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A ‘Building Passions’ website now exists #buildingpassions

So, I’ve finally managed to launch a website about my forthcoming book ‘Building Passions’.

It provides a bit of background for those who know nothing about the book. Once it is published electronically and then in hard copy, I will add links to the retailers who will hopefully sell it for me. I’m expecting an e-book will be out soon, but definitely by the end of September.

One thing I am missing is images. As I’ve blogged before this is a tricky area in self-publishing due to image rights. I will try to add in free images and links to ones you would need to pay to use (which I have done for the book!), but of course you will be able to see them all in the book, with appropriate text linked to the story of the Brunels, the Barrys and ‘modern’ Victorian architecture.

I will continue to use this website for blogs about the book and related news, including progress on an English Heritage Blue Plaque for Sir John Wolfe Barry. With luck everything will coincide …

I will also continue to use the #buildingpassions tag to promote the built environment to wider audiences through its history and the individuals involved.

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#buildingpassions is about rebranding the built environment sector

#buildingpassions is the tagline for my forthcoming book about the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.

Why I have I chosen it?

Firstly, because I like the play on words similar to the #buildingstories tag used by Roma Agrawal for her ‘Built’ podcasts.

Secondly, because no one else seems to be using it currently so it ticks the U in USP (unique selling proposition if you didn’t know, a marketing term).

Thirdly, because while my book is mainly about the history of architecture and civil engineering, it references the wider built environment in which they belong. This is the key sector which visibly and materially transforms our towns, cities and landscapes, generally for the good.

The nouns ‘building’ and ‘builder’ don’t always have great press currently in the English language at least, as they are mainly connected to the construction industry. This is just one part of the built environment sector, and not always the most reputable bit due to the ‘cowboys’ who operate for lower prices but with a higher risk of serious problems later on.

The worst recent example that comes to mind is the 2016 structural collapse of a church in Nigeria where building regulation corruption is rife – 160 people died! Similar issues have arisen with houses in earthquake zones in Nepal and Ecuador, for instance.

So we clearly need a rebrand with a strong positive feeling to it and I hope #buildingpassions (click for the relevant page) can somehow contribute to this.

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Welcome to Sir John Wolfe Barry’s site

He built Tower Bridge

This website tells the story of Sir John Wolfe Barry.

Who was he?

He was the civil engineer who built Tower Bridge. He doesn’t get as much credit for this as he perhaps deserves. So the purpose of the site was to tell his story to mark the centenary of his death on 22 January 2018. Content has been added since then mainly via the blogs (see below) but also in anticipation of the 125th anniversary celebrations of Tower Bridge’s first opening on 30 June 2019. The author is also publishing a book on Sir John, his partner Henry Brunel, and their (grand)fathers and brothers due to come out by end September 2019.

The site is split into blog posts and content pages which connect with each other and external links.

If you want quick snapshots then read the blog posts – use the category cloud to help you find things you are interested in e.g. Tower Bridge.

If you want to read the story of JWB (as I call him) then use the top menu for sections of content which all link to each other in the same order.

Enjoy!

Excited about seeing my e-book soon #buildingpassions

The book cover image above should always be credited as follows: Arpingstone (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tower.bridge.7.basculecloseup.london.arp.jpg), size and alignment by Elisa Vernazza, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/legalcode

I should be receiving an e-book version of ‘Building Passions’ very soon!

This is exciting for me, a first-time author and self-publisher, as it is one of the key end products that I’m after, following months of writing, editing, image chasing, indexing and project managing of editors and designers.

I’ve also started serious conversations with the company that will print the hard copy for me. Both sides are now clearer on expectations and working to a fixed timeline, linked to the book launch in November (I’m just finalising the venue and timing of that).

Once I am absolutely happy with the e-book I will upload it to retailer websites so everyone can access it by the end of September. Keep an eye out for links on the ‘Building Passions’ website.

I’ve also started planning the next book and am awaiting some interesting material all the way from the Hudson Bay Company Archives held in Winnipeg, Canada – they could only airmail it to me as scanning in PDFs was a step too far. It’s not arrived yet after 10 days but I guess I can only be patient and hope the system hasn’t swallowed up the package between there and the UK.

What did builders ever do for us? #buildingpassions

The answer depends on what you mean by a builder.

At one time, many millennia ago, they would have been one of the most highly respected people in a kingdom of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia or Greece.

Since then the respectability of their role has been superseded by that of architects and engineers.

That’s not a bad thing in itself, in the sense that the world has many more professions nowadays and opportunities for people to shine within them.

However, the down side is that builders have accumulated negative press, particularly those unregulated ones who operate on the edges of the law, interested only in making a quick buck out of unsuspecting clients.

Regulation is one option, but not necessarily the best for society if imposed from above. The fact is, people all over the world will always want a cheaper quote for what can seem very expensive manual work to them.

