Jelly – or jam – and cultural institutions

Demonstration of making rhubarb jelly. Photo taken by Troy in 1916 for Miss Canon, ...

Demonstration of making rhubarb jelly. Photo taken by Troy in 1916 for Miss Canon, Cornell University Library.



  1. Fruit, sugar and a little water heated up together to a sufficiently high temperature for long enough to be transformed into a substance that sets into a semi-solid state when cool and can contain the whole fruit or not (US).
  2. Fruit, sugar and a little water heated up together to a sufficiently high temperature to cook the fruit to mush to be sieved through fine muslin to produce a clear fruit liquid that is boiled to produce a liquid that will set in a semi-solid state when cool (UK)
  3. A dessert made with fruit juice, water and gelatine ( or, for vegetarians and vegans, agar agar or carrageen) which is set in a mould. The set jelly can be wobbled but return to its original shape. It is sufficiently solid to be held, but not solid enough to be nailed down.


  1. See Jelly: 1)
  2. Informal gathering of musicians playing improvised music together
  3. Putting a lot of things into a specific space that is slightly too small to leave room between the things.

Wifi world working

On Wednesday 22nd September 2010, Lloyd Davis (no relation) tweeted:

#jelly at #c4cc from 1pm to 5pm today – bring some work and join us in gentle informal coworking

It was not the first Wednesday that he had tweeted it, but just one when I noticed.

The jelly concept seems to have started in the United States but there are jellies in the UK these days. Essentially, a jelly is a periodical, informal sort of co-working for freelancers and others who usually work on their own. it is a way of providing some of the benefits that one gets from working as part of a team in the same physical space. Somebody organises a space with wifi, tables, chairs, refreshments and, if possible, facilities for charging laptops.

In the meantime, elsewhere in London, Anke Holst and Chris Meade have been involved with setting up the Unlibrary: “a work space at Hornsey Library, London and a social network of businesses, writers and creatives.” They have a space especially for people to come in and work at any time that it is open.

Over in the West Midlands, I understand it was Nick Booth of Podnosh who had the bright idea of the social media surgery. People who know something about how to use social media gather in a place with wifi, tables, chairs, and refreshments. People who need help with doing something using social media tools – or simply want to know more about what it is – come along and ask questions. People learn things, including that they knew more than they thought they did.

It is spreading. It is noticeable that Yorkshire has been very active recently. As you read this, someone will be planning another social media surgery.

Creative work environments

My work has required meetings in unusual places at times. Try to minute a meeting with at least six people wandering around in mud, with a strong wind and sleet trying to snatch the words off the paper as you write – and trying to avoid tripping over the ankle-height fragments of medieval walls. And there was the time when…but I digress.

I have always enjoyed the meetings that were not in conventional offices or meetings rooms. They can be more dynamic, more conducive to creative thinking and solving problems. During the past decade, I have often had meetings in cafés, especially in museums’ and libraries’ cafés.

These days, the nomadic workers tend to need wifi at least for a meeting space, and favour places where there is access to the power sockets. A place that encourages creative thinking through its ambience and the people it attracts is even better. The cafés in cultural institutions and at heritage sites could be ideal for this, if they have wifi (and preferably free wifi) available. If they have some power sockets that could be used, that would be wonderful.

Not all nomadic workers are based in cities. There are historic houses, heritage sites and country or national park centres in the depths of the rural landscape in the UK. How great would it be if travelling workers could pause at a historic house for a couple of hours to recharge their laptop whilst having a conference call via Skype and a cup of coffee? It might sound extraordinary to some, but some of us have been working in such places before there were computers and mobiles.

Libraries are information hubs, not just places where one can find books to read and borrow. Public libraries have always had tables and chairs, of course, and for the past few years have also had internet-connected computers for everyone to use along with the books, CDs and videos. They have been providing help to enable people to use the internet, and could be a natural choice of venue for social media surgeries. Public libraries can reach parts of the community with which other services find it difficult to connect.

What’s in it for cultural institutions?

Some years ago, I was talking to the Keeper at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery about what their visitor types were and how we could target potential new audiences. He told me about how, as part of their everyday shopping trip in town, local people would pop in to the museum and gallery for a cup of tea with culture. I loved the idea of shopping for food for both body and soul in one trip.

Providing wifi (and possibly recharging equipment facilities), would help to bring more, and different, people into cultural institutions more often. Most of those people will contribute regularly to the venue’s income through buying refreshments and buying things in the shop.

Maybe they would be willing to pay a reasonable fee to recharge their laptop or mobile phone? Maybe the larger venues could charge to lend people the chargers that they forgot to bring out with them?

The cultural institutions that charge could get more people buying annual memberships so that they can visit regularly.

The people who come in to use the wifi have diverse skills, knowledge and experience. They may be prepared to share some of those with others. Cultural institutions could increase the level of dialogue goes on between visitors and staff, including staff who are not front-of-house.

It could help people to understand the work of the cultural institutions. It could help people to appreciate them more. People are then likely to support them in a more proactive way if (or when) public funds are cut.

Some of you may have heard of Arts & Business. If you have, you may not be aware that its work covers culture across the domains, including heritage. Maybe they could be involved too?

Maybe big companies could start in a small way to build more relationships with specific public culture places local to them in a small way. Enabling individual staff to swap their usual office to work in a museum café that has wifi to for half a day (maybe catching up with an e-mail backlog) could be one way.

Maybe the people coming in to use the wifi or recharge their laptop can help the culture venue to increase sponsorship or legacies?

Maybe cultural institutions, communities and business could do some jamming, and make beautiful new music – metaphorically or literally?

[Portrait of Stan Kenton, Kai Winding, Eddie Safranski, Pete Rugolo, and Shelly Manne, New York, N.Y.(?), ca. Jan. 1947] (LOC)

Jamming. Portrait of Stan Kenton, Kai Winding, Eddie Safranski, Pete Rugolo, and Shelly Manne, New York, N.Y.(?), ca. Jan. 1947, Library of Congress.


I was interested to read the Yorkshire Post article (link below) that suggests Simon Howard might have had the same idea of encouraging people through provision of wifi. He was one of the people in the Consultative Group for the Parks and Gardens UK project (a web resource about historic parks, gardens and designed landscapes) on which I worked 2006 to 2009.

Greg Wright, ‘Smart move as Castle Howard leads the broadband revolution,’ Yorkshire Post < last accessed 20/10/2010>


Sources and further reading

The Unlibrary (at Hornsey Library) < last accessed 02/10/2010>

Tuttle < last accessed 03/10/10>

Centre for Creative Collaboration, University of London < last accessed 03/10/10>

Race Online 2012 < last accessed 05/10/2010>

Social Media Surgery Plus < last accessed 05/10/2010>

Podnosh – social media for social good < last accessed 06/10/2010>

Judy Heminsley, ‘How to start your own jelly,’ How to Work From Home < last accessed 05/10/2010>

Arts and Business < last accessed 05/10/2010>



1 thought on “Jelly – or jam – and cultural institutions

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