Fresh* back from Greenbelt and I thought I would blog some thought and ideas about what we got up to. (And who knows, maybe this heralds a return to more regular blogging…).

Way back in the past, the Greenbelt Worship team asked if we The Park Life Collective(the park life collective) would be interested in running a graffiti wall as a worship event.

We said yes, and #LetUsSpray was born.

59006_432550748402_5492556_nWe didn’t come to this in an entirely random way. In our local park, as part of Park Life Heavitree, we have been chalking and grass painting with whoever cares to stop by, for a few years now. Last year we tried this out at Greenbelt under the banner of Exeter Cathedral’s Holy Ground community, with an ‘everywhere is holy’ theme. That worked well, and we were invited back.

Diving into the detail a little of what we did, we need to start with the importance of informal street art.

I am no artist, but, in my experience, informal street art enables people to express themselves in ways they wouldn’t normally. And this is key.

This kind of art, although in this context, we should actually say ‘drawing stuff’ enables expression, voices to be heard and people to feel noticed.

I should probably stress again, that I am not an artist, have no art training and know nothing of art theory of any kind, but heck, I didn’t want that to stop us!

Anyway, as our Greenbelt offering was intended as a prayer wall, we wanted to give some structure to the time people spent at the wall. Our blurb on the programme read

Stop by and help us transform and restore a derelict cityscape with signs of new life, hope, peace and growth and prayers, confessions, doubts, fears and opportunities.
Our Informal street art installation is something everyone can be a part of. Experience how art can be a catalyst for engagement and transformation, how it can change, breathing life into the spaces we inhabit.

We didn’t quite create the derelict cityscape I had in mind, but we did create this:

the cube

with houses to fill

tower blocks to transform
an almost blank canvas

fields to mark
the warm up act

When you are on your hands and knees chalking** or marking, it is hard not to cross the usual social boundaries and in doing so all sorts of things can happen.

And the people came

and they coloured
colouring in

and they made marks

and some of it, despite the noise

was quite profound
detail 2
detail 3

So, it is inevitable that when you leave a load of pens out people will write all sorts of things – and we have seen a fair amount of crass phrases and willies (sometimes even disguised as aeroplanes!) but what I enjoy most about this medium and process is how when you engage with the artist of such markings, you sometimes see remarkable transformations of content. Hate being over graffitied with Love.

Also, hidden in the mess and clutter are things that standout and make it all worth while

detail 4

People paused to reflect (admittedly, some were probably a little perplexed) and the feed back was often ‘wow’, ‘that is amazing’ ‘what a great idea’ and so on.

and the wall filled up

So all in all, I think it went really well. I would be delighted to hear your reflection as well.

There are a few more pictures in my Flickr stream or my Instagram page if you are interested.

Oh, and the pens… We used the utterly fabulous Montana Cans Markers… these pens come in a whole bunch of sizes and colours. We mostly used 2mm and 15mm Montana Acrylic waterbased markers (we also used a couple of 6mm and 30mm ones). They write on anything (for example my 4yo arm with my mobile number), last for ages (said ink on arm lasted the festival through) and are vivid beyond belief! If you need pens, these are the ones. I will be ordering some replacement ink and tips for the pens we have left (some appear to have been borrowed) so we can carry on using them long into the future.

* Fresh. hmmm, all three children seem to have a post GB D&V bug… yuck

** we did get into trouble for chalking this year. We didn’t get the ‘no chalking because it upsets the race course owners’ memo. Well, with great penitence and profuse apologies, we took part in an activity called ‘erasing the name of Jesus’ as we washed and scrubbed the chalk away!


I am not…



(first apologies for neglecting this blog for so long, there is much to say, but that will have to wait.)

The last couple of years have been up and down in terms of my health, but yesterday I had some kind of resolution.

the up shot is I shall go on to live a long and prosperous life (or there abouts) once I have made some major dietary changes.

You see, I was told, on my birthday, that I have coeliac’s disease (and while I might need a couple more tests to confirm, it looks certain).

In my cursory reading on the internet one thing jumps out, people with coeliac’s call themselves ‘coeliacs’. Well, I refuse this defining of who I am. I am Tobit, and now I am also a person with coeliac’s.

