Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Psalter Lane, six years on

It feels like this is the last in the series.*

Six years ago I was asked to write a piece for the Sheffield Telegraph about the closure of "Psalter Lane" - which many people in Sheffield understand to mean Sheffield Hallam University's Psalter Lane Campus - an art school. Sheffield Hallam were moving their art teaching to be part of their city centre campus.

I was sad to see it close. I had attended Psalter Lane as an MA film student, and then did a few visiting lectures there once Third Angel was set up. But I knew it mainly from going to degree shows there - an annual cultural highlight in Sheffield. I was brought up around Walsall College of Art as both my parents taught there, and so I have an ingrained affection for self contained art colleges/campuses. And I live in this area of Sheffield. I felt I was qualified to write something. I said I was sad to see it close.

For several years after that, my walk to work would take me past Psalter Lane campus. Around the time the campus closed, Sheffield artist Kid Acne had painted YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE over the main entrance. Beautifully judged.

Being the obsessive documenter that I am, I began an annual series of updates, as the campus started to become derelict, got demolished, and has now been rebuilt. Or erased. 

I guess there is an implicit criticism or complaint in this series of posts. We should be building art schools, not getting rid of them. Hallam still has a fine art department. But there's something about the contained art college campus that gives it a different energy and atmosphere. (The same is true of performance courses, and though I have less connection with them, I instinctively miss Bretton Hall and Dartington. University of Hull @ Scarborough is next.)

You can see all of those previous visits here.


And here is a last visit. The first one where there have been other people around. I tried to have a look inside the Show Home, but it wasn't open.
















    


*But knowing me there'll be a Psalter Lane 10 or 11 years on...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Inspiration Exchange at Greenbelt: Story of the Day


As ever I choose too many stories in advance - more than I can possibly swap in (in this instance) five hours. That way I'm not deciding exactly what stories are told. And as ever I feel bad in advance for the stories that won't get told.

And just like last time, a newer thought occurs - to wonder about the stories that people who will come in to the Exchange will tell me, stories they don't know yet that they will think of and tell today.


We open on time, and it's non-stop for four hours.

I swap AN ESCAPED LUNATIC ON CANNOCK CHASE
For CAMEL ON THE BEACH

I swap DEAD JELLYFISH
For I'M GOING ANYWAY
A story told to me by a couple about their son, and contrary to my earlier thought, this is a story they knew they were going to tell me before they came in, the story they came in to share, in fact. Their late son. Their inspiration. Those of us listening know we're privileged to hear them tell it.

I swap A 6B PENCIL
For INSPIRED BY M

I swap DESIRE PATHS
For A RUCKSACK, A PENGUIN & GREAT DETERMINATION 

I swap I'M GOING ANYWAY
For THE SIDESWIPE

I swap 01369 870212
For A STRANGE NIGHT

I swap "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!" "I KNOW!"
For WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE

I swap 4 FOUNTAIN PENS
For A PANTS DISASTER

I swap TAKE THE CAMERA HOME
For LEARNING TO BE PATIENT

I swap LETTING GIRLS BE
For KATE LOVE

I swap A PANTS DISASTER
For REAL LIFE SUPERHEROES

I swap A VERY M1 CHRISTMAS 
For MAD CRAZY DOGS

I swap CAMEL ON THE BEACH
For "YOU DON'T HAVE TWO TONGUES & ONE EAR"

I swap TAKE AWAY THE SCAFFOLDING
For CATHERINE WHEEL: SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE

I swap THE BIG FIREWORKS
For MAX & DOM'S BIKE RIDE

And then there's a pause. Even Dominic, who's been with me for over three hours, has to go.

A little re-set in the tent. Stretch the legs. Stand up straight. Sunlight.

It occurs to me that today is a day of stories about determination in the face of adversity - particularly, sadly, adversity in the shape of cancer. Stories of finding what makes you happy, and what makes you who you are. About what we believe, and about what we choose to believe.

Stories about the importance of other people: friends, family, community, this place we're in, this festival. Stories about love.

I swap 36 DAYS LOOKING FOR STUFF IN THE FRIDGE 
(during the telling of which I double-check the maths of this statistic and am reassured)
For AGE OLD MEDICINE.

**
Then, after the telling of this Story of the Day, a woman with a five year old daughter falling asleep on her lap, asks if she can hear LETTING GIRLS BE. And so the conversation carries on, and rather than stopping, the Exchange seems to wind down into the evening around it.

Thanks to everyone who came in for listening, and for your stories.



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
STAR POND
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.

plus…


Hannah Nicklin (with Alexander Kelly):
A CONVERSATION WITH MY FATHER
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:
BEST IN THE WORLD
(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

Monthly Film: A PERFECT CIRCLE




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

Monthly Film: TESTCARD POLAROIDS




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.