Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Day Ten of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: counting the cost but feeling the value.

Believe it or not, this campaign is not really about how many basketballs I can throw in a hoop in 26 minutes, how many near misses I can frustratingly curse at or how many complete no-hopers have found themselves on the neighbours side of the fence.

 No, it’s part of charity wide campaign to draw attention to how children and young people in the East Midlands have been feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year.

And actually, it’s not really even about that: it’s about recognising that the real crisis that young people  face both here and across the UK, and indeed the world, is one of child poverty.  For the 5th richest nation in the world, our country’s child poverty statistics are disgraceful.

This is why we at The Mighty Creatives have established direct relationships with the End Child Poverty Campaign and regional organisations who have highlighted the roles of food banks in communities and how arts resource packs  can make a material difference to families’ financial welfare and quality of life.

“It takes the pressure off and – all these lovely things that people have got, but not had to go into debt for. For lots of people these things are normal, but not for everyone. They were extra things that we could provide for them, for the whole family, although it is for the kids it helps the whole family.”

Many of our partners in the areas hardest hit by poverty have highlighted how important receiving an arts pack which stimulated young people’s creativity was to their mental health:

“Mental health problems are so entrenched in our area – and we all know the effects a creative experience can have to remove the mind from the rabbit warren. We would do it again in a heartbeat. We felt very proud to be part of it, and part of the chain that got those packs out.”

We now want to extend our relationships with organisations working to address poverty. 

Our vision is to show people directly how just an apparently modest donation of arts resources can have life changing effects and this is where your help comes in. 

Just £2.60 can help a young person find the pleasure of finding a creative moment in the time of a heartbeat.

 A £26.00 donation can help that heartbeat moment shape a life time’s memory of the pleasures of creativity.

The cost is one thing: but the value of your donation is immeasurable.  That’s one thing I’m not forgetting in counting those misses, near misses and baskets.

And for those of us who love the numbers, here’s today’s results:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%
8Training Day
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Nine of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s all in the wrist action.

“It’s all in the wrist action!” was the response by a young lad in the TV ad for the game, Battling Tops, back in the late 1960s, when asked by an eager TV reporter, ’Champ, how do you do it?”

As an innocent 12-year-old, this exhortation suggested nothing more than having to adjust your wrist in such a fashion that twiddling a lever with a suitable level of pull and twist which was attached to the spinning top, would ensure that it spun out on to the game’s board and decimate its opposition – the battling tops – within seconds of being launched.

As this 12-year-old grew up, the importance of wrist action in vastly different contexts became of increasing interest and not a little alarm. In the school gym for example, the flick of your wrist could mean a badminton racket spinning out of your hands and over the net with the shuttlecock laying forelornly in front of you; behind the school bike sheds, your wrist action was critical to ensuring the ash on the end of your cigarette fell to the dirt and not on to your maths homework and in the bathroom, the correct flick of the wrist was the difference between a first, clean shave or slicing your throat.

It was all in the wrist then and it’s all in the wrist now, when it comes to ensuring you follow through on the ball which you have just delicately lobbed towards the net, hoping with bated breath for the moment when it starts its arc towards the hoop… and the net…and oh.  The ground.  That flick of the wrist action clearly didn’t quite cut it on that occasion.

No matter.  The stats are getting better and the optimism never fades. The failing wrist is just another sign of the times.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%
8Training Day
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%


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Day Eight of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: all the single ladies, all the single ladies!

Stick your butt OUT like BEYONCE advises Tahir, my coach. We’ve met on a wet windy Tuesday morning on an impressive basketball court in St Matthews in Leicester and I’m getting some mid- 26 Day Challenge training advice.  It’s clear that standing upright, throwing the ball from over my head like a footballer’s throw in isn’t cutting the mustard when it comes to shooting from the basketball charity stripe.

I’ve never been instructed to behave like Beyonce before but the offer is too good to turn down.  Butt OUT, pounce in place and voguing it like a MF, and I’m away, all those Beyonce tunes bouncing around my head in sympathy with the ball as it bounces out of the net and all over the court.  All the single ladies are irreplaceable, putting a ring on it if I were a boy crazy in love.

