Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Ruth Rikowski's 35th News Update

Happy New Year to one and all; in our neck of the woods as midnight struck it snowing, which we thought was quite something!

Over the last couple of weeks I have also been busy on my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog again and there are now 4 new items up on. In this newsletter, in addition, there is information about the new band that our middle son, Victor Rikowski, has recently formed, called ‘Cold Hands and Quarter Moon’. 5 of the bands songs are now up on YouTube; 3 of which Victor composed himself and Alex Lowther-Harris, another band member, composed 2. Victor can be seen as the lead singer in the songs 'Reverence' and 'Human Herbs'. Meanwhile, there is another new addition to the ‘Contributions’ section of our website; this time a biographical piece by Moses Kilolo. Moses explains the difficulties and struggles he has faced as a young fiction writer from Africa, along with his determination to succeed against tremendous odds. His first work of fiction will be published shortly. Other items include the ‘Buy-a-Book’ Fund at Kings College, London and 2 additions to the Palgrave Macmillan ‘Marxism and Education’ series. All this, and more, is included in this 35th News Update.

1. RECENT ADDITIONS TO MY ‘SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS’ BLOG http://ruthrikowskiim.blogspot.com/
There are four new additions to my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog. The first is a brief entry about Alexander Rikowski and myself becoming Friends of the Zoological Society of London. The second focuses on a Tony Benn event that Glenn and I went to on 15th December 2009, where Tony Benn was in conversation with Ruth Winstone, his editor, at Stratford Circus about his new book, ‘Letters to my Grandchildren: thoughts on the future’ (Hutchinson, London, 2009). He wrote the book for his 10 grandchildren, to give them some faith, hope, inspiration and self-belief, it would seem. What a lovely idea, especially given that he is now 84 years old – his grandchildren should all be able to really benefit from his wise words. Tony’s strong belief in parliamentary democracy shines very powerfully throughout the book. The third is about the novel ‘September’ by Rosamunde Pilcher, which I link up with one of my friends from school and the fourth is entitled ‘Miss Allison and Novel Writing’. In the latter piece, I reflect further on my childhood dreams of wanting to write a novel (which has remained with me ever since), my love of fiction in general and the part that my English teacher Miss Allison played in regard to all of this. All of the entries, apart from ‘September by Rosamunde Pilcher’ include some digital photos that we took.


Victor Rikowski, our middle son, has formed a band, called ‘Cold Hands and Quarter Moon’ with friends from Bangor University in North Wales. It is all very exciting, and he has now written a piece about it all for this newsletter, and here it is below.


Victor Rikowski – Guitar & Vox

Alex Lowther-Harris – Guitar, Banjo, Accordion & Vox.

Louie Ashton-Butler – Vox

Nicholas Frost – Violin

Jack Rennie – Bass Guitar

William J Roberts – Hand Percussion

In the autumn of 2008, Aaron Ledbury suggested to me that some kind of jam should take place between two musicians, namely him and me. I knew he played the ukulele and he knew that I played the guitar and bass. A month or two after this suggestion, Alex Lowther-Harris who was a banjo, guitar & synthesiser extraordinaire also joined us. We began to do some general jamming, with me on the bass, Alex on banjo and Aaron on ukulele. It was around winter 2008/spring 2009 that we began to make it a regular thing. Sunday was our compulsory weekly jam. For the rest of the year we were trying to figure out what our band/music was about and what we wanted to get out of the whole thing. We recorded quite a few of our jam sessions on Dictaphone. We were working on a big repertoire of songs; songs without lyrics in a band without a singer. Most of the songs were a bunch of chords which Aaron would jam/improvise over occasionally, with Alex and me occasionally having our own time in the spotlight. In one song I played flute and Aaron played harmonica and Alex played guitar. We often swapped, switched and sometimes even modified our instruments. Our style was a kind-of bluegrass, jamming and, predominantly, blues style. But without any singer, lyrics or main melody for all of our songs we were stuck for where to go next. But we didn’t really care. We enjoyed playing music and having fun with it. Alex and Aaron wrote the songs/chords together and I wrote the baselines along with their ideas.

Late at night one day the three of us went down to the beach on the Menai Straight between Bangor and Anglesey in North Wales (I am studying for a degree in Music and Creative Writing at Bangor University). It was a stone beach with huge boulders and calm water. It was very dark and very cold but it was also very beautiful. We played for about half an hour before complaining about how cold our hands were. We carried on playing nonetheless. We then noticed that the moon was quarter full. It was in memory of that magical night that the band then became ‘Cold Hands & Quarter Moon’.

