The Threat of Silence

Earlier in the year, departmental practitioner Jill Greenhalgh was awareded £20,000 by the  Arts Council of Wales award to  produce a new performance titled – The Threat of Silence.  The performance premiered and toured in September 2010.

This new work sought to develop a form that consciously embraced the power of silence, stillness and quietude by exploring and applying dynamic strategies which move beyond the static or simplistic in applying extended time. It asks how the elements of performance – space, technology, text, action, and sound – can be moulded  to create time and a place of refuge from the escalating bombardment of noise, information overload and escapist trivia satiating contemporary living.

Watch extracts of the perfomance here.

The Persians wins design award

The work of Mike Brookes and Simon Banham from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies on the National Theatre Wales’ production of The Persians has been acknowledged with the award for Best Design by the Theatrical Managers Association (TMA). The TMA is the UK’s major business association for organisations and companies involved professionally in the production and presentation of the performing arts.

The award was announced at the TMA Annual Awards 2010 where were held at the Lyric Hammersmith on Sunday 7 November.

Simon Banham, Mike Brookes and Professor Mike Pearson, also a member of staff at the Department, played pivotal roles in the production of which was staged at the military training village on Mynydd Epynt in the Brecon Beacons in August 2010.

The flagship show in National Theatre Wales’ (NTW) inaugural season of new work, The Persians received critical aclaim in the press with the Guardian describing it as a “superb production” and Telegraph as “extraordinary, one of the most imaginative, powerful and haunting theatrical events of the year.”

Speaking of the award Mike Brookes said; "The response to The Persians has been very encouraging. It is genuinely gratifying to see that the work has stayed in people's imaginations in this way".

Speaking of the award Simon Banham said; “I am delighted that our work on The Persians has been so well received. The validation that comes with this award is as much about the ambition of The National Theatre of Wales and the support and encouragement that TFTS offers to those of us engaged in professional practice as it is about the work of two designers.” Professor Adrian Kear, Head of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television said:‘I’m delighted that the work of Mike Brookes and Simon Banham has been acknowledged with this prestigious award. Their creative intelligence and professional experience lies at the heart of the Scenography and Theatre Design provision in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies (TFTS), and their achievement on The Persians is evidence of the benefits of having cutting-edge research and professional practice in the Department. It is also evidence of the strong contribution TFTS makes to the creative life of the nation’

Simon Banham is currently working on a new opera based on the bombing of Air India flight 182, a co-production between Vancouver’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and the Cork Midsummer festival.

Mike Brookes is currently in Berlin, completing a commission for Hebbel am Ufer.

Banham and Brookes will next work together on Quarantine’s (www.qtine.com)   new piece' Entitled' opening next year at The Royal Exchange in Manchester and SAdler's Wells in London. 

Since 1991 the Annual TMA Theatre Awards have celebrated the creative excellence and outstanding work seen in UK theatres each year. In 2005 the TMA established the TMA Management Awards to champion and applaud the successful business initialives and acumen of performing arts organisations.

BBC Trust appointment

Elan Closs Stephens, Professor of Creative and Cultural Industries and Director of Enterprise and Knowledge Transfer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, has been appointed as a BBC Trust Member for Wales.

The appointment, announced by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, is for four years commencing on 1 November 2010.

The BBC Trust is responsible for representing the interests of licence fee payers. It applies the principle of public value in holding to account the Executive Board, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the BBC. The Trust also ensures that the BBC’s activities are not anti-competitive and are consistent with a vibrant and dynamic broadcasting market.
Welcoming the appointment Jeremy Hunt said:
“I am pleased to welcome Elan Closs Stephens to the BBC Trust. Her extensive experience, not just in television but across the creative industries and arts sectors will be invaluable in today’s rapidly changing media landscape.”

Elan Closs Stephens has provided strategic leadership to cultural bodies as Chair S4C (1998-2006), Governor of the BFI (2001-2007) and as Chair of the Report on the Arts in Wales (Stephens Report 2006) for the Welsh Assembly Government. She is also a Trustee of Arts & Business UK. Her past roles include being a Trustee of the British Council where she still chairs the Wales Advisory Committee. She also sits on the Board of the Imax Waterloo on behalf of the BFI.

Elan interfaces with a range of Welsh issues as a Non Executive Director of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Strategic Delivery and Performance Board. She also chairs the Board’s Corporate Governance Committee.  She currently chairs the Recovery Board for the Isle of Anglesey County Council.

Elan was born in the Nantlle Valley, Gwynedd, and educated at Somerville College, Oxford.  She has two grown up children. In 2001, she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting and the Welsh language.

