Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Third Angel at Greenbelt Festival

We’re really looking forward to (finally!) making it to the Greenbelt Festival this weekend, particularly as two Third Angel pieces will be there alongside two piece we’ve mentored. If you’re going to Greenbelt, and you want to seek us out, here’s where and when to find us…

photo: Elliot Roberts
Third Angel presents
An epic journey in a stationary minibus
SATURDAY 23rd 11.00am,  3.30pm & 7.00pm
THE WILDERNESS (next to The Kindred 24 Hour Café)
To an audience of just 14, Alexander Kelly recounts what he learned as he followed in the footsteps of his Grandad – on a bus trip from the Midlands to the most northwesterly point of Scotland: Cape Wrath. Heartfelt, moving and funny, and one of the hits of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Three shows on Saturday – in a minibus!
Sign up on Friday between 6–8pm at the minibus.
Age recommendation: 14 and over

Third Angel presents an
SUNDAY 24th 12.00 – 5.15 pm
Third Angel’s Alexander Kelly would like to have a conversation with you, and do you a swap: idea for idea, inspiration for inspiration. Drop in for as long or short a time as you would like, swap a story or just listen, as we follow a trail to see what unexpected places we end up in by sharing our inspiration. You can find him in a bell tent by Star Pond.
Final storytelling at 5.00pm at the bell tent (Star Pond). Suitable for all ages.


Hannah Nicklin (with Alexander Kelly):
SATURDAY 23rd 7.30pm & 9.30pm
This is a story about my dad (a retired policeman) and me (a protestor). It’s a story about fear, bravery, what it feels like to be kettled, SuperTed, the Lone Ranger, policing the people in front of you, and being sent out of class. It’s about working out what matters, and standing up to protect it. It’s about Them and Us.

It’s about me, and my dad.
There are also some jokes in it. Because serious things are worth laughing at a little bit.

Unfolding Theatre:
(Mentored by Third Angel)
SUNDAY 24th 5.30pm & 7.00pm
There is a world that can transport us from the ordinary to the extraordinary, where we are one perfect throw away from greatness, a place where we can all be champions. That world is darts. Through this noble sport, Alex Elliott asks the unfathomable question: “What does it mean to be best in the world?”

Join him on a hilarious, occasionally heroic and heart-warming journey, featuring true stories of success, live darts and celebrations of our own personal triumphs. Motivational bananas included. This uplifting show will renew your faith in life and darts. Who knows? You might be the best audience in the world.


And if you’re going, we would also recommend that you see Bobby Baker on Saturday, too.

Thursday, 31 July 2014


July’s Monthly Film is A Perfect Circle, which we wrote about quite a lot as we were making it:

So I asked Chris to reflect on the actual shoot. He said:

I didn't want to make this film. I wanted to make something entirely different. But we ended up in a studio in Sheffield for two days making A Perfect Circle.

Which was a good start.

We abbreviate to APC when we talk and write about it among ourselves. I'm not that happy with the title to be honest but I've never thought of anything better so perhaps I should stop moaning.

No comment.

There are couple of things about the making of the film. We borrowed the overhead camera and gaffer taped it to the lighting rig in the studio. I had no way of knowing whether it was properly in focus and exposed by the time I managed to lean over and hit record. I managed to overcome my mild vertigo by climbing twenty feet up the ladder to do so. 

It was essentially a two camera setup on multiple takes of the entire process, with me doing close ups and wides on the floor and the borrowed camera on the birds eye view. I also had to guestimate as to whether or not I would be in shot if I moved in for any extreme close ups of the powder or the feet.

Climbing with gritted teeth up the ladder to retrieve the footage for a quick mid-shoot review was not fun. As you can see, the footage was ok. We had a coffee and carried on.

The main part of the shoot was a highly rewarding experience, lighting Gillian, her performance and the action to make it other, elevated. Ditching the storyboards very early on in the first day. Finding new ways of framing the process using angles and perspectives that the theatrical experience couldn't replicate.

Alex and I have written and spoken about the editing process in other places and about the intentions behind the piece. I had two additional motivations when making A Perfect Circle, rather prosaically one was to learn and find the limitations of a new piece of editing software - hence the large amount of frame blending during the extensive slow motion shots - and to attempt to create something elegant, fully formed, which needs no additional explanation in order to be enjoyed - like a piece of music.

I learnt the software, which is now defunct five years after the fact, I'm unsure as to whether or A Perfect Circle can be enjoyed without knowing what is happening. 

I did also want to make a dance film and this was the an opportunity to do so within the Third Angel fold.

So to paraphrase Meatloaf, two out of three ain't bad.

So I'd just add, A Perfect Circle is best enjoyed watched on as big a screen as possible, turned up loud...


Third Angel presents
A Perfect Circle
9min 32sec. HD.

A female human being performs a ritual: an attempt to describe a circle and an attempt to describe the world as if all you could see of it were the series of images carried on the Voyager satellites, the two furthest-travelled human-made objects from the Earth.

