Writing The Outdoors - Symposium and Writer's Lab

WRITING THE OUTDOORS – Symposium & Writer’s Lab

Symposium: Thursday 6th Feb 2020
Lab: Friday 7th Feb 2020 – Sunday 9th Feb 2020

This one day symposium, followed by a three day residential lab for writers, explored the role that writing, text and narrative can play in outdoor arts.

The Symposium

What is the role of words in outdoor arts? Are words and narrative needed where work is purely visual?

This symposium took an in-depth look at the role of narrative, the impact of words, and the possibilities and challenges faced by artists working in outdoor and public contexts. One thing that the Symposium agreed was that narrative is the invisible thread that holds everything together, whether it’s theatre, multidisciplinary arts, or a digital installation.

The lively discussion was chaired by Susanna Roland and Gaylene Gould.

  • Artist, curator and director of the Empathy Museum, Claire Patey, showed how she’d used individual audio stories to explore a sense of place, which audiences listened to on headsets while literally walking in someone else’s shoes. Delegates were able to try the experience for themselves.
  • Comedy writer and performer Susie Donkin talked about her methods of creating comedy characters for text based outdoor art shows.
  • Multi-disciplinary performance maker Melanie Wilson talked about her choice of provocative words and phrases, displayed visually in her outdoor arts installations.
  • Site-specific theatre makers Damian Wright & Claire Raftery from Periplum discussed how they use words as one element alongside sound, atmosphere, visual imagery and audience emotion in their large scale outdoor shows, and how they work with participants from a locality to collect stories.
  • Historic England and the Poetry Society showcased their poetry installations projected onto the walls of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Lab

A three-day residential writers' lab explored a range of story elements and creative techniques with sessions led by visiting artists.

  • A hilarious morning was spent looking at situational comedy, sketch development and character status with comedy writer Susie Donkin.
  • With theatre-makers Periplum, participants explored scale and dramatic imagery playing with intimate focus points, distance and height. We deconstructed simple fairy tales to examine story structure and looked at blocking techniques to tell our stories.
  • A workshop with Paper Cinema stripped back story to a bare minimum, as participants had the chance to create stark imagery using projected illustrations. Although the drawing, cutting and puppetry were at times challenging, it was a good exercise in storyboarding. Participants learnt to convey each scene, propel action and take the story from concept to conclusion in a matter of minutes.
  • Working with writer, Susanna Roland, participants explored visual text, word trails and making their own installations in outdoor locations. They experimented with found art techniques from erasure to cut up stories and created installations from recycled materials.
  • The weekend finished with a fabulous session with dramaturg Sarah Clifford, looking at site-specific and responsive work, and experimenting with building stories and characters through the history of place.

"I’ve had an incredible experience, its completely reinvigorated my creative side. I’ve really enjoyed the writing exercises and meeting our facilitators who are incredible. 101 is vital, generous and completely inclusive."

Wendy Blemings, Writers Lab delegate

Speakers and Facilitators at the Writers' Symposium and Lab

Chair - Susanna Roland

Writer, Producer, and Organiser of international projects and site-specific events.

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Chair - Gaylene Gould

Space Creator, creating spaces for the new, the imaginative and the transformative.

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Clare Patey

Award winning Artist, Curator and Director of The Empathy Museum. Participatory installations & exhibitions.

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Susie Donkin

Comedy Writer and Performer. Founder of Spitz and Co. TV Writer on Horrible Histories and Bearded Ladies.

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Melanie Wilson

Multi-Disciplinary Performance Maker, Writer, Sound Artist and Composer.

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Damian Wright & Claire Raftery

Founders and Artistic Directors of Periplum, creating site-responsive & outdoor theatre performances.

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Historic England

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The Poetry Society

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Paper Cinema

Creating shows using videoed hand drawn puppets, music and song.

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Sarah Clifford

Dramaturg, Writer, and Artistic Director of Inroads, Writer-Led Site Specific Theatre Company.

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