Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Roman Roads and Windfarms

Those of you interested in the debate around local windfarm development and the potential impact upon archaeological and historic monuments should take a few moments to read this tremendous piece of research from local historians Louie Pastore and Stephen Jennings.

No one would deny that we need to seek new sources of energy - as we've said before, there are many excellent examples across Scotland of local communities coming together to ensure community ownership and control of such developments, generating sustainable income for themselves while creating jobs. certainly not going to argue with that (though that isn't exactly the model that's being proposed locally...) However, whether we need to site windfarms in areas of historical significance is a different debate...

Read the report here...

Monday, 27 January 2014

John Galt and The Vikings

by Andy Lee
A sneaky detail from one of this year's projects...an exhibition to be based on John Galt's epic "The Battle of Largs : A Gothic Poem"....210 years old this year.

With shrieks that shook the midnight air,
Tossing their fell fangs, lean and bare,
The Three Eternal Sisters spoke;
And fiercely through the witched smoke,
Their drugged caldron muttering glar’d,
And with its red lugubrious light
Enhanced the horror of the night,
While populous grew the gloom, and length’ning
Groans were heard.

This project is a stand alone one for 2014, hasn't been specifically funded or anything, it's just something we really fancied doing. This one's down to Neil and Andy...and with a few pieces already complete, it looks like it will be a belter. The more I look at that still, the more I wish it was from a cartoon...hmm...
Galt is one of Greenock's more famous literary exports, find out about a few more on our Grand Literary Tour...

White Gold Needs You...

Lots of real enthusiasm and culture around the Sugar Sheds at the moment (ye might recall we campaigned around their community use a few years back...) already ongoing is the fabulous Absent Voices project, but there's also another project you may wish to be involved in...White Gold. Here's some information if ye fancy jumping aboard...

White Gold needs you!

White Gold, an incredible large-scale performance, will transform the Sugar Sheds in Greenock this June as part of Culture 2014, the celebrations surrounding the Commonwealth Games.

The project
 is led by arts organisation 
Iron Oxide in partnership with the Beacon Arts Centre. It's an original creation by Mark Murphy and includes Cuerda Producciones from ArgentinaAll or Nothing Aerial and DJs/musicians Tigerstyle
Bringing personal stories to life through music, drama and breath-taking aerial performance, White Gold gives the community of 
Greenock top billing as the nation’s stars. The performance can only be realised with the public’s support and input and we are delighted to announce the following opportunities:
Volunteer cast and crew

Volunteers are currently being sought to join the White Gold cast and crew, working with a talented team of artists and theatre professionals.
Cast MembersAssistant Stage Managers, Runners, Lighting Design Crew, Site Crew and Stage Crew are all required. The positions are accessible to anyone 16+, with a willingness to learn and there are a number of roles available, depending on how much time each volunteer has to give. To find out more or request an information pack on any of the above roles please contact Laura@beaconartscentre.co.uk by Fri 15 February. 

Free aerial performance workshops  

Hang, climb, swing and suspend your way through a free taster session in aerial skills with 
Edinburgh's All or Nothing at the Beacon Arts Centre. 
Each session will start with a warm up before moving onto the aerial equipment with a chance to try out rope and material trapeze. You will learn how to get on & off the aerial kit leading onto basic moves, climbs, wraps and tricks and a wee bit of hanging upside down.

Suitable for all abilities - you just need to be willing to give it a go - this is a great introduction to the air and aerial skills.  We'll explain what the White Gold project is all about and how you can get involved in the final performance at the Sugar Sheds in June. 

Participants can choose from one session on: Mon 3 February7.15pm- 8.45pm,

Tue 4 March5.30pm-7pm and Sat 5 April: 11am-12.30pm.

To book a place please contact 
 or call 01475 723723. Places are limited so book quickly to avoid disappointment.

And in case ye missed it the other day, here's our own recent wee Sheds tribute, Mr Cube Strikes...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

On Comixology

Just a quick note to let you know that you can now purchase a special digital edition of Tales of the Oak online, specially formatted for tablet reading via the marvellous Comixology...king of comic apps / online stores.