Devised by Christopher Hall, Alexander Kelly, Gillian Lees and Rachael Walton
Performed by Gillian Lees
Music by David Mitchell
Camera and Edit by Christopher Hall
Production Assistants: Cristabel Horne and Dan Wray

Commissioned by Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum for The Sheffield Pavilion2009. Supported by Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds Metropolitan University. With thanks to Sheffield Independent Film. Third Angel is regularly funded by Arts Council England and supported by Site Gallery, Sheffield.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

NPO Funding Announcement

We have a really exciting, ambitious programme of performance, mentoring and partnerships planned for 2015-18, which we’re now hugely looking forward to delivering as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. 

We’ve been well supported by ACE over the last 3 years, and the stability now afforded to us by being an NPO will allow us to plan even further ahead, put more time into development and support other artists and arts professionals in new ways over a longer period of time. 

We would like to thank Arts Council England, and the many people who supported us in developing the programme of work for our National Portfolio application, and everyone sending us their good wishes. We really appreciate it.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Looking back, twice.

In October 1995, Third Angel presented its first piece of work, Testcard. (You can read more about its origins, here.)

A pretty big show for a first project. A 72 hour durational performance for The Workstation in Sheffield. Two performers (Rachael Walton and Phil Richford) lived in the public gaze for three full days and nights; you could visit them live in The Workstation foyer, 9am – 9pm, watch them through the windows at night, as they slept, or check up on the via “CCTV” video links in shops and cafés around the city.

They lived in long thin rooms, with clear plastic walls, separated by a corridor. Each had their own little kitchen area, bed, living room, TV. They watched endless rolling news channels, computer game animations, CCTV footage of each other and the audience; they had newspapers and pizzas delivered.

For one hour each evening, a ticketed, rehearsed performance evolved out of the durational piece, Testcard Stories: new video work, distorted film dialogues, long lists, quiet monologues.

A big project for a first show. We called in all of the favours we had earned in the two years we'd been in Sheffield, and spent a lot of favours we hadn't yet earned. We got a small grant from Sheffield City Council's much missed Community Arts Fund, loads of equipment and technical support from the northern media school, and trust and respect from The Workstation.

Somehow the show caught the zeitgeist and we found ourselves on page 5 of the Guardian, part of the local news questioning if it was art and discussing the possibility of hosting an edition of TV-am - which sadly (?) didn't happen.

Phil’s task was arguably the toughest one. Just live, and watch this weird TV channel we had created for him. Ignore the audience completely. Rachael’s task was to turn the gaze back on the audience, and to document the people who watched her. She took a Polaroid photograph of as many of her visitors as she could over the three days.

In 2002 Third Angel moved into our own studio space in Brookfield Yard in Nether Edge. Sorting through the hoarded gear from many shows, we came across the collection of Polaroids taken during Testcard. Chris suggested we document Rachael looking through them, remembering what she could about them, and the audience who came to see her.

Strangely enough, we’re now looking back at this film, over a longer time than Rachael was looking back at the Polaroids. A strange, genre-defying piece, at least in part about Chris’ exploration of form, and questioning of what can be documentary/documentation, as much as it is about the original show.

Naturally, I asked him to reflect on the film making itself. Over to Chris:
As you can probably tell, we shot it quickly with not much equipment. What you see was the end to quite a long process of working with the Polaroids and understanding how they could best be represented on the screen. Before we sat down in the rehearsal space in Nether Edge, a few days after the move from the Site Gallery, there had been a few attempts at making a short film based on the pictures. They were clearly all dead ends whilst I was making them and I didn’t show them to anyone else. I shot them on VHS and then degraded the image even further – shot them on dv and then saturated the colours to the point of incomprehensibility. Looking for a way of making sense of the images, their tactile quality and the aesthetic of the Polaroid* that is rapidly fading from our collective memory. 
It was clear, in the edit suite, staring at another dead end of ideas, that memories were the way into the Polaroids.  
I’m on one of the Polaroids and that Polaroid was in the film, then out, then in, then out. I don’t remember the final reason why I went out – it may well have been to keep the time to a certain defined length. 
With much of the film work, they often appear, in retrospect, to be sign posts on the way to somewhere else. Testcard Polaroids has echoes in the most recent piece, Postcards From Florence, that we screened last September in Sheffield’s Light Night. If you know some of the other work then you’ll be able to recognise its imprint on those as well. 
That’s not to say that this was the somehow the progenitor of the memory based pieces, it’s more of an early try out of ideas had been kicked about for a while. 
Watching it now makes me want to make another thing in 4:3 on low grade mini dv, before that aesthetic too begins to fade.
*Alex’s footnote: I remember that we got given a load of Polaroid film at knock down prices by Harrisons Photography in Sheffield. These are the “Party Polaroids” with the balloon borders…


Testcard Polaroids
A film by Chris Hall
Featuring Rachael Walton

Testcard was created by
Rachael Walton
Phil Richford
Alexander Kelly
Robert Hardy
Chris Hall
David Mitchell
Hilary Foster
Jacqui Bellamy
Emer O’Sullivan
with a lot of favours from friends and colleagues.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I choose today’s stories on the train.

