Lumiere Durham

Last weekend, we went to visit the Lumiere festival at Durham.

Lumiere is a four day (or – more accurately – four night) arts event, featuring a bunch of light-based works by a collection of international artists. I took my trusty camcorder along, and made this:

We did have a *slight* sense of trepidation before the visit. If you took the vistor feedback on the festival website at face value, you would probably be expecting scenes of crowd-crush bedlam and bodies floating down the river Wear… but — fortunately — our actual experience wasn’t anything like that at all. We visited at 8pm on the Sunday, drove straight into a space at the free park-and-walk on the outskirts of town, had a pleasant stroll around all the installations (it was surprisingly warm for a mid-November night!), and the only delay we encountered all night was a 10 minute queue to get through the front door of the Cathedral. Totally stress-free visit.

I enjoyed Lumiere a lot; it was fascinating to see familiar Durham landmarks transformed into large-scale works of art. The Marquess of Londonderry’s Statue encased in a ginormous snow globe, a manic 8bit chip-tune disco in Wharton park, and the images of Durham Cathedral Cloisters transformed into a sprawling steampunk fire garden are just a few of the memories that will persist for a very long time indeed. Great stuff.

This was the second Lumiere to be held in Durham (the first was in 2009), and I hope they do another one in spite of all the whingers… it’s great to see an arts event on this scale in the North East – Roll on 2013!!

I’m pleased with how the video came out… it was all shot without the aid of a tripod, and the camera’s low-lux / spotlight modes coped pretty well with the tricky lighting conditions. This is, unfortunately, edit number 2… YouTube balked at my original choice of soundtrack (Apoptygma Berserk‘s cover version of “Electricity” – which matched the footage *perfectly*) … so I re-cut everything to a creative-commons licensed tune to keep the copyright police happy. Pity. I’ll just have to keep the (vastly superior) director’s cut in the archives for now…

Update: while writing this post, I got a tweet from the festival organisers to say they’re featuring my “film” on the front page of the official Lumiere website (woot!). Finally, my work is picked up by a major international arts festival *cough* πŸ˜‰

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Ottery St Mary

Another entry in my ongoing project to film strange British customs…

A traditional Dorset event in which the residents of Ottery St Mary take tar-filled barrels, soak them with paraffin, set them on fire, hoist them above their heads, and then charge through crowds of screaming drunk people.

This continues until the barrel disintegrates… then they do it all over again, with progressively bigger barrels. What could possibly go wrong??

Was surprisingly good fun, actually… and well worth seeing before it’s banned (apparently their public liability insurance is getting harder to pay with every passing year… can’t begin to imagine why…)

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Newcastle Gamers, 12th November

Paid my second trip to Newcastle Gamers at the weekend, and decided to turn up a bit earlier this time… which was probably just as well, as the games that I joined turned out to be pretty lengthy ones…

First up was The Pillars of the Earth, with the expansion set added on to allow a full complement of 6 people to play:

I Enjoyed this one a lot. Pillars is a game that I’d considered buying in the past, but eventually passed over on the grounds that I was getting a tiny bit bored of games with the theme of “collect resources to build churches to earn victory points”. (Though I’d got as far as reading the rule book while making my mind up, which came in handy, since pretty much everybody at the table was new to the game).

Oh well.. another bad decision on my part. Turns out that Pillars is exactly the kind of game I like; a well-crafted exercise in worker-placement which manages to give you lots of options, but without an overbearingly-complex rule set. Everybody at the table seemed to pick it up pretty quickly, even with the expansion set added to the mix. It took us the best part of three hours to finish the game but the time flew past. Would definitely play this one again. Might even need to buy myself a copy after all πŸ˜‰

Next up: Battlestar Galactica. BSG is a game that I’ve been keen to play; it’s been highly-placed in the Board Game Geek charts for as long as I can remember, and the whole semi-co-operative werewolf-esque “which-player-is-really-a-cylon?” mechanic always struck me as being interesting… but it’s another case of a game that doesn’t work with 2 players, so isn’t ideal for my own collection.

I’d already got wind that BSG is a particular favourite at Newcastle Gamers, so I’d done my homework before turning up this week (i.e. downloaded the rulebook pdf, and given it a quick read-through). Probably just as well… originally, we were going to play a plain-vanilla game (since a couple of us were first-time players), but a couple of the more-experienced BSG players at the club got the scent of a game about to kick off, and were keen to add in extras from the Pegasus expansion… so by the time we started, some serious scope-creep had taken place πŸ˜‰

Verdict on the game? Mixed opinions. There are aspects I like, and aspects that left me cold. The core is decidedly ameritrashy; lots of dice-based combat resolution and random event cards – neither of which I’m a particularly big fan of. The psychological/deductive metagame – figuring out who is really human, and who is secretly a cylon – is kind of fun though (and very cleverly implemented), and you really can’t fault the makers on their fidelity the source material.

That said, Battlestar is probably my least-favourite of the games that I’ve played at the club so far. Nevertheless, it was still good to finally get to try it out! (another notch in the board-gaming bedpost…)

So… only 2 games played this week, but they still managed to take the best part of 6 hours to get through(!)… plus, the feeling of being a club newbie is now wearing off nicely (I’m even starting to remember people’s names… and I’m *rubbish* at remembering people’s names!)

All-in-all, a good night’s entertainment πŸ™‚

CREDITS: Session pics gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers web site. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month… usual cost is Β£3, but your first visit is free. More details here.

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Last weekend we went to the West Country, in pursuit of more material for Averil’s website. Bridgwater Carnival came as a bit of a surprise… I know that Carnival parades are big on the continent, but I’ve never seen a float-based parade on this kind of scale anywhere in the UK before. Some of the entries were jaw-droppingly impressive (The tableux/human-statue “Overthrow of The Tzar” – around 6:20 in the vid – being a particular work of art; Youtube doesn’t even start do it justice compared to real life). Makes me wish we had Carnival clubs in this part of the country… building those things looks fun!

The video is just a few of the highlights (i.e: bits where people didn’t get in the way of my camera) – the full parade took about two and a half hours to pass by where we were standing. No wonder all the locals brought chairs with them.

The next day we went to check out the tar barrel rolling at Ottery St Mary… which is a much more olde-worlde / insanely-dangerous / fire-based tradition. The footage from that is my next editing project…

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Bitter #3

Bitter #3

My adventures in home brew continue! After two very successful batches of Woodfordes Wherry and Great Eastern, I thought I should maybe branch out and try something a bit different. This is a batch of “Geordie Bitter” wort, made up with a bag of BKE (“Beer Kit Enhancer” – a mixture of malt and dextrose) instead of regular sugar. 

Despite the colder weather, the fermentation went way faster than with the Woodfords kits (which tended to be a bit slow/sticky), leaving a final abv of around 4.2%. Smelled delicious when it went into the barrel… (a bit like toffee apples, which seemed strangely appropriate for the time of year). Now I just have to let it mature for a few weeks…
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