High level creative leadership programme launched by Heritage Minister

An innovative and unique new programme of support for creative media businesses in Wales has today been launched by the Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones AM, at Aberystwyth University.

The Leadership for Creative Businesses course will offer 15 production company managers from leading Welsh employers in the sector the chance to discuss current and future priorities with an impressive list of the leading international mentors and motivators in business circles over 4 seminars held between this month and March 2011.

The series of four seminars, which have been developed by Aberystwyth University with the support of Skillset Academi+, who are offering the funding for the programme, and Public Services Management Wales, will enable managers at the top of their profession to develop new skills and remain creative in one of the most difficult times for the media industries.

Quote from Alun Ffred Jones, AM:

Leadership for Creative Businesses is a leadership development programme uniquely designed for senior executives in broadcasting, film and video, gaming and software to enhance leadership skills, approaches and strategies to deliver organisational success in the present technologically complex and rapidly changing economic environment.

The programme is designed to place participants in an environment of knowledge, skills, context, content and theory that can be applied to their own organisations.

  “We stand at a very critical time in the development of the creative industries in Wales. It is a time to come together, to learn together and to value and develop ambition and innovation,” said Professor Elan Closs Stephens, convenor of the seminar series.

“Much is asked of the Creative Businesses in Wales. For the Welsh Assembly Government as well as the UK Government, the companies we are engaging with are in the vanguard of building up the economy. For the public, they provide cultural insights and entertainment in a very competitive field.   

Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Noel G. Lloyd added:

“As company leaders those attending our seminar weekends will need to maintain creativity, innovation and ambition against the background of one of the worst recessions in living memory. Aberystwyth University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, itself world-ranking in its research, has the support of Public Services Management Wales and Skillset Academy+ to bring Wales some of the development sessions and challenges needed for these highly creative professionals and their companies.”

Focusing on personal and professional development, this leadership programme challenges individuals to critically consider their own approaches to leadership and leading others, drawing on their own and peer experiences to further develop knowledge, skills and behaviours that will enable leaders in the field of broadcasting, media and culture to be instrumental in driving the transformational changes needed to maintain and increase creativity and innovation within their work force, and to position Wales at the forefront of creativity.

The first session will be facilitated by Philippa Davies and guests will take part in a round table discussion with the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones AM. The second session will be facilitated by Emmanuel Gobillot and the Secretary of State for Wales is scheduled to attend as a dinner guest at a later seminar.

“As the Co-ordinator of Skillset Academi+, I am proud to be associated with a course of such high calibre which should make a big difference to the media sector in Wales at this difficult time, ” said Sue Jeffries. 

“Skillset Academi+ was established to help the creative media industries in Wales to come out of the recession stronger and with a clearer focus on the road ahead.  This is exactly the right kind of course to achieve that goal. To my knowledge no other course in Wales has been as ambitious in its objectives and aims, and it truly deserves to succeed and become a regular feature of management and leadership training for the future.”

A Welsh media charity has announced Rhodri Llyr ap Dyfrig as the recipient of a £25,000 scholarship designed to provide further opportunities in the creative industries sector.

Rhodri, originally from Dolgellau but now based in Aberystwyth, will use the funding from Ymddiried (the Welsh Broadcasting Trust) to develop practical projects associated with his PhD into online platforms for minority language media companies.

Currently the Boomerang Partnership Development Officer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at Aberystwyth University, Rhodri is a keen blogger and the founder of numerous video and social media sites associated with the creative industries, including ynyffram.org, a resource for film students studying in Welsh and haciaith.com, a group blog to discuss issues relating to the web and languages.

“I’m very excited about receiving this scholarship,” Rhodri said. “The main focus of my research is exploring how the relationship between media producers and their audience is evolving in a multi-platform era.

“Audiences are taking an increasingly active role in all stages of the production process, from casting and script development to creating their own mashups and responses to material. It’s essential that we in Wales face these challenges head-on, in order to secure our future in an increasingly competitive industry.”

Rhodri is keen to stress that the scholarship will develop much more than academic theories. “It’s going to give me a lot more freedom to develop practical projects on the back of my PhD,” he says. “One of the most frustrating things about research can be the lack of resources available to test models with a wider audience. This funding will make a real difference in reaching the ambitious goals I’ve set for myself in terms of professionalism and production values.”

Mari Beynon Owen, Chair of the Welsh Broadcasting Trust added, “The panel unanimously agreed that Rhodri was the perfect candidate for this award. His accomplishments in terms of moving the multi-platform agenda forward in Wales and the Welsh language are already considerable. He has immense creative energy, and we look forward to seeing how his work contributes to developing multi-platform production in Wales in this digital age.”

