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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Get involved via website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Successful Emporium of Dangerous Ideas!

Well ... what an extremely successful Emporium of Dangerous Ideas 2015 that was! With 18 events and over 1,000 delegates in attendance exploring the theme of the two week-festival 'emancipatory education'. With changing curriculum design and delivery - who is being set free? 

The theme was examined during the period with a successful launch on Tuesday 09 June at Govanhill Baths, Glasgow followed by events taking place in various locations across Scotland including Drygate Brewery which was the host to Leadership in 21st Century Education and Business of Brewing, CDN hosting a 'sell-out' Mind Full to Mindful event finishing on Friday 19 June with a Creative Change Exhibition.

The overall aim of the Emporium was to provide opportunities for everyone in education to be inspired, challenged and stimulated to think differently. Ninety eight percent of delegates felt that this aim was achieved. 

Find out more here:

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Where else are the dangerous ideas - ulab?

As the Emporium of  Dangerous Ideas approaches with frightening velocity, it was surprising that I  managed to make time to attend the Ulab event, organised by Scottish Government.   Given that time is of a premium at the moment I had some questions? What's all the fuss about? Is it just another initiative?  Don't I know this already? Yet, I was intrigued enough to go with an open mind, and a commitment to do the emails in the evening!

The event was  magnificent, energising and even dangerous.  I liked all that I heard about ulab: with it's theory base (theory U) , taught through a MOOC or the Scottish equivalent SMOOC, but it was the passion and personal story telling of the participants who had already been involved.  Getting together with people to discuss issues that matter isn't something new, but the emphasis on a deeper dialogue, inquiry questions, and delving to a deeper level of consciousness coupled with a call to action, either individually or through self-organising hubs offers a real opportunity for change.   There is an explicit commitment to social equality, economic reform, with a focus on what really matters.
It's interesting that Ulab based in MIT see Scotland as an ideal place for hubs to form and transform our lives.  The danger is of course, that we don't take the risk of exploring what really matters to us, individually, on a community and a national, international level, and we don't take action.

Anyone can join, you don't a special invite - so what's stopping you?

Find out more - here's some information from Kenneth Hogg's invitation:

We would like to invite anyone interested in participating in U.Lab Scotland, and particularly if they are interested in becoming a hub host, to attend some of the following preparatory events in Edinburgh:

* 3 July: 9.30am to 5pm - strongly recommended training event for all hub hosts. We will be joined by Otto Scharmer and his colleagues to provide support and training to everyone taking on the role of hub host. Please book your space here
* 1 September: 9.30am to 5pm - strongly recommended preparatory event for all hub hosts. Please book your space here Please contact (0131 244 0545) if you have any queries.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

There's a lot of learning through the Hidden Door

Transforming public spaces  with the Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh

The hidden door festival in Edinburgh explores how we use disused and abandoned public spaces.  There's a vibrant  and imaginative feel, with both daytime and evening events populated with art, music, cinema, food and drink.  It makes for an ideal learning environment, and shows what you can achieve with collaboration, and a vision.

It would great to know more about the process involved in finding the locations and transforming them into these places of discovery.  For more information on Hidden Doors check out their website:

Friday, 8 May 2015

Office Surfing

Office Surfing 

Yesterday was not a normal working Thursday for me, I piloted the Emporium of Dangerous

Ideas – Office Surfing and surfed at a brewery!

A little background

Office surfing – the dangerous idea …

Spend some time in a different work environment, doing your work or work as a host, welcoming a surfer to experience your working environment.

The host – Drygate Brewery

Drygate brewery, the host for my surfing experience is the UK’s first experiential craft brewery. Brewing fearlessly to achieve the exceptional. Their strap line ‘Open Doors, Open Minds, Whatever it Takes’ alongside their incredible marketing and design throughout the brewery, web and social media generates a great buzz and energy.

My Experience

Hitting the waves a little later than anticipated (after hitting a ‘shark’ zone by getting lost) the lovely Katie Nimigon, Events Manager at Drygate Brewery welcomed me with open arms to her work space, settling me in with a cuppa from their marvelous coffee machine. 