The academic year came to a close. Over the summer holidays (2009) I began writing songs again. I hadn’t written a song for several years and it was nice to start again. I wrote them purely for my own enjoyment but when I came back to university and played a couple of them to Aaron he said he really liked them and that he wanted to work on them for the band. From then on the band had developed a whole new perspective. We were a band that did songs. The style of the songs maintained the original blues ethic, but also added in folk and even a few punk and country influences. The band line up began to change rapidly from then on. At the beginning of the year it was just me and Aaron in the band, me on guitar and vocals and Aaron on bass. Alex didn’t seem to like the new direction of the band so it was just me and Aaron.

However, Aaron and I both knew that we needed more musicians/singers in order to get the band to be how we wanted it to be. The next person to join the band was Nicholas Frost, who is a really good violinist and plays for the Bangor University Orchestra. He did a really good job with the songs that we had. When Nick came to his first practice he brought along with him the guy known as Louie, who is a very good singer and recently (December 2009) performed a vocal solo in the Bangor University Winter Concert. I had been thinking for a week or two about finding another female singer but then suddenly it struck the band as obvious; why didn’t Louie join the band. We had a second singer.

Eventually Alex came back into the band playing banjo, guitar and, very brilliantly, the accordion. It was done, the band line-up was complete. Alex began to write songs too, and wrote them very quickly. We began to practice regularly and for long hours of the day, sometimes much to our housemate’s annoyance! Just when we were getting pretty tight and ready to tour the pubs and Open-Mike’s of Bangor, disaster struck. Aaron was being thrown out of university because of his financial difficulties concerning last years’ rent. We had lost our bassist; the bassist who had learnt and written all the bass lines for the new songs by me and Alex along with the couple of cover songs we did.

We had to find a new bassist. Jack Rennie was the next person to join the band in autumn 2009 as the bassist. We began practicing again and re-learning the songs we had already done. Before too long we were performing songs in the pubs and Open-Mike’s in Bangor. First we performed in the Bell Vue (which is my personal favourite), the next one we did was at The Underground or The Venue on Bangor High Street. The next was Open-Mike at The Greek. We did a session in the recording studio soon after that, which I was using as coursework for my music degree.

For quite some time I was thinking about having a drummer and Jack Rennie had an electric drum kit. I knew how rare/difficult it is for a band to get a drummer and so this was likely to be the only opportunity for having one but, having realized that it wouldn’t suit the aesthetics of the band, I stuck with what we had. But I still wanted some percussion in the band. I went down to the shop and bought some bongos, a tambourine and an egg shaker. Soon after this William Roberts wanted to join the band as our percussionist. So now we’ve settled for the six of us and look forward to recording more songs in the studio and performing more folk/blues/country songs in pubs and Open-Mike sessions.

I have now put 5 of our recordings up on YouTube. The recordings aren’t great (just taken with a small digital camera), but it is a start and it is something that hopefully we can build on in time (anyone out there want to be a professional film/camera guy for us?? – Ha, Ha - LOL!!). So, anyway, here are the links:

'Brown Shoes' composed by Alex Lowther-Harris

'Traitor' composed by Victor Rikowski

'Human Herbs' composed by Victor Rikowski

'Reverence' composed by Alex Lowther-Harris

'Stagnant' composed by Victor Rikowski

http://www.flowideas.co.uk/print.php?page=365&slink=yes (print friendly version) OR

http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=contributions&sub=Hope against Hope&serc=hope against hope

There is a new piece on the ‘Contributions’ section of our website. This is an autobiographical piece by Moses Kilolo, a young, talented, male fiction writer from Africa. Moses talks about both his struggles and his determination as a fiction writer, living in a developing country. He is a very gifted as well as a passionate writer, in my opinion. I read part of an unpublished novel by Moses Kilolo (one of many that he has written) that he kindly emailed to me, which is entitled ‘Salaried with Pure Love’. The novel addresses many important social issues, such as the suffering and prejudice faced by unmarried African mothers; Christian hypocrisy; selfish politicians and political corruption. In the story, the local pastor, for example, cajoles Ann into love-making:

“What Ann knew, that the rest of them didn’t, was that he was a liar. A wolf’s heart trapped in a lambs body. They saw in him the epitome of morality, but the secrecy of his living was a deep contradiction to the portrayals of his public living. No wonder his intents to marrying her hit the rock bottom.” (p.32 of draft manuscript)

Whilst Ann, as an unmarried mother, suffered, and her mother reflected thus:

“…the birth of a bastard child. It would be a shame to the family. The elders would be disgusted…the prying eyes of traditional extremists that drew both fun and satanic satisfaction from the torture of those that went off the line of the tribe’s moral code.” (p.7 of draft manuscript)

Throughout all this period Ann’s brother had become a successful politician, but he cared very little about the people that he supposedly represented or, indeed, for his own family either.