The hardest thing thing about this will be giving up bread. My love for bread has been nurtured over the last 35 years… and while the next few days and weeks will help me gain perspective, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sadness that I can no longer eat bread.

Memories of San Francisco sour dough loaves will be just that. Memories.


Apparently, there are loads of people with coeliac’s, so if you are, or know someone, feel free to add your advice or help me filter the internet please!

grace and peace


2012 has been a bit of a year. I feel like have been plagued by coughs and colds for most of it, probably not true.

Lots has happened, and I am glad it has.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

Parkology collective and lent (and advent)
We are blogging over here, and our community continues to grow. I am looking forward to all the exciting things 2013 will bring. It is great and a privilege to be part of this emerging community.

It was a pleasure to be involved in this event as production manager. The 2013 event is promising to be even better.

setting up TEDxExeter from Tobit Emmens on Vimeo.

A beautiful wife that sews amazing things
Mary is amazing. It is a privilege to be her husband. She is so generous with her time and skill. I write this thinking particularly of the quilts she made for the charity Siblings together

Friends that are still alive
Working in mental health can be hard at times. I see a side of life I never hope to experience first hand. There are few perks in the NHS, but being able to visit friends when they are admitted post suicide counts as one of them. I realise it is now 18 months since I wrote this post in response to a friends crisis, but it is still as relevant now as it was then. I am glad that my work allows me to see things the way others might, and that I can use this to help make a bit of the NHS better.

Going to Greenbelt
It rained, but we had a lot of fun, we led a creative worship session in the shadow of the Tote using chalk…

the girls and friends drummed

and now I look forward to going back in 2013 for #GB40

Discovering Listener
Listener have turned out to be my must listen to band this year, and I eagerly await a new album

Listener – Good News First (To Numb The Pain) : Audiotree Live from Audiotree Live on Vimeo.

There is something about the way they craft stories into poems and add spoken word to music that is simply amazing.

Learning to longboard
Geekdad called up Comet Longboards and Comet sent longboards, and I have acquired cuts and bruises, but have had oh so much fun. I just wish it would rain less so I could get out more!


Making prize winning films
A while back now, I made a short film with two friends – called always hope

always hope from Tobit Emmens on Vimeo.

It won a prize and you can watch my acceptance film here!

So there you go, a snapshot of my 2012, and some insight to what I am hoping and working for in 2013

grace and peace

My lovely friend Anthony has a new book of poems. I managed to get to a reading in the fantastic Bike Shed Bar earlier in the week

Ant’s book, Riddance, is his “poetic account of the experience of diagnosis, treatment, misdiagnosis of relapse, and coming to terms with survival from this disease.”

The loss of my dad to cancer when I was in my early 20’s means this subject is one I still find difficult. Listening to Ant though, was a joy, for the hope it offered. And that he was there reading.

I am looking forward to re-reading Riddance, reading it and allowing the full weight of the words to rest. And, I suggest you do the same.

On the poetry front, I have recently discovered Listener the Band. Listener offer a mix of spoken word, trumpets, percussion and guitar that I never encountered before. Their album Wooden Heart is really quite something.

our lives are a bridge for us to give, I want to build a better bridge
from every wrong we’ve done to each other, if I forgive will you forgive?
cause one day we’re gonna close our eyes for death or rest
and abandon ourself, this weak mind and breath
and the columns we made, and roots we grew down deep
will be pulled and gathered in to firewood, and burnt for heat
but when the tension shifts, and these braces turn
I’ll try and build a better bridge
and when all our piers burn, and the hinges miss
I’m gonna build a better bridge
our hearts are abridged, let’s build bridges to each other
so we don’t take ourselves under

From Building Better Bridges

Check out this amazing live version of Failing in love with glaciers

Motorbikes. Well, this is a long story, one that is re-emerging like a mid life crisis!

Back when I was a lad, and working in mountain biking, one of the highlights was to be able to jump on a scrambler and belt along forest tracks, fixing signage, safety tape and so on. Given my ‘bike’ skills were acquired when at 17 I had a Honda CB50 I fixed up and rode for a season, I was never in to big air, but there is something really quite magical about riding a bike. Later, and when living in France I frequently rode pillion with some locals who befriended us! There is something about experiencing wheelies at 200 KPH that stays with you.

