I use this space for posting up things that i’m doing, talking about, thinking about, or hearing about…
First published in the York Mystery Plays 2014 programme…
‘For too long we’ve been too apologetic’ … This was the frame of mind I was in when we started planning our route through the city and the playing stations for the 2014 Mystery Plays.
In my early years as event producer I was often approached to ‘help make things happen’, this request came often from projects facing objections, and in a position of limited resources and with complications that meant i had to carefully balance the needs and aspirations of the project with the potential impact on the location and the (often reluctant) stakeholders involved.
Now that i’m a lot older and a little bit wiser I find myself becoming a little bit more ‘bullish’ about the importance of certain projects balanced against the minor disruptions that they cause – in some cases, like the Mystery Plays, I even feel that perhaps we should be celebrating that ‘disruption’.
York mystery plays come in many formats, they are not ‘owned’ by anybody but by the same measure are owned by everybody.
In 2012 a new large-scale staging of the plays took place in the modern tradition and context in the museum gardens. That concentration of activity and the scale brought visual spectacle and impact, though there was nothing to see beyond the bound of the museum gardens a buzz resonating around the city – something significant was happening. Something that everyone had a stake in.
The medieval tradition of the plays on the wagons being celebrated this year – is a certainly a more ‘distributed’ approach in its planning and preparation and in its final realisation – The effort and the energy put into producing plays happens behind closed doors in schools, the university, church halls, farmers barn and in unusual uncharted corners of the city – wherever people can find space to rehearse their scene and build their set. A ‘community of communities’ bringing forth the plays.
There is no pomp and ceremony in the months in the running-up to the plays, no yellow bikes lining routes or knitted bunting hanging in the trees – but on the day, the tens of thousands of people that engage with the pageantry of the plays as the move from location to location or that sit and watch at the playing stations are seeing something unique – something that not only that makes York distinctive and engaging as a tourist experience, but also speaks of the commitment and enthusiasm of the communities in York – which makes it a compelling place to live and to work.
In the last year we’ve seen the city centre of York in upheaval as major ‘essential works’ were carried out securing gas supplies for the city – Roads were closed, areas cordoned off and peoples work and life inconvenienced, but it passed and life carried on as normal.
It is probably glib to make the comparison and to say that the opportunity to engage in a city wide civic expression of our cultural heritage and our creative distinctiveness is as important as a reliable and safe gas mains supply – but it could be argued that the as York Cycle of Mystery Plays capture peoples hearts and minds, embedded as part of the fabric of the city – the disruption caused by these ‘essential works’ is a small price to pay.
Ben Pugh – 13/07/2014
I’m doing something I almost never do, and seeking out sponsors… please read on!
Mind the Gap Theatre Co in Bradford have been a part of my working life for over 15 years now… from my very early days as a touring production manager to recent years as the Creative Producer for their Olympics projects in 2012. They are a great company doing great work and i’ve made some great friends there over the years.
For the last 11 months or so MTG have been running their Silver Challenge –
“This year Mind the Gap is 25 years old! To celebrate we have launched a brand new and exciting fundraising campaign called The Silver Challenge. Running until June 2014, the aim is to raise funds towards our main programme of work and to encourage individual fundraising activities amongst our supporters, friends and families – our target is to raise £10,000.
We are offering £10 to each person who signs up, to be invested in a creative idea or fundraising event to get you started. And because we are part of Arts Council England’s Catalyst Scheme we can match fund £1 for £1 any amount that is raised!”
I signed up at the launch party back in June of 2013… then somewhere along the way blithely said i was going to learn to play the Ukulele as my fundraising challenge! Time passed and I eventually started with a month left until the end of the challenge period…. and now with just a week to go I really need to gather sponsors to help me along the way.
I’ve struggled to work out how to evidence that i have learned to play. But have settled on the idea of a YouTube video posted up online… That should be arriving early next week… watch this space.
I’ve set a high target of raising a £1000 – for 3 reasons:
1 – I know you are all very (very) generous.
