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Happy World Book Day!

Old V New in the World of Books

Posted 417 weeks ago

Sing Your Way To Better Health

Does Your Fitness Routine Include Singing?

Did your New Year resolutions include joining a gym – again?  Is the thought of buying all that keep fit gear, doing exercises or even the thought of actually going to the gym, putting you off – again?  Then consider joining a choir instead.

Expert are lining up to convince you that when it comes to giving you a top-to-toe tune up there’s nothing better than a good sing-a-long. For example, do you know how singing can reduce your stress levels or how good it is for your heart and lungs?   And if being able to tone your upper body and sorting out your posture wasn’t enough it’s also going to put a few extra years on your life.

All this from the humble past-time of singing?  

Apparently so.

According to Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, singing will give you a physical and psychological boost.   For the past 30 years he’s studied the developmental and medical aspects of singing.  

And he states.

“Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being.”

So singing is an aerobic exercise.  Well if you have no desire to travel back to the 80s.  Or if you’ve never had a fondness for legwarmers, Lycra and fluorescent sweatbands, then here’s a much cooler alternative.  If only someone had told you sooner.  

Group singing is even better for you

Singing can even help you live longer especially when you join forces with others.   According to the findings of a joint Harvard and Yale study choral singing increased the life expectancy of singers in New Haven, Connecticut. The report concluded that this was because singing promoted both a healthy heart and an enhanced mental state. Another study at the University of California has reported higher levels of immune system proteins in the saliva of choristers after performing a complex Beethoven masterwork.

That explains what happen at a one of my voice workshops recently.  One visitor had this to say about her experience, “Who would think that breathing and singing exercises could be so tiring, my muscles hurt from inside.” I did panic a bit here because I don’t want to wear people out and put them off singing.  I was pleased that her next words were, “Had a lot of fun, thanks for great experience.”  Phew!

Thank goodness she got some of the psychologically benefits as well.  She went on to say, “The breathing exercises, tuning into the moment (when focusing where the sound vibrates), plus not feeling cautious how you sound gave me such huge sense of freedom and being in the now.   I think people like me who are constantly busy would appreciate the opportunity to pause for the moment and sing their heart out.”  And finished by describing the session as ‘Exercise for the soul.  So spiritual benefits too it seems.  I’ll have to look into this a bit more.

So sing..sing..sing.

If you don’t feel ready for the choir thing, then start by singing along with your favourite tunes.  Doesn’t matter what you sound like. The singing fairy doesn’t care.  She’ll bestow her blessing on you no matter what.

If you do want to improve your voice then take a few lessons or join a choir that teaches you how to sing.  They don’t all do that apparently, so make sure you ask before you join.  And remember the main point of all this is to have fun.

Give it a go.  I’d love to hear how you get on.

Posted 422 weeks ago

The Easiest Way To Improve Your Voice

Posted 425 weeks ago


What Is Art For?

The School of Life’s take on the meaning of art.  Whimsical and not to be taken too seriously.  But a nice little beginner’s guide to art appreciation.

Posted 436 weeks ago

Don’t Judge A Library By Its Cover

I’d like to join the friends of Birmingham Central Library in mourning the passing of this highly emotive city landmark.  The building has sat empty since 2013, having been replaced by the Library of Birmingham, which is situated in nearby Centenary Square. Despite all protestations, campaigning and calls for alternative uses for the building the bulldozers have finally come to put the old place out of its misery.

The Birmingham Central Library building has always courted controversy and divided opinion.  The old Library, which dominated Chamberlain Square was opened, by then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, on a sunny Saturday morning in 1974.  Little did anyone know that the strength of feeling against the building would mean it would struggle to reach its 40th birthday.  

Prince Charles famously described it as looking like a place where books go to be incinerated and a former Birmingham director of planning labelled it a ‘concrete monstrosity’.  But there were many, including Turner prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, who understood its appeal.  And so the battle raged between those who saw it as a blot on the landscape and those who believed its stark British Brutalist architectural style should to be honoured.

It’s worth noting that Birmingham born architect, John Madin, had no intention of building a 'concrete monstrosity’.  His original plans were for the building to be clad in Portland stone or Travertine marble.  But Birmingham City Council were reluctant to foot the bill and the concrete exterior was used instead.

Admittedly the library’s sub-Bauhaus design isn’t even my kind of thing, but I’d grown to like it.  Besides I wasn’t into it for its looks.  It was what lay within that sparked my interest.  Within those grey walls lay books that helped me get the life I truly wanted, rather than the one others thought would suit me best.  It contained a wealth of knowledge I couldn’t get anywhere else.  Without it I would have struggled to find the inspiration I needed to pursue my career in the arts.  

