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Kevin Finnan, artistic director of dance theatre company, Motionhouse, is the Choreographer and Movement Director for the upcoming Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
In an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, Kevin looks back at Danny Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony, and offers an insight into preparations for his performance.
This week we have begun our transfer to what we call the 'one-to-one' space, where we bring our groups into an area the same size as the field of play in the Olympic Stadium.
We've been rehearsing for weeks with our cast split into groups rehearsing on different nights, but a few days ago we had our first rehearsal with 550 people all in one area. It's both exciting and terrifying at the same time, because it's the first time there's room to do the show fully, and essentially to see the show in a form that will resemble the final ceremony.
It's thrilling because you begin to see all of the fantastic visual pictures as the choreographic shapes emerge. It's a very satisfying moment, but you're also then presented with a huge amount of new information that the cast have to learn, such as all the movements around the field of play, and how to be in the right position for the choreography.
They also have to become familiar with the process of 'blocking', which is the term we use when volunteers arrange themselves around the field to achieve all of the big visual effects we make with the group, which create the patterns on the field of play for the stadium and aerial views.
This is an enormous amount of extra work for the cast to take on, and we work very closely with what we call the 'Mass Movement Team'. There's a real combined effort now to integrate choreography and mass movement so you can create the spectacle.
While it's exciting to see our performance taking shape in this manner, it's also challenging because while the cast have a huge amount of new information to take in, it's also important that what they've already learned is retained. Working at the 'one-to-one' is extremely interesting because it's a huge space and it requires enormous resources to make everything work and create a memorable spectacle that will be witnessed by the world on 29th August."
With the summer of sport underway in London, Birmingham based PR and Marketing agency, S&X, is in the capital to work on projects for its clients within the sports industry.
In the second of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, S&X Associate Director, Jo Green, discovers there's more to East London than just the Olympics.
The arrival of the Olympic Games in a once highly industrial area of East London has undoubtedly seen sweeping regeneration, not only in terms of the construction of the Olympic Park, but with new additions to the local area including the vast Westfield shopping centre in Stratford.
In many respects, of course, this can only be seen as a positive, with valid arguments that the new facilities have revitalised one of London's most run down areas, creating jobs and attracting people into the community.
As we've made our way around Stratford since arriving for the Games last Sunday, we've seen both sides of the current make-up of the area, from the shiny shrines to the modern world that the stadium and shopping mall can represent, to the artistic underground core which has long regarded the East End as its own capital.
Among such venues is the Stour Space, which has become a regular haunt for Team S&X during our time in London thanks to its convenient location around the corner from our base in Stratford.
The film awards season is now beginning in earnest. BAFTA have published their long list, from which the 6,000+ membership will choose the nominees and then the winners. I'm one of the voters. The trade press say that less films have been made this year but those completed are of higher quality. Having less films to consider is certainly a blessing and I have to say I'm really enjoying my movies at the moment. But, the big question - how am I going to vote? Tricky, with a lot of good films on offer. I think in my top three though contains two films based on true stories, the third is directed by a Brit in his 70th year. Can you guess the films?
One of my day jobs whilst we are making 'Turbulence' is running a Thursday evening film course at The Midland Arts Centre or MAC. To celebrate the awards season, I am going to dedicate each week to a different category. There'll be evenings on cinematography, actors, script, costume etc. I'm hoping to include special guests and even a special awards ceremony on the final night!
So what do the awards actually mean? For me I'd say being nominated is the most significant thing and being on that list year in, year out certainly does no harm to a career. The actual winner is much more of a lottery and ultimately less significant. Also there tends to be the lean towards one film picking up nearly all the prizes. Whilst this makes a good news story, I have to say I do think it's a shame and generally doesn't reflect what's out there. For my own work, I tend to think about the words of Martin Scorsese, famous for not winning an oscar for most of his career. He always said its not the prizes that matter but being able to make the next film. Here's to that.
So, I'm off to vote! You can see the BAFTA 'long list' using the link below, these will become nominees, and after a third round of voting, winners. Can you see any of your favourites from 2010?
Also check out MAC's evening courses and of course, our film Turbulence. We are now looking for completion finance of ÃÂ£75,000. if you know someone who might like to invest, please ask them get in touch. Businesses can invest in the film and offset this against corporation tax before April 6th 2011.
About Turbulence http://www.turbulencefilm.com
For Turbulence investment e mail Natasha@dreamfinder.net
For MAC's courses see http://www.macarts.co.uk/page/3704/Learning+Participation
To follow me on Twitter it's @bikefilm
Having raised the issue of food security (along with a low-cost, convivial alternative-style means of regeneration) as a topic for their Annual Conference last week with publication of Roger Levett's essay in Fit for Purpose (see blog entry), the WMRO appears to have promptly ignored it all.
