AuthorJen Thornton

Fun Things on the Internet – 1st June 2014

1. 6 Stunning photos of the Internet’s hidden infrastructure



2. Hip Hop Llama. Turn your speakers on.

via Buzzfeed.


3. The 100 most important cat pictures of all time

also via Buzzfeed (yes I am ashamed).


4. Made with Paper

A blog showcasing art and visual creations made using 53’s iPad app Paper. The app is pretty awesome too.

Made with Paper blog


5. Two Dots game

My newest puzzle game obsession, from the makers of the original Dots.

More here.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 22.35.47

Fun Things on the Internet – 25th May

This week on the internet I’ve enjoyed…

1. Jim’ll Paint It: Jeremy Clarkson Can’t Eat Cereal

If you haven’t come across Jim’ll Paint It you’re in for a treat. People describe a scene, he paints it with Microsoft Paint.


2. Kami game for iOS and Android

A beautiful puzzle game about flipping over little pieces of coloured paper to turn the whole space one colour. Deceptively difficult with lovely visual design. Official site here.

Kami game

Kami game










3. 18 Microwave snacks you can cook in a mug

Self-explanatory. Everything from breakfasts to puddings. Read it here.


4. Nesta blog: How to change a country

A case study from the Basque Country about innovation-led development on a national level.


5. A robot built from a vacuum cleaner that tweets arts criticism*

It tweets randomly-generated comments about art as it visits galleries and cultural venues. Still, it’s pretty cool for something with a seive for a head. Article here.


Why do people give?

This morning I went to a workshop session on fundraising and giving. It was mainly focused around strategies for asking people to donate financially to an arts organisation, but included some really interesting psychology and other ideas about encouraging people to give.

One part particularly stood out and was really interesting to me, so I thought it might be interesting to other people too:

There are four different motivations for giving, and people will usually only respond to one of these. They fit into a matrix (below).



Basically, people will either be interested in the future or present, and with a positive or negative approach. This is not to say people are negative themselves, just that the possible negative outcome of not giving will have more effect than promoting the positives.

To explain the categories, the workshop leader used the example of an HIV crisis in an African nation:

Vision: we will put a clinic in every town (positive action, in the future)

Risk: thousands of children will be orphaned if their parents die (what will happen, in the future)

Opportunity: we can buy antiretroviral drugs at a reduced price for a limited time (what can be done right now)

Crisis: people are dying right now, we must help them (the immediate problem)

It’s such a simple concept when it’s spelled out but makes so much difference when thinking about fundraising and giving. Communicating the right need to the right person is likely to increase donations and therefore what charities and organisations can achieve. Obviously I’m a passionate communicator, and I do believe that the way you communicate with someone can have a huge influence on their actions, so it’s great to see that this is part of the development process as well as the consumer marketing one.

The next stage of the workshop was to look at the organisation at hand and work our what our visions, risks, opportunities and crises are – whether it’s ‘we can take engaging theatre to every person in Wales’ or ‘people can’t pay their bills because the cost of living has spiralled out of control’.

I work for an arts organisation, I’m part of a political party and I’m often involved in charitable projects so I’m looking forward to getting better at this by practising great communication!

Dots – Game for iPhone

Every so often I download a new game that’s so addictive I’m hooked for weeks. Over the years these have included Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, Harbor Master, Letterpress and many more. At the moment, though, it’s Dots.


Dots, created by Betaworks, is extremely simple. You have a playing space with several rows of dots in different colours. Link together two or more neighbouring dots of the same colour, they disappear and you get some points. If you manage to make a square (or something a bit like a square that makes a loop) you get more points. Simple.

The challenge comes from one of its two playing modes – you either run out of moves or you run out of time.

There are trophies for completing certain challenges – getting lots of points, squares, etc – and bonus items available when you’ve collected enough dots to pay for them.

What’s really beautiful about this game is the design. It’s a lovely flat UX, with simple colours and some wonderfully cute graphics for the trophies. Added to that the sound design creates pleasant-sounding chords, built up dot by connected dot. If you complete a square, the chord resolves with a little shimmer. Lovely.

