Making the good stuff happen – for free… @stratfordeast Tommy livestream

18 Jun

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On Saturday June 17th we ran a four camera livestream of the Tommy production – live from Theatre Royal Stratford East. In fact we ran two livestreams that day. One had an incorporated audio described feed, and both had integrated live captions. These were both HD streams with full stereo sound that we relayed live into Adult Social Care Homes across the country to the cities where the Ramps on the Moon production had played on the national tour.

This was a free to view screening for the residents in the selected locations, and this project is part of my work as an Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

I was present at one of the locations – an East Thames housing scheme in Newham, and Kate Lovell, who is the Ramps ‘agent for change’ at Stratford East was at an Anchor care home in Tower Hamlets. We had spent the previous weeks setting up the working relationships for this to happen, meeting the residents, and also working with some of the Tommy Cast who visited the Home last week.

The feed was encoded and sent live to our Stratford East website, which has a password protected page for the Homes to view the livestream. This was fed into the large HD TV screens around the facilities and were able to invite family and friends of the residents to join the afternoon matinee screening.

The feed, captions, audio description were all tested and working. With the livestream team back at the theatre we were able to capture the LED caption screen and place this as a picture in picture at the top of the screen for our viewers too.

In the room I was in the residents came and joined the party atmosphere. Cups of tea were handed round and the printed programmes made brilliant fans for all of us to keep cool in the sweltering 30 degree London heat!

One of the residents next to me, and for this blog I will call her Celeste, was in her 80’s and had lost the ability to speak. Her smile was infectious though and I watched her as she began to focus on the screen and listen to the music. The moment the Pinball Wizard track came on – she sat bolt upright in her wheelchair and focused hard on the screen, she began to nod her head and then her fingers started tapping the side of her chair, not in rhythm to the music, but it took me a while to realise. She clearly was tapping the side of her wheelchair like the flippers of a pinball machine. She turned and smiled at me, then she reached back, took her hair band off, threw it to the floor and then swirled her grey hair back and forth in time to the rock track. Celeste was rocking out.

At the end of the track, which was the interval, she retrieved her head band and tied her hair back. She caught my eye as I was the one now beaming back at her. I realised of course that when the Tommy Album came out in 1969, Celeste would have been 33 years old. She was glued to the screen for the whole of act 2 and her feet were tapping to ”I’m Free’ ‘I’m a Sensation’ and right through to the finale.

When the show had finished it was time for tea, so I packed away my laptop, hdmi cables and stuff and headed out, stopping to shake Celeste’s hand and to thank her for sharing the show with me that afternoon. She smiled back in a way that made a connection, a communication point that recognised that we were both rockers.

So – in a time where it is more evident than ever, we need to make more connections, make more difference with people outside our social bubbles.  So for me, this is a real way that the technology can create and empower, as well as connect and effectively communicate. After all, people like Celeste have spent their lives paying their taxes and inputting into their communities. It is only right that they have full and proper access to the work on offer from our cultural institutions. Here at Theatre Royal Stratford East we are developing the concept of what ‘A People’s Theatre’ means in a digital context.

A big thank you to the cast and production team, the technical team, at the theatre, the staff at the care homes, and we acknowledge and are grateful for the support of Telford Homes and NuLiving.co.uk that made this livestream possible.

Taking livestreamed theatre into Adult Social Care Homes with @stratfordeast

23 May

I really enjoy working as an associate artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East. As part of our work as A People’s Theatre, we are continuing  to explore how this can extend the reach and engagement for audiences using existing and emerging platforms and networks.

I have previously described the real human connection that was discovered when our livestream went into children’s hospitals and a children’s hospice earlier this year. As you may know I have been a real advocate in my work for developing new projects that have an extended element of digital engagement for audiences for over a decade now.

So this new initiative is no different. Tommy, is the great new touring production of the classic 1969 album and subsequent movie by The Who. Ramps on the Moon have produced an extraordinary show, directed by Stratford East’s Artistic Director, Kerry Michael, the piece has access running through all aspects of the production.

So as part of our discussions with Kerry, we will be developing the HD livestream, which will be broadcast to adult social care homes across east London, as well as across care homes in some of the venue cities that the production has toured to.

This will be a fully captioned, with an audio description feed too. The show has integrated signing as part of the action and a full live band.

Some of the homes and schemes we are working with are dementia care homes, and we are really keen to see how the piece works in these venues for the audience and their families. Clearly there are references both visually and musically from over 40 years ago which may allow recognition and connections.

We are inviting families to come and participate and watch alongside their family members who may be resident in the schemes and spaces we are working with. We know the technology can work. we have done it before many times. In a way that’s the easy bit. But what is really clear to me, is that the people here, living in the Borough and near the theatre have for many years paid their Council Tax, their income Tax, and contributed to the community in which they now live. They gave a right to be able to access the work that they have contributed towards, for free. To me that is what A People’s Theatre can and should deliver.

My question is, why are all theatres and arts organisations not pushing the boundaries in the same way and using the digital opportunities that are now clearly in our grasp to make those same connections?

