During June this website will be downgraded to a “no bells and whistles” WordPress site.
I have set up a new one using Yola but am waiting to transfer the domain name to make it fully official. I also use Yola for the ‘Building Passions’ website promoting the book linked to Sir John Wolfe Barry and his family.
I’ve enjoyed using WordPress over many years, mainly for blogging which I started in 2012. My first post was very short and made me very nervous to publish. But I was self-employed so didn’t have colleagues looking over my shoulder telling me what I could write.
It was liberating to say what you think, in those days mainly about Government education policy in England. In these dark times of ‘fake news’ blogging is even more important, though the state is creeping in with censorship.
Stay free, write freely!
I’ve created a new smaller website for information about Sir John Wolfe Barry, Tower Bridge and other structures.
The main route to it is via the ‘Building Passions‘ website which promotes my book of the same short title, derived from this website. I will eventually move across the domain name (sirjohnwolfebarry.com) for this WordPress website -not sure what will happen to these pages, but, assuming they stay alive, I will always have a link to them from the new website.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am expanding my writing to cover fiction so will develop an imprint to market this to the world. I have completed content and artwork for a historical fiction piece based on the life of my grandfather (‘The Other Red Baron’) and am drafting text for a trilogy of pure fiction novellas connected by a theme of dictatorship versus democracy. Separately, as part of a group of writers who live in or near Canterbury, we are trying to co-draft a murder mystery – not as easy as we might have expected!
I’m always on the look out for opportunities to engage with audiences whether through my writing or other means. I attended a really interesting online workshop on running, well, online workshops! I’d like to engage with groups of about 20 people and then use virtual break outs to hone in on key areas of interest. I will do this for my own topics in the history of the built environment, writing/self-publishing, history more generally, and in STEAM career support for schools.
I thought now would be a good time to start reorganising my web content related to Sir John Wolfe Barry, Henry Brunel and their families.
I’ve started building a new website to replace this one which will disappear in June. It will have less content in it and do more pointing to other material on the internet, including my ‘Building Passions’ website. Sadly this will also mean doing less on WordPress, which really helped me get started many years ago with my own blogging and web content.
At the same time I am using this as an opportunity to position my other writing, which is focused on fiction, as well my pending PhD research assuming I get the funding for it.
It would be nice to brand everything under one title, but it may be tricky and there is no point stretching things artificially to fit. My USP is me, Nick von Behr and you can find out more about me on my LinkedIn profile.
Who am I for those who don’t already know me and don’t want to look at LinkedIn?
I’m a portfolio career professional with a bent for research, analysis and writing. I’m very interested in history, particularly related to technology, the built environment and politics. I’m also interested in education, having worked and volunteered within STEM, and more recently STEAM, career engagement and skills.
I blogged a while back about writing. It is what I do.
My current writing is in fiction, in fact a trilogy of novellas is in the works.
The theme is dictatorship versus democracy, which raises interesting issues about people, society and freedom. We are experiencing a stress on our current democratic systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have set the trilogy in a fictional nation somewhere in Europe. The context is about a family that has been in sole power for many generations. Something is beginning to stir and its name is democracy. But it’s the family itself which is doing the stirring!
I’m hoping to self-publish the whole trilogy by the end of the year in three stages, each separated by at least a month. That gives me an overall target of about 60,000 words split into three. I’ve already written the first book and have started the second one. Once you get into a rhythm then it makes drafting a lot easier, and I always review what I write immediately afterwards.
Which brings me to the title of the post.
In a truly democratic society we have the right to write what we like, even thought those in power may not like it. Many states are parodies of democracies for this very reason and may just take everyone through the motions as a public relations exercise. Let’s not even talk about voting!
Writing is about communication. But is it more than that?
I ask because I have always been a writer, since my earliest days learning the craft. Once I became reasonably confident, then I allowed myself to experiment with ideas and phrases.
Publishing my first e-book and print version ‘Building Passions‘ last year was another first step for me. It was built on the foundations of this website about John Wolfe Barry, Henry Brunel and Tower Bridge. I simply extended the concept to their wider families and structures.
A crossroads has appeared recently.
I finished my first novella, still connected to the world of historical biography. I am currently writing my next one, which is pure fiction, but inevitably features references to history. A leopard can’t hide its spots.
I will continue to blog here on topics of interest to me, but not always directly related to the Barrys and Brunels. The common theme will, however, be writing.
But at the same time I will develop other communication techniques through the amazing tools of the internet, as well as direct interaction with audiences at venues.
Of course you will always be able to buy printed versions of my books, but there won’t be many copies available as I refuse to sacrifice trees for this purpose.
Weird title for a post, I know. But humour me a little.
My book ‘Building Passions‘ is about the history of architecture and engineering in Victorian Britain, seen through the eyes of two key families, the Brunels and Barrys. I came up with the short title (there is a long one) while drafting the text. It seemed to fit sections describing how and why a built environment is important to the communities that live within it.
‘What about STEAM engagement?’ you might ask.
Well, it’s what I am trying to do through this blog, my websites and my book. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. In the UK it once used to be SET, so without the maths or arts included. I had the privilege of once working closely with Professor Dame Celia Hoyles, who became England’s first Maths Czar in the early 2000s, and she definitely got the M into SET!
Since then there have been pushes to get an A into the acronym. Again, the US leads the way on this. I am a supporter because the built environment needs young people with all five facets. This is a big ambition! It is also broad and there is a risk it all just turns into words rather than actions.
Styles and fads have cyclical lives, adapting as they develop and reinvent. The same may happen with STEAM.
So be it.
But while it is alive let’s make the most of STEAM’s potential impact and stoke up some passion for buildings amongst wider audiences.
Communicating is all about tailoring your key messages to the right audience.
When I started in education policy back in mid 2002, we soon realised how important this was. Within a few months we were meeting as a group of education experts and policy staff with the new Secretary of State for Education. He was a busy man, but already impressed with our first report on continuing professional development for maths teachers. We just needed to get home the key points rapidly and convincingly.
We all learned from that meeting and went on to produce other reports and have other meetings with Ministers. At the other end of the hierarchy are the students in our state schools in England, for whom politicians are tasked to provide oversight.
I spoke to groups of them this week at a school in the town where I live. They were teenagers, so inevitably there was bravado and shyness depending on their perceived status in the school. My constant message to them all was be passionate about at least one area of their life.
I realise now, having sat through some fascinating sessions at a Kent education conference today, that communicating with students involves engaging with school staff and parents/carers simultaneously.
Above all, this is a long term process which won’t necessarily produce immediate results.
Like writing and publishing a book.