I've worked at schools delivering workshops based around filmmaking, animation and music before and always have so much fun. Most of my work is in collaboration with Upbeat Music & Arts. I've been thinking about getting Lockdown project up and running, in the hopes that it helps with homeschooling and bringing families together. I've emailed Dave at upbeat and he is keen to give it a blast.
I started creating the structure for a workshop delivery over zoom which looked something like this -
I am on zoom to the whole family.
I ask them to pair up (or individually, there are many variants depending on family size and ages)
In your team, find 5 items in the house/room and bring them back to the laptop.
Let's look at what we have found, how would we best describe these objects to someone that cant see them?
In your teams this on 3 separate places, now pick one and tell me about it - what is the weather like? Is it hot or cold? etc
No let's place one of the 5 objects in this environment. Why are they there? What are they doing? Are them inanimate, of have they come alive? - very freeform imagination.
No what happens if another object enters the environment? how does it get there, what does it do etc...
Should they travel to another place?
This is where the participants really take the story to a new level - just letting them decide whatever they like.
After a while, I will ask the teams to swap stories! Letting the other team finish the story (in secret)
After 15 mins ish, Each team returns the story to the other and they read it out loud.
This would be a good natural ending, but there are areas to expand if needed - ie illustrate the stories, create music based on the story etc..
I'm looking forward to giving it a go!
I think the video has turned out well. I made the green screen just bad enough to be comical (hopefully). And if that wasn't enough, the 'walk' into the bedroom is fantastically bad. I've also got Cat Stevens and Vincent Van Gogh to act as the backing vocalists which is pretty cool. Plus there's little things all over the room that represent me and my interests. The animations grows through the video and I hope you like it!
The audio for the track has been mixed and mastered by Tobias and I am chuffed with the outcome. I have uploaded it to Bandcamp as they have the simplest set up for an artist and lots of people use it and are raving about it and it's contributions to artist during the lockdown.
So I am going to write some things out just to help organise them as there seems to be a lot going on.
I have decided to try several 'projects' that all fall under the Araby umbrella.
1 - Live Show.
What: A live music performance that will be streamed.
Why: Araby needs to perform music and tell stories, if we weren't in lockdown then I would be pout and about doing lots of this. Creating a single high quality live stream will hopefully gain more followers on the social medias and eventually lead to more interest when we come out of lockdown.
2 - Track Release
What: 3 new tracks (minimum) to be released online for peoples consumption.
Why: I haven't released any new music in so long which is RIDICULOUS considering I am a musician. I'm hoping to share these tracks to help promote the upcoming live show too, it will all build my social media following.
3 - Video Release
What: Music videos for the 3 tracks above.
Why: I think the visuals are going to be very important in my future work. I have always loved the music video medium as a story telling platform, so I am going to utilise this within the aesthetics of Araby.
4 - Writing Workshop
What: Delivery of an online Zoom/skype workshop aimed at primary aged children (and their parents).
Why: It could lead to work after lockdown and it will be nice for either the parents to take a break from home schooling OR it would be a nice way for the parents to 'go to school' with their kids.
So at the moment I feel like I am walking on stilts at the edge of my mind.
There are obvious limitations with my planned project that I've mentioned a little before, but the purpose of this post is to lay it all out and I'm hoping that by doing so I will be able to come up with some other ideas or plans... or something.
Obviously I will not be in a theatre anytime soon. There is the potential of streaming a performance but I feel that it won't have the same effect as I know that I rely SO much on audience participation. I can't imagine a stand up comedian doing their normal stand up routine to a camera - they will adapt it into a sketch or 'vlog' style performance. And after my discussion with Glesni, I really don't want to throw my plans into a different medium simply because the lockdown has forced me to.
My Immediate line of thought is to just resort back to my comfort zone of just performing music - This will be way easier to do, because I don't have to gauge the audience's reaction to work from. The stories are still being birthed and I need to make sure they are tested out and developed with audiences before I perform them 'properly', whereas my songs are just songs, people expect a 3-4 minute song and they already have preconceptions of what they would sound like from me too, so there is a nice comfortable area to lie down in here.
I feel like I still need to poke out into my writing a bit more though, I am just unsure how to at the moment.
I think I will attempt a story live stream and see how it goes. because why the hell not. Who cares right? Only my mum will be watching anyways probably. And she loves anything I do, so getting a 5 start review straight out the bag from my mam might be worth streaming.
