Archive | May, 2011

#TEDxYork – putting the art back into innovation and technology (via York Press)

27 May

TEDxYork – putting the art back into innovation and technology

9:20am Friday 27th May 2011

    York will play host in July to a festival of ideas that aims to put the art back into innovation and technology. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

    Marcus Romer is in love with ideas. He fizzes with them: his own and ones he has picked up on his travels. Like the time he was at a conference in California, and a man walked on stage with a human kidney that had been grown from human stem cells. But not exactly grown, says Marcus.

    “It was 3-D printing, built up by layers. They had 3-D printed a transplantable human kidney using stem cells as ink, and they brought it out on stage.” He’s unable to keep a note of childlike awe out of his voice. “That’s the end of dialysis, right there.”

    What excites him even more than ideas themselves, however, is what happens when you bang unexpected ideas together.

    It’s a bit like chemistry, he says, or cooking using new ingredients. You never quite know what’s going to come out. “Ideas reproduce. They mate,” he says. “Put one idea with another idea and they produce a third, the offspring.”

    Such as the first man way back at the dawn of time to think of making a flint axe. Perhaps you had one man with a stick, and another with a chunk of flint, and one of them had the idea of putting them together to make an axe.

    “You could say that was the biggest innovation that’s ever happened, the axe. Once you’ve got an axe, you can chop trees down, do lots of clearing,” says Marcus. And create the way for the first farms.

    A much more recent example of a great new idea springing out of two totally different ones, he says, was when the McLaren F1 pit stop team got together with Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

    A group of surgeons, so the story goes, were relaxing after a long spell in theatre by watching a Grand Prix. One of the biggest dangers for patients undergoing life-saving surgery is transferring them from the operating theatre to intensive care after surgery.

    The surgeons were impressed by the smooth, fast, efficient functioning of the McLaren pit stop team – it was just the approach they needed when transferring patients, they realised.

    The pit teams were able to work with doctors to make the whole process more efficient and cut out mistakes. It made an appreciable difference to complication rates, Marcus says. “And yet who would have thought of putting a Formula 1 pit stop team into a children’s hospital?”

    Marcus is a firm believer in mixing ideas up like that – however unlikely they may seem as bedfellows.

    It’s probably partly to do with his own background, he admits. Brought up in Blackburn, he always hated it when teachers tried to pigeonhole him as an arts or a science student. “I love them both!”

    He initially followed a science route, going to university in Leeds to study dental surgery, and then working for three years as a dentist.

    But he found himself hankering for the creative freedom of the arts world, chucked in dentistry, and became an actor. He is now, as many in York will know, the artistic director of the Pilot Theatre, and also the chairman of Creative York.

    He has always held on to that passionate dislike of the boundaries we put up between different forms of knowledge. At a live event to be held in York in early July, he hopes to explode a few more of those boundaries.

    The event is to be known as TEDx York. TED essentially stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. And TEDx York – essentially a development of the Shift Happens events organised by Marcus and Pilot Theatre at the Theatre Royal for the past three years – will be a festival of ideas, streamed live online to York and the whole of the world.

    The TED concept is borrowed from a series of regular, not-for-profit conferences held every year in both California and Edinburgh.

    Marcus has attended two of California conferences – it was where he saw that 3-D printed kidney being brought on stage, but also where he got to listen to the likes of Bill Clinton and The Simpsons’ Matt Groening spinning wonderful ideas to go away and think about.

    He has now been licensed to run a TED event in York. It will be held live at the Sir Ron Cooke Hub on the University of York’s new Heslington East campus from 11am to 6pm on July 7.

    Throughout the day, creative people working at the frontiers of information technology – musicians, game and software designers, theatre directors interested in the potential of new technology, and many more – will deliver a series of short presentations, spinning out new, outrageous or off-the-wall ideas.

    Highlights will include:

    • Kit Monkman, of York-based KMA, familiar to local people as the company behind some of the most innovative light displays in the annual Illuminating York Festival. “He’s just come back from Los Angeles, where he developed a new lighting and projection facility for Prince (the rock star, not William) for a 21-date tour,” Marcus says. “There’s a heat-seeking camera that follows Prince around on stage. That’s a crazy thing, that’s good.”