2 – I never usually do sponsored anything – so i’m using all my goes up here.
3 – It really is not about me learning the Uke – but about supporting the great work that Mind the Gap does…
You can go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ukulele and dig deep! and i promise it will be at least 15 years until i ask for sponsorship again!
Spread the word!
York Mystery Plays is one of the largest community events in the city’s calendar and it is looking for volunteers to help make it the biggest and best yet.
From the Mystery Plays call out:
York Mystery Plays is an exciting event that only happens every four years and is performed over two Sundays in July. 12 community groups will be performing 12 plays on 12 waggons that will process through the streets and perform at 4 different playing stations, filling York’s ancient streets with music and drama in a tradition that goes back to medieval times.
With paid ticketed seating areas at two of the playing stations and it being free to view at all of them, this is a fantastic opportunity to be part of this unusual and rare event. You would be working with a core team of professional stewards to assist audiences, check tickets, sell programmes and collect audiences responses.
There is also a mini Festival happening in the week between the two Sunday performances so we will be looking for volunteers to support in much the same way for events there. There are two shifts, a morning and an afternoon (time varies slightly depending on your playing station) and are approx 4 hours each.
Events like this cannot happen without people like you, so if you would like to take part in this amazing event, please email me at email@example.com and I can send you a form with more details and to collect your availability.
We will then have our first briefing on Thurs 26th June 6.30pm at Bedern Hall.
YUMI (York Unifying and Multicultural Initiative) is looking to appoint a new Treasurer from July 2nd, when our current Treasurer steps down. YUMI has been established since November 2004, and up until now has been a predominantly activities- and events-based voluntary organisation, operating city wide and with a strong local reputation for intercultural initiatives. We are now markedly increasing our scope and capacity, and will become an incorporated charity by the end of the year.
The Treasurer will oversee the financial matters of the charity in line with good practice and in accordance with the governing document and legal requirements and report to the Management Committee at regular intervals about the financial health of the organisation. The Treasurer will ensure that effective financial measures, controls and procedures are put in place, and are appropriate for the charity.
We’re looking for someone who has experience of working in the voluntary sector, and who is able to support our financial management as we increase our activities, income and expenditure, staff and governance procedures. Our current Management Committee is a team of seven people, including three advisers and the founder/director.
• Overseeing, and presenting budgets, accounts, management accounts and financial statements to the Management Committee after discussion with the finance director, where applicable,
• leading in the Management Committee’s duty to ensure that proper accounting records are kept, financial resources are properly controlled, invested and economically spent, in line with the charity’s policies, good governance, legal and regulatory requirements,
• leading in the development and implementation of financial reserves, cost management and investment policies,
• liaising, where applicable, with the finance director or other appropriate member of staff responsible for the financial activities of the organisation,
• chairing any finance committee in line with standing orders and terms of reference, and reporting back to the Management Committee,
• liaising with the charity’s auditors or independent examiner, where appropriate,
• monitoring and advising on the financial viability of the charity after liaising with the charity’s auditors,
• creating, in liaison with the finance director (where there is one), sound financial instruments for the control of charity assets,
• Implementing and monitoring specific financial controls and systems are in place accordingly and adhered to,
• advising on the financial implications of the charity’s strategic plan,
• overseeing the charity’s financial risk-management process,
• liaising with the charity secretary and finance director, where applicable, to ensure that the charity’s annual accounts are compliant with the current Charities SORP,
• where the charity has an internal audit function, the Treasurer will be required to work closely with the internal audit team and any sub-committee of the Management Committee,
• acting as a counter-signatory on charity cheques (including any electronic transactions) and any applications for funds,
• maintaining sound financial management of the charity’s resources, ensuring expenditure is in line with the charity’s objects,
• contributing to the fundraising strategy of the organisation.
You can read more about YUMI on: www.yumiyork.org
If you’re interested in this voluntary position, please get in touch: contact Sasiki at firstname.lastname@example.org, and provide a relevant CV and statement of interest.
