We are delighted to announce that the application window for the Festival of Creative Learning 2019 is now open. This year’s Festival will take place from the 18th-22nd of February 2019. Send us your innovative, collaborative, mindful, fascinating, challenging, unusual, extraordinary and super creative ideas for events that celebrate news ways of learning and teaching at the University of Edinburgh. We will be accepting applications until 5pm on the 22nd of October 2018. You can find this year’s application form and guidance on our website here.
We would also like to welcome and introduce our newest team member, Theodora Sakellaridou. Theodora is taking over from Lucy Ridley as our Projects & Engagement Administrator.
Theodora says: ‘I am very excited to be welcomed into the University of Edinburgh family and particularly by the Festival of Creative Learning. The progress of this Festival has been significant over the last three years and I am sure the best is yet to come! Jennifer and I are here to support, encourage and empower all projects and ideas. We look forward to receiving your proposals.’
Finally, I also wanted to mention that we have made a slight change in the way our funding streams are organised. Festival of Creative Learning Pop-up funding can now be applied for directly via us (rather than through the IAD Action Fund Small Grant programme). Pop-ups are a great option for anyone who would love to run a Festival of Creative Learning event during the academic year outwith the Festival week in February. Application forms and guidance are now available here. If you have a larger/more complex project in mind that would require more than £500 funding (up to £3000), you can apply for the IAD Action Fund Regular Grant, which is open this year until 15th October 2018.
Go for a walk, stretch, dance, read a poem, consider a challenging problem, play a game, climb a tree, take a nap, draw up a plan and get in touch with your Festival of Creative Learning 2019 and Pop-up event ideas. We would love to help you realise your most innovative and exciting learning and teaching dreams, ideas and experiments!
In the following article, poets Stav Poleg (Magma) and Jennifer Williams (University of Edinburgh) introduce the collaboration of Magma Poetry with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning.
What better place and time to contemplate a collaboration? It was the peak of the Edinburgh festival season. We met for a coffee at Dovecot Studios, discussing ways of bringing poets and filmmakers together.
We both have had our own experience of collaboration and cross-form work. Jennifer has worked with choreographers, dancers, musicians, composers and opera singers and Stav has worked with visual artists, actors and dramaturges. We discussed how meaningful it can be for collaborators to work in artistic partnership, and how the interaction between myriad intellects and their creative energies can influence the way we enter into the pact of creation.
Collaborations can also make this delicate, potent work harder. We reminisced about collaborations that went so smoothly it felt as if we shared a brain with our partner, and others that felt more like sacrifice than expansion. But we knew that the successful ones mattered greatly. They affected our work to the extent that even when we later wrote on our own, the hand of the illustrator and the eye of the filmmaker were inside us as we laid words on the page and sculpted image through sound in space.
We also remarked on the concern that is often raised that poetry is isolated, read too often only by poets and not by the general public. Film poems, and other collaborations that bring poetry out from between the covers of a book, can open a door to the world of poetry for those who are more accustomed to encountering complex images on screen or in the flesh than on the page. The delighted response we have received from poets, filmmakers and viewers of the work produced in the project that emerged from this conversation has confirmed our belief that this merging of forms can diversify and expand audiences and spark a new interest in poetry where before there was fear or disdain.
As for how the project worked in practise, Magma invited poets who were willing to let their poems be open to cinematic interpretation to submit contributions. We received over 400 submissions in the course of a few weeks from poets who were keen to be linked with filmmakers and shortlisted a selection of these poems. In the meantime, four students from the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Film Directing MFA/MA and teams of students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (EMPS) at the University of Edinburgh were recruited. The ECA students were given the shortlist and asked to each select a poem to use as a starting point for a film poem. The EMPS student teams were given one poem, and each individual/group responded to that particular poem.
The poets and filmmakers were encouraged to view the project as a collaboration and worked together via Skype, email or in person. The filmmakers were the creative drivers in terms of making the films, but we asked that they consult with the poets throughout the process and confirm with them that they were happy with the final cut. At the University, the project team delivered a workshop for the filmmakers at which we showed a variety of film poems to help convey the vast spectrum of possible styles from documentary to experimental and abstract, and encouraged the filmmakers to think of their film poems not as representations of the poems in film but as completely new works inspired by the original poems. We have been awed by the results.
