Monthly Archives: December 2012

Some people drive buses, others knit covers for them

This Crazy World We Live In

No. 3 Yarn bombing or graffiti knitting – whatever you call it’s wacky and utterly wonderful

The mysterious graffiti knitters of Saltburn by the Sea had already been at it long before the Jubilee. The inhabitants of the seaside town were already used to finding the little knitted figures and objects that would suddenly appear at various sites around the town. As if this wasn’t magical enough, last March they woke to discover a 50-metre long ‘scarf’ decorating the railings along their famous pier. It sported tiny knitted athletes, representing every Olympic and Paralympic sport, including figures in weenie wheelchairs. Come the Jubilee, the seafront was again adorned, this time with knitted representatives of the Queen and Prince Phillip, together with woolly Corgis, tea sets, crowns and flags.

Some call it yarn bombing, others prefer yarn storming or graffiti knitting since this bombardment is far from the images conjured up by the idea of a bomb. Rather it is a gloriously subversive form of graffiti – making you smile and wonder in equal measure.  The movement’s beginnings are credited to Magda Sayeg, from Texas. She began in a small, but delightful way. The clothes shop she managed in 2005 stood in a boring, ugly, concrete neighbourhood. Seized by a need to add some colour to her environment, she knitted a door handle for her shop. Inspired, she went on to knit a sheath for the stop sign pole.  Such was the interest these provoked that she started to scatter bits of knitting across the world. Over parking meters, a bus, the gun on a statue of a soldier – and so it goes on.

I first came across this inspired movement though the Radio 4 Saturday Live programme, which highlighted the activities at Saltburn by the Sea and instigated a hunt for the mystery knitters. Intrigued, I did some more research and found that in a relatively short time, yarn storming has spread throughout the world. There’s hardly a town or city where you won’t find a tree in a bright stripy jacket, a statue sporting woolly gloves, a drain pipe, a lamppost, a bicycle – even cracks in the pavement filled with multi-colored pearl and plain.

Investigating further, I discovered ArtYarn, a collaborative knitting and crochet project. Formed in 2008 by visual artist Rachael Gwilliam, it brings together local groups and global artists to create stunning, imaginative and cutting edge gallery installations and public arts projects. It also instigates creative craft workshops. I also found, to my immense pleasure, the wonderfully named Knit the City and the knitting community, Stitch London with its marvellous slogan ‘Keep calm and carry yarn’. Knit the City was established in 2009 by Lauren O’Farrell, initially to distract herself from the treatment she was receiving for cancer. She got the all clear in 2007 and, with Stitch London, celebrated by knitting a 550 ft. scarf to tie around the lions in Trafalgar Square. Over the years they’ve tackled projects as diverse as phone box covers, installing a 13ft spider’s web, replete with trapped insects and fairies, in the “graffiti tunnel” beneath Waterloo station, driven a handmade herd of sheep over London Bridge, and installed a white rabbit on the South Bank.

If you love things that are different, beautiful, kooky, weird and wonderful or a combination of all these, Google ‘yarn storming’, ‘graffiti knitting’ or ‘images for graffiti knitting’. Or click any of the links in this post. Then sit back and prepare to be amazed. For all the dark and nasty stuff in the world, aren’t we lucky that there also exist such creative, imaginative, eccentric and delightful people. Long may they continue to add colour and pleasure to our world.

Images in this post: Bus:BNPS, Saltburn: Northern News & Pictures, Tree:, Statue:, Sheep: Frantzesco Kangaris for The Guardian

Posted in Blog, Crazy World, Graffiti Knitting, Knitting, Yarn Bombing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Clever Canadian Tourist Board

The video below looks a great deal better on the big screen, which is where I saw it last weekend.  Nevertheless, it’s still good in the smaller format. As an example of letting your fans do your work for you, it’s superb.  It’s also a great example of how to form a bond with your clients, to make them feel all warm and fuzzy as well as reaching out to prospective travellers and making them want to pack and take a plane and head for your shores that instant.

What did the Canadian Tourist Board do? Just asked Canadians to send in their videos. Which they did – 65 hours of it, of which this commercial spans two short minutes. Great minutes – not simply showing the beauty of the country, something we know about, but demonstrating what it’s like to be there. It will have taken some time to edit all that footage, of course, but that would have cost a fraction of the amount needed to create a commercial from scratch. It might have been the cheaper option but this film is far from cheap. It’s clever, intelligent and engaging and fun.