Event organisers will be (or at least should be) very familiar with the Purple Guide – it has provided guidance across a range of subjects from crowd management to fireworks, medical provision to waste management, and so on, since 1993.
Over the last couple of years the HSE have undergone consultation with industry practitioners and have together drawn up a new version.
The new Purple Guide is available now (in draft) online:
**UPDATE – the draft version online is closed now ** (01/2014)
From the site:
“The Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and Other Events (Draft) has been drawn up by the Events Industry Forum in consultation with the UK events industry, including representatives from regional and national Government. This publication is designed to replace the original ‘Purple Guide’ (HSG195) which was originally published by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in consultation with the industry.
Covering both legislation and good practice, this new guide has been designed to sign-post event organisers and suppliers to the practices and issues that need to be considered when events are being organised. The contents are not designed to be prescriptive and those using this guidance should undertake appropriate risk assessments and evaluations to evaluate the specific requirements of the specific events they are organising or involved with.”
The Illuminating York Committee have just issued the call for works for the 2013 festival.
If you are interested take a look at the downloads below.
There is one call for major commissions and one for smaller works.
In a nutshell:
DEADLINE: 1 March 2013
Introduction: Illuminating York is a cutting edge light based Festival which has been running annually, in the City of York, for the last nine years. During that time the Festival has commissioned major international works for the Minster, Museum Gardens and other sites within the city walls. Previously commissioned artists include Patrice Warrener, Paul Kaiser (Open Ended Group), Usman Haque, Bright White, United VJs, OMA International, Vic Reeves, GaiaNova and Ross Ashton amongst others.
In recent years the Festival has attracted between 20,000 – 75,000 visitors, residents and tourists per year and brought over £1 million annual economic benefit into the city.
The Festival has enjoyed a broad range of media coverage over the years and reaches all corners of the globe from Canada to Australia and Europe. In 2012 the Festival introduced a small charge for audiences to view the main commission and with an 80-100% capacity each night, we intend to continue this model for parts of the Festival in 2013.
The theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Illuminating the Past, Enlightening the Future.’ It is 1000 years since King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark was named king of England in 1013. Incoming communities and cultures have played an important role in the development of York as a City. York has deep and strong links to its Viking heritage in particular and the waves of invasions that York has experienced over the years, which has created a vibrant city with a rich and varied culture.
We are interested in artwork that investigates the Scandinavian influences on York’s heritage and on the city today. This could be through art, clothing, food, technology, people and politics or other cultural interventions.
Several of our key attractions are planning exhibitions and events that celebrate this aspect of our history and culture and you may like to consider incorporating some time for research and development in your expression of interest.
We are in the process of applying for funding for the 2013 Festival and the Festival will take place from 30th October – 2nd November inclusive.
Artworks will also be expected to be fully operational for the press launch on Tuesday 29th October.
We are interested in small to medium-scale outdoor work that shows York in a new light.
The work must be visually appealing to audiences of all ages. We are looking for several supporting commissions that together, will achieve regional and national press coverage for the city.
As part of my work with the National Centre for Early Music in York we are opening the doors and encourage more people to come in to use the lovely, inspiring, bright, airy space.
One of the uses of the venue that suits really well – with its lovely acoustics, sound proofing and studio facilities is recording sessions (either studio style or with a small live audience.)
From Jan to March 2013 NCEM is offering a 30% its day rate (info below.)
Having used the space myself for recording projects i’d happily chat through the potential in the space but it is certainly well worth a look!
From the NCEM promo:
As we sink into the winter months The National Centre for Early Music has a warming offer on recording sessions at our beautiful St. Margaret’s Church in York: 30% off the standard hire day rate on any booking taking place until 31st of March 2013. www.ncem.co.uk/recordings
Together with the stunning natural acoustics of this inspiring space, few other medieval churches could offer such a warm welcome at this time of year. Renovated to an exceptional standard in 2000, the space boasts triple glazing, silent under floor heating, dedicated artists facilities, soundproofing and acoustic treatment to tailor your sound.
