Monday, 1 December 2014

A personal advent calendar of heroes, gurus and icons (1)

I just thought I'd spend December paying tribute to people I admire and / or who have influenced me on my journey. 'Tis a time to be thankful.  Also gifted to you in the spirit of one of  'The 7 habits of highly effective people' - reading about other successful people. Although defining 'effective', like defining 'successful' is a relative exercise in itself, depending on you and your own values.

In no particular order, I present Muriel Gray.  Many of you will know of her as a writer, journalist and broadcaster and may recently have seen her on news programmes when Glasgow College of Art burnt down as she is Chair of the board of governors there. In researching this little piece I've become aware of so much more about her and of so much more I want to know.

I first became aware of her as an interviewer in the early days of The Tube. With her short dyed blond hair, her gangly figure and individual clothing style, she was very different from the people I'd grown up with. Obviously knowledgeable and with opinions, I took to her and her Scottish accent immediately, whilst also being slightly intimidated by her. The intimidation passed with the years..... I believe her to be a very warm and genuine person. There are two specific instances I want to mention: years ago I heard her interviewed on the radio about rambling (she is a great walker) and she talked about prefering that to spending Saturdays in the 'shopping sheds' that outlie all towns and cities. A comment that caused me to re-evaluate my own relationship with such sheds and the value of shopping as an entertainment in itself.

And I chiefly recall a wonderful BBC2 series she hosted where she gathered up a group of ordinary people from the North East who had never had much to do with art and artists. She took them on a tour of art galleries around the country, looking at all kinds of work, old and new, modern and traditional. At the end of the series they were each able to choose one piece of work they had seen, the one that had had most impact on them. That piece of work was transported to their own homes and hung there for a day. In the course of the programmes I and these people were introduced to artists and genres we had never heard of. Our eyes were opened and so (often) were our hearts, with that magical and somewhat unfathomable power that certain pieces of art have to connect with the individual. Curmudgeonly 'all this art's a waste of time' attitudes were transformed unexpectedly and while some people's choices were predictable (the woman who started out liking Constable's The Haywain still chose that to hang in her living room), others were much much less so. Fascinating to watch and feel and try to second-guess the transformations taking place. A series I'd love to see again; a series the making of which I'd love to see repeated on a regular basis.......A series I have tried and failed to find or name.  Reality TV at its absolute (& quite early) best.

So I think the thing I like best about Muriel is her great advocacy of the arts for everybody - for everybody to appreciate it, for everybody to 'do' it.

Two further gifts for you today: a photograph from today's walk - starry leaves for the Advent calendar (when I was a child, you didn't get chocolate - the picture behind the calendar door was the exciting thing in itself. Here's to re-instating that spirit! Not, you understand, that I have anything against chocolate.....).
Starry leaves for the 1st December

 and a quick Santa's hat - for the 2014 Advent challenge from Faye Brown Designs:

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I'd love to hear what you think and what you're up to, creatively. Feel free to leave me a message. Thanks, Catherine