Research Trip – Chartist Caves

Research Trip – Chartist Caves

I was invited by Pat Drewett (Chartist Association) to come along on a walk he had organised to the ‘Chartist Caves’ in the Brecon Becons. The caves are said to be where the Chartists stored weapons in preparation the uprising of the Newport Uprising. This was an ideal opportunity for me to scout out some of the other chartist related locations of south wales, get to talk more with Pat about our project and to meet some more people with potential stores.

The part the caves played in the uprising is somewhat disputed, our guide for the day was Alyson Tippings from Blaenau Gwent tourism board , she explained that there were some caves in another valley that claim to be the ‘Chartist Caves’ but she invited us to make our own minds up based on the things she would show us.

The Caves are situated about 3 miles from the quarry village of Trefil at the edge of the Brecon Beacons near Tredegar. The village is the highest in the UK and home to the highest rugby ground in Europe. Alongside the village runs old tramlines to the quarry which was operational during the 19th century and sent limestone down to the iron works. Alyson explained that because the tramlines were so close to the caves it would of been ideal for the Chartists, many of which would have worked in the ironwork’s and quarrys to transport weapons; she pointed out that weapons would probably have been made down in the valley and transported back up on the empty wagons which were going to be refilled in the quarry.

The scenery was stunning, it was a lovely clear winter day so we could see around for miles. We waled along the old tram track before coming off and heading onto the top of the mountain which was like a flat moorland. As we walked I got speaking more to Pat and we talked about funding our project and about some of his past problems with getting funding and organising successful events. He spoke about communication issues with the council and that it can be a very slow process, something I’ve already experienced. We spoke about potential characters for the online documentary and he agreed with me that although the story has been done a few times it has not been very well executed.

After a 40 minute slow walk along the frozen mountain top we arrived at the caves, They were well hidden so i could understand why they might be used by the Chartists. We went down to the first level but the caves went on further underground and could be explored by experienced cavers. There was a small plaque that mentioned the caves link with the Chartists. We sat around the caves and had coffee, this gave me a chance to talk to some other people about our project. People again seemed really positive and I took some email addresses from people who were interested in helping out, one particularly from the Dolman Theatre in Newport with regards to helping supply actors for the documentary if we need them..

We walked back to the village through the old quarry that was used in the 19th century, now all overgrown it was amazing to see the old works cut out of the mountain and the old tram ways that would have been used to transport limestone down the valleys.

I left the walk with new ideas about how the Klynt project might look, utilising these small locations to supplement a main documentary would be a good idea and add extra elements for users to explore on the subject. The walk itself is not published so this too could be of help to people who are just interested in unique walking routes!

 

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Treatment And Structure Workshop with Alistair

Treatment And Structure Workshop with Alistair

Today we attended a workshop with Alistair to try and flesh out our project treatment. We started by reading some of Alistair’s own film treatments one for ‘Bonnington Square’, A documentary about a creative community which formed during the 80’s as a number of squatters took residence in  a central London residential area. Having seen the film previously it was remarkable how similar the treatment was to the final film, it was as if it was a script for the making of the film.

With Alistair’s treatment in mind we compared it to our own, Alistair’s read just like a story, explaining the how the film would run with some technical detail but mainly a structured story. When comparing with ours, ours was much more technical and kept mentioning the film as if we were trying to sell a product rather than a story. We used phrases like “The film will be…” and ” we want to make a film about..” These are things that weren’t featured at all in Alistair’s treatments.

The workshop prompted us to dig deeper into our story and find a “rock” that the whole project centres around. So far we have just been vaguely mentioning the Chartists as our story idea, Alistair wanted us to dig right down into it and find the element that is the centre piece of the story, this of course being the people massacre on the night of the chartist uprising. With this in mind we could expand and explore themes and feelings and elements that will help tell this story.

We drew a mind map where we thought about key elements. such as narrative structure, characters, contributors, locations and images. At this point we were working towards the online documentary rather than the mobile app as the app has a limited format (see my AppFurnace meeting with David). The mind map helped to draw out items that will contribute to telling the overarching story including how the project will look and who it is aimed at.

After working on the mind map we looked at creating an initial treatment, Alistair asked us to write a list of how we imagined we’d tell the story in order; what would we see first, what would we hear, how the sequences link and what are the sequences telling us. When comparing our list to the treatments Alistair showed us it’s much clearer now how Alistair was in a position to write a detailed treatment that ultimately resembled his finished films.

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The workshop has thrown up some questions about the our own story. Alistair suggested that we should focus solely on the march, Newport and the people killed but initially I wanted to expand on this to include more of the South Wales valleys. Although the march did end in Newport, it was mainly people from the valleys who contributed and I want to be careful not to cast doubt on who should be credited as the heroes. Newport council are trying to re-brand it’s image and highlighting their role in the creation of democracy but I think it’s important to remember that the Newport council were the ones who tried to stop the Chartists.

This workshop has helped with my further understanding of documentary structure, I’ve often had ideas for stories but structuring them has always been my weakness. I’m hoping that using Alistair’s techniques will enable me to re-think some of my other projects directions too.

 

Research & Networking – Open Forum at Gwent Archives

Research & Networking – Open Forum at Gwent Archives

When initially researching the Chartism exhibit in Newport Museum I noticed something pinned on the community notice board about an open forum to discuss the “Political Convicts Research Project.” The flyer featured a picture of the Chartist Riots in Newport so it caught my attention. Reading further it mentioned discussing a “Digital online Hub” by a film company. At first I was a bit worried that a professional company was planning something similar to ourselves but then it seemed to be tackling transportation rather than just the chartists march. Whatever it was it sounded like something we should go to to find our what was happening and maybe network with some of the people who would be at the event.

The meeting was in Ebbw Vale, one of the south wales valleys that played a crucial role during the industrial revolution and in turn a place where the Chartism movement became very popular. Myself and Hannah-Jane arrived at the meeting not knowing what to expect, I was surprised at the turnout, around 15/20 people. When we walked into the room I spotted Pat Drewett, he is the Project manager for Newport Councils ‘Chartist Commission’ And also the chairman of ‘Our Chartist Heritage’, a campaign group raising and educating local school children about the Chartist uprising. We met Pat previously a few weeks back when filming a commission for Newport Council promoting the Chartist schools march. We were planning on talking to Pat further down the line but we couldn’t resist telling him of our initial plans and he was really enthusiastic. He asked if we could meet after the talk for a coffee to discuss plans.

The Forum was introduced by Tony Moore of Monash University in Australia. Tony had previous experience working at various media organisations and had written a book on the transportation of convicts in the 19th Century called ‘Death Or Liberty’ and more recently it had been turned into a film by the same name. Tony gave a presentation about the success of both the book and film how it related to this new Project. The book and film focused on characters who were transported as convicts to Tasmania and how they eventually came together to bring about democracy in Australia. The new project proposes to extend on the story of these political convicts as well as telling the stories of some of the other convicts who were transported to Australia.

The project was described as a ‘Trans-media’ project and it was interesting that Tony called this an revolution in media and related it to the revolution in democracy. The project would use an ‘on-line hub’ to tell 100 stories in the form of mini documentaries, it would contain archive documents and be a digital exhibition that could be shared across the world  using computer displays and drawing on individual museums documents and artifacts.

The project would be mainly funded by the ARC (Australian Research Council) at a cost of $300,000 per year over five years. The aims of the ARC scheme are to support the initiation or development of long term research alliances between higher education organisations and other organisations including industry and other research end-users in order to apply advanced knowledge to problems and/or to provide opportunities to obtain national economic, commercial, social or cultural benefits.

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The presentation was essentially a pitch to the Gwent Archives group to ask for funding in the way of money or research time with monetary value attached. The ARC would offer funding but for this funding the project would have to be funded partially by outside sources. Gwent Archives hold vast information on Chartism and so would be an ideal candidate to take part, they would also benefit by having archive information collated for them and available online.