The energising effect is indisputable and whilst the conversion rate from miss to near miss to basket hasn’t noticeably improved over the course of the training, I’m confident that a combination of butt OUT, elbows UP, follow THROUGH and flick your WRIST will see me through the remaining 18 days of the challenge.

I’m definitely on a tipping point of basket success rather than becoming a basket base and it won’t be a matter of ‘Will I ever shoot 26 baskets?’ to ‘How much can I reduce the time taken to shoot them?’ 

Wishful thinking may be but as the lady might have said, ‘if you like it then you gonna put it through a ring’.

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Seven of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the ball is my friend.

Hard to believe but still true: the ball is becoming my friend. 

Not something to throw vehemently at the target, not something to disregard as if it were an intruder in your own private quest for the Holy Grail but an essential partner you have to coax, encourage and woo in your attempt to achieve something which, whilst on the one level is not especially an audacious attempt at the Guinness world record for basketball free throws (67 in one minute, since you ask, achieved by Anthony Miracola of the USA  in Temperance, Michigan on 5 April 2020) but still something you could look back in your dotage and confidently whisper,  ‘Yes, I did that.  Really I did” to your disbelieving great grandchildren.

Whether Miracola will have that pleasure remains to be seen. His life mission was to become “the greatest shooter” and had he turned up at my neighbour’s and shot 67 in one minute, we would have been on Twitter before you could shout Harlem Globetrotter. 

Mind you, the bigger question would have been could he have kept it up for the full 26 minutes? And how many near misses did he achieve in his 67 throws over that minute?  This might seem a curmudgeonly response to a Guiness World Record beater, but these statistics are critical in establishing the truth about what really makes a world record beater. 

My dad always used to say that it was all very well for a High Jumpers to jump 8’ ¼” but it was unfair that they landed on a mattress.  His argument was that if you wanted to jump high, you had to be able to land safely too, without assistance.  The fact that high jumpers would would be likely to break their backs in their attempts to be the best they could be, seemed to elude him.

Perhaps this rather tortuous logic worked its through the generations and has left me wondering how many near misses Miracola had in beating the world record: but you’ll see by the picture that he wasn’t short of a bit of technical help in his attempt on the World Record.

You’ll see that Miracola had an automatic ball feeder to help him. Presumably he didn’t have to go and chase the ball every time it spun around the hoop and leapt out towards a kichen window? Or extract it from the neighbours garden every time it bounced over his head?  These things matter in world record beating attempts!

Anyway, perhaps he’ll get in touch one day and we can share notes on how he shot 67 in one minute and how it took me 26 minutes to shoot 14 today.  I’m sure the ball (or the myriad of balls he used) were all his friends.  That’s what being a World Champion is all about: you’re everyone’s best friend, even if it is just for a minute.

But on a more cheering note, here are today’s ‘scores on the doors’.  I feel I’m on a tipping point and nearly ready to meet Anthony Miracola on any court of his choosing.  (Just give me a few more weeks, Anthony).

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Six of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: this is The Why.

For all the fun to be had in trying to throw basketballs into hoops, there is a serious intent behind all this.

It’s about raising awareness of Child Poverty, about contributing to the fight against it, and to actively provide children and young people with the resources to develop their own creativity, expressiveness and to find the fun in culture.

Along with many other colleagues from The Mighty Creatives, we’re finding our own fun in culture – whether this be singing, dancing, experimenting, throwing basketballs or the many other possibilities that are available to us. We’re the lucky ones: but many yougn people aren’t and this is why this campaign is so vital.

By supporting our campaign, you will be supporting our ‘Not Just a Box’ programme, born out of the national ‘Lets’ Create’ programme last year in which over 25,000 packs of creative resources were distributed to children and young people across the country.

We did our bit then, and we’re continuing to do that now.

The Not Just a Box programme supplies Lets Create packs, boxes filled with creative resources tailored by age to support children to get creative in their homes. Each pack provides vital materials such as paper, pens, paints, craft kits and digital tools, resources which they would otherwise have limited access to outside of education.

With £15 of your support, this will help fund one Let’s Create Pack to support a child living in poverty.

With £20 of your support, this will help fund a Let’s Create Family Pack for 2 or more children living in poverty.

With £3000 will help us to fund a Let’s Create Cupboard ( at a local FoodBank across the region) for one holiday period, serving over 200 children and young people living in poverty.

