Articles by Orlagh Woods
Over a week in late July/early August 2007 Proboscis hosted a writing workshop for four teenage girls. The girls were invited to participate as part of the Case Study Residencies programme and spent an intense five days in the Proboscis studio during which they conceived, created, wrote, designed and produced illustrated stories to be published via the Diffusion Generator.
The week began with an introduction to Proboscis and the project and the girls talked about their experiences of writing and illustrating stories – what they enjoyed doing, what they found hard, why they wanted to achieve etc. All four were keen artists and writers interested in Manga; they discussed the kinds of things they currently wrote and the problems they faced. All of them commented that they very rarely finished stories – ideas came and went – and that they would move onto another story before they had finished the previous one.
A walk around Clerkenwell and Smithfield Market, an area steeped in history and vibrant with everyday life and change, formed the basis for the girls’ stories. Each of the girls was given a digital camera and sound recorder to capture images and sounds of the area that interested them. Our route took us past Mount Pleasant, through Finsbury down to Clerkenwell Green and St John’s Gate, through to Charterhouse Square, round Smithfield and St Barts, up Saffron and Herbal Hills and back to Rosebery Avenue. Using a small library of books about London’s past and present, we researched histories of some of the building, who lived in these places and what took place there. In particular the girls became fascinated with a former Victorian school building erected on the site of Clerkenwell’s notorious House of Correction, an underground prison of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Using the walk, their research, and the photos and sounds recorded on the walk as the source material, we spent a few hours as a group planning a master narrative and skeleton storyboard. This set out a single plot and selection of characters which they could all use and base their stories around, with individual stories deviating from this central concept as they chose. Once the bones of the narrative were in place we spent a while coming up with the elements to be included in each scene using the StoryCubes to think about what should and shouldn’t be included.
Concentrating on the storyboarding was quite a difficult task and different to the girls’ usual methods of writing, however it provided a useful framework for working out the characters, their relationships and the major events of the main story. We pushed them to come up with the skeleton story but also let them know that they had the freedom to do what they liked with the stories after this – they could miss out chapters, start at a different point or change whatever they wished.
Focusing on the school and the prison as the place of the story, the characters’ images and their names became important to the girls and they did more intense work on the various chapters and the characters throughout the week. The illustrations for the eBooks were drawn first before being scanned. Some of them were then coloured using Painter and Photoshop. The girls worked on the drawings and stories simultaneously, making decisions as they went along about what images were needed and where. A lot of the Manga-style images were shared between a number of the girls with several of the same characters appearing in more than one of the girls stories. This interweaving of narrative and character giving this series of eBooks a particular coherence and sense of multiple authorship.
By the end of the five day workshop each of the girls had completed the stories and illustrations for at least one eBook; over the next couple of months these were refined and edited before being published on the Diffusion site in November 2007.
Kiddie Crunch Time – Vanda Rjechko
KCT– Grandma’s Story – Georgia Hudson
Crunch! – AyaOluwa Aloa
Deep_’n_Dark 2: Mo(u)rning Rises – Eloise Mitchell
Deep_’n_Dark 1: Dusk Descends – Eloise Mitchell
On Friday 30th November, an informal evaluation of the Diffusion Generator Case Study Residency programme took place at the Proboscis studio. Those who participated included Bev Carter, artist and community development consultant; Paul Goodwin, a writer, curator and urban researcher; Andrew Hunter, artist, writer and the Director/Curator of RENDER, University of Waterloo, Canada; Michelle Kasprzak, curator, writer, artist and the Programmes Director of New Media Scotland and finally Tony White, a writer – author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans (Cadogan). They were hosted by Karen Martin who facilitated the residency programme, Phil Ayres, an architect, programmer and lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture (programmer of the Generator), Giles Lane, Alice Angus, Orlagh Woods from Proboscis.
The day began with an informal look at the different approaches and processes taken by each of the participants in the residency programme, exploring and sharing how they each used the Diffusion Generator to create and publish eBooks (as well as the occasional StoryCube). These included two way communications between children in the UK and Nigeria, a way to collate research for a book creatively, as a means to document an exhibition and research programme, as a visual journey through the city, as a series of interviews with curators and as a storytelling device.
In the afternoon, several other people were invited to take part in a larger discussion to explore other ways the Generator could be used. Among our guests were Linda Doyle of Trinity College Dublin, Michael Bhaskar of Pan Macmillan, Ellie Smith and Charles Beckett of Arts Council England, London.
Some of the various ideas for future uses of the Shareables and Generator included:
- as an evaluation tool for conferences or events
- within galleries or museums as interpretation tools
- for community engagement projects
- for internal marketing within organisations
- as a brand consulting tool
- to collect conversations and feedback dialogues
- for a short story competition
- to promote emerging writers alongside mainstream first publications
- for sampling ideas
- for rapid publishing of poetry slams
- and as educational tools