Aims of the Festival

The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible! It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Invisible Launch became visible..

The launch came and went in the blink of an eye.  Suddenly all was visible, but was it what participants (and speakers) expected and did it live up to our expectations of creating something that was challenging, unlike a traditional launch, and would it shift the axis in education?

Unlike a traditional format, speakers did not appear on a podium one after another to provoke or inspire.  They were hidden in the shops on The Street in the Riverside Museum - an Emporium of Dangerous Ideas. Each shop became a den of danger, with merchants selling their ideas, but more importantly engaging in conversations about enterprising education, public services, town centres, international cooperation,  the importance of failure and what the future for Scotland could be (regardless of the referendum).   In one den, only one person could enter at a time, and without even a merchant present, they were invited to enter a dream like state that will unfold throughout the rest of the Emporium.  It certainly wasn't a traditional launch.

The photography shop hosted some stunning images of Glasgow captured by students at City of Glasgow of students.  They could have sold many, but they didn't.  Why not?  Across the street Elinor Vettraino , from Fife College was inspiring every customer with her account of Team Academy and a whole, enterprising movement that using coaching instead of formal teaching and students set their businesses up from the beginning.  In talking to the art students the thought of making their art a business was far from their minds, but should it be this way? 

A man who certainly challenged our thoughts about the status quo and the role we all play in creating change was Nick Carter. More, more used to exploring the heights of mountains and polar icecaps Nick found himself in the 'subway', and played the nearest thing to the role of traditional speaker.  His tales of adventure and challenge, with equal doses of risk taking and failure were captivating and exhilarating.  He was also extremely challenging in his endeavour to make us take responsibility for our failures.  None of the "it wasn't me"," I told you this wasn't going to work"," it will all work out in the end"," well we did our best" , if circumstances were different". The point was - take ownership of your failure and learn from it! Don't allow yourself to remain in the blame culture that would be appear to be endemic in our culture, including our education. 

At the physical and metaphorical heart of the Emporium was the real David Cameron, holding court in the pub, as customers came and went.  As David himself said, never has he seemed so comfortable in a role. He played the part excellently, as if he was chatting to a bunch of regulars about every aspect of life: their thoughts; gripes; hopes; ideas; aspirations.  I am sure there were punters in there for the entire duration of the launch.  David's skill and ability to include everyone in a discussion, to remember people's names, jobs and ideas, and demonstrate interest in them goes unparalleled. He demonstrates what it means to be an excellent teacher. 

The Launch was demanding of its participants - they had to negotiate the Street, decide which emporia to visit, consider what this meant to their contexts and how they could take this further (if desired) into their future work. Some, I think we have preferred to be talked at, to be inspired from afar.  
However, that is not in the ethos of a Curriculum for Excellence, or a move towards developing a more creative and enterprising culture in education.  

In his final words for the day David Cameron  persuaded us to reconsider where learning  takes place: not only in the institutions set up for this purpose but also in the magnificent public buildings like the Riverside Museum.  How can we use public spaces differently? With a finale that ends inside the most iconic of  public art in Scotland: The kelpies,   he also reminded us that "while others talk about imagination, adventure, risk taking The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas, run by College Development Network, goes ahead and delivers all of that!"

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