The game is free, but you have been warned about how addicted you’ll be. Enjoy!


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Breakin’ The Bay

Breakin’ the Bay takes place at Wales Millennium Centre annually, usually around the August bank holiday. It’s one of my favourite arts events to attend in Cardiff and I think I might have been to every single one. In different years, the programme has varied from including a main-auditorium evening show to just sticking with the essentials of live graffiti art and hip hop dancing.

Breakin The Bay

This year I popped along to WMC in time to catch some of the dance tournaments in the Glanfa, and some graffiti work going on outside the Centre. Inside there were people of all ages, races, genders and styles participating or watching dance competitions. There are competitions for freestyle, popping, locking, individually and in teams. The standard of the dancers is incredibly high, despite the fact that some of them cannot have been more than about 10 years old. It always amazes me.

Outside people of every age were watching and admiring the graffiti artists, taking and sharing photographs and commenting on the quality of their work.

Breakin The Bay

What makes me really happy about Breakin’ the Bay, though, is the atmosphere. Whoever is dancing, they get a cheer. There is hip hop music playing but the crowd consists of everyone from young people to passing families, older people watching with a cup of tea to 30-something couples bobbing their heads along with the music. We often make assumptions that certain types of art, music or creative practice are only for one type of person but Breakin’ the Bay does a brilliant job of flouting that myth entirely. Everyone in the crowd is involved with the spirit and you rarely see so many smiles in an arts centre these days!

I hope Breakin’ the Bay continues into the future, and I really hope that all those people – young and old – continue to see that there’s plenty available in an arts centre for them, even if it’s not exactly what they thought it would be.

Breakin' The Bay

Tablets as Performing Arts Spaces

There’s a lot of ‘digital’ going on in the arts at the moment – in productions, in communications, straddling the two, augmenting our live work and standing in and of itself. I read an article earlier about an iPad app which has been created as an entirely different type of performance space for dance. Rather than trying to replicate or augment the experience of a traditionally placed audience, this work is created just for the iPad and is interactive in its nature.

Called Dot Dot Dot, it is created by 2wice Arts Foundation and features dancer and choreographer Tom Gold. The app allows you to tap areas of the screen and ‘create’ your own version of the piece, which is made of pre-recorded segments of dance. The introductory video gives more of an insight: 

Dot Dot Dot from 2wice Arts Foundation on Vimeo.

It turns out this isn’t the first iPad app 2wice Arts Foundation has created. Their previous effort, Fifth Wall, also uses the iPad as a new creative space for dance. This time a piece was filmed in a particular environment – a large rectangular frame – and the user can change the orientation of the frame, add multiple versions and resize each of them. The dance being performed doesn’t change, but the user’s experience of the piece is exactly as they determine it. You could watch it hundreds of times and each time get a totally different perspective on the work.

Here’s the video for that one:

Fifth Wall from 2wice Arts Foundation on Vimeo.

In other arts app news, I also read today (on ClassicFM’s website) about the launch of an app showcasing Benjamin Britten’s orchestral work The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. For those unfamiliar, the work, written in 1946, showcases the different sections of the orchestra in ‘variations’ on a theme by Henry Purcell and is therefore a really important way for music learners to start to understand the complex workings of the symphony orchestra. 

The app announced today is part of the Britten 100 centenary celebrations of the composer, and is available free. It uses a new recording of the piece, alongside games, quizzes and an interactive musical score to enhance learning and demonstrate the potential and complexities of the symphony orchestra to young people. 

There are probably loads of examples of apps and other digital projects creating entirely new ways to experience and create different types of art. I particularly like that the examples above are not only pushing the boundaries of performing arts but also of the tablet as a device and an experience. I think the proliferation of tablet devices is going to turn out to be one of the most dramatic changes in the way people consume and interact with the content and the world, so it’s definitely interesting to see how the performing arts fit into this. 