“ “Sick bastard!” she cursed silently, at the very first thought of a brother that was a minister in the government; the supposed representative of these children and their families. He had done nothing in his many years of representing the locals in the legislature, to ever improve their lives.” (p.41 of draft manuscript)

All this, once again, demonstrates the power that the novel can have in portraying social injustice, I think, and the way in which it can sometimes take us to places that socially and politically critical non-fiction writing is not able to. I explore all this further in an article of mine on our website, entitled ‘The Artistic Outlook’ – see http://www.flowideas.co.uk/print.php?page=359&slink=yes

Moses first novel, ‘An account of the deception of David Kyalo’ is about to be published with Fimbo Publishing, Nairobi, Kenya and Virginia, USA, 2009 – see

Moses is also a student of Journalism at the United States, International University. Despite the great difficulties that he is battling against and continually having to try to overcome, Moses concludes his piece on our website on a very positive note, saying:

“…know more than anything that nothing is impossible. So never, ever, let anything stop you.

Further information about Moses Kilolo can be found at:

I wish Moses all the very best of luck with his writing and his publications.

We had an unexpected telephone call recently from one of the students at King’s College, London (where our eldest son, Alexander is currently studying for a degree in Philosophy), about the ‘Buy-a-Book Fund’ there. The library book fund is being cut, and parents are being asked to make donations through the ‘Buy-a-Book Fund’ to help to ensure that the book collection in the library can maintain its high standard. King’s is also taking part in the Government’s Matched Giving Scheme, which means that for every £3 donated, King’s will receive an additional £1 from the Government. So, quite some incentive here to contribute! Donors can identify a subject area they would like to contribute to and inform the librarian accordingly. Alternatively, they can leave it to the discretion of the Library. The gift will be acknowledged with a bookplate, either in the donor’s name or in the name of the person that the donor would like to honour it to. For more information about all of this see http://www.kcl.ac.uk/support/support/book.html. The student on the phone explained it as every parent being willing to buy one book for the library; and that if that happened, then the collection would be safe. Being put across in such terms, this might be seen to be quite a reasonable request.

However, there are clearly a number of serious concerns here. Obviously, it is great that people care about the library to this extent and want to preserve and maintain the collections. Alexander mainly uses the Maughan Library, which is a truly impressive and beautiful building and he says that the book collection there is outstanding. For more information about the Maughan library, and to see a beautiful picture of it, see http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/london/121b.html

So, obviously we want to cherish and build on all of that. But on the other hand, all this should surely be funded and maintained by the government and not left to the whims of individual well-off donors. It could be argued that as many King’s students come from wealthy backgrounds, and as many parents of King’s students have plenty of spare cash, it is fine to ask parents to contribute in this way; arguing that it might help to lessen inequalities as extra cash can then be given to poorer universities thereby benefiting poorer students. But I don’t think that anyone these days would be much fooled by that argument! The government is not going to be redistributing wealth from richer universities to poorer ones; no, instead, the government is clearly and simply about cutting university funding and university library funding; well, cutting public expenditure in general, of course. So, instead, this is another battering to education, as well as to our cultural heritage and our way of life. Also, the poorer universities will find it more difficult to attract money from donors; from the parents of their poorer students. Once again, all this would mean that the inequalities will be as stark, if not starker, than ever. Also, of course, one cannot rely on donations; a donor might give generously one year, but then give nothing, or next to nothing, the next!

The blog ‘No cuts at King’s!’ provides a lot of detailed information about the various cutbacks that are taking place at King’s - see

The contribution by parents to the library in this way is clearly a professional issue. If anyone from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) would like to discuss this further with me, then do feel free to get in touch. I do not know for sure, but I would presume, for example, that students are being paid a wage to make these phone calls. Also, the student that I spoke to lived near us, so I guess King’s aims to try to match up the students making the phone calls with the parents in some way. Presumably, they are hoping that this will help students to engage more effectively with parents, discussing some common areas of interest with them, and that this will hopefully encourage more parents to contribute and to donate.

