Subtitle: Imagination taking power

All the books I read in 2017

Deborah Frances-White is the 2016 Writers’ Guild Award Winner for Best Radio Comedy for her hit BBC Radio 4 series ‘Deborah Frances-White Rolls the Dice’. She is an Edinburgh Fringe regular, a screenwriter and is hugely in demand for her corporate seminars. She is co-founder of The Spontaneity Shop, and co-author of ‘The Improv Handbook: […]

December 11, 2017
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So personally I feel like we have never been in a time of more imagination. I see children inventing, creating and also having a place to broadcast, because the more validation you get for your imagination, the more likely you’ll put some more stuff out.

This is an incredible time for imagination in the way people can connect. People can put their ideas out there. Say climate change, it doesn’t cost anything for a company to build a website that people can write their ideas in. You could set them problems and there are always a certain amount of people on the internet who are looking to come up with creative problems.


December 7, 2017
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While the media is full of the story of the declaration of independence of Catalonia and the subsequent response by the Spanish national government, what is not being told so much is the very real, and remarkable, story of the municipalist approach that has risen there, and elsewhere in Spain. I recently visited the city, and spoke to Felix Beltran, a freelance editor, proof reader, festival organiser and municipal activist, who takes part in what is happening in the city.  


December 4, 2017
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When we approached him in 2013 and said, “Have you ever thought about quinoa growing?” He said, “Have I ever thought about quinoa growing?!” He said, “I tried it in the 80s and no-one was interested.” And we said, “Look at the internet, Peter”. And he phoned up the next day, and he said, “Quinoa is everywhere!” “Yep, people are ready for quinoa. Your moment is here.”



November 29, 2017
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When people say, “Well it didn’t do me any harm” which a lot of people say, and then you stop, and you pause, and you ask them the question, “Do you remember the first day?” some people will go, “Oh, well of course I remember the first day, it was terrible, you know.”  There are so many stories of people who were really excited about going to boarding school.  It had been built up.  And then there they are standing on the threshold of this huge institution, these tiny little children with a monster stranger, who is called the Headmaster, or a Headmistress.


November 27, 2017
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Professor Gordon Turnbull is someone I wanted to interview for this book project for a long time.  He is a consultant psychiatrist who has spent a lot of his career in the Royal Airforce before going into civvy street, where he continues to work as a consultant psychiatrist.  In 2011 he wrote a brilliant book ‘Trauma: from Lockerbie to 7/7: how trauma affects our minds and how we fight back’ which I highly recommend. He pioneered a recognition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the armed services and more widely in society.

He sees trauma, as he told me, as “part of the human condition.  It’s actually the way we learn about things, particularly under duress”.   “It’s oddly not right to see PTSD as a disease”, he continued, “as an aberrant reaction.  It’s actually a normal reaction to an abnormal stimulus.  An abnormally long life threatening experience, so that we actually make the most of that experience to learn a new skill”.  We chatted by Skype, and here is an edited version of our conversation.  I started by asking him just how prevalent, in society, he believes trauma is today:


November 7, 2017
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There I was, at 10 o’clock at night, wandering the streets of Gothenburg in the dark, with an 17kg sack (which is heavy) of biochar straddling the handle of my wheelie suitcase thing, lost, tired, and wondering what on earth I was doing.  It wasn’t the plan.  Someone was meant to meet me at the station, carry the bag, and show me where I was staying.  But, due to some confusion, it was just me and my bag of biochar.  “One day”, I thought, desperate for my bed, “I will be able to share this and to laugh about it.  One day.  But certainly not today”.  When I finally arrived at the hotel, exhausted, and delighted to no longer have to drag biochar around the city, the receptionist said “what’s that?”  “It’s a long story” I said.  But it’s a story I’m going to share with you now.


November 1, 2017
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“How come we can still stick with a procedure from the late eighteenth century, elections, believing they are synonymous with democracy?  It’s a very, very recent procedure and it was originally not even conceived as a tool for democracy.  Elections were introduced to stop democracy, rather than to make democracy possible.  If innovation is truly important, let us rethink the key procedure we use to let people speak.  Ticking a box is no longer an option”.


October 28, 2017
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Michael Kiser probably has the best bird’s eye view of the craft beer movement in the US of anyone.  He is the founder of Good Beer Hunting, a fascinating blog which through writing, podcasts and beautiful photography, has introduced its readers to the dazzling diversity of brewers in the US and elsewhere.  He also advises breweries from the very large to the very small, helping them hone their story, their offer and their messaging.  He sees that side of his work as being “devoted to helping craft brewers think about the future and grow”.   As part of the research I am doing, I am looking at the craft beer sector as a great example of a space in which the imagination can flourish, indeed in which imagination is a pre-requisite to flourishing.  


October 27, 2017
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I’m just back from 3 weeks of travelling and speaking in Sweden, Mallorca, Spain and France.  It was rather wonderful and included many great events, connections and inspirations.  In this blog I am going to share it with you, with lots of photos and videos and links to media generated during the trip.  If you followed my travels on Facebook you’ll be familiar with a lot of it, but hopefully it is useful to gather it all in one place.  My deepest thanks to everyone who made it possible, and everyone I met.  Apart from the guy who snored all night on the seat in front of me on the ferry from Mallorca to Barcelona.  Not him.  I hope you enjoy this, and it gives you a flavour of how it was. 


September 29, 2017
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Jamie Hanson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology and a Research Scientist at the Learning Research & Development Center.  I read a paper he co-authored called Association between Income and the Hippocampus which explored the impact of poverty on the part of the brain most associated with the generation of imagination.  The paper suggested that growing up in poverty can result in decrements in attentional processes, working memory, and a measurably smaller hippocampus.  In an exploration as to the reasons why, as a culture, we might be less able to constructively imagine the future, Jamie felt like an important person to talk to. 


© Rob Hopkins 2017