I plan on downloading and having a play with all the apps mentioned above so I’ll be sure to review them as soon as I can! 

Rails Girls Bath

I spent the day today in Bath at the UK’s first Rails Girls event. It was run as part of Bath Digital Festival by some lovely, friendly coders.


Rails Girls started in Finland, and is a one-day event to teach women of all ages the basics of coding in Ruby and using the Rails framework to create web apps. From the starting point of no knowledge whatsoever, the goal of the day is to make a simple web app using the skills and tools learned along the way.

We started the morning using to learn the very basic elements of coding in Ruby. I found most of this quite logical because I’ve been learning a bit of JavaScript so some of the concepts transfer even if the syntax and language is slightly different. This taught us how to create and manipulate strings and arrays, using objects and methods and creating a simple blog template at the end.

The friendly coders were always on hand to answer the “Wait, why did that just happen?” questions and keep everyone motivated. There was also cake, which I’m pretty sure helped a lot. After pizza lunch we moved on to learning about the Rails framework, using the Rails Girls tutorial to create a basic app.

I wish I could show you the app that I made but due to the wifi limitations of the college we were in, we couldn’t get our apps to the point of publishing them online. That’s probably a good thing because there’s quite a bit of css work to be done before it looks as pretty as I’d like it to.

I had some lovely moments during the day when I finally got things to work, a concept ‘clicked’ or I figured out how to make something happen without just following instructions. Each time I felt that excitement of having actually achieved something. Ruby on Rails is a really good framework for seeing what you can achieve really quickly. From a few Terminal commands you can see something you’ve created in your browser straight away, whatever it looks like at that point, and that’s really motivating when you’re just starting out with a programming language.

I’m hoping to carry on learning and create some brilliant web apps. Please feel free to offer tips, suggestions or pointers.

During the day, thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I was also part of a conversation about bringing a Rails Girls event to Cardiff. I’m particularly excited about this, so watch this space for more news about that.



2012 in Arts and Culture

In yet another 2012 annual roundup post, I wanted to document some of the artsy, fun things I saw in 2012. It didn’t quite fit into one a month, but here’s a selection anyway.


Classical Club Night (January)

Young performers associated with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Rambert Dance Company performed Trapeze, an early ballet score by Prokofiev, in the Clore Ballroom at London’s Southbank Centre. This was free to attend, late in the evening (starting at 9.45pm), and presented in the Southbank Centre’s ballroom space which is really open and has a bar. It was great because I could take pictures, move around during the performance and go to the bar when I wanted.

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (April)

A play telling the story of Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of leaking a large number of documents to the website wikileaks. Written by Tim Price and directed by John E McGrath. In addition to being performed site-specifically in three high schools, the show was broadcast online alongside a chat stream and links to further information. One of my favourite plays ever.

(Disclosure: This show was produced by my employer, National Theatre Wales)

Spymonkey’s Oedipussy (April)

Spymonkey’s hilarious take on the story of Oedipus. Five great performers and two hours of laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Brilliant. Here’s my full review from earlier in the year.

I’d Hide You (May)

Blast Theory created this unique live and online gaming experience for The Space. Three ‘runners’ were on the streets of Manchester trying to catch each other on camera. Online participants were invited to help or hinder the runners by sharing information about the whereabouts of the other players.

Coriolan/us (August)

Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes took the text of Shak

espeare’s Coriolanus and Brecht’s Coriolan and re-told the story in a huge disused aircraft hangar in the Vale of Glamorgan. They used silent disco technology, live filming and cinema screens to give audience members the choice of how to watch each scene. I’ve never properly embraced and loved a Shakespeare play before, so this was a great moment for me.

(Disclosure: This show was produced by my employer, National Theatre Wales)

Llwyth (September)

I’ve seen this show three times. I think that covers how much I like it. Here’s a review from the second time.