    • Matt Freckelton of York-based Yatterbox – a website that enables you to follow everything your local MP has been doing or saying online on various social media networks. It’s a great tool for finding out what your MP has been up to, or has inadvertently let slip, says Marcus. “This could be the next Facebook. These guys are the young Mark Zuckerbergs, and they are coming out of York.”

    • A live, interactive event taking place in York and New York, featuring a hip-hop street artist (New York) and a MC (in York). “How amazing is that?”

    All these and lots more, from York and around the world, will be watched by a live audience of just 200 people – all there is room for sadly, Marcus says. All the tickets have already been snapped up – but never fear, the event will be streamed live online, and available afterwards as a CD. It will be an event for all to watch and enjoy, he stresses.

    He believes that York, with its flair for creative, innovative science and technology, and its strong arts and entertainment sector, is the perfect place for such a festival of ideas.

    But what does he hope will come out of it?

    That’s the beauty of it – he doesn’t really know, he admits. “But maybe we’ll get new partnerships, new ideas, new co-operations.”

    He also hopes to demonstrate, to ministers seemingly obsessed with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), that the creative arts have a part to play in innovative thinking.

    “We’re putting the A for Arts back into the equation to deliver a new STEAM Age of innovation and creativity,” he says.

    It goes back to that idea about breaking down the barriers between the arts and the sciences. “We can’t see things in isolation,” he says. “We have to innovate to survive.”

    • To find out more about TEDxYork


    TEDxYork sounds great for the Twitter generation, into new and better ways of using the internet and digital technology to communicate with each other. But won’t it be a bit of a turn-off for the Coronation Street generation?

    Not at all, Marcus insists.

    The 50-year-old doesn’t believe there is any reason why the older generation should feel left behind by the digital, information revolution.

    Every generation has had to cope with change, he says, not just this one. “Imagine what it must have been like when the first air flights started, or the telephone was invented, or TV. We have all of us at some point had to get used to new stuff – videos, mobile phones.”

    Already, the information revolution is transforming all our lives, young and old alike. Most of us use mobile phones or the internet to stay in touch with people we love, or send or download photos. “I taught my mother-in-law, who is 78, to talk to her family across the world on Skype.”

    It doesn’t matter that we don’t know how these things work – he doesn’t know how his washing machine works, he says – so long as we know how to use them. His mother-in-law knows that when the green button is on, she can click on it and talk to her relatives.

    But the thing about the information revolution is that we are just scratching the surface of the amazing things we could do with it. “We’re in the cave-painting stage.” The potential to affect all our lives of the new technologies could be enormous – so it’s in all our interests to realise that.

    People trained in the creativity of the arts have a huge part to play, alongside scientists and technologists, in developing that potential, he believes – hence TEDx York.

    Related links




    alfie, York says… //–> alfie, York says…
    1:59pm Fri 27 May 11

    The art of technology by Brian Badonde

    The art of technology by Brian Badonde 



    Pilot Theatre May Newsletter #tag

    26 May

    May Newsletter

    European Platform Festival Success

    The final week of May has seen us welcome some old and new friends to York Theatre Royal as we hosted our European Platform Festival.

    Between the 20 – 28 May we filled York with new and innovative International work from our partners in the Platform 11+ European project. This collaboration of European theatre companies is funded by the European Union ‘Culture 2007-2013’ and aims to create new pieces of theatre for and with young people.

    The week saw us bring the work of Italy’s most renowned children’s theatre, Elsinor Theatre to York, along with a collaboration from VAT Theatre, Tallinn and Kolibri Theatre, Budapest. 

    As well as Europe’s top theatre companies performing, we also worked closely with four Yorkshire schools (Manor, Canon Lee, Don Valley & Joseph Rowntree) to create new pieces of work inspired by our professional produciton of What Light (in collaboration with Elsinor Theatre). It was great to see these talented young students perform on York Theatre Royal’s Studio stage.

    We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved with the festival and we can’t wait to bring you more exciting international work soon.

    STILL CHANCE TO SEE: The Paperteller by Elsinor Theatre at York Theatre Royal until Sat 28 May. Click here to book.