We want to thank Lucy Kendra (project co-producer), the Festival of Creative Learning, Charlie Farley, Emma Davie and Juro Oravec from the University of Edinburgh, and the Magma Poetry board. Most importantly, we want to celebrate the poets and filmmakers who engaged with their collaborations with such energy and artistic integrity. We hope this will be the first film poems of many for the poets and filmmakers involved.
Please scroll down to read more about the project, to read more about the filmmakers and poets, and watch a selection of the films. We hope you enjoy them and that it inspires your own exploration of the rich and creative terrain offered by collaborative practise.
Stav Poleg, co-editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue
Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh
Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh
and the Festival of Creative Learning
The Films: Read more about each film here and below.
Pegasus in the Lab
Film Poem by Marios Lizides after a poem by Ginny Saunders
Marios Lizides: I consider poetry to be closer to filmmaking than prose. Through ambiguity and symbolism you are able to communicate with the audience on a deeper, more visceral level. Even though I had created a few works that could be termed abstract and poetic in the past, I found that there were differences in the poetry and film collaboration process. In my past films, I found that their atmosphere/mood materialised mostly during the edit. In this film-poem project I had the poem as a guide and its “mood” as a reference during the shooting of the images. The sound design was also approached differently, as the images gave me clues as to what kind of sound would amplify the mood.
Ginny Saunders: When I talked with Marios about my poem I realised that it could all be traced back to when I was a student in a Biochemistry lab practical many decades ago. We were handling lab strains of bacteria and being taught how to dispose of them safely. The lecturer said something casual like, ‘but even if they did escape into the wild, we’ve so disabled them, and made them so dependent on drugs, they wouldn’t survive anyway’. That had a profound effect on me—how we manipulate and exploit nature for our benefit and don’t give the natural world a voice. In my poem I finally gave the lab bacteria a voice! I loved the idea that Marios articulated his response to my poem by comparing it to his response to a song ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ by Nick Cave. In the video of the song Cave enters a darkened stage as if from a fiery hell and when the door closes it has a big X scrawled on it. That is exactly how I worry the human race reacts to some environmental exploitations.
As far as this collaboration is concerned, it is different to anything I have done before. I see Marios as the next custodian in this chain of collaboration. Just as I had my encounter with the page without the Harvard scientists breathing down my neck (not that I would have objected to a collaboration with them if they are listening), he must now have his encounter with the lens and make Pegasus in the Lab his own.
Marios Lizides is a Cypriot filmmaker/photographer. His photographs have been published in literary magazines and his films screened at various festivals. He is currently working on his thesis film for his MA course at the Edinburgh College of Arts.
Ginny Saunders lives in Wiltshire amongst chalky white horses and enjoys writing about science. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and last summer was Poet-in-Residence for St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury.
Film Poem by Simon Ray after a poem by Kristi Carter
Simon Ray: It’s the dance — the sense of loosening a grip on a certain direction en route to a particular outcome and allowing something to unfold and grow — that seems a common thread in poetry writing and filmmaking. In collaborating, a third ‘dancer’ is added; a three-way conversation between the collaborators and the work, all inputting, receiving and responding.
I have worked in video production, producing films for client briefs, alongside occasional experimental film projects as part of my creative practice. The film poem is more creative and self-directed than my commercial work, and more bounded, outcome-based and ambitious than my experimental work.
Kristi Carter: Because my poem focuses on my relationship with my mother as her only daughter, which also serves as the major thread of my manuscript, I am so familiar with the thematic obsessions that working with someone else reminded me of the alternative ways into my poem. That opportunity for a different but qualified perspective on your own work is very important for any writer or artist. I have learned that the intense control that characterizes most poets is put to the side for collaboration, which is liberating.