We are hoping to produce further issues - there's plenty more stories to tell, but it will all depend on raising the funds for further issues...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Mr Cube Strikes

A wee short adventure for popular anthropomorphic logo Mr Cube now, as he explores his feelings about Greenock's iconic Sugar Sheds through a variety of popular comic page styles of the last century. Our effort here was very much inspired by the excellent Absent Voices project taking place throughout 2014 (and of course, comic history through the ages...) If you enjoy our comic strips you can now support our future projects by publishing a digital version of Tales of the Oak online.

Our man Andy Lee has really excelled here, who could fail to love the Gummi Zombie above? And we'll certainly be seeing more of the 1960s Seagull Comic and our team of Local Heroes. And of course you can read more superpowered steampunkery in Tin Jimmy.

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Blast from The Past - Community Heritage Report

"There is no period so remote as the recent past..."

In January 2004, now scarily ten years ago, Magic Torch published a report into local attitudes to and opportunities for local heritage. It was launched in the McLean Museum, and we had speakers along from New Lanark, specifically encouraging everyone who came along to think about the Sugar Sheds in the same way New Lanark had thought about the mills - now of course a massive tourist attraction / social enterprise / unesco world heritage site.

No one commissioned the report, we got the funding and resources to pay for it ourselves, to try and make the case for local heritage at a point in time when it was much further down the agenda - we were very aware of the upcoming riverside regeneration programme, and wanted to try and ensure heritage was embedded in the way forward and in a way which involved our community. Imagine our complete lack of surprise when it wasn't. However it wasn't all bad news, the report formed the backbone of most of the projects we developed for the next few years, specifically our award winning Downriver project.

It's interesting to look back over it now, to see how many of the same debates are still ongoing, the same suggestions being made. Happily, a few of these opportunities and suggestions are gradually coming to fruition, and attitudes to heritage and regeneration have changed. It would be nice to think we gave at least a few people some pause for thought. Even people that would rather we hadn't.

Here then, as a wee curio now in its own right, is the report. (apologies that some of the graphics and tables have bitmapped, but the text is still readable throughout)

Monday, 6 January 2014

Hey, how do you fund stuff?

word cloud of a funding bid I wrote
I mostly like it cos it looks like a dalek

It's the New Year, and time for fresh starts and good intentions. We've quite a few interesting projects lined up for 2014, and we'll reveal all soon, but it got me to thinking...

We are often asked how we manage to fund our projects. Sometimes that question is asked in a nice polite way, other times as if we are being accused of doing something rather unsavoury. Which I suppose depends on your view of our projects really...

Anyhow, I thought I'd go "off topic" for a bit today and share a few brief thoughts for anyone looking to do something interesting this year. It's not an exact science, nor an exhaustive guide, just some very personal and informal answers to questions that seem to often come up. I've been fundraising with Torch and elsewhere now for 15 years, I've made all the mistakes so you won't have to. I hope it can be helpful to at least someone, but the most key piece of advice I would give to anyone is to talk to a potential funder about your idea...funders want to help projects happen, so don't be afraid to lift the phone to ask a question - they won't think you are stupid, and asking questions will only impact positively on your application. Honest. The bids which fail tend to be the ones where people have just spent time filling in a form without first checking with the funder that they meet their funding priorities.

What is project funding? Is that like free money?
The funding I'm talking about, is generally cash resources made available to undertake particular kinds of work. There are lots of different funders, and they all fund different things. Heritage Lottery for example, fund many different types of heritage projects, while Big Lottery fund projects in areas such as Communities and Families or Early Years, . It is not free money, there are always conditions attached to the grant to ensure the money is spent legally and appropriately. It is not a loan, so you would not be expected to pay it back, unless the project is unable to fulfil its delivery. However it is money which has been set aside to be spent on a particular thing. For example, lottery funding likes to try and ensure that every geographic area gets back an appropriate amount based on how much that area spends on buying lottery tickets. Whether it is government supported funds or lottery funding, it is all public money and you and anyone involved in your project have a requirement to ensure it is used responsibly - and you will generally sign a binding document to that effect.