Nina Simone (A)Live (October)

I saw this biopic of Nina Simone at MC Theater in Amsterdam. It was in Dutch, but the range of storytelling devices used meant that I understood everything that was going on, despite barely understanding a word of the language. The show, unsurprisingly, used a lot of music but rather than just performing Nina Simone’s music exactly a she would have done, there was everything from classical piano to hip hop and live multi-track mixing. A great experience and a really interesting place to visit if you’re ever in Amsterdam.

The Breezeway, Rockefeller Center (December)

I couldn’t really get through the review of the year without including something from my trip to New York. At Top of the Rock, the Rockefeller Center’s viewing platform, there’s a room which knows where you are, assigns you a colour and changes the light and sound display. I also thought it was quite cute that if you were blue and your friend was red, you could stand on the same place and hug them and the colours sort of merged above you. A great idea, well executed. Here’s a video, to explain better how it works.

What were your arts and cultural highlights of the year? What are you looking forward to in 2013?

2012: Apps of the Year

In the first of my roundup of the year posts, I’m had a look of which iPhone and iPad apps I’ve used most this year and the ones I’d recommend. Without further ado…

Super Jetpack Penguin

Game / iPhone / Free


What is it?

In Super Jetpack Penguin you need to help the penguin eat as many fish as possible without getting killed by any of the nastier sea creatures that try to block his path. He has a Jetpack so all you need to do is tap and hold to keep him going up or down the screen. Like many other games there’s the double challenge of not just passing the level but achieving a 3-star score.

It’s great because… 

It’s so simple. It can be learned very quickly and mastered with a little patience. Also, the sea creatures, and the penguin, are very cute.

Cdf Hotspots

Productivity / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

This app uses your device’s GPS to locate you and show you the nearest wifi hotspots. It’s a Cardiff app, so obviously only shows you hotspots in Cardiff! With a nice clean design, and just the right amount of information, I’ve used it on a number of occasions to locate the best wifi for wherever I am. This app was developed in conjunction with Cardiff Start by Applingua, a friendly app translation and localisation startup based in Cardiff. If you need your app localised, give them a shout.

(They’re not paying me to say that, but they are my friends, just incase you had any disclosure concerns.)

It’s great because… 

It has a clearly-defined purpose so it’s simple, clear and very helpful.


Game / iPhone / Free


What is it? 

An online word game. Use the grid of letters provided to spell a word. The letters you use go blue, then your opponent does the same and the letters they use go red. Be the first to complete the board, and make sure more are blue than red. Simple.

It’s great because… 

A lovely simple concept can be made more difficult by the word skills of the players. It’s also a nice, clean, flat design (no bevelling or skeuomorphs here!)

Draw Something

Game / iPhone & iPad / Free

What is it? 

Get a word, draw a picture, your friend has to guess what you’ve drawn. Effectively, it’s Pictionary but over the Internet. Words very from classic objects (spoon, train, man) to topical and entertaining things like Bieber, Hogwarts and J-Lo.

It’s great because… 

It’s entertaining. If you’re a really good artist, it’s an opportunity to show off. If you’re not so good at drawing (or your opponent isn’t!) it’s funny trying to work out what’s being attempted. I actually cite playing this game as the reason I’m better at drawing than I was a year ago.

Pinterest for iPad

Social Media / iPad (iPhone app also available) / Free


What is it? 

The long-awaited tablet version of Pinterest. It’s surprising it took this long to be released, as Pinterest’s browser interface has always been so tablet-like. I’m a very enthusiastic pinner so this has just completed my experience. It’s easy to use, if the navigation is a little congested and confusing, and uses a layered page system to show different types of information from pins to profiles to source links.

It’s great because… 

Pinterest is such a natural tablet experience. All those beautiful images you’ve pinned are now full-size on the retina screen and you can admire them and dream about when you actually afford a house/building/wedding/life like that.

Trip Advisor City Guides

Travel / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

An app featuring downloadable city guides of a selection of major travel destinations across the world. Once downloaded, the guide includes offline maps of the city which combine with GPS to make sure you’re never lost, and listings of restaurants, attractions, transport links, subway stops, etc. I used the New York guide on my recent trip there and it was extremely useful.