As a concert venue for 180 people the space suits more intimate ensembles perfectly. Either for live recordings or for studio sessions the space adapts well and allows you to shut out the world and focus on creating beautiful work.
With a range of well maintained early music keyboard instruments – see www.ncem.co.uk/instrument-hire for details; there is little to complicate your time or arrangements. We are able to offer a range of support services too from session engineers to catering and accommodation.
The venue is well used by a wide variety of early music specialists (as well as jazz, folk and contemporary musicians) and recordings this past year include John Potter and Christopher O’Gorman (Hyperion) and Profeti della Quinta – winners of the 2011 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition (Linn).
BBC Radio 3 use the NCEM to broadcast live their annual Early Music Show from York and artists recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in 2012 include countertenor Iestyn Davies, Phantasm, Gallicantus with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny with artists for 2013 already booked to include Paul O’Dette, Ensemble Medusa with Patrizia Bovi and Fabio Bonizonni.
The BBC Music Magazine’s review of John Potter & Christopher O’Gormans ‘Conductus – Music and Poetry from Thirteenth Century France’ Recording (autumn 2012) gives great testament to the value of the church here at the NCEM:
‘Conductus proves that ascetic simplicity can be as deeply moving and aesthetically breath-taking as the most complex, heart-on-sleeve music … It’s hardly necessary to mention that the performances are superb, their precise diction well-served by Jeremy Summerly’s production and Julian Millard’s engineering. The sound is intimate yet resonant, closely-focused and detailed yet with an ambience vividly suggesting spaciousness’ (BBC Music Magazine)
If you’d like to take advantage of our 30% discount on our daily hire rate (reducing the venue fees to £280 +VAT!) do please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. Contact: email@example.com or 01904 632220.
In the briefest moment of something falling between vanity and self promotion, i thought i’d share this article with you that was first published in The Stage newspaper on 16th of August 2012. It sheds a bit of light on what i spent a good chunk of the summer doing and Kevin frames my role and my approach in very positive terms too!
The venue for York Mystery Plays 2012 is the city’s museum gardens. Kevin Berry speaks to event manager Ben Pugh about overcoming difficulties with building a theatre in the round on an archaeological site.
“On site there was nothing – other than a very beautiful setting,” says Ben Pugh. “Everything had to come in from scratch and we have erected a state of the art, 1,400-seat venue on a sensitive historical site”
The site is York Museum Gardens and the venue he mentions will stage the York Mystery Plays throughout August. York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company and York Museums Trust are producing the plays with support from York Council.
The Theatre Royal production team has vast experience in working off site, with The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum, and is substantially reconfiguring its traditional auditorium to create a theatre in the round for summer seasons.
Pugh is the event manager for the Mystery Plays charged with supervising the erection of what amounts to an actual theatre on a site governed by the severest constraints. No digging allowed – “We can’t touch the monument” – and certainly no access for articulated trucks. Over 300 tons of scaffolding was off-loaded outside York and then shuttled in on smaller vehicles.
York Museum Gardens is a public park used by 10,000 people every day during the summer, and Pugh and his team have had to close off a third of that space. In the garden’s ten acres there is a protected English Heritage monument (the Benedictine St Mary’s Abbey), a busy museum and botanical gardens.
The sheer enormity of the task faced by Pugh’s team becomes apparent as he continues talking. It is difficult to take in. Getting the number of people involved, nearly 2,000 community players, and managing them, even in these days of mobile phones and emails, has been quite a challenge. The genial Pugh, who appears to take everything in his stride, suggests “thinking of the usual theatrical process and then times it by 2,000”
Have the vehicles been churning up the ground? After all, York has had its share of rain in recent weeks.
“We have a three metre-wide metal track way running from the road to the stage site,” Pugh says. “The gateway is part of the scheduled monument and is three metres wide. We’ve had to be very steady, coordinated and careful. We needed the track to guard against the weather, and also there’s a lot of buried archaeology just under the surface. While many events this year have been undone by the weather, we’ve been fine on this site.”
