Episode 3 The Arts Show


Episode 3

In this month's show, Marie-Louise Muir talks to artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. Plus, a look at the talent graduating from Northern Ireland's creative degrees and courses.


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Transcript


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Welcome to The Arts Show.

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Tonight we're at the Belfast School of Art

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for the opening of the final year degree show.

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For 165 years,

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this college has been the touchstone for visual art in Belfast.

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This distinctive building has marked the first step on the road

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to international recognition for many of our most celebrated artists,

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but changes are afoot.

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This York Street site is about to be expanded

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to become the centrepiece for the city centre campus

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for the University of Ulster.

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In a few years' time, iconic parts of the art college,

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including the once popular Orpheus Ballroom,

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will be transformed.

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Plans reveal a huge glass minimalist structure

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with an extended walkway across York Street.

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Like other leading art colleges in major global cities,

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there are ambitious plans to further establish the art college

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here in Belfast as a world leader in art, design and architecture.

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As exam season is upon us,

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we also follow the end of year shows

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at other creative arts colleges around Northern Ireland,

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including music and performing arts

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at the South Eastern Regional College at Bangor,

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and the only all Ireland dance degree

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at Magee in Derry-Londonderry,

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former Belfast Art College alumni illustrator Oliver Jeffers

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on making it from degree show to global career...

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..and after our art show from here last year, we follow

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up on one of those we tipped for the top, Ashling Lindsay.

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There is such a tremendous sense of energy here tonight on what is the

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biggest night of the year for the art college, with literally hundreds

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of students showcasing their work, talent

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and creativity across a whole range of the arts.

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With celebrated contemporary photographer

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Paul Seawright as Head of School of Art and Design,

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and Turner-nominated Willie Doherty on the staff,

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the college is attracting hundreds of talented students.

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One of them has come all the way from Bulgaria to study photography.

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His name is Stanislav Nikolov.

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Stanislav, I believe it wasn't just the love of photography that

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brought you here but the love of a good woman?

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Yeah, that's right.

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I met my partner Adrienne about ten years ago in Bulgaria.

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Then I came to visit her here.

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Were you a photographer back in Bulgaria?

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Was it a hobby, was it an interest?

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For quite a few years, it was a hobby. Then I really got into it.

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Eventually I decided that I could see myself as a working photographer,

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so that's when I decided to do the course

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here at the University of Ulster.

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Tell me about these pictures behind me and, in particular, these...

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Are they wardrobes, or what are they?

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Well, they're very typical Bulgarian pieces of furniture.

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Every apartment has one of them.

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They're quite essential because most people live in these

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typical former communist small apartments.

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-So all their lives are crammed into these.

-The space is quite tight.

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This is where people display their most precious possessions.

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-It's very personal as well.

-Yeah.

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I was thinking about the idea of home and leaving home behind

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and what home means to me.

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It's a portrait of not only the people who live there,

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but, you know, Bulgarian culture.

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-You haven't brought one back to Belfast?

-No.

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What's next? You've got your degree. What's your big ambition?

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Well, with this work, I would like to actually bring it to Bulgaria

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and show it there. Also, I made a book with this project.

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I would like to publish it and make that work known.

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Good luck with it.

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-Stanislav Nikolov, thank you so much.

-Thanks very much.

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Oliver Jeffers, the North Belfast raised illustrator,

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writer and artist, graduated from here at the Art College in 2001.

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Since then, he's gone on to carve out

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an internationally successful career in children's literature.

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Now based in Brooklyn, he also works as a painter

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and as a film maker,

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most recently collaborating on a music video for U2, no less.

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I met him on a trip home to Northern Ireland.

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Oliver Jeffers, welcome to Belfast.

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Thank you, Marie-Louise.

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-Do you miss it?

-Do I miss Belfast? Yeah, of course I miss Belfast.

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I still have many very good friends, and all my family is still here.

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You haven't lost your accent either.

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No, I'd be slapped by various people if I had.

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Oliver's work is known to children around the world

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having produced several books over the last decade,

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which have won numerous awards

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and been translated into over 30 languages.

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It all started somewhat more by accident than design while working

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on his final degree show project at the Belfast School of Art.

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I had intended to become a painter, an artist,

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before I fell into picture books.

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When I looked back on it,

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all of the art that I was making was very much about storytelling.

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I was putting words and pictures together on a canvas.

