TAIL Project Unlocked: Spot On Stories

The NRTF TAIL Project, is a 2 year ACE funded initiative that looks to bring the rural touring and library sector together to promote, strengthen and boost opportunity for programming and delivering touring arts in libraries.

The TAIL Project’s ‘Unlocked’ series works by promoting digital and COVID safe content to libraries from across the rural touring sector to encourage collaboration and support libraries to discover and deliver a high quality creative programme to their service users despite ongoing restrictions.

This month we’re putting the spotlight on….

Spot On Lancashire, who bring professional performances to rural communities and library spaces all over the county, launched a digital project entitled Spot On Stories when lockdown began in March 2020.

In partnership with Lancashire Libraries, the intention was to bring artists and their pre-recorded stories directly to Lancashire audiences in their homes. This offered audiences access to great art when they wanted, where they wanted. As the lockdown continued, the focus of the project shifted slightly with a marketing angle of ‘taking ten minutes out’, encouraging people to set aside the stresses of the day and use these video stories as a means to indulge in culture, reflect and rest.

The first mini-show to be broadcast was for children and families. Theatre Fideri Fidera’s ‘Meet Ugg ‘n’ Ogg’ was an adaptation of their live show which was due to be hosted in Lancashire over Easter 2020. Spot On worked alongside the theatre company to create an exclusive performance for Lancashire audiences which aired in April 2020 via the Spot On Facebook page, website and YouTube channel. The programme of events continued to grow each week culminating in a successful commission from The Space for further digital mentoring and support and two more seasons of activity. (Further library funding has just been secured for a ‘Flash Fiction’ season soon to be launched) 

Spot On Stories content is available for free via social media channels and over the year has welcomed over 30 co-hosts who can share the videos with their own audiences. Spot On is keen to hear from other library services and organisations who are interested in becoming co-hosts. With nearly 50,000 views of seasons 2 and 3 it’s clear there is an audience for digital performance and increasing the geographic spread of the sharing results in additional brand awareness and helps increase public awareness of the artists and their work.

The project has commissioned over 40 short videos to date; a mixture of content specifically made for children and families, grown-ups, a two part panto themed production, traditional tales made modern, contemporary dance, music and even bingo… there’s a lot to choose from!

Programme Manager, Lyndsey Wilson explains: “Creating these micro shows hasn’t just offered the Library Service a means of increasing contact with their users, it has been a lifeline for artists and for the Spot On team who needed to continue producing something positive during this uncertain time.”

Cultural Development Manager for Lancashire County Council, Heather Fox notes: “Spot On responded so quickly and positively to serve library users with some amazing stories. It has meant that we’ve been able to sustain engagement with our users throughout these difficult times.”

What began as a temporary project to fill a programming gap, providing some much needed funding to artists and providing audiences with great content, has blossomed into an additional strand of work for this organisation, with intentions for this programme to continue as part of the Spot On cultural offer. If you are interested in learning more about the project and getting involved either as an artist or a co-host please contact Spot On for further details.

For more information including the programme of events and links to each show visit www.spotonlancashire.co.uk

Spot On Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9MHihzoChldjiE54VLVi1A

Spot On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spotonlancashire/videos

-ENDS-

Notes for editors:

High res images available on request

Spot On Lancashire is a countywide service which enables people living in remote and rural communities to enjoy high quality live arts events on their doorstep. Spot On do this by working in partnership with over 200 volunteers and appear in over 50 different small places each year.

Spot On enables volunteers to choose and host professional performances and our support makes shows which could only otherwise be seen in urban arts centres, available to smaller communities.

Spot On is delivered by Blackburn-based Culturapedia, as part of the Cheshire Lancashire Touring Partnership with Lancashire County Council and Cheshire Rural Touring Arts.

Spot On is part of the national portfolio of the Arts Council England and is also invested in by Lancashire County Council and the districts of Fylde, Ribble Valley, Wyre and the Unitary Authority of Blackburn with Darwen.

Spot On can be contacted at:

c/o Culturapedia

The Barn, 61A Manor Road, Blackburn BB2 6LX

01254 660360

www.spotonlancashire.co.uk 

Using Zoom for Storytelling & Performance – Thoughts and Tips from Gav Cross

About midway through 2020 the whole concept and notion of Zoom fatigue was being discussed.
Suddenly, new regular phrases emerged, such as ”Can you hear me okay?”, “You’re on mute!” and “you have no authority here..”

And I envied it…
I haven’t been in many Zoom meetings. As a freelance performer and creative I wasn’t really in a team.
I wanted to play with Zoom!

So I started to tell stories on Zoom*.

