Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Boss Bike Rides: exploring Market Bosworth on Sunday 4 July from 12 noon.

 Set up with Nottingham’s Switch Up! Boss Bike Rides provide informal opportunities for CEOs, founders and senior managers of any business (family business, small and medium to corporate or even sole traders) to meet, network, socialise and become a peer support network  – all through the medium of shared bike rides around the East Midlands and beyond.

 Our next major ride will be on Sunday 4 July, starting at the Market Square in Market Bosworth in North West Leicestershire.  The ride is a circular one and lasts about 3 hours and is suitable for riders who want to take it easy and have plenty of stops along the way!

 The route is here.

You are very welcome to join us for some or all of the part of the ride: it’s not a race either so you’ll be able to go at your own pace too with like minded colleagues.  It’s as much about sharing your experience of being ‘the boss’ as it is about riding a bike!

 If you would like to know more, or would like to join up, please get in touch any time.


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Boss Bike Rides: how to create a bit of Urban Magic.

The basic premises of Boss Bike Rides are that you spend time on a bike with someone else and that you then share your experiences of boss-ness, boss-dom and boss-icity or a combination of all of the above.

But what if you don’t have some-one to ride with? And what if you’re not sure about how to start up a conversation with someone you may have known a long time?

This might sound an odd supposition but given many of us have just spent 16+ months in various degrees of isolation and separateness, it’s not surprising that perhaps our previous confidence in social settings may have taken a bit of a shaking since the onset of social distancing.  So perhaps we could do with a bit of help in getting those conversations going again.

One way of doing that is suggested by the venture Street Wisdom who describe themselves as a “social enterprise that offers mind-opening WalkShops on streets all over the world. Run by volunteers, our immersive public experiences turn the city into your creative playground – a place to unlock fresh thinking and set new direction.”

Now, whilst their focus is on walking, the principles apply to cycling in general and to Boss Bike Riding in particular.

“All you need is to turn up with a question you’d like some fresh answers to. It could be a business-related question, a personal one. Or both. Come by yourself, tell your friends to sign up or even enrol your whole team – this is a great way for business colleagues to hit the refresh button.”

You can keep your question secret if you want, but it’s good to have something in mind. Nothing as big as ‘when am I going to win the Lottery?’ or as small as ‘Left or Right Lion?’ – but something that matters to you, right here, right now.

What happens next on a Street Wisdom walk is that you ‘tune into’ the street over four shorts walks: each walk you can make alone or with friends, and each walk had an instruction to guide you:

“Look for what you’re drawn to.”

“Slow right down.”

“Notice the patterns.”

“See the beauty in everything.”

When I undertook a Street Wisdom walk in Nottingham with a group of five complete strangers, the walks and the focus given by the instructions generated for all of us on the walks a quite astounding set of responses.

I found myself being drawn to the fountains on the other side of the square, feeling quite wistful about the lack of water features in the city and the distance we were from the coastline.

The instruction to Slow Right Down had me stopped dead still in my tracks for over fifteen minutes which enabled me to see how fast everyone rushes around the city: always with intent and a job to do or a place to go or a person to visit. Staying much longer under this instruction would have seen me draining away through the concrete, I was relaxing that rapidly.

It was on the third walk – Notice the Patterns – that I really started to feel the effects of the process. Normally I brush off patterns or pay no attention to them at all: but given ten minutes just to look at them made me hugely aware of just how patterned and ordered our city scape is: it was intoxicating to see patterns in every nook and cranny and in every small piece of iron railing, shop window and bus stop. Had this been after a Friday evening at the Cross Keys, one might have explained this with 15 pints of IPA: but no, this was Friday lunchtime and I was technically still at work.