Alternatively, more of them are trying out self-build for smaller projects. This is a good development as it helps clients to identify, and appreciate more, the skills required to construct something solid and long-lasting.

The biggest worry is that those populations living in regions of the world susceptible to earthquakes or flooding continue to seek the cheapest building option, even though they have chosen t0 stay where they are rather than move to safer ground.

This is why education about the built environment is so useful and why I hope my new book ‘Building Passions’ can somehow stimulate a wider interest.

How to find a book launch venue #buildingpassions

So, I’ve been trying to nail down a venue for the official launch of my book ‘Building Passions’ in November.

I have a date/time and I want it to take place in the Westminster part of London. I also have a budget, an idea of numbers and the type of offering.

Fortunately, I have run many events in the past so am pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the process. My most stressful experience was organising a large conference on maths education, pretty much on my own, at a venue the Government officials funding it wouldn’t show me until the start of the event! They claimed this was best security practice for the Secretary of State for Education who was keynote speaking … oh and my wife was having an operation on the same day! It all went well thankfully.

I looked at two possible venues on Wednesday with my assistant, who is my daughter starting her English language and linguistics degree from this month. One was very nice and in a famous national art gallery, but over my budget. The alternative was more affordable but not in so respectable a location, though still pleasant. There are other options on the table.

I already have one sponsor for the event and am looking for others who would like to co-fund it with me. If you are interested please contact me at enquiries@buildingpassions.co.uk .

The e-book should be published soon via the usual channels and then I need to focus on finalising the print version in time for November.

Now is the winter of our discount tents #buildingpassions

The pleasure of writing your own blog is that you can do what you like with it, even add in the stupid play on words that is in this one’s title.

If you haven’t recognised the phrase, it’s an adaption of the opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III spoken by the Duke of Gloucester, who would eventually become king. But it’s the way he does it that has attracted attention in history and portrayed him as an evil schemer.

The parody or pun was used by the Sun Newspaper in 2012 to describe a funny story about a tent, but I suspect it originated much earlier, possibly by the Goons or similar.

What has any of this to do with Sir John Wolfe Barry or my forthcoming book about him, his family and the Brunels, ‘Building Passions’?

Not much really.

I’m just excited by the fact that this Autumn will be a busy period for both the book and the country I live in, the United Kingdom, with Brexit probably happening, worst case with no deal agreed with the European Union by 31 October.

The last ‘Winter of Discontent’ was in 1978-79 just before Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the UK. It was a period of extreme industrial unrest matched with extreme cold. The ‘Iron Lady’ began her all out fight with Arthur Scargill and the British Trades Unions, which only one person was going to win …

What will happen this winter is anyone’s guess. All historians like myself can do is point out potential lessons from the past and hope that current players take heed. In terms of the built environment, this will continue to develop new architectural styles and find new ways of supplying and then applying the necessary materials and skills.

Words ARE enough

From an early age I’ve always loved writing.

This was evidenced through stories I wrote for English homework which were full of fantastical ideas.

I also enjoyed marathon reading sessions. I remember getting through the Lord of the Rings on a beach in Corsica, while I was staying with a French family as part of an exchange trip. My back went as brown as a berry.

I tried some more serious writing later in life, but never dared to publish anything. Only when I first started blogging in 2012 did I start to open up and set free my urge to produce my own words.

Now I feel almost liberated.

I am on the verge of self-publishing my first book called ‘Building Passions’. I have started planning my next book, which will tell the world the fictionalised story of my grandfather Lex von Behr.

I want to encourage you to write as well.

People say actions speak louder than words, but writing and publishing a book is action with words. Please participate!

Nudging your audience along #buildingpassions

I told a friend and his teenage son about my book today. It taught me that you can present the same story in many different ways.

I sat them down and literally explained the main characters and the built structures linked to them. This was a good test for my own memory and would help my comms skills when handling larger audiences.

I literally went with the flow, without any planning except my own knowledge of the book.

My main focus was on the two fathers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Charles Barry, and their sons Sir John Wolfe Barry and Henry Marc Brunel. I mentally pictured the small tree I have drawn showing their relationships, and those with Sir Marc Brunel, father of IKB, and Sir Charles’ other sons and grandsons covered in the book.

I also covered broader issues such as the development of architectural styles and the link between ‘modernism’, Art Nouveau and the Crystal Palace.

I thought, as I spoke, of what would keep a teenager interested in the story. I tried as much interaction as I could, asking questions and then providing answers where he or his father couldn’t do so. It was all about nudging them along, but trying to avoid any topic which might appear too technical for a layperson.

It would be great if I could write books easily this way (think perhaps ‘Sophie’s World’ or ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’), but I have not quite mastered such an approach to non-fiction. May be fiction will be easier?

You can always teach an old dog new tricks …