Food after all, appears as if by magic. When the Conference delegates ate their lunch, I'll bet they thought little, if at all, about the fragility of the just-in-time systems that got it there, let alone where on earth it originally came from.
Or, as pertinently, where it all went to. This includes what the food companies chuck at source or in transit, the freegan stuff the supermarkets discard, the 30% we throw away, and the dung we produce.
There was on-line comment and a flurry of emails after last week's entry Green shoots of recovery. This was about Roger Levett's essay on guerrilla spud-growing in the WMRO publication West Midlands: Fit for the Future.
The WM Regional Observatory has published a 10-essay collection under the title West Midlands: Fit for the future: Positioning the region for economic recovery.
These essays are to be discussed at their Annual Conference on 20th October.
Only one contribution, however, adds something surprising, even startling to the debate. It is by Roger Levett.
But let's start with the Foreword by Ian Austin MP. I quote: we know what we need to do to make the region the workshop of the world again.
We know? Eh? Workshop of the world? Which century is this man in? Or is he merely pandering to some vague nostalgia about what went on in Matthew Boulton's time?
I recently had a life-defining moment which I feel I must share.
Flicking through The Guardian (to be fair, dear reader, I was in Leicester and there were no Posts to be found) I came across a picture of the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith, in his newly-unveiled trademark look. Aside from thinking that a bow tie and tweed jacket was the mode du jour for all Open University lecturers of my childhood, rather than time-travellers, my main response was "Is that really news?"
That's not a comment on the increasingly central role that Saturday night television is playing in defining our national culture, but because I'd already seen that image. Three days previously a friend in Cardiff had texted me a pic from her mobile phone and a formal BBC publicity shot was online the next day and highlighted in a Twitter feed.
My reaction to the Doctor's photo was a microcosm of the issue being faced by the Post at present. Printed media is simply unable to keep pace with contemporary news dissemination such as Twitter, websites and blogs.
This column is wrong (go read it, fume, come back). But I don't think it's malicious. People have accused it of being trolling (deliberately winding up people online), of being stupid, of being lazy, of being ill-informed. Me, I just think it was something easy and (to Mr Lamb's mind) quite amusing.
It's not though, it's part of an unfortunate trend in deliberate misunderstanding that is making the job of increasing digital (and by extension social) participation more difficult. John Lamb says "social media is banal".
First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. A communications platform cannot be banal. The use of it by people can be; but that's a good thing.
The so called banalities allow people to build relationships that are then used to do serious weighty stuff, an example from our fine city is how stupid things like a pantomime on Twitter (covered by the proper newspaper and featuring its editor) lead to serious long and hard work on civic activism such as the Big City Talk project. It's not a co-incidence that many of the people contributed to both.
As someone in PR John should be excited over the wealth of real information about their desires, likes, dislikes and activities people are willing to share with him. No more guessing or expensive polls or focus groups -- here are people all to willing to tell him exactly what they think (on Twitter and on the Post site today they're telling him exactly what they think).
For BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, the death of Michael Jackson must have felt like manna from heaven. I'm guessing that Thompson was girding his loins for a merry-go-round of media interviews on Friday, following the release of his expenses claims, and those of his senior colleagues, but fate had other plans and the news agenda set off on a very different direction.
I've had a good look at the claim forms, helpfully posted on the BBC website, for reasons I'll come on to. While some of the expenses seem rather petty (23p for parking? I'd love to know where that car park is), some rather unorthodox (spending best part of ÃÂ£500 on meeting expenses with future colleagues BEFORE he started work at the BBC?) - and others must be the result of some seriously robust negotiations over his contract (paying his annual congestion charge, presumably just so he could drive to work), the majority of the published expenses are pretty damn boring to my mind. Which is exactly why they've been released.
Attending last night's Birmingham Young Professional of the Year event made me profoundly aware of the haves and have nots in our city, on many levels.
Firstly, many congratulations to Suzie Branch of BHMG Marketing on being crowned BYPY 2009. Clearly a popular choice, Suzie's citation highlighted both her skills as a business woman and her willingness to put something back in the community - exactly the combination of skills shown by our illustrious city forefathers such as the Cadburys, Lloyds, Chamberlains and Martineaus.
Birmingham Future, which runs BYPY, has emulated these laudable ambitions themselves by launching The Future Foundation, a charitable fund set up to support education, employment and training projects in Birmingham. Last night the 620 guests at the award dinner watched a short video about some of the work done by the Birmingham Foundation -the community charity which will administrate Future's fund - which showed some really tear-jerking projects and the differences they made. It would be a hard man or woman who wasn't moved.
Although there's been a lot written about the dire economic climate, it was clear that not everyone at the ICC was on their uppers: plenty of generous raffle ticket purchases should see many thousands of pounds more available to help train and support Birmingham's young people in the future.