    Click on the album below to see the best bits of Platform 11+ so far…

    A new Project – #TAG (hashtag)

    Marcus has been busy working on a new porject with
    writers Dan Rebellato (Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre) and Daniel Bye.

    The new project will unfold online from 2011 – 2012 across multiple platforms including Twitter, Audioboo, YoutTube, and specific URLs.

    Marcus wrote: ‘We spent a fruitful two days researching and developing this new idea. As this is a new project we will be keeping some of it under wraps – but it is early days and already we can tell you we are very excited about it – as it will be a totally new way of telling stories, hearing from characters and uncovering a narrative web of intrigue that will become clear as the ‘episodes’ progress throughout the year…watch this space…’

    So what does June bring for the Pilots?

    Well Tom (our new Associate Artist), Bec and Richard fly out to Milan with the cast of What Light. Where we will perform our co-production piece with Elsinor Theatre at their home. You will be able to follow the whole adventure via twitter, posterous and our audioboos: @pilot_theatre @tombellerby @BecStorey.

    Katie is busy preparing for her next show, which will be for York Theatre Royal. She is directing Jez Butterworth’s Parlour Song as part of the Theatre’s In The Round Ensemble Season.

    Marcus is working on numerous projects, collaborations & of course preparing for TEDxYork…more on that next time.

    Don’t forget you can get up to the minute news from all of us via our social media sites. Tweet us @pilot_theatre, follow us on facebook and check out our numerous posterous blogs.

    Katie Posner – Associate Director
    Marcus Romer – Artistic Director
    Pilot Theatre 
    York Theatre Royal
    St Leonards Place
    YO1 7HD

    01904 635755   
    Registered Charity no: 1003677, Registered in England no: 1956167

    Theatre Vat from Estonia for @pilot_theatre Platform11 festival

    24 May


    A big Yorkshire welcome to VAT Theatre from Tallinn, Estonia to York – for their performance of Help! – which opens today – call 01904 623568 or book online

    open space and provocations – Stronger Together – June 29th #artstogether

    17 May

    Stronger Together

    A national conversation about collaboration, sharing and working in partnership.
    On 29th June, Northern Stage and Pilot Theatre will host an afternoon in Newcastle of creative thinking to inspire and provoke . If you are an artist, producer, curator, facilitator, activist or strategist, we hope you will join us in Newcastle.  Supported by Arts Council North East, this is a rare opportunity to inform cultural policy, stimulate debate, share experience and meet some future collaborators.
    Are we prepared to give up some individual autonomy in order to innovate together?  How do we shift the debate from efficiencies to sustained creative action? What models of collaboration and sharing can we celebrate and learn from? Is there a limit to the value of working together?
    We will be stirred, motivated and challenged by, amongst others, Kate McGrath (Fuel), Katherine Zeserson (Sing Up/SageGateshead), Alan Lane (SlungLow), Maria Balshaw (Whitworth and Manchester Galleries) Lyn Gardner and Streetwise Opera. More contributors announced soon.
    The event will include:
    ???          Curated conversations with impressive collaborators from across the cultural sector and beyond
    ???          Case-studies of ambitious strategic partnerships
    ???          A giant living room on our main stage for open space debate and discussion
    ???          Creative speed-dating for artists and producers to swap ideas.
    There will also be opportunities to get involved online.  Watch this space.

    Free to take part.

    Affordable tapas, wine and good company for those who can stay in the evening.


    Hashtag #artstogether

    Our @pilot_theatre show – #whatlight opens this week 01904 623568

    9 May


    2061 and it’s a whole different world. No school, no shops, no internet. No escape from the rain that keeps falling. No way our of a life filled with fear and hate.

    Fourteen year old Sid want s to know why Grandpa hates the world so much, but Grandpa keeps his secrets. Them one day SId meets a girl with blood on her hands and everything begins to change. Together they discover that life wasn’t always like this and find out what really happened to all the bright lights and good stuff.

    Working with the final year students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, What Light is on of the new plays to be commissioned for young people as part of Platform 11 , a European Culture 2008 project with 12 countries across Europe.

    Fri 20 May will be a double bill performance alongside Manor School York, What Goes Up – when you live in a perfect world, the only way is down.

    Our show opens this week…
    01904 623568

    book online