Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education

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Day 12 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s a Mighty Team effort.

Whilst it might look like I’m trying to throw balls into a basketball hoop in a solitary fashion, in actual fact I’m part of a bigger Mighty Creatives team effort whose members are all contributing to the task in hand: namely to raise funds in support of our Not Just a Box programme.

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.

Its Not ‘just’ a Box though.  Boxes delivered to the doorsteps of children in need provide that critical connection with The Mighty Creatives, where children and young people can access our support and the opportunities we can provide direct to their homes.

A box provides the tools and resources and access to support from our skilled staff team and specialist Creative Practitioners, Mentors and Coaches via online and offline activities.

As a result, a Mighty Creative child in need accesses critical and timely support from The Mighty Creatives, developing their resilience and nurturing activity to sustain their wellbeing. In turn these children are supported to develop the confidence to come together with others to share their story and to take action in their lives and in the lives of others living in their shoes.

Emily Bowman is leading the The Mighty Relay Rabble Team:  30+ friends whose mission is  to run a virtual relay across three continents! Each member of the team is running / walking 2.6 miles, then passing their baton onto the next member of the team. From the South East of the UK to the US, passing through Finland and Australia along the way!

Emily York is trusting her friends and family to submit daily challenges for her to undertake, some creative, some physical but most are for her to make a fool out of herself!

Hannaa Hamdache is creating 26 paintings over the course of 26 days. You can follow her daily progress over on Instagram: @thehamthatdoodles.

Hope C is learning 26 famous dance routines from music, movies and tv. Without giving too much away, she’s got a track list of tunes from the 80s, 90s, 00s, some K-pop bangers (of course) and scenes from some movies too. She is not a dancer, so this is a real challenge for her!

Charlotte Moseley is running a mile a day for 26 days and…

Lorrie Stock will be baking as many cakes as she can, taking orders from family and friends for any cakes and bakes they want, in return for donations and all the support she can get!

Yours truly, as you may know, is aiming to shoot 26 basketballs in under 26 minutes over 26 days.  With variable but encouraging results!  Here’s today’s stats produced for you in a slightly different format…

Baskets scored over Days 1 – 12

And here’s some for the more curious amongst us:

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
Not long to go now!

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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
8Training Day

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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

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

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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

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 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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The Rule of Six: blame, bluster and betrayal

England is experiencing the largest rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases since May; there are fears of a second wave across the four nations; Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is pleading for older people to “be even more vigilant” (not vigilante as some people would like to have understood) and the UK is now even more split over how we view non-face mask wearers than it was over Brexit.

In recent days, government scrutiny has focused in laser like fashion on the cause of all this current mayhem on… guess who? Yep, people under 30 i.e. Young People.

The new legislation – known in common parlance as the Rule of Six –forbids social groupings of more than six people.  I once wrote a youth theatre play called The Rules of The Game, the central premise of which was that football had been outlawed to such an extent that no more than 10 people were allowed to gather to watch it.  My professional writer friend, Alan McDonald, suggested at the time that the script asked readers to believe too many things before breakfast so it needed a re-write.   I thought he was probably right at the time, but this new legislation has prompted me to blow the dust off the script, tout it around various youth theatres and see how well the play has stood up to the test of time.  Prescient?  Moi?  Who would have predicted that.

The Rule of Six and the subsequent blame games it has generated conveniently ignore the fact that the hospitality sector has been encouraged to throw open its doors and feed all of us who’ve been missing out on our weekly trips to the local pizzeria; that organised sports are still permitted (note the key word in that phrase ‘organised’) and that it’s still possible to meet your gran as long as she leaves her house and meets up with you completely by surprise in the pub and as long as grandad isn’t tow and you don’t have a sniffling younger sibling in the background and there’s a G in the day of the week.

This new, non-fictional legislation is intended to prevent Gangs of Six from gathering in an un-organised manner in which heaven forbid young people decide for themselves on how to get to grips with the challenges that Covid-19 has thrust upon them: in itself, yet another symptom of the educational and economic betrayals that have been visited on young people over the last ten years, never mind the last six months. As another writer colleague, Mike Harris remarked,

I can’t think I would have been doing too much shielding aged 18 if I knew I was threatened at worst by a dose of flu and if the post-war generations had eaten up all the metaphorical pies and left me with metaphorical tofu…”

Do you remember the Gang of Four?  I don’t mean that anarcho-punk band from Leeds, but the political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials who achieved infamy during the Cultural Revolution.  It didn’t end well for them (or the Leeds band either for that matter) and it doesn’t look like that these attempts to batten down the viral hatches by insisting that Gangs of Six are going to be our salvation are going to fare any better.

To start singling out a particular age group as being singularly responsible for the sharp uptick of Coronavirus cases is nonsensical and the sooner we can get to grips with that fact, the better it will be for all of us: under 30s, over 30s and those over ahem ahem years old.

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The Story of the 2.6 Campaign: new horizons, home and thanks

The Covid-19 crisis has shone a beacon on people’s innate creativity throughout the crisis and one of the post Covid-19 challenges for many of us working in the cultural sector will be how to harness this community buzz and demonstrate how creativity has been a vital part of people’s resilience to the challenges they’ve faced.

Public Art though is still a bit of a conundrum for me.  Every now and then on my travels I encountered odd pieces of public art whose purpose was baffling and whose aesthetics were indisputably challenging. Another cliché but still as true: roadside flora doesn’t need a purpose but just look splendid.  Perhaps we should rethink art in a similar way: there’s no need for art to have an instrumental purpose, but just to be enjoyed, celebrated or castigated for what it is.

Day 26 finally arrived and Janice, Sally, Hania, Tom and Stash made my return home really joyful.  Their celebrations made that final 100m stretch a real pleasure for the first time in 26 days and prevented me from hopping off the bike and ambling home up the hill unnoticed. When Day 26 was done and dusted a story of several numbers emerged:

Over 405km cycled…

Over 2170m climbed…

Over 46 hrs en route…

Over 75 ‘A-Ha’ moments of discovery…

I’m especially thankful to all my donors who helped make this campaign happen: The 2 Andys, Carl, Chris, the 3 Davids, Eleni, Emrys, Felicity, Janice, Jo, John, Jon, Jordan, Kevin, Kim, Laura, Lew, Marie, The 2 Martins, Nadine, Nick, Nigel, Pam, Paul, Raj, Rajesh, Rav, Roxie, Ryan, Sally, Tom and Vivek: thank you all so much.  And to all you anonymous donors: I couldn’t have done it without you too!

Thank you, Jon, for your advice on how to carry a bike. This was much needed at the 49 Steps of Sycamore Park in St Ann’s which clearly hadn’t had any human visitation since the Ice Age: and thanks to How We Roll for technical expertise on the Tiger Hazard-mobile.

My cycle challenge was part of the wider Mighty Creatives team challenge in which staff, trustees, friends and family all chipping into the team effort. Everything from running, cycling, walking the dog, working out, exercising, crocheting, learning German and lip-synching music theatre on TikTok: our team’s ingenuity knew no bounds!  All in all, we raised over £5,200 for children and young people in care (double our original target!)

If you’d like to know more how the funding has made a difference to their lives, please feel free to get in touch.