I think it depends how that goes, but I'll probably just plan a normal livestream gig on a platform other than my Facebook, maybe. Speak to Liv and Glesni about maybe streaming on their Facebook pages (Riverfront & WMC).
I spoke on the phone to Glesni Price-Jones who is an Assistant Producer at the WMC.
The WMC have an 'Open Office' scheme in which artists can book in a 20-30 minute slot for a conversation with a producer at the WMC to discuss their ideas and gain feedback.
I wanted to find out how I can get my show from my head and onto the stage. Here are some of the key points that Glesni raised.
The WMC host at least two scratch nights per year and told me to keep my eyes peeled and to apply as soon as it comes up. The WMC scratch night gains a large audience and there's plenty of opportunity for feedback - plus its a 'pay what you feel' with the money going to the artists.
They have a small stage area in the cafe where they tend to put on smaller productions. This is the space that I would most realistically be able to get into first.
They do offer production support (similar to the Riverfront) however they wouldn't look into my project as they start with projects that are already drawing crowds of 200-300 people. So that kinda sucks, but I guess it's something to aim for!
I recently had the pleasure of having a good chat with the Liv Harris the Creative producer at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport. I wanted to pick her brain about the audiences that visit her theatre and how they go about attracting more people.
They key points from this conversation were the following
1 - The 'main' theatre must be commercially viable (big name shows, popular tributes etc) so that they can be more experimental and take bigger risks in the studio theatre.
This is important because, knowing that they take risks means they are more likely to put on an original and unheard of show (me).
2 - They are trying to produce and co-produce more in house productions.
This was potentially very positive for me - if I could put myself in the position for them to want to produce this show then that would be fantastic! I just need to figure out how to get from where I am (just ideas and the odd video) to where I want to be (being produced by them).
3 - 'I will always have coffee with someone and listen to their pitch'
Liv said that she will always have a meeting with a performer no matter who they are, just to listen to their idea(s) and see how she can help. She said that the riverfront might not be able to help, but she will more often than not find a more suitable venue or company that would be able to.
I have already booked myself in for a coffee meeting with her in regards to my show.
There was a lot more that we discussed but these are the main points.
This is a rough timeline that I have made now... 27th March. It will most likely not stick to this, as things change and what have you. But its something that I can keep looking back on to help organise everything that will be happening over the next few months.
I've updated the timeline every now and the, to add various bits and pieces that come in and go.
The idea for my fieldwork project stems from my love of hearing the stories behind the songs written. I would gladly pay just as much to see my favourite artists talk about the meaning behind their songs as I would to see them perform them.
First and foremost I am aiming to create a live show in which I tell stories behind the songs - the main crutch I have going into this is that no one knows my songs and therefore I doubt people will care much for the story behind them. So I need to develop a show in which the stories and songs merge and create essential a new piece of theatre that blends the lines between live music and live theatre.
As I am still not in a position to go out and put on a show (I need to polish the stories and songs plus no theatres would take me on straight away without any examples of work, which I do not have at the moment), I am going to take my time with the development of the show, and also complete some side projects along the way, all with the aim to build my following online - end goal being these people will come to see my show when it happens.
I have been emailing theatres across the land for information on any 'scratch' nights they may have. A scratch night is pretty much an open mic night but for theatre. It's a way of showing your latest work ad getting instant feedback.
Most of them these days seem to have themes for their nights, meaning my stories don't tend to fit, but I'll keep looking. I'm not limiting myself to Cardiff either, as I have friends that will put me up for a night in a few cities in the UK so I'm trying to find anywhere that will take me.
There are several things that I can gain from a scratch night. The main one being instant feedback from the people reading it there and then and also the audience that will watch it. It's a learning experience and part of the development process for writers. I will also get to see other pieces of work and just absorb as much as possible from this environment.
I've decided that for fieldwork I want to put on an early version of my show. This is because it means I get to perform the show and get some feedback. Plus get a vibe for how it will all go down.
Here are some of the locations in which I have been looking into.
1 - Riverfront theatre, Newport.
Obvious choice for me as I have been working there for years and have a good relationship with everyone there. Its got a brilliant little studio space that has had similar scale shows to mine. They've also got good links with other theatres around the UK.
2 - Phyllis Maude, Newport
Gorgeous old toilet block that ha been converted into a theatre style performance space. They seem very keen for new acts to use the space so I on't imagine it would be hard to arrange something.
3 - Chapter, Cardiff
Creative building just down the road from my house. It has small studio spaces and is in known for putting on good shows. Despite having been there many times, I still haven't familiarised myself with the staff there.
