Here’s to a happy and productive 2017

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin …

2016 was a year many people will never forget, from the world changing democratic decisions to the loss of so many icons in music, television and film.  Yet in other ways – the olympics/paralympics for example, and for me on a professional level –  it was excellent. I took a quick look back while looking forward.

While last year involved much consolidation, I was able to embrace and combine more of the things I love.

Determined to stay completely freelance and concentrate on writing and social media, I was rewarded by being commissioned across a variety of projects, both personally and for the Rochester LitFest.

I began blogging for Yahoo, which is brilliant on two counts: I’m writing more regularly about my favourite things, and I have to watch a lot of television – no choice, it’s my job now 😉 – it’s also helpful with respect to my own scriptwriting that I dissect the shows, watching them more critically and figuring out why they worked so well and what made the characters engaging. That it coincided with an exceptional year on television made it a pleasure rather than work.

Although I’ve been working in social media for a long time, I decided to go to college and earn myself a Diploma in Social Media for Business. It’s extremely satisfying to be an official social media goddess and I’ll be putting what I’ve learnt to good use, running workshops as well as continuing to work with private clients. 

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Of all the sad losses in 2016, one that hit the Medway community particularly hard was the demise of the beautiful little WOW Magazine, our bible of what’s on where. Happily though, this means we can concentrate on the WOW Kent website, for which I’m the online editor. Together with founder and editor Emma Dewhurst, I’ll be working towards making it the go-to source for creative and cultural news and events across the Kent area.

In order to concentrate on funding for the LitFest, this year will look a little different in that there are currently no plans for a standalone festival in October. Instead, we’ll be running events across a month or so in May/June, covering the Dickens Festival and the Battle of Medway, as well as another Discworld inspired Turtle Moves day, honouring Sir Terry Pratchett.

We’ll also be in attendance at the Creative Care Expo in Maidstone on 26/1 and looking forward to working with more people on our Memory Box project this year. A smaller version, mixed with the Turtle Moves activities will take place at the Rochester Dementia Memory Cafe on April 28 – Sir Terry Pratchett’s birthday, appropriately.

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There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to this year; I’ll try to share all of them with you.

Have a great 2017 🙂

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#RLF2016: Written Worlds, Inspiring Places

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For some strange reason 5 years ago, I decided to start a literature festival. Possibly I had too much time on my hands (I didn’t) possibly I just felt we were lacking a festival in Medway dedicated to writing, and somebody had to do it. I must’ve been mad, and I’m also stubborn, so here we are: the fourth Rochester Literature Festival 2016 kicks off this weekend.

Amidst the usual creative writing workshops, Cafe Crawl and author talks this year, the RLF has a wonderful day of craft activities planned for all ages.

The Turtle Moves, inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, sees a Juvenile Crafters’ Guild appear, as if by magic, in Rochester’s Community Hub, where you can design your own Luggage or bring to life a Golem, among other activities. Out and about in the high street you’ll bump into numerous characters – and even see a re-enactment of the Battle of Koom Valley! And shhhhh – it’s rumoured that the Librarian will be appearing in L-Space (Baggins!)

RLF Patron Lisa Cutts is appearing at Strood Library on Oct 4, alongside fellow crime author Simon Booker, while author of The Outlaw Chronicles, Angus Donald, is at Rochester Library on Oct 6. There is also a Local Author Day at Rochester Library between 10am-2pm on Oct 1.

The popular Cafe Crawl takes place on Sunday, Oct 2 and features the Canterbury Yarners, Fiona Sinclair, Nancy Charley, Johanna Coulson and Maggie Butt alternating at Bruno’s Bakes, The Quills and Cafe @172 between 12-3pm.

The festival opens with three creative writing workshops on Saturday, Oct 1: An Introduction to Screenwriting, A Guide to Self Publishing, and Building Your Make Believe World. It ends with a Writers’ Retreat on Sunday, Oct 9.

All the events apart from the workshops are free, and more detail and tickets for the workshops can be booked here.

If you pop down, be sure to say ‘hi’ 🙂

Exploring Sicario

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As you know from a previous blog post, I’ve been taking part in an online course, Explore Film, with the NFTS / BFI on the Future Learn e-learning platform.

I did this predominantly to help inform my scriptwriting and to learn a bit about the physical aspects of filming – thinking of light, sound and music – particularly when editing anything together for the LitFest.

