Funnelwick Limb is the company we formed to produce the work I do with BBC 6 Music Poet in Residence Murray Lachlan Young, and invariably Artistic Director of Action Transport Theatre Nina Hajiyianni. This blog first appeared as a series of posts on the funnelwicklimb facebook pages. To find out more about our work please do sign up to our mailing list at funnelwicklimb.com
New Years Eve is traditionally the time to look back at whats happened in the year just gone. Given the annus horribilis that 2020 has been its tempting to pass over and just get on with 2021 – but it felt appropriate to mark the Funnelwick Limb year – so here goes.
Our year started with The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps back on the road. Rehearsals in Ipswich allowed us to rehearse in new performer Simone Lewis who was joining the company to replace Joe Allen, refresh the set and just rediscover all the joy in the show. Performances on the Main Stage at Theatre by the Lake and Oldham Library (demonstrating again what a flexible show this is) followed before lockdown hit. For the record we ‘lost gigs’ at New Wolsey, at Theatr Clwyd, at SJT in Scarborough, at the Union Club in London, at Hull Truck, at The Great Barn Festival and a much anticipated (by us at the very least) residency at The Brighton Fringe.
As sad as this is many were worse hit than we were – and perhaps in 2021 we can look forward to picking up the tour where we left off!
We didn’t want to let lockdown stop audiences continuing to enjoy elements of The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps so pretty quickly we released as a free stream the studio recording of the show (with the incredible soundtrack by Arun Ghosh). You can listen to that here on soundcloud here https://soundcloud.com/matthew-linley/the-mystery-of-raddlesham-mumps (1,280 plays to date and perhaps with your help we can take it over 1500!).
We also worked with a local school teacher Emily Smith to turn our face to face workshops into four downloadable lesson plans. These are still available free of charge here http://raddleshammumps.co.uk/activity/ . And then our friends at MBD Ltd turned these lessons into family friendly online activities which you can find here https://www.mbd.limited/education
(The lessons and activities are targeted at enabling creative writing for 7-11 year olds and are great fun – please do share with any teaching colleagues or homeschoolers looking for resources during the ongoing lockdown). And though made in 2019 our Raddlesham Mumps prequel is still available to play on android devices here https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.YourCompany.RaddleshamMumps or in the Oculus Go store here https://www.oculus.com/experiences/go/2307490389316312/
The birth of a new project
Meanwhile whilst we were still able to get together we headed over to spend time with the fine folk of Kirkgate Arts to start playing with the story of Iffly Sney and the Tandlesham Nook (we like an easy title!).
We did however quickly find out that out story centred on two twins – Atom and Luna, twins who must brave a magical forest to discover the secrets which will save their Falstafian baby sitter Iffly Sney. And so The Chronicles of Atom and Luna was born in Cockermouth.
We wanted to learn from our experiences of making Raddlesham across book, performance and digital platforms – but this time make sure each experience was ‘unique and complete’ in its own right.But banished as we were into zoom rooms how could we achieve that? Well the core team (at that point) of Murray Lachlan Young , Nina Hajiyianni, Bek Palmer, Joe Allen, Simone Lewis and I were all willing to give it a go!
Three pretty momentous things happened whilst we were locked away in the zoom room attempting to build the story of Atom and Luna – all three which were to make a fundamental difference to the development of the project.
First of these was engaging young people in our story making. But how could we do that during lockdown? Our solution was at the end of every day to record a task for children to carry out on our behalf – here is one such example of the tasks:-
Just by way of example the maps we received as a result of this task really helped push our story-making forward, to the extent now that the map is a fundamental part of the story! Those task videos would reappear in another element of the project a little later..
Second we were lucky enough to pick up a SPACE R&D https://www.thespace.org/who-we-arecommission to develop Atom and Luna into a new digital form. We cant say much about that right now – apart from a) its very exciting and b) we’ll be launching this thing at the end of January.
Thirdly we asked composer musician Paul Hartnoll (of Orbital) to join us on our Atom and Luna journey. Paul had been collaborating with Murray on a series of virus diaries (of which this is just one example…)
So we emerged from the R&D phase with a clear plan for the first two Chronicles of Atom and Luna. We would start with a series of audio stories – collectively called Tales from the Forest which would introduce audiences to the magical forest that Atom and Luna would travel through. Our second chronicle – the one commissioned by Space and to be released in January – was to be made with MBD Ltd and more of that again in the future!
Fast forward to the end of November and those audio tales we had dreamt up in that zoom room back in summer were ready to meet an audience.
You can listen to these gorgeous magical mini audio tales in any order (there are 6 in all). Each has words (of course) by Murray Lachlan Young, beautiful illustrations by Bek Palmer, music by Paul Hartnoll, bSL by Kate Labno, direction by Nina Hajiyianni and animation and mastering by the good folk of Warehouse Digital.
All 6 tales can be found on this You Tube playlist…
And here are some of the very kind things people have been saying about the audio tales so far! You can listen to them all here
Right at the heart of our work is a commitment to encouraging a love of words and poetry in young people, so to run alongside the launch of the audio tales we developed a new free education programme for primary schools. Using a combination of a teachers book, worksheets and task based videos teachers are able to bring a little bit of our work into the classroom, during this time when creative visits are difficult to say the least. Here is one of the videos
and here is another
Schools across the country have been participating – and more are using the scheme of work in January! And just as we did with the first tasks we’ll be using the work the schools have done to help develop the story across 2021
Finally – throughout 2020 we have been working with the University of Essex on an impact study. The findings of that work have now been presented at two (virtual of course) conferences in Europe (at VSAC in Belgium and most recently at the Stereopsia conference) and the resulting paper THE MYSTERY OF THE RADDLESHAM MUMPS”: A CASE STUDY FOR COMBINED STORYTELLING IN A THEATRE PLAY AND VIRTUAL REALITY by Loes C.J. van Dam, Abigail L.M. Webb,Liam Jarvis, Paul B. Hibbard has now been submitted for publication.
FINALLY it would be totally remiss of us not to say a huge thank you to all of Funnelwick Limb’s funders who have helped us to achieve what we have in this Oh so difficult of years
Arts Council England , The Space Arts, SECCADS, University of Essex and the EIRA programme
The seed commissioners of our audio tales
Carn to Cove , Citadel Arts , Cheshire Rural Touring Arts Highlights Rural Touring Scheme Inspire Nottinghamshire Libraries Kirkgate Arts Villages in Action Quay Theatre, Sudbury, Suffolk Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
An extra big thank you to all the ARTISTS, AUDIENCES, ONLINE AUDIENCES, SCHOOL and HOME learners and everyone else who has gone on this journey with us this year.
A healthy, happy and hopeful 2021 to you all!