When watching the presentation I felt both excited and frustrated.relating back to our project I as thrilled that  we seem to have come up with an idea that there clearly is an audience for and that we’ve positioned it in a market that can probably benefit most from a trans-media experience. Seeing the convicts proposal is an acknowledgment for this type of media project. On the other hand I felt a bit frustrated that the convicts project has come about at this time as it obviously has a much larger budget and more scope than anything we could create. The saving grace is that the convicts project is taking a look at a different story to ours, also as it’s such a big project it will take a lot longer to complete. Tony was talking years in production where as we only have a few months to create our project. It does highlight however how much time is required to produce content to a very high standard.

After the presentation we met with a few of the members of the Chartist Heritage Association, They were very keen to talk with us after hearing us explain our plans during the talk. We met Les James who is a local Chartist historian; he is currently writing a book about uprising leader John Frost and he has previously put on exhibitions about the chartist leaders. Les was very interested in our idea but raised concerns about us going over old ground, he made the point that the Chartist uprising story has been told a number of times and maybe we should find a different angle. I appreciate Les’s comments but i also feel like although the story has been done a number of times it hasn’t been done to a very high standard; searching the web the story is generally told through slide shows of static images or poor quality video, I feel our treatment will offer the story in a new more professional looking format that will appeal to a media savvy audience. We met Rachael Lovering who was involved with the Newport museum and devised the museums Chartism exhibit back in 2005 and we had another chance to speak with Pat Drewett who was very enthusiastic. He explained that he also had plans for the same area that we wanted to base our mobile app in (Stow Hill) and that we could possibly work together to make one larger project. Pat agreed that we would meet again after our pitch as we hadn’t really expected to see him at the event but he also invited us to come with him on a walk to the Chartist caves in the Brecon Beacons where we could talk more and get some more inspiration for our project.

I left the talk feeling very excited that we seem to have chosen a good subject to explore and having the support of so many people who are experts in this subject should enable us to create something that is really appealing to it’s intended audience and done to a professional standard.

Discussion with David Smith – App Furnace and Klynt

Discussion with David Smith – App Furnace and Klynt

I had a meeting today with David Smith to primarily gain access to the App Furnace and Klynt software so i could prototype at home but also to discuss the feasibility of my new project idea. The last time I spoke with David we discussed my St Fagans project so this was another good time to pitch my idea briefly to get some feedback.

David used App Furnace to create his own location based app in Victoria Park Bristol so he is good person to talk to to get advise and point out some of the apps potential limits. He also created an app that worked across both Mobile and web with the Bristol ‘Arts on the hill’ project and ‘Park Hive’ so could advise on how to create an ongoing application.

Through talking to David I discovered a couple of big issues that I have to consider when building both my App and online project. One of the main problems is the amount of data used to power the app. App furnace downloads all the data needed to run the app to the phone on installation, this has both benefits and disadvantages, one of the benefits is that having all the data already accessible on the handset means that users won’t incur any additional data costs when using the app, the initial download will need data but this could be dealt with by providing a wifi hotpots at installation or making users aware of the data needed at installation so they can decide themselves if they wish to use the service. The disadvantage of having all the data downloaded in the App is that it could create a very large file, this could cause problems with users having used up a lot of their phones storage. Most Mobile apps are around 50mb – 200mb, they are more substantial for Games applications but users are willing to justify this extra storage because of the return (a game), we need to consider if making a large app will be acceptable to the end user.

There is a way to create a smaller app that would solve the data/storage size on the handset but this will involve adjusting the content of the app. Originally I wanted the app to contain images, video and audio. We can compress all of these to lower the size but by using video we will still be creating large file sizes. I need to weigh up if sacrificing the video element of the app and keeping this just for the online version will benefit the popularity with more users willing to download a simplified app that takes up less storage space, I also need to consider how this will impact on our proposed story.

The second issue that David highlighted was the AppFurnce software itself. When imagining the app I wanted to create something that would last after my University project, Much like Charlotte Crofts ‘Curzon’ project. I wanted to be able to modify it further and create a real something that can be developed further. The AppFurnce licence will only work until June, this means we have to either accept that it will disappear in the future or lok at ways at preserving it through another platform.

David suggested three options:

  1. Contact Calvium (the makers of AppFurnce) and commission them to re-produce the application to a professional standard and upload it to the app store. This could cost between £400 and £10,000 to create and would require funding from partners/local council.
  2. Employ a programmer to recreate the app and publish it to the app store.
  3. Use a software called AppMachine to re-create the app and publish it to the app store (approx £500.) This option is limited in it’s design.

Speaking With David has helped while planing the app and thinking about these limitations while planning with save us wasting time on concepts that may not be future proof. it will also meant that we will have to think more creatively about how we design a simple yet attractive and entertaining app. I’m also in a position now to start prototyping the app at the proposed location and finding out how it is received with my contributors.

New Chartist Idea First Tutorial – Jen Stein

Over the past week myself and Hannah-Jane have had a complete U-Turn on out idea proposal. Initially we planned to work with the National Museum of Wales in their St Fagan’s welsh history museum but we had complications with access and story so it was a very slow process. While working with the Museum we had the opportunity for some work experience with them filming the annual Newport Chartism commemorative march, doing this inspired me to change the idea for our project and this is the one we will pitch to the industry.

Jen Stein

This was our first meeting with Jennifer. Jen is an Assistant Research Professor of Media Arts + Practice at the University of Southern California and is over in the UK for a year carrying out research with UWE and the pervasive media studio. This tutorial was really useful because Jen was unaware of our previous idea so she had no opinion of it which meant we could pitch our new idea in a totally fresh way. This pitch also gave us the chance to explain the background to the idea to somebody who is unfamiliar with the content and the area that our project would take place in.

Jens tutorial was a chance for us to get more enthusiastic about the Chartism project, she gave us some practical advice on accessibility, having the project online for armchair viewing and how we could overcome security issues with equipment such as having people pay a deposit/leave a driving licence or be accompanied around by adults or members of the team. We planned on using a screen to display the Klynt page and Jen advised us about the cost of the touch screen but also that using a normal screen with a mouse might not work as many people still may not know how to use it.

As we are planning on making a real world element and an online element Jen advised that they shouldn’t be identical. We want users who experience the real world story to be able to find different things in the online version so that they are not just seeing what they just experienced. this could be as simple as having items talked about in the real world experience on display in the online element but with more information. Essentially we need to make both experiences worth doing by the same group of people.

With regard to the app we discussed the importance of making people look around, we don’t just want to spoon feed them the information, we want them to be actively involved in the story and this can be as simple as directing them to look for something.

Jen recommended checking out street artist Candy Chang for inspiration with our interactive elements. We were particularly interested in the ‘I Wish I Was‘ project that invited people to place stickers around the local area in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. This idea fits into our pans to ask the public to suggest a new peoples charter.

Candy Chang 'I Wish I Was'

Candy Chang ‘I Wish I Was’

Jen has given us some great inspiration and highlighted some of the practical problems we will face. a Very useful first tutorial.

 

 

 

New Chartist Idea Tutorial – Judith and Alistair

New Chartist Idea Tutorial – Judith and Alistair

This afternoon we had tutorials with both Alistair and Judith about our new Chartism project. We were a bit apprehensive about suggesting a new project at this stage in the semester but myself and Hannah-Jane felt that we had valid reasons for parking the St Fagans project (access, pace of development and story) and that our new idea was a lot more suitable and achievable.

Our first tutorial was with Judith was brief but we explained our reasons for the project change and Judith was positive about our plans, she was aware of the Chartism movement and was pleased that we were continuing to work with interactive platforms. I think she was particularly pleased that we had now included the Klynt application which will allow us to create an interactive archive of our event and the research we will be carrying out.

Our third tutorial of the day was with Alistair. We briefly explained the project to him and he offered some useful advise on research. Primarily that we had to nail the history of the Chartists ready for the pitch so that we could easily and clearly explain both the project idea and Chartism in general as most people will be unaware of the movement. Alistair also suggested some people to contact for research for the project and students who could maybe help with that. Colin Thomas who is a BBC film maker and is part of the Bristol Radical History group. and Ben Pike, A fellow student who has made a number of social history films while at UWE.

Our meeting came just two days after the election of Donald Trump and with this in mind along with Brexit we all felt that this project could fit in well with the current mood for politics and change in the UK and around the world. Our project documents part of the introduction of real Democracy in the UK and the plight of the people who fought for it and could remind people about how important it is and how it may/mayn’t be being eroded.