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 (Now Closed) – 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?