 

Children, making the world a better place…

13 May

 

I caught up with my daughter last week. She was on her inter-rail trip across Europe, and we met in Stockholm. I had been asked to give a talk in Oslo, and she was travelling from Copenhagen to Sweden. I checked timings and it was possible that we could both be at Stockholm Central Station at 9.30pm that night. We arranged to meet. It felt like a Bond movie, with the sending of texts, timings and meeting places for the possible exchange of files, or documents. In my case it was a big bag of Haribo…

She arrived with her inter-rail travelling companion, Ellie, and we were able to meet up, go out for food and catch up. It was a really fantastic moment.  Spending the time with her and seeing her as a confident, independent and creative woman made my heart burst with pride. I told her so, and also the realisation that no matter what else is going on in the world – the toxicity of the current state of political discourse, the rise of right wing bigotry, and the despotic behaviour of world leaders – The simple fact is that her being in the world, makes the world a better place. She makes the world a better place for all of us.

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This realisation, which is very simple, is about seeing the future in the hands of our young people. It is about recognising that we need to invest and provide the best opportunities for all young people.

So today, as some of you will be aware, I have been dealing with a back problem with the disc between L4 and L5 giving me some issues. I decided to cycle into town, as the exercise and cycling is really helping. I am currently home alone, as my daughter is now heading from Amsterdam to Berlin, and Susie is flying to Winnipeg, and my son is away with his friends in Cambridge today.

I decided to head to Cambridge and buy a new vinyl album. As I was browsing the albums – I looked across and saw my son there who was having breakfast with his mates. He came over and gave me the biggest hug ever. I had also told him too, that him being in the world also made the world a better place.

Two chance encounters, and moments in time have been the story of my last few weeks.

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Seeing Christy in Relevant Records today, and meeting Millie in Stockholm has focused my thinking about our duty and responsibility, not only as parents, but as fellow human beings to put children at the forefront of our thinking and responsibility for all our futures.

Children…This piece of music had been in my mind for a long time, and more recently I had been thinking about it. So it feels right that I should share this as part of this blog. Thank you Robert Miles, we will miss you.

Back on the green again…at @stratfordeast

12 Apr

jamieSheltonOnGreenscreenFor those of you who have been following what I have been up to – you will know that I am currently working as an Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East. I have just started working again with green screen technology to develop some new trailers and shorts for the theatre.

I feel very comfortable working in this environment – as those who can also remember, I spent 5 weeks in a full green screen studio working as a director for the feature film The Knife That Killed Me – which was released by Universal Pictures – that too was all shot against green screen.

So over the next few weeks have a look out for the new trailers, and info that we will be creating for Room and Tommy

Here is a short for the Disability Theatre Workshop we made on Monday

Blog I wrote for @uk_theatre #livestreaming

30 Mar
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I have worked in Theatre all my adult life – although not always in the Theatre where people come to watch shows. Prior to becoming a director, I worked in NHS operating theatres in the 1980’s after training at Leeds Medical School and becoming a Dental Surgeon. As part of my training we followed the ‘Observe, Assist, Do’ method of learning. In this you observed the first operation, assisted on the second one, and for the third time, you did it on your own – under supervision.

This is the practical way of learning by doing. It is not until you start something and get involved can you fully understand and appreciate what you need to do, and how you need to work towards the successful outcome.

It is this learning by doing that has informed my practice in all my subsequent work as a director, writer and more recently, as a filmmaker. So, I wanted to create a guide for Theatres to be able to make a start on developing their Live to Digital work. In this I have drawn on my experience of starting to livestream theatre back in 2008, and this early learning has led me to where I am today.

In the most recent livestream from Theatre Royal Stratford East we were able to deliver an ultra HD feed to Richard House Children’s Hospice who had invited families, siblings and carers of the children who were resident, and set up a big party in their meeting room which was equipped with a projector, full screen and surround sound.

A real moment happened when the actors, and the whole audience in the theatre sang Happy Birthday to a girl called Hope who was four that day. She had been at the Hospice for a while and was there with her family, her face lit up when she heard her name called on the big screen and when everyone in the room joined in too and she turned and smiled at us all. I caught her grandfather’s eye as he wiped away a tear. He saw me and nodded back – we had both just shared a moment of what it meant to be human.

I know first-hand that live to digital can play an important part of developing new audiences and making real engagement happen.

So hopefully this guide is going to get you started. It allows you to work with your whole organisation, and it is written to enable all departments to find the information they need to answer some of the questions that will always arise. Why are we doing this? Who is it for? How much does it cost? All these areas are covered, and I have created an interactive document that allows you to follow certain areas of the subject and you it can be used as part of your team learning and training.

I have taken an approach that allows you to make first steps with live to digital capture with smart phones and social media platforms, right through to a range of full camera capture and Ultra HD delivery. There are a range of budget options for equipment and a guide to some technical know how. There are built in links that take you to further areas of equipment and further reading around audiences, access capabilities and distribution platforms.