The fourth walk – See the Beauty in everything – was the peak of the afternoon. It meant that it was impossible to go anywhere with stopping to marvel at everything. I found myself marvelling at all of modern technology when I overheard a couple of tourists extol loudly the wonder that was Skype, which had allowed them to talk to a long lost aunt in Australia that very morning.  Fast forward five years to the middle of the pandemic, and our familiarity with Teams and Zoom makes that appreciation of Skype has a warm cosy nostalgic glow woven through every strand of that moment.

After the four short walks, you’re encouraged to go off on a journey by yourself: your own street quest.   You do this with your own question at the back of your mind and later on meet up with the rest of the group to share your experiences and improved wisdom. I can’t tell you whether the question I had posed was answered other than to say that your first question may not be the right question; but I can tell you that all six of us were swept away by the experience and promised to go divining for more Nottingham in the weeks to come.

“It’s urban magic on your doorstep” say Street Wisdom and for once in your life, the reality lives up to the promise.

You can  interpret these Street Wisdom walks into 4 phases of your Boss Bike Ride of course and we look forward to seeing how your Boss Bike Ride can generate it’s own brand of urban magic.

Why Boss Bike Rides?  Here’s an answer.


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Thinking About Dance Action Zones

The metaphor of the Zone is a recurring element of educational discourses in which space and time is structured in such a way as to generate learning spaces whose properties are thought to magnify, extend, or transform a particular aspect of learning. 

Drawing on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), – the process by which children learn with the support of significant others – the transformational capacities of Zones have been well documented in the field of music, creative writing and educational aspiration and attainment in general.

Zones can generate additional, magnifying effects and produce outputs which are more than the sum of their individual parts.  Specially they can:

  • contribute to academic standards
  • engage learners in ‘real world’ educational challenges
  • engage low achievers and challenge high achievers
  • develop artistic, social and interpersonal skills
  • increase the fun of learning

Action Zones can offer regionally responsive programmes to children and young people with least opportunity to participate in quality dance-making activities.

Traditionally, funding for educationally focused action zones (including Youth Music Action Zones)  has been focused on those with least access to opportunities, targeting those affected by social, economic, geographical or cultural deprivation and has led to very high levels of involvement and impact.

YMAZ’s also worked within Youth Music’s own strategic priorities of Early Years, Young People At Risk, Transition, Singing and Workforce Development: priorities (perhaps with the exception of singing) which could be sympathetic to many dance educators.

Possible Model of Youth Dance Action Zones (borrowing heavily from YMAZ’s!)

Youth Dance Action Zones (YDAZs)  would be a regional network of organisations dedicated to providing quality dance-making experiences for 0-25 year olds who might not otherwise get the chance.

YDAZs would be unique in bringing together a range of organisations across the voluntary, public and private sectors for the benefit of local children and young people.

Each YDAZ would designed to respond to the particular needs of their host community. Their agenda would be broad – from providing pathways for young people to develop dance skills to supporting the training of dancers and educators working within the sector.

Each YDAZ would deliver a wide range of high quality activities covering a broad range of dance styles and genres.  The activities, which would take place mainly outside school hours, include workshops, rehearsals, performances, one-to-one teaching and mentoring. 

As engines of strategic change and pioneers of innovative dance making in their regions, YDAZs would build local and regional partnerships to ensure a sustainable future for their activities. At the same time, their most significant partnership is with the young people themselves, ensuring that the YDAZs remain in-touch and relevant to their most important stakeholders.

YDAZ Aims

•          To establish a legacy of dance-making opportunities in areas of high social and economic need and geographical isolation

•          To improve the overall standards of dance-making across all dance styles and genres

•          To champion the value of dance making in advancing the educational and social development of children and young people

•          To establish dance-making opportunities as a force for regeneration in communities, fostering social inclusion and community cohesion

Target audiences

YDAZs  would work with the hardest to reach children and young people, including young offenders, those at risk of offending, young people out of mainstream education and looked after children. 

YDAZs  would also offer CPD opportunities to their dance leaders, ensuring the highest quality practice.