The differences in working spaces are immediately clear to see. I have the typical workspace set up – desk, computer, telephone, files, calendars etc. At Drygate the office space is certainly not ‘typical’ – there is no office space! No computer, desk or telephone as they move from one space to another with only their laptop to hand. 

What they lack in materials they compensate with in flexibility, multiple work stations, plenty of inspirational images stimulating the mind and regular face-to-face communication.  

Delighted with my new working station I settle in for the morning and learn from Katie a little more about The Vintage at Drygate (the restaurant and hospitality side) and Drygate Brewery. With a small team of only 6 the brewery all pull together and each juggle several roles and long hours. A great example is John – he is the label designer, assistant in the brewery and delivery driver –Drygate staff have a great energy and enthusiasm to attempt new things. 

So, what drives them? – Shared passion for brewing!

How did it feel? – Great, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I was taken out of my comfort zone giving my senses a new experience. Smell, chefs cooking up yummy breakfast and a small tinge of beer. Sound, the humming of the brewery and to my delight Red Hot Chili Peppers drumming from the speakers. Taste, delicious coffee and staff are often treated to the kitchen’s treats. Sight, inspirational designs integrated throughout the brewery and positivity of staff. Touch, back to the basics, with very little gadgets to distract me.

Overall experience – it has given me so much creative inspiration in terms of marketing and design and proved to me that stripping back to the basics can allow for a productive and enjoyable working environment – I may be rethinking my love for stationary and gadgets. I believe I could adapt to the Drygate work environment, although for some this style of working could be a ‘wipe-out’. Drygate really does ‘open doors, open minds, whatever it takes.’

Your wave is waiting! Contact to find out more.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Is our leadership wicked enough?

Are you familiar with 'wicked problems': ones that are difficult to solve because they are incomplete, contradictory complex and resistant to resolution?     They are often characterised by efforts to solve problems in one area, creating difficulties in another.  They require different approaches, thinking outside  traditional realms, and a willingness to work collaboratively across traditional boundaries.  For a short summary on wicked problems watch this:

So, what are the wicked problems in education and what kind of leadership do we need?   Find out at our leadership event

Friday, 24 April 2015

Failing In Education

As part of The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas , West Lothian Creative Learning Network and Hidden Giants invite you to  Failing in Education: a conversation, A one day event exploring risk and failure within the education system. The event will take place at  Howden Park Centre, Livingston on Friday 12th June. Please pass on this email to any staff you feel may be interested and apologies for any cross posting.
The event will start with registration from 9.00am will run from 9.30am until 2.30pm, lunch will be provided.  This event is open to anyone who has an interest in today’s education system. Please see more information below and to book your FREE ticket please use the link below to go to Brown Paper Tickets:
Failing in Education:  a conversation
A one day event exploring risk and failure within the education system
Failing is an essential part of learning but does our education system provide authentic learning environments that thrive on risk, experimentation and failure?
West Lothian Creative Learning Network and Hidden Giants invite you to spend a day exploring failure and how it manifests within our education system.   The day will bring together examples of prototype learning conceived by creative practitioners, teachers and classes from across West Lothian.  We will also hear from education specialist ‘The Real’ David Cameron.
Over the last 8 months West Lothian CLN and Hidden Giants have collaborated with the James Young High cluster to explore risk and failure within learning and teaching.  The schools have established dangerous partnerships with 4 creative practitioners to unsettle comfort zones, intensify risk taking behaviour, and disrupt the norm.
The four groups have created experiments exploring risk within their context:  a nursery, P3 class, P6 class and the CDT department in the secondary.  Through these experiments the schools explored their own ‘risk thresholds’ and are ready to share them.
If you’ve ever failed in education or feel that education is failing then we invite you to join us at Howden Park Centre on Friday 12th June.  It might fail, in fact, if it doesn’t, we’ll be disappointed.
West Lothian CLN and Hidden Giants

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Business of Brewing: A Dangerous Idea for Education?


