Kelly Jones and Linda Sandvik are one of two teams we are supporting through the 2015 Writing Platform Bursary Programme, in association with Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Writer, Kelly, and technologist, Linda, applied to the programme as individuals and were paired by the selection panel because of their shared interests, complementary skill and their openness to collaborating with someone they had never met.
Kelly’s and Linda’s project is inspired by Kelly’s parents meeting on illegal CB Radio and uses physical computing to explore the ideas of connection and intimacy, ephemerality and permanence.
We spoke with Kelly and Linda about how 1.4 for Copy came into being, the collaboration process and where they will go from here.
Tell us about your project 1.4 for copy – what is it, how does it work, and where can people experience it?
Kelly: The initial idea for 1.4 for copy came from myself being inspired by the story of how my parents met on an illegal CB radio in Dagenham in 1981. CB is a great piece of kit, the first R&D (NTW Waleslab) I did on the piece we just played with CB radio to test it capability as a performance platform. There is something so beautiful about the static of CB, you can spend hours just waiting for a voice to appear, it’s quite mesmerizing. CB is still very much alive in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. I met their local CB guru and we spoke about the science of radio waves and the technical side of how CB works. I think that’s informed the work. The piece we have made for MIX is an interactive sound sculpture, that’s aim, is to connect the audience through out the conference space. Using the real sound clips of my parents and some written scenes performed by voice actors, the audience will have to work for the story. The less people that fill the space the more distorted and fragmented the story becomes, there are CB radios in the space so they can radio other audience members to help them out.
Linda: We are using PIR sensors and arduinos on the entry and exit doors to count how many people are in the room, the more people the better you can hear the story.
What story are you telling through 1.4 for Copy and what do you hope to inspire or provoke in people?
Kelly: 1.4 for Copy is about connection. As a society I feel that we are quite disconnected from each other. Politically now is very much a replica of what was going on in the 1980s, tory government, recession, mass unemployment. In times of hardship we should be sticking together and helping each other out but this doesn’t seem to be the case. We very rarely help each other out anymore. The piece aims to take us away from our phones and social media and make us talk to one another. I hope to make people form new relationships and speak to people they may never have thought about. It’s not just about the story of two people meeting, I’d love the audience to share their own stories with each other.
How has the project evolved from when you first started working on it to the final piece?
Kelly: Originally when myself and Linda began to talk about the project we knew we didn’t want to make a website. Both myself and Linda have a love of immersive theatre gaming shows, which meant we were both thinking something a bit more audience participatory. Originally we thought we’d make something a bit like a CB radio chat roulette. Each audience members getting CB licenses, booths being placed in different locations enabling them to talk to each other. However we both realized quite quickly that it was essentially just Skype and didn’t say what both interested us about the project. We met up to discuss the heart of the idea, why we liked the project, what interested us the most and what we liked. Which is when we came up with what we are doing for MIX. I think projects always naturally become through process what they were always meant to be.
You applied to the programme as individuals and were paired by the selection panel, what was it like embarking on an artistic collaboration with someone you had never met, let alone worked with? Did it throw up particular challenges and how did you handle them?
Kelly: At first I think I found it hard. It can take a long time to get used to a collaboration and because I live in Wales and Linda lives in London, every time we saw each other there was no time for testing each others working practice we just had to get down to business. I think the collaboration found it’s own rhythm and actually as it worked out, we were well matched. In hindsight I think it may have been good to have arranged a workshop by an external party for us to get used to making together prior to actually making together. I don’t think the partnership didn’t work, actually myself and Linda have plans to continue working on the project together, I just wish we had more time to establish each others working process.
Kelly you applied as a writer and Linda, you applied as a technologist, what was your working process? Were their clear demarcations around who did what or was it more fluid than that?
Kelly: I’d say the process was quite a fluid one. After the initial meeting we kept chatting and batting ideas back and forth. I think for me and Linda this worked very well. It meant between meetings we had time to reflect back on what we had discussed and sift out anything that we felt didn’t work for the project.
I think my role in the project changed. I feel I started out being the writer but that quickly adapted to writer/maker. I think this helped us pull together our ideas. In my practice I am both a writer and maker so was happy that I got to use those skills. I also work quite visually and this comes from my maker background, this helped us look at the project from a different angle and imagine what the piece we were to make might look like.
What did you learn from making 1.4 for Copy? And what will you take away from your collaboration?
Kelly: Well, myself and Linda will be working together in the future, so the collaboration has helped shape a new creative partnership. I think I have learnt that when forming a new creative partnership it takes time and patience. It also means working around both of your workloads. Linda is very good at explaining the technical stuff to me so I have learnt a load about how to use a combination of gadgets to make a project work. A lot of the projects I work on have digital aspects, or at least I want them to, I have never had any idea how to execute them. I feel like I am now able to at least try to break it down in what needs to be in place in order to make it work and not just be an add on but an essential for the show.
Linda: I think what we have now is just the beginning and I’m really looking forward to working more with Kelly. When we started I had never even heard of CB radio, but the recordings of Kelly’s parents immediately fascinated me, and I was able to borrow a CB radio that I tried out.
What’s next for 1.4 for Copy?
Kelly: Well, I have a seed commission to write the play from NTW but myself and Linda have also been invited to apply for Experimentica Festival with the piece we are showing at MIX.
Linda: There are a lot of ways I want to improve/expand on 1.4 copy but most would require extra funding and money for equipment. A better way to count people using kinects would be good, as well as more walkie talkies/turning it into a collaborative treasure hunt game.
And what’s next for each of you – any projects in the pipeline that we should keep an eye out for?
Kelly: I am touring a show of mine THE DROWNED GIRL in Wales this autumn. The Drowned Girl is a solo show about, unsuccessfully learning how to swim as a child vs. adult drowning and wading through life when grieving. It’s made up of stories from my life and a fusion of storytelling and concrete sound made up from the places in the story.
Linda: I am finishing my Knight-Mozilla fellowship at the Guardian, and dream of going to Antarctica or the Arctic and taking more aerial photographs with helium balloons and kites.
Kelly Jones is Winner of the Wales Drama Award 2014. Originally from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, she has been living and working in Wales since 2007. Her plays are rooted in real human stories and often take inspiration from personal experiences, her upbringing in Dagenham and rooting in Wales.
Linda Sandvik is a creative technologist and Knight-Mozilla fellow 2015. She likes making things with code and electronics, and is interested in civic tech, serious games and loves a good story.