25 June, 2009

What's a Creative Writing course like?

Every Tuesday morning is Creative Writing morning at the Museum. If you're thinking of coming along: do come along. They're friendly, stimulating -- and run by a man who's written for the BBC.

On Monday, Ben Haller -- he's written for the BBC, ITV, NBC and HBO -- and Learning Interpreter Beth Hughes head downstairs to Insight and burrow into boxes full of old photographs from our archive. They're looking for pictures on a selected theme: last week it was 'magic realism' (for which they chose from the superb Hammer Horror collection of on-set and in-film photos); this week it was 'dialogue'.

Cut to Tuesday, and the Creative Writing course day itself. The pictures were popped in display cases, and the writing circle -- which numbered twelve or so this week -- got to gaze at them, chat about them, make notes, and use them as inspiration for a piece of creative writing.

There was plenty of discussion and friendly chat during the ten minutes I sat in on the circle, and it's obvious that Ben -- who's won't tell me which programmes he's written for, for fear he'll have to kill me due to "contractual obligations" -- has a brain brimming with knowledge and tips.

It's a cosy, supportive environment. And it's going so well that the group have created their own website to share and discuss stories and ideas.

17 June, 2009

And now the screaming stops...

After three days, 31 films, six TV shows, two zombie film costumes and one glowing review in The Guardian, Fantastic Films Weekend drew to a close on Sunday night.

Artistic director and FFW overlord Tony Earnshaw looked tired but happy by the end of our 8th horror and sci-fi filmfest-- you can read his thoughts on the weekend over at our dedicated Fantastic Films Weekend site.

As Tony says, the busiest and best-received films were the mighty Aliens in 70mm (for which we had more audience laughter at Hudson's panic attacks than we -- and one disgruntled Twitterer -- bargained for); the low-budget The Scar Crow, which most attendees agreed punches well above its weight; and The Disappeared. Our special screening of silent classic Vampyr, with specially-composed live accompaniment from Harmonieband, was packed, as was the screening of 1932's Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.

And of course there was Mike "Flash Gordon" Hodges' fascinating screentalk on Sunday night -- which you'll be able to hear in full on our podcasts page shortly.

As for me, I was hectically rushing about grabbing photos of the event (see our Flickr page), and handing out the special "Twitter/Facebook/Flickr us!" minicards we designed and printed specially for the weekend. I unexpectedly ended up on stage before several of the films, dwarfed by the six-foot high Twitter hashtag (#ffw09) being beamed onto the cinema screens behind me. It was gratifying to see all that translate into some lively FFW discussion on Twitter.

But we didn't need Twitter to appreciate what a great community of horror and sci-fi lovers we have, many of whom bought passes for the entire weekend, and all of whom seemed to leave with happy faces (and tweets). Thanks to everyone who came along.

11 June, 2009

Exploring the museum's secret warehouse

Actually, there are two warehouses, and they're not actually that secret. But our 'offsite stores', full of things we can't fit in the collection rooms at Bradford, are places you won't see on a tour of the museum -- they're too far away, being situated at Black Dyke (a former textile mill a few miles outside of Bradford centre) and Swindon.

Toni Booth from Collections Management was happy to take me on a little guided tour of Black Dyke. It's a foreboding place: floor upon floor of gigantic warehouse that puts you in mind of that final scene from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Old TVs, movie posters, laserdiscs, computers, TV scenery and props... everywhere you look there's another fascinating treasure from media's past.

I had to keep my hands in my pockets, though. Pretty much everything is snugly smothered in bubblewrap and of course there is no touching on pain of something even more unpleasant than what people get when they open the Ark Of The Covenant.

35mm films. Hundreds of them. If you've seen 35mm film cannisters before, you'll realise that these relatively small discs don't contain enough film for full-length movies. That's because this is our archive of TV commericals.

A box of the original weather symbols used by Yorkshire TV -- in the days before electronic screens became common.

This will trigger memories of Roland Rat and Mad Lizzie for those of a certain age. We've actually got another of these original logo boards from the 1980s TV-AM breakfast show hanging above TV Heaven at Bradford.

Opening up the boxed Akley 35mm Cinecamera: just one object from the Sarosh Collection, which features hundreds of cameras and projectors. We acquired it all just over two years ago.

It's amazing what we found lurking in Black Dyke -- including this, the original animation set-up of animator Bob "Henry's Cat" Godfrey. Donated by Godfrey himself, it comes complete with the Apple II that controlled it all.

There's a store of videodiscs -- the gigantic precursors to DVDs -- at Black Dyke. These aren't the more commonly-known Laserdiscs: they're CEDs, developed by RCA and housed in a non-removable plastic caddy.

Yes, it's the original Dapple from BBC schools programme Playschool. The rest of the gang – Humpty Dumpty, Jemimah and the rest – are on display at TV Heaven in Bradford.

That's all just scraping the surface -- more pictures soon!