Thursday 18 June 2015 
Drygate, Glasgow  

This exciting event will celebrate the art, science and technology of brewing.  Hear from industry experts, entrepreneurs , educators as well as two teams from the college sector who are taking on a brewing challenge this spring, about the wide variety of knowledge and skills that constitutes brewing, and how these relate to  education today.  Are we providing a craft experience in education for young people or do we take the mass production approach? This event will stimulate debate and discussion around the nature of education today.

Join Jamie Cooke, Sarah Drummond from Snook, Maklab, Heriot-Watt  and Paul Gorman at this Emporium of Dangerous Ideas event.
Why not join us for this dangerous event. Find out more information about our free events and book online here

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Office Surfing- A Dangerous Idea for creativity at work

The Dangerous Idea ... Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a very different environment from your usual workplace?
Would you like to try it out and become an office surfer?
Would you like your organisation to Host an office surf? Would you like to meet people from other professions and sectors?
What? ... Spend some time in a different work environment, doing your work or work as a host, welcoming a surfer to experience your working environment.
Why? ... Two reasons (among many!):
1. To become more aware of the physical work environment, and the effect it has on your work. Does your workplace help you to be creative? How is the new environment different? What about it is helpful? Any ideas you could take back and implement in your own workplace?
2. To meet new people and have interesting conversations. The random coffee scheme that was organised by Education Scotland has put hundreds of people together for interesting conversations, and ideas have grown out of it. Benefits?
As a Surfer you get:
• the chance to see what working in a different environment feels like, and how it suits - or doesn't - your work and your style
• to benchmark your own work-space against the one you are visiting, and against best practice, and come away with ideas for improvement.
 As a Host you get:
 • feedback on your work environment from a fresh pairs of eyes, based on rigorous research rather than just personal preference
You both get and interesting and unexpected connection.
The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas gets:
• stories, photos and videos from surfers and hosts about their experiences
 • the assessment of what makes a creative environment
 • lots of great learning to share
Results of the office surf will be shown at the Emporium Finale in an exhibition of creative change. This will take place on Friday 19 June 2015 view programme and book online:
If this sounds like a Dangerous Idea that you would like to be a part of, please contact Dawn Brooks for more information on how to take part.
 Any responses should be in by Thursday 30 April 2015.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

If you step on the green path you have to run!

That's the rule established by pupils who have designed their learning environment, not just in their classroom but throughout the whole school.  Any teacher, pupil, visitor to the school knows that once on the green path that winds it way through the school, they are obliged to run.  What a brilliant idea, and only one of many that comes from involving learners in creating a space in which they feel they can learn.

Professor Stephen Heppell  provided a very thought provoking lecture/conversation at last night's Creative Conversations hosted by City of Edinburgh's Creative Learning Network.  He gave amazing examples of  pupils and students of all ages creating and making their own learning spaces - both inside and outside.

Particularly ingenious was a permanent sign put up outside one classroom that read Classrooms of The Future - Under Construction, for of course they are ever evolving, and never permanent.

The finale fo this year's Emporium will be in the event spaces of CDN.  Last year we had the finale inside a Kelpie, so a bit of a difference.   But, the space is what we create it, and that's what will be asking educators to do - create a future creative  learning space, and exhibit examples of how they have taken risks, played with possibilities and shifted the axis in education.

Check out Stephen's website and be inspired:

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Leadership for 21st Century Education

Leadership for 21st Century Education event will take place at Drygate, Glasgow on 10 June 2015 book online here

This key event of this year’s Emporium will provide participants with an inspiring and challenging view of the kind of leadership we need for 21st century education.  

This thought-provoking day will include contributions from: 




Friday, 6 February 2015

Lighting Fires

I was at Workforce Scotland’s event ‘Flourishing Workforce’  on Thursday and what an inspiring event it was. 