I didn’t realise how much I’d absorbed until watching Sicario last night, when the cinematography of Roger Deakins and the score by Johann Johannsson completely knocked me out. I feel like I’ve watched a film properly for the first time ever. It’s an awakening!

Tutors Jon Wardle, Pete Fraser and Tom Woodcock will be so proud. Although I’m completely ruined for watching films now. I’ll probably revisit lots of old favourites and spend the entire time picking holes in them …

While Deakins feels we should be too immersed in the film to notice his work (see video above) he can be assured that while entirely immersed, I nevertheless saw the beauty he created, particularly in the most memorable scene for me – and others, it seems – with the sunset silhouettes, as the task force headed for the hidden route to Mexico, then the switches from night vision to infrared giving an almost game like feel. Trust me, it’s 9m 22s out of your life you will not regret. And pay attention to the sound too – more on that in a minute.

From the opening scenes, where the slants of sunlight illuminated the characters one by one (reminding me of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, actually) through to Benicio Del Toro’s ruthless (yet still I was rooting for him) dispatch of the evil drug lord, I was aware of the editing that created the movie’s pace, the perfectly pitched lighting – particularly of Emily Blunt in radiant blue at the cowboy bar – and every sound: the dog barking, the door slams, the slightest muffled footstep – now knowing that these have been added in after (probably), and not just filmed ‘live’ which, having no experience of how a film is made (apart from the odd bit of sweding) I always assumed was quite natural (how good are these people?).

How have I never heard of Johann Johannsson? I listen to Classic FM, I know Hans Zimmer, John Barry, Howard Shore, Thomas Newman – I need to have a word, because in all my time listening to that station, I’ve never heard them play this Johann. And I even watched Trapped, for God’s sake, and thought how haunting the soundtrack was. To be fair, the credits ran into the hundreds of thousands, so little surprise I didn’t catch his name.

I mean, I don’t get out much and it’s only because of the LitFest working with the Rochester Film Society recently that I’ve seen 3 films in the last few weeks (that weren’t repeats of Bourne or RED) but still … *note to self*: email Andrew Collins with a suggestion.

Sicario’s incredible score doesn’t sound as though played by an orchestra, reminding me of Week 6, where we captured our own ‘found sounds’. With its thumping heart beat mimicking your own “like the throbbing heart of a beast charging at you” as Johannsson says himself, it creates a menace to match the brutality of the film. Read the interview that quote comes from here – it says everything I was thinking, and is perfectly captured in the clip above. I’m off to listen to The Theory of Everything.

NEWSFLASH: SICARIO 2 ON ITS WAY! 

Continuing personal development …

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My ambition is to write a screenplay. A full length film. I’ve got the whole film playing out in my head – interrupted occasionally by the TV series I want to do. And chocolate adverts.

So I’m dabbling in online courses for film making and screenwriting, through the brilliant Future Learn portal – masses of free online courses you can do in your own time, or alongside potentially thousands of others. Do check them out.

The one I’m currently engaged in is ‘Explore Film’ and it’s pretty awesome – I’ve already watched some brilliant short films and am feeling inspired. Into Week 2 and there was the opportunity for some practical work. Today found me on location (at the ever welcoming Cafe @172/Dot Cafe in Rochester) with the lovely Sam Rapp, The Dyslexic Poet, and the also lovely Penny from the cafe (who didn’t need too much persuasion, since she’s another crafty creative we’ve found).

The brief was to write a 30 second script on the premise on someone in a room giving something to someone else coming into the room. I then had to storyboard it (you can see that on my Creative Arts Pinterest page. A must if you like stick men work) and then rope in some unsuspecting victims to film it with me (see above).

And this was the result. I still haven’t discovered the techy tricks that will make the video look as good on YouTube as it does on the iPad, which is annoying – but hopefully that’s something we’ll cover as we progress.

International dancers to take global stage with first ever live streaming

Silver Medallist Chelsea Andrejic_Genee 2008_Photo Christopher Wahl

Silver Medallist Chelsea Andrejic_Genee 2008_Photo Christopher Wahl

For the first time in its 84-year history, the Genée International Ballet Competition Final will be live streamed online, allowing the dancers of tomorrow to take their debut steps on an international stage with an enlarged global audience of dance lovers and professionals in virtual attendance. Past Genée medallists, such as Leanne Benjamin or Xander Parish, have gone on to work for some of the best ballet companies around the world.

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