And how do you get it?
Most funds have an application process. Usually there are at least two stages to this
1 - initial project enquiry (quick phonecall or email or online form)
2 - application form

The application form will ask you for all sorts of information about how you will manage your project and measure its success. The application form itself, helps you work out how you will run the project. If you are having difficulty filling it in, chances are, you maybe haven't thought your project all the way through yet. Again, funding officers or your local CVS can help with this bit. No one will write the bid for you, but there will be guidance available.

Does it take long?
Sadly, you cannot phone up asking for a sack of money and have it delivered the next day. Depending on the size of the bid, or the project, or even the fund you are applying for, timescales can be from 3 - 18 months. Every funder and funding stream has guidance about timescales. Read that before you start writing eh? The wrong time to look for funding for that great Halloween project you have an idea for would be September. Try maybe April. Better still, check what the funders actually say about submission timescales by phoning them.

Can I pay myself with funding?
Certain types of companies can be legally structured to allow for this possibility. Lots of good guidance here. The structure should fit what you are trying to do, so for example for us, Magic Torch has a voluntary board, and none of the members of our board can be paid for work we do with our projects - though we can engage other people and pay them to undertake work for us (such as our artists and storytelling trainers from last years Tales of the Oak project)

Do I just get sent a big cheque?
The organisation you are applying for would need a bank account to be eligible to apply. Funding is usually paid in instalments based on your project meeting particular targets and milestones. Generally it would be transferred directly to your organisational account via BACS. Unsurprisingly, funders aren't that keen to pay in to personal accounts.

Do I need to be a charity?
For quite a lot of funders, technically...no. However charity registration will open other avenues of potential funding, and also, helps ensure you are adhering to best practice. Registering as a charity does not cost money, and simply registering does not guarantee you will be granted that status, however, a registered charity must return independently audited accounts each year to the charity regulator (OSCR in Scotland), and this will cost money - generally a few hundred pounds, maximum.

Who funds stuff?
Loads of people, Seriously loads. There's whole databases full of them. They aren't all free though. But subscribing to things like your local CVS Newsletter will get you regularly updated funding information. I'm a big believer in "project idea before funding", but its not unusual to see projects being "developed" to fit funding opportunities.

So what do I do?
Step One - Have vague idea for project, perhaps to meet some unmet need you have observed in your area or community

Step Two - Discuss this with other people to flesh it out and get other perspectives, and also to check it's not already being done (this happens quite a lot - assume nothing) Here's a wee tip, google yer project idea / project name before you head too far down one road.

Step Three - Look online for the sorts of funders who may support such an idea

Step Four - Pick a few and phone them up to discuss. Funding officers are nice, do not fear them. And listen to them when they say things like "what I'd like to see in this bid is..."

A final caveat, funders, certainly all the ones I have worked with, want to see some community benefit underpinning projects. That could be people getting qualifications, new jobs created, access to some sort of support or involvement in creating a piece of art. This will mean talking with and working with people and volunteers from across the community. If that doesn't sound like fun to you, or you worry that the great unwashed will get in the way of your vision for a blockbusting historical epic film / operatic laser lightshow / novel you actually want to write, then I guess what you may be better considering is sponsorship or kickstarter. Just sayin.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year From...

Mars Will Send No More...
Really looking forward to sharing stories old and new with you this year. Some right good projects on the starting block.

For now though, here's a New Year challenge for ye. Fancy writing for the heritage and folklore rollercoaster that is the Tales of the Oak blog? We're always after original insights, unusual heritage or forgotten tales. Sure, Inverclyde is our main focus, but occasionally we dabble elsewhere.
So that's fiction, folklore, poetry, project info and updates and research on our recurrent themes (if you're not sure what they are, read over the most popular posts listings) 500 - 1000 words.
Now *awkward pause*, while we all have our views on the indyref debate, the unfortunately negative polarising power of those discussions for some folk means we won't be specifically covering that here during 2014. Sorry about that, but y'know, it's not like we're short of space to have that debate. I gather that's what twitter is mostly for now.
All pieces will be credited to author, remain copyrighted to them, and we will link to your own blogs etc if you have them. Sadly though, there's no cash, only glory and the satisfaction of a job well done. We're all volunteers here.
So...if you have something you'd like to say...