Reflecting On My New Role

Katherine O’Shea

It’s going to sound like a cliché these days when I say April 2020 was a strange time, but I think that particularly for me, and anyone else starting a job in the UK at that time – it was off the scale!

All I wanted was a cup of tea with my new teammates and a walk around the amazing buildings but that was all out of bounds right from the beginning. Our main source of frustration was the inability to get a big piece of paper out and scribbling down ideas together! Sometimes you just want to go analogue for a while…

But this socially-distanced start also made us think harder about ways to share ideas remotely, using technology as a means of physical expression, and how a digital future might create more opportunities and accessibility within the creative industries.

It was out of these conversations that the idea of theming our next year around Physical/Digital creative experiences came about.  The fact that we were plunged so completely into the world of remote working was a reflection of what the wider community was experiencing, after all.  And it made things clearer – it helped me to understand exactly what is lost when we drift away from physical space, but also the things we might gain from being challenged in this way.  So looking at both sides of the coin seemed the right way to carry forward some positive courses for 2021.

Having a background in contemporary craft and design, Deborah has an amazing passion for physical making, and the kind of understanding of Clayhill as a communal learning space that can only be gained from designing, creating, and living in it.

For my part, I’ve worked in the corporate world for as long as I’ve been part of a creative one, so my inclination is towards digital technology and how to be more efficient and enterprising. I feel like our theme is an apt description of our team, as much as it is of the post-pandemic world and Clayhill’s vision for the future!

So, what does a digital focus mean for our 2020/21 programme? For me, it means treating technology not as a separate subject but as a means of expression available to everyone.  It means providing opportunities to bring art and science together and increasing understanding on both sides of the fence.  As extended reality technician Adam Paigge put it at the virtual BCU STEAM conference, technologies such as VR are on the cusp of becoming ‘the next creative medium’ for artists, and as an educational institution I’d love for us to be part of that change.

Within my new role as Programme Coordinator, I’ve been seeking out these opportunities for creative practitioners to experiment with world of tech and vice-versa.  One way in which we are doing this is by running our first games design workshop, taught by Constance Fleuriot from the Pervasive Media studio in Bristol.  Constance is a true multi-specialist – with a background in arts and research, she designs her own games, runs the Grrrl Games group and is a great spokesperson for encouraging more artists, and more women, to get involved in games design (she even had me interning for her once upon a time!)

I think this acts as a real demonstration of the kind of organisation Clayhill Arts aims to be.  My overall impression so far is one of great open-mindedness, ingenuity, and an admirable desire to bring creative people of every kind together in one place.  After all, why should your practice have limits? Learning new ways of working can only be a good thing. It certainly works for us!

Our tech-free games workshop ‘Creating Stories: Games Design for Complete Beginners’ is running from 26th-28th February next year.  Book your place here.

You can read more about out 2020/21 programme here.

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