My dreams were kept alive by a Library that became my second home.  Inside I discovered the writings of great philosophers, historians, dramatists and political thinkers.  But it was when I came across the books on art that my life changed.  There were beautiful images of the great master’s finest works.  And I found information about influential past and contemporary art movements.

This was all before the internet, so without these books I would never have been able to find any of this.  I was inspired and soaked up all the knowledge I could. Those days, pouring through volume after marvellous volume, shaped how I viewed the world and how I saw my future.  

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be an artist.   

Pursuing that particular path is tricky enough nowadays, but back in Birmingham in the 1970s I might as well have said I wanted to be an astronaut. I was two years out of school before I even found out there were art schools in Birmingham.  I’ll share that story with you another time.

Once I did find out about art schools I ditched my job in engineering, enrolled in Bournville School of Art and signed up for the artist’s life. There’s more to that story too and I’ll also share that with you another time.  

Occasionally I’ll walk into a gallery and find myself standing in front of one of the paintings I gazed at with wonder in my youth.  Once I get over the initial rush I smile and thank the Birmingham Central Library for what it gave me all those years ago.

 Out With The Old, In With The New

I paid a visit to the new Library of Birmingham last year.   I like it.  It was more like coming home than visiting a new building.  For a start, it’s attached to another of my old stomping ground, the Birmingham Rep.  When I reached the art department and found some of the books that I was inspired by are now on the new library’s shelves I felt a sense of continuity.  I was filled with hope that some young kid wanting to follow their chosen path would also be inspired.

Attitude to the creative industries is slowly changing.  The last few years as seen it become one of UK’s major growth sectors.  But there’s probably a young person somewhere having a hard time convincing people that they want to follow their dreams.  

 So before I go.  Is there something you need to know?  Are you looking for a nugget of wisdom that will transform your life?  If so, there might be a book on the subject available, for free, at your local library.   So why not pop down and see.



Posted 441 weeks ago

TateShots: The Lovers

I love art and I love storytelling so I was really please to be a part of Tate Modern’s Valentine special.

Man Ray originally created The Lovers (1933) in the aftermath of his passionate and sometimes volatile relationship with the beautiful American photographer and model Lee Miller. The lips painted onto the lead piece are said to be those of Lee, and the artwork is considered evidence of his continued longing for Lee after they parted. To celebrate Valentine’s Day we invited couples into the gallery to contemplate the work, the lovers’ relationship and how art can inspire, ignite and torment.” (Tate Modern, Feb 12 2015)

Posted 471 weeks ago
Posted 481 weeks ago
Posted 492 weeks ago
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Here’s a story I told to Emily from ‘Stories From Strangers’ about some of the trials I went through putting my latest show together. But the Story Gallery is up and running, so all is good.

Stories From Strangers

Norman Bailey tells a story about the lengths of wood and summer rainstorms that tripped up his latest exhibition at the Hornsey Library in Crouch End.

Posted 493 weeks ago

7 Proven Ways To Get Boys To Love Reading


How many time have you thrown your hands up and said, “I give up”?    

For many people, those who care about positive child development, giving up isn’t an option.  

Think about how your life would be if you had no access to the written word.  This is a reality for many people. For some it’s a physiological issue other it’s psychological.  There are also those who by not understanding the importance of reading never bother to develop the skill sufficiently.  Until it’s too late.

So what does it take to get a young man to put down his Playstaion and pick up a book?   There will be those who say that maybe it’s best not to buy one in the first place.  But that isn’t always as easy as it sounds.  Some parents bribe their kids with games times as a trade off against time spent reading books.  The danger of this is that reading then becomes the opposite of things that are fun.  That’ll set the ‘Reading for Pleasure movement’ back a bit.

So what do you do?  I know teachers, parents and carers who have come up with some clever little ways of getting boys to see reading as a positive force in their lives.  Whether it’s as a pleasurable distraction or as a way to gather a wealth of useful information that they can use to enhance their lives.    These are some of the insights I’ve gathered.  I’ve also thrown in a few that have worked for me over the years.

So here they are, in no particular order.

7 Tips for getting boys into reading:

1.   Tell them a story

If it’s a short story, tell  it to them.  And I mean tell them rather than read.  There are a number of reasons why I say this but I’ll expand on that another time.  Telling a child a  story might sound obvious to some but there are people who are little reluctant.  People often think that if you tell a child a story they won’t read it for themselves.  But you wouldn’t think that if you knew how much the book sales of the Hunger Games went up after movies came out. 

2. Tell them about a story

If it’s a long story, tell them about the story.  Be a kind of trailer and get them excited about finding out more.  Ok, this might take a bit of practice.  But watch TV and movies trailers and have some fun with it.

