The theme of my week has been STORY, specifically digital arts, activism and storytelling. I have been privileged to go on some great workshops this week to hone my skills as well as having some great meetings and going to some awesome performances.
First up bright and early on Monday morning was a Story telling and Pitching workshop at the BBC academy with the Arts Council. The workshop had been developed as part of the Arts Council drive to build Digital Arts capacity. The workshop was led by Hazel, a professional storyteller (how awesome) who has recently worked on the incredible Africa series featuring David Attenborough (JEALOUS!!). The workshop was split into 2 sections; making story and selling story. Basically separating out digital story telling into a means of marketing vs a means of artistic production.
So what is the relevance of Story? Isn’t it just a nice to have? Tales to tell your children? Far from it. Story is how we make sense of the world, our worlds. Making stories is how we share these perspectives of our worlds. Stories are instantly more memorable and this means they are more shareable. If you want to spread ideas then creating great stories is what it is all about. And that is why I went on this workshop. Because the world needs more awesome world changing stories.
This workshop also covered how to tackle the dreaded application forms and pitching for funding. One I particularly liked was to ‘write applications as if you are the character’ and to think of the application as another story. Keep it fresh and engaging. Funders will appreciate this as nothing worse then endless dry dull application forms. Trust me. Been there. Done that.
We covered the key rules of structure, theme and emotion and were asked to consider always what emotions sit underneath a story. We debated the mono myth theories of Joseph Campbell’s Hero journey vs the Heroines journey along with the ‘7 main plot’ theories of Christopher Booker (Hazel recommended the first half of the book and not to buy but rather borrow it!).
We discussed the importance of clearly identifying the major theme, the big question and the emotions in the story you are telling.
Apparently there are 6 key questions; meaning/purpose, survival, identity, relationship/society, justice, and redemption. Also the importance of the point of view of the story. By switching the point of view the same story can flip the question.
This is all important information to have in the back of my mind as I tell stories of the adventures, trials and tribulations of our voyages. Switching questions and points of view without our realising it, confuses the audience and can easily create misunderstanding.
“One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.” Quintilian.
I was joined on the course by a great range of artists, performers, writers, and producers. I got particularly excited about giant squid farm installation from the Bureau of Silly Ideas and a silent aerial performance about time.
On a more serious note the story of the Magdalen asylum and the women confined in them with apparent state collusion struck a chord with me. The last asylum closed in 2011. Yes. 2011. Absolutely horrifying. Some women had been confined all their lives on the basis of their ‘hysteria’.
But all the pitches were brilliant and I look forward to seeing the work commissioned.
The other main activity this week was attending a workshop on ‘changing behaviours’ which was being run as a Climate Week activity by AEGIS and the Media Trust. Aegis is an advertising agency whose bread and butter is selling stuff but which also has been working on sustainability advertising in recent years and has a project called FutureProof.
I was joined on the workshop by a range of charitable organisations including Secret Seed Society, City Farms Network and Forum for the Future. Critical debate was had about market segmentation and the action gap between knowledge about environmental issues and the actual positive behaviours that are needed to tackle these challenges. Helpful insights from behavioural studies were presented along with the theories of behavioural change and how to trigger actions to overcome inertia and habitual behaviours to tackle environmental challenges.
I stumbled across this very relevant article on why we need symbiotic and spreadable climate memes which also argues why we need better climate stories: http://www.climatememe.org/2013/03/05/why-global-warming-wont-go-viral/
There are three kinds of positive knowledge that have come out of this research so far.
- Firstly, we now know that the global warming meme is not going to make it on its own. That tells us to look outside the meme in other parts of mainstream culture for the solution. We must weave the global warming meme into a stronger meme ecosystem where spreading can happen more quickly.
- Secondly, we now have a meme map that tells us which memes will help the global warming meme to spread and which memes weaken or attack it (see the full report linked above to learn more). This tells us that we need symbiotic memes that have more spreading power on their own. Candidates will be discovered by answering the two part question, “Which memes are spreading successfully now that also relate to climate solutions in some meaningful way?”
- Thirdly, we now have a baseline understanding of the meme dimensions that must be welded together with the symbiotical memes in order to overcome inherent weaknesses in the global warming meme ecosystem.
Later in the week I went to see ‘The forest and the field’ at the Oval Theatre, an immersive theatrical production about how theatre might change to meet the social and cultural challenges of tomorrow and how we as the audience might change with it.
Finally I went to the incredible World of Women Festival at the Southbank centre where I participated in a speed mentoring session acquiring many great top tips, ideas and support for New Dawn Traders.
I also listened with glee to ‘50 shades of feminism’ which posed the question ‘is being a woman today really just about submitting to desire, in its variations of sex, shopping and even masochism?’. This is the perfect antidote to that 50 shades of s**t that everyone was reading last summer.
My best fact of the day was that Mary Wollstonecraft was a sea faring, ship commanding, feminist single mother from East London who blazed a trial that we are still sifting through the dust of.
New question I’ll be asking myself ‘What would Mary do?’.
I knew about Mary and her feminist writings but I didn’t know about her sea faring escapades to Scandinavia in search of lost gold and silver! I’m totally in awe and if I could time travel I’d definitely go back in time to join her. Failing that I might just go to this day at Birkbeck all about her instead.
Later in the evening I heard Naomi Wolf debate her new book ‘Vagina’ with Jude Kelly the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre. I have to admit I had not heard of Naomi before the event. I happen chanced upon a last minute ticket from a friend and oh my was I pleased I did. Not only was the debate on female pleasure, female anatomy and the role of sexual organs in creativity incredibly interesting and engaging, the sign language following the debate had me weeping with laughter.
I was grateful for the #wow2013 story hashtag which enabled me to follow thoughts of others in the auditorium. Some of Naomi’s ideas are contentious and it was great to get insights from other experts in the room through this twitter feed.
The evening ended with ‘Crip tease’, a neo-burlesque performance from a range of artists with disabilities. It was incredible and I suggest you discover them for yourselves. The grand finale was an awesome sparkling sight to behold…
Quite a remarkable week that is for certain… But in sharing it I’m pretty sure I haven’t followed the story rules!
Finally note – Happy International Women’s & Mother’s Day!
Art is culture. It is you and me.”