The 2018 Aladdin Pantomime Launch Party – By Molly-Tastic Treves

Hello,

As you may know last year I attended my local theatre (The Hazlitt Theatre) pantomime launch party. The pantomime last year was about Cinderella, and I was very humbled to be selected to attend the opening night performance, as well as the launch party.

So this year I got a very exciting email about attending the launch party for their new pantomime ‘Aladdin’, and I could not say no.

So this blog post is all about my experience about the launch party and some exciting cast interviews! So lets begin!

Once I arrived at the canal edge I was greeted by the crew of the theatre, and waited for the boat (yes a boat!) to pick up the interviewers, bloggers and students for the launch party. Whilst the boat was trying to dock at the river edge, the cast from the pantomime were on the boat waving and greeting everyone.

As soon as they docked the cast had a group photo in front of the boat, which was a great opportunity to get some close-up pictures! Then we all set off for the hour journey to celebrate the new pantomime.

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Once the boat had set off, we heard a speech from the manager of the theatre giving his thanks to the cast, crew, interviewers, students and brands on board the boat supplying lunch and drinks.

After he ended the speech everyone dispersed, trying to interview the cast and grabbing great photo opportunities. For me one thing was on my mind, and that was my anxiety.

Although I had done this last year, I only managed to grab a few interviews. However I was fairly determined to make the most of this amazing opportunity and get more than just a few interviews, even if that meant pushing my anxiety down the deepest, darkest hole for a solid hour. (A tip when doing interviews: take rescue remedy, it helps A LOT!)

Luckily, I had prepared notes before going, so I had my trusty notebook full of quirky and interesting questions to ask the cast. I had to say I was pleased with myself, and I was really determined to get to know the cast.

The first cast member I interviewed was Erina Lewis who plays the ‘Slave Of The Ring’, and I have to say she was a great person to start off the interviews and was very friendly, which helped my anxiety to calm the heck down.

Question One: What was the funniest moment of your carer?

Answer: I was on a bus with a friend one day, and we slept through a trailer explosion. At the time we had no idea what happened, and we were quite lucky that none of us got hurt.

Question Two: What is the most unique part of your job?

Answer: The most unique part is changing up the roles I play. Being unique is a great thing about acting.

Question Three: What is your favourite thing to do at Christmas?

Answer: My favourite thing to do at Christmas is having family time. I also like wrapping presents and pantomimes.

Question Four: If you had a magic lamp, what your three wishes be?

Answer: My first wish is for World Peace. My second wish is a new handbag. And my last wish is for three more wishes.

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The next interview I gave was with Richard Blackwood who plays The Genie. Richard was really friendly and a great guy to give questions to. And most of you might know him from playing a role in the TV show EastEnders.

Question One: What was the funniest moment of your carer?

Answer: I was on MTV and it was a live show. I had messed up some of the script to start with, and as it was live I couldn’t mess up anything else. And then at one point I hit my knee so hard I had so much pain, but for the show I needed to play it off like nothing had happened. When the show ended I passed out from so much pain.

Question Two: What is the most unique part of your job?

Answer: The most unique part of my job is entertaining the audience.

Question Three: What is your favourite thing to do at Christmas?

Answer: My favourite thing to do is opening the presents.

Question Four: If you had a magic lamp, what your three wishes be?

Answer: The first wish would be three more wishes. The next wish would be to be happy. And the last wish would be to be rich.

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The third person I interviewed was Tim Hudson AKA Widow Twankey. From listening to Tim, his carer sounded funny and very busy.

Question One: What was the funniest moment of your carer?

Answer: I was in the play ‘Hamlet’ and in the play Hamlet’s father tells him to avenge his death. So the actors swore and the front row of the audience was shocked and it made them jump.

Question Two: What is the most unique part of your job?

Answer: I would say the variety of shows and places you go to.

Question Three: What is your favourite thing to do at Christmas?

Answer: My favourite thing about Christmas is Christmas Day. I like seeing the kids open their presents and watching the Queens speech, but unfortunately I the only one who watches it. (We both laughed about this)

Question Four: If you had a magic lamp, what your three wishes be?

Answer: My wish is to have three people to attend a dinner party with me. They would be: Elvis Presley, King Richard and Laurence Olivier.

After I finished these interviews I talked more with the cast casually and took some pictures of them in and around the boat. This is one of the nicest things about the cast and crew. They are all so friendly and don’t mind if you have an extra question or you want a small picture with them right at the last-minute.

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After all the lovely interviews and pictures we docked and left the launch party. I have to say a huge thank you to the Hazlitt Theatre for inviting me it was one of the most memorable experiences this year. And a big thank you to the cast who were super friendly and lovely towards me and my interviews, I can’t tell you how much that means.

Molly-Tastic Treves

‘Aladdin’ is running from the 1st to 31st of December 2018 at the Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone. You can buy tickets at here

Creative Wellbeing Course – June to July 2018 – Ashford

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Creative Wellbeing will be a free creative course involving writing, arts and activities, with a focus on wellbeing and positive mental health. 

By the end of the six weeks, participants will have had fun, gained new skills, contributed to a book that the whole community can enjoy, met new people, and have a better understanding of how creativity can support their wellbeing and health.

Tuesday evenings, 7.15 – 8.45pm

19/06/2018 – scrapbooking with Betsy Aidinyantz

26/06/2018 – creative writing with Connor Sansby

03/07/2018 – bath bombs with Natasha Steer

10/07/2018 – motivational art with Georgina Cooper

17/07/2018 – inspirational typography with Kate Tompsett

24/07/2018 – poetry with Dave Horn

Ashford Volunteer Centre, Berwick House, 8 Elwick Road, Ashford TN23 1PF

To book please register here, or email info@bauhauscafe.co.uk or fbaker@live.co.uk

Places are free, but limited. Whilst we recommend people sign up for the whole series, it is not necessary, and people are welcome to come to as many as suits them.

The workshops are supported by OneStop Carriers for Causes Fund.

Helping Where It Hurts – My Experience of Helping Families Impacted By the Grenfell Tower Fire – By Natasha Steer

The first time I arrived in the W10 area in August 2017, I travelled via car from the hostel I was staying in, loaded up with art equipment to run workshops for families affected by the Grenfell fire. I was later glad I had approached the workshop with almost rose-tinted glasses, traveling straight to the workshop space. I’m not sure I would have initially been able to deliver that session in the same way, had I seen the Grenfell tower first, I will explain later.

I had responded to a call out for volunteers to help with the summer activity programme via Arts Emergency. I then asked whether people in my network would like to help with purchasing materials, knowing that it really wasn’t all that far away from Medway and my own community had been impacted too. Paint The Town festival also kindly sponsored the workshops which paid for enough materials for 2 workshop sessions and my travel costs.

The session in August went so well, the venue was absolutely packed and I had multiple craft activities on offer. First we had wooden boat decorating, then T-Shirt printing, then stress putty! Something so tactile like this can be an excellent stress reliever – some of them couldn’t leave it alone for the rest of the afternoon!

All the people there were a delight to work with and it was reassuring to know there were trained counsellors present in case any families needed support. I brought a friend too, Saira, who has over 20 year experience in nursing. I have training in mental health first aid for young people, but my experience so far had never amounted to a local disaster like this.

There wasn’t anything in particular I could say was different about the workshop, young people are at first glance so resistant – often inside there are a lot more issues, that they may not have even realised yet. I could tell the young people and parents really appreciated the effort everyone was making to support them and provide distracting activities.

And heck do they need distraction.

Once the workshop was finished myself and Saira made our way to Latimer Road station. The walls of the pathways leading to the station are covered in memorials, missing posters, and big big signs demonstrating an understandable anger of residents – One sticks in my mind in particular, just reading “WHY?”.

Then we reached the station, where the Grenfell tower itself looms over the community. We all know what it looks like don’t we? I thought I did. But let me make it clear, nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for how black that tower is, it is completely incinerated. Myself and Saira look up, tearfully and discuss the tragedy. We discuss when we found out, both unaware initially of the real devastation – us both knowing we will probably never really know the true devastation in fact. Only that community truly knows and to this day it is being very well disguised as to how and why the tragedy happened.

Visiting again today (11th November) months later, the missing posters have turned to beautiful memorials and shrines for those who are definitely lost. I’m not talking small hidden memorials, the whole of Bramley Road is decorated. My heart sinks. Most people across the UK have stopped talking about the incident, and yet every day families STILL have to deal with the bereavement. People are still living in hotels having not been rehoused yet, the council clearly not being quick to lend a hand in housing communities in the area they live due to London rent prices.

A stall is next to the station raising awareness of a people’s inquiry into exactly what happened that day and promoting prevention of it ever happening again. The lady on the stall explains she’s heard a PR company have been commissioned to take care of the way news about Grenfell is presented. I don’t know what to say.

 

Today running a second session for the amazing project “Kids on The Green”, I did notice children’s behaviour being more unsettled than previously. The impact of what happened would do that, especially over time with a lot still not being resolved 5 months on. Bereavement and loss will always have an impact somehow. That’s why I wanted to help in some way, even just to be a friendly face.

If you would like to help families impacted by the Grenfell fire you can donate to the Kids On The Green Project via You Caring www.youcaring.com/kidsonthegreenfamilies-886162

Thank you to Paint The Town Festival for sponsoring the bulk of my workshop costs and to the following people for their additional amazing support:

Anne Marie-Jordan

Emma Williams (Shadow Paper Cuts)

Sue Ranson

Jacqueline Racham

Launch of Cinderella Pantomime – Maidstone – By Molly Treves

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Hello!

I recently got offered an opportunity to go to a press launch event for a Christmas Pantomime.   When I was offered the chance I was delighted, and couldn’t refuse such an amazing opportunity.

The event was being held for one of my local Theatre’s version of the classic tale,  Cinderella. It is this years Christmas Pantomime, where the cast interact with the audience and talk A LOT about Christmas. I mean who doesn’t love a Christmas Pantomime? Filled with Christmas cheer, holiday spirits and an indoor fireworks finale.

When I arrived at the venue, I was greeted by lovely staff and cast characters. It was a friendly and  warm welcome, which is what I needed as I was feeling a bit anxious. The cast were dressed in full costume and they all looked lovely.                                                       I bet you’re wondering where the event was held? Amazingly the event was held on a boat! How cool is that?!

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The boat was called ‘The Kentish Lady’. It has an outside decking area and a large indoor room. The boat is a canal boat and is used for short hour long trips along the river, it also runs longer round trips of the local river. I have been on the boat before, but I don’t remember much of the trip as it was a few years ago.

On board the boat, Wagamamas served food and a local gin distillery was serving gin and tonics. The food was lovely and tasted amazing! By the way I didn’t drink the gin as I’m too young!

There were many cast members who are well known and friendly Celebrities. The cast members are Stefan Booth (Prince Charming), Rustie Lee (The Fairy Godmother), Adam Borzone  and Stephen Richards (The Ugly Sister Of No Mercy), Craig Anderson (Buttons) and Elizabeth Bright (Cinderella). All the Actors and Actresses were so lovely and  kind to me, and loved hearing about what I want to pursue as my future career. They all wished me well in my future, and they also let me ask them a few questions about their career.

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At the very beginning of the event, there was a small Q&A for the cast members. Someone asked how they felt about Theatres not getting much funding any more. The cast replied by saying that they want children to be able to experience the magic of the Pantomime as it is often their first introduction to Shows. It can also encourage them to get involved with performing themselves. The Cast said that they love seeing the audience interact with them. They also said it means a lot to them how people are still coming to the theatre, to watch pantomimes and plays. I thought this was a lovely thing for the cast to say. For them to care about the audience is just a lovely thing to do.

Rustie was telling us about the first time she was in a Pantomime on stage. She said her three year old son was in the audience, and loved seeing his mum on stage. Just before she was about to sing, her son yelled “That’s my mummy!”. This made us all laugh, and smile.

The views and scenery on the boat were very beautiful, and it was such a lovely sunny day. I think we all felt in the Christmas spirit, as the cast yelled “Merry Christmas!” when the boat docked in.

The characters that Adam Borzone and Stephen Richards play are called the Sisters of No Mercy. They wore colourful dresses, and very tall hats. They also wore very bright and colourful wigs, which they adjusted from time to time. Whilst on the boat, the boys struggled to walk around as the boat had a low ceiling. Luckily the boat did have small raised windows in the ceilings, so the boys were able to stand under them without having to bend their backs awkwardly.

An interesting thing that I found out, was that some of the cast hand-make their costumes. They also re-use old costumes instead of buying or remaking new one’s. I found it really interesting and useful to know, that they care about reusing and recycling. There are up to ten costume changes per show which one of the Ugly sisters of No Mercy said is tiring but great fun as they all represent a different part of Christmas.

One of the other things that I found interesting, is that some of the cast wanted to be Actors and Actresses since they were little. When I was talking to Craig, he was saying he started acting lessons when he was five and continued until the age of sixteen.

