Real world strategy game Run An Empire launches on Kickstarter

Strategy games like Civilisation, Risk and Clash of Clans lack a real life element, while solitary sports like jogging can seem boring and isolated. Experience design studio PAN, based in Shoreditch, London, wanted to create a game that combines strategic thinking of digital and board games with the real world physical actions that make sports so much fun.

They have today launched a Kickstarter campaign for Run An Empire, a smartphone game where players compete against each other to capture territory in their local environment by running or walking around it. Using local neighbourhoods as an arena for play, the game will use a player’s smartphone’s GPS to record the path he or she takes, and record it in the map of the game, which is visible to all players.

To capture a territory a player simply has to run around it, and for a competing player to capture it back from them they need to run around it faster and/or more often. And while running is encouraged, players by no means have to be gifted athletes, as a slower but more determined walker can beat a faster, but more opportunistic runner. Control over territory will also decay over time, so it will remain a challenge to keep hold of a formidable kingdom even if nobody else is playing for miles around. The key is dedication.

The first iteration of the game will be developed for the iPhone, with an Android version as a stretch goal. PAN Studio are aiming to raise £15,000, and Kickstarter backers will have an opportunity to join the beta testing, help design Easter Eggs and chat to Pan Studio about the game, depending on how much they want to donate. The game is expected to retail for £3.99, and if £25,000 is raised, an Android version will be developed too.

Sam Hill, co-founder of PAN Studio, says that,

“We’re making Run An Empire because it’s the kind of game we’d like to play ourselves. We want something that requires the same tactical planning as the digital and tabletop games we already enjoy, but rooted in the real world where presence and physical actions make a difference. The game is designed for anyone else who might also enjoy a new way of playing strategy.”

This is a first Kickstarter campaign for PAN Studio, but the team are well known for other real world games experiences, having won the inaugural Playable City Award in 2013 with their project Hello Lamp Post, which has since been nominated for this year’s Design of the Year Award at the London Design Museum.

For more information about Run An Empire, visit: 

Objects Sandbox: cultural applications of the Internet of Things

According to recent ABI research, there will be over 30 billion devices all connected to the Internet by 2020. The phenomenon increasingly referred to as “the internet of things” will see a movement away from screens to objects for sharing data and communicating content. The future will not only be connected, but embedded into our physical surroundings.


Objects is the current theme of REACT’s latest round of commissions, a four-year programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Earlier themes addressed Heritage, Books & Print and Future Documentary since 2012.

Six teams made up of academics, creatives and tech entrepreneurs from across the UK have been awarded £50,000 each to develop a prototype of a connected object over the next three months. The REACT Objects prototypes will be completed over the summer and showcased to the public in the autumn.  

REACT Executive producer Clare Reddington, said that

“The Internet of Things is a growing rapidly, but a lot of the work in this area has been for the technology and services associated with it. We are interested in working with brilliant academics and creatives to explore how people will interact with connected objects – what will make them useful, magical or beautiful? It’s a brilliant opportunity to break free from the constraints of screen-based content and explore a new language of design that will allow us to consume and share stories in new and physical ways.”

The six selected REACT Objects commissions are:


University of Bristol archaeologists Alex Bentley and Mark Horton and Design Week top 100 agency Uniform, will work with everyday archaeological objects associated with the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which affects Bristol to this today. The team will explore how technology embedded in objects rather than screen devices might open up new ways to contemplate and share the stories and culture of the time, making archeological material more accessible while maintaining museum authenticity.


Most relatives who live long distances apart share time with loved ones over what can be flat and broken up video calls. University of Bristol’s Victoria Bates and Kirsten Cater, along with award-winning Product Design Company Kinneir Dufort, are setting out to create a physical story portal, a magical and playful object that will use multi-sensory technologies to link teller and listener through sound, light and touch, giving long distance bedtime stories and family catch ups a whole new magic.

Breathing Stone

Around the world the numbers of people with stress and anxiety is increasing, yet the number of non-medical options to support their needs remains small. University of Bath’s Paul Leonard and Chris Clarke, composer Joseph Hyde and entertainment and healthcare startup, Adaptive Media will create a hand-sized stone that senses heart rate and breath to generate music that reflects and adjusts to the user’s physiological state.


