ISTA High School Festival, Calderdale, 2010

Post length: 1,274 words, about 5 and a half minutes.

So that’s it, it’s all over. It’s been hard work, but great fun. I’ve met a great bunch of people, and never seen such a dedicated group of young people working towards a common goal before. If anyone feels the need to do down young people I’d invite them to spend the week at one of the ISTA festivals and then re-evaluate their opinion.

I did discover one thing though – I’m no good at networking. This causes something of a problem in my industry.

ISTA is the International Schools Theatre Association. My old theatre school hosted one of their festivals from the 28th to 31st October, 2010. I was invited to shoot the week.

I stayed with my parents and decided to travel up on the Tuesday before so that I had a day off before. The students were due to register at 4pm on Thursday, and I’d agreed to arrive at about half 2.30pm so that I could have a look around the school (the festival was based at Calder High) and get a good handle on what was going on. I arrived a little early: I had been in Halifax in the morning with my parents, and so got the bus from Halifax bus station through to Mytholmroyd, and I wanted to arrive in plenty of time as I’d never been to the school before. I waited in the school reception for a while until Jez arrived. (Jez is a teacher at Calder High who was also a member of Calderdale Theatre School. He, along side Gillie, had done most of the organising of the festival.)

Shortly after Gillie turned up with all the ISTA staff who had been having a tour of Hebden Bridge – as part of the festival the students were taken around a number of sites around the town in order that they may draw inspiration from them for their final performance pieces. I was introduced to them, and joined them on the tour of the school and their work spaces. Now, Calder High is a maze. My old high school was pretty straight forwards – one straight corridor on each floor with the classrooms off them. Calder High is much more complicated than that. It has corners and junctions all over the place. Some signs had been put up, but that didn’t stop me not being able to find the music rooms for the first session. I think, by the end, I could just about work out where I was going, but I certainly couldn’t give directions. Sam can testify to that.

Sam arrived on the Friday to get some video. He is working is ISTA itself to improve their marketing. Part of this task is using the Calderdale festival to put together a short video for their website showing what the festivals are like. Personally I found his style of working a little bit too intrusive. By that I mean that he would go out and put himself right in the middle of the activity he was filming; for example often getting between the group leaders and the students. This is not the way I work – I spent the week on the sidelines of the action with long lenses shooting past people, but trying to make myself as invisible as possible. (This method gets me the shots I want – real candid action shots – as people don’t know where or what I’m shooting, and seems to have been appreciated by the group leaders as well. Two of them commented on it as we were leaving, the first telling me that I was “discreet but still involved” and that it was “everything you would ever want from someone doing your job”, the second thanking me for handling the event “sensitively”.  Those two comments mean a lot to me. Now I have to hope they like the finished product!) I know that photography and videography are different arts, but I still felt he was a little too intrusive. Perhaps this is partly because he kept getting into my shots. I suspect when I finally work through the photos there will be quite a number with him in the background.

Friday was the day out and about around Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall. I went in the car with Gillie and David, the festival AD, and hopped around the different groups. I’m glad that worked out because I was concerned that I wouldn’t get to see all of the groups. As it was it was perfect, I got shots of Jess’ devising group in Hebden Bridge town square, Ruth’s movement group in the town hall, around the old packhorse bridge, and in a graveyard at the top of the ‘butress’ (the old trail from Heptonsall to Hebden Bridge), and the music group around in and around the church in Heptonsall. I even did the walk from the river in Hebden right up to Heptonstall at one point. And the weather held off wonderfully. I spent some time on Friday afternoon with the ensembles back at the school. It was interesting to see things coming together.

The students had a set of workshops on Saturday morning from some of the ISTA staff and some local practitioners. This was interesting – a number of the local practitioners are CTS regulars and it was interesting to watch some of the workshops I’d done before from the outside. There was also a trapeze workshop as well as a workshop from Ryburn Long Sword on traditional Yorkshire Long Sword dancing. All good fun.

After all these things in the day, there were a number of evening events for teachers and staff. I was invited to them all, but made excuses to avoid every one of them. I still think I had a good reason not to go to the meals and things, but I wish I’d gone to the wine and cheese evening on the first night. It would have been a late night, but I think it would have been a good networking opportunity. This is something I think I need more practice at. I’m not the best at talking to people I don’t know, and even when I do know people well I’m not the best person in big groups. I’ve noticed these things always seem to occur to me when I’m back up north. This is my homework for next time!

The festival finished on Sunday. The culmination of the event was a performance by each of the groups, put together into one piece of about 45 minutes, based on what they had been working on in the previous few days and the inspiration they had drawn from the day out around Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount, but as I’d been lead to believe previously it all seemed to come together remarkably well at the last minute. I got to shoot the ‘dress’ rehearsal as well as the final performance which was a relief as my position wasn’t great and the lighting was pretty low during the final performance. It’s always hard to really follow something when you’re shooting it but the performance was well received (although given the audience was made up of parents and supporters, that’s perhaps not a huge surprise).

With the close of the performance came the close of the festival. There were many emotional farewells and, as expected with drama students, lots of tears. I hung around to get some choice shots of those too before quietly heading off home.

Posted on Tuesday 2nd November, 2010 at 12:40 pm in Arts & Ents, Photography, Theatre, Work & Career.
It was tagged with , , , , , , , , , .

Leave a comment