Archive | September, 2010

Motu (Fatso) the Master Blaster

30 Sep

I was watching an amazing Indian film, Udaan, the other night. There’s a scene where the main character and his friends start singing a song ‘Motu Master‘ (The Fatso Master).

Apart from cracking me up, it reminded me of the 2000 Sydney Olympics renegade mascot – Fatso, the Fat-Arsed Wombat. Fatso was the creation of a Sydney cartoonist and two comedians, HG and Roy, as a protest against the over-commercialisation of the official Games mascots.

He turned into a bit of a hero (even the athletes loved him) and was immortalised in this statue outside the Sydney Olympic Stadium, commemorating the volunteers who worked during the Olympics.


Fatso's memorial statue in Sydney (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This, of course, lead me to think of a great little animation I saw a few years ago at an environmental conference – the Global Mind Shift Wombat. In under 60 seconds he’ll tell you all you need to know about sustainability…

How’s that for linking three completely random things together in one post.

I actually quite like Shera, the Delhi 2010 mascot – he highlights the plight of the threatened Bengal Tiger. But I wonder if he’d like some company for the Commonwealth Games?

Perhaps there’s room for a new mammal with a mission: an Australian eco-wombat, with an American accent and an Indian name – I give you…Motu the Master Blaster.

Now that’s what I call bringing nations together.


Making News, Not Waste…

28 Sep

Last week we managed to hook up with the Hindustan Times, one of India’s major daily newspapers. We’d been reading about an event they were organising in partnership with the Commonwealth Games organising committee – the Go India! Go for Gold! Campaign.

The idea was to ask members of the public to show their support for India’s athletes by high fiving fabric banners with paint in shopping centres around the city. The banners would then be displayed at a public rally at Connaught Place to rustle up a little more hype (of the positive kind) for the Games. Not really our cup of chai; novel idea nonetheless.

But what were they planning to do with dozens of banners after the event? We made it our mission to find out.

Many, many phone calls, redirections and hindi hold tunes later, we spoke to the event organisers. They liked our project idea and asked us along to the rally. Here’s what happened:

We turned up early on Sunday morning, looking a little bleary-eyed (it really was early)…

Go India! Go for Gold! Campaign

The wall of hands at the Go India! Go for Gold! Campaign rally, Sunday 19 Sept, 2010

…and so did a lot of media people…

media at Go India! Go for Gold! Campaign

Media gathering at Go India! Go for Gold! Campaign rally

…we’re talking lots of media people…

More media at the march

…as well as government representatives and the Chief of the Games Organising Committee…

Officials at the rally

Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit and Games Organising Committee Chief, Suresh Kalmadi

…and the sponsors (along with their employees).

Sponsors at the rally

So we got into the swing of things…

Adding our handprints at the rally

…and added our prints to a banner…

Christina adding handprint at the rally

Liz adding hand print at the rally

…and thought about what we might make if we got all the banner material. Perhaps a simple, drawstring bag like this…

Example bag at the rally

Rally supporter watching the event

…even Shera, the Commonwealth Games mascot, put in an appearance (although he was late. Possibly slept in. Smart tiger.)

Shera, Commonwealth Games mascot joins the rally

Shera, hangin' with his homies at the rally

Things were looking decidedly up(cycling) for our project idea…then this happened…

Rain hits the rally

Monsoon rain strikes the rally

…it rained for hours. All the banners were saturated. The paint was acrylic, so we knew it would run. Could we do an abstract line of Ken-Done-meets-Jackson-Pollack fashion wear? (I mean, the ’80s is rad again isn’t it?) Was it even worth getting the fabric? And (sigh) would the rain ever stop?

Stay tuned for more on our journey to make good things out of Games waste (rain or shine)…

On Major Event Materials

24 Sep

Well. What a week huh? Safety and security concerns, health and sanitation hiccups and last-minute construction woes – but despite all this, the athletes are arriving and it looks like the Games will go ahead.

This week also highlighted that major event production activities – such as construction, marketing, security, occupational health and safety – all require a lot of different materials.

