Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Things to do. Reasons (excuses) for not writing here regularly

It's in my diary, clearly enough. Friday - repeats. Blog. I know it's not Friday today, but when have I ever obeyed this particular diary entry? The trouble is, I do too much.. or, at least, I will have done, if I ever get round to completing it all. There's this queue of tasks, not onerous in themselves, but in a line there does seem rather a lot to do. I see something of interest and think that looks good, I'll try that. That accounts for the Mooc free online Leeds University course  on Meyerhold and Biomechanics.. done, just, which was very interesting, but it slowed up my progress on the one I started at the same time: Exploring Film Making with the National Film and Television School. (If you think this sounds an interesting way to study, try it out - free across the globe and open to all who can get by on English as the medium. Excellent standard, and plenty of opportunity to join in discussions. https://www.futurelearn.com for details of a whole list of courses. )

So I'm a week behind with this. There is also the IT course that I am following with Shoebox Theatre directors, setting up an app for smartphone for the company, and learning how to maintain and further develop this as we go along. This is a EU funded training and development program for small businesses to help us keep in touch with our 'audience' and delivered by Bournville College in Birmingham, together with a development and design company, bsmartmedia.co.uk; and we're getting that for free, too, for the first year's licence for twelve months after its launch, then it's like a rolling phone contact per month. We're getting there, slowly. Getting all five of us there to work through the tasks together so we can agree on the look and content is hard. All have other work and priorities which get in the way of this - we are all volunteering for Shoebox, so we have to manage as best we can. There's a free course on web design starting up nearby which I've signed up for. If you've looked at my current sites, you'll know that's an important skill I haven't fully mastered yet.

You'll all know the problem of the daily inbox battle. Short of binning the lot, the only way is to read and action, but it takes so long!  Not many spam or unwanted these days, after a purge with the unsubscribe links has helped there, though there is one firm persisting with its three a week and no unsubscribe link - I'm training the inbox to recognise them as spam, but early days yet. I've not mentioned the hours of family film footage and stills waiting for attention. They go back to 2008! I know, that is awful, and I have had no excuse since taking receipt of a dedicated computer built and set up as an editing suite, and I've done several edits for Shoebox. Just not got round to the personal stuff. Currently putting together a short for those who were at the walking weekend I went on in January with The Unthanks - delightful Northumbrian singers (http://www.the-unthanks.com) - that'll be for private viewing only. Nearly finished.

A friend asked if I could write a screenplay for his feature film. Panos, I've not forgotten.. It's there in the queue. I'm banking that it'll take you a few years to get the funding together, so hang on in there. But just now I have to get to the gym. Inbox done over breakfast. Just a small matter of showering and being ready to go.  NOW! Apologies for any errors. I'll edit this later.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Working on a podcast for a mobile phone app

Shoebox Theatre has been offered an app for Iphone & Android, so I've been very busy with fellow directors deciding how it should look and with what features. Then there was the form to fill in and the images to sort out for the Gallery page. We can add a podcast to the app, so I've edited together the following clips showing the sort of community projects we do and, if you have a mind to,  you can see it on Vimeo.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Celebrating Participatory Community Arts:Shoebox Theatre cic - a not-for-profit community theatre

with thanks to friends & colleagues at the universities of Staffordshire, Kaunas and Warsaw  who shared with me the theories and practice of cultural animation that informs our work. 


Sometimes nothing seems to go right and you hit a run of bad luck or misjudgments. When that happens we are liable to forget that the reverse also happens. Shoebox Theatre has hit a lucky streak, and I want to celebrate that on their behalf.

Shoebox is a very small concern that I set up in 1998 and it has continued in one form or another since, but has been community managed since 2002 and for the past six years has been a Community Interest Company - a limited liability company with a substantial benefit for the community, in the case of Shoebox Theatre that is its entire raison d'etre. It is run by volunteer member directors who have no financial stake in the company, so there is no  share capital and no dividend payments. Mainly funded, it has a modest income from donations and sales of donated craft goods. There used to be a steady income from school and residential home bookings, but in these austere times, that has virtually dried up. Recently, a partnership with Tamworth town library has enabled the company to find an additional source through public sharing of participants' creative output; and the company has had a good run of grants to support the development of work with a variety of community participants who might not otherwise have the opportunity get involved.

Now things are looking up! from January 2015 we will have funding in place for our all-ages group, and will also be helping to deliver Tamworth B. C.'s Taster Sessions workshops across the town as part of the creative community arts project I AM TAMWORTH (IAT) rolling out in January. We will have the chance to bid for a longer project under the umbrella of IAT.

A visit to our website Shoebox Theatre cic will give you an taste of what we have been doing over recent years; and an exploration of the site will give an overall view of our activities.

If you'd like to get involved, contact us through that website, or directly by email.

Shoebox is also on Twitter and Face Book.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sir John Moore's Foundation, Appleby Magna

This is where G. & I spent an afternoon dancing and filming over the weekend. It is a 17th century little gem, built to a design by Christopher Wren at the request of the then Lord Mayor of London.     Founded initially as a boys grammar school it is now a maintained village primary school serving the children in the locality and within Leicestershire  Education Authority. If you want to learn more about its history and its founder, there is an article about both in Wikipedia.

Sir John Moore, the school's founder
 I'm sure the contemporary staff come down heavily on infants and juniors wielding penknives, but clearly in the past the kids got away with these elegant graffiti, which, for all we know, was part of the boys' woodwork and arts & craft education! For us, it adds to our sense of the building's history.

During the whole of our 50 year partnership G & I have not once danced together - as a leisure activity it has never entered our heads - not our scene. But since embarking on the fun of acting for student films, we have been led into the intriguing world of stereotypical pursuits for the older generations. Dancing is what old people do. Not that I am unfamiliar with the common view of plenty of professional film-makers, I spend a considerable part of my working life playing demented women or sweet little old ladies, with old-fashioned ideas who can't manage anything technical later than the treadle sewing machine. That's real acting for you, because they are definitely not me: "old" and "woman" are the only words I will accept apply.  

We spent the entire day dancing with each other in two very different locations - the morning in the communal hall of a very smart, well equipped sheltered retirement 'village', then here in the old school hall. It was quite a challenge. By the evening 'wrap' we'd more or less got the hang of it in a shuffling kind of way.

Thank you, Jaye, for the experience, it was very enjoyable; and, with so much exercise over the day, I excused myself from the gym the following day.  Mustn't overdo it at my age.