#2021blue

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To support Coventry’s bid for the City of Culture in 2021 we’ve come up with the slightly daunting task of collecting two thousand and twenty one Coventry photos featuring the colour blue. So far Coventry’s Tweeters and Instagrammers have taken up the baton admirably – there were over 100 posts on Instagram in the first week! But, y’know, 2021 is a *lot* of photos so we need all the help we can get! If you are on Twitter or Instagram, please join in this new game: get spotting the colour blue out and about in the city and add your photos by tagging them #2021blue and #thisiscoventry – in the words of Captain Barnacle “Coventry, let’s do this!”.

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Montague’s Song – a re-uniting, and a reprise

A very special moment happened on Saturday when, 100 years to the hour when he was lost at the Battle of the Somme, Coventry violinist Montague Johnson’s Memorial Plaque (colloquially known as a Dead Man’s Penny) was re-united with his city. The medal had been discovered in 1963 by Kim Kenny, as a 5 year old girl, in a shed in the garden of her then home in Allesley. She looked after it over those intervening years, long since having moved away from Coventry – and it was her who brought it to the premiere of Montague’s Song at St John the Baptist Church (where Montague’s name is recorded on a stained glass window). It was revealed part way through the performance, to the surprise of Ray Hammond, a relative of Montague’s, who was in the audience.

medal_reunited
L-R: Chris O’Connell (writer, narrator); Kim Kenny & Ray Hammond (with the medal); Derek Nisbet (composer, musician). Photo: Alan Van Wijgerden

The medal will go on display later this month at the Visitor’s Centre in War Memorial Park, on a cushion specially created by textile artist Julia O’Connell of Theatre Absolute, (co-producer of Montague’s Song). This completes the circle, as it was the picture of Montague there in the ‘Missing Faces’ exhibition that began the search for his story, nearly 3 years ago.

The church was full on Saturday so by popular demand we’re doing a reprise performance (with a collection in aid of St John’s) this Sunday 11th Sept at 1pm. No booking needed (it’s part of the church  Heritage Open Day events) but early arrival advised!

https://www.facebook.com/events/608944519275493/

 

Montague’s Song – An intimate Requiem for a lost Coventry violinist

We sing a story of the soldiers of The Somme

Of whom one from Coventry was named, Montague.

Theatre Absolute and Talking Birds present Montague’s Song, an intimate Requiem for Coventry violinist Montague Johnson, who was lost at the Battle of the Somme exactly 100 years to the hour of this performance.

His story will be told, and the mystery of a discovery made many years later will be uncovered.

Performed by Derek Nisbet, Chris O’Connell and Elinor Coleman.

 

Date: Saturday 3rd September 2016

Time: 6pm (Doors 5.30pm)

Venue: St John’s Church, Fleet Street, Coventry CV1 3AY

Running time: 30 mins approx

(followed by drinks at the Shop Front Theatre, 38 City Arcade, Coventry, CV1 3HW)

Admission: £4 (£3 concessions) via OxBoffice: https://www.oxboffice.com/EventDetails.aspx?eid=18020 Tel 0845 6801926

This performance can be captioned (subtitled) to your mobile device via Talking Birds’ The Difference Engine. To use this service or for any other access enquiries please e-mail: access@talkingbirds.co.uk

Very busy weekend coming up

Here are the details of our various outings this weekend (you can find timings etc here):

On Friday, Beyond the Water’s Edge, live poetry from around the world, opens at The Belgrade Theatre. Produced by our friends at Midland Creative Projects, the show features visuals and music from the Birds.

On Saturday, the Whale is surfacing at the Darnhill Festival in Heywood, while the Cricketers take their inimitable brand of sporting buffoonery to The Hat Fair in Winchester.

Then on Sunday, the Whale will be at Godiva Festival in Coventry in the #ThisisCoventry tent helping to launch Coventry’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021.

The Cart will also be in the #ThisisCoventry tent, where artist Julia O’Connell and writer Vanessa Oakes will be working with us collecting cultural moments from visitors to the tent to add to the #ThisisCoventry tablecloth. You can join us for as long or short a conversation as you like, stitching optional. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Building some things while other things fall apart

Hmm, that’s possibly an unintentionally apt blog title on EURef day, but this post isn’t about that. It’s actually a kind of apology that, when there’s only 3 of you and everyone (not just in the company) seems to be busier than they’ve ever been making great new things, other things fall off your radar and sometimes just fall apart.

For a long time now, Talking Birds has wanted to make ‘The Cart’. Janet, in particular, has been trying to shoehorn it into what feels like every project for the last 10 years. It surfaced as the germ of an idea for a joint (unsuccessful) proposal that we made to Playable Cities with Ludic Rooms; then again as part of a city-wide Pop-Up Cities Conference that didn’t happen with Artspace, Dan Thompson and Theatre Absolute; another unsuccessful evolution of The Cart was entered into the City Arcadia open call…

But it was too good an idea to shelve and also, perhaps, too complex (or vague!) an idea to articulate well?

