my big august

dear imaginary blog reader, please do not expect too much of me at the moment. i’m in the recovery position after a very big august (in fact july was quite big too). there are more than 200 emails in my inbox, files are piling up on top of each other on my desktop, and even the physical table beside me is stacked with unsorted piles and bags of mail, festival brochures, gifts, travel accessories, documents, boarding passes, very important receipts, empty plastic cups and pristine new handkerchiefs (more on that later). there is also some sticky substance on the edge around the keyboard of my laptop which is vaguely disturbing as i type …

Helen, Madeline & Dawn at the Magdalena 25th anniversary festival

i know you’re thinking, “ahah, she’s been to another one of those crazy intense magdalena festivals” and yes, you are right; but this time it was even more crazy-busy and intense than usual, plus i was really busy before the festival and then, instead of going off for a quiet rest afterwards, i went straight into an equally intense five-day book sprint. “ahah,” you are thinking, “she’s finally flipped, lost balance, gone over the edge … ” well, it almost felt like that. there were indeed moments during the festival when i knew that i had taken on just a little bit too much, and afterwards when i knew that having a break would have been better … but, happily, i was working with great people & in the end it was all worthwhile.

the festival – legacy & challenge, the 25th anniversary of the magdalena project – was more intense than usual because i had three separate projects to juggle: the launch of the new website; a programme of streaming festival events and streaming in artists who couldn’t come to the festival; and a performance of make-shift.

Introducing the new Magdalena Project website
Valentina introduces the new website to some of the Magdalenas.

the new web site has kept me busy for several months; we began to talk about it last year, with serious planning beginning in february when jill worked with steve allison to develop the design and i met with valentina & julia in denmark to plan the structure and content of the new site. i then approached agnez bewer, who i’d worked with on the eclectic tech carnival site last year (along with others) to see if she would do the tricky parts of the new drupal site. happily she said yes, and we started work with the core team of myself, agnez and princess valentina. others also contributed, most notably miff moore who undertook the potentially tedious task of creating pdfs for each individual article that has been published in the 13 issues of the open page. during late july we invited a number of testers to have a look at the site & give feedback, and worked with magdalena australia to create their own site-within-the-site. as launch-day drew near there were still a few things that we had to put on the “to do after the festival” list, but mostly it was working well & we launched to great applause at the opening of the festival. during the festival we had two sessions (and a lot of informal sessions!) where valentina & i helped people to register and start using the site.

at the same time, i coordinated the streaming in & out of the festival. jessie brookes was our official “streamer”, responsible for streaming out the conference sessions at the festival to an online audience of between 15 & 25 each day. a text chat alongside the stream allowed the remote participants to chat amongst themselves & comment on what was being said. there were people tuning in from australia, norway, brasil and i don’t know where else – all very appreciative of the opportunity to have a taste of the festival, see familiar faces and hear the voices. for the most part the streaming worked very well, although every day during our very limited set-up time, we were challenged by a different problem. but with the help of graham, giles & the team of very efficient technicians we managed to overcome everything & keep the stream going.

streaming in was a little more complex, as it was difficult for some to manage both the stream and the text chat so the communication tended to be a bit one-way. after a bumpy start we got going, running a bit late, & had successful presentations from magdalena singapore, magdalena australia, and ruby brunton (also in australia). unfortunately by this time it was 1pm, & the strict timetable of the festival required that we stop short of the last two presentations to go to lunch. later that afternoon we had a successful stream-in from ana corea in peru, who at the last minute was unable to come to the festival due to a delay with her visa.

managing the web site and streaming was pretty much a full-time job; but wait, there’s more! paula & i performed make-shift on the second last day of the festival. we’d wisely done a tech rehearsal the day before the festival started, as i knew once things got going i would have very little spare time. we did manage to squeeze a couple of hours out of another morning for a run, which i desperately needed to practice my cues – there is a very fragile balance of cues between the interfaces & it’s difficult to improvise through a stuff-up when you’re dealing with 5-10 seconds lag and a highly mediated environment. there was also an issue with screens: the living-room of the house i was to perform in has red walls; dark red – basically the worst colour to try & project onto apart from maybe black. it was immediately clear that a screen was required, & giles very obligingly & quickly found one. but when it came to the tech rehearsal and we tried to put it up, we realised that it was far too big for the room, & i had to do the rehearsal projecting onto the red wall. frank was then equally obliging & produced a much smaller old-style roll-up screen on a stand – very nice but sadly … too small!! at last on thursday, 2 days before the show, giles showed me a middle-sized screen. it was in a large studio, so hard to gauge how big it would be in a living room, but we decided it would have to do. it was taken to the house on friday afternoon, and on saturday morning at 8.30am – an hour & a half before the show – valentina & i managed to assemble it & had to quickly work out how to position everything around it. the audience arrived at 9.30, by which time we did have the screen in position but i wasn’t in my costume & hadn’t prepared all of my props … calmly i did everything that needed to be done and we started on time at 10am. everything went smoothly (apart from the projecting computer crashing in the final minutes of the show … ) & the audience respose was good.

Magdalena Project dinner

you might think, dear imaginary blog reader, that after this i got to have a big glass of wine & a lie down; well … i had the glass of wine. but months before, in a previous lifetime, i’d agreed to participate in gabriella sacco’s workshop & performance which was also part of the festival. as the time got closer, i realised that i’d over-committed myself, so i negotiated with gabi to come to the workshop for just an hour or so & make a small appearance in the performance. luckily this fitted in with how gabi’s ideas were evolving, & so after a brief session on friday morning, valentina & i staged a little intervention within the performance late on saturday night. this was fun, as all my more stressful responsibilities were over & i got to wear an emergency poncho, play with the little projector & fit in around the wildness of the performance, which culminated with half the audience joining the performers on stage for some wild punk dancing – very appropriate for the final night of the festival!

now comes the week of lying down, you’re thinking? oh no! i travelled by train to london with madeline, a fast journey with the help of slivović and stand-up (actually, sit-down) comic routines; in london i stayed with jenny but hardly saw her, as she was busy with work & i was frantically trying to get a funding application into a presentable state for a meeting with furtherfield. it rained a lot, the tube was crowded & hot. the meeting went well, & then – time to lie down? hell, no! i took a train to peterborough & a bus to bourne, where i was picked up & taken to cawthorpe hall to join a CiviCRM book sprint, producing this manual about the software (which at the time we used for the magdalena aotearoa site); four days of fairly intense editing & proofreading, with a small country excersion & some night-time frisbee thrown in for variety.

CiviCRM Book Sprint group
The CiviCRM Booksprinters.

finally, after all of this, after wearing all of my winter clothes (some times almost all at once) while my summer tops languished in the bottom of my suitcase, after all this work & socialising & travelling, finally i returned to munich & my home-away-from-home; munich, where the sun had shone & the people sweltered for 3 weeks, while i carried my umbrella every day. home to where my delayed birthday post awaited me, where andy’s father was visiting & changed his plans to meet me, to where i could finally empty out my suitcase and attend to the piles that now demand my attention …

so, believe me, it was a big august. i’m trying to rest, honest i am – i even did Absolutely Nothing on saturday. for a whole 24 hours & more!!!