I asked Elizabeth when do they start rehearsals? She told me they only start rehearsing one week before the actual show! I got a bit shocked as I thought they would start very soon. She did say that the children who star in the show as well, start rehearsals in a few week’s. There are eight teams of Children as they can only work restricted hours. I told her I remember going to acting lessons, and remember the stress of rehearsals. I even asked her ‘if she had a Fairy Godmother, what would be her wish?’. She replied with “I will have to go with world peace. As it’s something that can help everyone.”.

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The whole day was amazing and I can’t wait for more opportunities like this. Thank you to the Hazlitt Theatre for letting me come to your amazing event! Also thank you to Natasha for giving me your space, I loved it!

Well that’s it for now, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

Bye for now!

Molly

The UK’s First Road Safety Experience Uses Immersive Teaching To Save Lives

Last year I was invited to a Medway Dementia Action Alliance meeting at the new Kent Fire and Rescue Service building in Rochester, Kent. When I arrived I imagined we would be going into a boardroom as normal and that Kent Fire and Rescue Service were just kindly hosting us. We had been warned that if we wanted to attend the Road Safety Experience as well, then to arrive early. We were also warned not to attend this if we were of a sensitive disposition.

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As I entered the large foyer there was a crashed car in the middle of the floor. With my associates around me waiting, I presumed this was where the Road Safety Experience began. However this was not the case, and we were lead into a new room which was beautifully laid out as a small cinema.

I instantly realised I had completed misinterpreted the lovely new building – having opened in April 2016, this was no mere fire station as I had for some reason presumed (or fire station in the typical sense at all it turned out) or Kent Fire and Rescue Service HQ – this was an immersive teaching centre.

As I sat down and the lights dimmed, a film began to play. A young man who has been drinking gets into his car, turns his music up loud and drives off rapidly without fastening his seatbelt (literal schoolboy error). The music pumps out loudly from the cinemas speakers and you are taken into the young teenagers world. The excitement of driving through the night from one destination to the next, music blasting and making the car vibrate.

Of course, just as in harsh reality, this does not end well. The young man crashes and he and all his belongings go flying through and around the car. As the chaos ends he is left in the darkness – his phone vibrates and bleep’s with a text from his mum saying “Are u okay?”. The screen goes black and I hear sirens. Then, something completely unexpected happens, the screen the film was projected onto bounces up and disappears – revealing the car crash reenacted. Car debris are scattered across the stage area and the car is in carnage. We didn’t get the full experience on this occasion, but usually there would be firemen who come out to reenact the difficult task of trying to cut someone out of a car crash.

I could not actually believe what I was seeing, this was theatre being used to educate young minds, in a setting that was completely unexpected. I was so excited that someone, a group of people even, had been smart enough to realise the value of creativity and immersion for education.

I planned to visit again and take a deeper insight into the centre and what it was about, so I re-visited in December 2016.

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I sat down with road safety manager Lawrence Pater over a coffee and we discussed the way the Road Safety Experience came about. Lawrence explained that there were some vital lessons they wanted people to learn through the experience – from risk assessing an accident scene through to knowing that it is definitely 999 that you call in an emergency.

Lawrence asked me “When you were 16 did you worry about much else apart from yourself?” “No!” I replied laughing. “This is the issue, many young people do not think about situations outside of themselves, therefore we have to try and reach their heart to adopt a change in behaviour”. The point about behavioral change was a clear one, Kent Fire and Rescue are a trusted ‘brand’ to begin with – which helps people to listen and believe. Additionally,  the ‘experience’ rather than simple classroom teaching has more of an impact – you as an audience member, or even participant (I will explain in a minute) become involved.

Lawrence explained that the increase in drink driving and drug driving was becoming of such a serious concern, that something had to change to educate young people to be aware of the dangers. The centre is the first and only purpose built road safety experience in the UK – and we are lucky enough to have it here in Medway. I had to ask “How was this place and concept designed? It is so unique!”. “Students were involved in the design, they gave feedback about what would have the most impact and what they would engage with the most” Lawrence replied.

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I watched students from a local academy as they toured the other various experiences in the building.  There was a ‘bar’ scene where students had to guess how much alcohol they were “allowed” to drink before being over the limit. They then moved on to a large roulette wheel, where students had to guess the answers to certain questions and battle against their friends to score points. Then came the obligatory goggle glasses test, where students were asked to walk and balance on a raised platform.

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I asked some of the students about the experience and what had the most impact in the centre. They all agreed that it was the film, which is the the introduction to the experience day. Charlotte, 17, commented “When the young man crashed and his mum text him asking if he was okay, that really got to me. It made me think about how you should think about your parents when driving. Also I have learnt today that even if you were drinking the night before, you might still be over the limit the following morning and not be equipped to drive”.

I had a brief chat with a teacher who had brought her students to the centre, she said “This is a really good way of engaging students – it is realistic and has clear messages. The space is clearly designed for delivery and is very interactive – however it is also serious and had a clear impact on the student’s mood because this is a real danger”.

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Immersive teaching, often created by theatre groups like “Punchdrunk” or creative organisations “Ministry of Stories”, moves hearts and minds. “Visitor feedback tells us that immersive environments create the most memorable experiences” says Sarah Lockwood (Head of Learning and Interpretation at the National Maritime Museum) in a video about “Against Captain’s Orders” which was created at the museum by Punchdrunk.

The difference with Punchdrunk is they create theatrical immersive teaching experiences within spaces that would usually not usually have such. Kent Fire and Rescue Service have however created a permanent immersive teaching space that will likely be shaped by the needs of the time. Take a look at KidZania if you want to see a really full on version of what immersive teaching can look like!

 I can only hope that the future of education includes even more immersive teaching. Let me know if you have seen other great examples of what immersive teaching can look like!

To find out more visit www.kent.fire-uk.org or/and watch the video below.

By Natasha Steer

Riverside One Studios – Rehearsal Recording and Gig Space – Chatham

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Started by Nucleus Arts in conjunction with Jamie Johnson, Riverside One Studios is a new music project in Chatham, Kent.

Jamie Johnson is a local singer/songwriter from Gillingham, Kent who appeared on national TV as Kylie Minogue’s finalist on The Voice in 2014.

Jamie’s experience has inspired him to help aspiring musicians. Their plan is to try to help anyone who has a passion for music and wishes to find the next step to building a career in the music industry or just some friendly advice on what they can do to improve. 

Many of you may remember the Riverside One building as the council venue on Dock Road, next to the bus station. A really great location as you can see it from the new bus station and it’s only a 5 minute walk from the train station.

The idea behind the studios is to have a place where anyone can come together to write, rehearse and record music. We are also able to offer teaching, mentoring and other sessions that support budding musicians in Medway.

Riverside One has 1 small rehearsal/writing room, 1 large recording/rehearsal/performance space and 1 main control studio room with the facilities to record a single or an album. 

 

 

Riverside One Studiosalso works with people who may be at risk of social exclusion as part their “Art Inclusive” programme. This currently involves a joint project with The Princes Trust, where together they are offering young people in unemployment the opportunity to learn more about making music and the music industry. Contact Nucleus Arts to find out more.

Riverside One are also able to offer music lessons including guitar and singing lessons through various partners.

Room Hire:

Main Rehearsal Room – 4 Hours £40 Or £13 Per Hour

Small Rehearsal/Writing Rooms – 4 Hours £30 Or £11 Per Hour

Recording:

Full day – 8 hours £200

Half day – 4 hours £120

Recording – £30 per hour

Ep package – 2 full days of recording £380

Live Music Event Hire: From £15ph

If you would like to donate towards the studios it is never too late….. Please visit the following ‘go fund me’ page :

www.gofundme.com/riversideonestudio

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Escape Plan Live – Immersive Game At It’s Best – Chatham

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I first completed an Escape Plan Live Experience last year in 2015. Myself, Mr Creatabot and 3 friends had to solve some coded lock puzzles in the Gatehouse section of Fort Amherst. We had a brilliant time and learnt how the game worked by thinking about where the codes might be hidden. To win the game I would say you have to think in a non-linear fashion, very much out of the box.

I think 1 year may have been a little too long a time to have passed between games, as I will explain later.

Having helped facilitate the concept of including Escape Plan Live in the meanwhile use of Medway’s old housing benefits office, Riverside One, I had to of course try out the newest edition of rooms. Despite having been around during the refit of the space and being delighted about them making use of the old council advice booths (out of the box in the box thinking there) I tried to avoid plot spoilers as much as possible, so luckily had no idea of what to expect during my visit on Tuesday.

We played the game “Conspiracy” which sees the story of a murdered detective friend unfold. We were given 1 hour to get ourselves out of the room and find the codes the detective had carefully hidden. When I say hidden, well that’s an understatement. The codes for the padlocks, attached to a briefcase, were hidden in so so many places and ways in the room. The set was brilliant and very immersive, these guys really know how to design a space.

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I will repeat, I regret having left it so long since the last game! Despite there being a full group of 8 of us, we ran out of time. Those 60 minutes sped by and when we found out clues (a hidden item that I was convinced was in the room somewhere, was in an obvious place) we felt like fools!

I am not typing this from the room though, so we were allowed to leave despite our failure to solve the game, phew! I highly recommend having a go of Escape Plan Live, it is great for team building, getting to know friends better, experiencing something out of the ordinary and of course really really fun!

To see the variety of games and find out more, visit www.escapeplanlive.com

By Natasha Steer

30th June 2016

 

A Visit To Dismaland – Weston-super-Mare – 2015

IMG_3709In August 2015, myself and Mr Creatabot took a crazy spur of the moment trip to Dismaland. The site had only been open 2 days and we didn’t even know if we would get in as pre-ticket sales were not going online and people were astoundingly disturbed by this. We decided to bite the bullet and drive from Kent to Weston-super-mare overnight – to be at the front of the queue first thing in the morning.

For those of you who do not know what Dismaland was, it was an immersive site responsive exhibition in an abandoned Lido, dismally and slightly inspired by Disneyland, which turned popular culture on its head and instead focussed on activism and anti-consumerism. The experience consisted of a group exhibition of varying artists who are unafraid to use art as a tool for challenging the ethics/non-ethics that people follow. Banksy very much acted as head curator and Dismaland featured a selection of his pieces of work.

The staff were miserable and very unhelpful, which was absolutely brilliant to watch in regards to the public approaching them for help. There were quite a few people who seemed to think it was the chance to have a cheap day out with the kids (entrance was £3). I think they realised they may have made a mistake as they clambered round puddles and reached the Museum of Cruel Designs (curated by Dr Gavin Grindon from the University’s School of Philosophy and Art History) explaining how animal slaughter and the weapons trade breaks all basic morals. The tears small children shed while queuing added to the atmosphere though.

For myself and Mr Creatabot, we understood the message many of the pieces of work were sending – this was about using creativity to educate and as a tool for activism. We realised much of this would go over peoples heads – but we are very glad that Dismaland had over 150,000 visitors and we can only hope that some people took away more than just artistic inspiration with them – and I don’t mean by stealing exhibits.

If you had the chance to visit Dismaland, what was your favourite piece/experience?

 

A Slightly More Interesting Interview With Two Cat Inspired Artists

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Slightly More Interesting are a Kent based artist duo who have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new range of brightly coloured cat inspired cards.

I was very pleased when not only did they agree to be interviewed but also created an exclusive Creatabot inspired cat design!

Who are you and where are you?

We are Paul Flood and Matt Hayward and we have lived in Medway all our lives. We work pretty much exclusively from Matts bedroom/office.

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Why illustrations and why cat illustrations?

We chose cats as we both have two cats each and when your bedroom is your office then the Cats are your colleagues. We were both huge fans of Garfield cartoons when we were children and so when thinking of creating a cat project, illustration seemed the obvious choice for us.

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The real bosses at Slightly More Interesting…

Are you self taught creatives?

We both went to KIAD when we came out of school but both continued on with self teaching after we had finished our courses.

Matt specialised in digital design and I (Paul) worked primarily in ink. Through the process and other previous designs I have been learning the craft of digital design using Photoshop and Illustrator.

Congratulations on reaching your Kickstarter target! Can we expect to see many new characters in the new year or will moggies stay the focus?

We are already planning the future of our creation that will expand out into film/tv and video game homage designs staring out kitty creation.

We would also love to do an extensive range of ethnic holiday themed cards also. The thought has crossed our mind to include other animals in the future but for now it will be centred, much as our lives are, around the cats.

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Who inspires you?

We have been recently infulenced by Matt Groening, Justin Roiland and Ralph Steadman and would love to do a few future designs showing more influence of other styles while still keeping the integrity of the cat character intact.

Do you have a favourite type of music to listen to while creating?

Our creativity has recently had the soundtrack of many a podcast such as Grandma’s Virginity, No such thing as a fish, Down the line and RHLSTP.

What is your favourite place in Medway?

For us, Rochester castle Gardens is the best place to spend a day sketching and coming up with new ideas along with intermittent rounds of frisbee.