4 - Tobacco Factory, Bristol
I stumbled across this place when meeting someone for a coffee, it has a very 'chapter' style vibe. I don't know much other than what the website says, but it seems cool.
5 - Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
This theatre has a similar studio space to that at the Riverfront, the only pro for this theatre over the riverfront is that it is in Cardiff which is just easier for me to get to.
6 - The Other Room, Cardiff
A small theatre next to a pub. The Other Room is a great little space that would be a really nice environment for my show. It has a good live music scene as well so linking the two could be nice.
I think the Disney method is something I will definitely use again - but the process of creating a profile for potential customers felt a bit empty for me. I can think of different people all day that I think would like the podcast, but I think it would be better to spend that time marketing and networking that creating hypotheticals.
I enjoyed creating scenarios for where the podcast would be listened to, but I feel like it wasn't as affective as the Disney method process. No reason not to try them all though if I get the time for suture projects.
After reading through the 001 feedback, the sentence that pokes out to me first is the one saying how the project is still in it's 'potential' place, meaning it's not actually happened yet. So basically I just need to be more active and get shit done. Do more gigs, release some material, reach out with my content to get people involved.
And in response to the feedback (and a discussion with Tom), I have realised that despite not producing or releasing anything that is how I would hope it to be - professional, polished, high quality etc I have still been creating a persona and aesthetic around Araby that delivers a DIY bodge job kinda vibe. I have mentioned before about the 'loner in his bedroom making music' aesthetic and creating un polished and scrappy tracks would fit into that mis en scene. This makes me question if I really need to wait to get someone to master my tracks properly before they are released, because if I release them now in their original and 'genuine' state, then that fits the aesthetic to a tee.
Because I am not very good (terrible, actually) at mastering tracks, they run the risk of going too far past the 'badly done mix' vibe and into the 'ew, what's this in my ears?' vibe. So I need to find a way to create low fi mixes that sound 'clean' enough to make radio play normal, but 'dirty' enough to keep with the 'oh I threw this together in my bedroom' aesthetic.
You still with me?
The same goes for my animation and video content. I showed my animation test run video to the animation lecturers at uni (I forget their names... Ian? Maybe.) and asked their opinion. They said that if I were to submit it into their grading criteria then I would fail, but they believe that if it were submitted for a fine art piece, then it would be suitable because it is all about the context of the piece.
No, my animation skills do not exist past that of any idiot with an adobe Character Animate download and half an hour to kill. BUT who really cares? (other than the artistic perfectionist deep inside me that screams every time I see Pablo's mouth not move in the right way). Correct, no one cares because it fits the context that it sits in.
But bringing the animation into the SBTIB argument - there is still a line in which people will make as to whether they accept it as a genuine product. For example South Park is very basic in its animation - but it plays on that and it becomes funny because of it's limitations.
The animation lecture said something along the lines of 'don't create animations just because you can, do it because you can't do it with a real camera and real people (or pigeons)'.
He said that despite Pablo being a pigeon and 100% living in the pigeon world, we (the audience) do know that it's not really an actual trained pigeon that has befriended a dove - that's what gives you the fourth wall breaking environment to work in.
SBTIB or SBTIG.
A fine line, but I think that I'm going to go for it and make bad things happen to good people.
And I'm gonna own it.
Who tf is Araby anyways?
I am working on three different videos for my three new tracks.
The first is called NONE HERE and will be a fantastic green screened version of myself placed into an animated bedroom. I plan to make the bedroom gradually come alive throughout the song. Maybe having some of my ornaments or teddy's singing the backing vocals.
The second will be a polished version of the MAKE BELIEVE video. I have already shown the working progress of this video, it just needs a little tweak here and there and then it'll be good to go.
Finally I will be making a video for the track MY, MY. I'm looking forward to this one as it will be a physical production rather than animation. I am approaching a professional dancer to perform in the video for me. We shall shoot on location at a warehouse in which the video narrative will (hopefully) read that the dancer has finished a looooong shift and is unloading the van into the warehouse. She is tired and bored of the monotony, so she starts to dance a little but, the lights that are stored in the warehouse start flickering and it builds into a climax of the dancer interacting and dancing with the lights, the lights shine and groove with the song too. EXCITING.
The main aim was to find the best outlets for my work in regards for follower interaction. I think the research was pretty good overall, I explored ways to get the most interaction with a tweet and even launched myself on a new platform called TikTok. But there was one glaring point that it was all missing - actual content.