It’s great because… 

You get offline maps of a whole city for free. Also because it links to Trip Advisors reviews and rating system. A selection of the reviews for each place is available offline within the app so you can make an informed choice about a restaurant or bar.

Adobe Sketchbook Pro

Art & Design / iPad / £ – appears to be on sale at the moment at £1.99


What is it? 

A drawing, painting, creating app. It functions a lot like Photoshop but is optimised for tablet use in terms of tool placement and interface design. The paid version allows for up to 30 layers, great high resolution images and a whole host of tools and colours, all customisable. There’s an inbuilt gallery and you can save the images to your iPad’s camera roll.

It’s great because… 

You get a huge amount of function from it, and it’s on a tablet so is always there and nice and easy to use. For best results, combine with a good stylus. And some talent. There’s probably call for a disclaimer here that you still have to actually draw and the results will only be as good as you are. Maybe get Draw Something to practise 😉

The drawing in the screenshot is by Kat Aldridge. She’s an awesome illustrator and you can find her on Twitter here.


Photography / iPhone / Free

What is it? 

A simple app to create animated gif images and share them. Add up to 30 still images, set the speed and the rest is all done for you. It features a ‘feed’ of gifs created by people you’re following but I haven’t actually used this feature at all, as you can share the gifs you created straight to Facebook and Twitter, or just copy the URL.

It’s great because… 

It’s easy, and lots of fun to animate photos and video of your friends, or hand draw your own animations.

Cardiff Design Festival 2012

Cardiff seems to be full of art and design at the moment. Artes Mundi 5, Made in Roath 2012 and Cardiff Contemporary are all on at the moment. The 2012 Cardiff Design Festival, has also recently taken place.

I didn’t manage to get to as many design festival events as I’d have liked to this year, mostly due to my being in Amsterdam for half of it, but I really enjoyed the few things I did make! I’ve already posted about Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Pointe Blank exhibition, which has inspired me to think of other ways in which one art form can respond to stories and ideas associated mainly with another form.

My highlights of the rest of the festival were:

Trade School Cardiff

Again, my being in Amsterdam led to me missing half of this but I made up for it on the final Saturday when I joined classes to learn How to Write a Life List and Projection Mapping. Sarah‘s Life List class was really fun, and involved handouts which asked us to think about what we enjoy, our favourite things and some goals and then turn them into the beginnings of a life list. At the Projection Mapping class, Chris Mog demonstrated a selection of open source software that can be used to create 3D animations and projections, and all the fun that can be had with them. I left both classes with my head bursting with ideas. Now all I need is a few hours and a projector.

The best thing about Trade School is that the only thing you have to do to attend a class is barter for the knowledge. This amounted to providing some lovely notebooks for Sarah, and interesting flavours of tea for Mog. If you don’t know about Trade School, I really recommend finding out what it’s all about.

Doodle Noodle

During the festival, the team adopted an empty shop in the Morgan Arcade which became Design Festival HQ. Matt and his fellow illustrators created a giant doodle in this space, spread across several large canvasses on one wall. Anyone and everyone were then invited to come along and colour it in.

I loved just sitting for a few minutes and colouring in some doodles. I could have stayed for hours, I think, and just chilled out colouring in little cartoon dinosaurs, bees and other characters.

What also struck me at the time was that this kind of thing would be great to offer to workplaces and maybe even educational environments as a product. I would love to commission an illustrator to produce a giant doodle on the wall of my office and then leave a box of felt tip pens and the doodle ready to be coloured in by the staff whenever they felt like it. It could take days to complete; it could take months. Either way it would bring visual art and creativity into the workplace and would be a great way to relax and free your mind up to think over problems and solutions without feeling the need to be sat at your desk. When all the colouring is finished, you’d end up with a mural in the office to remain for as long as it was enjoyed.

It’s such a fun idea, and I really hope Matt and the other illustrators have the opportunity to create something similar again.

 Trade School image borrowed from thinkARK on Twitter; Doodle Noodle image from Cardiff Design Festival

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