Well, my inexperienced hidden biker is trying to get out. Like I said, it may be the mid life crisis but whatever it is, it has arrived with a desire to get my bike licence and buy a Triumph Bonneville T100. Sigh.

Not entirely practical, quite how it would fit in with life or how I might acquire the finance (maybe a Kickstarter project?) are just two of the questions that need significant attention, if this is ever going to go anywhere.


I am a couple of weeks in to riding my Comet FSM, learning to carve, foot break, but most of all, trying to get to grips with a Coleman Slide. This is generally acknowledged as the quickest way to safely take a whole lot of speed out of a moving board.

The only issue is you need a whole lot of speed to make it work.

And, commitment.

But that just scares me.

As I am sure we all do when wanting to learn something, I have watched a load of videos and read a lot of blog posts.

I like this video the best – this is actually with the man himself teaching his namesake trick

I mention commitment – I read a particularly funny forum thread about learning to slide – someone asked where they were going wrong, and the response was

you need more commitment.

The reply came back something like

I have searched all over the internet and can find nothing about this commitment, please can you explain what commitment is?

I can only imagine the poster thought “commitment” was some kind of accessory, or trick they had never heard of!

Today, I went out on my board, after the drizzle of the day was beginning to dry up, but used the slightly damp ground to my advantage and added in a little extra commitment and, yep, you’ve got it, my board slid!

OK, I was only on the basketball court, but it felt good to actually experience what is meant to be happening. I did try again on our road, which has a nice little dip, and I am getting there, but I still have a way to go, but give it a few months, and this will be me:

Comet // Fresh Faces from Comet Skateboards on Vimeo.


Mid year review


Back in January I blogged about a few thing I would like to do in 2012.  Well, now seems like a good time to post an update, so here goes (but not necessarily in the same order as the first post)

1. The photo project. OK, this one is not going too well, I am not sure I have even managed one a month. Actually, that is not true, I just have not bothered to tag or group them as part of a photo52 or photo12 project.

Perhaps I will do that in retrospect!  I continue to perfect my skills taking photos for Mary and her fantastic sewing adventures and Etsy shop.

Vintage Sheet Bunting

2. Make more films. So I have made a little progress here, I helped out on a film called Landscape, now in post production.

And I have done a few documentary, interview shorts for work, so again, nothing to write home about, but steady progress none the less. I will post a link or two in due course.

3. Learning to ride a longboard. Well, this has been a late starter, but we are now off the ground, by a couple of inches, and skating. I am the proud owner of a Comet Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM for short.


Boy is it hard. I need to invest in some more protective gear, and a large dose of courage. There is a story behind getting a board, but more of that to follow another time.

4. Blogging. Well, its going ok!

5. Running. The less said the better – I have hardly managed to run at all. Perhaps this should be rescheduled as an Autumn project?

I picked up a copy of How God became King recently. When I say picked up, I actually mean that.. I went into my local branch of Waterstones and pulled it off the shelf and took it the counter.

Well I am two chapters and a preface in and am really enjoying it.  To be honest, I am taking it slowly, trying to savour the weight of the words, sentence, reading it ‘out loud in my head’ (something as a dyslexic reader I generally do anyway).  Hearing Wright’s voice as I read is helpful, it is a way of finding the metre, the rhythm and flow.

Anyway, why part 1 / 539? Well along with Martin, Andy and maybe some others from the parkology crew, we have decided to read it together, and I wanted to make notes along the way. So, in reality, I have no idea how many parts this is going to be, but it has the potential to be a few!

(And if you want a rapid summary, try Andrew Jones (aka TSK’s review))

Chapters 1 and 2, along with that all important preface have been all about setting the scene, and, it is well done.

What has stood out for me so far though, is Wright’s arguments on how the creeds, politics and philosophy have shaped years of theology. Darwinism, he argues is a natural evolution on understanding the how the world is, when ones stating assumptions don’t include God.