The Ymddiried 2010 Scholarship will be awarded in memory of Owen Edwards, S4/C’s first chief executive between 1981-1989. Mr Edwards was one of the founding trustees of Ymddiried and a great supporter of new talent ready to contribute to the development of Welsh language media.

TFTS Professor involved in National Theatre Wales’ ‘superb production’ (The Guardian) of Aeschlyus’The Persians

Photos by Toby Farrow

Mike Pearson, Mike Brookes and Simon Banham, three core members of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at Aberystywth University, have all played pivotal roles in a brilliantly conceived, multi-media performance of The Persians staged at the SENTA military training village at Mynydd Epynt in the Brecon Beacons in August 2010. The production, the flagship show in National Theatre Wales’ (NTW) inaugural season of new work, was inspired in part by Professor Pearson’s involvement in an AHRC Landscape and Environment network grant in 2006-8 that used the site at Epynt for one of its case studies. Like other sites that have been forcibly requisitioned in Wales such as the Tryweryn Valley in the late 1950s, Epynt is a contested place, a blatant reminder, if one were needed, of the colonial violence inflicted on the Welsh landscape.
In Pearson’s and Brookes’ theatrical response to the site two years on, Aeschlyus’ The Persians, the oldest recorded script in western drama, is used to create a complex weave of meanings and reverberations that collapse simple distinctions between past and present and here and there. Unlike Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy or Euripides’ The Bacchae, The Persians, written in 472 BC, is a play that documents, in mostly reported speech, an event from contemporary Greek history: the rout of the Persian King Xerxes’ fleet at Salamis in 480 BC. Structurally, the lack of dramatic tension serves to heighten the tragedy in this most melancholy and despairing of tragedies. In the roll-call of defeat and slaughter, nothing is allowed to distract from the characters’ reaction to the horror of the carnage relayed on a video screen first by the Messenger (brilliantly played by Richard Harrington), and then by Xerxes’ himself (Rhys Rusbatch) on his exhausted and abject return to native soil
The intensity of Aeschylus’ language, well served by Kate O’Reilly’s new version and movingly performed for the most part by a stellar cast (Richard Lynch, Richard Huw Morgan, John Rowley, Paul Rhys, Sian Thomas and Gerald Tyler) is reinforced in the production by John Hardy’s musical score, Mike Brookes’ acoustic design and set and Simon Banham’s costumes. In the shell of one of the houses of the now deserted Cilieni village, redesigned by the Ministry of Defence in the 1980s to replicate an East German village in preparation for World World War III, Brookes, the co-director the piece, has placed a series of monitors and LED screens. Through a dizzying montage of close-ups and live-feeds, these screens capture the anguish of the chorus, and the shared grief of Xerxes’ mother and Darius, his father, who has been raised from the dead to comment on the tragedy that has befallen his son and the empire of Persia. Brookes’ set helps to establish the site-specific aesthetic of the piece. The materials and building belong to the site itself and are used by the military at SENTA for training purposes. As such they resonate with contemporary meaning and allow one to reflect on this clash of performative cultures. Yet at the same time, the purposefully designed ‘combat house’ is ghosted by an imaginary site from a period of ancient history: the Royal Palace at Susa. In this mix of bodies, times and landscapes, both real and imagined, it is easy to feel disorientated. Yet, such disorientation does not weaken the play or deaden our experience of it; rather, it encourages the spectators to think, to imagine, to create connections between different continents, histories and events. 
The landscape is a vital ingredient in the play’s success. The audience walks through the empty streets of Cilieni village; watches vintage cars and protagonists arrive with the sun and mountains, extinguished volcanoes, at their back; and perceives the tragedy unfold in tandem with dramatic shifts in light. The effect is tremendous; it reminds one of how for the Greeks, tragedy was elemental, theatre in the sky.
 It is a testament to Pearson’s and Brookes’ skills as makers of site-based performance that the play, despite its military setting, is not simply used to comment allegorically on relations between the West and the Islamic world, as it often has been since the start of the first Gulf War in 1991. Rather, the site grounds the work, necessarily, in local as much as international concerns. Indeed, it is tempting to see this version of The Persians as a continuation of Pearson’s project with the influential Welsh-language company Brith Gof in the 1980s and 1990s, and in the past decade or so with his series of city-based performances in collaboration with Brookes. In that work, characterised by what might be best defined as ‘an archaeology of destruction’, Pearson has been concerned to take the temper of the times in Wales, to excavate repressed histories and to allow unspoken anxieties and tensions to appear. As the communities of Wales confront, yet again, the brutal realities of funding cuts, job losses and the decimation of the welfare state, Pearson’s and Brookes’ take on The Persians, like Brith Gof’s legendary production of Gododdin at the abandoned Rover car plant in Cardiff during the Thatcher years, interrogates what nationhood might mean in an age of economic barbarism and social destitution.
Performed in Wales in the late summer of 2010, Pearson’s and Brookes’ production of The Persians is Janus-faced, a play that looks back to national disasters past and forwards to the catastrophes that will surely come. However, it is precisely the bleakness of this vision that permits The Persians to become, by some distance, the most important and pertinent play in NTW’s season to date. The production’s pessimism and seriousness are exactly what NTW, who pride themselves on producing world-class work for national and international audiences, ought to be exploring. It is challenging work like this that will allow the company to create the ‘theatrical mapping’ of Wales to which they are so committed. And, in this context, it is surely worth reflecting that the final word of the play, repeated in a whispering lament, is ‘tears’.
Lest there be any doubt, the unanimous critical acclaim that has greeted The Persians in the UK national press underlines, yet again, the extent to which practice-based research in TFTS continues to make a significant cultural and creative impact on twenty-first century Wales.

