18th January, we had a chat with  performance artist and YouTube vlogger The Artist Taxi Driver, aka Mark McGowan.

How did you become The Artist Taxi Driver?

It was kind of an intervention into media, an intervention into politics. It started around 2000 – 2001 with public performances. By 2007, after about 10 years of doing critical art pieces and trying to get into political news media, I switched from that. It was around the time of IPhone’s and video and the accessibility of uploading directly from your phone to YouTube. The way things were moving with technology, I started to create this online character whereas before it was public performance. I turned a camera on one day and that was it.

Where did the name Artist Taxi Driver come from?

The first video was outside Frieze. Well actually, I said I was outside Frieze which is a big art fair but I wasn’t.  I just made up this video where I wanted to go into the art fair but they wouldn’t let me in, it was on for about five days so there were five videos. I was talking about not being let into the art fair, about not being invited. During those 5 days, at one point someone said to me, “Are you a taxi driver?” I said no, I’m The Artist Taxi Driver. I had been a courier, a taxi driver and run a cab office as well. I taught MA Fine Arts at Chelsea for about 6 years, taught at Camberwell and different universities.


Is there anyone who influences you? Or whose work you admire?

I get really inspired by lots of important artists and performance people and the way they style themselves. You can see good in all art, you can get inspired by everything. People who inspire me the most are generally rogues. Alexander Brenner who’s like a very bad man; Frankie Boyle who’s a Scottish Comedian. At the same time I like Giggs, I like his attitude. He’s very roguish, he believes in his creativity.

I say to students, when you’re creating something, whether it’s an essay, whether you’re making the tea, whether you’re having a bath – just make it the best one ever. I mean if it’s a bath, put the candles on get the bubbles going and make it the best bath ever!

What did you think about the way in which Grime artists got involved in the last election?

That was very cool. That’s good. I really like the way that Stormzy is sticking it to the Daily Mail and is his own person. I think people appreciate that he engages in politics. It’s really important that young people have role models. It’s good that young people have a really strong social conscience, especially when they see things like Grenfell Tower. It’s good that you have people like Stormzy who are pro public services and try to contribute to community, that’s what you want people to be involved in. Sometimes young people feel left behind and discarded so they take it out on their own communities. I try to make people realise that this is ours, this is what we’ve got and we’ve got to make the best of it.

Have you always looked at society the way you do? Or is this something which began later in life?

Since around 2000, around that time.

What was the catalyst that changed your way of thinking?

Before that, when I was about 35, I was a heroin addict on the streets, homeless, in institutions. I stopped using and they sent me to Art College. Got taken into care by the local council after going to rehab and therapy groups. I was in a house where you weren’t allowed out, like a recovery house. It changed me. Now they’re shutting services like this and we need more not less. I know a lady whose daughter had to go to a centre in Edinburgh as there were no spaces for her locally at all.

Does print media still have influence over the public?

A lot has changed. People are more aware that in a general sense, 90% of the media is corporate media. They have set agendas, they are not going to tell you the truth, it’s not an unbiased organisation. What they do, instead of blatantly lying, they control narratives. So the narrative is whatever they want it to be.

Activism, Politics and Social Media with The Artist Taxi Driver takes place on Thursday 18th January from 1 – 3pm.

To register for your free ticket visit our eventbrite page

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Volunteer with ‘Talk English Project’ in Birmingham

Fircroft College will be delivering the NEW Talk English Programme in Birmingham. Funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Talk English is a volunteer led project, that offers a fantastic opportunity to develop English language skills for people with low levels of English within the local area.

The project will run a number of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses across community venues. It  will be taught by volunteer ‘Talk English Tutors’ and supported by volunteer ‘Talk English Friends’.

Sound interesting? Read more below….

Volunteer needed for Talk English Project in Birmingham

Make a difference.. become a Talk English Volunteer!

‘Talk English Tutors’ will receive

  •  Free training courses
  • Gain teaching experience
  • Develop new skills

‘Talk English Friends’ will have the exciting opportunity to facilitate a range of fun learning activities for people learning English and/or can support learners one to one , or in a small group within a classroom setting.

