Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Desire Paths in Sheffield


This weekend we will be out in Tudor Square, in front of the Crucible Theatre, drawing a giant map of the city centre renaming the streets of Sheffield.

As research for this, we’ve been reading The Sheffield Street Names Study Guide* by Mary Walton. It’s a really engaging tour of the city and the origins of its street names.
“Between the two roads ran several lanes, jennels, alleys and yards. A lane will admit some traffic; an alley has front doors in it; a jennel runs between the side walls of buildings; but a yard is a weird and wonderful thing.”
It’s full of great detail, from the brilliant fact that Bridge Street used to be called simply Under-The-Water because it used to flood a lot, to stuff you didn’t realise you were aware of until it’s pointed out to you: “Gate means street and Bar means gate.” (You can download it here).

It also confirms something we do all know. City centre streets were often named after a direction of travel (London Road), after the builder’s or landowner families, to commemorate military victories, or to indicate the activity or industry that they led to, what was made there. A street was known for one activity.

Street names were instructions as to what is made there, where they’ll take you, or they commemorate events from the past. But who gets to choose what events, which people, are honoured in the street names of a city?

Of course now the streets are busier, cities throng with pedestrians, and all of those people in the streets carry different hopes and dreams for their lives. Whilst there might not be as much manufacturing apparent in the streets of the city these days, there are plenty of new industries out there. And in the hearts and minds that travel along those streets, we are making the future.

So on Saturday that’s what we’re doing: commemorating the future. Renaming the streets of Sheffield after the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the people who live in them.

We hope you can come and join us.** And if you’re not in Sheffield follow our progress on Twitter and Instagram at #DesirePaths.

Third Angel presents
The Desire Paths
10am – 6pm on Saturday 1 October
(map left out until 4pm Sunday 2nd)
Tudor Square, Sheffield
Commissioned by Sheffield Year of Making

Created/produced/performed by
Hannah Butterfield
Lucy Ellinson
Hilary Foster
Nicki Hobday
Liz Johnson
Gillian Lees
Alexander Kelly
Stacey Sampson
Rachael Walton
Bethany Wells
Ellie Whittaker

With documentation by
Joseph Priestly.

With thanks to everyone at Sheffield Theatres and Theatre Delicatessen.

*published by and © Sheffield Libraries Archives and Information.
First Published in 1977. Reformatted and additional images added 2011.
Download it here: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/archives

**we’re providing rain cover, so come take shelter with us.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: 600 People and more

Photo by Ed Collier.


I’m on the train home from the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s only just started.

Later in the month I’ll be back to perform 600People at Summerhall as part of the Northern Stage programme there at 2.45pm, 18-27th (not 24th) (this is a booking link – clicky).

If you’ve read this blog before, or if you follow me/Third Angel on Twitter, you might know that 600 People has grown over the last three years from a 10 minute story, to a 30 minute spoken word piece, to a ‘full-length’ (= 65 minutes) show.

It’s been performed in quite a few different contexts already – spoken word nights, research event conferences, kinda-cabaret nights, and in theatres. But only ever for one or two shows in a week. I’m really looking forward to running it for a week and a half (it goes to Greenbelt straight after the Fringe - clicky) and properly getting a hold of the rhythm of it. I’m looking forward to talking to people about it afterwards.

It's a simple show about big ideas, and whilst it is about galactic exploration, extra terrestrial civilisations and the evolution of the entire human race, it's also (it feels to me) one of the most personal pieces I've performed. At least one reviewer has asked if it’s theatre (and then concluded it is, but I think it’s a fair question). It is a bit lecture-y, a bit stand-up-y, a bit story-telling-y. Rachael, directing, has brought more theatre to it, and more clarity as to who (me or astrophysicist Dr. Simon Goodwin) is saying what. Narratively it tells the ‘story’ of a few meetings I’ve had with Simon in Sheffield; the story of the Voyager space programme, and, er, the story of the evolution of the entire human race. And it asks what the next stage of that evolution might be.

But at its heart, it’s about faith, and what we (choose to?) believe. About our capacity to believe in Something Else Out There, something else other than ourselves. I’m pretty sure it’s funny in parts; I think it finds emotion in the science; I hope it’s optimistic.