The key thing is making a start, so you and your teams can start that learning by doing process. It will encourage you to think creatively about what you want to capture, where you think the audience for this might be, and then how best to develop the project to deliver this idea.

This is the start of a whole new area of work, and one that should start to inform your practice and your digital thinking and strategic planning. As theatre makers we all need to develop and connect with a wider audience than we have been doing, and to make connections and creative opportunities for the many communities we are there to serve. We know from the recent research findings of AEA Consulting’s From Live-To-Digital report (commissioned by Arts Council England, UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre), that new and different audiences engage with live streaming. Working with your teams and learning by doing is part of this journey.

Original link here

by Marcus Romer, Creative Director of Artsbeacon UK, and an Associate Artist at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Marcus ran Pilot Theatre from the mid 90’s to 2016.

Date Published: 27 March 2017

Digital livestream stuff and what it can now mean for audiences… @stratfordeast

21 Feb

 

trse6I wanted to put something down in a blog about the last digital livestream I ran from Stratford East. It was between Christmas and New Year on the 29th of December. For this we took the live feed from the Christmas show, Sinbad the Sailor into the Children’s wards of Bart’s Health Trust and also to Richard House Children’s Hospice in Beckton.

The team in the theatre had been well prepared and all the actors and the creative team were all on board for the livestream. Using four cameras we were able to deliver an ultra HD feed to the locations where we had our audiences. The Hospice were amazing they had invited families, siblings and carers of the children who were resident, and set up a big party in their meeting room which was equipped with an HD projector, full screen and surround sound. They provided cakes, drinks and costumes for all the guests and there were 30 families and friends who were able to attend and watch the show.

I was with them in the hospice, and experienced the live feed into the room first hand. I was also in contact with the tech team in the theatre, and the other Stratford East team who were at Newham University Hospital Children’s ward.

The tech held up for the whole two and half hours without a glitch, and the sound and picture was pin sharp and clear. But the most important aspect was the interaction and engagement with the audience in the remote venues. In our room in the hospice when the actors looked down the lens and waved at the staff and residents and called out their names the cheer back from us was almost deafening!

But it was when the actors, and the whole audience in the theatre sang happy birthday to a little girl called Hope who was four that day. She had been attending the Hospice for some months and she was with her family in the room, and her face lit up when she heard her name called and she called back to the big cinema screen with unalloyed joy, and when everyone in the room joined in and she turned and smiled at us all. Everyone was singing Happy Birthday to her – and that was over 600 people. During this I caught her grandfather’s eye as he wiped away a tear and he saw me and nodded back to acknowledge that we had both just shared a moment of what it means to be human.

So after working on this digital stuff for many year now, and helped to talk and write about and try and convince people of the value of this work and how it can connect with audiences. This event has clarified for me the nature of what we do, and how we have a duty to utilise the technology available to share our work much more widely.

So when people continue to try and tell me that well ‘of course it is not the same as being there’, and how digital ‘dilutes the experience’ etc etc…I will remind myself of this true event and redouble my effort to continue to explore and find new ways of reaching people in the places and places that they make and live their lives.

I will be presenting a ‘how to get started’ in live to digital work at UK Theatre’s Touring Symposium on March 23rd, and I will be delivering a keynote at the European Theatre Convention in Karlsruhe, Germany on April 7th.

 

 

Livestream from @Stratfordeast to East London Hospitals and Richard House Children’s Hospice

28 Dec

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Today I am preparing the final details for the Theatre Royal Stratford East Pantomime, Sinbad the Sailor that will be streamed live to children and their families in wards and units in Bart’s Health Trust Hospitals and Richard House Children’s Hospice on the afternoon of December 29th.

Thursday will be an early start with the livestream camera team heading to the theatre to set up their multi-camera set up – with 5 cameras and microphones places around the auditorium and two operators in the left and right stalls boxes. It will be mixed live by the team who are also in one of the upper circle boxes, this live feed will go straight into the broadband connection at the Theatre and will be encoded and placed onto a player that can be then watched online via the password protected page on the website.

Away from the theatre in the streaming locations at both Newham University Hospital and Richard House Hospice, I will be working with the Stratford East teams to prepare the projectors and to to set the rooms out for the families and children to come along. This is something that not only allows families, and siblings of children who are receiving care to share in the experience, but also for the staff as well.

The live feed will also be available to young patients across the Hospital network who are also receiving treatment, so they can watch it on their iPads or smartphones whilst having dialysis for example.

This is part of the work of the Theatre Royal, to engage as widely as possible with a diverse range of audiences, and artists to deliver and share the work we make. This is now possible across a range of digital platforms. I am really delighted to be part of this journey with Stratford East.

It is clear that this is the direction of travel for work to be made more available, and the more opportunities Arts and Cultural organisations can find to engage with the widest possible communities for which they are there to serve, the greater the opportunity for connection and understanding of each other, and to help us find our common humanity.

This livestream has been made possible with support from Galliard Homes