I was very pleased, recently, to receive Tony Ward’s third newsletter. Tony Ward is one of the Contributors to the book that I am currently editing: ‘Perspectives on digitisation’, which is due to be published in Spring 2010.

Tony began his newsletter by thanking those that continue to visit his website (http://www.TonyWardedu.com). He said that it is still attracting 1,500–2,000 visitors a month, which he is very pleased about, especially as he says he has done very little work on it over the last 9 months. This is because he has been very busy travelling and lecturing.

At the beginning of 2009 Tony was awarded the 2009-2010 Weipking Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Miami University in Oxford, USA. So, suddenly he came out of retirement and travelled from New Zealand to the USA. This led on directly from Tony’s work on what he termed ‘The Ward Method’. Bill Stiles, with his colleagues Hugo J. Shielke, Jonathan Fishman and Katerine Osatuke recently had a paper published in the ‘Psychotherapy Research Journal’ (Vol. 19, Nos. 4-5), September 2009, pp. 558-565, which is about the Ward Method. The paper was entitled ‘Developing Creative Consensus on Interpretations of Qualitative Data: the Ward Method’. 15 years prior to this, Bill Stiles and Tony Ward had lunch together, and Tony explained to Bill the pedagogical process that he had been developing over the last few years. As Tony explains in his newsletter, the method involved:

“…trial and error and problem-solving – of having a group of novice undergraduate students design one object (house, urban scheme, Marae development etc.) using a consensus method of decision-making that seemed to be fool-proof and conflict-free while at the same time allowing them to explore fully their own individual creativity.”

Bill Stiles then took these ideas back to Ohio, tested them and worked with them over the next 15 years. Bill Stiles et al’s published article, ‘Developing Creative Consensus…’ summarised and recounted how the Ward Method was adopted in this way. Tony Ward said that he had been ‘deeply touched’ and impressed by the research that Bill Stiles and his colleagues had undertaken in this area. So much so, that Tony wrote to Bill thanking him for all of this, and saying that he would be interested in working with him on further development of the Ward Method. Bill then suggested that Tony apply for the Weipking, in order to try to make this a reality. Tony was successful. Wow! So that was that. This is quite some story, I think.

Leonie, Josephine and Tony arrived in California in mid-July 2009 and began by having a holiday and a tour around. And then Tony began teaching; co-teaching a Capstone course in Psychology with Bill Stiles, as well as partaking in various other activities, such as giving public lectures. All in all, it sounds like Tony has been having a very interesting, enjoyable and successful experience. I wish Tony all the very best with these exciting developments and hope that the Ward Method, which helps to encourage students to develop creatively and to flower (and is a key part of critical pedagogy) will continue to be developed and expanded further elsewhere.

Dave Hill
and Mike Cole, the founders of the HillCole Group of Radical Left Educators contributed to the Palgrave Macmillan Series on ‘Marxism and Education’ in 2009. Bibliographical details of the books are below:

‘Critical Race Theory and Education: a Marxist Response’ by Mike Cole, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

ISBN-10: 0230613357; ISBN-13: 978-0230613355

Richard Delgado, University Professor of Law, Seattle University and Author of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction and The Rodrigo Chronicles endorses Mike Cole’s book enthusiastically with the following comment:

“Any movement would be fortunate to have the meticulous but wide-ranging criticism that Cole offers. This volume is a welcome contribution that comes at an especially good time, as critical race theory jumps the Atlantic and expands into fields outside law, such as education.”

‘Revolutionizing Pedagogy: education for social justice within and beyond global neo-liberalism’, Edited by Sheila Macrine, Peter McLaren and Dave Hill, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2009
ISBN-10: 0230607993; ISBN-13: 978-0230607996

In the product description on Amazon, it says this in regard to the book:

“In response to the myriad of market-driven models of reform in education and beyond, this book brings together a group of top international scholars who consider Pedagogy of Critique, Revolutionary Pedagogy and Radical Critical Pedagogy as forms of praxis to examine the paradoxical roles of schooling in reproducing and legitimizing large-scale structural inequalities.”