This was in part due to the participatory nature of the event, with key listeners rather than speakers, but also the sheer commitment from 90 plus participants engaged in shaping and leading a  future Scotland.  

Some key themes that emerged from the day were:  in redefining the workforce and the workplace we need to move away from an egotistic type of leadership where it’s all about the leaders and what they are going to achieve/change, to one where there is an emphasis on collaboration and developing the creative capacity of all staff.  Less of the ‘I’ want , ‘ I’ am going to,  ‘I’ need ,  to an emphasis on demonstrating values through behaviours There were some fantastic examples of a council fully engaging staff in generating ideas for budgetary cuts and reshaping services. There was a very strong message of tapping into the knowledge, expertise and ingenuity of staff rather than bringing in independent consultants.   The more staff themselves are actively engaged in shaping the service, the easier the change and the better the culture.  There was another example of housing association staff that were working with tenants ,  who could instantly ‘say yes’ to reasonable requests.   

There was a plea for senior leaders to move away from command and control style of leadership, dismantle hierarchies and focus less on systems and performance management. Why not ask staff to draw up their own job description?   They will focus on their strengths, and the work that really matters.  

A central theme to the day was around taking risks, demonstrating autonomy and not waiting for permission.  This can be done by lighting small fires:  testing out ideas, risk taking , not waiting for permission -and ultimately the sense of autonomy will grow.   This is very much part of an asset-based approach and related not only to staff but also the wider community.

There was a great deal of interest in the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas, which was viewed as a model for risk taking, collaboration and generating innovative thinking.  Of particular interest is the proposed work-place swap across public and private sectors to generate collaboration and develop ideas, as well as gaining a fresh view of what makes a creative workplace?


Key  speakers/listeners included Roseanne Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for fair Work, Skills and training; Sir Peter Housden, permanent Secretary, Scottish Government, Bernadette Malone, Chief Execuative, Perth and Kinross Council, Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam,  Head of the School of Design and Director of the Institute of design and Innovation, Glasgow School of Art; Professor Patricia Findlay, Professor of Work and Employment relations, University of Strathclyde; Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive, Scottish Social Services Council, Doreen Grove, The Scottish Approach, Scottish Government, Steve Allen, Scottish Government (on secondment from Police Scotland where he was Deputy  Chief Constable  and responsible for the safety and security of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup 2014).


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Launch of the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

The announcement of the Launch of this Emporium has just been made - 9th June at Govanhill Community Baths.  We will be going in at the deep end with the wonderful Dr Colin Jones, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship who will be discussing his ideas around emancipatory education:  'when invisible students act in ways unknown to invisible educators, learning outcomes become visible for all to see. The future is here now, and it is the most exciting time to be a learner and an educator. Come see why'
   We will also be joined by the fantastic Cherry Hopkins from Dundee and Angus College who will be discussing "The powerful dictate policies that may appear, superficially, to move toward more participatory citizenship and thus enhanced democracy.  These policies, in reality, do little but change the shade of the status quo.  What if we changed the default position for educators from preserving the status quo to unequivocal support for the powerless?"
The extremely dangerous  (Real) David Cameron will be posing the question "The sooner we realise that all education is emancipatory the better! It should free us from prejudice and preconception and challenge predestination, otherwise what is the point?" The Real David Cameron

Book your place now

Friday, 9 January 2015

Jump into the deep in - join this year's Emporium of Dangerous Ideas Launch!

Emporium of Dangerous Ideas Launch - 09 June 2015 Govanhill Baths, Glasgow.

This year's Launch of the Emporium aims to explore the ideas around ‘emancipatory education'. In a 21st century context who is set free? An aquarium style event, hosted by Team Academy with Dr. Colin Jones, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Tasmania, Cherry Hopton, Course Leader from Dundee and Angus College and The Real David Cameron, Agent Provocateur of the Education World.

Will they be swimming with or against the tide of current thinking around education policy and practice?

Join them and other swimmers for this unique and thought provoking launch and book online: Emporium of Dangerous Ideas Launch