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I was very much interested in narrative

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and momentum of an image.

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Then whenever I came up with this idea that was originally going

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to be a painting, it turned out to be the cover of How To Catch A Star.

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I realised there's more life,

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there's more potential for this image to manifest in different ways.

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Rather than one image, this is ten images. It's an exhibition.

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It's a collection of paintings.

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Once I started drawing them out -

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this is not a collection of paintings, this is a story.

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It was at that point that I realised what was as much fun

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as suggesting the beginning, the middle, or the end of a story

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in a single image was to do all of them in a book format.

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'He sent an unsolicited manuscript and illustrations

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'to Harper Collins Publishers in London.

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'They got back almost immediately.'

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It landed on the right person's desk at the right time.

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What did they say as soon as they...?

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As soon as they phoned, they said, "Can you come to London tomorrow?

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"Or next week. As soon as you can."

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-Yeah.

-And I did. I hopped on a plane. I even put on a tie.

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They asked me, "Do you have other books up your sleeve?"

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-I was like, "Yeah, of course I do."

-You didn't.

-No, not at all.

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SHE LAUGHS

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I agreed to build a wall, then learned how to build a wall.

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How To Catch A Star established Oliver

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as a new force in children's literature.

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He followed it up with Lost And Found,

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the poignant story of a young boy who befriends a penguin.

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Its global success led to the book

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being adapted as an animated film.

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Where did that come from?

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Where the idea for that story came about is actually in Belfast.

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It was my dad telling a story of a school group

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that went up to Belfast Zoo on a trip.

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One of the kids managed to break away and climb into the penguin enclosure.

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He managed to climb out with a baby penguin under his coat

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and get the whole way home and lock himself in the bathroom

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before anybody could figure it out.

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I always just wondered, "What was that like?"

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What do they talk about?

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What is this brief friendship,

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this relationship like between this boy and this penguin?

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I started making drawings about it.

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I feel like with any of the books that I make that are very satisfying

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and really good, you catch the tail of it and then it tells itself.

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I mean this truly, truly can be called a classic now.

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Especially since the film has come out.

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The exposure for that book has just been magnified.

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-Not just any film. I mean, it won a BAFTA.

-Yeah.

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Philip Hunt and Studio AKA who made it.

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I think they won 70 awards for it in all. Something ridiculous like that.

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They did a brilliant job.

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One of Oliver's best-loved books came next -

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The Incredible Book Eating Boy -

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and marked a departure from his previous style,

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something his publishers initially fought hard against.

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It almost never happened,

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because How To Catch A Star and Lost And Found

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were so of a type of book.

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They were emotionally sweet and sentimental stories.

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Book Eating Boy was not. My publisher was not keen at all.

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Eventually, they cut a deal with me saying,

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"We'll let you make this book if you make the book

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"that we want to make next." I said, "OK, we'll do that."

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What was the next one?

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Well, that was the most successful book at that point,

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so they never made me...

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-They never made you do it.

-Yeah.

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At that point, I'd earned my stripes.

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It's been a very different working relationship ever since,

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which has been great.

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I learned to listen to good editorial advice,

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and they learned to know that I'm always right.

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THEY LAUGH

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Oliver hasn't looked back since

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and releases at least one new book each year,

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illustrating both his own stories and other writers' work.

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As well as his children's output,

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he is incredibly productive in other disciplines,

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finding further success as

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a respected and sought-after artist,

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and has also diversified

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into the moving image.

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Are you a picture book writer-illustrator,

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are you a painter, are you a film maker?

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I'm all of them. I'm all of the above.

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I think that whenever I was in art college here,

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that was something that was occurring to people -

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the boundaries between the various disciplines were becoming fuzzier.

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There's a lot more crossover now than ever before.

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I suppose I'm a conceptual artist and a storyteller.

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The medium takes second place to the idea.

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-The concept is king, so to speak.

-The mind is still curious.

-Yeah.

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Oliver Jeffers, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

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Thank you, Marie-Louise.

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The South Eastern Regional College, or SERC as it's known,

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has a vibrant performing arts and music department

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on its Bangor campus.

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It marries together the two strong traditions in Northern Ireland

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of theatre and music under the one roof.

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We went to find out more.

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The SERC Bangor campus is a large site

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offering a diverse range of courses from hairdressing to horticulture

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and carpentry to computer aided design.

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The performing arts courses began around 11 years ago

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with just a few students initially,

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but now attracts students from all over the country.