There’s even an unusual vocabulary to describe some of these materials, such as:

  • overlay –  temporary fittings, fixtures and equipment making the training and competition venues ready for a major event
Non-slip mat at 2007 FINA Swimming Championships

Non-slip mat, poolside at 2007 FINA Swimming Championships

  • bunting – traditionally describes a lightweight cloth material often used for flags and festive decorations. Today it can also refer to canvas fence coverings like this outside the Melbourne Sports and Aquatics Centre during the 2007 FINA World Swimming Championships.
FINA fence bunting

Fence bunting at 2007 FINA Swimming Championships

  • hoarding – defines hoarding as
  1. (Business/Marketing) a large board used for displaying advertising posters, as by a road Also called (esp US and Canadian) billboard
  2. (Miscellaneous Technologies/Building) a temporary wooden fence erected round a building or demolition site.
Hoarding at 2007 FINA Championships

Hoarding at 2007 FINA Swimming Championships

And here in Delhi last week, we have the appearance of ‘wall wraps’ around several construction sites across the city. We’re not sure what the wraps and banners are made of yet, but we’re going to find out.

Wall wraps for Delhi 2010 Games sites

Wall wraps for Delhi 2010 Games sites (Hindustan Times, 15 Sept, 2010)

Delhi isn’t the first city to cover up in preparation for a major event: In Beijing, fake building facades (Potemkin facades) were installed across the city for the 2008 Olympics and, during the 1954 Queen’s visit to Australia, walls of hessian fabric were reportedly put up to hide suburbs such as Redfern and its resident Aboriginal population.

We’re not judging the merits of such activity, but we are acknowledging it seems to be a common part of major event delivery around the world.

The question we want to answer is this: once the party’s over, what happens to the temporary materials used to mask and beautify a city in preparation for a major event?

These materials are interesting to us because Conserve India can definitely use canvas and vinyls. And if you think it’s only a peripheral part of the Games waste stream, think again.

In June 2010, Monocle ran a short story about a German flag company on the verge of bankruptcy prior to the recent World Cup in South Africa. The company targeted the World Cup by producing and selling flags from all contesting nations (it was predicting sales of a million South African flags alone!)

This one small aspect of a major event could mean enough income for this company to re-employ it’s 60 staff. It also means one hell of a lot of flags, eventually destined for the rubbish bin.

We think, sometimes, it’s the little things that count.

Intern Insights…

20 Sep

If you’re calling Conserve India over the next few months it’s likely you’ll be talking to Jenna and Christina, Conserve’s American merchandising and design interns. Over a cup of office chai, we sat down to talk about their experience so far:


Christina and Jenna

L to R: Christina and Jenna, Conserve India's interns


1. How did you come to be working at Conserve?

Christina: Our UC Davis university professor, Ann Savageau, got us involved in her awareness raising project called Bags Across the Globe (BAG). She’s also a friend of Anita’s and told us about the six month internship when we were taking her sustainable design class.

Jenna: we both jumped at the chance pretty quickly.

Christina: I was going home after finding out about the internship and a car drove by me with Hindi music blaring. That never happens where I live in California, so I took it as a sign and three days later had a one-way ticket to Delhi.

2. What have you learnt since arriving in July?

Jenna: We’re pretty much learning how to run a business, the whole reality of it. Our teachers were always saying ‘design can change the world’. But here we’re learning that you really can run a business while helping people; we’re learning the day-to-day of managing a fair trade enterprise.

Christina: We’ve been given amazing responsibilities – no American company would give us this much opportunity. We’re working on everything from product development through to everyday interactions with buyers such as checking on shipping and costings. We also help coordinate the sampling process.

3. Describe the sampling process?

Christina: There are three kinds of buyers: those that give us full specifications, where the design’s completely thought out and we just have to translate to our production team; those that have a rough idea, or partial specs, and we figure out how to make it and then tell them; and then those buyers who purchase in-house Conserve India designs.

Jenna: It’s pretty much just like doing up a prototype – the clients want to see and feel before they order in bulk.

4. Are you adding any new designs to the Conserve India catalogue?

Christina: We’re both working on designs that make best use of the Conserve India HRP (Handmade Recycled Plastic). The material is quiet stiff so were trying to come up with designs that showcase the uniqueness of this material and hopefully create a niche style in the current market.