Likewise, the creeds shape how the last 1500-2000 years of theology have basically been missing the point. What the point is, I haven’t got to, but there have been some hints so far.

The important stream of thought it has started for me, and one I hope to take to parkology gatherings is how our doctrines, beliefs or values shape how we read the Bible, shape the questions we ask of our sacred text and predict what the answers will be.  Now this is not a new way of thinking for me, my MSc essentially took a version of this methodology to understand the whole story of research papers, including their tradition, etc.. But for some reason I haven’t really applied it myself and my beliefs until prompted by this book.

My challenge then, it to take a look at the canonical gospels with the parkology values at the forefront of my mind, along with whatever else I might learn from Wright.

ps. I have just also bought Kester Brewin’s new book Mutiny and that is also proving to be a good read so far.

I grew up riding bikes, doing some crazy things as well. I remember the time age 11 or 12 (and indeed, I still have the scars) when I snapped the handle bars clean off my Raleigh Striker in a ‘who can get the biggest air of a caravan levelling ramp’ competition. At 15 or so, I was regularly racing mountain bikes and road bikes from time to time. Cycling ran through my veins, it was part of my life.

For a season or two I had the fortune to work for a pro mountain bike team, looking after Steve Peat, Rob Warner, and a bunch of others. This led (although it helped I was working for the BCF at the time) to working with the Olympic Mountain Bike Squad (including David Baker and Tim Gould) in the lead up to Atlanta.

There was something about the carnival of the professional mountain biking circuit I loved (although plenty I was less keen on). Hanging out, working with and travelling the world with some of the worlds best cyclists was a blast. There was a fun trip to Budapest, where I happened to ‘forget’ to tell my crew I turned 21 on the final day of racing, knowing what they were planning for the evening. (But that might just have to be another blog post, as I have not even got to the Albion yet!).

Ah, the Albion. Why on earth am I blogging about a BMX magazine? Well, Leah turned 5 the other day. Top of her birthday list was a skateboard.

I did my research online, but then took it up a level. I called the Boarding House and reserved a board and helmet. We had to pop back and swap the helmet, (due to colour and size!) and when we were there, Mary picked up a copy of the Albion.

So, as you do, I tried reading it. First pass – well, I looked at the pictures. Second pass I skimmed a few articles and was a little put off. I found it barely comprehensible “Access Barpin to Dog Kennel Manual” etc.. I had no idea. Then there were the road trip-esk stories of dodgy bars, girls, drunken journeys and injuries – it reminded me (maybe too much) of life on road as I had observed it. So I reverted to looking at the pictures.

But then I went back to it. I tried really hard to understand.

And, to my surprise, once I got through the issues that put me off first time round, I started to enjoy it.

There are some really interesting articles – one titled “Quitters” was an interview with James Brooks, former VANS uk rider, which in part, tells a tale of how Brooks realises that while he still rode his BMX, he had essentially quit four years before. It reminded me that for a while I was like this: week in/week out, I went to church, then one day, I realised I had quit, possible years before. Brooks didn’t really manage to quit properly, until he found other things to do (like get married). In the article, he reflects how it got to the point when he just had to let go. Let go of ‘owning’ a dirt track. Let go of thinking he had to be the main one. And the delightful answer to the question “what about now you are not there?” is “I have no idea.”

hmmm. Interesting. People still do things, even if I am not there.

So, I guess what I am saying in this Friday night ramble is this: get yourself to a real skate / BMX shop, buy something, and see if you can pick up a copy of the Albion. And then read it, enjoy it, be shocked, confused, but whatever you do, make an effort, and then reflect on the experience.

I will continue to do the same, and I might even blog some more about it.

grace and peace

TEDxExeter 2012


I had the privilege of being part of the TEDxExeter Team. I was the production manager.

What started out as an offer to help out with the speakers slides and a bit of tech stuff soon grew.

it grew to include sourcing and making stage signs – thank you Timber Cut for the MDF cutouts
TEDxExeter - behind the scenes

Buying a square of red carpet and travelling across the city (ok, that makes it sound a long way) to find a man with a sewing machine who could cut and bind it. Thank you Graham

TEDxExeter - behind the scenes

(thanks Benjamin for being the official photographer)

And, most fun of all, was working along side the Northcott technical crew to set the stage, lighting and audio in place for the day

you can see 5 hours work in 4 minutes here – Thursday morning started with me setting up a simple time-lapse to capture the setup. Enjoy.