So it all helps – there’s no such thing as a Small Donation!

You can find out more here.

And thank you, in advance, for any support you can offer.

(And in case you’re following the statistics… here’s the good news about day 6. Never mind the BPM, just check out the FeelGood Factor!

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%


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Day Five of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the flight of the bumble ball.

Q: What’s orange, striped and has all the aerodynamicity of a cottage loaf?

Q: What hovers in the air, tremulous, unsure of its destination or how it’s going to get there?

Q: what looks like its about to soar to the sky only to fade gracefully into the waiting arms of a fisherman’s net?

AAA: no, not a bumblebee but a basketball.

The two objects have much in common apart from the capacity of one to bounce heartily over your head when waiting for it to come to a stop and the capacity of the other to commit Hara-Kiri if it ever feels ever so threatened.  Having said that, bumble bees rarely sting; much like the basketball which also rarely drops itself easily into the awaiting net.

They say that the chance of being stung by a bumblebee can be reduced by avoiding provoking them or making them aggressive. They also say that taking ones temper out on an recalcitrant basketball never ends happily for either you or the ball.

They say that it is important to be calm when working with bumblebees. This is equally true for basket balls.  There is no point whatsoever in waving your arms at the bumblebees, or indeed waving your arms around whilst throwing the ball.  This will only end up in the ball breaking a kitchen window, bouncing over the fence to the neighbour’s garden or worse.

Whilst they also say that you should not touch or try to hold bees, the opposite is true of basket balls.  You have to pick up one, you have to hold it in the right configuration, and you have to let go at the right time, with the right pace, with the right follow through and the right air of optimism.  Otherwise, that too will end in tears.

The only difference between the bumblebee and the basketball is that bumble bees live in hives and the basketball tends to migrate around the house, depending on where you last left it and forgot about it. 

Meanwhile, here are some statistics, gathered together into the safety of a spreadsheet.  You’ll note a new metric: the FeelGood Factor.  This represents the ratio of Near Misses to Total Attempts, and given the relationship between this emergent athlete and his wilful bumbleball, is a hugely motivational statistic that means for the moment at least, the bumbleball is unlikely to find itself speared onto a garden railing any time soon.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A150.0770.577N/A
31898720.0110.0770.460
419010770.0370.2690.563
5192105110.0570.4230.547

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.


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Day Four of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: dressing to impress

There comes a time in the emergent athlete’s life when they realise they have to finally shed the drab cocoon grey of the unwashed t-shirt, the shorts which had been shoved unceremoniously into the bottom of a bin bag many years ago during a unexpected change of student digs and the trainers which were the height of fashion back in the day when clogs were de rigeur in the trendiest school chum circles: and stretch out into the day light, shining in a luminescent orange Trumpian glow, fresh from a visit to their local nuclear power plant.  In this transformatory moment, you can see high energy neutron beams shooting out from every limb and cranny, invigorating their sense of purpose and instilling a new determination to beat yesterday’s achievement of 0.07692308 BPM.

The metamorphosis of the emergent athlete from wannabe to andwhynote is a startling sight.  It is even more of a startling experience for the athlete themselves who is able to look at themselves in a new, surprising light and find themselves asking themselves “Could I?  Should I? What if…?”

For a few seconds a new career in basketball beckons.  And then a few seconds later, once it’s taken over 50 shots to see the first ball of the day reluctantly fall through the hoop and down past the net with a grudging swoosh, reality seeps back in and the day job becomes an oasis of calm and serenity.

It’s all very well to dress to impress, impress for success or success in a dress but in the end, no amount of sleek shorts, body hugging t-shirts or ergonomic trainers are going to be able to counteract the emergent athlete’s inability to throw a ball in a curved enough line so that it flies in a graceful arc up and over to a welcoming net and thrilling swoosh noise.

Having said that, the statistics are a bit more bearable.

Attempts =190            (up by 1 from yesterday)

Near Misses = 107      ( up 20 from yesterday)

Scores = 7                    (up by 5 from yesterday)

BPM = 0.26923077     (up by 0.19230769 from yesterday)

Effort = 0.03684211    (up by 0.0262601 from yesterday)

The Only Way is Up! as Yazz used to sing for the Maltese Labour Party back in 1988. Whether or not she was singing in a bright orange leotard is another matter but it’s a song to get your red blood cells racing, ready for tomorrow’s challenge.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

(Thanks to Tahir for the opportunity to dress, impress and the road to success!)


