I wrote this blog post for Bristol Life of Breath Project, so am now posting it here. I’m very proud of the work that a group of us did in primary schools in early 2019. I’m using some of the ideas we experimented with in some new workshops I’m devising for GP Dr Sarah Temple and her company Ehcap. Her work on emotion coaching for parents and children helps a great deal of people and I’m proud to be part of the development of this too.
My colleague Dr Alice Malpass has written a blog about our Being Human event at the Arnolfini in November 2017: it’s on the Life of Breath website: https://lifeofbreath.org/2018/01/gasp-making-breathlessness-less-invisible-through-the-creative-arts/.
Theme is one of my favourite subjects to teach as it informs the heart of any piece of creative work, whether it be film, fiction writing, theatre, photography, non fiction, textile work… you name it. Plus it’s about emotion, which is the cornerstone of creating anything meaningful. This workshop, and my recent Creative Sparkle workshops have taken me back to the material I taught on the Narrative MA module at Norwich University of the Arts (I loved that job!).
Film maker Dr Vicki Smith asked me to run a workshop at BEEF over the summer. A privilege to be running the first in a series at BEEF’s current home: The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.
BEEF – Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film – describes itself as ‘a film and sound collective with an analogue heart’, it’s well worth looking up and getting involved in. Vicky is a true experimental film maker and thinker and it’s been great to get to know her through this.
It’s a joy working with creative people, giving them a pile of tools to explore and improve their work and sharing stories. In these workshops – there is a cultural knock about, as one of the workshop attendees wrote in their feedback. Indeed – I view any workshop as essentially being a process of, ‘I am nourishing you and you are nourishing me.’
More about the workshop details:
Details: SATURDAY 30th July at BEEF’s current home: The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, 14 Hillgrove St, Bristol.
DAY ONE : EXPLORING YOUR MEDIUM
This set of workshops may be taken singly or together. Close attention will be paid to the role of sound and the senses in experimental film, the advantages and creative applications of different film formats and the consideration of audience.
10-12 am: Elspeth Penny: Narrative – Communicating through Media
A narrative is the unfolding of a structured communication to an audience. Story, genre, time, space, theme, style, plot, characterisation and dialogue, sound, movement, image. This workshop uses practical exercises to explore theme – and how a well worked out theme affects everything we communicate.
Elspeth Penny makes films, tv, literature, theatre…. always ideas led. An experienced creative workshop leader, Elspeth has taught for over fifteen years, including running an MA module in Narrative at Norwich University of the Arts, and loves to work with people of any age and level of experience.
Now for the feedback.
Thank you to all of the participants who gave feedback:
Very open and dynamic in approach. It did need more time perhaps! Good location and resources. Made me think more about the direction of my work and how to develop it.
The exercises were good and energizing and brought the group together in a dynamic and creative way. The film and book examples were well chosen. The exercise at the end of using colours, projection and camera to rapidly explore a filmic theme was really fun and a great idea for an explorative tool.
– The creative exercises are very inspiring and helpful.
– The drawing on overhead and filming is brilliant help to see your theme in action.
– It could be an hour longer.
– Please do more of these workshops.
Really stretched by boundaries.
Felt like I could think more freely.
Wow have something/pointers to take away and follow up.
- Great cultural knock about
- Made me relax and share
- Great set of tool kit to go away with that could be transferred to all/most creative processes.
- Great sense of security in the group.
Points to improve
?? Too much in 2 hours. Needs a day.
Note to self: Don’t try to do too much in an hour!
Thanks to Vicky and Esther for your help in planning and on the day.
I am saddened by the fire at this wonderful arts centre last Friday. Yet warmed by the news that donations are already pouring in to help rebuild the damage – such is the will to keep hold of the bricks, space and spirit of this place.
Driving through Battersea today, I remember the play that I staged there when I was 30. I had just finished the (rather long titled) National Theatre Young Directors’ Programme at the National Theatre Studio which Ian Rickson, the talented, mellow (and gorgeous) Director of The Royal Court at the time, had put my name up for, for which I am truly grateful. “After the course, you want to be putting on a show quite quickly,” Ian encouraged me, so I looked for my opportunity.
Tom Morris was Artistic Director at Battersea, and after attending a workshop with him at the National Studio, I was brave, introduced myself properly and we chatted about my idea – a play about a dystopian world run by ecologists and based on bee society. Soon after he invited me to stage my show as part of a music and theatre programme ‘A Sharp Intake of Music’. This was a fantastic and terrifying opportunity to write and direct my first show in London – it was called ‘Beauty and The Breast’. The script came out of a week of improvisation, a lot of filtering of ideas and then writing up a structure and a script of a kind, though there was as much physical theatre as words and that’s quite difficult to fix in a script. Matthew Barley improvised live on stage and two talented actors, Helen Laing and Nuria Bennet moved, danced and spoke. It was a true collaboration of theatre and live music, and was properly experimental. I’m not sure which other venue at the time would have been so open to such an idea.
It was very enjoyable a process and lots of the audience were impressed and moved, though I was embarrassed to have made the mistake of employing a young Australian lighting operator who got all the cues wrong. Gah!
In the press cuttings, the show is described as work in progress. My life took a different direction immediately afterwards. I started to teach at BA then MA level, write animation and TV. Then babies arrived…. However, I have had a little interest recently in exploring this topic again with a writer friend who works at the RSC, so perhaps it will have a chance to progress.
Thanks Battersea Arts Centre for giving us this opportunity, and I really hope you recover quickly.
The Battersea Arts Centre programme…
Photos of Matthew Barley, Helen Laing and Nuria Bennet with Throb, the god of this dystopian world…
Stunning hand written design sketches from Sally Daniels…