‘A Year to Inspire’ inspiring others

I always love finding new blogs as you enter into other people’s worlds as they share parts of their life with you. One blog in particular that has really stood out for me this year is A Year To Inspire. The premise is to keep a journal for a year and that on each day you have a prompt, an idea, that you explore.

Stephanie and Annetta decided to go on this journey and it’s been really fascinating gaining an insight into their lives, thoughts, aspirations and creativity.

One of the things that really strikes me about their blog is just how creative they are and how beautiful each page of their journals are. Each page is stunningly crafted, unique and portrays a new part of their personality every day. It seems like such a creative outlet, a chance to try new techniques and challenge yourself to be creative every single day.

From the silly prompts such as ‘which fairytale character or Disney princess would you be?‘ to the more serious ‘what are your aspirations?‘ each day is intriguing. The care and attention these two women put into the journals is impressive… and it sort of makes you want to join in too!

Prompt: Write a list of books on your 'to read' list.

Prompt: Write a list of books on your ‘to read’ list.

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Colour Bandits – KickThePJ / PJ Liguori

Youtube is a weird and wonderful world of creativity, bursting at the seams, over-flowing with new ideas and creators. There is a freedom about youtube that allows for an outpouring of innovation and original thought. I have been an avid viewer of youtubers since 2007 and I am still blown away by how creators continue to develop and evolve.

One of my favourite creators is the film maker PJ Liguori, aka KickThePJ. His quirky imagination is vividly translated onto the screen and I am really enjoying seeing him attempt more complex shoots, challenge his storytelling abilities and collaborate with other artists.

It’s at this point that I’d like to direct you to Colour Bandits.

Cinematography by Director Jamie Swarbrick and music by PJ, who plays the bandit, Colour Bandits is wonderful in it’s simplicity. The costume and make up by Sophie Newton and Louis Grant work perfectly. I find it very inspiring that a whole story can be told in 2 minutes, with only a plain white set, plain white clothing, and a collection of colourful powders. The music and the lilting tone of PJ’s voice meld with the artistry of the cinematography to create a whole new world.

It is a stand alone piece, as many of PJ’s works are, and I encourage you to explore them.

Director & Cinematography: Jamie Swarbrick

Music & Bandit: PJ Liguori

Costume & Make-up: Sophie Newton & Louis Grant

Additional Help: James Allen & Georgie Woodley

Water Fools & The Dreamers

As in previous years the festival opened with a bang. Set on Willen Lake, just after sunset, the French company Ilotopie presented their dreamscape, Fous de Bassin (Water Fools). I sat down on the bank of the lake with my family, surrounding by hundreds of people not quite knowing what to expect. It starts with a floating car driving out into the middle of the ‘stage’ before catching fire! Two characters climb out of the car and one walks across the water as more characters and structures begin to appear. To be honest I thought it was really slow to start as at this point they were all quite normal characters… a lady with her baby crossing the scene, a dustbin man releasing lamppost in order to create a set… a man on a giant bed floating into a tree?

At this point, things got weird. Gradually the scene morphed from the fairly normal to the distinctly abnormal. Imagine a king with rosy cheeks, a powdered white face, wearing nothing but a metal box to preserve his dignity… from which he flung handfuls of glitter whilst on a motorised gondola with a rather creepy jester… Yep. That happened.

Fire was introduced as the production progressed with fireworks, pyrotechnics set on boats and two men in their own gondolas dropping small bowls of fire into the water to burn on the lake’s surface. The most spectacular part of the show was when one of these men, adorned with a huge set of beautifully white, feather wings, set fire to said wings with the fire spreading from the bottom right to the tips with burning feathers floating away across the water to leave nothing but the wire frame.

Even though the show was spectacular, it received quite a mixed reception and to be honest it wasn’t my cup of tea. As with marmite, people either loved it or really rather didn’t. Whilst I was in the latter group I  spoke to a good many people in the former who thought the whole thing brilliant, if rather bonkers.

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Whilst this only lasted the first weekend, IMAG0222the festival was not short of things that lasted the week. This included Lucie Lom’s statues, Les Reveurs (The Dreamers). Rising from the earth on the very first day, with no explanation and no warning, the figures caused quite a stir. Throughout the week groups of the figures appeared in different spaces, moving from the train station through the centre of Milton Keynes down to Campbell Park, and each time they prompted discussion as to who they were. Stories began to circulate as to who they were and where they were going…

On the final day of the festival a final tableau was created in Campbell Park. Having stumbled across them all week I was blown away by the final part of the story. The figures lead down to a pond, sinking back into the earth from whence they came…

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Under the Vaulted Sky – Rosemary Lee

Today I want to tell you about my absolute favourite performance from IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 2014, Rosemary Lee‘s Under the Vaulted Sky, a new commission for the festival.

The performance was set in the beautiful Cathedral of Trees, a very tranquil setting with trees planted in the architectural footprint of Norwich Cathedral. A combination of dance and live music, with a community cast of over 100 dancers and musicians, Under the Vaulted Sky was breathtaking.

Over the course of the performance you are guided through the Cathedral, entering different sections, sitting for a while to watch groups of children present delicate leaves in wooden boxes filled with grass, walking the length of the tree cathedral as bells ring and dancers with bells attached to their dresses tinkle as they run by…

The use of music, composed by Terry Mann, and sound is very cleverly crafted throughout. Each cast member has a bell for the opening sequence. Dressed in red gowns the dancers, nymph-like, seem to invoke the air around us, combining movement and the ringing of bells to move the air and bring the sense of the cathedral to life. Just as you feel the weight of history around you in a stone cathedral, here you feel emotions well inside you as the sheer beauty and simplicity of the piece overwhelms you.

Hugo Glendinning

Photo: Hugo Glendinning

We were then led through to the cloisters where children presented us with golden leaves as gongs and drums are played to the rhythm of the dancing. The whole audience of around 100 people sits quietly, not saying a word, taking in everything that is happening.

Being led through the archway around the outside of the cathedral to come in at the top we pass through members of the cast. This for me was the most moving part. With bugles being played in the distance the dancers would walk up to members of the audience as they passed, whispering about pathways to the stars and handing these pathways as tokens of small circular mirrors… This gave you a moments reflection before heading back into the cathedral.

Under the Vaulted SkyIn the chancel we are surrounded by dancers being crowned with gold hands as brass instruments play fanfares, before being lead back down the cathedral under golden books suspended in the treetops. At the crossing we disperse to the sides as dancers open gold sheets, dressing the trees. Finally the dancers line the way out with their eyes closed, in a world of their own, ethereal…

This delicate performance invoked both the strength of the cathedral and the fragility of the bells to enclose the audience in it’s atmosphere. There is a poignancy in the gold, the music, the movement… But it is up to each to experience it in their own way.

Creative uses of Sound

Sonic installations are something that I hadn’t experienced before this year’s IF: Milton Keynes International Festival so I thought I’d try and experience as much as possible. We were very lucky this year to have sound artists Kaffe Matthews and Ray Lee involved.

IMAG0132I started off my sonic experience by attending a concert by Kaffe Matthews and Ray Lee, entirely improvised and performed in the incredible Architect’s of Ar: Pentalum that was placed in Middleton Hall in the centre:mk. Pentalum is a luminarium, an inflated structure made up of tunnels leading into different rooms in different colours. The ceilings are domes in geometric patterns which then run down the walls and along the floor to the centre points of each ‘room’, with pods nestled throughout the structure. People were encouraged to find a pod and settle down. With Ray Lee on theremin being digitally mixed by Kaffe Matthews, the sound was ethereal and very atmospheric. A group of the audience decided to settled in the room where they were performing whilst others wandered around or settled in different sections. It was very peaceful and I really enjoyed the concert and the whole atmosphere.

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I then wandered over to The Hub in Milton Keynes, a square of restaurants with apartments built above. It makes for an enclosed area with a large open central square. In this were placed eight tripods with rotating speakers attached to the top, towering over the audience. This was Ray Lee’s Chorus. Over the course of an hour each of the rotating arms began to move, emitting a pulse of sound. As each of the tripods began to move the sound increased and built, reverberating through the area before starting over, once again building to a crescendo before dying back to nothing. It was fascinating to walk amongst the tripods as the sound changed as you wandered around different parts. It was interesting to watch other people’s reactions, those who had just stumbled across the installation and stood mesmerised before continuing on their way, and those who had purposefully come to see the installation trying to work out whether they were enjoying it or not. Whilst I wouldn’t say that I found it exciting, I certainly found it interesting and I’ve certainly never encountered anything like it before.

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Kaffe Matthews’ installation by contrast I absolutely fell in love with. This was a commission by the Canal & River Trust and IF: 2014 specifically for the festival. Kaffe collected sounds during a walk along the Grand Union Canal that links London with Milton Keynes. Using these sounds and a choir created specifically for the project she recorded a composition to be played through sonic beds. These were three beds, surrounded by speakers in the sides and suspended above, with vibrations played through the base, set in an empty shop which they had darkened to make for a more intense atmosphere, surrounded by the sound. It was a fully immersive experience. I could have spent hours there and I went back several times to try the different beds as in each one you picked up different sounds in the track, whether it was the chugging of a canal boat as it passed or the birds singing at a distance. Every time was a different experience. I would encourage anyone who comes across Kaffe’s work to try it. It was incredible.

The last piece I want to talk about was a performance by Melanie Pappenheim, a solo voice-theatre performance. Although only about 20/30 minutes in duration I was enraptured. Melanie lay in the middle of an exhibition titled Cadences in MK Gallery. She began singing whilst laying on the floor, at different moments in the three songs she performed rising and turning or falling… For that was the theme… falling, destruction, gravity. Dressed simply in aIMAG0233 white dress with loose hair and piano hammers attached from wires on the back scraping the floor as they tangled, the whole performance was beautifully simple but very emotive. I hadn’t been sure about going to see it initially but I am so glad that I did. I feel I would really have missed out had I not gone.

The events that I saw really inspired me and challenged my perceptions of how we use sound in art, differing drastically from the musicals and concerts I’ve seen in the past. It also challenged my views on how to engage people with sound installations with the Lock Shift Songs definitely having the most impact on my experience.

IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 2014 – The Introduction

This wonderful festival takes place in Milton Keynes every two years. It started in 2010, so it’s not been running for a huge amount of time, and yet it is achieving spectacular results! I was fortunate enough to be involved in 2012 when I stumbled across the volunteer shout out and thought what the heck? I might as well give it a go.

Best. Decision. Ever.

The catch line is 10 Amazing Days and I can tell you they spoke the truth. I was lucky enough to be a steward on several different projects, performances and installations. The one I spent the most time on was The Boat Project, part of the 2012 cultural olympiad. This was a boat, named Collective Spirit, built of of memories. People from across the country, including Milton Keynes, have donated wooden objects and every piece had been used in some way in the boat. It was incredible and the crew and the stories they told were inspirational. I had caught the festival bug and I wasn’t letting go.

Fast forward 2 years and I was suddenly working on the festival having joined The Stables, who produce the festival, as their Marketing Intern.

Milton Keynes International Festival just keeps going from strength to strength, and the range of events on offer this year was incredibly special. From the beautiful dance sequence of Under The Vaulted Sky, to the eerie beds of The Lock Shift Songs, to the wonderful acts livening up the evenings in the Spiegeltent, everything seemed to buzz with energy.

I was very fortunate in that I was able to see so many of the artists and projects throughout the 10 days, and now that the summer is over and my internship is creeping closer to it’s end, I’d like to reflect on the festival and share some of my favourite moments with you guys. So that’s what I’m going to go. Over the next 2 or 3 days (depending on how much I rant and rave about things) I hope I can share with you some of the magic of the festival.

From volunteering on the festival 2 years ago, to working on it this time, I have learnt so much and been so inspired. I would urge everyone to take an hour or so out of their schedules and research your local areas for arts events going on and get involved. It can be so rewarding and you never know what will crop up or what it will lead to. You won’t regret it.

Ambition, Goals and OYAP

A few months ago my mum and I were talking about being ambitious when she asked me,

“Do you think you’re ambitious?”

And I of course said,

“Errrrrr…”

Nice one Charlotte.

It’s a difficult question to answer because you have to really think about whether you are actively ambitious. I think there’s quite a difference between dreaming whimsically about what you’d like to do, and actively pursuing your goals. After a little more thought I decided that yes, I do think I’m ambitious, I’m just not certain about how I’m going to achieve my goals.

What are your goals?

Where do you aspire to be?

What dreams do you have?

It all comes back to ambition and how big you let yourself dream…

I am now most of the way through my internship at The Stables and yet the question “What will you do next?” STILL stumps me as I just don’t know yet. There are so many directions I could take, it’s just finding the right one.

My Audacious Goal

This is something Pete Mosley asked us to consider in our final OYAP Young Leaders’ session.

Three little words.

My audacious goal.

Not just ‘my goal’. ‘Audacious’ adds a whole other element. It asked us to think further, rather than just play it safe. Pete is great at getting us to stretch our thinking and quantify it, give it a time frame for example.

The concept of a comfort zone is something we are all familiar with and for a lot of people stick to it. It’s easy, reliable and safe. However Pete spoke about working outside our comfort zone every day. This in turn becomes your comfort zone so take another step, and another…

John Pepin also spent part of the day with us talking through some social enterprise ideas. This definitely tied in with Pete’s session as it gave us all confidence to voice our ideas to eachother and discuss them critically, therefore giving us more confidence to take that away and build on it, maybe actually launching it.

Ambition vs. Confidence vs. Procrastination

We have to define what we want to achieve, have the confidence to go for it, and conquer procrastination in order to really stand a chance at reaching our audacious goals.

There is so much that I will take away from the sessions we’ve had over the course of the Stepping Up programme. It’s not just the sessions though, it’s the people!

OYAP Young Leaders

It has been wonderful working with such a talented group of young artists. We are all so different and will travel in different directions. However I feel like we’ve built a strong connection since January, a network of like-minded young people in the arts sector and that is invaluable. I still have a few things to achieve for OYAP Stepping Up so in the words of C.S. Lewis,

“Courage, dear heart.”