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Day Three of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: lies, damned lies, statistics and delusions.

Enthused by the possibilities of baselines, statistics and indisputable quantitative improvement, Day Three of the 2.6 challenge commenced in bright sunlight, no wind and a dry forecourt.  Perfect conditions to build on the 87.500000% improvement of yesterday of 0.57692308 BPM and a baseline effort score of 0.07731959 BPA.

Some 189 throws and 26 minutes later however, I was looking at a miserable two baskets achieved.  Two! After the amazing step forward of the previous day of 15!  What had gone wrong?

I could comfort myself though with a new statistic: the number of near misses.  Yvonne, my independent invigilator, recorded the number of occasions in which the ball hit the hoop but failed to succumb to the invitation to fall through the net and this generated a more cheering statistic: a whopping 87 near misses!

Even if it’s another baseline, it is at least an indication that given another couple of centimetres, the success rate could increase again rapidly.  The question remains though: centimetres of what? Elbow extension? Arm height? Standing to the left? Standing to the right?  The possible variations multiplied at an astonishing rate but unfortunately, I was still left with a sobering 0.07692308 BPM: i.e. a chronic 86.666666recurring % collapse of performance.  Back to the mentor, coach and as many YouTube videos as possible over the next 24 hours.

Mark Twain quoted that Benjamin Disraeli, the former British PM, claimed  there are lies, damned lies and statistics but I’m pretty sure that he had never tried shooting a few basketballs in his spare time.

(Whether he inspired the performance of the Bridgewater Eagles though is another matter.)

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.


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Day Two of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Progress is many a splendoured thing.

Yesterday’s modest tally of eight baskets after 26 minutes was nothing if not a baseline. 

We’re used to baselines in education: in order to know how much we’ve progressed we need to know where we’ve started from and a data baseline (whether this be of fronted adverbials,   adjective declensions or educational attainment in general) is pretty much as good a starting point as any.

So, OK, eight baskets after 26 minutes may not count for much, but it does at least give you a baseline figure of 0.30769231 baskets per minute. (Doncha just love figures to eight decimal places?  They remind me of population statistics that state things like ‘2.4 people live In a normal household’.  Ever seen 0.4 of a person?  No, me neither unless you count those people lying comatose in the streets after a Covid-lockdown-release pub crawl.)

But I digress. 0.30769231 baskets per minute  (or BPM – note the immediate adoption of an acronym when it comes to measuring success) may or may or may not be a measure of success, but it is certainly a baseline.  And something to build on, as football managers are wont to say after the 15-0 thrashing of their side by their league’s minnows.  ‘We may have just been humiliated, Brian, by a team which is holding up the whole of the English football league, but our attacking spirit gave me hope and is something to build on.”

 So today, I was determined to build on that baseline of Day One and achieve success.  However, what often happens when you start to measure success, you find yourself with an overwhelming desire to measure all sorts of other things which you hope will indicate whether or not you are actually achieving anything, in what context you’re achieving it, whether you’re getting any better, or whether the whole endeavour is a complete waste of yours and everybody else’s time.

Today was a case in point.  Not content enough just to measure BPM  (Baskets per minute, do please keep up at the back), it struck me that it would be really useful not just to measure balls that followed a trajectory of hand air basket swoosh bounce and a triumphant yeh, but to measure how much effort this took. 

I arbitrarily decided that Yvonne, my independent invigilator, also now needed to start counting how many attempts I had made at causing that trajectory.  My feeling was that effort could be determined by calculating the ratio of the number of balls thrown to the number of successful baskets.  Logically, if every effort succeeded in achieving a basket, then my effort would be 100%. Note how one’s feelings could soon be legitimised by expressing an event in logical terms.  This gives one a curious sense of intellectual satisfaction, even if no-one else has been involved in the calculus.