Posted in Advertising, Blog, Commercials, Travel | Leave a comment

Bobs, blogs and dogs

Bob signing his paperback, at Waterstones, Islington

I’m a bit of a technophobe. I tend to go frilly round the edges when confronted with one of those ‘error 101’ messages.  When my lovely – well formerly lovely – host server recently sold themselves to someone else – the tarts – and my website disappeared off the planet I nearly had a breakdown. You’d think, then, that I’d steer away from social media. But no, I’m a big fan, although I do believe that these platforms can be overused. I also think that they are far more suitable for some purposes than for others. That being said, when they work they work wonderfully.

I’ve been blogging for some time but my Facebook page was dormant until fairly recently. I had a Twitter account but never used it. I tended to think that Twitter, in particular, was somewhat frivolous. I was wrong. Thanks to the links people have tweeted I’ve read fascinating articles I would never have found on my own. I’ve entered entirely new worlds and had a lot of fun along the way. Above all I’ve made some wonderful friends.

It all started with ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’. I’d met James Bowen and his beloved cat Bob several times when James was busking in Islington or Covent Garden. Bob draped round his shoulders or sitting quietly on James’ bag. One day last March I met them on the 38 bus. James handed me a flyer, an invitation to his book signing at Waterstones in Islington. I was delighted to hear about it – he’d mentioned the possibility of a book last time I’d seen him. When I got home I tweeted the information and others did the same. The day of the signing arrived. There were queues around the block. The book sold out. No one had expected quite that degree of interest.

Next day Twitter was alive with stories about Bob and James and the book. I wrote a blog post, others wrote blog posts, articles appeared in newspapers, followed by TV appearances, their own Facebook pages and Twitter account. The rest is history. James and Bob are legends. ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is a runaway best seller, has been translated into 18 different languages, has rave reviews on Amazon – including mine, written under the pseudonym Queenie. A children’s book and an American edition are coming out next year and now Hollywood beckons.

Social media has played a huge part in the success of this wonderful book. Nevertheless, it’s the quality of the book itself that has played the greatest part in that success.  It’s a heart-warming story of redemption. James saved Bob and nursed him back to health. Bob saved James by giving him a reason to live and the motivation to get off methadone. Furthermore, James honest account of his life on the streets has done wonders to raise awareness of the miseries of homelessness.

This was the first time I’d watching something go viral. It was astonishing. And it had unforeseen consequences. Through Twitter I was connected not only with Bob and James, but also with Mary, their agent and friend, and with co-author and journalist Garry Jenkins. Through Twitter I got to know a host of others who are now friends, Julie and Penny, Magda and Eileen, Kerry and Kristie, Rhian, Celeste and Becka.  All cat lovers, all connected initially through our support for James and Bob. And now also through common interests, among them a love of cats (naturally), cakes and crime fiction.

That’s the Bobs and now we come to the dogs. As all my friends know, because I ‘m so passionate about it, I volunteer and write a blog for a wonderful Spanish-Belgian-Dutch charity and dog refuge, ACE – Animal Care Espaňa.  Some of the lovely Twitter friends, mentioned above, knit colourful and stylish scarves for Bob and also blankets and rugs for him to sit on when he’s out with James. ACE recently put out a call for people to knit coats for the dogs; it gets very, very cold at night in Spain in the winter.  So, a bit tongue in cheek, I asked my friends if they would consider knitting for dogs as well as cats. They got knitting. And those that didn’t knit sent money. So kind, so generous and so much appreciated.

The blog I write for ACE has brought me new friends too, as have their Facebook pages. I recently spent four days in Holland, for Dog Day. An annual event where the Spanish team are reunited with the precious dogs they have saved and meet their new owners. Ineke, who writes the Dutch blog for ACE, picked me up at the airport. Until I met her I was unaware that the round trip took 3 hours. Rineke put me up at her house and she too drove me vast distances. They both offered friendship and great hospitality and generosity. I had never met them before.

Social media is now a fact of life. Of course it can be abused. It often is abused. It can be overused too.  Some people think it’s stupid, a waste of time. For me it’s opened up a new dimension, introduced me to new ideas and new writing, new worlds. It’s given me the opportunity to introduce my own writing to a new readership. It’s brought me new friends, helped me do some good. For all those reasons, I’m a fan.

© ACE Charity

Kerry knitted the coat on the left, Penny the one on the right.


Posted in A Street Cat named Bob, A.C.E., Blog, Blogs, Books, Cats, Dogs, Rescue Dogs, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment