A finalist…

Following on from the great feedback from the Rocliffe award, I tidied up my latest TV Pilot script  – Out of the Blue  – and entered it for a few more competitions. And I’ve just heard that my hard work has been recognised and I’ve been endowed with a finalist laurel from the Cambridge Script Festival.

This award probably means more to me than most as I was raised and educated in Cambridge, so it’s great to receive a nod of encouragement from those with the power to elevate your career… woohoo!!!

Great feedback and some helpful notes…

Every year I enter the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition (Television Drama) which involves a blind judging process, where selected script extracts are performed by a professional cast to an audience of producers, development executives, directors, actors, and literary agents. The aim of the competition is to emerging writing talent, like me, a chance to showcase their work.

It’s not free to enter, but one of the major benefits for writers who don’t get shortlisted for reading is the feedback and advice from experienced industry members.

This year’s feedback was very encouraging…

OUT OF THE BLUE…The script has vivid settings and uses strong visual storytelling. Each character has a distinct voice and the dialogue and interplay are often spiky and fun. Scenes flow together and advance the story which touches on interesting themes of loyalty, corruption, and betrayal, with hints of dark comedy. Overall the idea has been thought through in detail and has the potential to be a compelling series full of power plays….

I also received some great suggestions for improvements that would enhance the script. Thankfully, I had already identified and addressed most of these notes in my re-edited script that was submitted for this year’s BBC Writers Room Open Call earlier this month. So keep your fingers crossed for me…

Great storytelling stats…

Those who follow my social media channels will be aware that I have been working my storytelling magic on a bijoux vineyard in South Hams, Devon.

My task was to drive traffic to their newly redesigned website. A challenge I was happy to undertake as I already had a working relationship with the designer, who I knew would be helpful in achieving my targets.

Now as the end of my contract with Calancombe Estate looms into view, I am summarising my success as I prepare to hand over the reins to Fresh Digital, who I hope will build on my success.

In my time working with the Vineyard, Winery, and restaurant (which prides itself on growing its own grapes, crafting some amazing wines, and serving fresh home-grown food), I have increased their new user web traffic by 89% and successfully proved to The Estate that storytelling can make a significant difference to their website traffic and overall sales.

So how did I do it? Well that would be telling, but I can share with you that in my time working with the vineyard,  their web stats have consistently and organically rocketed (with no paid Ads), driving traffic to their website through email marketing (+783%), Facebook (692%), and Google (58%). All in all their web traffic from new users alone has increased by 89% – solid proof that storytelling can make an impact on your business…

#salesandmarketing #smallbusiness #storytelling

Is it just me?

It’s been a great summer. The weather has been amazing. I’ve been sea swimming more than any other year and I’ve caught up with loads of friends we haven’t since pre-lockdown days. I am feeling a tad guilty though, as it seems as soon as the good weather starts all motivation for editing my current novel or finishing the two scripts which lie dormant on my laptop, stops.

I just can’t write when the sun’s out!

To justify this I read, lounge in the sun and feast on at least a book a week – sometimes more!
I’m feeling bloated with mixed genres after swallowing whole This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Baltimore Boys by Joël Dicker and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (pre-film thank god!)

I gorged on Bex Hogan’s YA trilogy Viper, Venom and Vulture, one after the other like I was at a medieval banquet, then fantasised about jam and cream from the Orchard Tea Rooms as I fittingly read The Great Lover by Jill Dawson, while housekeeping in Cambridge.

Now back home in the South West, I’ve immersed myself in Wyl Menmuir’s fantastic The Draw of the Sea. And find I’ve ordered a fresh batch of recommendations to further feed my non-writing habit…
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan: Cloud Street by Tim Winton and The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton.

I shouldn’t say it,  but I hope it rains soon!

 

Great news for The Writers Collective

As many of you know I am also a key figure in The Writers Collective
a community of writers supported by a unique digital directory of specialist writers & services to help individuals and businesses realise their projects…

Although the COVID lockdown had a huge impact on our activities over the last few years we managed to host a successful Fringe Book Festival on October 16 & 17th 2021 to coincide with the Falmouth Book Festival and organised some writer talks and signings. We have loved to do more but the timing still wasn’t right.

So we set our sights on revamping our website to include literary events and new releases from some fabulous local authors. The new look was launched in March along with an announcement that our book club will have its first proper meetup event on June 2nd at our offices in the studios behind the Terrace Gallery, which will run alongside our existing online club.

We had always planned to run more meet-ups, talks, workshops and courses, including some residential tutored and non-tutored courses. And we are delighted to have just been taken on as a Cultivator Cornwall Client with the aim of expanding our offering, so we can help discover more writers in the South West of England.

Our ultimate aim is to start our own small press and help writers independently publish their work, so fingers crossed…

 

 

What’s new in my world

So I have been a bit quiet over the last couple of years, not surprising as most of us retreated from the real world during the pandemic. Unfortunately like a lot of other freelance writers I lost some of my regular contracts. But it’s not all doom and gloom and there was a BIG silver lining. Yes, I finally got my arse into gear and finished my first novel OWLS HEAD which is currently being sent out to competitions, publishers and agents! I also successfully adapted the book to a TV series script which has also been submitted to various competitions including the BAFTA Rocliffe Drama Comp and had some amazing feedback.

Not one to rest on my Laurels in the second three-month lockdown I wrote my second novel GAME ON and have since adapted it to a feature film script.  It’s an interesting process adapting for the screen and helps you tighten up the structure and identifies where all the holes are in the plot. Needless to say, the book needs tightening up and re-editing, so that’s next on the list! However the script has been doing well and reached the quarter-finals of the London International Screenwriting Competition, so I am super proud.

The biggest news of all though is that after finally having some success I am now on the radar and have been appointed a Screenskills Mentor to help me shape the GAME ON into something bigger and better. I’m sure to be posting a lot about this so keep your fingers crossed and follow my journey…

A journey to freedom of expression in art

It’s International women’s day, so what better excuse to focus on the contribution women have made to the creative arts.

For years women have been represented as a subject rather than the creative force in creative communities. Having the time, money and social freedom are influential factors that are allowing women to have a rewarding career in the arts.

Unfortunately, in most of the museums and galleries around the world, the old masters still dominate the walls of the most famous institutions. A silent statement that reinforces the idea that men are the leaders of the creative arts. But there is hope. As more women take over important curatorial roles in leading art galleries and museums, the imbalance is starting to be addressed, and more solo shows by female artists are now being scheduled into museum timetables.

In Falmouth and Penryn, we are lucky enough to have a legacy of strong women who promoted the arts to make it an acceptable career. The rising middle-class Quaker sisters Anna Maria and Caroline Fox were responsible for creating what came to be known as the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. Now a centre for the arts, the Poly was partially designed to offer educational opportunities and exhibitions of the arts & sciences to the working people of Cornwall. It was a place to meet and share expertise in art practices.

Anna Maria lived unusually for her times. She was an artist and a global traveller. Much like the Bronte sisters, who were also of this age, Anna Maria’s legacy as the founder of the UK’s first adult learning establishment is still noticeable in Falmouth. The art classes she organised at the Poly in 1833 were the educational precursor to the development of Falmouth School of Art.

Under the name Polytechnic Society (RCPS) art classes continued until dedicated private art school premises in Arwenack Avenue were opened n August 1902. On offer in this establishment was the opportunity to take part in Freehand Drawing, Model Drawing, Painting from Still Life, Drawing from the Antique, Drawing of Plant Form, Drawing in Light & Shade, and from memory. It wasn’t cheap at four and ten shillings per session, but it was an opportunity to gain a qualification supported by the Board of Education. Tacita Dean, Jessica Warboys, Kate Holford, Susanna Heron and Judith Kerr are just a few of the inspirational women artists who have benefited from those humble beginners and trained at the Art School, which is now part of Falmouth University.

Although a change in the art world is gaining momentum, a high percentage of galleries represent more men than women. Thankfully our local Terrace Gallery is amongst the five per cent of galleries that have achieved an equal parity of male and female artists. The change is coming…slowly, but it is coming

What is a museum?

Tuesday marked the last field trip and penultimate session of the Citizen Curators course. The classroom sessions have been enlightening, and we have touched on the definition of a museum during the last six months. Still, our perceptions were tested thoroughly in this session as the classification of a museum was once again re-addressed.

Our group consisted of a selection of members from the seven different museums involved with the course. Some of these institutions are traditional museums with dusty artefacts, perilous swords and gruesome stuffed animals. But others like the Falmouth Art Gallery and the Clay Works at Wheal Martyn are more niche and don’t fall into the traditional Victorian image of a museum.

‘Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.’ – The Museums Association (MA) definition in 1998

Established at the beginning of the Millenium, Shelterbox, are in their twentieth year of providing emergency aid items and shelter equipment to families cast out of their homes by natural disasters or conflict. The visitor in Truro highlights the need for this invaluable service.

A charity which receives no funding by the state, Shelterbox visitor centre, the location of our visit, ticks many of the boxes as a potential independent museum. It displays the essential objects deployed in the event of a specific emergency and the items needed for communities to recover from unexpected displacement. The curated exhibitions enable visitors to engage, learn and be inspired by the work the organisation carries out. Tick, tick tick!

Shelterbox have collected together artefacts, specimens and content to represent all stages of a disaster for the exhibition. It invites visitors to adopt the role of a packer assembling their signature green boxes for imminent disaster. Or the role of an observer after the worst-case scenario has happened when all is lost or buried. Beautifully shot audiovisual content also documents the success of the project from a grassroots perspective. It also subtly invites visitors to empathise with those who have benefited from the gift of essential tools to enable communities to rebuild. It is an interactive record of our modern world which has cultural and historical importance in educating all generations to the plight of the world’s population. Tick, tick, tick.

In my eyes, the groundbreaking Shelterbox visitor centre ticks many of the classification boxes and deserves recognition as a modern museum.

New surroundings for a new year

Art is a very personal thing, so it’s completely understandable that not all artists are commercial and want to sell their work or make a living from it. My hubby and I are both graduates of Falmouth School of Art. But I have never sold any of my paintings or sketches. And the same was true of Dave until three years ago. 

Our journey to our new workspace started when friends invited us to join them in Wexford for the Art in the Open Plein Air festival. We had a fabulous week indulging in what up to then had just been a hobby. And left a couple of our paintings with our hosts to say thank you for their incredible hospitality. Thrilled, they persuaded Dave to enter his work into the exhibition which closed the event. We genuinely expected to receive them back in the post a few weeks later, but they all sold. Understandably, Dave’s confidence received a massive boost. So when the opportunity to enter the Imagine Falmouth exhibition arrived, he decided to take the plunge and his entry was accepted. He sold his piece and was over the moon. 

The seed had now been well and truly planted, and he decided to set his sights on becoming a professional artist when he retired. But working from home, although very cost-effective is not easy ideal. And after two years of working in the conservatory, I was ready to take the step away too.

We both needed somewhere to work on raising our game, so we started looking for a studio. A move that we hoped would help Dave focus on developing his professional practice. And give me somewhere to separate my work as a content writer from my personal ambition to finish my novel.

Frustratingly despite the huge artistic community in Falmouth, or maybe because of it, artist studios are very hard to come by. We knew a few other friends who were in the same position, so when we saw a property listing in the estate agents window, we had a light bulb moment. 

In January we picked up the keys for our new professional home at the Terrace Gallery in Penryn. It’s fast becoming a home from home for other artists and creative businesses which offers invaluable exhibition space for artists and makers who struggle to get their work shown in the larger galleries. The handy event space also provides local artists & makers with the opportunity to share their inspiration, techniques and craft as talks, workshops and short courses.

As artists ourselves, we know the equilibrium between the time and effort that goes into creating original artwork, and the sale price is often unbalanced. Thankfully the commission rate for the gallery is low and the cost of hiring the event space reasonable. 

Dave’s first giant leap is nearly upon him as he prepares for his first exhibition in February. And I have rescheduled my calendar to make sure  I take some personal writing time during the week…so maybe I will finally get to finish my novel afterall!

 

The 18th Cornwall Film Festival

Written for Creative Culture South West

If you are a screen addict like me, a film festival is a perfect place to get a sneaky peek of the latest releases before they hit the mainstream cinemas. It’s also a great place to catch up on all the diverse indy features and shorts that don’t make it as far as your hometown screens. 

Some festivals follow film genres other follow themes. The 18th Cornwall Film Festival took place last weekend with the theme ‘Evolve’. It’s not quite in the league of the most prestigious film festivals in the world like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, but it has a heart of gold and still attracts some great films. It celebrates the undiscovered, the old and the new. This year the festival headliner was Jojo Rabbit a sidesplitting black comedy written, directed and in parts acted by Taika Waititi. Based on Christine Leunens book Caging Skies, the plot revolves around a young boy in Hitler’s youth army who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. 

The Cornwall Film Festival isn’t just about the most popular films. It hosts masterclasses by world-class professionals for anyone starting out in the filmmaking business. And a schools programme which celebrates film and brings visual education to 5-19-year-olds, and their teachers. This year’s film screenings, to help their creative and personal development included Diego Maradona documentary, Revolting Rhymes, Jellyfish and the skateboard film MID90S written and directed by Jonah Hill.

The masterclass highlights for the first day of the festival weekend included a scriptwriting session with Alex Kendall, and talk about Alex’s route into the industry, developing work for shorts, feature, various productions. The second of the day was from BAFTA winner Joan Stribling giving a talk on makeup for the film industry, with a demo and Q&A. Richard Cambridge, co-founder of WeAudition was the third masterclass which highlighted the opportunities that have opened up by digital casting for actors and how filmmakers can extend their reach for projects. And the fourth was a BFI NETWORK, Show and Tell – South West funded films session, with speakers, Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham, Rebecca Wolff and Yazmin Joy Vigus. The panel-led forum was a group of filmmakers, all of whom had recently received BFI NETWORK funding. The discussion included invaluable information on applying for funding, the pre-production and production process, and distribution plans in relevance to recent case studies of funded work. The BFI networking event which followed, plus bubbly, set the ideal tone to enjoy in the emotive documentary film ‘Cliff Top Session’ produced by the very talented Martha Tilston who closed the evening with a few songs.  

The core events for the Cornwall Film Festival span a long weekend. Still, traditionally the most popular days are Saturday and Sunday. It’s also a chance for regular pass holders and drop-in film buffs to sit back and enjoy the cornucopia of Regional and International shorts, classic films (The Blues Brothers and The Breakfast Club), and new releases. Good Posture, the sharp-witted comedy starring Emily Mortimer and talented newcomer Grace Van Patten lightened the mood before the hard-hitting feature System Crasher. The beautifully shot Only You was the Saturday evening gala film which was accompanied by a Q&A with the film’s very talented writer/Director Harry Wootliff. Who also generously gave her time to run an afternoon masterclass.

The final day of the festival featured the compelling documentary-style film Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska). The heart-wrenching story of a deserted Macedonian village, a 50-something woman, and her invasive neighbours who turn her life upside down and threaten her livelihood. The hard-hitting Monos (Alejandro Landes) followed. But Jojo Rabbit brought the cheer back to the auditorium as did the crazy but amusing Australian zombie flick, Little Monsters (Abe Forsythe) which closed the festival.

 

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