Rob Manuel speaking at The Story 2013 (c) Miriam Randall
Rob Manuel speaking at The Story 2013 (c) Miriam Randall

The Story 2013 by Miriam Randall


01 March 2013

Last week the Lighthouse gang went along to The Story conference in London, an annual event run by Matt Locke of Storythings. This year’s edition was brilliant and inspiring, featuring an eclectic programme of talks by artists, musicians, writers, directors and producers, each with stories about their work and passions.

The Story 2013
The Story 2013

A major highlight from The Story for me was the appearance of legendary musician Edwyn Collins who, in an honest and moving discussion with Matt Locke, spoke about rebuilding his life after suffering a stroke in 2005. After his stroke, Collins suffered complete memory loss and his communication was limited to saying yes or no. During this time he tried to communicate through music, and to demonstrate this, he treated us to a spine tingling rendition of Searching for the Truth, a song he wrote in hospital. Collins was also joined on stage by filmmaker Edward Lovelace, who presented captivating clips from In Your Voice, In Your Heart, his documentary about Collins’ fight to regain his identity, memories and passion for music.

Continuing the filmic theme, the next talk was by film producer Rebecca O’Brien, who told us about the making of The Spirit of ‘45, the new documentary by Ken Loach. O’Brien has worked with Loach for 25 years, and her talk was a highly entertaining insight to their working relationship. The film was partly inspired by Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City. Using archive footage and real conversations, The Spirit of ‘45 champions Britain’s post-war welfare state provision and aims to show the next generation how things have changed.

Fiona Romeo, head of design and digital media at the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, gave a truly inspirational talk about her work in museum curation and her passion for telling stories through exhibitions. Partly inspired by her early work for Disney, Romeo is committed to finding new ways to radically improve the visitor experience, breaking away from the methods traditionally used in museums. To do this she has worked with artists, comic book designers, toy makers and copywriters, so each exhibition provides a compelling narrative in a physical space, through layout, graphic elements, responsive tools and interpretive text. An example of this is Romeo’s collaboration with United Visual Artists for High Arctic, an exhibition about climate change at the National Maritime Museum in 2010. In preparation for designing the exhibition, UVA were dispatched to the Arctic, to get a true sense of the environment, before returning to produce a hugely successful exhibition that imagined an eerie Arctic-less future.

The final act of the day was a brilliant and impassioned talk by Rob Manuel, co-founder of the B3ta website. He spoke about a disturbing new form of online snobbery that’s emerging, through referencing “the bottom half of the internet”. Manuel described such references, often made by celebrities, media owners and opinion formers (or people paid to write on the internet) as class war and expressed his concern that people who aren’t paid to write on the internet, but dare to post their opinions, are treated as the bottom half of culture, proles and commentards. It was a powerful and thought provoking talk and an excellent end to the day.

The conference also featured beautiful political artwork by Molly Crabapple, a hilarious reading by performance poet and novelist, Laura Dockrill, mesmerizing animations by Mikey Please and Ben Bocquelet, revealing insights into economics and new media communications by Diane Coyle and Alex Balfour, and highly comical performances by playwright and screenwriter Alecky Blythe and writer and academic Alice Bell.

Thank you to Matt Locke, the Storythings team, and all the speakers for an amazing day. I’m looking forward to next year!


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