Mixed media collaborations also function as one of the most inviting access points to readers who are either new to poetry or more flexible with their definitions of how poetry is supposed to function. I believe that while poetry does enact the work of condensing what is otherwise ephemeral, abstract, or unutterable about the human experience, poets themselves exist in conversation with the world, no matter how quiet or marginal they might assume that conversation to be.
Simon Ray is a New Zealand born artist and filmmaker. He is currently undertaking an MFA in documentary film directing at the University of Edinburgh. His work poetically explores body memory and the boundaries of consciousness.
Kristi Carter is the author of Red and Vast (Dancing Girl Press), Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore(Aqueduct Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawaii Review and Nimrod. Her work examines the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th Century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.
Film Poem by Maggie Clark after a poem by Laura Seymour
Maggie Clark: As my focus is primarily in documentary, the film poem has been an opportunity for me to expand my creative practice and be a little bit more playful with the way I film. It’s pushed me to use visual metaphor as a storytelling device, which is a challenge I’ve really enjoyed! Laura’s poem is about love in the face of prejudice. It carries a sincere and important message, which I hope to do justice in my film.
Laura Seymour: When Maggie and I were talking at the start of the project, I saw that one or two images in the poem stuck out visually from the rest, and also that the images that stuck out visually were perhaps the most ambiguous. The idea that readers or watchers might be more affected by ambivalent imagery was really interesting to me.
* Maggie Clark is a Canadian born filmmaker currently studying for her Masters in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her focus is in character-led documentary, which she uses to explore female identity.
Laura Seymour’s book The Shark Cage (2015) won Cinnamon Press’s debut poetry collection award. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetry Review, Poetry London, Magma, MsLexia, Envoi, Ambit, South Bank Poetry, Brittle Star andThe Interpreter’s House.
Film Poem by Ted Fisher after a poem by Aoife Lyall
Ted Fisher: My interest in documentary film as a practice is always connected to the power of the real world as a storyteller. In reading and re-reading Aoife Lyall’s poem, I saw it as amplifying a reality I could feel and I found myself wanting to look and listen further. We shot aspects of her life for several days, with the idea of trusting this as raw material that would meld with the poem in an editing process. I have made many short documentaries, and the best of these have been made from finding a situation where events lead to a real outcome, in front of the camera. Working in connection to a poem (and a poet) shifts this practice to one that is new for me: trying to understand past and present at once. So my approach had to include tuning in to the idea and experience of reflection and reconsideration.
Aoife Lyall: The most significant thing I learned was that the poem isn’t so much about welcoming my daughter into my life, as allowing myself to finally call Inverness home. I lived here for almost six years before she was born, and spent much of that comparing my life here to the life I had in Dublin. Walking the poem with Ted I came to realise it encapsulated what I had been missing – the accumulation of memories, moments, and experiences that layer themselves into the familiar.
As for collaborating, trust is vital: in the skills you have brought to the project, in the skills of the other party, and in the potential of what you are creating together. So there has to be a relationship there, a mutual respect, and a willingness to let someone else explore, and act on, avenues of your work that you may not have considered before. For future projects I would make the point of being able to recite the poem from memory, simply because this makes more filming options available. What would I keep the same? Working with Ted.
Ted Fisher is an American film director specializing in arts and culture documentaries. His short films have screened at over 30 festivals around the world. He is currently working toward an M.F.A. in Film Directing at the University of Edinburgh.
Shortlisted twice for the Hennessy New Writers Award, Aoife Lyall’s work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Banshee Lit, and others. She has just completed her first collection.
Film Poems by students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society after a poem by Carrie Etter
Miriam Khenissi (Filmmaker): I wanted to incorporated both artists in my short film: the poet and the filmmaker. I thought that using Carrie’s voice as a narration would add a lot to the film. And even though I wasn’t visible in the short film there were a few strands of my hair visible in the last scene which I added on purpose to include a small personal touch. The majority of the film was filmed on an iPhone which allowed me to capture picturesque scenes at just the right moment.
Miriam Khenissi is an aspiring young filmmaker and designer. Her short films have been screened in various film festivals around the world.
