Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Boss Bike Rides at the Switch Up Celebrity Fun Run: how not to be helpless in times of helplessness.

Today’s Boss Bike Riders came to support the work of Marcellus Baz and the Switch Up Celebrity Fun Run in Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham.

This wasn’t a day for emptying the personal petrol tank and pedalling along the sodden A6 for what seemed like weeks; or reflecting on civil wars, ancient and modern, up on Bosworth Hill; but a day to step back, change down a couple of gears and marvel at the acts of kindness of strangers and their desire to combat what seems to be an overwhelming problem: the mental health challenges that many young people have faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We’re all becoming increasingly familiar with that story:  the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a mental health epidemic for young people; front line services are overloaded; and voluntary organisations like Switch Up are filling the gaps by encouraging strangers to open their hearts and wallets and give of their time and money in the belief that these actions will benefit the young people for whom they are intended. 

Fanciful? Naïve? Unrealistic?

Not in the slightest. Whilst the pandemic has overwhelmed much of the world’s health care systems, the last 18 months has also seen a remarkable surge of charitable intent from all sorts of people in all sorts of places with all sorts of motivations generating all sorts of amazing outcomes and outputs. 

From those who swore blind they would never give to charity; to those who were determined never to shake a bucket in public; to those who argued that charitable acts were all in vain, tantamount to sticking an Elastoplast over a haemorrhaging economical system: the fact is that the actions of volunteers, and their acts of altruism, faith and optimism have been instrumental in helping many people overcome their sense of helplessness in what feels like an overwhelming crisis.

The apparent tsunami that the pandemic became, led to an overwhelming response in return from so many quarters: from the story of Captain Tom’s walks raising over £38m for the NHS; to The Scouts’ Hike To The Moon mass participation digital fundraising campaign which encouraged folks to hike a mile or more and raised over £700,000; through to Lydia from Aylesbury who performed songs from Oliver! to members of her church congregation via Zoom and raised £355, five times more than she had originally hoped for. The stories of how people’s response to the pandemic has generated overwhelming returns for an initial tiny investment of their time, their ideas and their creativity are legion.

Today’s Switch Up Celebrity Fun Run was no exception.  Hundreds of people turned up to give their time, their money and their expertise for the benefit of the young people that Switch Up work with. The spirits of Captain Tom, the Scouts and Lydia and the many other thousands of people who responded in their own ways to an overwhelming situation with their overwhelming responses, were never far away today.  Running along the tow path, sparring in the boxing ring or laying down gasping for breath by the side of the Burger Van, the participants in today’s Switch Up Fun Run showed yet again the altruism, faith and optimism people can generate when faced with seemingly overwhelming odds.

Switch Up will know in a few days about the financial outcomes of today’s event.  What will take longer to understand, and perhaps be impossible to measure, are the effects that today’s acts of faith and kindness will have for the young people Switch Up are focused on supporting.  One thing we can be certain of though is that they will be catalytic and provide countless examples of how to counteract a sense of helplessness in times of overwhelming crisis.

More about Boss Bike Rides here.

And more about Switch Up here.


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Boss Bike Rides: supporting the Switch Up Celebrity Fun Run

The next Boss Bike Ride will take place on Sunday 29 August at Holme Pierrepoint in Nottingham from 10am.

We’re supporting another great cause: the Switch Up Celebrity Fun Run for Mental Health.

This will involve the family of Tyson Fury, including his father John, and will raise much-needed funds for Switch Up’s work with young people. Because of Covid-19, there’s a mental health epidemic right now. Front line services are overloaded, there’s long waiting lists, and Switch Up is having to fill the gaps and pick up the pieces.

The route of the Boss Bike Ride is here

If you’d like to join us, please get in touch for further details.

Meanwhile, here’s some words from our supporters!

And you can sign up here:

Further details about the Boss Bike Ride Campaign are here.


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This is what a Boss looks like!

This is what a Boss looks like!

But you don’t have to be a BMX champ like GB Olympic Gold Medallist Charlotte Worthington to take part in our #BossBikeRides campaign and ride for our Creative Mentoring programme.

Want to learn more? Get on your bike over to the website now! 🚴🚴🚴https://themightycreatives.com/boss-bike-rides/


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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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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.


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Boss Bike Rides: presences and absences

Riding around Wilford this morning (alone, as part of a governmentally approved exercise regime and adhering to all the new norms of current social behaviour i.e. look away now, step right out of the way and hold your breath for at least five minutes after you’ve inadvertently crossed someone’s path), I was struck about how some residential areas are named.  Off a small central service road, there was a Hannah Crescent, a Kelly Walk and an Aaron Close all jostling up in neighbourly comfort.  I wondered whether in the history of the planning of Wilford, a town planner had decided to name these roads in honour of the members of his family? Or his cats? Or long lost loves?

I pondered this with my remote Boss Bike Rider pal, Liam, a business advisor who has recently signed up to the Boss Bike Rider campaign and was attempting to ride across the urban landscape of Chiswick Roundabout in London.

He reminded me sombrely that one of the first most important things to do when you’re setting up a new business is to make sure the name indicates what you intend to produce, service or experience.

He told me about a few business start-ups who had a few salutary lessons about the naming of their businesses.  Albert, who wanted to set up a horror mountain themed entertainment business called Alpine Doom Accelerator; Betty who wanted to establish the Nottingham Vodka Company and Carol, who was intent on establishing Blue Sky Human Resource Consultancy. All excellent ventures with aspirational titles Liam remarked which strongly suggested the presence of a particular experience in engaging with that business.

However, Liam found out to his cost that there wasn’t an edelweiss anywhere to be seen when punters stepped off the bus in the afternoon of entertainment that Albert had prepared for them; more a case of nettles, brambles and unending ferns which got in their hair and made the afternoon an increasingly miserable experience; likewise, Liam was to find that Nottingham Vodka was not only not made in Nottingham but that it also  contained no vodka; and yes, you’ve guessed it, Blue Sky Marketing soon became mired in the murky business operational realities of behaviour control.

Quite why businesses do this is anyone’s guess,” mused Liam as I pushed back my back to the city as a result of acquiring a flat back tyre somewhere between the Embankment and Wilford. “Perhaps it’s aspirational, perhaps it’s wishful thinking, perhaps it’s just presentational fluff.”

“The word ‘community’ is also frequently used in this rhetorical manner,” I added, “with community policing, nursing and indeed community arts used to suggest the presence of something when all too often the reality is the absence of aforesaid thing.”

The problem is that this inability to name the business according to its presence, rather than an absence gives the business a bad name from the word go.  Promising one thing when the reality is the diametrical opposite, hardly engenders confidence in the customer that they’re getting a “does what it says on the tin” experience.

That advert for fence varnish might have been unnecessarily loud and crude – but it had the benefit of being straightforward and promising and both delivering the promise, as well as just promising a promise.

Liam promised to join up again on another Boss Bike Ride at some point in the future and share more of his insights on being the boss of a business start up.  In the meantime, I continued the search for a bicycle repair kit in the depths of my rucksack but to no avail.

This Boss Bike Ride was soon to become a Boss Schlepp Back To Town.  “Another salutary reminder,” added Liam before he hung up and continued to confront the joys of Chiswick Roundabout.

You can find out all about Boss Bike Rides here – come and join us!