Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Edge Hill University

I woke up in a very rainy Lancashire this morning, and drove to Ormskirk in horrible murky, misty haze.

Edge Hill university used to be a teacher training college, and is based around a rather grand, H-shaped, 1920s arts and crafts building.

A recent building programme has seen all sorts of fancy new buildings popping up across the campus with shiny atriums, glossy hubs, glass lift shafts and amazing displays of wall-mounted plasma screens.

I'd been invited to talk to third year students on the musical theatre degree course about Beyond The Fence, and the concept of computer musicals. It was rather fun to be candid, and to tell the actual story behind the project rather than what they decided to show on the associated documentary. It was weird to talk in such depth about all that stuff again, and a little surreal, if I'm honest, because I was full of cold, and kept getting all light-headed and dry-mouthed.

It was a nice bunch of students, and we had a bit of fun learning the protest song from the show. If I'm honest, I think the students were a great deal more interested in learning about the Greenham women than they were hearing about computers, and, in my view, that's exactly as it should be. Today's young people need to know about those extraordinary women, and, actually, I'd far rather talk about 1980s protest movements to a group of kids from a generation who are used to registering their discontent by merely going online and clicking on a petition. It's vital that the youth of today (who are always surrounded by a slight whiff of entitlement) realise what previous generations have done, seemingly just to enable them to feel politically apathetic.

We had lunch in a very posh canteen where a cheffy bloke made me a bespoke omelette. University food has improved a great deal since the days when I was forced to eat potatoes, peas and a cheese and onion pasty every day in Vanbrugh dining hall.

After lunch, my new friend Clare, who is head of the musical theatre course, had assembled a charming group of students, from across the three years, to read through the current script of Em. It was a very interesting experience. As always with table readings, you get a bit of a mix of people who are natural readers and those who aren't at all. It was interesting to note that Clare had cast the show and sent all the scripts out a week before, which makes me wonder why some of the people who were continually tripping over words hadn't thought to prepare a little more thoroughly. It strikes me that, in this industry, you have to do everything possible to get noticed and raise yourself above those in competition with you. There's no space for laziness or people who don't take initiative, particularly when a working professional from London comes up to work with you!

The piece went down well, and the students made some astute comments about the piece afterwards. It was a genuine thrill to hear a Welshie playing the part of Bronwen in the show, and genuine Scousers playing Liverpudlians. There was a lot of conversation about linguistic authenticity afterwards, with particular reference to the use of the word "like" in Scouse dialogue. Lots of food for thought, and lots to be getting on with...

The drive home was horrible. I was tried and ill and everyone on the road seemed to want to kill me. I was slightly heartened by the appearance of the "super moon," which is apparently closer to the earth than I'm likely to see again in my lifetime. It was apparently at its largest as it rose in the sky at about 5pm, but at that time the entire country, as always happens in the UK during these big meteorological events, was bedecked in thick cloud. I was therefore rather pleased that the moon deigned to make an appearance for me for much of my journey home. It was definitely very bright, but it didn't look particularly big, sadly.

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