The #4amproject

What is the 4 am project?

I first heard of the 4 am project over a year ago. I had started following @karenstrunks on twitter via people I had met at Social Media Surgeries. Karen had been driving home one night at 4 am and it had struck her how different the world looks at that time. The idea for the project was born.

Made in Birmingham

This is now a global project but it all started here in Birmingham in 2008. Social media has enabled us to play a part in building a global picture of the world at 4am.

My involvement

I met with Karen at one of the monthly Social Media Cafes she organises in Birmingham.  I have been on a bit of a mission to actually meet people I met first through twitter and she was on the list. Her blogs are brilliant and she is a real enabler in so many ways. The next 4 am project was coming up and she persuaded me to join in.

Street furniture

When I attended Planning Camp I learnt a lot about street furniture. So it seems has Winchester.

The decline of the high street

This was the theme  of my first contribution to the 4 am project. I had got involved with the Portas Pilot bid for Bearwood and I had started noticing the empty shops more and also the general neglect of what is essentially community space. I wrote a bit about it on my blog Post Travelling Blues. I called it litter and light.

Litter and Light

We chose a different location for the 4am project this time and we knew it would be interesting to see the contrast between Bearwood in Sandwell and Winchester in Hampshire. There were some common themes, again in litter and light.

Turn off the lights?

It was shocking to see how many empty shops in Bearwood had lights left on all night. The wast is shameful. Yet in Winchester we found that so many of the Building Societies and shops also left not the odd one of two lights on but loads of them blazing away. From a security point of view there may be valid reasons to do this, yet the waste of power appalls me.

Things really look different at 4am

They really do. Looking at the photographs today a few things struck me. I had walked past this shop in daylight (well gloomy rain filled light ) earlier and never noticed this display. Now all I can see is legs and handbags.

Or this one.

The once busy pubs were all shut up and chairs on top of tables.

Yet here there was a whole team of staff laying tables at 4am.

Who would have seen this in the daylight?

And what a gloomy, dirty and neglected bus station for such a beautiful city.

Yet again, I was glad I was not waiting for a bus…..

#indielove

Today, because it was raining and the thought of being alone in a cold house all day, I decided to try out a couple of coffee shops that my friends rave about. I got into coffee in a big way in Melbourne and one place I visited set the bar very high so I can be um, hypercritical, and this was Mart130. Another place I love for brunch, not as faraway as Melbourne is Pinky Murphy’s in Fowey. Still not somewhere I can just pop out to though.

First stop was Yorks Bakery and Cafe. I have been there before so it’s not new to me. It is very New York lofty industrial style and the bread they bake there is truly wonderful. It was just gone 11.30 and they were winding up breakfast, so on the suggestion of the barista (who I think used to work at SixEight) I had a pulled pork roll with my small latte. Just under £8 is isn’t cheap but then I did stay there until 1.00. Also it was very cold in there, and I’m usually hot everywhere I go, so I was sitting near the door on one of the wettest Mondays that has caused flooding and train cancellations country wide. I could have moved seats I guess. I wish they did an all day brunch. The barista thinks so too!

Lots of suits in there over lunch time and I’ve been so out of the smart clothes loop, I’d forgotten that people wear ties to work and so many women in boring black suits. Shudder. No, I cannot go back to the corporate life. So seeking somewhere more me and wanting tea I went in search of Brewsmiths which claims it’s in the JQ. It is under a railway arch and I have to say while so less über cool than Yorks, I like it. I had my own armchair and coffee table, and tea and a bacon butty cost £3.20 which is a bargain. It’s cozy. It has bunting, books, magazines and music I like. I could move in.

The downside is that to get there from Snow Hill you have to go through an underpass. And they scare me. I had to use this one every day when I worked in Cornwall Street and there was a resident tramp, which bizarrely made me feel safe. He’s not there anymore.

Anyway. Another indie I have visited. If I lived or worked nearby I would come more often. So it’s back to Bearwood with frankly its poor choice of coffee shops with wifi and atmosphere. Sigh!

Post travelling blues

Phil Musgrave, my body guard

Reverse Home Sickness is something I had not heard about before, until I read this post by Life’s Great Adventures but boy have I been suffering with it since getting back to normal life in the UK. This has been one of the main reasons I have not blogged for months or didn’t start to try and organise all the thousands of photos I have on three memory cards and the iPad.

Add to that the defeating business of job hunting, which I am sure will be the subject of a future blog I really I have been rather miserable since coming home. It’s been great to see the kids and my mom, and catch up with some of my friends, but truth be told I really could stay in bed and never go out.

The sky is too small, people are so grey and miserable and the house is too big and I have too much stuff. I lived out of a bag for 4 months and now don’t need a wardrobe and hundreds of books. And no one is really interested in what we did and saw on our trip.

One thing has helped, getting involved in new projects. One has been to support the local community for the bid for cash to improve our high street via BetterBearwood

Another project I got involved with was via my links with The Social Media Cafe organised by the very talented Karen Strunks, who is also director of the 4amproject

Social Media Cafe

Social Media Cafe (Photo credit: Cristiano Betta)

This involved getting up to take photos of Bearwood between 4 am and 5 am.

People were meeting up to do this in groups all over the world. In Bearwood there was just me, with Phil to keep me safe. Good job I didn’t have to wait for a bus!