Carrie Etter is Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her fourth collection, The Weather in Normal, will be published by Seren Books this autumn.
Two students at the University of Edinburgh share their experiences of participating in a Disability Research Edinburgh network event at the Festival of Creative Learning. Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang are from China. They are post-graduate students at the University of Edinburgh, one in education and the other in social science, and they met at this event.
What we did
The one-day event was to engage the participants with the idea of participatory and inclusive approach to disability research.
In the morning, we listened to a panel discussion between four invited speakers from different disciplines. They have extensive research and practice experiences in areas like social inclusion, disability and medical informatics. They shared their insights into the participatory and inclusive approach, and discussed a range of perspectives informed by academic research and also their own professional experiences.
After the panel discussion, we were divided into small groups based on our interests, such as learning disabilities, mental health or care services. Led by the panel speakers, participants were expected to work together to develop cases of inclusive research design. The group we were in designed a research project on disability and higher education. We discussed many important issues including equal access, barriers, and policies to support international students with additional learning needs.
In the afternoon, we watched a film ‘Defiant Lives’, which was about disability rights movements. There was also an open discussion following the screening. The film showed the history of how disabled people were maltreated, segregated and discriminated, and how they struggled for their rights. The documentary made us understand better the difficulties in realising human rights, and made us reflect on how to make a difference.
What we learned
Before this event, we rarely came across topics related to disability in our own study. For example, in the Chinese context, ensuring access of disabled students to higher education has not been an important agenda, because disabled young people are usually expected to seek jobs to support themselves financially. It was really beneficial to have participants from different cultural backgrounds exchange ideas, so the discussion was extended greatly.
The film screening made an often ‘invisible’ group visible to us. From an Asian culture in which ‘harmony weighs more than anything else’, we were rather surprised to see that disabled people in Western countries opted for a violent approach to fight for their rights. We asked: Why would people choose the most radical way? Why would they rather hurt themselves to protest against something? We realised that at that time disabled people had no other choices – the indifferent society was hurting them even more.
What we would like to do next
Jinghua Qian: Only after taking the optional course on inclusive and special education, I have started to know more about the circumstances for disabled children in different countries. It was great that with group members at the workshop, we could discuss the reality of inclusive and special education in our own contexts. Looking back at my experience of being a student in China, I never had any disabled children as classmates. Compared to Scotland where the majority of students with additional support needs are enrolled in mainstream schools, China still has a long way to go to realise inclusive education. I would like to address the issue of inclusive practice in my future work.
Yu Fang: As a student interested in public policies, the event pushed me to think hard about policy implementation. For example, why would the public transport remain inaccessible to wheelchair users after law enforcement? If such support is not provided even though the government has given its promise, then who should be held accountable for such failure? Attending the event broadened my understanding and I found new topics that I would like to learn more about. I have enjoyed the Festival because it gave us opportunities to explore issues that we might have long overlooked, such as the social rights we tend to take for granted. I would definitely continue to follow the updates about future events organised by the Festival of Creative Learning and Disability Research Edinburgh network.
Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang,
Interview by Dr Yuchen Wang.
Jinghua Qian is a postgraduate student in MSc Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She studied on a course ‘Comparative Approaches to Inclusive and Special Education’, which made her more aware of the international challenges for providing educational opportunities for disabled children.
Yu Fang is a postgraduate student in MSc Policy Studies. She became interested in disability research after volunteering with the programme ‘Home for the Elderly’.
Dr Yuchen Wang is a post-doctoral research associate at Moray House School of Education.
I am a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy and a freelance Medical Illustrator with a passion for the enhancement of anatomy education through the use of art and technology. Anatomy is a visual subject; one which students must be hands-on with to allow for them to understand the three-dimensional composition of the body. The use of creative learning techniques compliments anatomy education extremely well as it allows students to recreate the anatomy through different materials. I am interested in the different resources we can create for students outside the anatomy lab to aid in their learning, but also the resources we can offer to people with an interest in human anatomy, so what could be a better place than the Festival of Creative Learning?
