Blog post 1
I approached a company called Quiet Down There, whom I have done some work for before helping out with events such as The Brighton & Hove Children’s Festival and a few different exhibitions and workshops etc. They describe themselves as a company that delivers “Audience Development & Creative Participation”. I set up a meeting to talk about an idea that I could make a children’s fairy tale for them. But actually when I went to meet Lucy Jefferies from the company yesterday I realised they had moved on to doing more events with adults. So I asked her about what community events they had coming up and if they needed anything to promote it. Lucy told me that next year marks a hundred years of women’s suffrage. Quiet Down There have three events spanning over next year to mark this. Instead of some pure promotional audio, Lucy liked the idea that I could make a provocation, something to make people think. Women have only had the right to vote for just under a 100 years and it is important for people to think about the work the suffragettes did to obtain this. There is a famous speech delivered by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1913 named Freedom or Death and this shall be the pivotal starting point for my piece. After speaking to Aasiya there are few things I need to think about. The word provocation stresses that the piece needs to be arty and interesting not just a straight forward recording of the speech. I need to find a way to interpret it through the medium of sound that gives this one hundred year old speech fresh meaning for young feminists today. I need to decide which elements to extract from the speech to make it interesting and arty. There may be something hidden in Emmeline Pankhurst’s life that I can dramatise or something in the locations around London that can be used (where the suffragettes chained themselves to the railings etc). So now I need to carry on researching the suffragette movement and the life of Emmeline Pankhurst. I need to do some listening especially to some sound art (Such as Gregory Whitehead) and to audio dramas to get some ideas. Then for next week I need to to have thought about the treatment of the piece and what I am going to record.
Blog post 2
I have been doing lots of research into the suffragette movement and trying to think about the treatment and recording of my piece. I wanted to know what else was out there audio wise on the suffragettes so I listened to the following pieces.
They took the form of educational podcasts and although interesting are not the style of programme that I want to make. The following is a programme of suffragettes in their old age telling the stories from their young suffragette days.
I found it extremely interesting and moving and it got me thinking about using real stories in my own piece. Following on with that thought I listened to the next piece which I loved! It’s actors giving their voices to the diaries letters and memories of some of those who fought in the trenches of France in WW1.
This gave me the idea of using letters between suffragettes for my piece. I also remembered listening to an previous students piece, called We’ll Meet Again, and really liked the way it was structured to tell the story only using letters.
I found the following letter by a well known suffragette named Bertha Brewster that was published in the Daily Telegraph in 1913 and this spurred on my idea for using letters for my piece.
Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual.
1. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom.
2. Give women the vote.
I then researched if letters between suffragettes were available and found that some are kept in the National Archives and The Keep Archives. I may visit these places look at and source the letters for my piece. I also found online letters between the Pankhurst sisters in their old age which may be of use. I also watched the film, Suffragette and found it extremely moving. I want my piece to be a powerful provocation and so sourcing the right letters to use will be crucial. I then wrote my commission, within which I explained that I want to highlight the suffragette movement and provoke the listener using letters between suffragettes.
I now need to finalise which letters I shall be using. This means visiting the archives and reading through the letters available. After this I will be able to script and structure my piece.
Blog post 3
I’ve not been very well which has left me feeling very behind with my piece. In blog 2 I spoke about finalising the letters that I will be using – which is where I’m still at. I visited the Keep at Sussex uni which has historical archives. There I read letters between Brighton Suffragettes, but there was not enough content in them for me to use. I also read through the letters between the Suffragette Pankhurst Sisters in their old age, and although they had content and mention of the suffragette movement I did not find this interesting enough for my piece. Aasiya suggested Drama Documentaries as a new direction as there didn’t seem to be enough letter content. I have been listening to some drama docs and think that using interviews could bulk up my piece. This American Life and RadioLab are two of my favourite podcasts that I listen to extensively and I realise that they use elements of drama and documentary to tell their stories. Listening to them has given me a vision of how my piece could sound. On Aasiya’s advice I have contacted The Fawcett society for an interview but haven’t heard back yet (even after chasing). It was would be fitting to have an interview with a historian and so in the first instance I contacted the History Department at The University of Westminster who put me in touch with a Dr Helen Glew who is an expert in the field. I have contacted her and am waiting for a reply. My heart is still set on using letters for my piece, and so I have managed to get access to the Women’s library at LSE where they are holding letters on microfilm between notable suffragettes such as Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughters and Mrs Pethick-Lawrence etc. This is exciting research and I hope to be able to use these letters in my final piece. Once I have read these letters I will be able to shape and script my piece as I really need to get started with recording asap this week. I will also look for other interviewees and get chasing.
Blog post 4
I visited the Women’s Library at LSE to view their militant suffragette collection of letters on microfilm. It took me over 5 hours to go through them as they were on an old manual kind of microfilm and it was difficult to get them into focus and to view. I saved around a hundred letters. I started to get a bit worried as the handwriting was very difficult to read, the style they used was flowing and joined up, and was difficult for my eyes as they are used to reading text! I found letters between a suffragette who was in prison named Myra Sadd Brown and her husband. These began to interest me and I started to have ideas about how these could work as an audio drama piece. I then spoke to the curator of the Women’s Library, Gillian Murphy, to see if she could give me an interview on the letters. I mentioned that I was particularly interested in the letters of Myra Sadd Brown, and she said that she was in contact with her Granddaughter and may be able to get me an interview with her, which she did. I have been emailing with Myra’s Granddaughter, Lady Diana Dollery, and have set up an interview for the 22nd November. She is a women’s rights activist and carries on her grandmothers work with pride, so should be an interesting interview. She seems keen to talk about her grandmother and keeps sending me photos and little stories about her etc. So now I’m envisaging using her interview about her grandmother, as the documentary part and then using actors to voice the letters as the drama part. This is what I’m going to work towards.