In the theatre there is a one foot rise between each row of seats and everyone will have a good view, plus there is a roof over the audience. The theatre is already two metres off the ground so there is a substantial sub-stage area for actors and staff to come up through trap doors and use rising stairways. Pugh emphasises that his team has had to build an entire venue: dressing rooms, toilet blocks, putting in water pipes, indeed all of the infrastructure needed in the theatre.
“We are presenting ourselves with a whole load of practical and logistical challenges to give ourselves that creative freedom in the space,” says Pugh. “We have been keen to get the community involved and that has brought forth amazing creative energy.”
He talks of a fusion of techniques and approaches and the sharing of them. Members of the community who may be painters and decorators coming in to paint the scenery, people who go to embroidery class once a week helping with costumes.
“We’re working with Star Events Group and they’re re-engineered their seating principles to enable us to have a fluid, flexible theatre space,” Pugh explains. “They’ve never built on a site like this. We asked them for a whole load of things to make it a theatre – such as entrance ways and tunnels and things they wouldn’t normally do.”
Getting into the site and setting up has taken a month. Getting out will take three weeks, a time scale that Pugh has insisted on.
“I’ve been able to persuade English Heritage and the Museums Trust that giving us more time to do it, steadily and carefully, will reduce the chance of anything happening,” he says, “The worst case scenario is people going in there mob-handed and trying too hard and doing things way too quickly.”
That will not happen with Pugh in charge. A York resident for nearly 15 years he is aware of what the Mystery Plays mean to the people of his city. They are deeply embedded in the city’s culture.
We had been speaking in the week leading up to the premiere. “People on the site have been saying how relaxed I look,” he said, smiling. “So it must be going well.”
York Mystery Plays run until august 27. The plays will be streamed live over the internet via The Space, the digital arts media service, thanks to Pilot Theatre and ACE funding.
The organisers of Illuminating York are looking for people over the age of 18, who would like to volunteer as a festival steward. You will need to be available on one or more of the following evenings between 5:00pm and 10:30pm (31st October, 1st November, 2nd November and 3rd November) and you will need to be available for a briefing on Tuesday 30th at 7:00pm, lasting one hour.
You can view the festival brochure here
You will be based at the Msueum Gardens and your role would be to hand out maps and leaflets to members of the public and be a first point of contact for any queries that they may have. We will brief you fully on the best way to respond to queries and you will be working in pairs so there will be plenty of support. You may also be asked to complete on site surveys with members of the public and again we will provide everything you need and brief you fully.
This is a great way to gain experience in the events and festival industry, meet people and see some great art for free too!
If you are interested please send a CV or a couple of paragraphs about your background and interests to firstname.lastname@example.org
The 1st of october 2012 marks the start of the Music Act 2012 designed to ease the bureaucratic burden on smaller venues wanting to put on live music. In 2003 the new Licensing Act added extra regulation around entertainment. The Music Act 2012, 9 yrs later, is a response to pressure from the industry on both sides (musicians and venues).
This is widely considered to be great news for venues and musicians alike, and is hoped that it will local live music back at the heart of the country’s cultural life.
The MU have produced a useful little guide giving details about what this means for you if you run a venue. you can download the guide here
in a nutshell this act is for you if the following conditions apply:
- you have fewer than 200 people in the audience for amplified live music.
- or if the music is un-amplified (then there is no limit on audience size – apart from the obvious “i can’t hear you” being shouted from the back of your 1000 strong crowd)
- Music can only take place between 8AM and 11PM.
- and you have to be based in England or Wales.
There is of course some nuances to understand about what sort of venue / premises / workplace you are. You could look at the full act here or contact your local licensing officer for further advice.
It is worth noting that your obligations around PRS, PLL and H&S all still apply.
As always (the small print bit) this blog post does not constitute legal advice, and is posted for info only! That said i’m happy to work with venues / promotors / musicians to better understand your licensing position or to ensure that you are understanding your obligations around H&S and so on. Do get in touch to discuss.