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Boss Bike Rides: it’s all about the CRM (creativity, relationships and magic)

Our first ride in June 2021 saw us cycle off from the Beans café on Nottingham Embankment just shortly after sunrise (well, 8.30 to be precise), destination Leicester.

Before too long (just over 6km to be equally precise) we had shared thoughts about what creativity was all about and what role it had to play in innovating business.

Creativity: H, c or M?

We read in the literature of Historical  or ‘H’ Creativity in which creativity is solely the domain of ‘great’ individuals (John Gardner), or alternatively the writings  of  Anna Craft who refers to the notion of ‘little ‘c’ creativity in which creativity is demonstrated in the personal sphere of possibility thinking and problem solving for example. Might we now talk about M creativity (as in Mmmm? Creativity? ) – or molecular creativity, the phenomenon by which creativity is present in all aspects of human endeavour in all moments of the day – and means whatever we want it to mean?  Might magic be a better word?

Creative accounting, creative engineering, creative gun play. The word creative these days has ended up in so many odd phrases and at times that unconstructed old fashioned creatives who believed in the power of paint or performance despair at how promiscuous the word has become.

The Creative Process

Nevertheless, our discussion continued unabated and we discussed how difficult creativity can be to discuss, abated or unabated.  It just is, and no amount of discussion, reading or writing will ever satisfactorilty describe once and for all and finally what the damn thing is all about.

We did agree though that creativity wasn’t just about having a glorious generative good time.  It’s as much about convergent thinking as it is about divergent: it’s as much about ‘killing your darlings’ as it is raising them.  I’m not sure who the first creative was who coined this little motto, but it points to the uncomfortable fact that  creative act is as much about destruction as it was generation and that at the heart of the process, there is always a moment of supreme annihilation.

The important thing is to know where you are in the process.  If you’re converging when you need to diverge, diverging when you need to converge, then this just leads to a very unhappy time for every one around you.

Creative Relationships

Just outside Hathern on the A6,  we encountered the Old Curiosity Book Shop and this prompted some speculation on what role curiosity has in the creative process.  I was reminded of my days in Hull, studying the intricacies of creative relationships (funded by Creative Partnerships back in the day) and developed an understanding of the role of curiosity in these processes through what turned into be the ‘golden thread’ running through the thesis. The nub of this proposal was that the emergence of a creative relationship went through several phases:

Phase 1:          Non-alignment. The phase in which A and B are in no relationship with each other; are unaware of each others presence, needs, interests or desires.

Phase 2:          Alignment.   The phase in which A and B have been brought together by the presence of a third party – a catalyst (which may be a project, initiative or challenge) which acts to bind the responder and stimulus.

Phase 3           Curiosity. The phase in which either one of the two agents exhibit curiosity in the other; if both parties become mutually curious then the relationship response demonstrates a mutually reinforcing amplifying feedback loop, the response becomes more intense and the relationship shifts to the next phase.

Phase 4           Interest.  The phase in which curiosity has been superseded by a more intense attraction in each others presence, needs, interests or desires.  The two agents come closer together, whether this be either physically or emotionally. As with the phase before, if this interest is reciprocated then another mutually amplifying positive feedback loop is established and the relationship shifts to the next phase:

Phase 5           Intimacy          Where the relationship is marked by strong emotional, intellectual or physical connections and feelings relating to love (storge, philia, agape or eros) is demonstrated.  This may be the point at which the impact, or the results, of the relationship can be witnessed not only by the agents in the relationship but by the wider world in which those two agents are situated.

You could tell by this point that the unrelenting weather was turning us both a bit stir crazy so we thought it was about time to ride those final kilometers into central Leicester and complete the ride: which we did.  Not especially triumphantly  (we were too wet for that) but certainly relieved that our joint 106km could be notched up on the giant Boss Bike Ride Target Board.

If you’d like to join in a future Boss Bike Ride, you can do so here.

Or, if you’d like to support the campaign by donating and sharing it, you can do so here.