Jane Binnion column

Jane Binnion.
Jane Binnion.

Last week I wrote about many of us are trying to find the balance between a traditional slower life and the new fast digi-age.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Synergize conference at Lancaster University, organised by the Catalyst team as part of the university’s 50th birthday celebrations.

Now the idea of attending a conference on innovation at the university can be a bit intimidating.

We all know that when tecchies start talking most of us mere mortals just glaze over, but there were many brilliant presentations by people working in collaboration with the community to use new technologies to find solutions to everyday problems.

For example a device for adults with autism to squeeze when they get distressed, which sends a text message to their named allies, who can then offer support.

This is clearly something that could be rolled out to other groups too.

It’s all too easy to get carried away with complicated technological problems, going for bigger, better and more expensive, like the annual update of the iphone, so it was a breath of fresh air to listen to people that valued simple low tech solutions to help people to tell their stories and get their voices heard.

One such project is being run by Rachel Keller of Lancaster, working with a family centre in Cumbria on a textiles project which, when scanned, each piece of a quilt reveals it’s story.

This idea is now going to be used by a mother whose disabled child gets very distressed whenever she leaves, so that he will have a quilt which has his mother’s voice to comfort him.

I left after the two days inspired and excited that we’re in an age with such will and resource to create things that add genuine benefit to people’s lives.

I then ended my week by being taken back to the 1800s.

I attended a business awards event at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, a building with a stunning interior which opened in 1878. And as we drove home via Blackpool illuminations we knew that we had Humphry Davy to thank, as in 1800 he started the process that led to the electric light bulb, which we now take totally for granted. Thank goodness for innovation, eh?