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

Quality Metrics? Arts Organisations need to wake up and smell the coffee… #artsfunding

27 Sep

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There have been lots of opinions flying around on the internet over the last week about the forthcoming Quality Metrics that Arts Council England will be adopting as part of their assessment criteria for Arts Organisations.

One was a collection of tweets that had been aggregated into a Storify by Arts Professional. If you follow the list down to the bottom you will see that I was the very last tweet, and I spoke out in favour against an overwhelming tide of those who were anti the whole idea.

I am in favour of this for a number of reasons, firstly it allows our audiences, as well as our peers and creative teams to input into what we thought about the work. For example, the writing and the story might have been brilliant, but the lighting, and sound were poor, and the venue experience was cold and uncomfortable. These are all different aspects about an Audiences’s experience of a piece of work – An ‘AX ‘ if you like.  The metrics allow us to put together a whole array of responses and create data that can be used for future planning, development and to share with other organisations, about how we might improve and develop the work we make, and for whom.

This is the world in which we now live. I am pretty sure that all the people who are being negative about this use online data all the time to make assessments and judgements. Who has never used TripAdvisor before booking somewhere? Who has never looked at an Amazon or ImDB rating before watching or purchasing a film? You can’t even buy a toaster from Tesco online without reading the reviews.

So let’s take a step back, and have a think. The Arts Council already have assessments on our work, made by a small group of assessors. In their brief, the venue, the front of House, the Programme, the Audience, as well as the work in terms of presentation and production are all asked to be assessed. So are we saying that a handful of reports are a better judgement on Artistic work then a range of responses and data from audiences across the whole tour, or lifespan of a piece of work.

What does this say about the accusation of ‘behind doors and potentially elitist judgements’ versus a range of public responses that can be combined with peer and professional assessments?

I am a director, I have used the Quality Metrics scheme, and I think the range of responses and reactions are really useful. After all, my work has been judged for years by professional critics who decide how many stars they think a show is worth. So how about now extending that for companies who don’t get reviewed in that way, and to allow those people who have actually paid for a ticket to be able to give feedback to a company.

So my questions are these, do we not think that work made by artists and companies that have received public money should not be judged by the public too? Are we not interested in the data and responses from our audiences? Do we think a behind closed doors assessment is the only true way to assess a company and their work?

The time really is to wake up and smell the coffee, and to work with this concept and to help it to develop. We are not going to go back into the analogue box, digital is here and it is up to us how we can use it and to help us to make the case for public support.

But we can only do that with support from the public…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do we now trust to tell us the truth?

10 Jul

This last two weeks have been quite extraordinary. I have read a quote allegedly by Lenin from almost 100 years ago

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

This is what it feels like has happened in the last fortnight. Where not only has something seismic happened that will alter the course of our historical trajectory, but the mainstream parties have all but seemed to implode.

Watching the unfurling of behaviour of so called allies and party colleagues on both sides has been truly staggering. Backstabbing, double crossing, in fighting, one-upmanship and all of it seemingly self serving and careerist.

In the meantime we have a political vacuum, which is being filled with a rise in noisy hate speech and crimes and terms like ‘suck it up sad losers’

So who do we trust now? some newspapers and media outlets? After some truly shocking partisan antics and fuelling of hate speech?

I think not.

The politicians? who are now squabbling over internal fights for leadership – whilst the pound plummets to a lower point than 1985, and the rest of the world looks on in disbelief.

I don’t think so.

So who will hold the mirror up and speak rationally about where we are and what this means? Who do we trust to tell us the truth?

I have spent the last week with artists, and theatremakers from across the country, and this has echoed out from all sides. We all need to listen to those who have not been heard. Those whose voices have been lost, and those who have felt ignored and left out.

As the Westminster bubble focuses inwardly on itself, we need to look outwards, across the country, and to work collectively. Maybe this does need artists to help us to listen, to reflect and to rebuild.

We need to not keep spouting the half truths from newspapers, rhetoric, and division, but to tell our own truths and to listen to people’s own truths too.

It is what makes us human, and we all know there is more that connects us than divides us. The future story of this country is in all of our hands. It is our turn to shape that story and to build our future that is not about division, but about tolerance, acceptance and understanding.

It is about being truthful…