So, count the number of attempts as well as the number of successes she did.  After 24 attempts I had scored precisely nul point meaning my effort was precisely zero.  However, on the 25th attempt I actually shot one basket meaning that my effort had increased dramatically to 0.04 exactly.  An infinite improvement on the situation I had found myself in just seconds before.  This was a very satisfying moment and gave me (if not Yvonne) confidence that we were moving in the right direction.  Something else to build on if you like.

Before I knew it  (well, actually after 26 minutes in fact) we stopped the challenge and counted up the ‘scores on the doors’ as Brucie like to chuckle in The Generation Game. 

15 hoops over 194 attempts over 26 minutes.

0.57692308 BPM.  Up from 0.30769231 BPM from the day before. An increase of a massive 87.500000%.

An effort score of 0.07731959 BPA. Good? Bad? Indifferent?  It is at least another baseline and something I look forward to building on over the remaining 24 days of the challenge. 

And BPA?  Baskets per Attempts of course.  Where would we be without our acronyms? Struggling to determine whether we were making any progress at all, that’s for sure.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

Thanks to the Sunday Night Quiz Gang for the graphic!


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Day One of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: when in doubt, change the rules.

Like so much in life, I started with good intentions.

I’d planned (if that’s the right word) to throw a basketball hoop from a line, the regulation 15’ away from the hoop, 26 times and to time how long this took me.  And do this for 26 days with the intention to shorten that time on a daily basis. 

The first challenge was to find a basketball hoop and fortunately for me, our new neighbours had one stuck on the side of the kitchen wall, facing their driveway the width of which is about 18’.  They willingly agreed for me to use the hoop – probably because they’re away for much of the day and were probably privately relieved that they weren’t about to witness the bounce bounce pause thwack bounce bounce missed again dammit monologue that was to follow.

So, the first challenge was rapidly met and soon after the challenge of having independent verification was addressed too.  Our neighbour, Yvonne, volunteered to adjudicate the challenge and I gratefully accepted her offer. 

So, Day One dawned and all seemed straight forward enough.  I measure out a throw line 15’ from the hoop (informally known as the ‘Charity Stripe’ I’m reliably informed) with a measuring stick. Yvonne switches on her stopwatch. 

I remember the advice from Tahir about how to throw a basketball: BEEF, an acronym for “Balance” (yep, got that); Eyes on the target” (doddle); “Elbows at right angles”  (er… what?” “Follow Through” (of course, what else, it’s just like tennis. What could possibly go wrong?)

What could go wrong was of course pretty much everything.  Balance isn’t helped by running after a stray ball and then running back to the charity stripe to try again without stopping. The eye on the target is all very well if you completely understand which target it is you’re meant to have your eyes on.  The board?  The back of the hoop? The front of the hoop? The little logo half way up the board? Placing your elbows at right angles is all very well if you don’t expect to hold the ball in a particularly meaningful way. Follow through leads to a constant arc of optimism turning to disappointment as the ball repeats its trajectory of bounce bounce pause thwack bounce bounce missed again dammit.

After 10 minutes Yvonne is clearly worried about whether or not she has an evening to look forward to.  I have some managed to throw 4 balls into the hoop over this time and managed at least ten times more ‘ah, nearly’ moments. It looks like we might both have to stay about another hour or two if I’m to achieve the deceptively bland target of 26 hoops before retiring gracefully with a gin and tonic to assess how long it took me to do it.

After 20 minutes the success rate isn’t much better.  A further 4 hoops and a slightly lower proportion of “ah, nearly” moments.  A much higher ratio of “WTF is going on?” moments.

It’s at this point that I decide to follow all the best professional sporting advice and to decide to change the rules of the game.  Instead of timing how long it will take to throw 26 balls into the hoop, I’ll see how many I can throw in 26 minutes.  That way, we can see an end in sight and can thankfully retire to the comfort of a gin and tonic knowing that we shall live to confront another day of BEEF. The following six minutes yielded no more moments of success other than a relief that we could both get back to having a life that evening.

So, the final score on day one is 8 hoops over 26 minutes.  It does at least count as a baseline and if and when I get to throwing 26 hoops within the new target of 26 minutes, I will take heart that there has at least been some element of progression: especially if I can achieve it over the next 26 days.

Sport can quickly make a fool of you in a very short space of time and I have a feeling that this won’t the last time I remember that particularly embarrassing lesson.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.