Photo by Niall Coffey

But that’s in the future for now. I’m on the way *back* from Edinburgh because we’ve just opened Hannah Nicklin’s Equations For A Moving Body at the Fringe, also at Summerhall as part of the Northern Stage programme (11am everyday except Wednesdays until 27 August - linky). Opening at the Fringe with a press show does seem like a risky strategy (doesn’t seem, is), and I wrote about that last year (here). But, just 8 hours later, with the first review and several tweets already online, it looks like it was a risk worth taking. Hannah really rose to the occasion this morning, and produced the best performance of the show I’ve seen. If you’re in Edinburgh for the Fringe, do come start your theatre day with us.

I got to see a few other shows in this brief visit, and can happily recommend:
> Sh!t Theatre’s Letters To Windsor House – a portrait of life in the rental sector that is a reality for many, but hardly reflected in the media – very funny and performed with a brilliantly irreverent energy.
> Jenna Watt’s Faslane which takes a genuinely open and exploratory approach to the personal (and familial) complexities of the Trident debate.
> Unfolding Theatre’s Putting The Band Back Together (full disclosure – I am sometime mentor of Unfolding, but haven’t been part of the making of this show) which is a joyous and (I found) desperately sad reflection on our dreams and the few short years life gives us. (Which might not sound like a recommendation, but it really is).

Also on my list – for what it’s worth – when I’m back later in the month:
Joan by Milk Presents
Labels by Worklight Theatre
Mortal by Bridget Christie
Anything That Gives Off Light by The TEAM and National Theatre of Scotland (International Festival)
Blow Off by Julia Taudevin
Heads Up by Kieran Hurley
Nina Conti’s In Your Face
Child's Play by Kalon
plus
The reading of the entirety of the Chilcot Report (if it's still going when I'm back)
and performing in BLANK by Nassim Soleimanpour on 26 August.

I’ll miss Daniel by Footprint, but I saw a work-in-progress in Sheffield and can definitely recommend. I'll also miss most of Forest Fringe, and of course it's worth just heading over there any day. But Action Hero's Watch Me Fall will be (is) brilliant of course, and I'm particularly sorry to miss Deborah Pearson's History History History.

**

Right, that's it for now. I've got four bars of Mrs Tilly's Scottish Fudge (not Tablet - top tip), that should last me until I'm back.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

HillsFest: Story of the Day

INSPIRATION EXCHANGE
Hillsborough Library
HillsFest
9 July 2016


11.45am
Once I’m set up, before the Exchange opens, I half jokingly ask Sue, who works in here, if it’s okay to talk in this bit of the library? I don’t have to be quiet, do I? It’s pretty lame and predictable even as a half joke but she humours me and explains that down this end of the library – away from the computers – it’s fine to talk. They have book groups who meet here, and people often have a coffee and a chat.

Sue makes me a cup of tea.

11.55
Ten minutes later this seems a moot point –
(does ‘moot point’ mean what I think it means? It’s one of those phrases that I use because I like the sound of it and I think I know what it means, but if I had to explain its meaning to someone, what would I say? It means “pointless point”?)
 - anyway, it seems a moot point because the soundcheck on the main stage starts and all anyone in the library can hear is Michael Jackson.

12.00pm
Then, exactly five minutes later, as the Inspiration Exchange opens, the PA is turned off, and the library is very quiet. It’s the first day of HillsFest, in Hillsborough Park, and it has been raining all morning. I had been thinking the rain would drive people indoors, but if they haven’t even ventured out to the park, then there’s no-one to come inside, out of the rain. The forecast is better for tomorrow. I’m not here tomorrow.

12.05
A man wants to know if the children’s library is open. It is, it’s just that the door needs a bit more of a push.

12.07
Someone is outside somewhere, bouncing a ball against the library wall, or knocking tent pegs in.

12.08
The music is back on, but not loud enough to be identifiable.

I wonder if I’m allowed to get something to read? We are in a library after all. And I did make up the rules of the Inspiration Exchange.

I’ve thought this before during the quiet bit at the start of an Exchange – I’m writing these notes waiting to be interrupted.

12.14
Reading a book would be more appropriate than looking at my phone, wouldn’t it?

A guy has come in looking for more information about the festival. I’m going to get him.

I swap AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION
For MIND MAPPING
F. tells me that he has severe dyslexia. He’s good at starting things, but completing them is difficult. He left school “with nothing” – as there was no support for, or even recognition of, his condition. They tried to make him order his thoughts in a way that just wasn’t natural to him.