University of Bristol’s Merle Patchett and Andrew Flack and the multi-disciplinary, technology and creation studio, Play Nicely, will bring dusty taxidermy, often consigned to the back of museum spaces, back to life. Curpanion, will assist in curating your own visit and will unlock augmented taxidermy exhibits and enablng you to create your own online menagerie of amazing animals and beautiful beasts.

Fans On Foot

Did Sherlock ‘die’ on this street? Has the Tardis touched down here? Fans regularly travel to the places where their favourite TV and films were made but rely on forums to share location details and plans. Embracing the loyalty and collective power of fan communities, Cardiff University’s Naomi Dunstan and Ross Garner and Technologist Tarim of Media Playgrounds, will develop specially designed jewellery that alerts users to nearby hot spots, guiding them to locations and creating a secret talisman only others fans will know.

The God Article

The Ney is a traditional wind instrument, first played around 4500 years ago in Turkey. It is notoriously difficult to play and few around the world can teach it. Ethnomusicologist John O’Connell, Sonic Art Scholar Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos and User Experience Designer Anthony Mace will develop Ney replicas augmented with breath sensors to enable connected distance learning. With potential for breath sensing and notation in entertainment and healthcare, this unusual project fuses one of the world’s oldest instruments with cutting-edge technology to break new musical ground.

Find out more at:

London Winter Walks

Ever wondered where London’s first theatre was built? What it was like to live in the Jewish Ghetto of Victorian East London? What links a samosa to The Odeon in Whitechapel, and where King’s Cross really is? The Cultural Capital Exchange (TCCE), a membership network for London’s academics are putting on a weekend of walks 28 February - 2 March, where expert London academics will share their painstakingly researched secrets from London’s history with members of the public.

The range of highly eclectic and unusual walks will take place over the weekend in King’s Cross, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Mile End, Farringdon and the City, spanning many topics and disciplines to include: The Lost Theatres of Shakespeare, Cinema and Migration, Public Lettering and Typography, Jewish Immigrant Life in London’s East End, Developing a Phenological Clock, Locating King’s Cross, and Walking and Reading in the City. Each walk lasts between one and two hours and costs £8, with bookings available online at:

Phil Baines, Professor of Typography at Central Saint Martins will lead the walk Exploring London’s Rich Tradition of Letter Writing. He says, “This is walking with a purpose, looking up and down more than ahead. Seeking out the traces of who went before, and what they did, as well as admiring the skill and artistry of the letters they carved, painted, gilded or glazed.”

Tamara Atkin, Medieval and Renaissance English Lecture at Queen Mary University will lead the walk on The Lots Of Theatres of Shakespeare’s London and adds that,  “When you jump on a tube at Moorgate and emerge two stops later at Farringdon you imagine that you have travelled some considerable distance. But walking the same route, it’s immediately apparent just how small the city of London really is. One of the things I love about walks is the way they encourage us to reassess distance, to reimagine the ways that spaces are connected, both geographically, and also by and through the people and places that once populated familiar landscapes. Bringing together research into late medieval and early modern theatrical practice, this walk aims to animate the Elizabethan and Jacobean past, both through invoking the words spoken in theatres, taverns and on the streets of Shakespeare’s London, but also through the traces of his London that live on in the names of modern streets and buildings.”


(Please click on the titles below for further information and to book)


Smithfields and St Bart’s: Exploring London’s rich tradition of public lettering

Walk Guides: Professor Phil Baines & Dr Catherine Dixon, Central Saint Martins.

Meet at 2pm, Farringdon Underground Station

Britain has a particularly rich tradition of public lettering, which encompasses formal carved inscriptions on grand buildings, as well as many more utilitarian examples. The visual success of the larger examples is due to a combination of factors in addition to the quality of the lettering itself. Scale, position and material all have a crucial role to play. Smithfield is an area dense with examples, from small scale architects’ dedications at St Bart’s, to grandiose naming by the Port of London Authority. The walk forms a circuit round the streets surrounding the market and includes St Bart’s, it starts and finishes at Farringdon Underground station.


Places of Play: The Lost Theatres of Shakespeare’s London 

Walk Guide: Tamara Atkin, Queen Mary University London

Meet 11am, exact location will be revealed to participants

Think of Whitechapel and whatever you think of you probably don’t think of the theatre. But in 1567, Whitechapel was the location of London’s first purpose-built theatre, the Red Lion.