Thank you so much for talking to us and thank you so much for the amazing Creatabot Cat! I think I will be ordering a batch of cards for Creatabot supporters!

Please support Slightly More Interesting and back their Kickstarter by visiting www.kickstarter.com/projects/1337916852/cat-cards and making a pledge in return for some of their wonderful cards to call your own.

By Natasha Steer

Star Wars Day

The Dismal Time Machine – Medway Fun Palace 2015 – How It Was Made and Why

The Medway Fun Palace took place on the 3rd of October at Nucleus Arts in Chatham. After a lot of thought about what I might be able to contribute, I decided that with the impending Back To The Future II date in mind ( 21st of October 2015) I would create a Time Machine.

You see the problem already don’t you? For many weeks I was not quite sure how this was going to work. But I knew I would need a lot of boxes, due to the lack of a flux capacitor. In one of the Fun Palace meetings we spoke about lighting, a smoke machine, audio…within some type of large card box! 

Then one day, as I walked past a local greengrocers, I discovered tomato boxes. They are strong and they stack, and I have hot glue! What more could I need? Ah yes a helping hand!

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The boxes piled up in the Nucleus office!

Queue some workshops! Thank you to Stephen Bartholomew and family, Laura Fisher and family, Debbie Crow and Ben Boardman for supporting this crazy idea. Also Nucleus Arts for supporting the Time Machine project by providing space!

I soon realised that there was something missing as the machine started to take shape. It was lacking some comedy based around the fact the machine was made of tomato boxes. Then I realised, here was a strong connection to the absolutely incredible Dismaland, which I had been to within the first 3 days of opening may I add because…I am impatient. I started to plan how I could include an edge of Dismal to the experience for those who hadn’t made it to the real thing. I was so pleased when Esther agreed to be my fellow miserable colleague, to open the Time Machine to visitors.

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One of the installations at Dismaland – by Paul Insect

The machine took around 10 hours to finish, there was (did I mention?) tomato boxes, packing tape, gaffa tape and a lot of hot glue holding the machine together! We probably used around 100 small sticks of hot glue!

Once the ceiling had been secured, which mainly meant flat cardboard being securely taped to the box walls, the machine was surprisingly strong! This really is a great way to build an art installation.

Time Machine frame complete!
Time Machine frame complete!

We covered the inside of the machine with VHS tapes and weird vintage photographs, one was of a woman, Florence Priscilla, on an electric scooter in 1916.

Florence Priscilla
Florence Priscilla

I just had to make some finishing touches on the Saturday morning, get the fog machine going, and most importantly play the Power Of Love by Huey Lewis & The News and the Back To The Future Theme on a loop (I didn’t once get sick of it!). 

Someone brought their own mini installation of vicious, dangerous My Little Pony models, which were displayed to a backing track of “Only The Horses” By Scissor Sisters.

As our willing tourists came in they were handed an old Nokia mobile and given instructions to have a good time, but not too much of a good time. They walked through the machine to then be “greeted” by my assistant who told them there was a range of activities including climbing through a box, that went to no where, or taking a photo in the selfie hole.

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She explained though whatever they chose not to tell her as she didn’t really care. Anyone who touched the My Little Pony models were firmly told to not touch them as they were wild savage beasts. 

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They then got a text saying ” Now Get Out”.

Now I can’t really explain why…but we have over 100 people come through the Time Machine, some people even came back a second time. So that makes this my most successful exhibition yet. I didn’t have to smile once, which was great as I was ill. Unfortunately I couldn’t help but laugh quite a few times due to my assistants amazing improvisation, which at one point consisted of her telling visitors what happened to the last person that touched the ponies. She also told people to keep moving through the machine otherwise there won’t be a future for them to go to.

The entrance!
The entrance!
Inside the Time Machine
Inside the Time Machine

It really was a great day, we confused a lot of people, one lady left before she even went in (see, ‘actual’ time travel) one child cried. Definitely a success.

By Natasha Steer

natasha@creatabot.co.uk


On October the 3rd and 4th 2015 Fun Palaces took place across the UK. Fun Palaces are about creating and making together: they are a space where arts and sciences, fun and learning meet, working alongside and working together. See www.funpalaces.co.uk for more information. 

Steve Sinyard Talks About Why He Has Peanut Butter Fingers

logoNew indie clothing brandPeanut Butter Fingers has just been launched by Kent based designer Steve Sinyard. The brands look brings a refreshing look to the future of street wear and connected art prints. I caught up with Steve to ask him some questions about the edgy new brand.

So Steve, what role do you play in PBF?

So Peanut Butter Fingers is just run by me, all designs, social media everything is me with a little help from my girlfriend Lauren and my sister, Ally, who writes some of the blog content.

What made you set it up?

I won a Puma competition back in 2013 where I got to design Professor Green’s Limited Edition t – shirt. I loved seeing something I designed on clothing and from there I just had the bug for it!

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Where are you based?

I’m from Medway and lived there most of my life, for the past year I’ve been living in Tunbridge Wells but I’m back in Maidstone now.

Are you a multi-creative?

Illustration is my main passion, I’ve just moved into a flat with my girlfriend who loves to restore furniture so I’ve been helping out with that lately, I’d love to get into some water-colouring in the near feature.

Where would you love the brand to end up?

I don’t really have a main aim or goal for this, just going to see where it goes. I’d love to just be walking down the street and see some strangers, maybe a famous face or 2 wearing Peanut Butter Fingers.

A question I ask everyone – what’s your work soundtrack?

Current soundtrack at the moment… I’m listening to a lot of (local bands) Slaves, Wolf Alice, Mallory Knox and my all time favourite band, The Dykeenies – check them out! It all depends what mood I’m in, if I’m in a more relaxed mood I like to listen to a few comedy podcasts.

See the collection at www.peanutbutterfingers.co

You will be able to see more of the Peanut Butter Fingers brand and meet Steve at the Nucleus Arts Centre “ArtsFest” on the 16th May.

By Natasha Steer

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New singing groups set-up to help improve mental health and wellbeing in West Kent and Medway

cccu-logo-2colourFour newly established singing groups across west Kent and Medway are looking for members who enjoy singing and want to improve their health and mental wellbeing.

The groups have been organised by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, in conjunction with Kent County Council’s Wellbeing campaign. They are free to attend and open to all. Participants will sing and enjoy well-known songs with the help of skilled group leaders, with the aim to provide opportunities for social interaction, reduce stress and increase self-confidence, fun and enjoyment. Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre, explained: “Our research has shown that regular group singing can be beneficial for overall general wellbeing, as well having a positive impact upon specific health and mental conditions.The singing groups we have set-up in West Kent and Medway replicate a set of groups that were set-up in East Kent in 2011 to assess the impact the activity had upon mental wellbeing. We found that participants reaped the benefits of social interaction and peer support offered through the groups, which helped to clinically improve their mental health conditions. Some of the benefits experienced by the participants included, an increase in self-worth and self-confidence, a reduction in stress, an improvement in memory and concentration and a sense of inclusion.The singing groups in East Kent were successful in helping to improve the mental health wellbeing of the participants and proved to be a cost-effective health strategy. We hope to see the same positive benefits for the members of West Kent and Medway singing groups.” The groups run weekly across four venues in West Kent and Medway:

  • Chatham – Thursday, 11.00am-12.30pm, All Saints Community Centre, Magpie Hall Road, Chatham, ME4 5NE
  • Dartford – Wednesday,1.00-2.30pm, Meadowside Day Centre, Meadowside, Dartford, DA1 2RZ
  • Maidstone – Tuesday, 4.30-6.00pm, Maidstone Community Support Centre, 39-48 Marsham Street, Maidstone, ME14 1HH
  • Sevenoaks – Friday, 12.00-1.30pm, Vine Baptist Church, Park Lane, Sevenoaks, TN13 3UP

For more details please contact Sharon Manship on 01634 894472 or email: sharon.manship@canterbury.ac.uk.

New Short Film In Production – Super Me – By Sophie Lasson

qxnkfrehupyyrdkmkw1mSuper Me – a story about love, loss and the hero inside all of us.

Super Me is a 10 minute drama written and directed by Sophie Lasson, from Chatham, Kent. The film will be shot by an experienced team of final year students from Bournemouth University, and will star talented Dorset based actors.

Super Me is expected to premier in Rochester in May with a chance for locals to grab a sneak preview of the short film!

More information about the film can be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/super-me/x/9539046

The Story…

Heroes can come in all shapes and sizes…

Max has dreamed his whole life of becoming a superhero, but will he realise, that at only six years old, he has done more than he could ever imagine; he has saved a man’s life.

With his mother too busy for him and his father non-existent, Max is often left to his own devices, playing on the same estate where he was born.

He’s a curious boy, always looking for an adventure. When he sees a stranger on the roof of a building nearby, he goes to investigate. What happens next is life changing for the both of them.

By Sophie Lasson

Crowdfunding Chrysanthemums

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By Jane Ayres

Last year, I attempted my biggest challenge – launching my first ever crowdfunding campaign for a music and dance event in Kent. I’ve been excited by the idea of crowdfunding for a long time – ever since I attended a workshop by the fantastic Crista Cloutier. If your project is hard to categorise, or getting funding through the usual channels isn’t working, than crowdfunding is a way to approach your audience directly.

Like many enthusiastic fundraisers, I was seduced by success stories of other individuals and arts groups, and keen to try it myself. I can honestly say it is way harder than I imagined!

I went to a Fundraisers Bootcamp last month and it was perhaps reassuring in an odd way to learn that not everyone reaches their target and that it really is as tough as I am finding it. It’s been a steep learning curve – luckily I love learning! It took months to construct the crowdfunding page to get it right, and then we promptly ignored advice about how to do the video trailer. Instead, after several takes of unsuccessful talking heads, we opted to let the music – and dance – do the talking for us. Whether or not that worked is for you to decide.

I spent ages trying to create some unique, personalised and, frankly, lovely rewards for supporters – ranging from signed first pages of the new scores, to tickets for the concerts, to a chance to meet all the cast after the shows. All supporters will get credits in the special souvenir programme.

The bit of the process I find most difficult (and this is going to sound a bit strange) is asking people to give money. I quickly realised that I really don’t like doing this! The lovely folk at the Fundraising Bootcamp pointed out that people can only say No, and would I mind if I was asked to support a crowdfunding arts project? Of course not. But has that made it any easier? Not really. Why is it so tough to ask for help? I don’t know the answer to that.

But I do know I am passionate about the project I am fundraising for, and that all the rules of fundraising equally apply to crowdfunding. It isn’t a magic solution to raising money. However, it is a brilliant tool for communicating a fab project to a lot of people – with the hope that it will connect enough for people to want to share it with others.

So what are we doing it for? In a nutshell, the The Mirabai Project is a labour of love – a not for profit collective, with ambitious plans to stage innovative events that combine music, dance, design, film and new technology.

Chrysanthemums is our first event – an intriguing semi-staged concert with string quartet, harp, sax and 3 female voices – and special guests Elena Velasco-Peña and Luis Rodriguez, dazzling Argentine Tango dancers. This is our first collaboration with the young Canterbury based Leon String Quartet. Established in 2010, they are dynamic and versatile, with a wide repertoire and commitment to new music and innovative collaborations. Joining them are award winning musicians that include harpist Ruby Aspinall, sopranos Elizabeth Fulleylove and Gabriela Di Laccio, and Kent saxophonist Richard Melkonian.

The first show includes two world premieres. Award-winning composer Barry Seaman’s haunting Torch Songs is written for harpist Ruby Aspinall, and is inspired by songs about love, loss and friendship. Singer/songwriter Mariam Al-Roubi will be performing All Things – songs inspired by her forthcoming album, arranged for string quartet and harp.

There will also be sensual and romantic music from composers that include Monteverdi, Puccini, Caplet, Philip Glass, and new arrangements of tangos by Piazzolla and Gardel.

Chrysanthemums will initially be performed as follows:

Friday 17th April 2015, 8pm at the Trinity Arts Centre, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Tuesday 21 April 2015, 7.30pm at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury, Kent

If you want to be instrumental (pun intended) in both the creation and performance of beautiful music and know that your contribution and vision made it happen, please check our link.

http://www.sponsume.com/project/mirabai-project-presents-chrysanthemums

The crowdfunding campaign ends on 2nd February 2015 – so we now have less than a month to achieve our target of £2590 (eek!). To date we have 5 backers and have raised £425 towards commissioning new work, and I am so grateful to everyone who has supported us this far.

Any contribution would be welcomed. (See, I kind of asked!) But whether or not you can donate, I’d be truly grateful if you could share the link via social media and help to spread the word – and we sincerely hope you will come to the concerts!  Thank you!

Related posts:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/11/01/garrets-and-gatekeepers-by-jane-ayres/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/06/30/crista-cloutier-the-video-all-creatives-need-to-see/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/03/20/what-you-need-to-know-about-crowdfunding-by-crista-cloutier/

Links:

http://artsfundraising.org.uk/training/

http://www.fundraising.co.uk/

 Photo from Mirabai, Barry Seaman

Medway’s Creative Spaces

Medway is lucky enough to have multiple arts spaces that each have something unique to offer. If you would like to book a days tour (for a small donation to the Creatabot project) please contact Natasha on natasha@creatabot.co.uk

Nucleus Arts

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Nucleus Arts is the Award Winning flagship arts organisation founded by the Halpern Charitable Foundation. The Foundation was the brainchild of the late Hilary Halpern and it was his dream to promote the Arts in Medway and Kent. Nucleus Arts has become the cultural and creative heart of Kent & Medway over the past 12 years and focuses on affordability, accessibility and excellence in the Arts. They run multiple workshops, events and training programmes.

The main centre is at 272 High Street, Chatham, where the gallery, conference room and main artists studios are based. The artists open studios are held here every 1st Saturday of the month for all to attend for free.

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Nucleus Arts also have creative studio space in Military Road, Chatham, Rochester High Street (which also includes retail space) and Lower Stone Street, Maidstone. All spaces have a lovely cafe managed by Cafe Nucleus.

Nucleus Arts are working in collaboration with multiple local charities on their Arts Inclusive programme to make sure the arts can be accessible to all.

Sun Pier House

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This Community Interest Company was formed in 2012 to support and promote the best of Medway’s talent, providing a base for established and start-up businesses in the creative sector.

Within the building, there is a large exhibition gallery, tea room, events space, hire rooms, artist studios, open plan creative office space with hot desk facilities, all enjoying a glorious panoramic view of the River Medway.

Sun Pier House CIC actively promotes the businesses working within Medway’s creative community, encouraging them to grow and develop to their full potential. Sun Pier House is right next to Sun Pier, Medway Street, Chatham.

POP Creative Space

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POP is an abandoned shop turned into a Creative space in the heart of Chatham, Medway. The shop has been funded by EU and Recreate and hosts various free events and exhibitions throughout the year. POP is at 64 – 66 High Street, Chatham.

Unravel and Unwind

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Unravel and Unwind are working to develop a “country cottage” style craft drop in centre for crafters of all abilities, ages, background and culture where they can come and craft while they socialise-practice-teach-learn.

Their aim is to create a friendly open environment,”a crafting home from home” ) where local crafters & families can practice, learn, teach and sell their crafts. A place where skills can be shared and new ideas encouraging community engagement, increasing social well-being, removing isolation and possibly mentoring transitions into employment. They are based at Intra Arts, 337-341 High Street, Rochester.

Intra Arts

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INTRA is a Medway based arts venue, hosting creative events, classes, activities and studios, and offering one of the best collections in Kent of specialist arts equipment accessible to the general public – especially specialist printing equipment.

The not for profit company Intra Arts Ltd. was formed in 2014 when they took on the former Spemco building in Rochester High Street. This Art Deco fronted, Victorian building is much loved in the historic area of ‘Chatham Intra’. Their aim is to provide an arts programme, creative opportunities and education in a space that welcomes people of all ages, abilities and circumstances. They are based at 337-341 High Street, Rochester.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know: Rochester Literature Festival 2014

September 25th – October 5th 2014

The Rochester Literature Festival is proud to present its second annual festival, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know.

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We’re delighted to be opening this year with an hilarious and heart-warming one woman show with actress Sunny Ormonde – the outrageous Lilian Bellamy from BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the world’s longest running soap.

Over the course of the next ten days, we’ll be joined by as-seen-on-tv-off-his-trolley comic genius Phil Kay, master of freeform performance and storytelling, and notorious Australian, Trenton Oldfield – who served six months at her Majesty’s Pleasure for disrupting the 2012 Boat Race in a protest against elitism.

We will be hosting two wonderful authors who’ll fascinate you with insights and anecdotes from their latest books: Angela Buckley introduces us to The Real Sherlock Holmes – Detective Jerome Caminada, whose methodologies mimicked Conan Doyle’s genius, and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, who will discuss the impact of reality on fiction. While No One Was Watching is set against the backdrop of the Kennedy assassination and the abduction of a young girl from the grassy knoll on that fateful day.

For families to enjoy together, we have Assassin, featuring the fantastic Joe Craig reading extracts from his Jimmy Coates series – part boy, part weapon, totally deadly – which will be interpreted with music by Alice composer, Jacob Bride, and exciting young street dance group CYC. Awesome Keeper of the Realms trilogy author, Marcus Alexander, who is Charlie’s Keeper, will entertain and inspire you with his delightfully wicked fantasy adventure series – get your read on!

Our interactive story game this year is Murder in the Crypt and will feature some of your favourite detectives. In addition, we’re holding a Cafe Crawl, where you can sample music, poetry, storytelling and more, in the company of, amongst others, former Canterbury Laureate Dan Simpson. Bookmark’d is a chance to buy books, swap books or just listen to books, read aloud by their authors.

Our Night at the Theatre will this year be held in conjunction with Chatham Grammar School for Boys and be presented by award winning 17% playwrights, Sam Fentiman-Hall, Sarah Hehir and Maggie Drury. The Spirit of My Dream is inspired by Byron’s poem The Dream and features new plays with a somewhat fantastical theme.

An exhibition curated by ME4Writers especially for the festival, An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics, has channelled Byron to produce work inspiring madness, badness and dangerousness in the hearts of artists. A live reading will bring the visual carnage to life!

Byron’s Teapot will be our finale – a mad mix of the unusual and quirky, featuring The James Worse Public Address Method, JP Lovecraft, Dylan Oscar Rowe and Brides of Rain.

Tickets are available here.

We look forward to welcoming you to our exciting – and only slightly scary – second full length festival!

To read full details, download a copy the 2014 programme and buy tickets, please visit rochesterlitfest.com.

If you have any enquiries regarding any of the events or festival in general, please email rochesterlitfest@gmail.com or telephone 07904 643770.

The Rochester Literature Festival (RLF) was formed in May 2011 as an information sharer, and held its inaugural event, The Garden Poetry Party in July 2012.

The first main festival, Other Worlds, Other Voices took place in October 2013.

The RLF is a voluntary group and currently receives no public funding, relying solely on the generosity of its performers, audiences, personal donations and in kind help.

The Programme Details

An Evening with Sunny Ormonde

Thursday, 25th September, 7pm – 10pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

£10

Café Crawl

Saturday, 27th September, 1pm-5pm

La Toretta, Tiny Tims, Café 172 (Dot Café), Bruno’s Bakes. Rochester High Street

Free

The Queen versus Trenton Oldfield: A Prison Diary

Saturday, 27th September, 7pm – 10pm

Sun Pier House, Chatham

£6

Bookmark’d

Sunday, 28th September, 12noon – 4pm

Guildhall Museum, Rochester

Free

Marcus Alexander: Who is Charlie’s Keeper?

Sunday, 28th September, 2pm – 3.30pm

Woodlands Academy, Gillingham

£3

The Real Sherlock Holmes: Angela Buckley

Monday, 29th September, 6.30pm – 9pm

Café 172 (Dot Café), Rochester

£4.00

While No-one Was Watching: Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

Wednesday, 1st October, 6.30pm – 9pm

Café Nucleus, Chatham

£4

An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics Live

Thursday, 2nd October, 7.30pm

Rochester Library

Free

Exhibition: Friday 26/9 to Saturday 25/10 Free, normal opening hours.

Phil Kay: Wholly Viable

Friday, 3rd October, 8.00pm – 11.30pm (includes support)

The Billabong Club, Rochester

£7

Murder in the Crypt

Saturday, 4th October, 10am – 4pm

Bishopscourt, Rochester

Ticket price £3

A Night at the Theatre: The Spirit of my Dream

Saturday, 4th October, 7pm – 10pm

Chatham Grammar School for Boys

£5

Assassin

Sunday, 5th October, 2pm -5pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

Tickets from £3. Family tickets available.

Byron’s Teapot

Sunday, 5th October, 7.30pm – 11pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

£5

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently – From Huffington Post

Andy Ryan via Getty Images via Huff Post!
Andy Ryan via Getty Images via Huff Post!

So good: we had to share this article!

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process….

READ MORE AT www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/creativity-habits

The Days When Gillingham Fraggle Rocked

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I have always been a huge Jim Henson fan, my dream was to work at their Creature Studios in Camden, I was even offered work experience there whilst at college, which sadly fell through as they began working on a “top secret project” – I now believe this was actually closing the Camden studios.

It is no secret that I love Medway, and now I am in love a little bit more thanks to my friend Laura Murthy breaking the news on Facebook that the UK inserts were filmed in none other than Medway’s very own Gillingham.

For those who didn’t already know (like me) where the joy that is Aldi now sits (although I do like their waffles) once sat the Plaza cinema, which was built in 1931. At the time it was one of the most modern cinemas in Kent with seating for 1,800 people. This then closed in November 1980 and was bought by TVS South and turned into studios.

Attribution prefabkid - Kent History Forums
Attribution prefabkid – Kent History Forums

“The original intention had been to sell it off as soon as Maidstone was open but TVS hung onto it for a while, making programmes such as regional afternoon magazine Not for Women Only and from 1986 The Television Show, which was broadcast live from here on Sunday evenings across the ITV network.

Oddly, the show that kept the studio open was Muppets spin-off Fraggle Rock, which ran from 1983-1987.  Once this ended the studio was hardly used so it was put up for sale early in 1988 and was purchased by Network One TV in June 1989.  (This company also took over the Greenwood in 1990.)  Masterchef was made here then, plus a handful of other shows.  It closed as a studio in July 1991 and following a brief spell as a Quasar laser gaming centre, it lay empty for several years and was demolished in 2001.”(Taken from TV Studio History)

Attribution - Kyn - Kent History Forum
Attribution – Kyn – Kent History Forum/KM

Victor Pemberton who was co-producer at the time says “We took over an old cinema in Gillingham in Kent, and it was wonderful. The auditorium was cleared of seats, the stage was raised and extended.” (www.adventuresinprimetime.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/return-to-fraggle-rock)

The UK scenes involved the internal shots of the lighthouse, where Sprocket the dog lived with the lighthouse keeper, and of course, the tell tale “tiny cave in the wall”. (if anyone knows of other shots filmed there involving more Fraggles please say)

The main episode I remember, which was the episode I watched over and over again,  was when the water of Fraggle Rock was poisoned and Boober pleads for the humans to make it stop. The scenes that were filmed in Gillingham (inside the lighthouse) can be seen in this clip. I now watch this in awe even more, when realising it was filmed on ground I have walked over many times without even realising. It may sound silly, but it makes me a bit emotional! Here is the clip for you to enjoy…

By Natasha Steer

Proteus (PS3/PS Vita) Review – 5th November 2013 – By Scott Barker

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It’s somewhat ironic that Proteus – a calm and soothing Indie game based on exploration – releases on the same week as action-orientated blockbusters Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. But this is the way with Indie games and their developers as they move away from the tried-and-tested videogame mold, and strive to give us something different. Proteus hits the mark for being different all right, and in fact developers Ed Keys and David Kanaga should be commended for boldly making a game that is stripped entirely of complications and objectives. However, Proteus‘ strength in simplicity is also where its weakness lies.

Just what the hell is Proteus? Twenty minutes in, and didn’t know what it was. It looks fairly similar to Minecraft except there’s no crafting, I thought to myself. Literally just walking. At first you may not get it, but sort of like when you’re first learning to drive and you have that epiphany moment and it just all makes sense all of a sudden. It clicked with me in Proteus; this game is about pure exploration. Essentially, yes, you are just walking around; but it’s not the same as just walking around in any other videogame; the experience in Proteus is crafted around your experience of “walking around.” The sky, the sun, the moon, the leaves on the trees will all change as seasons pass, and just like that the world you’re in changes.

 

Proteus sees you walk around from the first-person perspective. There’s no button for defend or attack because there’s nothing to attack or defend from. You walk with the right stick and look with the left. You can sit, too, and watch the world go by if you want. It doesn’t get more simplistic than this, and that’s why Proteus is the perfect sort of game to play after a hard day of work when you can just switch your brain off and walk around as the seasons and the world you’re in changes. Plenty of games drop you into a world and expect you to get to the next point of destination so a cutscene can take place and the story can progress until the game reaches its ending. Proteus does have an ending, but every player is going to get to it differently. I’ve played Proteus three times to completion now and all three times I took vastly different journeys and my game ended at completely different times. You stand still, time won’t stand still with you.

Proteus #3

Who needs a next generation of consoles when we’ve got good old fashioned pixel art? The Playstation 3 version, as expected, is upscaled and is of a higher resolution from the Playstation Vita version. But the good news here, folks, is that Proteus is cross-buy, meaning that you get both the PS Vita and PS3 version for one price of admission. Both look fantastic in their own rights, but I do believe Proteus is one of the best looking games to date on the Playstation Vita. The changing of a season in Proteus is a gaming moment that will stand out to me in time to come thanks to its vibrant colour palette and ambient soundtrack that matches the surroundings. The ending, too, (without spoiling anything) is a feast for the eyes and remains as beautifully ambiguous as the rest of the game.

There is no multiplayer mode in Proteus. It’s obvious that it was designed to be a solitary experience, but perhaps an optional multiplayer component akin to Journey‘s (where other players join your world) would’ve worked nicely. The biggest issue many will have with Proteus is that there’s no objective, nothing to interact with and, well, not a lot to do other than to walk around. Although I’ve praised Proteus for having no objectives or buttons of command, the price tag of £10/$12.50 is questionable, considering Proteus can be completed in – roughly, depending how you play – an hour or so. I’m all for short and sweet experiences, but after your first play-through you may feel the price tag is a little too high. The good news though: Proteus‘ world is randomly generated so each time you play should be different, even if the end goal is the same.

Proteus is unconventional and so left of field that it’s going to diversify gamers (even more so than usual); you’re either going to get Proteus, or you aren’t. So while most gamers this week may be immersed in military warfare or battles at sea, Proteus offers a nontraditional gaming option for those looking to escape from the real world and be lost and immersed in the ever changing, soothing and ambiguous world.

Proteus #4

Batman: Arkham Origins Review – 3rd November 2013 – By Scott Barker

 

batman Arkham Origins #5

 

If there’s one thing we’re not short of regarding anything Batman related, it’s 1) Batman’s origin, and 2) stories involving The Joker. Both The Joker and Batman’s origins are so iconic in their own rights that someone – anyone – writing a Batman story would probably have a hard time avoiding either. Rocksteady’s Arkham games didn’t outright ignore Batman’s/Bruce Wayne’s origin, but neither did they try to blatantly retell the story we’re all too familiar with. Rather, they cleverly showed us in increments via flashbacks in the Scarecrow segments in Arkham Asylum. Even more of a bold move was (kind of a spoiler but not really) killing off The Joker in Arkham City. I, for one, was excited for a new villain to step up and take the centerpiece in the next Arkham game. After all, there’s hardly a shortage of villains in Batman’s lore. But then Batman: Arkham Origins was announced… a prequel. And it was everything I didn’t want. Now, after having played the game, I’m not so much bitterly disappointed, just rather nonchalantly unsurprised that Batman: Arkham Origins is a huge letdown in the Arkham series.

Much like how Scott Pilgrim has 8 of Ramona Flowers’ 8 evil ex’es out to get him, Batman has 8 evil assassins out to get him thanks to Black Mask putting a 50 million dollar bounty on his head. A unique 8 choice of villains as well I might add. It’s a great setup, and the story starts off strong. Early on in the game however, the story takes a dramatic turn for the worse due to a way, way too cliché and obvious plot twist that happens, that any bat-fan should be able to see coming from a mile away. After this all too obvious twist is where I lost complete interest in where the story was going. Why would they even tease us that someone passes away in the game, when we already know that same character is well and alive in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City? It was never the brightest idea to make a prequel after things had really started to heat up in the Arkham series, and the restraint on the storytelling just proves the point.

And aside from a couple of new gadgets, the gameplay has stayed largely the same. Identical, in fact. Now I know if it’s not broken you shouldn’t fix it, and Arkham Asylum‘s two-button, attack and counter combat system may have been somewhat revolutionary in 2009, but four years down the line and two sequels later and it most definitely isn’t. It feels so repetitive getting into fist-fights with goons, and the game constantly throws more and more enemies at you as you progress. Throwing more enemies in doesn’t offer too much more of a challenge; it just becomes more time-consuming — and at times, frustratingly so. The developers at WB Montréal played it safe, but it’s too safe; Arkham Origins, for the most part, reeks of fear from the developers. Fear as if the developers from Rocksteady are constantly looking over WB Montréal’s shoulders with a checklist of things they aren’t allowed to do or explore. However, one gameplay saving grace are the boss battles, which shakes the gameplay up, and they all, more or less, hit the mark. A challenging and fast-paced brawl with Deathstroke stands out above the rest.

Batman Arkham Origins #2

If I didn’t know that Troy Baker was voicing The Joker instead of Mark Hamil and that Roger Craig Smith was replacing Kevin Conroy for the voice of Batman this time around, then I would’ve been none-the-wiser. A testament to both Troy’s and Roger’s skills, and their voice acting is so good that it’s in another league compared to most of the rest of the cast. Prison guards and hostages are embarrassingly bad for the most part, with their wooden facial expressions matching their lifeless line deliveries. Arkham is dark, gritty, muddy, and won’t be blowing anyone away in the graphics department. Definitely not bad, but just a port over from the two-year old Arkham City. Cutscenes, on the other hand, are masterfully crafted. It’s just a shame the storyline isn’t as interesting as the well put together CGI.

Firstly, I don’t think that anyone has played through an Arkham game and craved for a multiplayer mode, but regardless, we got it — and it is legitimately terrible. Secondly, the multiplayer component isn’t developed by Warner Bros. Montréal (who did the single player component); it’s developed by Splash Damage. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to be able to play as one of the brainless goons that you beat the snot out of in single-player, but whoever it was should probably be in Arkham Asylum. Yes, seriously, you can actually play as a gun-wielding goon, in what is a terrible third person shooter 3v3 match with two additional players getting to play as either Batman or Robin and swoop in for kills. In all seriousness, Arkham Origins‘ multiplayer has to be up there in the all time greats of “Worst Multiplayer Modes Ever Created”.

I found it extremely hard to even find a multiplayer match of any kind. Maybe this could possibly be to people’s complete lack of interest in the multiplayer mode?  It took 40 minutes for me to actually find a match on one occasion. The multiplayer won’t actually start without eight players in a lobby, so there were people losing patience and jumping in and out all the time, therefore the amount of time to actually get a match going. When I did finally find a match, it was never, ever worth the wait. I’ve never been a fan of developers outsourcing their multiplayer modes, and Arkham Origins is a prime example of why.

Batman Arkham origins #3

 

I found it extremely hard to even find a multiplayer match of any kind. Maybe this could possibly be to people’s complete lack of interest in the multiplayer mode?  It took 40 minutes for me to actually find a match on one occasion. The multiplayer won’t actually start without eight players in a lobby, so there were people losing patience and jumping in and out all the time, therefore the amount of time to actually get a match going. When I did finally find a match, it was never, ever worth the wait. I’ve never been a fan of developers outsourcing their multiplayer modes, and Arkham Origins is a prime example of why.

What’s most frustrating in Batman: Arkham Origins is how much old ground it retreads. Do you remember going to Penguin’s Ice Lounge in Arkham City where you got to beat up goons and punch a shark in the face? You’re going to be doing exactly that in Origins, except you won’t be punching any sharks in the face. Remember The Mad Hatter side mission? Yeah, he’s back with another all-too-familiar side mission for you to do. Remember swooping around Gotham for the first time in Arkham City? Well the map’s largely the same in Origins, except it feels very bare and devoid of anything but buildings and goons, and there’s a lot less to do. There’s a large bridge in the center that is annoying to get across this time, too, but thankfully you can fast travel, which is a nice, handy addition.

I suffered severe framerate issues in Arkham Origins, which became so bad that on three specific occasions my game froze and I had to switch my PlayStation 3 off and restart from my last checkpoint (there’s nothing wrong with my PS3, for the record). A quick Google search later and I found that I wasn’t the only one suffering from this problem. Having to actually restart my console three times during a 8-12 hour playthrough of a game is hardly convenient.

Batman Arkham Origins #4

There’s plenty of Riddler Puzzles to solve and there’s a few bog-standard side missions to do here and there. Once I was through with the main story, though, I didn’t find much incentive in investing a lot of time in them. Challenge maps make a return also, but having already pounded more than enough enemies in the story, there’s no real need for them to be there other than to fill up the options menu.

f you haven’t played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, and Batman: Arkham Origins is your first foray into the series, then you’re probably going to enjoy it. You may even be highly impressed. Whatever you do though, just don’t play it after you’ve played Asylum and City — it’ll be like playing games in HD, only to be reverted back to standard definition. If you’re really craving to play as Batman once again and keep Arkham safe, then renting would be your best option. Just make sure to lower your expectations beforehand.

The Last Of Us Abandoned Territories Map Pack Review – 28 October 2013 – By Scott Barker

The Last Of Us is going to win game of they year awards from numerous outlets, and deservedly so. In years to come TLOU may not be remembered for its multiplayer mode (that Naughty Dog was ambiguously quiet about until launch) but it will be for its incredible single-player campaign. So while The Abandoned Territories map pack isn’t the single-player DLC a lot of fans are waiting on, it does offer four new fresh and diverse multiplayer maps to an already great multiplayer mode, along with a new patch to fix and tighten the multiplayer itself.

TLOU Bookstore
Bus Depot

Admittedly I haven’t played The Last Of Us’ multiplayer component since June, so I was a little rusty and I needed to gain my bearings upon my first couple of matches. It seems like I was in the minority of people who hadn’t played the multiplayer in a while though, as I was in multiplayer matches with rank 100s, 200s and even 300s. So, suffice to say, I was getting my righteous-A kicked. So if you’re buying these maps casually like me, then be warned: these are hardcore players buying the Abandoned Territories map pack. Good news, though: You’re going to have these hardcore players on your team as well.

I mostly played the relatively new mode Interrogation — which was added a few months back — and I found that it heavily relies on teamwork — which a team-based multiplayer match should do. Every match I’ve played in, regardless of whether or not my teammates had microphones, we were working as a team. Healing each other, gifting each other items, and even moving around as a team — especially when a match first starts and you and your team are stealthily moving around to locate the other team. This is something I didn’t notice when playing The Last Of Us’ multiplayer mode there and around its launch, so it just goes to show how a dedicated fan-base and time can greatly alter how a multiplayer mode is played.

tlou suburbs
Suburbs

What about the actual maps themselves, then? Firstly, I should say that I had almost forgotten just how good The Last Of Us looks; it’s without a doubt one of the best looking games on consoles, and the four new maps are no exception to the rule. All four maps are cut out portions of certain areas you may recognise from the campaign, and this isn’t a bad thing. No map particularly stands head-and-shoulders tall above another, though, and no map particularly stands out as being bad. A healthy dose of thought and care has gone in to all of them, though my particular favourite is Bookstore; mainly because it’s the smallest of the bunch, and it’s a great map for close-quarters, shotgun-style combat. There’s still plenty of room to take the stealth route, though, either by flanking around the sides or by going up the stairs.

Hometown is the darkest multiplayer to date, and fans may recognise it from the very beginning of the single-player, in Joel’s hometown. Unlike Joel’s Hometown, Suburbs is a bright and colourful suburban area, and it actually looks peaceful and natural in contrast. Both maps are medium sized. Bus Depot, on the other hand, is the biggest of the bunch, and patience is needed to sneak around the map and seek out the other team. Not being the most patient of players, I would’ve said that Bus Depot is my least favourite of maps; however, this was up until (spoiler) I saw the giraffes in the background.

TLOU Bus Depot
Bookstore

There’s a separate DLC playlist to play all three multiplayer modes on The Abandoned Territories map pack, but for some rather bizarre reason the original maps have been included in the cycle and can be voted to play on as well.  Granted the original maps didn’t come up much, and when they did they were never voted to play anyway, but I just feel that it’s bizarre to have included them in the cycle in the first place. I was spawn-killed a couple of times and I was kicked from a match on one occasion for no apparent reason, but apart from those minor gripes the multiplayer ran smoothly and I experienced no lag whatsoever.

If you enjoyed The Last Of Us’ multiplayer the first time round and you’re looking for an excuse to jump into the multiplayer again, then don’t hesitate to purchase Abandoned Territories. If you’re eagerly anticipating the single-player DLC as well as wanting to play on more multiplayer maps then you’re going to save money purchasing the season pass, which gains you access to both the single-player and multiplayer DLC. Purchasing the season pass will also nab you a 90-minute documentary style making of The Last Of Us video, which I can wholeheartedly say you’ll love if you enjoy seeing how games are made as much as you love playing them.

tlou hometown
Hometown

The Abandoned Territories Map Pack will set you back £7.99, and the Season Pass will cost you £15.99.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Console at Launch – 24th October 2013 – By Scott Barker

X-One:PS4

With the Xbox One launching on November 22 here in the UK and the Playstation 4 launching one week later on November 29, the big question posed to gamers is: Will you be buying the Playstation 4 or Xbox One? It’s very much a two horse race in the next generation console war between Sony and Microsoft, and getting a head-start out of the gates is of vital importance. The Xbox 360 launched a full year before the release of the Playstation 3, and consequently the PS3 has never quite managed to catch up with the amount of Xbox 360 units that have been sold. Both launch within a week of each other this time around, though, and a lot of gamers around the world (including myself) won’t be able to afford both. Some may not be able to afford either.

Is It the end of the world if you miss out on the launch of a console, though? Short answer: no. However, as a gamer, do you want to be ahead of the curve and be playing on the future of gaming? Or do you want to be left behind playing on old technology? Each gamer is going to have their own subjective standpoint as to when and why they’ll buy a next generation console, but below I have listed three universal cons and three universal pros to buying a console at launch.

Pro 1: To Finally Play on and own a New Piece of Hardware

We’re at a point in time now where the graphical power and fidelity of videogames and consoles has gotten so enhanced that the lifecycle of consoles is evermore getting longer and longer, with technical geniuses having to find out more and new ways of being able to push the boundaries, while keeping sure it stays as cost effective as possible for the consumer. So cost effective that the hardware itself of the upcoming Playstation 4 will actually be sold at a loss. The longevity of this current generation console cycle, then, is a big reason why a lot of gamers (myself included) can’t wait to get their hands on a new piece of hardware. Having gone hands on with both the Xbox One and Playstation 4, I can confidently say that there is a huge forward leap in terms of power; from enhanced visuals to quickened loading loading times. Minor nuances to some perhaps who aren’t willing to put down mega bucks, but looks are imperative as they’ve ever been to a videogame in this modern age, and no gamer likes waiting for a game to load or to be sitting in a lobby searching for a multiplayer match for long periods of time…

Pro 2: Getting The Most Out of Your Purchase 

…In the next ten years we could be looking forward to the same improvements in the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Two(?), then. For those opting to buy a next generation console on day one, then – arguably – they’re going to get the most out of their purchase if it’s their main gaming platform of choice for the next ten years. If you bought an Xbox 360 from day one, then suffice to say you probably got your money’s worth out of the eight years that you’ve owned it. The same goes for the PS3 which launched in 2006.  At the end of the day, it goes down to personal standpoint on whether or not you feel like you’ve invested enough time in your console and you feel as if you’ve got your money’s worth. Chances are you’re a hardcore gamer and you’re going to more than get your money’s worth if you’re buying a next generation console on day one, though.

Pro 3: To be Part of History 

Yes, to be part of history. It’s not everyday that a console launches. It’s not every month that a console launches. And it’s not even every year that a console launches; it’s years. Both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 will only ever launch once (unless something goes drastically wrong). If you’re attending a midnight launch for either one of the next generation consoles, then I guarantee you won’t forget it. I bought the Playstation Vita at launch just over a year and a half ago now. I remember it well; it was on February 22, 2012. A day like any other to non-gamers – but it was as good as Christmas day to me. That launch ‘buzz’ excitement in the crowded store. That feeling of knowing that the wait is finally over and I can get my hands on a Playstation Vita. To not feel left out when other friends are all on their shiny, new Vitas. Sure, you may be as equally excited to buy a next generation console a year, two years from now, but the world won’t be excited with you.

Con 1:  Day One Purchase Means Premium Price 

I mentioned that I bought the Playstation Vita on day one earlier, and on that day of purchase I was quizzing myself. Asking myself questions such as: ‘Do I really want this?’ ‘Couldn’t I just wait until there’s a price-drop sometime in the future?’ I imagine some people ask themselves such questions when buying a game console or any expensive product, too. Personally speaking, I’m willing to spend the £350/$400 for the Playstation 4. The Xbox One on the other hand, which costs a whopping £429/$500, I am willing to wait for. I’m willing to go out on a whim and say that this time next year there will be an £80/$100 reduction in price, or at least thereabouts, and I know I would have buyers remorse if I didn’t wait for it to come down in price.  If you do wait for it come down in price, then after all you are getting the exact same console as the people who bought it a year or so before you, but they just paid more for it.

Con 2: That Dreaded Post Launch Draught of Games 

So you opted to buy your new console on day one and, good news, you love it. It’s a few months down the line once you’ve finished playing the games you bought at launch and you’re waiting for something new to play. Bad news, I’m afraid. There’s nothing out. You didn’t spend all that money on shiny new hardware to gather dust now, did you? Yes, the dreaded post launch gaming drought. Gamers loathe it, publishers assure us it won’t happen, but once excitement of the launch is over and the dust settles, without fail there doesn’t seem to be any new games on the horizon. There’s really nothing you can do but wait for them to release. If you didn’t buy a console on day one however, then you may never run into this problem at all. You may even have a backlog of great games waiting to be played — which is always a great problem for a gamer to have. Who said there’s anything wrong with being late to the party?

Con 3: You’re Essentially Buying The Console During Its Beta Period

We all remember that dreaded red ring of death that plagued early models of the Xbox 360, don’t we? I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft will have learned their lesson and the red ring won’t be showing up on the Xbox One (well at least we hope it won’t be). And let’s not forget the ‘yellow light of death’ that affected early Playstation 3’s. Not quite as dramatic or damaging as the red ring, but problematic for owners of the PS3 in the early going. When buying a console at its early stages, you’re essentially buying it during its beta stage. Not only are you – potentially – going to have hardware faults, but you’re also going to see plenty of system updates/bug fixes along the way,. So many changes in fact that you may not even recognize the graphic interface of your PS4 or Xbox One ten years from now. The 360 has gone through numerous dashboard changes, and the Playstation 3‘s Playstation Store has had several overhauls too. Other things like Trophies – which are a necessity for some gamers – weren’t added until later on in the Playstation 3’s life cycle. And let’s not even go there with the infamous Playstation Network outage…

So there’s that. My thoughts on the good and the bad that come hand-in-hand with buying a console at launch. Use my sage advice wisely when you’re stuck in decision-limbo on whether to empty your wallet now, or wait a few months – even years, to do so later. Be sure to let us know in the comments below about why you will be, or won’t be, picking up a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One at launch.

Cybermen and Clay: objects and emotions by Jane Ayres

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Three: photo by Jane Ayres

 

We invest objects with emotional significance.  Although they are simply things, they can represent something that connects us to a person or a time in the past.  I have used objects as the starting point for creative writing exercises, and they can be useful for brainstorming ideas.

I try not to accumulate too much clutter (!) and only keep the few items that are precious, always mindful of the day when I’m no longer here and whoever is left behind will have the unenviable job of sorting out my stuff!  But on a windowsill, I keep a few “ornaments”.

My cyberman model/toy – with moving parts!  I’m a Dr Who fan and my favourite (and scariest) monsters were always the cyber men.  When I was a child, I would hide behind the sofa when they came on TV.  Something about the clanging metal, the unforgiving nature of a machine, the hollow empty space for eyes sockets – no emotion or humanity –  gave me the creeps.  The stuff of nightmares.  However my more recent developing interest in cyber technology, sci fi, robotics, and neuroscience gives me a different viewpoint. How many of us who grew up in the 70s wanted the special abilities of the Six Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman? (Without the pain and injuries, of course!).  Machines and technology have limitless power to transform lives for good.  I sometimes wonder, when experiencing heartache and loss, how it would be to feel absent of emotion.  A concept that is hard to imagine.

The Golem – My brother brought this back from a trip to Prague.  According to good old Wiki, “in Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter.”  The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, who reportedly created a golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations to defend and protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms. There are a whole host of legends and literature around the golem.  My first ever encounter with the concept was a 1966 British/American film entitled It!, starring Roddy McDowall, who was at that time one of my favourite actors. I was about seven years old when I saw it.

This model is a symbol of my fascination with creation.  I’m also intrigued the golem was associated with fighting oppression, which in turn connects to my loathing of bullying in any form. (See my post http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/which-fictional-character-would-you.html)

My clay horse.  And, strangely, in writing this I see there is a link between my clay horse, Ernie, and my golem – that they were both born from clay, an amazing substance which resonates with spiritual significance. I made Ernie at school in art class when I was a child.  I enjoyed shaping the clay and using my hands to create the shape.  I couldn’t do the legs however – they kept snapping off – so decided to make a horse lying down to obviate that problem! His tail also fell off, so he became a cob.  Ernie reflects my love of horses since childhood, and because I couldn’t have a real horse, I kept creating them – in my stories, my drawings and in plasticine and clay. When I left home at sixteen, Ernie was still living on my mum’s windowsill, where he stayed for many years.  After she passed away, I brought him home with me and he took up residence on my windowsill.  Ernie evokes a range of childhood memories and happy thoughts of mum.

I love the way that, unknowingly, all three of these objects are linked by common threads and themes; connections which I had never noticed before.

Creation.  New life.  Changed reality.  Words we could also use to describe what we produce when we write.  Wonderfully strange.

Related posts:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/09/28/we-are-stories-by-jane-ayres/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/11/05/the-art-of-wish-fulfilment-by-jane-ayres/

http://www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/my-bookshelf-and-precious-memories.html

To find out more about Jane’s creative story, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Joyrider, is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joyrider-ebook/dp/B00F7V247Y

We are stories by Jane Ayres

photo by Roger Hyland

The concept of stories, storytelling and narrative fascinates me and is a constant source of discovery.  I’ve also explored the idea of writing as therapy for depression and grief.  In the search to understand my personal grieving process I have explored fiction and non-fiction, and recently read How we Grieve: Relearning the world by Thomas Attig (OUP, 1996) which suggests a way of thinking that I had not previously considered and which makes perfect sense – especially if you are a writer. In discussing how we relearn our relationships with the loved ones we have lost, the author suggests:

“As we come to know and love others, we come to know and cherish the stories of the lives they live…..if we have known and loved well, the stories become interwoven with the fabric of the stories of our lives.  As we relearn our relationship with the deceased, we continue the interweaving process.  In all of our relationships we have unique and privileged access to parts of the full stories of others’ lives. Our knowledge and love of the stories remain after the loss of the presence of the deceased………as with any good stories, but especially with the intricate stories of human biography, if we read them but once we fail to captures the richness and fullness of the tales. As we review and retell stories repeatedly, they return ever new and unexpected rewards each time……we can return to the stories deliberately for specific purposes (to refresh our memory or understanding or to seek new understanding) or as events in our lives remind us of them and of their continuing importance to us.”

I found this deeply moving.

We are all stories.  Living, breathing, works in progress. Whether tragically short or on a more epic scale, our lives are uniquely individual stories.  They may encompass adventure, romance, horror, joy, loss, humour and fantasy.  But however they differ, they all have in common one aspect: mystery. The unknown.  We don’t know how the story will end.  But would we want to?

Related posts:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/07/19/stories-we-tell-ourselves-by-jane-ayres/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/12/21/play-dream-write-by-jane-ayres/

To find out more about Jane’s creative story, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Joyrider, is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joyrider-ebook/dp/B00F7V247Y

Blast From The Past – The Chatham Vines Project

By Matt Bray
By Matt Bray

FrancisKnight were appointed by Medway Council to work with international artist John Newling and consultancy ArtOffice to project manage Chatham Vines.

Chatham vines was a major commission to install and nurture a vineyard of 32 Pinot Noir vines grown hydroponically in St John’s Church, Chatham. Before the vines were removed the grapes were harvested and made into wine, some of which was used in the Easter Sunday Eucharist Service at Rochester Cathedral.

As part of our role we supported John Newling, provided day to day management of the vines and devised an education programme to accompany the commssion. A limited edition hardback artist book documented the award winning installation.

Chatham Vines scooped the Rouse Kent Public Art Award for 2006 and the internationally acclaimed art critic, Richard Cook of The Times said:

“In full bloom, it must have been a magical experience, even for visitors who knew nothing about contemporary art. It turned out to be a powerful, poetic symbol of regeneration for a disused church waiting to be transformed in the regeneration of Chatham town centre.”

http://francisknight.co.uk/projects/project/chatham-vines-by-artist-John-Newling/

Review of Broken Banjo EP – Bravo 106 – By Ollie Crook

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Broken Banjo – Bravo 106

The last Broken Banjo EP, Bootleg Porn Volume III, was a great, raw, explosive and refreshing dose of energy. It was something the music scene was craving. Combining garage rock with a modern dose of overdriven guitar, rhythm, metal and quirk, they succeeded in a genre where most bands tend to flounder. At times the songs were balls to the wall noisy and pulsing. At others, they were quintessentially blues, understated and, above all, interesting. So, when I found out that the follow up, Bravo 106, was on it’s way, I was looking forward to seeing which direction the band would decide to take.

From the start, this release sees a much harder blues sound than previously heard. But Broken Banjo manage to exist in the garage/blues rock world without nodding to the same blues artists as everybody else and they don’t sound like their stuck in the past; a very welcome change. The raw attitude is still there, if anything amplified, reminiscent of The Stooges and Death. Now though, the guys seem much more confident in their ability not only as musicians but as songwriters, still allowing their influences to hang on their sleeves while allowing themselves to be themselves and create genuinely unique soundscapes. It’s an achievement that deserves a lot of credit.

The guitar work sounds up to date and indicatively rock ‘n’ roll at the same time, creating it’s own voice which screams over a rhythm section with as much attitude to back it up. As a band, they don’t rely on aggressive riffs or loud hooks to grab your attention (although you’ll find plenty if that’s what you want). This EP isn’t afraid of holding back and giving every instrument room to breathe. Lyrically, the vocals shift from infectious melodies like Raise Your Flag And Make Your Children Dumb, which sounds like a song that inexplicably should already exist, to anthems like African Child. The rest of the time, Broken Banjo exhibit the in your face attitude that won them their fans in the first place that’ll reaffirm old fans and welcome the new.

In comparison to the last EP, the production value is a little less slick. But this is hardly a criticism. The sound seems intentionally stripped back, laid bare and very garage-esque, so this actually works in their favour for the most part. Plus, all of the parts have plenty of room to flourish and be heard, going far to make sure that all of the nuance and emotion is noticed and not hidden behind a veil of decibels.

All in all, this is a great release and as good a follow up as I could have hoped for. Broken Banjo still cement themselves as a must see not just for the Medway music scene, but for anyone willing to listen. The energy of their live performances is captured about as perfectly as possible, which is great for a band who have become such a stable in the live music diet around these parts, and the music is seriously enjoyable. More than well worth a listen.

By Ollie Crook

Bravo 106 is released on the 1st November 2013. To keep up to date visit www.facebook.com/Broken.Banjo

Who we work with…

Here are some of the amazing projects we work with in Medway. If you would like to work with us as well, please get in touch.

Sun Pier House
A Community Interest Company based in Chatham. Transforming two empty commercial buildings into an art and creative complex. Home to artist studios, creative offices, hire space & public gallery.
Nucleus Arts is a charitable organisation that brings fine art to the public. Set up by the Halpern Charitable Foundation to promote the Arts in Medway and Kent, it focuses on affordability, accessibility and excellence in the Arts.
Nucleus Arts is a charitable organisation that brings fine art to the public. Set up by the Halpern Charitable Foundation to promote the Arts in Medway and Kent, it focuses on affordability, accessibility and excellence in the Arts.
Fuse  Promo
Fuse Medway Festival transforms Medway’s streets and open spaces once a year with free arts events and people from all walks of life.

The Vision and the Voice: Part 2 by Jane Ayres

greentreesPhoto by Roger Hyland

How do you see the world? Is it ugly, beautiful, evil, good, exciting, depressing? A mixture?  None of these?  The mind’s eye is a strange expression. According to wiki (the fount of all knowledge!) it refers to the human ability for visualization using the imagination.

When you look at an object, or a place, do you see what is there – or beyond this? Can you see what it means, or meant; its place in history?  Does it evoke the past?

Recently, I spent an absorbing few hours catching up on programmes I recorded on Sky Arts (a brilliant source of material) which began with a film about my favourite artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) the Dutch pioneer of abstract art. Mondrian is my favourite artist. He sought through his work to find essence and truth using horizontal and vertical lines, to create a new kind of beauty through geometry. His art is about structure, distillation, order and emotional connection and he wanted his art to be part of a greater whole. Not surprisingly he saw architecture as living art.  On arrival in New York in 1940 he commented, “They told me New York was a hellish place, where you grew old before your time and gangsters made the law. That may well be true. But that is not the New York I saw, the one I loved and thought of as my own.”  He saw beauty in the lights, the sounds, the skyscrapers and the vibrancy. The film, called Dans L’Atelier de Mondrian (in the studio of Mondrian) shows the artist’s studio as a working art installation and moves me to tears every time I see it. Mondrian lived in poverty most of his austere life and did not receive critical recognition until he was in seventies. (A familiar story for so many creatives, regrettably).

The next film was a documentary called Hitchcock on Grierson, which offered further insights into the ways other creatives have seen the world. It’s always interesting to see what one film director thinks of another and how he was influenced. I admire much of Hitchcock’s work but knew little about Dr John Grierson, who I discovered was a prolific, influential and pioneering Scottish film director and producer (1898-1972) who used documentary to express his distinctive way of seeing the world, utilising stunning shots to find patterns in objects not usually considered art, such as scaffolding and cranes, and seeing beauty and meaning in geometric shapes and structures and feats of engineering. It reminded me of Mondrian, and also the French composer (and one of my favourites) Edgard Varese (1883-1965) a visionary who had been dreaming of new sounds and electronic music a generation before it was technically possible, and whose astonishing blocks of dissonant sound are incredibly beautiful. Listening to his music, it is not surprising to learn of his fascination with architectural structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8FcxVKIAwo  extract from Octandre by Edgard Varese

Reflecting on the way that these contrasting but connected artists saw the world, I was also reminded of doing art classes at school, and learning about seeing the light and shade in an object like a pot or a piece of cutlery. For a long time, I just didn’t get this. I couldn’t see it.  Then, one day, I did and it was like a revelation which has never left me.  Like being let in on a wonderful secret.

Finally, I watched a deeply moving and hauntingly beautiful film called The Way of the Morrishttp://www.wayofthemorris.com/

Written and presented by Tim Plester (who was also co-producer and co-director) it is a personal, heartfelt journey, both physical and spiritual. Every shot was like a painting or photograph, with amazing lighting and stunning landscapes. Subtlely observed, like Grierson, this film used documentary to convey something profound about community, ritual, and the human soul, and what tradition and shared history can mean to us.

To see beauty is a gift. I’m a natural pessimist.  I get angry about injustice and passionate about causes I believe in. But I can get emotional about beautiful landscapes and wild birds; about music, art, film, and literature.

In the 1940s, Mondrian wrote: “Art today is condemned to a separate existence, for present day life is essentially tragic.  But in some distant future, art and life will be one.”

How do you see the world? Consonant or dissonant? Can you find beauty easily? And has your view changed over the years?

Links:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/08/13/the-vision-and-the-voice-part-1-by-jane-ayres/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Piet-Mondrian-Mondrians-Studio-DVD/dp/B004754TF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1374505365&sr=1-1&keywords=mondrian

http://go.sky.com/vod/content/SKYENTERTAINMENT/content/videoId/718a084b7c0ea310VgnVCM1000000b43150a________/content/default/videoDetailsPage.do

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind’s_eye

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/198800.html

http://www.pietmondrian.com/

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Edgard+Var%C3%A8se

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beware-of-the-Horse-ebook/dp/B00BEJTDUE/

The Vision and the Voice: Part 1 by Jane Ayres

Photo by Roger Hyland
Photo by Roger Hyland

If I admire a writer, it will be for two reasons.  Firstly, their vision and the ideas expressed and explored.  I came to sci-fi late in life but I am astonished by, and drawn to, visionaries such as Asimov and Philip K. Dick and their prophecies.  Secondly, I am attracted to elements of style, structure and craft.  Sarah Waters, Lydia Davis, Mark Haddon, Frank Cottrell Boyce are wonderful examples.  You don’t always find vision and execution in the same piece of work but when you do, it is sheer joy.

Most writing courses and manuals will talk about the way a writer has to find their “voice”, and for some writers, I imagine this might be a natural process; instinctive and deeply embedded.

I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years, been regularly published – even had a bestseller – but still don’t feel like I’ve found my voice.  Maybe I never will.  Maybe I don’t have one.  Or maybe I’m afraid to let it loose.

Reading through some of my older work, I can see that my writing style has changed and, hopefully, improved.  But I don’t think I have a style that is distinctly “me.”

When I was in my twenties, I trained for 8 years to be a classical singer, and I enjoyed singing, but never had the dedication to pursue it as a career – nor the talent.  And crippling nerves made performing a struggle.  So I gave up.

Recently, after a twenty year gap, I had a singing lesson again.  I loved it.  Maybe, all these years of different life experiences – pain and joy – will help me to find my voice.

Singers express their art through a physical means, drawn from their breath, their essence, their life force.   They create their own sound, externalised from nothing, from within.  The way a writer creates something from nothing, by plundering the imagination.

A writer has to find that inner voice, that essence, and make it tangible through the choice of words and the patterns they create.  But more than that, a writer must reveal what makes she or he unique as a human being and give it form.

It is a mysterious process, this fusion of vision and voice.  A fluid, reactive journey of discovery – and it requires honesty and guts.

And how we see the world plays a major role, which I will explore in Part 2.

Have you found your voice?

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon.

The Value Triangle and measuring the value of culture by Jane Ayres

P1030561The Big Cheese  (Photo by Jane Ayres)

Earlier in the month I attended a conference about using the arts to regenerate East Kent coastal towns, a topic dear to my heart, after spending 4 years as Marketing and Outreach Co-ordinator for University Centre Folkestone (which, sadly, is no more).  Listening to the speakers made me realise that I was still angry and upset about the loss of UCF (and I did make my feelings public, and then had a bit of a rant in the ladies loos afterwards!).  However, I learned a lot from the conference, and one of the speakers, when discussing the way that the arts and culture are measured and valued, referred to a concept called The Value Triangle, which I had not heard of before.

The phrase, it appears, originates from John Holden, an associate at the independent think tank Demos and a visiting professor at City University, London, who has been involved in numerous major projects with the cultural sector ranging across heritage, libraries, music, museums, the performing arts and the moving image.  We were shown a You Tube clip taken from the PARTicipate Conference in Belfast, which questioned and explored how the value of culture and arts impacts on the regeneration of Belfast. John Holden describes models of cultural value, and the value triangle of intrinsic, instrumental and institutional value. He then went on to discuss social return on investment and measuring change.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2QPHapOlSI

Having previously written a post for Creatabot on valuing art https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/05/12/twenty-dollars-worth-of-art-please-by-jane-ayres/ I found this quite fascinating.

The topic is one I will doubtless continue to explore.  The relationship between artists, and how they value themselves and are valued by others, is an important issue, especially when arts council budgets continue to be cut and so many are struggling to survive.

I had my first short story published in a UK magazine at the age of 14. I got £10 and will never forget how it felt to have earned what seemed a lot of dosh for something I had enjoyed producing.  This was 1974 and normally I would have needed to work for 9 hours washing up and waiting on tables in my cousin’s café to earn that much (My Saturday job). No wonder the life of a writer seemed a glamorous option!  Oh, how naïve I was….

Other links:

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/culture/participate.asp

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, go to her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon.

A poem dedicated to the memory of Chris Austin

You had a laugh so honest
And a smile so arresting
But all that sounds fake
In a eulogistic poem
Sounds like rose tinted glasses
Sounds like beauty now passed
But I’m not talking from my arse

But your laugh is well known
Your talent never disputed
Always revered.
What we failed to notice was your strength

To laugh and smile and banish
In the face of what you lived
To make us all feel welcome
Despite what you hid
To play, create, inspire
Whether you knew or not
Shows an unwavering strength of character
Which I know I,
Did not afford.
And, Chris that breaks my heart,
But by f**k it makes me proud
Because it proves what I believe
About good people in the world

So here’s my tribute to you
For the laughs and all the fun
For all the japes, and scrapes and shouldn’t have dones
But mostly for the one
Who wanted something more
The one who made time to chat
Easily, no chore
The one who believed in music
Its power and its grace
The one who kept it to himself
A part of Medway, sacrificed.

By Louise Micklewright

Medway has lost a light, but we’ll play and party in your name.

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A poem dedicated to the memory of Hilary Halpern

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I moved to Medway some time ago

This place inspires me, as you well know

I wanted to help with the amazing creativity

To help it be seen by more, to prevent exclusivity.

 

But fortunately I had somewhere to start

Someone had already helped Medway’s art

This man was someone who needed a studio himself

But was happy to share space with someone else.

 

So he looked for a place that would be just right

And in Chatham High Street he found just the site

There was room for lots of artists, not just him

And this is where Nucleus arts was to begin.

 

He saw in Medway there was a need

So in making studios for artists he took the lead

Him and his daughter made lots of studios and gallery space

At last creatives in Medway could find their place.

 

All that happened in 2002

And the arts centre just grew and grew

And now as the arts scene here continues to boom

Nucleus arts continues to bloom.

 

Over 400 artists have been there to create

The effect on Medway has been great

I know I will never forget what Hilary done

So Medway creatives, let us make sure the work he started, carries on.

By Natasha Steer

 

Dedicated to the memory of Hilary Halpern – founder of Nucleus Arts Centre.

It was Hilary’s wishes that donations should be made to Nucleus Arts  – click here for more details.

Crista Cloutier – The Video All Creatives Need To See

Crista Cloutier gave a motivating talk about the struggles and joys of crowdfunding at the East Kent Cultural Conversation in Canterbury on the 4th June 2013, and I was lucky enough to be there. For anyone passionate about their projects, this is a must see. For me the part where she talks about those that support her, and those that do not, her words could not have been more true for how I felt at that time – and often do still. But her talk helped to encourage me, to not give up. Hopefully it will help you too.

www.theworkingartist.com

http://www.cristacrista.com

“Twenty dollars worth of art, please.” By Jane Ayres

photo credit Jane Ayres
photo credit Jane Ayres

Growing up in the 60s and 70s it was a treat after school to stop by the corner shop and buy a penny’s worth of sweets.  Lemon bonbons were my favourite.  They were scooped out of the huge jar and carefully weighed out, measured to the value of a penny and then placed in a paper bag.

Fast forward around 40 years.  I’m a big fan of the US TV series Parks and Recreation, a wonderfully observed, funny, warm character comedy  which centres around the employees of the parks and recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.   Season 2, currently on BBC 4, featured an episode in which office staff were invited to produce a design for a mural contest. Declaring he has no interest or talent in art, the seemingly shallow character called Tom decides to cheat and approaches a professional designer to do the work for him. Believing art to be simply another commodity, he requests “20 dollars worth of art”. I laughed out loud at this. (The irony is that he later falls in love with the abstract work produced, forming a deep emotional connection with his piece of art).

It got me thinking about how we measure the creative process in monetary terms.  How do we /can we value art?  And our time as creative producers?  I wonder how many artists have had clients asking how much art they can get for £10? £100? £1000?  Interestingly, commission guidelines for composers are often based on cost per minute of music, and writers can be paid per word for articles and features.

My e-books are priced between £1.95 – £3.98. Many e-books cost just 99p.  They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce.  What else can you get for £1.95?  Not even a cappuccino.  Is my latest book worth less than that?

Pricing and charging is a tricky arena.  Especially since creatives often do a lot of work gratis (and are often expected to do stuff for free).  I’ve done plenty for free – sometimes willingly and happily if I know that funding was a problem, other times not so much.  What is my time worth?  If no-one pays me is my time worthless? Would you ever assume that a plumber or mechanic or solicitor will work for free?

The arts make money. A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the fact that, “Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the arts budget accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending, yet it makes up 0.4% of the nation’s GDP.

The report is published amid fears that the arts will take another big hit when George Osborne announces his spending review in June.”  (Click link below to read the article).

We are all consumers.  But, as a creative, how do you value your time?  And that of other creative producers?

Links: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/nov/22/parks-and-recreation-bbc4

http://www.impulse-music.co.uk/commission_fees.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2013/may/07/arts-worth-millions-uk-economy?goback=%2Egde_4148866_member_238627525

Related posts:

http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/is-book-simply-commodity-should-you-be.html

Hello? Is this thing on? – The People Fighting Your Corner

publicRelations

It’s been a while! Too long, in fact. So it’s about time for another article, methinks

This time, I’m going to try and shine a light on the weird and wonderful world of PR (or Public Relations in layman’s terms).

For those of you who don’t know, these are the lovely people that will be sending your music out to the world to get you as much profile, and radio play as they can, as well as loads of interviews, TV spots, and features as they can, and they can be split up into these rather broad categories:

  • Print
  • Online
  • Radio
  • Club

Print

The print PR team are going to spend their time targeting magazines and newspapers, ranging from being featured in their Albums/Singles of the Week to reviews, features, Q&A’s and more. Traditionally, these guys will also be writing up your press releases (I wrote previously about these devious documents here) and even biographies on occasions. Print is where most of your press would have come from in the old days, but with blogs and online editions starting to take over, this is less true, though still massively important. If successful, and I say ‘if’, because  PR can work day and night at times to make the project big but seemingly hit a brick wall, this is also where your quotes will come from for posters, product stickers, adverts and more.

Print press is the grandfather of PR in the music industry, and is continually merging with online going forwards as more magazines and websites increase and improve their web presence, which leads quite nicely to…

Online

 …Online PR (Pretty sure I’m breaking a lot of grammar rules using an ellipsis to bridge paragraphs but hey, that’s why I work for a label and not PR!). This is now arguably as important as print, if not more in the modern game. I say that because blogs are now the heart and soul of new music and main tool for breaking it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it costs a magazine or newspaper to print an article in its physical form. The only cost of putting a review or feature on a website is bandwidth, the writer and whoever they pay to maintain the website, so as a rule they are much more susceptible to putting things up for you, given the amount of content uploaded in a day. This isn’t a make or break type scenario, but just an opinion of mine – you take what you want from it. It’s also a damn sight easier to get people to listen to your music on a website, with a Soundcloud link for example, than an article telling them the music is available to buy. That’s not to say they won’t go and seek it out at the record shop or iTunes, but think about it – one click of a Soundcloud/Youtube embed versus trawling through iTunes to find it themselves. This is probably a good time to note that PEOPLE ARE LAZY. Shove it in their face and make it as easy as possible and you’ll find more people will engage. Don’t believe me? Think about how you surf the web/read magazines and you should be able to answer me.

Radio

Radio can make or break a campaign. If you get loads of radio play across lots of a stations, then great! It gives you something to talk about and also gets the tunes out to more ears. If you get a few plays across a few stations, that’s good. Something, at the end of the day, is better than nothing. When you end up getting little to no plays, it makes the whole campaign a lot harder. After all, where else do you expect to hear new music? Traditionally that is, don’t forget how strong online is now, with iPhones, Galaxy phones the size of a dinner tray and tablets that make you try and remember why you ever had that giant, windows ‘95 computer tower decades ago. I digress. Radio PR teams will go and talk to presenters and producers (usually producers) and harass them until either they play your tunes on air or get removed from the building. They pitch to get you into playlists.

Now, for those of you that don’t know radio stations usually have a set of playlists, from which they make up the majority of the music in their shows. It usually consists of;

  • The ‘A’ Playlist – Big stars, super popular tracks (Adele, Beyonce, 1D and the like).
  • The ‘B’ Playlist – Tracks that are popular, but not quite at A-list status yet
  • The ‘C’ Playlist – you get the idea by now, right?
  • The ‘Specialist’ Playlist – This is where the tracks that don’t quite fit the mould sit, like big tracks that aren’t ‘pop’

This applies to most commercial stations, BBC Radio 1 & 2 and more online stations too. Just switch the genre up depending on the station. Presenters usually get one or 2 free plays, which are usually tracks of their own choice they can slot in once in a while.

As well as trying to get the recorded track on the air, they’ll try and get you in to talk, co-host where possible or go on and play a track. Be prepared to sit around for a long time to then play 2 songs, say 4 lines then leave. You’re at the mercy of scheduling, remember this. Especially live.

Club

The mystical and baffling world of club promo. Now as a rule this does not usually apply to traditional bands, it’s always been for electronic music really. House, D’n’B, Trip-Hop, Glitch Funk and Mooba-core. They’ll take your package of tracks and send it out to scores of DJ’s, both radio and live, to try and get them to play it. You often get loads of feedback from them about what they think of it but it’s incredibly difficult to track this back into sales. Get a review in a paper, have a website premier a single or have BBC 6 Music play your track, and it’s very easy to track and analyse just how effective it has been, be it new Facebook ‘Likes’ or 500 people buying your single. Club promo is almost under the radar in some ways. It puts the tracks in the hands of a select few people, nudges them to drop it into their set at XOYO or Plan B, hoping that the crowd goes wild and then goes off in search of just what the hell track it was. And there is your issue. Radio, print, online, all say what the track is, who it was by etc. In the club, you’ve either got to ask the DJ (If he/she’s not holed up in his/her booth), pray your ‘in the know’ club buddy knows the track or you can get close enough to a speaker to Shazam the track without overloading your phone’s microphone. A double-edged sword, but if you get the right DJ behind a track and they pioneer it, you’re onto a winner.

Now, I would advise all of you to read this as it is. I work with PR through a label, not for a PR company. This is just my words and thoughts and a little insight into how I see it working, as well as some generalisations and opinions I read in ‘Music Week’ from time to time. Do your own research. Approach a PR company and see what they think of your tunes. Get them to pitch you their opinion of how they could work your track and where they think is a good place for it.

This is also a work in progress. Undoubtedly I’ve missed things that I know but don’t remember that I know. Pop a question in the box below and I’ll do my best to answer it. In fact, here’s a link to my previous articles. Read them and ask me questions. I started writing these blogs to try and give an insight and some help, so help me do that by picking my brain.

By Luke Crook

What A Young Artist Taught Me About Crowdfunding – By Crista Cloutier

Harrison

It was Day 16 of the campaign and I had only cried in public once. Twice. Online crowdfunding is not for the faint of heart.

I’ve spent my entire career in and around the art world. I recently curated a touring exhibition of new work by Kiki Smith and Valerie Hammond. I have been a gallerist and a fine art print-publisher, collaborating with the luminaries of the international art world. I have sold artwork to nearly every major institution in the USA as well as thousands of galleries and collections.

But about five years ago I had what I refer to as a midlife “correction.” Desperate to become something different, I sold all of my possessions and used them as a ticket to a new life. I left my home in the states and moved to the south of France, devoting a year to discovering my own creative path, before moving to England where I really got down to work and became a writer and photographer.

Throughout my career I have seen how artists struggled and I knew it didn’t have to be so hard. So I began sharing with artists what I knew about how the art market works and giving them the tools necessary to create a successful career. I called my class The Working Artist and I have now spent the past three years teaching it throughout the world.

I’ve long wanted to turn this course into an online educational program, something that could be downloaded so that any artist, anywhere, can have access to this information at an affordable price. After spending nearly a year researching the options and putting a business plan together I decided to launch an online crowdfunding campaign to raise the monies it would take to film and edit the program.

The launch party was a huge success and I exceeded my initial goal in terms of donations. The next two weeks have been a whirling dervish of emotions and bloody hard work. At the computer constantly posting, begging, pleading, thanking. And when I’m not at the computer I am out on the streets handing out promotional materials, chatting with artists, lecturing, making connections, chasing leads. This month, it seems, will never end.

The biggest take-aways have been the lessons learned, the hard way, about staying balanced, about not being attached to the outcome, and about letting go of what other people think. Easy lessons none.

But it’s been difficult to keep the faith. Though I have been blessed with little moments of serendipity that give me cheer, each day that someone tells me “no” can bring my spirits crashing to the ground. And so Day 16 began. I was halfway through the campaign, I’d begged every friend, relative, and ex-boyfriend I knew and had raised just over half my goal. Now what? I was exhausted. Well-intentioned friends gave me advice about how I could be doing it better, but they only served to make it worse. I was having a crisis of faith.

Harrison

I was on my bicycle whizzing down a hill under a bridge when something caught my eye. A little boy was drawing with chalk on the concrete wall. My camera was at home with a dead battery. But I have a phone, I reminded myself. I hate photographing with a phone and I don’t photograph children but something told me to turn back. I asked his mother if I could take a picture. I tried to get a shot of him as he drew, apologizing for not having my good camera. “So do you just ride your bike and take pictures of things that interest you?” he asked. I nodded and he looked impressed, “I want to be like you.” What’s that? “An artist,” he smiled.

He showed me some of his other, earlier, chalk drawings. There was a large piece called “People Pasture” of a unicorn eating people. “But I don’t think that’s my best work,” he said gravely. His name was Harrison and he was 8 years old. His drawings filled the walls with their childlike graffiti, he’d even written poetry. “Faith. Justice. Believers matter,” he wrote.

“Sometimes,” he confessed, “I have doubts about my work.” Harrison wanted to be a famous artist. We spoke for a long time. He told me how it hurts when people don’t like what he does. I pointed him back to his own words, “Believers matter.”

I told him what it is to be an artist, how it’s important to always take chances, to make your life an expression of your work, of your self. I spoke of integrity. He drank my words in thirsty gulps. I told him how fame is a false prophet and how his life’s work, as an artist, is to work hard to develop that which lies inside and to always look for ways to express it, leaving everyplace he ever goes more beautiful for him having been there. “Like you do with these walls,” I told him.

He said, “It’s so good that I met you.” But it was I who was blessed. I told Harrison about my crowdfundung campaign and he encouraged me not to give up. “Look how much you have helped me today,” he said. “This is your work.”

I asked to take his picture with my phone and he made me wait so he could put on his glasses. As I left, he told me that he would be back tomorrow, making another drawing, should I want to visit him. “I will photograph you again,” I promised.

“Bring your good camera this time,” he said.

By Crista Cloutier

Crista Cloutier’s crowdfunding campaign ends on March 30th. Visit www.igg.me/at/theworkingartist to see how you can participate.

Making Noise – By Roy Smith : The Results Of the MY Noise Music Festival

Click above link to read whole article 🙂

bits and pieces

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Had a great weekend listening to and making a bit of noise, as part of Tea’sMY Noise festival. Highlights for me were an energetic performance from Bear vs Manero at Motherboy’s Singerpora Lounge gig and Damo Suzuki’s sometime jarring, sometimes soothing, always facinating improvised vocals with Hand of Stabs, followed by a 25min conversation with the man himself, covering everything from the harshness of the Japanese penal system to the illuminati and airplane travel.

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On Sunday, we made it too ‘My Favourite Noise’ at Sun Pier House, learning about an interesting new music app, experiencing the mini accordian and I getting to play my Bleeptronic 5000 through Matt’s array of tape echo, reverb and distortion pedals. All this resparked a love for messing around with sound that has been kicking around since Uni and various s-deck experiments with mssrs Birch, Dale and Maine, exploring messed up samples of…

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