Talking Birds’ work is about people and places, and over the years we’ve usually gone out and made that work with what we have found in the places where the people are. But The Cart is a little bit different. In a way, perhaps it’s an intersection between our site-specific work and our peripatetic engagement work with, for example, The Oakmobile. Anyway, it wasn’t until Coventry got serious about bidding for UK City of Culture 2021, that we realised there was perhaps a Cart-shaped gap in that process, and that teaming up with the Coventry2021 team could finally make The Cart happen.

We’ve found it hard to describe The Cart in a pithy way, because we want it to be so many things and to be used in lots of different ways, for lots of different things – but perhaps “pop-up workshop space and community engagement environment” might do for now? It’s something that can pop-up across the city (and beyond) offering a friendly, relaxed, comfortable and welcoming space to have a conversation over coffee, over a shared activity such as stitching or a game, or maybe even over a free haircut. An exchange of some kind. Something which allows parents to stop and chat whilst their children play. Something that can go to where people are, and engage them on their terms – visiting neighbourhoods, parks, nurseries; joining existing events or forming the focus of new ones; mapping the cultural engagement in the city on a micro-level, where it’s about people rather than statistics, about communities rather than about wards, about human connections and the things we do together.

The Coventry2021 team and Coventry City Council recognised The Cart’s potential: and so we’re delighted to announce that The Cart is finally happening – with its first outing in the #ThisisCoventry tent at Godiva Festival on July 3rd.

Obviously, this is brilliant and terrifying in almost equal measure – that idea, so long in the gestation is finally being realised and is about to be tested: the first step in finding out what we can do with this new tool. And so, for us, there has been a lot of work in a relatively compressed period of time – and while we’ve been busy sorting it all out, getting everything ready, our website (for one thing) is falling apart! No-one really has time to write a blogpost (I’m on borrowed time for this one), the tool that used to catapult our instagram feed onto the front page has gone out of business (without letting us know) and our What’s On page is missing much of the other stuff we’re also doing.

Maybe that’s inevitable. Maybe sometime we’ll catch up with ourselves. Maybe you’re busy too and you’ll understand. Hopefully you’ll come and see us and The Cart at Godiva and let us know whether it was worth it.

Work in Progress pics of The Cart (Cultural Action Research Tool??)

 

Hearts warmed here

It’s entirely possible that this blogpost might be construed as blowing our own trumpets (or something) but, you know, I’m going to post it anyway. Just because it is not every day that you get such an absolutely lovely email that makes you pleased that you do what you do – and makes you want to keep doing it. So here goes:

“I would like to express my gratitude for your informing me of the captioning with The Difference Engine. I was most impressed with the high quality standard of the captions and how perfectly it fitted into the small scale one woman monologue performance of Joan.

“As a hearing aid user who lip reads, I found this technology allowed me to fully understand the whole performance with ease. I found I could read quickly ahead and be able to watch the whole show in order to capture the emotions and the visual aspect of the character’s performance. I have watched many [shows with]…closed captions which are often at the side of the stage and by the time I read them, I have missed the performance of the character…the large captions can be distracting…I thoroughly enjoyed how the captions portrayed the different voices to present the various characters within the show and the description of the music genre.

“I most definitely would use this technology again as I feel I was in control of my access and it was discreet [with] the option to glance and…the ability to read ahead. I felt integrated, as there was humour, audience participation and emotions which I felt synchronised with the rest of the audience instead of receiving the information second, later on.

“I am now a fan. Thank you Talking Birds for the technology and…Derby Theatre and Milk Production for allowing the show to be accessible.”

**In case you missed it; Here at Talking Birds we are still looking for a Tech Genius* to work with us on the further development of the Difference Engine and our other techy stuff. If you know someone who might be interested, please get them to look at this (some details including deadline dates are about to be altered, and previous applicants need not re-apply etc etc but it’ll give you the gist – if you’re interested, please do get in touch).

* This is definitely an official job title and exactly what it will say on the business cards 😉

Wanted: Tech Genius

We’re delighted to announce that The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has awarded Talking Birds funds to work further on the development of our in-pocket captioning tool, The Difference Engine. As part of this, we’re recruiting a Resident Technologist, to work alongside us and original programmer James Shuttleworth, to further develop the system and support the companies and audiences testing it. All the recruitment details for the Resident Technologist are here and we hope soon to be able to involve more companies in testing the Difference Engine on their own shows and feeding into its development. Watch, as they say, this space…IMG_1919.JPG[slightly rubbish pic of The Difference Engine in action at the Barbican the other week, captioning The Encounter by Complicite]