On this walking tour we’ll visit the sites of some of Elizabethan and Jacobean London’s most important theatres in east London: the recently rediscovered Curtain, where Henry V was first performed; The Fortune, for which the original dimensions still survive; and The Red Bull, notorious for  rowdy and occasionally violent audiences. Today, with its clubs and pubs, galleries and shops, east London remains a centre for entertainment and this walking tour will seek out its origins as a place of play.

Where is King’s Cross? An AIR Silent Walk

Walk Guides: Tilly Fowler and Anna Hart, AIR Central Saint Martins 

Meet at 2pm at King’s Cross, exact location will be revealed to participants

“I used to live in Kings Cross in the late 80s. In those days it was south of the Euston Road”

AIR makes silent walks to prompt paying attention to the everyday state of a place and the walks are often the beginning of something else.  The ‘Where is Kings Cross’ walk has been developing over the last two years since Central Saint Martins moved to the Granary Square site. For TCCE’s Winter Walking Weekend it will weave two overlapping circles through the neighbourhood’s rapidly changing and increasingly contested public spaces.

Walking and Talking Books

Walk Guide: Lizzi Kew Ross & Co, Trinity Laban 

Meet at 4pm, Paternoster Square

In Walking and Talking Books walk participants will discuss one of series of books while walking through a number of interconnected routes in the City of London. The idea is based on an upcoming dance performance piece, Reading with Bach, which is inspired by observing people reading as they walk and read through the city. The books and their subjects that will form the starting points for these conversations include: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel on Thomas Cromwell; Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal on the collection of objects and Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wildness by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts on the contrasts of urban space and our ideas of wilderness.


Wild Walk: Helping to develop a phenological clock

Exploring natural seasonal events and enlisting observers/documenters for the local urban spring emergence. 

Walk Guides: Fran Gallardo and Kathryn Yusoff, Queen Mary University, and Natalie Jeremijenko, Goldsmiths, NYU

Meet at 11am, Queen’s Building, exact location to be revealed to participants

Designed to introduce the walkers to local urban flora and fauna, the aim of this highly participative walk is to encourage people to take pictures of budding and blooming and other phenological events. These will then be uploaded to contribute to the development of local Phenological Clock.  This is a clock that displays the times of blooming, budding, fruiting and migration events of local natural systems. Phenology is our most sensitive indicator of climate destabilization. The capacity to redesign our collective relationship to natural systems depends on our knowledge and intuitions of the complex web of interconnections that produce a healthy urban environment. This representation of time via the phonological clock aims to help point us towards a biodiverse and healthy future.

Into the Ghetto: Writing Jewish immigrant life in Victorian Whitechapel

Walk Guide: Dr Nadia Valman, Queen Mary, University of London

Meet at 2pm in Whitechapel, exact location to be revealed to participants

To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, this walk will use his extraordinary novel, Children of the Ghetto as a guide to Whitechapel.

First published in 1892 to great acclaim, Zangwill’s novel was the first to reveal the complex subculture of Jewish immigrant life in the ‘ghetto’ of London’s East End.

Set in the dilapidated terraced houses and raucous street markets of the Victorian East End, the novel evokes a Whitechapel that is both familiar and unfamiliar to us today.

In this walk, we will discover traces of Zangwill’s ‘ghetto’ in the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and explore how its political, religious and social life was documented in his witty prose.

Samosas at the Odeon: Immigrants, cinema and everyday life in London’s East End

Walk Guide: Dr Gil Toffell, Queen Mary, University of London

Meet at 4pm on Brick Lane, exact location to be revealed to participants

The East End has long been recognised as a key site of multicultural settlement in Britain. Rarely discussed, however, is the important role the cinema has played in the communal life of immigrant groups in the area.

With particular focus on East London’s historical Jewish and South Asian communities, this walk will explore the rich and varied everyday life of now vanished cinema spaces – discussing how catcalls in Yiddish and the acrid tang of Jewish pickles wafting through the auditorium accompanied screenings at the ‘Pavilion Theatre’ on Whitechapel Road, and how Brick Lane’s ‘Naz’ became a base for political action against a rising far-right threat during the 1970s – as well as considering how these sites passed from one community to another.