*I know it’s never going to replace live work with an actual audience. One you can see and smell. And I, like you I’m sure, miss that dearly…

And I loved it. I loved having a new audience of people to interact with and get a response from. As I’ve got more used to the software I learned how to adapt my material and performance style to increase interaction. I started to be able to bring the bulldozer of chaos that I adore in my own storytelling, into this new realm. I learned how the software could include people at what ever level they want to be included.

It has meant that I’ve been able to work across the country and beyond. That I’ve been able to tell stories and shout at children from around the world! Who could ask for more?

I had hoped to tour my storytelling show, Twisted Tales for Terrible Children…” in 2020. Instead I took it onto Zoom. And I could hear laughter. I could see the engagement and I could involve an audience that wanted to be part of my stuff and nonsense. I was invited to perform for Manchester Libraries, with one of the days being 20 classes in 3 shows. Joyous!

I’m also the talent manager for my cousin, Father Christmas and actively encouraged him to deliver some storytelling zoom sessions. And equally, he had a wonderful time being extraordinarily silly. Well he does have a very high pressure job so it’s good to let off some steam. The Father Christmas Storytelling was projected into the venue at The Pound. Mr Christmas was able to see and hear the audience. Sat in the their family bubbles 15 minutes before the virtual audience, there was a chance for FC to have a pre show chat and hello with those that had come out on that Christmas Eve. The Zoom Audience was let in and the estimable Pound Zoom hosts were able to let me see, hear and interact with audience members online and on site. After the Zoom show there was time for Father Christmas to interact once again with the audience in the venue. Before having to leave and get on with the other jog of that night… That blend was deliciously fun. Jokes were swapped, funny faces were pulled and shared. Laughs and the lovely echo of a time together that will soon return, I’m sure.

More recently I have been enjoying zoom storytelling sessions for Cubs, Scouts and Beavers up and down the country. Virtual Fireside storytelling. Plus a Funny Looking Kids: Comedy Club. An online live sketch show for families. So I thought I would give you a few top tips.

I think there are going to be plenty of opportunities moving forward, of retaining the online element. I’m looking forward to experimenting with blending live storytelling performance and an online audience.

Here are my very simple top tips, from a very simple Storyteller:

  • Play with Zoom as a Host if you haven’t, see what the differences are between pinning, spotlighting, the different types of views.
  • Keep your set up in gallery view, so that you can see as many of the audience as possible.
  • Look at the camera lens and not the Zoom room…
  • Have fun with a green screen! Or any blank wall colour. Adding backgrounds are a nifty little way to transport yourself with simple video and images.
  • Light your face. Bright and clear. It helps with the video quality.
  • Have the camera at eye height, not desk height. Look at your audience, not down on them.
  • Talk to the Waiting Room before you start your show! Ask them to change their screen name to whoever is watching this show.
  • I ask that a grown-up is there to give me a thumbs up if children are on screen.
  • Encourage people to take part. Unmuted as individuals, or a specific times, the full group. Or contribute in the chat.
  • Have a buddy/co-host that can help you steward the group and send messages to you about audience members desperate to be involved you might have missed.

I think it will remain perfect for scratch performances, readings, poetry, storytelling and more.

I can’t wait for live audiences, who we know are desperate for enthralling, engaging, exciting, entertaining performances. But not everybody is going to be able to get out so readily.

I know personally I am enjoying the opportunity to see more work from diverse people, from around the world.

I bet you’ve got a fantastic story to tell and I would love to watch and help. Do get in contact with your experiences. I always love a chat with another performer about what they have been up to. See you soon, on Zoom?

Gav Cross

Some Zoom audience Feedback:

“The joy and laughter of the Beavers – and the parents chuckles in the background (we were a zoom session) spoke for itself.”

“Just wanted to say thank you for organising such a great meeting tonight. My children both really enjoyed it and I loved hearing their laughter throughout. It was exactly what we needed part way through this lockdown. Thank you.”

“Stories told very well and funny. Liked the “best smile”. Very much enjoyed the interactive bits.”

“The whole group loved it! Primarily booked for beavers and cubs, some of our scouts logged in also and he thought it was very funny, So spanned from 6 to grown ups, loved seeing them all laughing and enjoying, and thinking differently about traditional tales!”

About Gav Cross

Gav describes himself as a Storyteller, Creative & Idiot. Find them on:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GavCrossStoryteller
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/gavcross
Twitter – https://twitter.com/GavCross
And grab a peak at the tour brochure for “Twisted Tales for Terrible Children…” –
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1att7C_tXP4_Gv4qyFwjBOcg8mRIzjVZe

For the upcoming Funny Looking Kids: Zoom Comedy Club details, go to https://funnylooking.co.uk