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Take a few seconds to think about your positioning.

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The performing arts and music department at SERC, Bangor campus

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is a thriving hub of creativity.

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On any day of the week,

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you will see performances across a number of different styles.

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'If you come here to study, you will study a wide range of subjects.

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'It could be popular entertainment,

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'where we look at things like stand-up comedy'

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and sketch comedy.

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It could be classical theatre, where we look at Shakespeare

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and Greek Tragedy.

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It could be contemporary theatre.

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'It could be singing, dancing.'

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One area that we do cover, which is quite important, is production arts.

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We do deliver units in lighting and sound.

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Our students do gain experience in technical theatre.

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In what way dissatisfied you?

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Do you think that you would be a little bit more forceful

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with her or are you intending to be gentle with her?

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Well, in the courtroom, she hasn't actually...

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'One of the modules that I deliver this year is naturalistic acting.

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'It's about delivering the students the skills to act

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'in a believable and truthful way.'

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Mary, this is a black art to change your shape.

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'We use the works of Stanislavski,'

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often known as the Godfather of modern theatre.

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'So I deliver weekly workshops dedicated to the skills

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'of the Stanislavski system.'

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Those skills are then employed into a large-scale performance

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later on in the academic year.

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SCREAMING

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It's not easy to get on to our programmes. We do have waiting lists.

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However, if you do gain a place at one of our programmes

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here at the college, you're guaranteed to have

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a vocational qualification at the end of it.

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92% of our students go into industry or higher education, which is

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a great success rate.

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In the past, we've had students who diversified from the areas

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of performing arts and music and gained employment in other areas.

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Just all of you remember - lines, lines, lines.

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'So it's not a strict pathway to just those subjects,

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'because the skills that you will gain when you're with us

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'will see you through any number of professions.'

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The music and music technology courses launched in the early '90s,

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and have been attended by members of Snow Patrol

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and INXS frontman and solo artist Ciaran Gribbin.

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One of this year's graduating music technology students

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is George Muldrew.

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'The reason I came on to the course was to get better at recording'

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and sound and live engineering -

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more specific skills in how to mic up drums, guitars, bass guitars,

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vocals, all sorts of instruments which I had no idea about before.

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I learnt about the physics of sound, which is very important.

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EQ and compression, and how to use those creatively

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and make a mix really sing.

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What do you think, guys?

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Sounded good. It's coming through really nicely.

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Despite also being a performer in numerous bands,

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the course has inspired George to seek a music career off the stage.

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I plan to move over to Glasgow.

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I'm seeking the opportunity to go and work in a top recording studio.

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I've got a nice production portfolio, which I want to pass on

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to these big studios, and hopefully get to the top.

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An important aspect of the course is music composition

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and sound design for film.

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I think for a production student, actually, it's very good.

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When you look at this first page,

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you've got a lot of whole note movement,

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whereas when we get over here, the rhythm is much more diverse.

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'It's an interesting unit that allows the students to write a score

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'to a given piece of film.'

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Then we bring in a professional group

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and we record the piece of music.

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'They also do the sound design for it as well.'

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'My role is to obviously address a lot of the technical

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'aspects of making sure they can group notes properly,

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'that they can express what they want to express on paper.'

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Here in this bar, for example, you've got a G-flat and a G-sharp.

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What you'd want to do is rationalise that G-sharp as an A-flat.

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'This is a good course for anyone wanting to be'

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involved in the music industry.

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The reason why I say that is

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because there's such a strong practical element.

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'I think that the fact that we make them

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'do a project like the one I described in relation to the

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'composition for film and TV,'

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'where they're responsible for all aspects of music making -

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'the composition, directing the band, recording the band,'

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going out and collecting all the sound,

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fully putting everything together -

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that's a prime example of how hands-on the units that we

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deliver can be.

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With the increasing interest and uptake of the courses,

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the college received some exciting news this year.

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We've just been given the go-ahead for a new performing arts

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and technology and innovation centre.

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It's a new 12.6 million building that will give us

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our own brand-new theatre space. We're very excited.

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The students are going to benefit greatly from this new facility,

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where the department will go from strength to strength.

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Last year, we met a rising star in the world of illustration,

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somebody who could give Oliver Jeffers a run for his money.

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Ashling Lindsay had just been shortlisted

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for the Oscars of illustration.

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This year, she's been shortlisted for a second time.