As part of the Festival of Creative Learning I organised two arts-based workshops, with the help of my colleagues, focusing on different areas of the body; How Do We Make Facial Expressions? and Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts. Both workshops were hands-on creating the anatomy from either wax or clay, to build up a three-dimensional representation of the muscles of facial expression or the structure of the heart.
Anatomical clay hearts, Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts
The workshops were open to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and trying new creative ways of learning. Both workshops had to accommodate for the varying levels of anatomical knowledge to allow for everyone to understand and also to enjoy the information they were learning. Therefore for both workshops I used a presentation to display images and anatomical terminology to help guide the attendees through the anatomy.
The goal of the workshops was for the attendees to feel that they had learnt something new by the end of the workshop, whether that be anatomical information or a new artistic skill. The great thing about using art as a learning resource is that it can make your mind focus on the task of creating something, and help you relax from our busy everyday lives. This kind of learning technique also allows for us to create an end product, which can be taken home and admired, such as the clay hearts, or photos taken to show everyone your creation, like the muscles of facial expression sculptures.
Both workshops received positive feedback, which I was extremely pleased about, not only as it showed people enjoyed the workshops, but also because the comments showed that people left feeling like that had learnt something new. The words used to describe the workshops were brilliant; therapeutic, fun,innovative and relaxing, to name a few! The Festival of Creative Learning was an excellent place to try out these new ideas, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone who wants to try out a new idea!
To find out more about ArtBeat: Art & Anatomy Edinburgh, a group running art-based anatomy workshops at the University of Edinburgh, follow us on Twitter @ArtbeatEd and on Facebook @artbeatedinburgh. You can also keep up-to-date with anatomy events on the Anatomy@Edinburgh website; www.ed.ac.uk/anatomy or follow us on Twitter @AnatomyatEd.
Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires more people to think about using art to learn more about the human body!
We’re Andy Todd and Andrew Kirk and we’re IT Trainers from the Digital Skills and Training team, Information Services. We design, develop and deliver IT and digital skills training events and materials for staff and students across the University. Our team also runs the University’s Lynda.com service, which provides staff and students 24/7 access to a free library of 250,000+ HD videos tutorials in IT, digital, business and creative skills – delivered by industry experts.
Having previously attended (and enjoyed) Festival of Creative Learning events ourselves, we were inspired to develop and run our own event for this fantastic festival.
Our two, two hour events, ‘Learning and Teaching with Lynda.com’ introduced attendees to the Lynda.com service, showing them how easily the service could be used to learn new skills, or embed Lynda.com content into teaching. We taught attendees how to search for, view and share content, curate and share their own view/course playlists, link certificates to LinkedIn profiles, and download content for offline viewing.
We loved delivering these sessions and found it to be a great way for us to speak to staff and students to find out which digital skills they were passionate about learning or improving, and how they intended to do so before learning about Lynda.com. It was particularly satisfying for us to hear how positively attendees spoke about the Lynda.com service after we had demonstrated and they had used it, and how important and valuable they believed it to be as a free resource for our staff and students.
Overall, the event feedback received was really positive, with several attendees stating an improved confidence using the Lynda.com service as a result of attending our event, with all attendees stating that they would recommend it to others.
Given how much we enjoyed running events this year, we’ll definitely be applying to run some more next year – so keep an eye out for us in the event list.
If you happened to miss this event don’t worry, we enjoyed it so much we’ve decided to make it a permanent offering. Find current/future dates, and booking links for the ‘Learn and Teach with Lynda.com’ course on our webpage at: https://edin.ac/2JdwJgr
Hi everyone I’m Kostas, one of the many event organisers of FCL18. My event was “Cooking with Science: From molecular gastronomy to gourmet cooking”. I’m a PhD student, with a background in Electronics & Electrical Engineering. Nothing to do with cooking!
Why I got involved in the Festival
The Festival was an opportunity to change people’s attitude towards cooking!
Food science is a hobby and passion of mine. It has changed the way I cook, or even shop for food. You read product labels with a different understanding! I wanted to share the things I’ve learned with others.