Dr Carl Lavery

Carl Lavery's Full Review

Michael Billington's Guardian Review

Charles Spencer's Telegraph Review


Call for papers: "Perception, Reception and Deception: The role of the media in society"

Trinity College Dublin, 19-21 April 2011

The 4th biennial Media History conference will focus on the ways in which people have understood the social, cultural and political roles of the media over the past five centuries. The concept of ‘the media’ will be interpreted broadly, so as to include newspapers, magazines and one-off publications which included news and information, as well as manuscript, aural, visual, and broadcast and other electronic sources.

A great deal of work has been done by scholars on the institutional, political and cultural history of various forms of media. ‘Perception, Reception and Deception’ will build on this literature to explore the ways in which print, manuscript, visual representations and the broadcast media have been understood, conceptualised, and imaginatively represented in the societies in which they were produced. It will, in other words, focus not on media production but on the reception, depiction and perception of the media by individuals and groups of individuals in a variety of different contexts over time.

How have readers, consumers, and the industry itself framed arguments about the media as a force for good (or evil) at different points in time? Have contemporaries always seen the media as an agent of change, or is there a counter-history of the media to be written in terms of promoting conservatism, deference and order? How have people understood and represented the media in terms of concepts of personal and geographical space, time and changing belief systems? Can we think ‘internationally’ about the similarities and differences between perceptions of the media in different states and nations over time, or is the media still best understood and examined in largely local or regional contexts? How, in short, have men and women answered in different contexts the apparently simple questions, ‘what is the media, and what is it for?’

Abstracts, of no more than 200 words for papers of between 20 to 25 minutes duration, should be sent by close of business on 30 September 2010 to Mediahistory2011@gmail.com.

We welcome proposals from a range of chronological, geographical and methodological backgrounds.

‘Perception, Reception and Deception’ is jointly organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, the Centre For Media History, Aberystwyth University, and the journal Media History. Additional enquiries can be directed to one or more of the following: Dr. Jason McElligott, Dr Sian Nicholas or Professor Tom O’Malley.

New Research Project: Children, TV & the Web

On April 19th 2010, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project was launched between TFTS and Cardiff-based production company, Boomerang+ . Boomerang+ is one of the UK’s largest producers of original television content for children, and the establishment of the KTP enables them to draw down on the research expertise of Dr. Merris Griffiths, a specialist in children’s media.

Dr. Griffiths will act as Academic Supervisor for the project, in partnership with Company Supervisor Angharad Garlick. Helen Davies has been appointed as Research Associate and will have responsibility for working with children across Wales to generate focus group data, and applying the findings to the company’s production practices.

The project focuses on 7 to 11 year old children’s media preferences and practices, with emphasis on their uses of television and the internet. This work will coincide with the launch of the company’s new service for S4C, delivering original content for 7 to 13 year olds.

The KTP has been made possible by a two year grant, worth over £82,000, awarded by the Technology Strategy Board.

News article au16109

Jill Greenhalgh awarded £20,000 Arts Council of Wales grant.

Jill will be producing a new performance under the title 'The Threat of Silence'.  This new work forms part of her ongoing research on Quietude in Performance and seeks to develop a form that consciously embraces the power of silence, stillness and quietude by exploring and applying dynamic strategies which move beyond the static or simplistic in applying  extended time. It asks how the elements of performance – space, technology, text, action, and sound – can be moulded  to create time and a place of refuge from the escalating bombardment of noise, information overload and escapist trivia satiating contemporary living.