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The Arts Show went along to find out what a difference a year can make.

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A few months after I graduated,

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I started working in Black North on a project called Finn In The Forest.

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I was brought on to do the concept work and some illustrations -

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generating ideas, character development

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and storyline development as well.

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Finn In The Forest is a one-hour broadcast special,

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and it's also an interactive storybook.

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It's a story based around Finn and Nora, his little sister.

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They're dropped off by their parents at a wake.

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They don't realise it's a wake and they're pushed

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to explore their environment by a cat that leads Nora astray.

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Finn has to follow Nora to look after her.

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I think it's important to come up with your own stuff as well,

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just to make sure that you've got more than one thing

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going on all the time.

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I entered some of my personal work

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that I've been working on from home

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into the AOI Illustration awards this year.

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It was a few illustrations that I'd done

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for the book by Joseph Conrad called The Heart Of Darkness.

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I got shortlisted in the books category for new talent,

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so I'm really, really pleased with that.

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Last year I got a load of enquiry e-mails

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from loads of different people

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asking me to do small pieces of freelance work,

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so it really did help spread my name around.

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It was really helpful.

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I really love the animation stuff

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that Julia Potts does at the minute.

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There's an artist called Andrew Hem,

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a painter, I love his techniques.

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I still love the work by Oliver Jeffers.

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He's constantly doing new things with film.

0:18:520:18:56

I really want to get into directing some of my own stuff.

0:18:560:19:00

Chris Kelly, the director of Black North, and I

0:19:000:19:02

have been working on a short animated film that we're

0:19:020:19:05

probably going to do,

0:19:050:19:07

so he's going to be the writer and producer on that

0:19:070:19:09

and I'll get a chance

0:19:090:19:11

to try out being the director and see what I think of it.

0:19:110:19:13

I'm really looking forward to doing that

0:19:130:19:15

over the next year while I'm here.

0:19:150:19:18

I can't believe that I went through university and came out

0:19:180:19:22

and got to do the job

0:19:220:19:23

that I've always wanted to do.

0:19:230:19:25

It's really, really amazing.

0:19:260:19:27

Ashling Lindsay - a name to watch.

0:19:370:19:39

Now contemporary dance is still very much an underrepresented sector

0:19:390:19:43

of the arts in Northern Ireland, with only a handful

0:19:430:19:45

of companies in existence set up here in the last decade or so.

0:19:450:19:49

In 2006, the University of Ulster at Magee

0:19:490:19:52

set up a school of creative arts,

0:19:520:19:54

with the only undergraduate dance degree on the island of Ireland.

0:19:540:19:58

MUSIC: "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck

0:20:000:20:02

This is the only dance degree programme on the whole island.

0:20:070:20:11

We very much focus on contemporary dance because we think that's

0:20:110:20:15

a useful medium for students to be able to be creative within.

0:20:150:20:19

One thing that we have on this course is a huge focus

0:20:210:20:24

both on creativity and on the actual practical, physical dancing.

0:20:240:20:28

We do give a dance class a day.

0:20:280:20:31

They then know what is this thing they're dealing with creatively -

0:20:310:20:35

this actual stuff called movement.

0:20:350:20:37

Five, six, seven, and eight. One, two, three...

0:20:370:20:40

One of this year's graduates is Melissa O'Neill,

0:20:400:20:43

a mature student and mother of three who put her career

0:20:430:20:45

as an alternative therapist on hold

0:20:450:20:48

to obtain a formal qualification in dance.

0:20:480:20:50

Learning dance was very new to me.

0:20:520:20:54

I'd only previously done it when I was young.

0:20:540:20:58

But other than that, I had no formal education in dance whatsoever.

0:20:580:21:02

My final piece of choreography that I made for the degree programme

0:21:060:21:10

is called Conversations. It's set in a cafe space.

0:21:100:21:13

It seemed to be absolutely perfect

0:21:130:21:16

because there was people coming in,

0:21:160:21:17

sitting down beside other performers,

0:21:170:21:19

they didn't know that it was a performance

0:21:190:21:21

until maybe they'd seen people getting up on to the floor

0:21:210:21:25

and starting to move around the space, but they were intrigued.

0:21:250:21:29

It's based upon relationships that woman would have

0:21:290:21:32

with each other and themselves.

0:21:320:21:35

In it is a basis of contemporary dance but also physical theatre.