Project Arts, Dublin, 25 April

I choose today’s stories on the train. Inspiration Exchange has a bank of stories – in my memory and listed on our blog. The stories are mine, or have been given to me by other people. Gradually the balance of the library is shifting, as the proportion of stories told to me by other people, that I feel able to re-tell, grows.

On the day of an Exchange, I see which stories come to mind first. Which stories do I feel like telling today? And this is slightly odd, bittersweet perhaps, because as I write out each card, I am thinking, I hope I get to tell this story today. But I know that I can’t tell all of them. It’s a task with a built-in disappointment.

I’m suddenly aware, on the train to Manchester Airport, that later today I will meet some people for the first time, and they will tell me stories. I wonder if it is still chance that we will meet, or are our paths already set to converge? And the stories that they will tell – are they already in their minds, are they current, or will they think of something they haven’t thought of in years?

I arrive at Project Arts Centre. The Live Collision team show me to my table in the foyer. I like the table very much. I lay out my inspiration cards. I have one too many to make up the 6 x 5 grid that the table demands. I choose the story that won’t get chosen: ABORIGINIES VS. THE SAS.

At 3pm we open the Exchange.

I immediately swap THE BEAUTY OF THE PROOF
A story about maths
A story about the noise of a city, a city that says ‘I’m here, here I am, I’m behind you’, about running up the stairs all the way to the seventh floor, and about meeting a hero.

I swap +44(0)1369 870 212
Which is the number of a phone box in Scotland
A story about an accidental phone conversation with a stranger helping people to understand that they are not their governments.

A story partly about the difference between wanting to practice and having to practice.

In which a famous television astro-physicist and ex-popstar explains that the idea of “the Speed of Light” is incorrect and it would be more accurate to talk about “the Speed of Things That Don’t Have Mass.”

A story about how in the midst of a difficult, tragic situation for a family, the onset of a grandfather’s Alzheimer’s, the daughter, who is an artist, finds something compelling in the action of him buttoning up a shirt inside out. A story, perhaps, about finding something to hold on to.

For a story about solitary confinement
Which I swap for another story about solitary confinement
Which I swap for THUMB’s UP
A story which explains the difference between physiotherapy and occupational therapy: in the case of a quadriplegic patient, paralysed from the neck down, the physiotherapist helps him to move his thumb, and the occupational therapist helps him to us his thumb to smoke cigarettes.

Because it’s about the midlands,
In this story you are a sleepwalker. On one occasion, staying in Thailand, you find yourself in the middle of the jungle three miles from your accommodation, having woken up everyone in your hostel on the way out…

You suffer, your whole life, with night-terrors, narcolepsy and sleep paralysis. You climb out of windows and fall ten feet, naked, into snow. You wake up teenage twins, standing naked on their balcony, trying to get back in to the hotel. You piss in the corner of your bedroom, and onto the feet of the grandfather of those startled twins.

And over all of this hovers the question, when you start seeing someone, at what point do you tell them that you might get out of bed during the and walk around asleep…?

In this story you ask your date: So, are you a heavy sleeper?

Which is a story, in part, about chance and serendipity,
In this story, two friends in Dublin are planning a trip to the States. He gets a Visa, but she is turned down. They decide that they will go somewhere else together instead.
He goes to get his haircut, and the barber is not long back from 10 years in Liverpool. The barber tells him it’s a great city.

So he asks his friend if she fancies going to Liverpool for their trip. She says she does, and they book into a hostel for a week. He stays in Liverpool for 10 years.

And for 10 years he talks about the barber as the reason he is in Liverpool.

He moves back to Dublin.

He goes to get his haircut. The barber is still there.

He tells the barber the story.
The barber’s hands start shaking so badly he cannot carry on cutting his hair.
What’s wrong? asks the friend.

The barber tells him that he is thinking about moving back to Liverpool. A friend of his has just died and her child is about to be taken in to care, and he thinks he should go and look after the child to stop that happening. He has given himself to the end of the week to decide. He’s been waiting, the barber tells him, for a sign.

A story about the rebellion of squatting being appropriated by capitalism, about the young couple next door turning out to be sister and brother, and the abandonment of those siblings by the eponymous granny, when the cops come round.

The Exchange is officially closed, and I’m writing up the notes that I’m reading to you now, but I’m asked for one more story.

And it turns out that this was exactly the right story for her to ask for, and serendipity has one more card to play today, and circles, cycles, and geometric shapes are connections waiting to be made, and we swap it
A story about birth, control, the Mandala, geometric shapes, rice patterns, circles, and cunt power.

The Exchange is closed, but the conversations it generated continue that evening and throughout the next day.

Thank you.

This is a version of the ‘Story of the Day’ text I read out at the Live Collision LIVE ART PARTY at the close of the festival.