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For the last five days I have been webfree whilst at Stokes Bay Festival, Hampshire with my partner. Respect to Peter Chegwin who managed to secure yet another new venue for this event and, unlike festivals such as the 2009 Big Green (non) Gathering cancelled with less than a week to go, to overcome opposition from certain residents and councillors alike. Having finally secured the license with a couple of weeks to go, the camp site was given the go-ahead at the last minute by the Secretary of State! Next year, we were assured, the festival will return to Wickham. I wish the organisers well…they deserve our support.

We had made a deliberate decision to go to this festival, sharing several quality acts with the consecutive Cambridge Folk Festival, which we have been to for several years. So what did we miss? A choice of stages (Cambridge has three)…but it did give us the time to get on the bikes and see something of the locality. The beer tent had no peanuts…something I can never understand; the food was not as good (Senor Moon’s veggie chili…); and we missed Proper Records and the musical instrument stalls. But the camp site was quiet (excepting stereo toddlers who whined unfettered from pre-6am), there were hot free showers on site, and the music :). More of that tomorrow…

I will be publishing loads of images on here and on my flickr stream. Some might even be nae bad. Here’s a taster of my out-takes (as opposed to the polished, beaming, rule-of-thirds…yep, you’re so right..whaaaat???)… Oysterband’s touring guitarist Dan Donnelly in full flight…

Oysterband: Dan Donnelly Jump

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Those of you in the UK will know what I mean :(. Anyhow, the day has been a reasonably relaxed one, home alone so incredibly quiet excepting blip.fm in the background (no longer the need to clog my HDD with music). Sent through some sample images to a band who want some promo pics (pics of them as it happens but the gig lighting was just the worst…lucky I like black and white and graphics…hope they do!); also sent Andy McKeown some stills for the spiralInterface interactive exhibit for the new Darwin Exhibition in Rowley House, Shrewsbury Museum. He likes to work to tight deadlines…looking forward to the PV this evening!

Anyhow, here’s a fun one from Heresy, Shift Time Festival, Shrewsbury:

Lemme outa here..

Weekends are always busy, but Shift Time weekends were plain nuts, but great fun nuts. For the record I prefer mine with chili or applewood smoked. Then there has been the small matter of catching up with life and paperwork and end of term things. And now I find myself apologising to the unseen microminority who view my little missives (and very welcome you are too by the way) for the lack of updates. Now the photography I have been able to cope with (just as well really), but I went beyond my comfort zone a bit with recording interviews and doing a bit of video work for Shift Time. Which just so happened to coincide with my long overdue defection to a beautiful Mac. This was a bad move for this alone. So, I will deal with it tomorrow…or maybe the tomorrow after that. Reason being that the interviews are worth hearing. Really they are.

In the meantime, our absence and the regular application of monsoon-style deluge has rendered the lower reaches of the farm almost impenetrable in places. This has served to bring nature even closer to our portals than usual. First, there was the late-night photoshoot with the hedgehog Read More »

Heresy_Old Market Hall_Shrewsbury

The Shift Time Festival, Shrewsbury staged its final two events last night culminating in “Heresy” by media artists Andy McKeown and Sue Challis.

Festival Programme Director, Anna Douglas, surveys some of the panels as dusk gathers in for the display:

Heresy_AnnaDouglas

Each of the 14 archways of the Old Market Hall was hung with screens representing sails on The Beagle. The installation projected words and images relating to people in history who had expressed opinions which rocked the boat of mainstream society. The end panels showed a constantly changing lightshow of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species at one end and Elaine Morgan’s The Naked Darwinist, in their entirety, at the other.

Other panels featured the likes of Galileo Galilei “father of modern science”, chemist Linus Pauling and the director of the Human Genome Project Dr Francis Collins. The display ran seamlessly, although I felt that the “cuttings” panels – a feast of randomly projected and patchworked cuttings and photographs – ran too fast to be read successfully and was perhaps not as assessible as it deserved to be. It was clear that a huge amount of thought and work had gone into this installation.

Panel imagery (more to follow):

Heresy_Panel1

Heresy_Panel2

Heresy_Panel3

Image featuring the incognito silhouettes of media artists Andy McKeown and Sue Challis, celebrating the success of the project:

Heresy_Creators

As the rain lashes down on thousands at the Back to the 80s concert in The Quarry gardens, Shrewsbury, the audience in the Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn on the banks of the River Severn is, as I write, enjoying an amazing feast of entertainment: as part of the Shift Time Festival in celebration of the Darwin Bicentenary, a triple bill of: musical theatre, the premiere of Opera North’s “The Weatherman” by Paul Clark and John Binias; a theatrical performance “In Praise of Darwin’s Mistakes” by Arjen Mulder with Geoffrey Streatfield; and “Follow the Voice”, a new film by Marcus Coates.

Today I attended the opening of Follow the Voice in the Unitarian Church, Shrewsbury, a production echoing Darwin’s The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Marcus Coates recorded a variety of manmade sounds in Shrewsbury, which, when speeded are similar to noises from the animal kingdom which they morph into in the film. The performance sat comfortably in its surroundings and, following the performance at Theatre Severn returns to the Unitarian Church from 12-4pm Wed-Sat until August 8th 2009.

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to talk to Geoffrey Streatfield, the RSC actor portraying a lab-coated scientist in media theorist Arjen Mulder’s production, in the Lion Hotel as he returned from rehearsal. In progress…

On my way to the dress rehearsal of The Weatherman I stopped off in Rowley’s House, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG) to photograph and video Glissman and Hofflin’s ELF exhibition. In progress…

And to cast a weather eye over progress on Quantum Leap which, sadly due to technical issues has not quite made its hoped for unveiling tomorrow and although nearly joined at the top is still encaged in its scaffolding gantry.

And so to Theatre Severn where I was in time to catch much of the last run-through and then the dress rehearsal of The Weatherman and gain a true flavour of the tour to come. The plot outlines the background to the friendship between Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin during their time on The Beagle only to be polarised by their beliefs.

Opera North_The Weatherman

The set, simple and effective, consisting of an outer circle of spotlights, a number of pale wooden chairs key to the performance and a circular central stage, placed the string quartet, conductor, and two actors – baritone and spoken voice – as deliberately equal partners in the production. It was clear early on that the production was open to individual though perhaps not always conscious decision making: the spoken voice and sung voice often competing contrastingly and effectively for attention, the interpretation of the placing and movement of the chairs, and a stunning narrative throughout. It was obvious also that this production will develop organically with time.

Opera North_The Weatherman2

The use of a quite muted, subtle, but sometimes intricate score and a small cast consisting of a single baritone and a narrator gives a fresh slant to the meaning of operatic duet. This was effective, and additionally minimizes inertia allowing the staging of single performances. Humour was well delivered and the narrative engaging and easily assessible. The Weatherman moves on to Gateshead, Leeds, and London. Catch it if you can.

The Weatherman_Shrewsbury

And finally I was delighted to be able to spend some time with Dominic Gray, Project Director of Opera North. In progress…

All in all a most stimulating and thought-provoking day.

Another tangent. Design. At the moment I’m writing an essay-cum-paper endeavouring to evaluate the place for epaper/rewriteable paper in our brave new world of 2012 (chosen I wonder because of its meter?), hopefully having staunched effectively the worst effects of climate change and dealt tolerably well with our need for non-fossil fuelled energy (easy, innit???). This is not the subject of this post…I’ll come to the point.

We need bookcasing. Serious bookcasing. As I’ve said before, I love wood. So wood it is (recycled or from sustainably managed forests), but with the number of books it needs to be open plan but strong and functional. Returning to the above, of course books could soon be destined to be the LPs of the literary world, so, it is hoped that our need here need not be expandable. Rather a shrine to the products of the printing press. Turning pages though still has a calming quality that will be, I feel, impossible to replace with an electronic gizmo. It may look almost like paper, but where’s the tactility? Although I, for one, won’t miss the olfactory experience of newsprint or old sticky library books ;).

There was almost a shrine-like feeling around Wren and Ray’s Remembrance Path at the Shift Time festival: sad to see so many worn out books (and some with a future through Oxfam shops and similar) and to reflect on things passed. And a future in charged microcapsules.

So, to design. I’m on the trail of my own, simplified take on the elusive and beautiful Massimo Castagna’s Flying Circles.. Why is nothing ever straightforward?

Blue Eyed Soul_7

I was fortunate to be able to take the time to watch the final rehearsal for Blue Eyed Soul’s TAKE: a dance in the park late on the first Saturday morning of the Shift Time Festival, Shrewsbury so I had a good idea of what to expect from the point of view of capturing this original performance on the a700. A film crew were also in attendance throughout and I was a little taken aback that, after the first performance later in the day, their cameraman commented to me that it was less aerial than expected so his filming hadn’t gone to plan…I mean he was in most of my rehearsal pictures facing the rig!

Blue Eyed Soul_9web

The rig itself is an English-made bespoke set-up allowing dance to be much more 3-dimensional using climbing harnesses and ropes, also enabling the performers to use the rig itself as vertical bars. The accompanying soundtrack was imaginative, sinuous, effective, a varied series of music woven with sound bytes of stage commentary and scene setting: would have enjoyed it more but spent much of the performance flat on the grass one way up or the other with a camera. I felt though that the heavy Edwardian clothing detracted from the gracefulness and strength of the dancers a bit too much and were a little incongruous rather than contrasting effectively with the rig, so enjoyed the latter stages much more from an artistic and photographer’s perspective. It was great to see the obvious enjoyment of the performers and I greatly look forward to future performances.

Okay, I’ll come clean. Rather than adding a page on our Jacob sheep flock…oh yes there are many more where Camilla and Roland, now stars of a YouTube video, come from…now have their very own sheepblog. There are many strings to my bow as Jim Hawkins stated during my broadcast interview last Friday morning on Radio Shropshire. The broadcast selection focussed mostly on The Bench Project a two year book-in-progress of spontaneously gleaned photographs of people sitting for various reasons on, you’ve guessed it, benches. Most are candid for, at least as far as my photographic skills, or the lack of them, go true character and posed images rarely seem to go together. I’ll stop now shall I?

In addition to the sheep and a flock of chickens who lay blue eggs, there is the (what do you do with the) llama herd. They are great to be around, if largely unschooled. I’m hoping that my 15 year old after her impending week’s work experience in a riding school decides to transfer her newfound skills to grooming and schooling camelids. Hint :).

Balloon Flight_The Quarry, Shrewsbury

We arrived at the launch of Shift Time in The Quarry, Shrewsbury in time to see the evening launch of an unrelated hot air balloon into the blue sky of a summer’s evening. I love the gentle breathing of the burners; never figured out why. An hour later we were seated in The Igloo as Paul Granjon began his offbeat performance: his dubious instrumental abilities making my seven year old sound pretty good on her ukelele at its most out of tune. I was surprised that I thought this at seven yesterday (Sunday) morning as we awoke to a YouTube fuelled serenade.

It was interesting to see the development of Paul’s robots, and however crazy his inventions there was a strong undercurrent of serious scientist. And of evolution, the central theme of the festival to come. The lighting in The Igloo proved challenging even for the handheld a700 with its inbuilt antishake as the images testify; sad to see flash being used though, dazzling and distracting to audience and performers alike.

Paul Granjon_Robotic BirdPaul Granjon & TouTou the robotic dog
Paul Granjon's Robotic Ears
Keyboard Playing Robot

Time to stop for a while, well a minute or two, to contemplate all the happenings of the weekend…and mull the enormity of juggling video clips, MD recordings, images and commentary for assorted social media to provide some interesting results for the Shift Time blogging project. Which would be amazing but for the big unfluffy cloud of a last module essay for my Masters degree which is now seriously last minute…much more threatening than any clouds over the weekend.

So, in the next few days – before all the activity of “the second weekend” and maybe an hour or so on Tuesday when I hope to record the ELF project of Pascal Glissman & Martina Höfflin, I might just have to catch up a bit.

High points of the weekend? My interview with Theo Jansen, photographing Blue Eyed Soul and videoing umerus in action; and that my Jacob sheep acted like sheep for Feng-Ru Lee in spite of assorted distractions!