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Pointe Blank

A year or so ago I saw a tweet from RobBirmingham Royal Ballet‘s New Media Officer, announcing a new project, Pointe Blank, in which BRB had commissioned a number of illustrators and designers to respond to the plot and themes of the ballet Coppélia. The work was shown in Birmingham and also online, at pointeblank.co.uk.

The work was wonderful, and showed a really interesting variety of responses to the brief. From a ballet marketing point of view, it opened up a new way to discuss the themes of the production and from a creative point of view gave the artists the opportunity to engage with a different creative form in a new way.

Following that exhibition, BRB repeated the project earlier this year, this time using their production of Hobson’s Choice as inspiration. The images were again shown in a gallery and online.

Next month BRB are bringing their production of Swan Lake to Wales Millennium Centre, so they decided to commission a new Pointe Blank collection, inviting illustrators and designers from Cardiff and South Wales to respond to the plot in the same way as before. On Monday I went to the opening of the exhibition at Milkwood Gallery in Roath, and it was great to see responses to the story by some artists I know, and others I don’t.

One of the highlights is Laura Sorvola’s hand-drawn illustration which depicts the entire plot of the ballet inside the lettering of its title. Laura has blogged creating this piece here. I also really liked Matt Joyce’s graphic pattern piece, and Joanne Hawker’s masked swan. You can view the full Swan Lake collection here.

I really like the big idea behind this – inviting creatives from one artform to respond to another artform in their own way, and it has prompted me to think about ways in which visual artists could be invited to respond to theatre, or perhaps theatre makers respond to visual art or music.

The exhibition runs at Milkwood Gallery until 8 October, and is part of Cardiff Design Festival.

Images by Claire Hartley. The full gallery is on the Pointe Blank Facebook page

This post was originally published on National Theatre Wales Community

Codecademy

I’ve been thinking for a while I should learn to code. When I was a teenager I taught myself html and css and created a series of little websites for my own entertainment. Unfortunately none of them are online any more so I can’t show you what it is a 14-year old girl in 1999 thought a personal website should include…

I still use loads of that knowledge when I’m administering websites at work but I am generally frustrated that my knowledge takes me to a point and then if I want anything shiny and exciting to happen I have to find someone to make it for me. Enter Codecademy.

One of the most talked-about startups of the moment, the site launched in 2011 and offers tuition in various programming language for people with no prior knowledge. Codecademy’s creators want to be “educating tens of millions of people in the skill that matters most in the 21st century” (source: Wired.co.uk). You sign up to the site and register onto a mini course – thus breaking down the challenge into manageable pieces. Every time you sign in and learn or practise you get some points, and when you complete a section or pass an achievement you get a badge. I am totally sick of the work ‘gamification’ but that’s what is going on here – it turns learning a skill into a game in a way that is really not annoying, for a change.

Aside from the game element, the site is also lovely because it looks so great. The interface is clean and effective, with the instructions always down the left hand side and a practise window and console on the right into which you put your code. You can switch between a ‘Scratch Pad’ and the exercise at any time and input your answer to the problem when you’re ready.

Initially all the courses were written in-house by the Codecademy team but earlier this year they opened up their ‘Creator’ platform which allows anyone to submit a coding lesson or practice exercise. This has led to a very quick increase in the number of courses available. Options now include Python, Ruby and CSS alongside the initial Javascript course.

I’m really enjoying learning some coding and it is my intention to complete the whole lot eventually. Perhaps I’ll share the results with you soon!

Review: My Life in CIA

Last week I went to Give It a Name’s My Life in CIA. I reviewed it for Buzz Magazine. You can read my review here.

Livestreaming, Video and Theatre

Which is better? What does it mean? Where are the lines between each format? What’s it all for?

Guardian Culture Professionals raised these questions in a live chat last week, which you can view in its entirety here, but they have also produced a round up of some of the ‘top tips’ from the chat which you can use in your organisation. They included a couple of my suggestions and ideas, along with several from other interesting people. Check it out here.

Also, if you’re not yet a member of the Guardian Culture Professionals network I suggest you sign up. They send you lovely emails rounding up the week and on the site there are loads of articles, chats, tips and ideas.

Review: Spymonkey’s Oedipussy

Review: Oedipussy (by Spymonkey, at Wales Millenium Centre 27 April 2012)

Johan Persson / Spymonkey

The first thing to say is that this was one of the most enjoyable evenings of theatre I’ve had in a long time. The cast of four began out of character, mocking each other and reviews of their previous shows, and then launched into their very special take on the Greek story of Oedipus.

A mix of scripting (by Carl Grose), music (with several live vocal and instrumental sections played live by the cast), physical comedy and circus techniques, the show had a great pace and was genuinely gripping the whole way through.

The design of both set (Michael Vale) and costumes (Lucy Bradridge) was really impressive. A minimalistic-looking set gave a huge range of possibilities, featuring as ladders, stairs, walls, columns and a walkway transcending space and time on occasion. Costumes were also notable, particularly the use of a huge hat to turn the narrator into a Grecian column and a flock of sheep created by a long coat with giant pompoms around the hem. Ribbons and fabrics were also used to great effect to represent blood, in ever more surreal ways as the show went along.

Particular moments of hilarity included Petra Massey ‘misunderstanding’ the Sphinx and appeared on stage completely naked but with a giant cat head, the song ‘Leprosy’s Not Funny’, complete with audience participation in a repeating chorus, and a Morris dancing scene which, despite obviously covering a costume change, was perfectly placed and choreographed.

Each performer took a turn in stepping out of character and addressing the audience in tongue-in-cheek monologues, mostly involving how fat/old/talentless their fellow cast members are and what they plan to do when the tour is over, alongside sharing a host of medical complaints all apparently exacerbated by performing in the show.

Overall this was a wonderful night of theatre. Four incredibly skilled performers had me gripped not only by a story that’s a thousand years old, but also by their creative style and natural creative humour. Catch this if you can – it’s on tour at the moment – and if not I’ll probably see you at their next show!

Johan Persson / Spymonkey

Johan Persson / Spymonkey


No Word Yet on What This is Promoting

A company called Zed Events are currently offering you the chance to battle with zombies every weekend in an abandoned shopping centre in Reading. The building is due to be demolished, but this group have created an interactive real-world game in the space before it is destroyed. There are a number of companies around at the moment creating experiences which sit on the borders of theatre, film-reality, gaming and party and this seems to be one of them.

I heard about the event via Mashable, everyone’s favourite Social Media news source, and noted a rather interesting sentence in the article:

No word on what, if anything, this zombie battle is promoting, but one thing is for sure — people love being scared by zombies.

This struck me as very interesting. Obviously Mashable are a social media news source and, as such, many of their articles are about virals, pop-ups, flashmobs and the like which are almost all to do with marketing and promotion. It seems interesting, though, that it hasn’t occurred to them that this sort of experience can be simply that, an experience.

I work in the business of theatre and experiences so perhaps I’m more familiar with this sort of thing than most people, but even so it feels like a sad sign of our times that a news source’s first question is ‘what is it promoting?’

Photo CC by Rodolpho.reis on Flickr

Tweet of the Year?

Much-loved bookshop Waterstones this month did away with their apostrophe. Unsurprisingly this caused an amount of controversy in both traditional and social media. An entertaining Twitter account, Sad Apostrophe, also popped up pretty quickly.

Luckily, someone manning the Twitter account of Waterstones Oxford Street has a sense of humour and some social business savvy. The product of this? One of my favourite tweets ever:

tweet by waterstones

Source

 

Blogroll: Inspirational Creative Blogs

I love checking out other people’s creative ideas and always manage to find inspiration from them. I follow a lot of blogs, but I thought I’d share a few of my favourite creative ones.

Architizer

Who doesn’t love looking at wonderful places and spaces? Architizer keeps me happy with a huge range of different buildings, designs and ideas. They always have great photography too. The website isn’t the best design for viewing as a content stream but in your rss reader it’s brilliant.

Information Is Beautiful

This is a collection of infographics – showing off all the ways of presenting data visually. In addition to the great-looking graphics, the range of information presented in them makes for fun reading in itself.

Photojojo

Photojojo are a photography shop – and that side of their site is well worth checking out for quirky accessories you never knew you needed – but they also blog about everything from the latest lenses to a new way to frame your portraits. Check out their new sister site, We Love Phonography, too.

Sweet Home Style

This is more interior-design focused, but is great for pondering how your next workspace is going to look, or the dream living room you’ll be hanging out in after work.

DesignBuzz

Product design at its finest, this blog includes cutting edge products and some lovely concept work.

Bonus: Pinterest.com

Pinterest isn’t technically a blog, it’s a social network which allows you to curate your own virtual pinboards. It’s still invite-only (but shout if you want one) but has very quickly become a home of creative people, and people who like creative things. Crafters, designers, typography geeks, architecture fans and an insane number of brides-to-be share images of things they love, things they want and things they’d like to make. A well-honed search function can lead you to the right people to follow very quickly and you’ll soon find it’s 3am and you can’t bring yourself to log out.

Image by suttonhoo on Flickr

Roundup of 2011 Part 2: Apps of the Year

I have been meaning to write a post about some of my favourite apps for a while and this seems like the time to do it. I use loads of apps on my iPhone, for different things from productivity to gaming, and will quite often download 5 or 10 free apps in one go and play with them all, keeping the useful ones. Here is my brief roundup of some of the keepers from 2011:

Instagram (Photography, FREE)

Instagram iPhone Screenshot

I’ve had Instagram for a while, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve really started to use it. The concept is very simple – you take a picture, add a vintage-camera-style filter to it, and upload. The reason I’ve taken to it so well is the micro-community that exists within the app. There is no web-based version, so you have to use the app to interact with other users’ pictures. Hashtags connect similar images, and are the way to enter daily competitions, and there are veritable Instagram ‘celebrities’ who will never be heard of outside of the app.

iMovie (Video, £2.99)

iMovie iPhone Screenshot

I reviewed this app earlier in the year in some detail so I’ll stay brief here. I like iMovie on my Mac but with a 13″ screen size it can be a bit tricky to manage and see everything clearly. The re-designed interface for iPhone, especially when coupled with the iPhone 4S’s fantastic camera, is really easy to use and can help you produce a great-quality video in no time.

Diptic (Photography, £0.69)

Diptic app screenshot

Another great little photo app which allows you to create a photo collage of up to 5 images with an easy-to-use interface. Just add the images, zoom in or out and off it goes. This works very well when combined with Instagram too. There is also a Diptic community on Flickr.

Plants vs Zombies (Games, £1.99)

Plants vs Zombies iPhone screenshot

This game began life on PCs but the iPhone version scales down remarkably well. It has a wonderful interface, and some extremely cute cartoon plants and zombies. The attention to detail is brilliant – every plant has a face and they bob around in a truly charming fashion. The gameplay itself involves attacking zombies with various plant life (pea-shooters, cabbage-putts and cherry bombs, for example) before the zombies reach your front door and eat your brains.

Amazon Mobile (Shopping, FREE)

Amazon Mobile iPhone Screenshot

I shop quite a lot on Amazon, send my Wishlist to my family when they ask what I want for Christmas, and research prices and products, so it was only natural that I’d download the app at some point. Its previous incarnation was satisfactory – you could shop, filter your search results and purchase within the app – but the recent updates have made it brilliant. You can now scan the barcode of any physical item anywhere and Amazon will find it (thus giving you an instant price comparison), add to (or purchase from) any of your Wishlists and use a new feature called Amazon Remembers, which allows you to take a photo of something you want to remember, saves it on your Amazon account and tries to match it with a product available on the site. Genius.

Roundup of 2011 Part 1: QR Codes

I haven’t been amazing at updating this blog and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be a bit better at it. For now, here’s the first of a few little roundups of some things that happened in 2011.

QR About Me

Part 1: We all talked about QR codes. A lot.

And I sort of got bored of it. The main points made were as follows:

  • They’re quite cool and we think people scan them because they’re interesting
  • Very few people are actually backing up (or disproving) the above with analytics data
  • They’re not as pretty as we’d like them to be
  • A lot of people are using them very badly (for example to link to a non-mobile-optimised homepage)
  • We can do more with them. But we’re not.

So what can we learn from this? Well, I’m steering clear of any “2012 is the year of the QR code” nonsense, but I can do think that they are a useful and interesting way to provide creative extra content as part of a communications strategy.

Here, then, are my top tips and thinking points for using QR codes in your marketing:

  • Be absolutely certain that whichever URL your QR directs to is mobile optimised. Test it.
  • Try directing QRs to other places. It doesn’t just have to be a URL. What about using it on your gig poster to add the event to the user’s calendar? Or use one on your business cards to add your details to the user’s address book. You get the idea, and there’s a helpful list of possibilities here.
  • If you are going to use a URL, make it a good one. An exclusive behind-the-scenes video, a wallpaper or song download you can’t access any other way, for example.
  • Use Google Analytics (or or other web analytics system) to find out how many people are using your codes and arriving at your site by scanning them. If nobody is, re-think where they are and what they do.
  • Make sure it’s scannable. It needs to be large enough, clear enough and situated somewhere with mobile internet signal. Don’t become one of Mashable’s Top QR Code Fails.

Check back for part 2 later in the week!

 

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