A chance encounter with a psychologist in a pub lead to a conversation in which the psychologist explained the idea of Mind Mapping to him – a way of cataloguing your thoughts in a much less linear way than a list. (I realise I recognise this as spider-diagrams). Such a simple thing once you know it. But it transformed F.’s thinking. He went to college and came away with five A levels.

F. asks me to write the title card, and we carry on talking, about the writing he does now, and the ideas he’s developing with an old friend – a unique collaboration based on how long they’ve known each other. Friends since school.

Outside the rain has stopped. We thank each other and say goodbye, as a family arrive.

I swap “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!”  “I KNOW!”
For TEN POUND POM
I think each time I present the Exchange, I learn something new. Fifty years ago, Australia needed more young men to work. If you were a young man in England, the Australian Government would pay for your travel if you would come over and work for at least two years. You just had to pay ten pounds (and the four weeks of your life that the boat journey took). But if you didn’t stay two years you had to pay your boat fare back to get home.

The grandfather who tells me this (who looks nowhere near his 76 years) is with his family; I guess wife, daughter and grandson. He was one of these Ten Pound Poms. He had moved around, living in a variety of shared houses. One evening he was cooking in the kitchen, when two Aussies came in and started having a go at a German guy for borrowing/stealing their food from the fridge. He’s not a fighter but a sense of fairness meant he felt that he had to step in and say, there’s two of you, one of him, so if this is a fight, you’re fighting me as well. The two Aussies backed off.

A few nights later and he’s in a bar, and steps in to stop another guy from shouting at a girl he knows from one of the houses he’s shared. He’s not a fighter, but the guy asks him to step outside (it’s fifty years ago, remember), so he does, thinking, basically, why do I keep doing this?

Sleeves are rolled up in the street, and then there’s a hand on his shoulder.

(German accent) “I’ll take this for you.”

The German guy from the kitchen is there, and steps in to have the fight for him, by way of thank you.

And it’s a proper fight. The police turn up, and arrest the two guys fighting and take them away to the station.

The next day the German is back at the house.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. They just put us in a cell for the night.”

“Thanks so much for stepping in. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. You did it for me. Ow.”

“Are you okay?”

“Well, he did break three of my ribs in the fight.”

Sitting in Hillsborough Library fifty years later, we all laugh. Amazing. That guy! And I’m waiting for “and we’re still friends today!”, but instead the grandad’s daughter says:

“And he never saw him again!”

We talk about stories. The grandson says he would like to write a book of his grandfather’s stories. Do it, I say. Do it. Start recording them as soon as you can.

I swap THE BROKEN TAXI METER
For CREAM TEA TEAM
A story about attention to detail and about a particular act of friendship.

In telling this story, we realise that B. has also told us another story, which we call GIVE AN OWL A DOVE which rewrites the old adage about giving a man fish or a fishing boat, to become something like:
Give an owl a rat and it can eat for a meal, give an owl a dove and it can kill it and use if for bait and eat rats for a week.
I swap LETTING GIRLS BE
For THE EMERGENCY EXIT SEAT
A story about coincidence and seizing the moment. R. tells us about travelling across India, flying from Delhi, and, through a safety briefing because they are all next to the Emergency Exit, getting to talk to the people sitting next to her. Once landed at Varanasi she needs to get to Allahabad – but doesn’t know how she will get there. She knows though that one of her neighbours was heading to Varanasi, too. So she summons her courage and asks a stranger for help – could she get a lift?

Of course she can, no problem. And once in the car they discover that not only can they (the guy and his driver) take her to the street of her accommodation, as it is so close to where he’s staying, he knows the friends-of-friends she’s planning on hooking up with later in the week – in fact he’s staying with them!

R. says these events re-inspired her faith in talking to other people.

I get a bonus title card OUR OPPORTUNITIES LIMIT US

I swap DO I DRAW THE ACTORS OR DO I DRAW WHAT I SAW?
For STORY CUBES
Which is a story about how the limitless possibilities presented by a game of story cubes can actually be very intimidating to a particular sort of thinker or researcher.

I swap 01369 870212
For HEADLESS SANTA
Which is a story about, well, a headless Santa, sprawled in the back yard of a pub, arms open wide as if to be embraced, or crucified. A. says she would see it regularly after getting off the tram on her way home from work. It was there for two weeks, moving around the back yard in a sort of daily time-lapse, and also niggling away at her thoughts. What was it doing there? Who had cut its/his head off?