The latest issue of Managing Information has some interesting articles in it about Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire Library Services. ‘Cambridge: New Library For Old’ by Jon Anderson, Pat Birch and Graham Coult (pp.51-59) looks at the recently reopened refurbished Central Library in Cambridge. The central library was originally opened in 1975, but closed in January 2007 for refurbishment. Jon Anderson said that “The old library had been hammered by heavy use and had suffered from planning blight caused by false refurbishment dawns” (p.52). There then followed a major consultation with the public in 2004. The features of the refurbished central library include Wi-Fi, RFID, digital signage and touch-screen information points providing access to a host of web-based applications including the library catalogue and a way-finding system. There is also a 7 bin book sorter at the library entrance, a purpose built café and an integrated lending and reference stock. Another key objective has been to create the library as a community space; there is a conference facility for a maximum of 60 people; three meeting rooms and a full-time venue manager.
The Cambridge Wordfest, a literary festival, takes place there, for example.
The article concludes by saying that the library has a comfortable feel to it with tasteful carpeting and colour schemes, an attractive learning environment and pleasant and helpful staff.

Meanwhile, Margaret Bellany looks at ‘Leicestershire Library Services’ (pp.63-70) and how the library service there began to modernise from April 2003. Within this framework, a capital programme of £9 million has now delivered 13 new libraries and 26 refurbishments out of a network of 53 buildings. As Margaret Bellamy explains, the libraries were “…designed to be light and bright, open and welcoming to all users” (p. 64) and barriers, such as high counters and entrance lobbies have been removed. Also, all the adult stock is rotated in the smaller village libraries to keep it “fresh and interesting”. The developments undertaken, which have been many and varied, include an updated website; content on YouTube and Flicker; library information packs; a larger number of PCs throughout the county libraries; a review of opening hours, with extended opening hours in the evenings and weekends and some Sunday opening; an upgrading of the library management system; an introduction of self service issue into the main 16 libraries; on line reference services and joint working with the Leicestershire Villages website for local information.

Where would we be without our valuable public libraries, one wonders!

Graham Coult
was asked to speak at the Online Exhibition in Olympia, London in December 2009, as part of the Information Masterclass Series, in the Professional Development stream. He chose as his theme, ‘The 12 Information Opportunities for Christmas’, building and adapting the well-known Christmas song, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, with the aim of being helpful whilst also having some fun. In regard to the ‘2 Turtle Doves’, for example, Graham said that turtles doves can be seen as symbols of peace; as images of sacrifice in thanksgiving or as beautiful birds. Similarly, information can be viewed from different perspectives and that “Seeing opportunities in information depends on approaching the issues with the right frame of mind.” The powerpoint slides for Graham Coult’s talk are on his blog – see


http://www.woodheadpublishing.com/en/book.aspx?bookID=1760&ChandosTitle=1 REVIEWED BY NAOMI EICHENLAUB FOR ‘CATALOGUING AND CLASSIFICATION QUARTERLY’, 2009

Naomi Eichenlaub has written an interesting and positive review of the Chandos book, ‘Metadata for digital resources’ by Muriel Foulonneau and Jenn Riley for Cataloguing and Classification Quarterly. Eichenlaub says that the book stands out “…for both its practical approach behind metadata creation and maintenance as well as its focus on metadata use and re-use.” The book consists of 12 chapters, divided into 5 parts. Part 2, for example, includes chapters on Choosing metadata standards for a digital library project; Creating metadata usage guidelines; Creating Metadata and Practical Implementation of a metadata strategy. The final part considers The Future of Metadata. Eichenlaub concludes her review by saying that the book “…will be very useful as a text for information school courses on metadata, digital libraries, and resource description and discovery in the digital age…It will also be very helpful for all cultural heritage institutions looking for guidance on creating and sharing metadata for digital projects and is therefore highly recommended reading for those involved in such endeavours.”


We are very pleased with the statistics on our Rikowski website, ‘The Flow of Ideas’, which are now averaging around 4,200 visits a month.

Popular string searches include (amongst many others): the federation of schools, edubusiness, learning to labour, critical pedagogy; knowledge society/economy; idealism; postmodernism, the commodification of education and information, Tony Benn, Robert Owen, Paul Willis, Bourdieu, Alfred Hitchcock and classical auteurs,

We have also had quite a few praiseworthy comments about our website, in one way or another. It certainly seems that many people find it to be a very useful resource. We always, of course, appreciate receiving comments and feedback.

I recently signed the petition ‘Re-think Trident Campaign’ (as did Bob Bater, who informed me about the campaign), which is about cancelling the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Apparently, renewing the Trident system is estimated to cost in excess of £76 Billion; money that could definitely be better spent elsewhere, in our view. To join and sign the campaign to Rethink Trident, click here: http://action.compassonline.org.uk/page/s/stoptrident

Many thanks to Victor Rikowski, Tony Ward, Graham Coult and Bob Bater for providing information for items 2, 5, 8 and 11 respectively.

Best wishes,


5th January 2010