Saturday, 13 December 2014

Stand-up and Jukeboxes

A few weeks ago I went to a 'Museums Showoff' not having much of an idea what it would be about. It was, in face, a cross between stand-up, a museum conference and a TeachMeet.  It was held in a pub basement with a projection screen crudely taped to the wall and was more like a comedy night than anything too work serious.  What it did do, though, was provide a relaxed atmosphere in which people could show their wares, explain new projects, or indeed just what they do in the case of the Art Fund, express frustration about Museum qualifications and introduce the audience to new and wonderful technology.  It was all in all pretty good fun and takes place every two weeks.

Yesterday I attended the APAC (Association of Performing Arts Collections) Christmas meeting at Battersea Arts Centre.  I have been to BAC previously for shows and was astounded by its very unusual architecture as a theatre.  I have also met their archive team as they are similarly working through an HLF grant and shared experiences can be very useful for learning from!  They also share the architects of their refurbishment with the NT, Haworth Tompkins!

Slightly different architecture to the NT!
One of the most interesting parts of the visit was finding out about the archive's various projects.  The archive is broken into two halves, one is the history of the Battersea Town Hall (the building) and the other is the Battersea Arts Centre from c.1980.  The physical archive actually sits with Wandsworth Heritage Centre down the road but BAC have digitised much of their content, which sits on their beautiful new website.

The Grand Hall, looking slightly different to
when I visited for the Savoy Ball

Great focus has been put on performance from the archive and the new creations that can be made using existing material.  This is something that Bristol Theatre Collections are strong on and I would like to do more of this work with the NT.  I suppose we have started with the creation of the NT50 posters, which were reactions to the 50 year history of the NT and were influenced by the archive but there is so much more we could so to engage new work.  We are excellently places in the NT Studio for this sort of work and already support artistic workshops but I'd like this to become a more of a feature of what we do at some point.

A fabulous project in the 'Waiting Room' in BAC, where the archive is showcased, is the theatre jukebox.  This facilitates story telling and was designed by a theatre company.

Each card contains an RFID strip, which can be sensed by the flat bed and triggers an audio to play through the headphones.  Each card plays a clip that is a few minutes long and allows the visitor to curate their own experience.  This 'Waiting Room' is normally visited by people just before a show and so short snappy experiences are ideal.  We are facing a similar issue of short bursts of attention with a new space that we are designing on the main site, which experiences a large volume of people just before a show and during an interval.  Physical material displayed in this area must catch attention and relay enough information that the audience can understand the message and want to come back later without confusing or bombarding them.  BAC have tackled this really well with the jukebox facility.

I only have a few days left at work before Christmas and I am looking forward to a trip home and some rest, it has been a big year at work!  I hope to have confirmation of my enrolment to the ARA Registration scheme in the New Year and will be posting on my progress.

An lovely little pub in Shoreditch