The science-part is surprisingly fascinating, touching upon soft-matter chemistry and physics. The cooking-part is a platform to express creativity. Such themes are at the heart of the Festival of Creative Learning. Not to mention, you literally get to taste your creations!
Cooking with Science: A workshop
The event’s theme was “how scientific principles lead to better cooking”. More than just demonstrating science using cooking. Each recipe started with an overview of the science and equipment, followed by participants doing the cooking. We used thermometers, scales accurate to 0.1 milligram, and some unusual ingredients. Here are some highlights:
Chocolate-flavoured modernist mousse: We discussed thickening agents and viscosity, then used Xanthan Gum to make a mousse.
Carotene butter using a centrifuge: We explored emulsions and emulsifiers, then used carrot juice to make carrot butter. This was a tough recipe, but we had fun using a DIY-centrifuge made out of a salad-spinner.
Orange juice fluid-gel: The gooiest part of the day. We discussed gelling agents and the peculiar case of fluid-gels, which are something between a liquid and a solid. The gel tasted better than it looked.
Super-creamy ice-cream: Everyone’s favourite! We discussed ice crystal formation and its impact on ice-cream texture, then we made some very tasty ice-cream and churned it using dry-ice.
Impact & future plans
Running this event for the first time was quite challenging. Some of the recipes were at an experimental stage. I can only applaud the amazing work of the participants, who kept going even when things got messy (literally!). In the feedback, most participants said they picked up new skills, and planned to try out some of the recipes at home. I am hoping that some may develop a passion for food science.
I hope to use all I’ve learned to run more events like this. Cooking gets people’s attention, so it is perfect for public engagement and outreach. I’d like to try this out in science festivals.
While organising the event, I met people from various Schools and Institutes throughout the University. Several showed interest in working together to run more food science events or mini research projects. Fingers crossed, cross-disciplinary collaborations may be coming up.
It is seven weeks today since the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning (19th – 23rd February) started and we are already well along with planning for the 2019 Festival. Jennifer and I are still processing the feedback and evaluations from the week and aiming to refine our processes and resources over the summer, but early indications suggest it was a great success! Compared to last year when we spent a whole week in ‘Festival Decompression’, locked away in a quiet room getting our heads round our first year at the helm, this year we only spent a half day planning our summer work priorities, suggesting we have now found our feet.
One of the creative outputs we commissioned for this year was a new Festival Film, expertly crafted by Archie Crofton. We are absolutely delighted with the result and strongly encourage you to watch and share widely as a celebration of one of many great initiatives at the University of Edinburgh. The full film is available on Mediahopper. Alongside the film, we also invested in a full portfolio of photos from many events, captured by expert photographer Mihaela Bodlovic. A selection of these photos have or will be shared on our social media channels over the coming weeks. View the first album of day one on our Facebook page.
It is always a pleasure to read the stories that appear in various creative formats from our Event Organisers. Some of them will be sharing with you directly over the coming months via this blog, so stay tuned. Below are some examples of records that are available for your reading pleasure, providing an insight into some of the events and activities that took place during the week.
Visualising the campus by James Lamb, showcasing photographs and summarising learning from the event: ‘The Mobile Campus: Imagining The Future of Distributed and Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh’.
David Claerbout: Artist’s Talk. A full-length recording of a talk by ‘one of the most acclaimed and innovative artists working in the realm of moving-images today’.
Finally, in our organiser survey this year one of the questions was ‘If you were to tell a friend about what your most memorable experience was over the course of preparing for and delivering your event, what would it be?’ These are some of my personal favourites:
Running around University campus carrying ice-cream mix, dry-ice and a large stand mixer.
The event itself and the pleasant interaction with people, those who attended our event really were passionate about the topic, and that was great to see.
The creation and strengthening of the community.
It is very refreshing to be involved in academic dynamism and get to know people from different backgrounds.
Monitor our website for pop-up events taking place during the rest of the year.
I read somewhere that words and ideas are big stones in a river. Jumping from one to another you can get to the other side. However, if you always jump on the same ones, you always end up at the same point. The edge of the river is long and there are lots of different flowers.
