It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this website. One reason is that I’ve produced a new website for my business partnership KOLEKTO, so a lot of content is on there now. Another reason is I’ve not been doing so much film work, so news isn’t quite so relative here. Lastly, since March, things have been…… well, weird!
Lockdown here has been pretty stringent. One walk a day, and mainly one shop a week. No travel between islands. I’ve only been out of Stromness once, travelling to Kirkwall for compressed logs for the stove. Like most folk I’m missing many ‘normal’ things – seeing friends and family, early doors on a Friday night, that first time in 7 years holiday abroad we’d planned to Budapest! As for my beloved West Side Cinema which last closed it’s doors on 07 March, I didn’t quite realise what a major part of my life that was, socially and creatively. Professional work has dropped considerably, and trying to get into a sense of rhythm, and a daily schedule, is so difficult. Moods really do swing. And energy levels? I’m amazed at how much we used to fit into a day.
On the flip side, we do have room to roam. Although walks are becoming repetitive, I’m not going to complain about having access to quiet roads and beautiful shore line trails. And the slow down is giving me time to return to things I wasn’t doing enough of, particularly reading and research.
And some new and really positive things have developed for me that probably wouldn’t have happened without the lockdown. I have been busy turning the cinema on line with initiatives such as Fire Side Cinema, What’s On At Home, and West Side goes to We Are One: A Global Film Festival, which we’re currently in the middle of.
And then there’s music. I DJ’ed a lot back in my Edinburgh days, from the early 90’s through to 2000’s. It was a mixture of laid back Sunday nighters in small bars, to Big Beat club nights pulling in up to 400 folk, to huge Edinburgh Film Festival parties. But moving on a decade, and to Orkney, in 2011 I joined Mixcloud.
If you haven’t come across it yet, Mixcloud, established in 2008, is a British online music streaming service with radio shows, DJ mixes and podcasts, which are crowdsourced by its members. The important thing is royalties are attributed to their respective artists. It’s a nice interface and you can follow members to keep track of when they upload new content.
So now, creating a mix meant a slightly different thing to the Edinburgh days. Probably because of my film editing experience, a music mix had to have a narrative. When I started making mixes for Mixcloud, I didn’t live mix, I edited, using exactly the same programme as I would for film editing, and building a structure in a similar way too. The length of the mix was the length of a CD, about 75 mins, which gave me a running time pretty similar to a feature film. I’ve 37 mixes up there now, and I think the storytelling has changed over those 9 years.
This year, in late April, I came across a Mixcloud announcement in response to the global crisis – Mixcloud Live for Pro creators. This allows creators to stream live, like a radio programme. Added to that, they gave folk 3 months free sign up to the Pro account, as this was in Beta and they wanted to test it. The idea of Mixcloud Live chimed with me. I’d been checking out Facebook Live sessions, looking into Twitch, and heard about YouTube and Instagram parties. But all of these platforms were flawed, because at any time you could be shut down for breaching copyright issues. Of course, why wouldn’t you be, as none of these platforms have worked towards trying to pay artists due royalty fees. But Mixcloud has ALWAYS done that. And this is what was really exciting about Mixcloud Live – because they paid royalty fees, it was legal. No fear of shut down, we could create our own live shows and include any music. Wow!
I got involved straight away and, after running a few tests with close friends, on Sunday 03 May launched SUNDAY CIRCLE.
It’s been a liberating experience. It’s freestyle, so I never know what I’m going to play before I start. Having the chat function has meant there’s a real connection with folk listening in. I always welcome folk to the Circle as they check in, but more importantly they can chat with each other. The chat can be anything from simple hello’s to birthday wishes, what people are eating or growing, to their highlights of the week. We’ve even had discussions about earwigs and leeches! And what’s extraordinary is the broadcast range. We’ve had folk from Stromness to Tankerness via Birsay. The islands are listening in – Papay, Westray and North Ronaldsay. Further afield – Inverness, Glasgow, Chester, Yorkshire, Wales and Somerset. And then something that makes the world expansive, yet contained at the same time – listeners from New York and Houston, Texas. It’s such a small, huge, beautiful thing.
If you want join in the SUNDAY CIRCLE, check in every Sunday 8 – 10PM (BST). And if you want to chat, you’ll need to create a (free) account with Mixcloud. Importantly for the Sunday nighters, you need the live link to listen live, don’t go through my normal Mixcloud page. So copy this link and keep it safe:
As well as SUNDAY CIRCLE, I realised that I could accomplish something for the cinema that was quite inconceivable before lockdown – our own cinema show. We had this idea some time ago – a What’s On for film combined with music, interviews, quizzes and other film related oddities – but we never got it off the ground because of the copyright issues. Now we can. So through a separate West Side Cinema Mixcloud account, I’ve recorded two West Side Stories (for now just a What’s On At Home with music) and a West Side launch party for the WE ARE ONE festival, with a tune from each of the participating countries. I’m keeping it simple just now, but plan to expand on ideas in the coming months.
The future’s bright. The future’s Mixcloud.