The speakers themselves were mind blowing. Even seen from back stage, the presence of Satish Kumar, the power of the heartfelt words of Bandi Mbubi that brought those in the audience and back stage to tears. Chris Anderson, curator of TED came in person, speaking of how we can still have hope for the future.

The intensity of the individual stresses and strains of performing was palpable, and the intimacy of mic-ing speakers up, reassuring them, counting them down onto stage, feeling the stress of every slide transition, the relief as they walked off… intense.

But, before I sign this blog post off, I want to give a special mention to the back stage, technical crew; Dom, Ben, Chris and Hamish. Spending two days back stage at the Northcott Theatre, working on the simply awesome TEDxExeter event was quite an experience. I was embraced as a new, temporary member of their community, inducted into their language, their rituals, their patterns, teased, joked with, enjoyed the relentless banter in the cans. And now, the show is over and I feel somewhat bereaved.


the TEDxExeter blog has great summaries up, and hopefully the videos will be out soon.

Siblings Together is one of those charities that could easily go unnoticed. Unnoticed by us, but not by the brothers and sisters they work with.

Siblings Together promotes positive contact between brothers and sisters separated by care, kinship care and adoption. The trauma of separation from siblings and its lifelong effects are often overlooked. We aim to help young people in care initiate and continue to have contact with their siblings, helping them to develop strong family bonds and above all achieve an independent and positive place in society supported by their sibling relationships.

Around 80% of looked-after children with brothers or sisters in care had been separated from them. The issue, and the long term impacts are huge.

Sometimes when an important issue come to light, or one hears about a cause that needs supporting, trying to work out how best to respond can be difficult. I am a strong believer that often, the best response are creative ones. Ones that see beyond the expected, sending pictures, stories, handmade gifts, meals, dresses. Quilts.

boy top for Siblings Together charity.

So, I am pretty aware of all the things Mary gets up to, and over the years have even learnt about various fabric lines and designers. I think I know that something called Quilt Market is happening soon! Oh and there is that sewing thing in June…

I digress, Lynne at Lily’s Quilts has gathered the interest of a corner of the sewing and quilting community, as their beautiful response to siblings that have been separated through the care process.

Siblings Together Quilt front

Mary is organising the making of at least four quilts (when I am not sure, but she tells me it is possible!) and has already been supported by way of fabric for quilt tops – around £100 worth, as well as a haul of fabric from her personal stash and as I typed this earlier, she was busy sketching out designs on graph paper, but I think she has made a few blocks already.

Celtic Fusion Fabrics have donated this bundle of fabric for a boys quilt:

Celtic Fusion bundle for Siblings Together

Mary has pulled this precious bundle from her stash:

My Precious - Sherbet Pips for Siblings Together

And from our own funds this arrived last week:

Sew Cherry FQ bundle

Which should make 2 quilt tops (time permitting!)

And this is on it’s way:

Sock Monkeys

From a lovely lady who is donating fabric from her personal stash to anyone who wants to make a quilt for this project.

BUT, to get the quilts finished, we need to spend approx £250 on backing fabric, wadding, thread, and then postage costs to get the finished quilts delivered, and my contribution to this project is to try and get that money raised!

So, I have set up a crowdfunding project, as an easy, safe and transparent way to donate to the project.

If you like the idea, but could never sew yourself, don’t have the time, then this is your opportunity to get involved. Just as this corner of the quilting community is thinking creatively about how to respond to this issue, I challenge you to also think creatively. Maybe you could donate what you would normally spend at Starbucks in any given week, or a meal out… I don’t really mind how you find the money*, but I look forward to seeing progress made towards our target.

Mary will keep you posted on progress on her blog and I will post updates to the Indiegogo campaign page, and (deep breath) the plan is to get at least four quilts made and delivered by early July.

*OK, nothing illegal please!

Thanks so much for reading, now go here and donate <grin>