Eventually a neighbouring business (a car valeting company?) stood him up next to the fence and gave him an advertising sign to hold. But not a head.

I swap TAKING AWAY THE SCAFFOLDING
For A TIN BOX OF CURLERS
A story about being fascinated with your (sterner) Grandmother’s tin box of hair curlers, and whilst being intimidated by her as a girl, also being fascinated by the meticulous way she would put those curlers into her hair. A story about growing up, and looking back, and realising that the curlers were part of this woman’s warpaint when she was younger; she had inherited a butcher’s shop that she had then effectively run on her own, from lugging the carcasses in, to dealing with customers. Looking right was part of the armour that allowed this young woman to work well in that world. And as she had grown older, that ritual had retained its importance. A story about looking back and realising, retrospectively, what an inspiration your (sterner) grandmother was.

I swap THE TURNINGS THE BUS DOESN’T TAKE
For THE WILD CEILIDH
A family of five squeezed into a car driving up to Scotland on holiday.
A long journey.
Two sisters and a brother squeezed onto the back seat.
Mum complaining about the distance.
And then the car crests a hill, and the road leads down to a loch.
It is beautiful.
It feels like an enchanted place.
They find where they are staying.
One night there is a ceilidh. It is wild.
The older daughter has never seen dancing like it.
There is a man there – unruly dark curly hair, piercing blue eyes. He clearly fancies the mum. He asks her to dance.
That night the daughter dreams about the stranger, dreams about him dancing with her mum. Exciting but frightening.
Somewhere in Scotland that loch is still there, mist lying on the water. And the hall where the ceilidh took place is still there, too.

I swap STOPPING PEOPLE DREAMING
For…
A story about realising that, sitting blindfolded in a room in a festival, you are not just listening to a story, you are active in it, participating. Who knew that human voices and a guitar could provide something so… limitless?

We say goodbye. And then I realise that he hasn’t named his story. So I call it ROOM.


Outside it sunny. The rain is evaporating from the paths. The library is closing. As the staff close the blinds and switch the self-scan machines off, I pack the Exchange away, and head outside. There’s a band playing.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

So Liz, what's it like being our trainee..?

[Quick reminder: you'll find the application pack here. I'll leave you to it now...]

--

Hello everyone!

Thanks for stopping by.  It’s Liz here, current Admin & Production Trainee at Third Angel.

I came to this position last summer fairly fresh from a BA in English Literature and an MSc in Creative and Cultural Industries Management from the University of Sheffield, via a lot of student theatre, a fair whack of filming work, and a job in telesales that I’m leaving very firmly in the past (!).

It’s pretty difficult for me to describe what my job typically looks like day in, day out.  As most people working in small arts organisations would tell you, no two days are the same, certainly no two years are the same, and so the next trainee will likely have a very different but equally valuable experience to the one I’ve had. However, broadly, the responsibilities of the role straddle the 2 areas of administration and production – I guess the clue is in the name of the position really!
On the admin side (and there is a lot of it), I am responsible day-to-day bookkeeping for the company, recording data for Arts Council England reporting such as environmental data and audience figures, collecting and recording audience feedback, minuting meetings and communicating with our Board.  Over on the production side, I usually book all travel, accommodation and generally manage logistics when we’re on the road, fight fires when they crop up, draw up schedules, research and buy props etc, read over and draw up letters of agreement, and lots more.  Every show is different meaning that describing production is tricky, but I can safely say that it certainly isn’t dull, and I can promise you’ll be surprised at the breadth of what you’ll end up doing.

And what I am I taking away from my time here? From deeply practical skills such as bookkeeping, to logistics management, to more intangible things like a better understanding of the theatre ecology of the UK and how theatre works as a business, I will be leaving with a wealth of knowledge which I really don’t think I could or would have accessed any other way.  I’ve also had access to networks and training I’d never have been able to connect with or afford without the organisation’s support and every session, meeting or conference helps in setting me up to move forward successfully. (As a note: Third Angel are currently a resident company based in Sheffield Theatres, and quite how much you pick up about the workings of a large building simply from being within the four walls is really remarkable - another bonus!)

I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity and I really can’t emphasise enough what a fantastic organisation Third Angel is to work for and how much of a professional pleasure the last year or so with them has been. The team are so supportive, truly want you to succeed, grow and develop, and will absolutely do their best to make this position suit who you are and where you want to be. I think that it’s a very real shame that so few organisations offer opportunities like this, so if you’re on the fence about applying, don’t be, you don’t want to miss your chance.