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Reimagining the archive with London academics and creatives

Creativeworks London has awareded eight new collaborations between academics and SMEs £15,000 each as part of their fifth round of the ‘Creative Vouchers’ scheme to explore the theme of archiving.

A newly established AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) network of over 40 academic and creative sector partners, Creativeworks London aims to create fresh and innovative collaborations between academic researchers and SMEs to support London’s Creative Economy now and in the future.

The successful projects will explore new ways of interacting with archive, taking advantage of the creative possibilities opened up by interactive platforms and new technologies.


 The selected commissions are:

Project: (Better) Believe It: Big Journeys, Untold Stories

Counterpoints Arts, a creative hub working at the intersection of creative arts and film, advocacy and public learning, has been paired with academic Sue Clayton, Reader in Film and Digital Narratives at Royal Holloway, University of London to produce a ‘migratory archive’, for use as a research tool for agencies working in migration and the global human rights sector. Using material gathered over 10 years, Sue Clayton has followed the stories of separated young people living in the UK who arrived having for instance been child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo or whose families fought alongside British troops in Helmand or who got caught on the wrong side of partition in Sudan. The material takes the form of interviews, video diaries, and re-created scenarios, which turn on their head many public and media assumptions about ‘asylum’, ‘scroungers’ and what it means to be ‘British’.

Project: Cooking In Time, World Dinners 1970/1980/1990/2000/2010/2020

Event company Creative Belly fronted by head chef Ben Spalding, (Per Se: New York, Roganic: London, L’Autre Pied: London, Brasserie Lipp: Paris and 28+: Gothenburg), has been partnered with Dr Joshua Abrams from University of Roehampton to explore how culinary performance has varied over time. Project Cooking In Time will create a series of events focused on the living exploration of historical culinary changes. While not always immediately recognised as part of the cultural industries, the culinary arts are a clear expression of creative exploration tightly connected to other developments and practices across the arts and humanities. The project will focus on the rapidity of change in British culinary traditions over the past fifty years. Seeking to understand questions of popularity and the changing landscape of culinary style. A tight focus on developments since the 1960s will explore how Britain has quickly moved from a reputation as a culinary wasteland to one of the greatest food cities in the world.

Project: Developing New Programming Models from the Her Noise Archive

Irene Revell from contemporary art organisation Elektra will be working with Professor Cathy Lane from the University of the Arts to help develop Elektra’s offer from one-off artists’ commissions and projects, to more ongoing programme models, such as education programming, workshops and evening courses. In collaboration with CRiSAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practise) Irene and Cathy will develop Elektra’s Her Noise Archive, a resource of collected materials investigating music and sound histories in relation to gender, into a modular curriculum that can be adapted and tailored for specific opportunities or needs. This curriculum will then be used to devise one prototype evening course and one prototype workshop series to be delivered in Electra’s new space in summer 2014. These will be jointly evaluated and fed back into the curriculum.

Project: Making the invisible visible: enabling audiences to ‘see’ archive collections

The Geffrye Museum, a Grade 1 listed almshouses in Hoxton in East London that looks at the history of the home, will work with Dr Alastair Owens from Queen Mary College, University of London, to find a way to research and develop visualisation models for presenting their unique archive of highly documented, digitized photographs of ordinary people’s homes dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. Taking advantage of a range of digital platforms the project will allow the user to select, interrogate, organise and interpret data beyond a pedestrian item-by-item approach, to explore and generate connections instead of seeing an object, space or concept in isolation.

Project: Restock, Rethink, Reflect – Live Art, Feminism and the Archive

LADA (Live Art Development Agency), a world leader in creating the conditions for artists and organisations in the national and international cultural sector to flourish, is partnering with Professor Lois Weaver from Queen Mary College, University of London, to work on The Study Room archive (SR). SR is LADA’s core resource: an open access archive of over 6,000 items used by artists, students, academics, arts professionals and the public. The 2013 launch of LADA’s new website includes online access to the SR catalogue and curated digital SR content including video. Drawing from Weaver’s history of working with ‘undocumented’ areas of culture and current practice based research investigating the use of performance as a means of facilitating public engagement, the project aims to help identify and develop thematic areas in the SR archive and look at how it is possible to disseminate this research through more conventional means, including in print and online.