5. So how’s living in Delhi?

Christina: It’s a really interesting place – full of contradictions and extremes. In the same suburb you can pass by slums and then find yourself at a brand new shopping mall with the top design houses like Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Jenna: There’s just so much going on in this city, sometimes it’s over stimulation. Took some getting used to but now it’s good.

6. Have you notice the preparation for the Commonwealth Games?

Christina: There’s construction everywhere – the city is changing so rapidly, every road seems to be undergoing transformation.

Jenna: Even Connaught Place, the central business district, is being completely torn up and reconstructed for the Games. It’s ironic that you need to create such a mess to beautify a place.

7. Are you going to the Games?

Christina: I want to! But it depends on my budget.

Jenna: Yeah totally. I really want to see the aquatic and gymnastics events.

8. What next after finishing your internships in December?

Jenna: I’m heading to New Zealand but don’t have any firm plans while I’m there. I’d like to work on a farm, maybe a sheep farm – I’m really into weaving so it’d be cool to do things with the wool. I’ll just be excited to be in nature after living in such a big city for six months.

Christina: I’m going to Egypt to meet a friend who’s studying in Ghana. Then we’re headed to Vienna to meet another friend and do some organic farming and volunteer projects – there’s a camel farm in Austria we just have to work at. But while we’re travelling I’ll be trying to collect waste and make handicrafts and possibly trying to pick up some design experience in Europe. It’s all pretty open.

2000 and Zen

18 Sep

End of another lo-o-ong week. We’ve had a few positive leads about accessing Games waste but none are fully confirmed yet. On Thursday I went down with a fever (luckily not dengue, just garden variety flu). While I’ve felt pretty crummy for the last couple of days, it has given me time to revisit those 5 personal goals from the start of this blog.

Three weeks in, and I can say I’ve learnt a huge amount about Delhi – food, etiquette and the way things get done. But the health and wellbeing has definitely taken a bit of a nose dive.

Liz spider diagram 2

I also managed to get my Delhi-based office (aka my bedroom) organised. While sorting through my things I found my Zen Calendar. Towards the end of last year I started telling friends and family I was renaming 2010 – 2000 and zen. This was to reflect my hope for a year of more balance and positive changes. As a joke, friends of mine bought me a Zen Page-A-Day Calendar.

At first I just laughed and marvelled at how they’d found such a classic gift. Then gradually, usually over breakfast, I started flicking through the quotes. Many were so…zen, they made my frontal lobe shrink. But occasionally a page would stand out, staying with me for days at a time.

This page has been a particular inspiration behind my involvement in this project – the quotes have been on my fridge door for the last 9 months.

no such thing as trash

Image courtesy of David Schiller's Zen Page-A-Day 2010 Calendar

To me, the Zuigan Roshi quote is a simple truth. And, although it feels like I’m free-falling a bit lately – and I’m not entirely sure when that net’s going to show up – it was good to re-read them.

They’re going ‘straight to the pool room’ (in my case, a patch of wall above my desk).

More soon.

Cats and Dogs (and Monkeys!)

14 Sep

Yesterday I woke up to rain again – the big ‘ole fat rain that really does sound like a household pet dancing a jig on the roof. The media is saying it’s the wettest September in years. The extended monsoon is causing havoc with the roads and swelling the Yamuna River to near flooding point.

Part driving, part sailing along a Delhi street to work

It’s even made it hard for me to leave my flat!

I’m worried about the Games – how will they ever finish the venues and deliver such a big event if they don’t have good weather?

And it’s not just rain, over the two weeks I’ve been here the city has endured problems with marauding monkeys and an outbreak of conjunctivitis. On the weekend I asked my local newsagent why he was wearing dark sunglasses. He replied, “I have the eye flu ma’am.”

Even more worrying is the recent rise of dengue fever cases. Last week the Hindu reported several members of India’s cycling team had contracted the fever.

All of these issues create challenging circumstances for staging a major sporting event. And our project is connected to this event – if the Games is facing difficulties, then our project struggles too.

But it’s not only the project I’m concerned about. I’ve realised I’m personally caught up in the story of this event and this city; every day I scan the paper looking for good news about the Games, willing the rain to hold off.

Although I’m not much of a sports fan, I find I really want these Games to be a successful event – for all of the athletes (especially the Indian cyclists) and for this city and its residents.

What do you think? Will the Games make it, will Delhi pull it off?

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