I’m not 100% sure what’s next for me (that’s all part of the adventure, right?!), but I feel prepared, excited and really ready to tackle whatever comes my way.


Happy applying!

-L
 


Friday, 17 June 2016

Come and work with us! Admin & Production Traineeship (paid) open for applications

Wow, that's come around fast. A year ago we were advertising our very first internship and worrying about whether or not there would be enough interest. Over 60 applications and some extremely difficult decisions later, we appointed Liz Johnson to be our guinea pig inaugural Admin & Production Trainee and we think it's gone pretty well; she hasn't run for the hills yet. Liz will be writing a blog post in a few days, to give you a better idea of what a year with us is like.

And now we're doing it all again. We may be older and wiser (well, definitely older) but our motivation for offering this training position remains the same: we want to support those starting out in the industry. It's something we feel pretty strongly about. We all benefit from the next generation getting the chance to learn, to find their thing, to be their best. We remember how hard it is to get started, particularly with the 'can't get a job without experience/get experience without a job' catch 22, unless you have the support to be able to work for free. And a lot of people don't.

So here are the vitals:

It's an 11 month paid post, working primarily with the General Manager (that's me). The job pack and application form can be downloaded here. Closing date is 2pm on Monday 4 July and we hope to be interviewing in the week of the 1st August, with the successful candidate starting with us mid-September.

A couple of things that came out of the process last year, that might be useful:

- We don't set word limits, but please bear in mind that we had over 60 applications in 2015 and at least half of them were very strong. Don't make us hunt for evidence of your brilliance. We appreciate elegant prose, but sometimes bullet points do the job better.

- If you say you have an excellent eye for detail, it's a good idea to use spellcheck at the very least.

- If your experience or ambition is primarily as a performer, maker or artist, you need to a) be really honest with yourself about how you're going to feel being at a desk for a year and b) persuade us that you've really thought about that.

If you have any questions, please give me a call on 0114 201 3876 or email hilary@thirdangel.co.uk. And please do share far and wide. I'm looking forward, again, to seeing what brilliant things you all want to do.

Oh, and before you apply, it might be a good idea to check this earlier blog post, in which I get a bit ranty about sloppy emails. The principles are the same for this process too.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

600 PEOPLE Summer Tour


So, is there anybody out there?

I’m delighted to be taking the ‘grown up’ version of 600 People back out on the road this summer. We kick off with our first ever visit to the Pulse Festival, followed by return trips to some of our favourite festival partners.

Tour dates are below. We hope you can join us.


Third Angel presents
6OO People
Written & Performed by Alexander Kelly
Inspired by conversations with Dr Simon Goodwin
Directed by Rachael Walton





“We step out of our solar system, into the universe, seeking only peace and friendship…”  
So says the message from the human race on the Voyager spacecraft. But is there, y'know, anyone out there? Alex talked to an astrophysicist to find out. This is what he learned: Stellar Wobble. The Mirror Test. Fermi’s Paradox. Enhanced humans and murderous dolphins.

Stand-up meets astrophysics in this entertaining and deceptively simple show about huge ideas, exploring the stories we tell to understand our place in the cosmos, and what it means to be human.

“Wow! Completely stunning!” “Genuinely mind-boggling!” audience reaction

“a remarkable and enthralling showcase of knowledge and understanding… a continuous stream of ideas – seamlessly and effortlessly performed… gripping” Cuckoo Review

“a modest, direct piece of theatre which still has the power to knock you to the floor; intelligent, honest and brilliantly inquisitive.” Exeunt


Thursday, 12 May 2016

POPCORN at The Holt!


As part of our 20th - 21st Anniversary celebrations this year, we're commissioning a series of Small Celebrations - intimate moments of performance by artists we have mentored, supported, collaborated or connected with over the years. Each will be documented and collected throughout the year and made available in the autumn. 

The first of these is our own small celebration, Popcorn. A fifteen minute performance reflecting on rules, time, making stuff, shared language, shared history and friendship. We'll be performing it at The Holt, a great new cafe and artspace in Sheffield, on Wednesday 18th May at 1.15pm, with an opportunity to chat afterwards. So if you're in Sheffield, why not come down for coffee, cake, a sandwich, and enjoy a lunchtime theatre celebration with us? We hope to see you there.