Project: Connections: The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive

The June Givanni Pan African Archive will work with Emma Sandon from Birbeck, University of London, to enhance the access to and understanding of African Cinema. The company has an invaluable archive on Pan African film, including Black British, African and African diaspora cinema. And through this collaboration June Givanni hopes to make its materials more accessible whilst at the same time identify potential stakeholders. The relationship with Birkbeck’s Institute of Moving Image (BIMI), a research centre promoting film archive and history scholarship, will allow for the collection to be presented to potential stakeholder groups in the arts, academic and educational sectors. BIMI will provide the academic expertise and space to establish a research framework for the company’s archival remit of preserving and exhibiting Pan African cinema collections by drawing out and presenting key connective themes.

Project: Connections: The Wayne McGregor Living Archive (prototype)

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance is one of the world’s leading dance companies. During its 20-year history the company has performed to a live and TV audience of 4.8 million in 53 countries, provided participation opportunities for over 70,000, and led a ten-year collaborative research programme through its unique R-Research department. It is led by the multi-award winning contemporary choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE, who is also Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet and creator of work for the top dance companies around the globe. Polly Hunt from Wayne MacGregor | Random Dance will be working with Simone Stumpf from City University London to design and build a prototype digital archive of unique materials produced during the career of choreographer Wayne McGregor including video footage, designs, photography, and McGregor’s original notes.

Project: Song Catchers: archiving and promoting oral culture in London

The Song Collectors Collective (SCC) has an active passion to conserve the rare and ancient oral culture of the world and will be recording and publishing the tradition bearers who still keep our ancient sung and spoken arts alive within their own families and communities. They will collaborate with the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to ask how different members of the community collect material and the best ways of archiving and sharing this material. The project will conclude with an event including a concert, a presentation of the participants’ outputs (e.g. recordings of oral tradition in London) and project findings. By bringing together musicians, archivists, academics and the tradition bearers themselves, the project aims to engage individuals across social, cultural, and institutional divides and to facilitate wide-ranging knowledge exchange.

Find out more about Creativeworks London and its Creative Voucher scheme:

Over-50s and carers remain an untapped resource for business

There are over 22 million people over 50 in the UK and 6.5 million carers, many of whom have skills and experience to offer and are looking for work on a flexible basis. Trading Times, funded by Nominet Trust, a new jobs matching site that connects local businesses with experienced people over 50 or providing care for a family member, who are looking for work on a flexible basis.

People like Ron Mobbs, 68 from Cockfosters, London, who worked for 20 years as a senior management consultant. Ron doesn’t need to work now, but he wants to keep active and keep contributing to society. Ron says,

“People like me have a vast range of experience. We’ve been there, we’ve got the t-shirt. We know how to cope with change better, we listen better, we’ve loads of knowledge and contacts. All this would be enormously valuable to a younger, smaller business. And the best part is that we can control the variables that we weren’t able to in corporate life - when, where and for how long we work!”

Or Mary Kazi, 65 from New Barnet, London, with 25 years’ experience in finance and local government, who is looking to work for just a few hours a week with local businesses.

“I was working for a company as an administrator for 20 years. Unfortunately, the company closed and all 300 of us were made redundant. I wasn’t quite ready for that. I was planning to continue working until I was 65, and possibly even beyond working three days a week. Suddenly that all came to a halt. I found it hard to adjust to retirement, finding it rather boring and also lonely. I missed the purpose and structure of work. Trading Times enables me to work flexibly and local to where I live. I now have some work that fits in with my life and not the other way round. The matching process means I’m not one of 200 applicants applying for one job, and you’re more likely to find what’s right for you.”

All businesses need to do is register at, post their jobs, and let the Trading Times service match them with local people who have the right skills and availability. It’s free to register, post jobs and to read anonymous candidate profiles. Employers only pay when they want to connect with the candidates, at just £35 for up to 10 connections per job.

Find out more at:

Could Thingful be the new Google for Internet of Things?

Sharks in the ocean, weather stations in Brazil, radiation detectors in Germany and even Tower Bridge in London are some of the millions of objects around the world that are slowly entering the public consciousness as the new connected world of the Internet of Things.

Much like the excitement surrounding the world wide web in the 1990s, the Internet of Things is attracting a lot of attention not just from switched on tech geeks, but also from investors, businesses and the public en masse. Recent research in the US predicted that there will be over 30 billion connected devices by 2020, expanding the concept of the internet beyond screens into the physical world.