0:21:350:21:40

When I saw it in the cafe, I was hugely impressed.

0:21:400:21:44

The piece seemed to evolve in front of our eyes.

0:21:440:21:48

Her various dancers come in at different points,

0:21:480:21:51

and...just as somebody would come into a cafe.

0:21:510:21:53

They'd go and get their coffee and they'd come to a table.

0:21:530:21:56

I have to say, I love that -

0:21:560:21:58

when you're not quite sure what are the borders of a piece,

0:21:580:22:01

you're not quite sure when a piece starts and finishes,

0:22:010:22:05

you're not quite sure who's in the audience,

0:22:050:22:08

because it's always calling into question

0:22:080:22:11

what is the relationship between the piece and its audience?

0:22:110:22:15

Yes, it's interesting. It's fun, it's exciting.

0:22:160:22:19

You just never know how it's going to turn out in the end.

0:22:190:22:22

Go for the leg, yeah.

0:22:220:22:23

Melissa hopes to incorporate movement as a form of expression

0:22:250:22:28

into her therapeutic work with individuals and community groups.

0:22:280:22:33

The expression does play a big part.

0:22:330:22:35

It's allowing that expression for others.

0:22:350:22:38

Then I'd like to help them express and allow them that freedom.

0:22:380:22:44

Many of our graduates have actually gone on to be professional dancers

0:22:450:22:50

both in Northern Ireland but also actually in Europe,

0:22:500:22:54

in Australia, in North America.

0:22:540:22:56

The dance scene in Northern Ireland is thriving,

0:23:010:23:04

but it's thriving in pockets

0:23:040:23:06

so that we have extremely strong

0:23:060:23:09

and innovative companies

0:23:090:23:11

working in Belfast, in Derry.

0:23:110:23:13

They're producing international standard work.

0:23:130:23:16

What we have to work on very hard now, I think,

0:23:180:23:20

is trying to build an audience -

0:23:200:23:23

that kind of participation of people in art

0:23:230:23:27

rather than being expected to be passive observers

0:23:270:23:30

is very likely the way forward.

0:23:300:23:32

The buzz here at the art college is really quite incredible

0:23:410:23:45

with hundreds of people streaming through the doors

0:23:450:23:47

to look at new talent and hopefully buy some new work as well.

0:23:470:23:52

Ceramics has to be one of my favourite parts of the show -

0:23:520:23:55

incredible tour de force of some of the work of the ceramic students

0:23:550:23:59

here at the art college.

0:23:590:24:01

Rhiannon Ewing-James, this is your work here.

0:24:010:24:04

Quite minimalist when you look at it at first. What are you trying to do?

0:24:040:24:09

It might look minimal but it's got very many layers. It started off...

0:24:090:24:13

I visited Stoke-on-Trent, an abandoned ceramic factory.

0:24:130:24:17

It got me thinking.

0:24:170:24:18

These people have lost their jobs and it's not necessarily the money

0:24:180:24:21

that it's important, it's this loss of something else -

0:24:210:24:24

this loss of purpose and loss of pride within a community.

0:24:240:24:27

The objects that I have created all suggest use, but you can't use them.

0:24:270:24:32

The materials play a very important role in explaining the work.

0:24:330:24:36

Because it's not just ceramics that are in here - plastic.

0:24:360:24:40

-Yeah.

-That's not something that you would associate with

0:24:400:24:42

the craft of ceramics, is it?

0:24:420:24:44

Not at all. It completely opposes it.

0:24:440:24:47

The combination of ceramics and plastic is very important.

0:24:470:24:50

Plastic is something very bright and colourful.

0:24:500:24:53

It craves attention,

0:24:530:24:54

but it's very empty in comparison to the tactile ceramic surface.

0:24:540:24:58

It's something that I wanted to play with.

0:24:580:25:01

Plastic being a very mass-produced material, cheap for manufacture,

0:25:010:25:05

in contrast to something we have a familiar relationship with.

0:25:050:25:08

Also that then reflects the loss -

0:25:080:25:10

the loss of that industrial architecture and heritage,

0:25:100:25:13

which is probably very relevant to here as well, Belfast.

0:25:130:25:17

It brings it very close to home,

0:25:170:25:18

especially with the shipyard lands down at the Docklands,

0:25:180:25:21

which this piece here, my bollard, has been inspired by.