I spent the best part of a week painstakingly transcribing the letters, and have come up with 5 characters and their letters. I then shaped these into 5 characters scripts, which are Myra Sadd Brown, her husband Ernest Brown, A cockney paper boy as the narrator, the Home Secretary and Myra and Ernest’s children. I then had to rewrite the letters so that they flowed better to be spoken aloud and as Aasiya suggested made the sentences shorter and punchier. This took a lot longer than I thought and I am beginning to feel a bit behind but I’m so excited with the content and subject matter. After Matthew’s suggestion I advertised for voice actors on Social, media, Gumtree and emailed the Wireless Theatre company a casting call. I had a reply on Gumtree from an Actress who was looking to get back into voice acting. She sent me a clip of her reading an American suffragette letter she found online. She is good. I Sent her a sample of one of Myra’s letters to read. I really like her voice for the part of Myra. She read it with the perfect accent and her voice is lovely but has a striking quality to it that makes you want to hear more. I am very excited to have her record the part of Myra. I have arranged to record her in the studios at Harrow on Wednesday 22nd at 5pm. I wanted to do it a bit earlier but she understandably wanted time to read through and practice the letters. Now I must focus on casting the rest of the roles. I’m worried that I’m being too ambitious so if not all the characters I would love to have the husband and the cockney paper boy. This is what is worrying me most. I have emailed a few actors on voiceovers.co.uk for the part of the cockney paper boy but no answer yet. In other news Dr Helen Glew at The university of Westminster put me in touch with a Lindsey Jenkins who is an expert on militant suffragettes and I am waiting to hear back from her in regards to an interview. So my focus now is to conduct the interview and recording that I have set up and push to find the other actors for the parts.
See sample of one of Myra’s letters.
Blog post 5
My interview with Diana Dollery went very well. I was worried about the acoustics of the recording venue as we were due to record in LSE’s library gallery, which I had never seen before. Also it was scheduled for lunchtime so I was worried it might be noisy. Luckily the curator of the women’s library joined myself and Diana for the interview and asked security to shut the doors. I recorded some wild track to use to place the setting. I also asked Diana to say where we were, (i.e. in the women’s library where her grandmothers letters are kept) so the background noise in not a problem in the final edit. Diana is an absolute firecracker and so interesting. She had so much to say about her grandmother. I got a lot of content from her. This took a while for me to edit down as I wanted to keep it all. I managed edit her interview into clips to use throughout the piece but still need to edit her down.
I then recorded actress Rosanna King for the part of Myra Sadd Brown. We had quite a lot of content to cover and I have never had to direct anyone before so found it a little bit hard. We did each of the letters numerous times and went over bits that I thought could sound stronger. A few times I asked her to ‘give it everything’ as I was worried it might sound a bit flat. I edited the letters and was a bit worried as there was quite a lot of popping. On the whole though I thought she sounded nice but it wasn’t like the clip of audio she sent me over when I was casting her in the role. After Aasiya’s suggestion I asked her back in to re-record. This time I went over each section with her, explaining the background and context and giving possible feelings and emotions behind each bit. For example when she is talking about sending her children hugs and kisses I explained to Rosanna that Myra actually was preached about to other suffragettes as an example of how you could leave your young children while you were in prison and they would be fine. Her sacrifice went in the suffragette paper and was made an example of. I hope this gave Rosanna some background to work with and the second go at recording went a lot better, with lots more emotion going from talking about one subject to another. I was happier when editing the re-records.
I had two actors interested in the part of Ernest Brown which I found through a Facebook group for creative people. After asking both to send me a clip of them reading a sample of the script, I chose Daniel Armstrong for the part. His voice has a lovely tone to it that points to Edwardian times and even though he is a little young I have gone with him as at the end of it all age is not the most important thing. He has done a fair bit of voice acting before and so was used to the microphone technique and studio. We recorded on Sunday in about 2 hours and I am happy with the result. It didn’t take too long to edit Ernest’s part.
I had two people interested in the Cockney Paper Boy’s part through Gumtree but both didn’t respond when I asked them to record me a clip. I then had two more interested through a website called behindthevoiceactors.com where they had to audition for the part. I didn’t like either of the auditions, one was too bland and one was over the top and comical. In the end I have decided not to have the Cockney Paper Boy character as Diana’s interview actually narrates the story well and the Cockney Paper Boy would not add so much more.
So I now have the bare skeleton of my piece with the audio all laid out in the right order. What I have to do now is, edit it down as it is still too long. Cut down Diana’s parts as she does waffle on sometimes, and also cut down some of the letters as I don’t want it to be too long winded and for my listener to get bored. I need to try and edit out the pops in Rosanna’s parts. I need to add music and actuality and something to signpost the different parts of the piece. Then add sound effects and possibly create dramatised scenes for the beginning and end. I especially need to make the ending significant as my piece is about giving women a voice.
Blog post 6
This week I have carried on editing and finishing off my piece. I cut down the piece to 20 minutes. I managed to edit out the majority of the popping. I wanted to used music to structure my piece so I found music I thought would fit the dramatic elements of my piece on Bensound.com. There I found music that signposted to the time of my piece for the letter elements and another bit of music for the documentary element. I mixed these into my piece. I created an opening montage from the voice actors reading the dates to set the scene. I then created a dramatic ending using a line from one of Myra’s letters that I had to cut out due to time. It is about ‘carrying on the fight’ and so fits the ending well. I then added sound effects to bring the story to life. Overall I am happy with the way my piece sounds.