We are now recruiting for volunteer Talk English Tutors, Talk English friends and partners, If interested in volunteering for the project please register your interest HERE 

To find out more please get in touch with Neena Chauhan, Talk English Project Coordinator on 0121 472 2016 or via email       neena.chauhan@fircroft.ac.uk.

To find out more about Talk English visit www.talk-english.co.uk/birmingham

Scott Lucas’ Trump Talk – A Guide to Critical Thinking

The Trump Talk held at Fircroft College on 4th July was a great success and our thanks goes to Professor Scott Lucas for a stimulating and thought provoking session.  

 

You can find out more about Scott’s work through his journalism at EA WorldView (www.eaworldview.com), covering US politics and foreign policy and also international affairs, notably in Iran, Syria, and the wider Middle East, or by following him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ScottLucas_EA).

In this era of ‘Fake News’ and an ‘Age of Uncertainty’, the talk and discussion highlighted the ongoing and increasing importance for students and citizens to develop critical thinking and critical reading skills in order to navigate the ‘mediascape’ and mountains of misinformation.  

The importance of triangulation, ie getting at least 3 reliable and different sources of information, was highlighted by Scott and discussed in reference to the current American and Global political landscape with the audience. 

Staff and students were buzzing at the end of the evening, one student said ‘It was fantastic, I could have carried on for hours!’ 

Here are a couple of resources that Scott finds valuable for his work.

On US politics: FiveThirtyEight (www.fivethirtyeight.com), RealClearPolitics (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/), and individual journalists like Maggie Haberman of The New York TImes or David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post.

On checking some of the stories in the media, BellingCat (www.bellingcat.com).

On Syria and Iran (with apologies for a lack of modesty), EA WorldView!

And the day always starts with a review of some of the most reliable outlets, such as The New York Times and The Guardian.

Perhaps most importantly, talk to each other and compare your thoughts. Scott says, “Please get in touch with me to discuss ideas!”

Birmingham Conversations: Faith in the Public Sphere

The third ‘Birmingham Conversations’ took place recently on the theme of ‘Faith in the Public Sphere’ and explored the issue of how faith communities engage in all areas of public life.

The Conversations were attended by Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Humanists, Muslims and Sikhs as well as people involved in local politics, business and education.

The group met once a month for six months which enabled friendships to grow and for trust to be built up so that difficult or controversial topics could be considered.

Under the heading of ‘Faith in the Public Sphere’ they discussed what it would mean for faith communities, and by extension all communities, to flourish in the public sphere. Can everyone flourish or does the flourishing of one community necessitate the diminishing or restricting of another?

They then went on to consider how what this flourishing might look like at work, in places of education, in political life, in the media and in the street during festivals or demonstrations.

A Policy Report of the findings was written by Dr Andrew Davies from the University of Birmingham which includes specific recommendations and can be downloaded here faith-in-the-public-sphere-policy-recommendations

A Summary of the conversations was produced which includes questions for discussion and is written with members of the public in mind to enable different groups to join in the conversation. A copy of the summary can be downloaded here. map-of-birmingham-conversationland

They invited two local artists, Jake Lever and Mandy Ross, to be artists in residence and reflect on what they heard during the conversations. As well as creatively facilitating conversations they produced artworks at the end as a response to the conversations.

Eid Mubarak!

Join us at Fircroft College to celebrate the diversity in our community on Monday 3rd July. With a number of workshops and exhibitions as well as deliciously authentic food,  it promises to be an event not to be missed.

Break bread with us as we get to know each other and find ways to better understand the differences and similarities in our cultures.

 

Black Feminist Protest – Mary Prince’s Slave Narrative by Ifemu Omari-Webber

Mary Prince’s autobiography – The History of Mary Prince (1831), was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published.

On Thursday 22nd June at the John Lewis Community Hub, Ifemu aims to share some of these stories in her seminar, and argues that Mary Prince is indeed one of the first black feminists to actively resist the dehumanisation process of West Indian slavery, ensuring that her life experiences continues to be passed on almost two centuries later.

We hope you can join us for this interesting and informative event.