Of all the tweets I tweeted, not one had a link to a song or video of me performing. The main reason for this is because there aren't any new/current videos of me. This has been a recurring theme over the past few months - the fact that I have no content! So I feel that the next thing for me to do is to finish up the tracks, release them and then make some video content for them, and record some videos of my actual live gigs to upload as well.
Apart from the lack of content, the plan to create content is going well. 001 discusses the podcast and animation attempts which I will utilise over the coming months to create visual and audio content. Plus the creation of Pablo has been an interesting development that will be another platform to release other content through.
Everything is working well, I need just start physically doing things now.
This is what I am doing now as a result of the past three months, this is when the project is and this is how I got here.
I fell like the last few months have enabled my project to get out of the starting blocks, but there is still a long way to go. As a result of the last few months, I now have more followers on social media that actually interact with me. This is a great foundation for when I release my new music content and new visuals over the next month.
At the beginning of the project I was talking about it as a hypothetical, but after the Salon even it was good to bring some physical being to it. I feel that was a main turning point for me and it made me hungry to hurry the process up and get on with everything!
I have developed the stories and songs so that now they are ready to be performed orally, I just need to think of the visual aspects of the performance now and how I can create the best show for the intended audience.
One of the biggest developments was the new electric aspect to the tracks, I think it helps with the aesthetic and makes the songs feel a little bit more rounded. I am still undecided whether to keep the drum beats yet though.
The past few months have been great for developing the project, but I feel I need to be much more pro-active with it. I am booking plenty of gigs to go out and test my stories and I am booking in the photo shoot today. I need to keep the momentum going all of the time and stop saying 'I will do this' and start saying 'I am doing this'.
My first tweet simply explained my thoughts at the time and two whole people liked it.
The next day I fully committed to my efforts and to great affect. One comment and 7 whole likes!
After the adrenaline rush of the tweet before, I went big the next day with a GIF. But only three likes? WTF?
The next few days were nothing special, just general tweets with little to no interaction.
But then I used 'hashtags'. It got me 6 whole likes!
I felt the pressure of the success of the previous tweet so needed time to prepare. 5 people liked this tweet which just added even more pressure.
I was panicking.
There was a lot of political things going on in the world so I went political with my tweet. Clearly my fans are the wrong audience for politics. only one like. I was on a real low.
But things changed. I wrote a tweet dedicated to my followers and the liked hit the double digits! And TWO comments. that's twice as many as I'd ever had ever before.
I needed something new to keep the interaction levels high. 6 votes, but only one like.
I was getting desperate for likes.
I was trying to be current and relevant. This was on the day there was a big sporting event.
This was right before it all went wrong.
On the 20th of December 2019, I forgot to tweet. It was only one day that I didn't tweet but I know that isn't an excuse. I received the most comments ever but it wasn't pretty.
Why does my lowest twitter moment have to be my most successful in terms of interaction? Does my bad actions make other people feel better about themselves? Perhaps seeing someone (me) fail makes them feel superior and therefore more inclined to interact with me? Or do they just feel sorry for me? Who knows.
I opened up to my followers and let them all know that I was getting married in the new year. A very personal tweet and it seemed to get a good reaction.
On New Years day I go sentimental. 5 likes is pretty good.
This was a big day. My biggest tweet reaction so far - and I think I have cracked it. I tweeted about other people and they loved it. double digits in the likes and a photo. The photo isn't even of me. I think the people of twitter only want to be praised or thanked. So maybe I should just tweet about other people instead of myself - but then what is the point?
End of thread (so far)
As you can probably tell from the video, it's not the most polished looking video. However, the focus was on the background images and how they change when the camera angle changes for example from a wide shot to a close up. The birds will be much better too - Pablo will be singing the song and Diane needs some .... changes aesthetically.
The style of the background images is quite a nice look. They're consistent in their style and it's obvious what they are. Who knew those hours of playing on windows paint would come useful one day?
Here is a list of everything I would potentially need for a tour of my show (and the show itself). I'm adding to it as I think of more.
Things I already have:
Microphone, XLR, jack lead, guitar, guitar strings, tuner, capo, strap.
Things I'll need:
Tech: Foldback speaker, spare everything, light(s), set?
Marketing: Promo images, flyers, trailers, audio adverts.
People: Lighting designer/operator, sound designer/operator, van driver, tour manager.
Merch: t-shirts, EP's, Posters, books, pigeons.
Most importantly, how can I afford to do this? ugh.