0:25:210:25:26

So what's next for you after this degree show ends

0:25:260:25:29

and you take everything away, where do you go?

0:25:290:25:32

I have very fortunately got a job in Denmark.

0:25:320:25:35

I'm going to work at the International Ceramic Research Centre

0:25:350:25:39

called Guldagergaard.

0:25:390:25:42

There I will be a studio technician working with the different

0:25:420:25:45

artists in residence.

0:25:450:25:46

Then I'll move on to programmes coordinator,

0:25:460:25:48

organising different events and exhibitions for the research centre.

0:25:480:25:51

-How's your Danish?

-Not great.

0:25:510:25:55

But it's something

0:25:550:25:56

I can pick up and learn.

0:25:560:25:57

We'll come back and see you in a couple of years' time and see

0:25:570:25:59

whether that's worked out.

0:25:590:26:01

Rhiannon Ewing-James, thank you so much.

0:26:010:26:03

Continued success.

0:26:030:26:04

So what happens after you get your degree?

0:26:120:26:15

Many graduates find that they need much more

0:26:150:26:17

than just a good portfolio.

0:26:170:26:19

Talent is everything, but so is money.

0:26:190:26:22

Well, one local person, a woman called Rosy James,

0:26:220:26:25

a graduate of this very art college,

0:26:250:26:27

left half a million pounds in her will

0:26:270:26:30

to establish a bursary in her name.

0:26:300:26:32

Suzanne Lyle from the Arts Council, Rosy James sounds like

0:26:320:26:36

she was an incredible character - quite colourful and outspoken.

0:26:360:26:39

She was hugely colourful.

0:26:390:26:41

She had come into the Arts Council to talk about the award,

0:26:410:26:43

to ask how it might be possible.

0:26:430:26:45

She signed the visitor's book as "Moi,"

0:26:450:26:47

rather than anything else.

0:26:470:26:49

From the get go, yeah.

0:26:490:26:51

Who is this aimed at? Who is this bursary for, specifically?

0:26:510:26:53

It's aimed at craft makers, designer makers and craft.

0:26:530:26:56

So it could be ceramicists, silversmiths,

0:26:560:26:58

anybody within that broad discipline.

0:26:580:27:00

You have the first recipient beside you.

0:27:000:27:02

We can exclusively reveal on The Arts Show.

0:27:020:27:05

Absolutely, Stuart Cairns is the first recipient.

0:27:050:27:08

-Congratulations, Stuart.

-Thanks very much.

0:27:080:27:10

-You work in what area?

-I work in silversmithing.

0:27:100:27:13

I produce objects based on utensils, vessels, domestic type forms.

0:27:130:27:19

I do it in a variety of materials, so not just silver,

0:27:190:27:21

a whole variety of things.

0:27:210:27:23

How much is this bursary worth, £15,000?

0:27:230:27:26

-15,000, yeah.

-So what will that mean for your career?

0:27:260:27:29

It's basically a turbo boost to your career.

0:27:290:27:33

It means I can take more time to research to develop a new

0:27:330:27:36

body of work over the coming year

0:27:360:27:38

and take advantage of some of the international opportunities

0:27:380:27:41

that have started to come my way for exhibitions.

0:27:410:27:44

So I'm invited to exhibit in Sweden next year, Amsterdam and Germany.

0:27:440:27:50

So this will really, really help me

0:27:500:27:52

to produce the work of the right standard.

0:27:520:27:54

Hopefully I can push on and take full advantage of the opportunities.

0:27:540:27:57

-God bless Rosy James, then.

-Indeed, yeah.

0:27:570:27:59

We wish you continued success. Congratulations. Thank you, both.

0:27:590:28:03

-Thank you.

-Cheers. Thanks.

0:28:030:28:05

Well, that's it from The Arts Show for this month.

0:28:210:28:24

You can join me on Twitter now to continue the conversation.

0:28:240:28:28

Of course, you can keep up to date with all arts and culture

0:28:280:28:32

on Arts Extra, weeknights at 6.30 on BBC Radio Ulster.

0:28:320:28:37

Also check out our own website for some great content and archive.

0:28:370:28:42

We'll be back in September. Until then, have a great summer.

0:28:420:28:45

Good night.

0:28:450:28:46

Marie-Louise Muir chats with Oliver Jeffers, the Belfast/Brooklyn based artist and illustrator. Plus a taster of talent graduating from Northern Ireland's creative degrees and courses.


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