A London based company Umbrellium has unveilved a first global site that indexes all the Internet of Things around the globe that produce publicly available data called – a discoverability engine for the public Internet of Things that will provide visibility to the emerging network of connected things allowing people, organisations, and cities to easily access and use the data they generate.


“Today, millions of people and organisations around the world already haveand use connected ‘things’, ranging from energy monitors, weather stations and pollution sensors, to animal trackers, geiger counters and shipping containers,” says Umbrellium founder Usman Haque.

“Many choose to, or would like to, make their data available to third parties – directly as a public resource or channeled through apps and analytical tools. With Thingful we want to break down the conventional silos that our data falls into and create a truly citizen oriented Internet of Things that puts the power of the data into the hands of the public”.

In the same way that Google indexes web pages, Thingful aggregates and indexes objects worldwide providing direct links to datasets or related websites. It has a social element too, connecting object owners and interested parties through Twitter profiles. 

Currently in alpha, a beta version is planned for 2014, with new features enabling people to register their own devices, find out about popular device trends and discover more about the connected device world. It is the first step towards building The Public Internet of Things, for citizens, communities, companies and cities all over the world to make their own.

Find out more at:

London, 1858: a child is dead, a man is blamed, and dragged through hell – why is he persecuted and who is his persecutor?

Ben Gwalchmai’s debut novel Purefinder tells the story of a man making his way through Victorian London, a Gothic thriller and Dantean exploration of London, loss and fraternity; mystery, blood, mud and guts combined.

Fictional writings about life in Victorian times often centre around murder, sex, scandal and intrigue, but in Purefinder, Ben Gwalchmai ets to the heart of Victorian London with remarkable historical accuracy through the eyes of a particular class of Victorians – the purefinders.

The Victorians invented the word ‘purefinder’, which referred to someone who collected dog muck from the streets so they could sell it to leather tanners who would then use it to purify leather. So dog muck became know as ‘pure’ to those that found it.

Bryn Prifardd Llewes ap Llwyn, or Bryn ‘Purefoy’ Lewis as he’s known, is an optimistic, hard-working Welshman who emigrated to London with his wife to find his fortune. He has all the concerns and wishes any of us have. When his initial work didn’t provide enough money to live well in London, he took the job no-one wants – purefinding – in order to keep going. Purefinders were shunned by many but Bryn takes satisfaction in his very survival, something the man he meets on April 2nd, 1858 puts to the test.

A compelling and timely portrait of Victorian London, Purefinder brings to life the grim day-to-day reality of the truly poor in London, the pure Londoners, with all the murder, sex, betrayal, violence, booze and grime that their lives carried with them.

Good luck to 2 Boys In A Boat

Two young men will be away from their families this Christmas, as they row across the Atlantic, following in the footsteps of Fogle and Cracknell, as part of a two-person 50-day non-stop challenge crossing 3,000 nautical miles and burning 10,000 calories a day each in bid to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

The challenge is described as the ‘world’s toughest endurance race’ and will kick off on Monday 2 December.

Childhood friends Jamie Sparks from London and Luke Birch from Lincolnshire, both 21, are attempting to break the World Record for the youngest team ever to row the Atlantic and raise £100,000 for Breast Cancer Care.

Jamie and Luke have been training since summer 2012. Luke is from London, lives in Lincolnshire and is currently studying at Edinburgh University. He is no stranger to pushing himself to the limit: in 2010 he swam across the English Channel in 14 hours and 45 minutes as a solo swimmer (at the time only 50 people aged 18 and under had completed the swim).  Jamie is studying at Bristol University and is from Islington, London. He played rugby for Middlesex (U18s and U20s) and cycled 1500 miles from Gibraltar to London last summer.

Jamie Sparks, who went to Luke with the idea more than a year ago, says, “we wanted a real adventure, and what bigger adventure could there be than rowing the 3000 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean – a distance longer than the width of Australia – with only each other to turn to for help? And when Luke’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer we were even more motivated and to use the challenge to raise funds and awareness for Breast Cancer Care.”

Luke Birch says, “I lost my grandmother to breast cancer a few years ago and last year my mother was diagnosed with the disease, both had the identical aggressive HER2 type. My mum went through three months of chemotherapy and this February had a double mastectomy. It’s been a scary time and I have a younger sister too who is worried about the genetics of it all. My mum received some fantastic care and support throughout her treatment so if my big Atlantic row with my best mate, Jamie can help ensure others get the same kind of care as my mother then it will be worth it.”