3. Let them see you reading books.  

Read More

Posted 497 weeks ago

About Me

How To Sing With Greater Confidence

Posted by Norman Bailey on Friday, April 18, 2014 Under: Voice Works

So you've set your mind on doing more singing.    But how's it going?
Have you set to it with full force and are you now singing the songs you want to sing where and when you want to sing them.  Or are you finding that your first few steps have been a little hesitant and faltering.  Well you'll be comforted by the fact that this is normal.

There are many reasons why you are not, as yet, totally in tune with your voice.  Some reasons are universal and others are more personal to you.   Let's take a look at what might be standing in your way.

1 Getting Started
The Root of the problem
We humans are creatures of habit, so change, even for the good, may cause some degree of anxiety or self-doubt. If not halted in your tracks your anxieties may in some way slow your progress. 
There are a host of reasons for your overcautious behaviour: 

• Preoccupation with negative past experiences 
• Fear of failure or success
• The inability to find time in your busy schedule 
• Misplaced feelings of self-preservation
• Negative feelings about your ability 
You may relate to one or more of these inhibiting patterns or perhaps there are other reasons for your lack of motivation. If all your reasons are not listed then stop for a moment, get a pen and paper and write them down. Now ask yourself; should these or any other reason get in the way of you enjoying the joys of singing for the rest of your life?

 First Refusal - Understanding why you hesitate 

There’s a story plotting technique that you may or maybe not be familiar with. It’s called The Hero’s Journey. It outliness the arc a character follows from the story’s opening through to its resolution. It’s been used all mannner of tale, from the legends of antiquity right up to the latest Bond movie.

This technique has also been used in the field of personal development.  The part I’d like to draw your attention to is in the early section. It’s called ‘Refusal to answer the call’. This is where, like you, the hero has received a call to adventure – in your case it’s the chance to improve  your life/career through using your voice with greater confidence. But instead of moving forward on to new horizons you find yourself in a kind of holding pattern unable to take the next step. 
You may not even realise that this is the case. You have answered the call, haven’t you?  You’ve made the decision but you’re too busy right now so can’t find the time to fully engage with it. Or, maybe you feel you’re fooling yourself and perhaps the best decision is not to do it after all. Who are you to think you’re a singer anyway?  And so the indecision drags on and before you know it days become weeks and weeks become months. 
The problem is that the longer you wait the greater the chances are that you will refuse to answer the call altogether. Thereby missing out on developing a highly beneficial skill that could change your life.

So what's the answer?

How do you make a positive start?

Maybe this will help

Try a change of perception

Take a look at how do you think about singing and ask yourself if it's helping you move forward?

The problem is that Western society's view of where singing belongs has become very narrow.  Singing has been put in the box marked 'Entertainment'.  Which then puts you one of two boxes.  
  1. Passive - Other sing - You listen
  2. Active: You sing - Others listen

However before the time when non-musical record excecs were able to exploit the other peoples talents we would gather together and sing for pleasure.But gone are the days when people gathered together for a spot of communal singing.   Now singer are special chosen people.  They perform on stages, sell millions of singles and get through to the live finals on TV talent shows.

A singing pupil of mine told me of a recent incident that shook his confidence.   It was about an encounter he had with a young lady he was obviously bring to impress.  On telling her that he was a singer she told him he couldn't be because she'd never heard of him.  And so it is, for her and many others like her, that singers are people in the charts.  They are not normal people who sing for pleasure and the sake of their are.  

I was having coffee with a songwriting friend of mine last week and he started talking, quite apologetically, about his singing.  He opened with, "I'm not a singer, Ella Fitzgerald is a singer".  Yes she is.  Can't argue with that.  But she is a legend and if that's the yardstick that you use to measure who is a singer and who isn't then you'd have to rule out most of the known singers in the world.

If this is your frame of reference and and you're always comparing yourself to others you will always comes up short.  Pretty much everyone can find someone they think is a better singer than they are.  Apparently even the great Ella Fitzgerald didn't have any confidence in her own singing.  Her last words were "it was the songs that they loved.

This isn't that surprising.  You'll often hear well respected actors saying that they can't stand watching themselves on screen.  And I'm sure that the first time you heard your speaking voice played back to you you were a bit taken aback by the sound of it.  It's natural.  But as people can often be their worst critics I'd warn against being too harsh, especially at the beginning.

I advise that when starting out on improving your voice and building a great love and understanding of your voice that you listen with an open heart.  This way you will hear what you are doing right as well as things that you can improve.

So A simple change in attitude, in which you see yourself as someone who has the full rights to sing out loud and proud will do wonders for you.

In : Voice Works