I've managed to sit-down and run through some story songs for the first time in a few months on my own with my guitar. It's always interesting as to how they transform and rearrange themselves each time it recite them.
Windmills & Wooden Shoes
There are now two versions of this story. The first version is the one I've performed before and its gone down well, but there is a new version of the story which is pretty much the same, it just now has a 'prequel'. I no longer say the story from the first person, I tell it now about a nameless boy who grows up and eventually goes on the holiday that leads him to meet the girl from holland. It throws in some poor attempt at social commentary and bullying and adds a slight (at least I hope it does) heartwarming aspect, giving the audience more of a connection to the 'boys' story.
I'm happy with the way Pablo and I are collaborating on his three songs. Trying to work on the 3rd song a bit, as there is the possibility of Pablo performing this one himself.
This song have taken a new lease of life. I really enjoyed writing this song and I like the demo recording of it, but when I perform it or rehearse it with my band, it always feels a little bit ... empty? But I have found a new way to play it, and a story that really makes it work. The story is based around an old couple and their family dealing with their dementia, which is very close to home and I struggle to get through the story without fogging up. This song I hope will do them proud.
No Heartbreak Here
An old song I wrote when I was a teen, sat in my bedroom and nervous that my family would hear me singing (which you can tell by the notes and timbre I sing this song in). It's a short funny story that I'm happy with but bored of already. Maybe because I've played it so many time.
I've been struggling with this story as I'm trying to stay away from the first person. But I can't find a way to make it about anyone else, mainly because I don't want to. It's my favourite song I think I've ever written and the story does mean a lot to me... maybe it can be a nice little encore.
A funny little story. This story is told in a different way to the other songs. The issue I am facing however, is that this song is meant to be a duet, but I can't pay anyone to tour with me... let's see what happens. Maybe a microphone effect. Or asking an audience member to get up on stage with me.
A song written for someone with MH issues. But at the time it was written I was ignorant to it as I was only young and simply didn't know what it was. I don't think I'll tell a story so much with this song, maybe just ask people to be kind to one another and just reach out a hand.
I need to create some images for my new content. I am approaching an illustrator whose style I really like.
Her name is Kayliegh Hilde and she is primarily a fashion illustrator, but I'm hoping she will make an exception for me.
Because of the theatre style performance aspect of my show, I have been looking into what venues I would be well suited for.
The Riverfront Theatre, Newport - A small theatre with a studio space that hosts similar events through they links with SOHO theatre in London.
The Other Room, Cardiff- A very small studio theatre space. Great place to try out some work.
The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff - Bigger than the Other Room, but they have a small studio space that would work nicely.
SOHO Theatre, London - I've not been there myself, but have mingled with some of there staff when they've been in Newport. The stuff they bring to Newport is similar to mine so could be a potential spot.
KOMEDIA, Bath - My friend ran the tech side of things here for a little while last year and I've popped in every now and then. It is mainly a comedy house, so it'd be interesting to see how my act would go down. Though I am terrified at the thought of people thinking I'm a stand up comedian because I am simply not!
Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton - A lovely little venue that I've been to as a technician. probably too big and not 'niche' enough to expect any sort of an audience for my piece.
I have played 2 'Sofar Sound' gigs before and they stand out as two of the best gigs I have ever played. For two main reasons:
1 - Band.
Both times I've played I have had a band behind me that are simply superb. It takes a lot of pressure off when you know that the people with me can carry me out of a sticky musical mess if I ever get there (I got there).
2 - Audience
Rarely have I played a gig when every single person there has sat silently and listened. I think it happened maybe one time for me at Le Pub which also felt great, but it was dark and I could really see the audience very well.
The sofar sound audience each time I played were no more than maybe 30 people, but they were all sat in complete silence and listened intently to every act that played. This is the perfect audience for me starting out. So I am going to try and get a bunch of these gigs under my belt as there is a sofar sound set up in most major cities.
Plus, the payment for a sofar sounds gig is (regardless of band size) £50 - or they will film one of your songs and edit it together for you.
My violinist has raised a point. As a professional musician, £50 isn't too bad IF it is a solo act. But if there is two of you, its not great and if there 3... you get the picture. They also don't pay the host venue a fee, Why aren't they paying the musicians more?
Sofar sounds charges people an entry fee of around £10-20 (according to the website). So perhaps there should be a better payment system... like a percentage from the door or a higher flat fee.
Having had a quick google, it turns out that there is quite the backlash agains the sofar sounds set up.
Very interesting, I'm going to look into it some more.