As part of their preparations, Jamie and Luke – apart from rowing hundreds of practice miles on their boat and rowing machines - have had to gain an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Theory certificate, a First Aid certificate and an RYA Basic Sea Survival course completion certificate. During the race, they will not be allowed any outside assistance and Luke and Jamie will have to survive with onboard supplies, making up their dehydrated food with water produced by a solar powered desalinator.  

Together Jamie and Luke could face 50-foot waves, three-day storms, and mental and bodily breakdown. However, none of this has put them off, and the pair are set to leave from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on the 2nd of December, and become the youngest pair ever to row the Atlantic.

Visit the 2boysinaboat YouTube for video logs of Jamie & Luke’s training:

Follow @2boysinaboat

See atoms in a new way with danceroom Spectroscopy

Atoms are made up of a little spherical nucleus with orbiting electrons, right? Well not quite. Dr David Glowacki, a Royal Society research fellow and one of the first Pervasive Media Studio residents, has led a collaborative project called danceroom Spectroscopy, that captures the energy fields surrounding our nanoworld and visualises them in surprising and beautiful ways on a 360 degree screen.

As an additional stroke of genius, a dance performance called Hidden Fields is integrated with the showcase to shift and shape the atomic energy in the room.

The award interactive visualisation of the nano-world will be presented by University of Bristol and Watershed at Brunel’s Old Station in Bristol 24 – 26 October. Find out more at

Over 25000 texts exchanged with street furniture in Bristol

This summer, Bristol residents and visitors were able to spark up conversations with the city, using nothing else but the humble text function on any mobile phone. As the first winner of Bristol’s Playable City Award produced by Watershed, Hello Lamp Post provided city dwellers with a new way of communicating through lamp posts, post boxes and other familiar street furniture, by texting the unique codes found on each object.


Over the past eight weeks, the project has received wide recognition in national and international press and led to 25,674 texts messages being sent by participants to everyday street furniture. 3,956 individual players have taken part, with 70 new people joining the conversation every day on average. 1161 objects have been woken up by a text around the city, including over 200 lamp posts and 32 of the 80 Gromit Unleashed dogs, also introduced to Bristol this summer. People of all ages have taken part, from children to the elderly, in groups, and alone.

Some of the more unusual objects that have been texted were hot air balloons, graffiti, chewing gum, and on occasion, even living pigeons outside the Crown pub near St Nicholas Market. Examples of conversations ranged from the humorous and charming to the political to completely abstract:

Bridge: “How many strides does it take for you to walk across me?”
Player: “It took one tall human 80 strides and one small human 87-ish! Thank you for helping us cross the water.”

Parking meter: I think something suspicious is going on here. Can you see any clues?
Player: There are two ice cream vans and no customers. They’re probably secret agents.

City Hall: “If you were mayor of Bristol, what would you change?”
Player: “I’d try and change the divide I think there is between the central areas of the city and less affluent areas further out.”

Drain: “What do you think is under your feet right now?”
Player: “Naked hairless humans with massive eyes.”

Ben Barker, co-creator of Hello Lamp Post and co-founder of PAN Studio, said that “The project has been all that we had hoped for and so much more. We wanted to give people of all ages and backgrounds in Bristol a chance to interact with the city, to play with the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary objects they came across every day and spark a conversation. We’ve been overwhelmed with the response and the number of people who took part. We’ve followed the conversations with great interest and it’s been so exciting to see how imaginative people of Bristol are and the conversations that Hello Lamp Post has inspired. We are aiming to present the project at SXSW in Texas next year and hope we can introduce it to other cities around the world.”

Clare Reddington, Executive Producer of the Playable City Award, added, “The Playable City is a new term, imagined as a counterpoint to ‘A Smart City’, where openness and permission to play is key, enabling residents and visitors to rewrite the city’s narrative by being playful in public. This is exactly what’s happened in Bristol this summer and is a sign of things to come in the future. Here’s to many more Playable Cities around the world, and more fun and games for Bristol next year. We can’t wait to kick off year two of the Playable City award later this autumn.”

The details of the second Playable City Award will be announced by Watershed later this year.

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