On February 16th, at 10 pm, I arrived in Edinburgh to attend The Festival of Creative Learning. Pulling my bags on the steep streets, the only noise in the city was the little wheels of my luggage. Cloc cloc cloc. All the rest was quiet and beautiful and magnificent.
I am currently working as the Communications and Outreach Technician at the Institut de Neurociències of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB). My tasks include, among others, designing activities to share with the general public what researchers do, and helping to establish a dialogue between scientists and society, for a better and more responsible research.
I usually look on the internet to find out what is going on in Science Communication and Public Engagement in other institutions, to find inspiration to do my job. That is how I discovered the Festival, which seemed an amazing initiative to me. I contacted Jennifer Williams, Festival Coordinator, and she told me they were open to receive my visit. Thanks to an Erasmus grant and all the help Lucy Ridley, Festival Administrator, Natalie Poyser, Senior Admin Officer – Business Operations, and Jennifer gave me, there I was, ready for new ideas!
By ‘new ideas’ I mean two different things. On one hand, they are different solutions to a challenge, using tools that are not the usual ones. It is an excellent new idea to explain what rubisco does through a virtual reality game in which you are the enzyme and have to capture carbon dioxide to convert it into sugar. It must be what creative means. The Festival was full of creative ideas that made me want to know more about the world.
On the other hand, a ‘new idea’ is a new thought that opens a fresh perspective on a thing that you already knew. Like when you suddenly understand the lyrics of a song you sang when you were a child. It is impossible to return to the previous point anymore, as your perception is changed forever. This should be what learning means. I learned a lot at the Festival, about all sorts of things: minerals, language, folklore, plants, poetry, witches…
I am so grateful to the Institute for the Academic Development for giving me the chance to attend the Festival. I would especially like to thank Natalie for all the paperwork, and Jennifer and Lucy for organizing everything. I could feel all the energy and love they put on the Festival, and I think that is one of the reasons that make the project great. I would also like to thank the people I had meetings with, who shared their brilliant work with me: Dr. Jane Haley, Dr. Heather Rea, Dr. James Howie, Colin Sanderson and Stuart Dunbar. Talking to all of them was very, very interesting for me.
I came back home full of vitality and happiness. Everybody had been so generous with me and had put so many new stones in my river- the best souvenir I could ever bring home. Now it is time to explore the edge and smell all these beautiful flowers.
There is Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan and King Louie. There are the elephants, vultures and wolves. But you’ve never seen the characters of the 1967 classic The Jungle Book behave like this before. They look like the singing, dancing characters of Disney’s original, but they act like real animals in the zoo.
In another video a woman emerges from a building carrying a tray of drinks, the film slowed down so much that her movements are almost frozen. Observing – close-up – you feel part of an intimate series of silent motions, seeing something that might usually go unnoticed. But as the camera pulls back the shadows on the walls are revealed. They move quickly, tracing hours in just a few moments so that you realise that the video consists of two very different timescales, minutely edited together to create a single, seamless – yet impossible – scene.
Created by the Belgian artist David Claerbout these videos are composed with great subtlety and subterfuge. They are part of an exhibition at the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery that presents six of his intriguing explorations of image-making.
A cat and bird sit alongside each other in another of Claerbout’s videos. What they are doing – you might say – is not killing each other. As simple as it may seem this small video piece runs against our expectations and in doing so highlights an aspect of how we perceive the world. In this case we perceive something, a natural animosity, which is not there at all, but has been conditioned by deep-rooted assumptions. A giant slideshow on the main wall of the exhibition shows people gathered on a beach for some unknown purpose. It is a moment captured from lots of different angles, but it is hard to imagine how it could have been achieved and where the significance of this event lies.
As with many of Claerbout’s works there is also a clear recognition of the changes taking place as a result of digital technologies. Upstairs, a camera-less film takes you on a convincing journey through a woodland (Claerbout gives just enough away, for example by shifting foliage types from European to Amazonian to make you question its veracity). Yet when the ‘camera’ retreats out of a small grove into a largely flat farmed region that could never contain the woodland you realise Claerbout is playing with expectations about how reality should behave. Another work frames an image of a beautiful ornamental garden – accompanied by sounds of birdsong – only to pull back to reveal that it is a poster on the wall of a bleak modern apartment building. Forced to re-evaluate what you are seeing, these works make you consider the connections between the precarious position of meaning in the digital realm and our modern living conditions.
Throughout the exhibition you get a gnawing feeling that something strange is going on. The works are gently unsettling, difficult to pin down. And this is precisely why Claerbout is internationally recognised for work that is truly affecting. With the disquiet or suspicion his work instils you are able to really feel out the seams that connect the fabric of reality with the fabric of images.
Last year I had only just started a few months before the Festival, so it felt as if the main task was getting my head around what in the world it all was and how best I could help support the brilliant organisers to realise their dream events. It was a wild ride of a Festival and there are so many memories I treasure, even though I managed to come down with a not very creative cold. In spite of that, I sniffled and sneezed my way through the Birds and the Bees board game, finding penguin love to the jungle music of monkeys and birds in Potterrow’s trees. I watched the bright colours drawn out of the dyeing vats by attendees at the Edinburgh Medieval Pigment Project’s event (they’re working their natural magic again this year! Check it out at: Colouring Outside the Lines: Medieval Pigments & How to Use Them. I loved seeing so many smiling faces folding double headed swans in concentrated silence at the Hyperbolic Origami session.
My wonderful and patient colleague, Lucy Ridley, and I then spent the summer reviewing our processes and the feedback we received from organisers and attendees of the Festival. We came up with a whole raft of experiments to implement in order to test what we could streamline and smooth. We have been delighted to see these changes bearing fruit, as we have worked with partners to update and re-skin our website, have slimmed down and tightened up our application forms and administrative processes and have switched up the way we communicate with and gather together our organisers. All in all the changes seem to be working to make the Festival even more creative, energised and enjoyable than before – hooray!
This year we have a remarkable number of events across an extraordinary range of topics and activities. I can hardly look at the events programme (with the help of our new and improved handy calendar search widget) without wishing I had a cloning machine as I want to go to EVERYTHING!
Some of my highlights are as follows, but I do encourage you to have a look as I bet there will be many, or at least one or two, that you’ll be raring to sign up for…
Keep an eye out for Lucy and me in our Festival Hoodies – we will be popping into events throughout the week and would love to hear all about your Festival experience.
Also a few notes for Festival Organisers before I go:
You’re all doing such a brilliant job – please do keep spreading the word about the Festival and your events. We recommend social media (be sure to use #FCL18 and we will repost), lecture shout outs and popping into other events to spread the word. Remember that promoting the events of others can often mean that they will spread the word about your event so support others and trade promotion when possible.
Impact and Legacy
Don’t forget that your event means more than what happens in the room on the day. How will you capture your event? Will you write a blog about it (if so, please send it to us for posting on the Festival blog post)? Will you photograph it? Will you film it? Will you share it on social media as it is taking place, and encourage your attendees to do so as well? Think about how you will document your event and tell the story afterwards. If your event goes on to have a life after the Festival, making real world changes in the teaching and learning at the University of Edinburgh and beyond – please tell us!
Evaluation and Attendance
Please remember to take attendance at your events and to prepare and send out a post-event survey to your attendees. It is so important to get a sense of what works and what can be improved, both for us as Festival Coordinators and for you as Event Organisers. Try to keep your surveys short and simple and make sure you are only asking questions that will supply information that will be useful going forward. We have a survey template in our resources that you can use if you like.
Think about interesting and creative ways to evaluate your event – for instance, ask people to Tweet/post their reactions, or have them fill out a little sticky note ‘leaf’ and make a feedback tree for people to leave their thoughts on as they go.
Hopefully I will manage to get through the Festival without a cold this year, though one thing is certain – I have Festival Fever and the only cure is a week of innovative, mindful, experimental, playful and joyful creative fun!
Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator