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Over the last 4 years, the University Of The West Of Scotland has hosted regular Weds Afternoon collaboration workshops  in our TV studios at UWS Ayr. 

In that time over 400 participants, the majority of them International Students from countries all over the world have participated in the workshops. These student volunteers have collaborated together to record, edit and present the work of the BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Degree students . 

Full details of the StudioLab process can be found here  

I am pleased to announce that next Wednesdays StudioLab will be the 100th session . We will have a film crew down to record events . Look out for details of how we plan to celebrate our 100th Birthday . 

Contemporary Screen Acting Students in our recent Rail Safety  project 

Just got this on the hotline from my colleague Dr David Manderson

“Congratulations to Kirsty McConnell, a graduate of last year’s Honours Screenwriting/Film-Making degree, for winning first prize in the London Screenwriters’ ‘Fifty Kisses’ short film script competition for her short script ‘Enough.

You can read her script and the judges’ comments here:

Well done Kirsty! A career beckons.”

The first cohort of 4th year honours Contemporary Screen Acting Students graduate on Friday. This would be as good a time as any to look back and reflect on the first two years of the Programme to assess how we have developed and where we might be going.

The Class of 2011

There was a crucial point in the development of Contemporary Screen Acting at University Of The West Of Scotland and it took place after the initial Accreditation Panel meeting in March 2010. Generally , the panel was very supportive of the notion of a new niche degree in Screen Acting. It would fit snugly between our two other programmes, Performance and Musical Theatre. It would encompass Social Media and the New Technologies, it would arm actors with the skills to navigate the post-web 2.0 world. It would be new and exciting, collaborative and inclusive. But there was one thing missing. The name. The name was going to be “Screen Acting”, but somehow the panel felt that this didn’t suitably reflect the course content. It needed something else. Something to bring it up to date. Now whether it was Dr Sarah Nealy from the University of Stirling, or Ali de Souza from the then RSAMD, someone came up with  the term….”Contemporary Screen Acting”.

I didn’t like it.

Cheifly I didn’t like it because I didn’t think of it first. In my mind  wanted the Programme to have a be simple, short and easy to remember title, and I reckoned it was a bit of a mouthful. But….I had no option. The panel wanted a name change and that was that.

Two years later, I love it. The word “contemporary” is one of those plastic, malleable catch all words which immediately fit in any situation where you have just come up with a new idea…and that is exactly what the last two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been all about. A series of new experiments, new ways of teaching, new ways of learning, new ways of creating work for the small group of screen actors who I have had the privelege of teaching . The small group of graduates (including TWO first class honours) have been the first group of my  students to use iPods instead of video cameras, twitter instead of feedback sheets, iMovie instead of Final Cut Pro, a Panasonic AGF 101 instead of an ancient Sony Z-1. At the same time, they have been the first group of my students to make REAL videos for REAL clients, created their entire corpus of work online in their own showreels, and finally the first group who are able to go out into the world with the skills necessary for success in the connected, networked world of 2012.

Some new stuff we tried didn’t work. But thats the nature of experimntation and “contemporary” practice. If it doesn’t work, all you have to do is just not do it again. A bit of a no brainer.

Anyway, congratulations to my Honours students, and thanks for the exhilarating journey that the first two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been. Here’s to the next two.

If you want an example of my student’s work, or are interested in studying at UWs, here’s a video which our 3rd years made to market their course.

Here’s to the next two years .

I have taught Screenwriting and Performance at the University Of The West of Scotland since 2006.  Dr Sarah Neely, who at that time was teaching Screenwriting  here,  originally asked me to visit   to deliver a one hour talk on my work in the Creative Industries. At that time the institution was called “The University Of Paisley” .  I thought I was agreeing to go and talk in Paisley, Renfrewshire,  until the day before the visit  I  looked at a map armed with the Post Code and realised that I was booked to speak in Ayr. Ayr???  What….Ayr, Ayrshire? Robert Burns? Ice Cream? Butlins? I remember phoning Sarah up the night before and asking her once again…”

“It is Ayr you want me to go to, is it? ”

She assured me that it was indeed the toon of honest men and bonnie lasses,  and off I went with my bike on the train, to Ayr the next day. I got out at the end of the line, and outside the station, asked the ticket inspector  if he could tell me the way to the University. “Oh aye, ” he said, ” Ayr College….doon there, mate…”

“No..not Ayr College…..the University….” I said.

He drew himself up to his full 5’5″ , cupped his fag against the wind, and said ” There’s nae University in Ayr, son….”

Noting my puzzlement, one of his colleagues paused from rolling a cigarette and shouted over…” It’s Craigie he’s wantin’, Wullie”

With that, a light came on in Wullie’s eye…” Oh..CRAIGIE, is it?….how did you no say?” And with that he gave me pinpoint directions to the  Craigie Campus of the University Of Paisley.

6 years later and I am still here.

The New Campus

The New University Campus In Ayr

Now renamed University Of The West Of Scotland after its merger with Bell College Hamilton, and newly relocated in our new £80 million state of the art campus on the banks of the River Ayr, the place I work in  now is very different from the leaky, drafty, run down ex-teacher training college I walked into that day in March 2006. Thankfully, there is sign outside the town which says “Ayr..A University Town” , so that even Wullie from the station will now realise that there is a University in Ayr…and a damn fine one at that!

But there is something else that hasn’t changed at all. The students. Oh they aren’t exactly the same student’s of course. Six cohorts of graduates have moved on and made a life for themselves in the time I have been there. But they are exactly the same type of students.A large percentage of them tend to come from the same housing schemes, the same small towns, the same Islands  and urban conurbations as  they did then.

There is a specific “look”  and “sound” to a group of  UWS students.  I can’t define it, but I can instantly recognise it. I have lectured to MA students in  ancient oak and leather furnished rooms at St Andrews: to groups of  Film Students in  a modern Lecture Theatre at the University of Stirling: to  Theatre Studies Graduates in a beautifully dramatic arts “Church”  at Glasgow Uni. Every one of those groups   was instantly differentiated from my students at UWS.  Let’s cut to the chase here. We are talking class. The statisticians don’t talk about class. They talk about “areas of high deprivation” or “lower socioeconomic sectors”. Whatever way you dress it up as, the “look” and “sound” of a group of UWS students is closely linked to the fact that a large percentage of them come from the sort of places that most of the middle class worthies who run Scottish Education  only see through  smoke-tinted windscreens. Many of my students are the first person in their family to take up Higher Education. Many of them are single parents. Many of them have full time jobs in very low paid areas. Many of them subsist on bursaries, grants,handouts  and overdrafts.  Over 35% of our Performance Students have special educational needs which are fully supported by our fantastic team at UWS Ayr. I wonder what the equivalent  figure is in St. Andrews? I don’t have that figure to hand, but today, thanks to the NUS Scotland, I DO have a figure which has made me proud to work at UWS, and proud to teach my students. More of that later.

The New NSS Survey is out?  Oh……great.  :..(

Creative Hack Day in The Control Room

When you work at UWS, the release of National Statistics is rarely a pleasant experience. With teeth-grinding regularity, I see the National Student Survey  “Performance Charts” which put Oxford , St Andrews and Cambridge at the top, and UWS somewhere…well…. let’s say a wee bit further down than Edinburgh.

Never mind that my students are taught in the most modern Creative Industries University in Britain.Never mind that all the hard work, toil, time, effort and downright passion that  my colleagues and I put in to our students learning experience  comes to nothing. My UWS students aren’t even included in the National Student Survey. Astonishingly, unbelievably,  incredibly, as direct entry third year “top up” students, they don’t even get ASKED what they think of their education. Why? Because  the entire NSS system is geared to assessing the thoughts of  18 year olds with A Levels  who are  studying   three year degrees. None of my students, not a single ONE of them, adheres to that biased,  Southern, middle class model. Many of my students don’t even have Highers. They left school at 16, maybe took a year out to work , or signed on. Some of them have been Fire Officers, Estate Agents,full time mothers, even a magician! Whatever their past, at some point,at some time,  they  took an access course, went to a local FE college, and achieved an HNC or an HND in Performance and Acting. They did this  in circumstances which were a million miles away from the creme de la creme of the education world who are  recruited by the “elites” .   This large group of Articulation students is completely ignored by the NSS.  Institutions like UWS  takes  large numbers of  these  students .  We   cajole them,  teache them, argue with them,  are frustrated and infuriated by them, but  finally we arm them with an honours degree , self respect,  and a practical tool kit to go out into the world and make a career for themselves. And yet my colleagues, students and I  have to watch as their progress is completely marginalised as the NSS  statistics  “prove” how wonderful the “elite” universities are, and how low down we are .

League Table Shmeague Table.

As we all know, the  true situation at the chalk face is far more  complex than any crass league tables can ever reflect. For example,  I am bursting with pride at my two Honours students who achieved First Class degrees this year. They could walk into post-graduate studies of any elite institution in the country if they so wished. However I am just as proud of  my other students who have emerged  from challenging circumstances and learned advanced criticality, reflection and transferrable soft and hard skills which will help them gain employment or create their own jobs and careers. They want  to ensure that their children don’t get the same free meals that they did, and I am proud to be part of that process. Indeed I  am literally  part of that process, because I too was  the possessor of a dreaded free  “white dinner ticket” while at school. But none of this is reflected in the cursed tables I see published in the papers every year. And do you know what? I’m past caring…..well…until today……because…..we made it to the top of a table today, and suddenly , I think they are a GREAT idea….so….

Our HD Television Studio at UWS Ayr.


Hallelujah! Let joy be unconfined!  Let the church bells ring and let laughter and mirth spread through the land! At last, some statistics are published which finally reflect the pride I feel in my institution, and which justify the passion and energy which my colleagues and I  put into our work here. UWS has come out ON TOP in a statistical survey! I will repeat that.  University Of The West Of Scotland  has come out ON TOP! We are the  top recruiter of students scoring highest using  the criteria of  the Scottish Index Of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)

According to a recent study commissioned by NUS Scotland,  UWS recruits a greater percentage of students from “deprived areas” than any other university in Scotland. Of course needless to say, this was not presented as a positive story. Did I pick up my Herald yesterday and luxuriate in the headline  trumpeting “UWS Triumphs In Campaign For Open Access” ? Errr….No. Instead these figures were described as  “Elite Universities Fail To Recruit Poorer Pupils.” ‘Twas ever thus.

Nevertheless, it IS a positive story for us at UWS! Last year we  recruited 1,117 students from the lowest SIMD sector. To give this a bit of context,  St Andrews, (which I believe is thought of as one of the elite ) , managed to  recruit……..wait for the drumroll……..a grand total of ….13.   Maybe we should call them the St. Andrews 13. Maybe they were all from the same Rugby League  team? Whoever they are, I really  do wish them well, because they must be 13 of the most outstanding students in the country. However  it  means that while 2.7% of St Andrews students might have got free school meals or had an unemployed parent, the UWS figure is 25.4%.

Not only that, but  the elite universities (what a wonderful term that is ) are actually recruiting less disadvantaged students  than they did 10 years ago. This means that these  august  educational institutions , whose senior common rooms no doubt glow with statisfaction at their domination of the NSS statistics, are getting  less and less  successful in helping the poorest attempt to break out of a cycle of deprivation and poverty than before.

The Blame Game? 

Let’s make one point crystal clear here. I don’t blame the elite unis for this. As Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland states in the Herald  of  June 4th 2012

“To deliver significant change in universities, you first need to tackle the root of the problem, which is the large gap in attainment according to deprivation in schools, as recent reports have confirmed,”

I’ll say!

Coupled with this, I also don’t blame the elite for wanting to recruit the best students. If I got the chance to recruit a fantastic actress who had gone to Swiss finishing school and had an International Baccalauréat ,  I would do it in a flash. But I live in the real world too. I am competing against other institutions which are deemed “elite” and superior to mine. I know that because I see it in the League Tables, so it must be true, musn’t it?

Prolier Than Thou?

Of course, The solution to these societal inequalities, as Alistair Sim points out,  lies  not in the University sector  at all. Universities are the symptom of the disease, not the cause.  It is  in the schools and pre-school system that this canker of inequality is nurtured.  The fact that elite schools dominate the intake  of elite universities  is clearly symptomatic of the effect of pouring massive subsidy and resources into the education of the 7% of British Children who attend  “independent” schools. Thus inequality is structurally inevitable if we are to continue to give parents the “freedom” to buy their children’s superior school education. Even the proposed imposition of quotas, through  which the Government plans to force Universities  to take more disadvantaged students (and which the “elite”  will inevitably rail against) , are  naught but a  tiny sticking plaster  on what is  a far , far   deeper  inequality wound in contemporary Scottish society.

The Way Forward.

If we Scots decide that we want to build a fairer society (and the evidence of election after election in Scotland is that we do ) ,  then the  only way to redress our  massive societal inequalities is through investment in education and training at the pre-school, school, FE and HE level. At UWS, we  can only do what we can do, and  I am proud to be part of an HE institution which is clearly and  demonstrably doing more to enable open  access to HE than any other University in Scotland.

Graduation Day At UWS Ayr

So let’s hear it for UWS, our students, and especially for Wullie the ticket inspector from Ayr whose town has a University which is top of the performance charts in at least one crucial area.

If you want more information on the sort of work our Articulation students do in Ayr, please have a look at the Video below. It was created, written, acted and edited by  my third years last term. These students came  straight from an HND at FE College, and have  no current voice in the National Student Survey. Let their words speak for themselves.  Contemporary Screen Acting At University Of The West Of Scotland.


I have blogged in the past about the Commercial Screen Project module at the University Of The West Of Scotland . This is an innovative “real life” project  where 3rd Year student Teams use their acting, writing and filming skills create a  web video for an external client.

The Projects Will Be Workshopped in Our Ayr TV Studios.

This year I am delighted to reveal that  two of the  clients for whom the teams are creating web content are Spirit Aid , the Charity set up by Glasgow born actor David Hayman, and the UWS Skillset Media Academy, based in Paisley. Spirit Aid wish to promote their annual Fund Raising climb of Ben Nevis on the 19th of May, and Margaret Scott, manager of the Skillset Media Academy is using the talents of the students to publicise the opening of the innovative Social Media Hub in March.

Students teams have already had preliminary meetings with the management of both organisations to discuss the brief, and are currently researching and planning the next stage of the process.

They are aided by two Industry Practitioners who will be Project Managing the  entire process. Director Michael Hines  of Chewing the Fat and Still Game fame will be leading up the Skillset team, and Writer and Actor Martin McCardie will be responsible for the Spirit Aid Project.

All aspects of the videos will be researched. workshopped, recorded, edited and distributed by UWS students. Teams are using the skills of 4th  Year Contemporary Screen Acting students, Commercial Music Students, and Film Making & Screenwriting Students to ensure that the finished products are of the highest standard.

I hope to blog on the progress of the projects as they develop, and look forward to showcasing the end products towards the end of May

Clive Rumbold of ABC and the UWS Production Team

I’ve blogged before about the South Of Scotland Business Solutions Knowledge Transfer projects which the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University Of The West Of Scotland  has been developing over the past few months.

We have come to the end of the cycle and all the production, editing , paperwork and reflections have been completed and finalised.

In the end, the whole process has been a challenging and exciting experience  for the Contemporary Screen Acting students and staff who took part, but the end result has made it all worthwhile.

Last year’s  level 9 students students successfully produced their  assessed assignments on time  and  achieved a  100% pass rate, and the feedback from them on their learning experience was outstandingly good.  The project has thus proved an outstanding success as a work based learning module  for the students.

Students reported that “ this has been a fantastic module for actually meeting with a client. This made it far more difficult than an ordinary module but far more rewarding “

“I was really proud of the work we did for ABC. I have never been involved in such an exciting module . It was totally different from just doing an imaginary project”

Feedback from the clients has also been overwhelmingly positive. Clive Rumbold of ABC Recruitment commented ”   The finished video  is a league away from our  original film in terms of professional creativity, presentation and filming styles.  In all we now have a professional, commercial film which delivers the messages significantly better and is already proving itself in a very short time.”

Wilma Finlay , from Cream O’ Galloway added  ” The project provided us  with a suite of high quality promotional film clips that we have used on our website and in social media to promote the fun that a wide variety of age groups can have at Cream o’ Galloway.”

Personally the most rewarding aspect of the whole process for me was the team who produced an HD quality video based on research into the life challenges of troubled  youngsters. For this  project, students Andrew O’Donnell, Amy Elftathi, Eileen Frater, James Todd and Anne-Marie O’Connor deserve special praise, along with DOP John Caldwell , who between them produced a fine piece of work.

Thanks also  must go to Eva Milroy and the staff of South Of Scotland Business Solutions for their energy and enthusiasm, and also a very special mention  from me to my colleague Joan Scott of the UWS Business School  in Dumfries who was a constant support in this whole process. Finally, none of this could have been accomplished without the filming and editing skills of UWS MA students Louise Muir and Marta Adamowicz and that wizard of Adobe Premiere Eileen Frater.

2011/12 Intake of Contemporary Screen Acting Students at UWS with social media guru @jennifermjones

I am now planning next years projects for the new intake of third year students which I hope will take this innovative knowledge transfer model to a higher level. We will be  employing  embedded Workplace Learning Students from the Filmmaking and Screenwriting Programmes at UWS, combined with the Project managing skills of industry professionals such as “Chewing the Fat” Director Michael Hines , and award winning Screenwriter and Actor Martin McCardie. Watch this space for details.

If you think you might be interested in studying Contemporary Screen Acting at the University Of The West of Scotland, visit our site here.  . Remember you  can follow me on twitter @stuart_hepburn where I tweet on all things creative at the UWS and further afield.

This is an extract of the talk I gave at the UWS Innovation And Research Business Roadshow  at the Ayr Management Centre on Thursday 31st March 2011.
The audience were a group of local entrepreneurs, SMEs, and their representatives.
Also featuring were UWS  Business Oriented Departments,  and Dr Stuart McKay  of the  West of Scotland  KTP Centre



What is the UWS Skillset Media Academy, And How Can It Help YOU?
The UWS Skillset Media Academy is effectively a group of creative media programmes from across the University of the West of Scotland. We have  gathered them together  under the Media Academy umbrella as a one stop shop to help individuals and organisations take advantage of the technical , organisational and practical resources which exist within the School of Creative and Cultural Industries.
Skillset the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media has endorsed the UWS Media Academy as a provider of excellent media education.
The UWS Skillset Media Academy comprises the following programmes:
BA (Hons) Broadcast Production
BA (Hons) Commercial Music
BSc (Hons) Computer Animation
BSc (Hons) Computer Games
BA (Hons) Digital Art
BA (Hons) Filmmaking & Screenwriting
BA (Hons) Journalism
BSc (Hons) Music Technology
BA (Hons) Sports Journalism
BA (Hons) Performance
MA Broadcast Journalism
MA Creative Media Practice
The Academy spans two Schools ie Creative & Cultural Industries and the School of Computing
It has strong links with businesses and the creative & cultural industries and aims to:
  • Provide students with relevant work experience (eg through the UWS Production Company)
  • Provide Continuous Professional Development for individuals and businesses in the Creative & Cultural Industries.
  • Produce talented, experienced and industry ready graduates.
  • Work seamlessly with industry in the areas of research and knowledge exchange (eg Knowledge Transfer Partnerships)
In fact we tell our students that their first day in the Academy is their first day in industry.
In July this year we are moving into our new state of the art Campus at UWS Ayr.
How can the Academy help YOU?
Please think of the Academy as a one-stop media shop for:
Creative content for your website – imagine how you can use a short film on your website to tell your customers about what you do and why you are the best at what you do.
Perhaps you are thinking about implementing a social media marketing plan – we can develop your company’s social media policy, implement appropriate platforms and assist you with strategies to deliver and communicate effectively using forums such as twitter, linkedin, facebook, Flickr etc.
We can develop your website and aggregate all of the new social media strands.
List of products we can offer include:
  • Filming eg for the web, awards ceremony presentations, promotional work, training videos through the UWS Production Company
  • Training/implementation of social media to promote your business
  • Developing a media marketing plan
  • Writing for the web / web translations
  • Presentation Skills
  • Short tailored courses
All projects are managed and delivered in a high quality, professional way.
At present we are involved in such diverse projects as :
Creating Training videos on Workplace Discrimination for Law At Work.
Providing introductory Web videos for CeeD Companies.
Creating Web Content for  Applied Care And Development
We are working with Cream O Galloway Organic Farms, ABC Recruitment, and are in pilot talks with many other emerging SMEs and businesses.
Please come and visit the SKillset Media Academy Website for more information, or contact :
UWS Skillset Media Academy Manager

This is an expanded version  of  a talk I gave  at  a Glasgow University Theatre Film and TV  Student Employment Forum At Gilmorehill Church On Monday 21st March 2011

“Delicious Complications” : Employment And The Creative Industries Graduate Today
By Stuart Hepburn
Here are 10 tips for Creative Graduates, in no particular order.
Tip 1. Carry out a Google search of your name.
Tip 2. Change yourself from a consumer to a creator.
Tip 3. Investigate the blogosphere.
Tip 4. Think Small.
Tip 5. Think Big.
Tip 6. Be Passionate.
Tip 7. Network.
Tip 8. Hang out with creatives.
Tip 9. Be Flexible,
Tip 10.Have a backup plan.
We are all witnessing today a world changing more rapidly politically, economically and socially than at any other time since man came down from the trees and started hitting bones with rocks.
A combination of Technological Change, Ecological Shock and the seemingly  irrevocable forces of Globalisation mean that all over the world, in all sorts of ways, people are having to cope with adopting a post-industrial lifestyle and economy.  The three hundred year “honeymoon” which Northern Europe enjoyed by leading the Industrial Revolution is apparently  over, and it would appear that  the post-colonolialist storm is about to break. It could get very uncomfortable for us cossetted Westerners, in  all sorts of ways.
The irony is that you,  as Creative Industries students from  the West of Scotland, stand at the very centre of that process, and are in a healthy  position to  take advantage of this state of flux. I’m reminded of  the Neil Simon scripted  “Barefoot In The Park” (Sachs 1967) , where the Charles Boyer’s character  states of the uncertain future ‘ I foresee delicious complications ‘. The entire developed world is at the centre of those complications, but it is my contention today that  If you are able to take advantage of them, then  the sky could be the limit for you all.
As the  rise of the Digital Economy goes on apace,  it  means that Cultural Trade of all sorts, all over the world,  is growing exponentially. As the   the old ways are breaking down, new forms are emerging to fill  up the vacuum. For example, Hollywood makes about 500 movies a year; Bollywood about twice that. But did you know that “Nollywood” AKA Nigerian Cinema makes over 2,000 films a year?  Albeit they are low budget, locally produced and distributed and have an average budget of £10K. Across the continent,the notorious Kibera Shanty town in Kenya, 10 digital flipcams have been supplied by TED to local residents who use them   to gather, edit and then broadcast worldwide on the spot stories of their lives .  The “Woman Are Heroes” project in the same are has allowed local creative artists to have their work spread  through the use of public art, digitation of imagery and blogging.
Will Nigeria ever overtake Hollywood as a world leader in film production? Will Kibera News Network ever eclipse CNN? Probably not, but there is something very alluring in low budget hi-fidelity digitised creative output, and  like it or not,  these localised  processes  are  forcing  the old order to face  stark choices for the future. As with with every choice in life, this  is a challenge which  has  tremendous opportunities,  as well as real  dangers. It is my contention that you as Creative Industries graduates must seize that opportunity.
As graduates of the class of 2011, you  are the the first Web 3.0 Higher Education generation, and you hold the future of the world in your hands. Literally in your hands with your pdas and smart phones and  flipcams. Five years ago, I didn’t even possess a mobile phone. Now, my iPhone is an integral part of how I interphase with the world, through my website, my blogs, Twitter, Facebook, videos, photographs, a web browser and any number of other apps and creative communication tools.
I use microblogging and digital output at the core of my own pedagogy as a  key to enhancement of  the student learning experience, and I want to share with you today, the possibilities of extending those undergraduate techniques into post graduate modes of employment and sharing and even monetising your creativity. It seems to me that the key to the  whole process which we are all  going through  is the notion  of  User Generated Content,  and as graduating Theatre Students, you are uniquely well suited to taking advantage of this innovative  collaborative process.
UGC is all about creating, and developing  your own narrative through your experience and those around you, and then   sharing and disseminating it all round the world. Our world is now a 360 degree multiplatform environment, with motivated individuals and groups operating on a 24 hours a day digitised interactive basis. Open source software and UGC is the future. The post-Wiki leaks  Firewall is now  little more than the  redundant dream of overworked ICT practitioners continually attempting to put another finger in the dyke to  protect the integrity of self serving institutions.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my bank account to be as secure as can be , but I want my CREATIVITY to be as open as possible.
Universities and large institutions are as fettered as Government Departments and the Ministries of Truth all round the world, all desperately (and vainly)  attempting to hang on to their own exclusive cultural knowledge. The truth is that the genie is out of the bottle, and it is reluctant to  go back, and it seems to me that it is the task of us  creatives to ensure that it never does.
The upheavals in the Middle East, the demise of the old ways of creating and consuming news and culture, the rise of Youtube and Twitter are all manifestations of this process,  and you can be at the centre of it if you choose.
And as we stand in the West End of Glasgow and look down on to silent shipyards , empty factories and a diminishing industrial base, the Creative Economy and those who operate within it have become more and more important economically, politically and socially. Scotland has changed forever, and we will either buy into that change or be left behind for ever.
As  Jamaican Senator Donna Scott-Mottley put it in 2006….
“Sugar days are done, banana days are done, but in this globalised world, our culture is what sells us and we have to begin to look at it as a business”
For Sugar and Bananas in Jamaica, read Shipbuilding and Sewing Machines in Scotland.
But lets not get too negative here. We can pine and moan and say “Ochone” about the glorious sepia-tinted past, but there is also  good story to tell about contemporary Scotland today.  The  newly constituted Creative Scotland’s website informs us that
”  more than 60,000 people are currently employed in the Creative Industries, generating £5 billion for the economy.
It’s clear from figures such as these that  iconic structures and the digital hub around Pacific Quay, Film City and the SECC are no mere empty symbols, and that  Glasgow has a large share of that economic output. Of course, there is no guarantee that these new industries will have any more or even the same degree of longevity as the heavy engineering before it, but at the moment, they are a vital component for the success of the beleaguered Scottish economy.
So as  as the old industrial order   breaks down, and the old certainties fade away, your creativity, and your ability to articulate your own narratives become absolutely key to the way in which you interact in the brave new  world of the modern globak economy. You can be the equivalent of Kibera’s  KNN . You can tell your story to the world.
Human beings have ever hungered for stories. It’s what being human is all about ,  and theatre students have an almost unique opportunity to supply those narratives on a scale of which generations before can only have dreamed. I know, because I am one of the old gaurd who has witnessed the change.
In  January 1990  I performed in the celebrated  Communicado Theatre Company production “Jock Tamson’s Bairns” as the opening theatrical event of “Glasgow, City Of Culture”. Moving into the draughty dirty Tramway in late November ’89,   It felt as if the Trams had just  been moved out as the actors , dancers and musicians moved in. The piece, a natural development from “Mary Queen Of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off” (Lochhead 1988)  turned out to be one of the most seminal pieces of Scottish Theatre it has ever been my privelege to appear. It  was a qualified triumph, received good reviews, and Melvyn Bragg even filmed  a South Bank Show special  on it’s writer, our newly appointed Scottish  Makar, Liz Lochhead.
But that was it. The show opened on 25th of January, ran for about four weeks as I recall, and then finished, never to be seen again. The one lasting creative entity coming from the show was the continued creativity of our house band, The Cauld Blast Orchestra, which has recorded and toured sporadically ever since.
How a modern theatre piece would have a very different life story. Through the collaborative digital media there would have been a pre-production Twitter and Facebook Campaign; it might have benefitted from a #JTB Twitter hashtag and a Facebook Page. Rehearsals and workshops would have been blogged, fiimed, recorded on high quality smart phones, shared on Youtube, discussed in chat rooms, and the ripples and eddies from it would have travelled the world. A child in Kibera could have googled “Glasgow Theatre” and been able to share in all this, and indeed, reflect and add to the online narrative discussion. The digital revolution cant turn bad art into good, but it can spread the story of small, site specific art far far afield from it’s place of origin.
The future and potential for creating and sharing narratives is only limited by your imagination and ambition. The New Theatre is going to be collaborative, site-specific, multi platform and end user generated, and all those soft skills which you have learned in your time at University should leave you in an excellent position to take advantage of these developments.
But what does this stuff all actually mean? User Generated Content means that the entire creative process becomes part of an online communicated network of reflective and reflecting processes.
For example, before this talk today,  I tweeted my modest list of Twitter Followers and told them what I was going to be doing today, and wondered if they had any projects which I should be sharing with the Final Year Theatre Students.
Rosie Kane told me about the inspirational work of the Women’s Creative Company which meets at the CCA every Monday, where women who seven weeks previously wouldn’t have had the confidence to speak to a meeting of three,  are now up on their feet and telling their stories to an appreciative audience.
Linda Campbell of Write Camera Action told me about the exciting short film project she is curating.
Step2Collabo TV asked me to mention the £10K budget they had managed to create as the prize for a new pilot for a long running Screen Web Series. These creatives , through the new media, took part with me in a two way conversation which was then disseminated and refracted through this meeting with you  today and its subsequent blog. The (modest)  whole will thus be greater than the sum of the parts, and this is the most exciting thing of all about UGC.
It makes us bigger than we are alone.
It involves us.
It grows.
It turns the ephemeral nature of the theatrical act into something which can be shared.
That said, it is not an easy road to take. It involves risks, it involves exposing ones own ignorance, it involves laying out ones own creativity at the mercy of anyone out there who wants to give it a kicking. Technically also, it’s not an easy nettle to grasp. I still have only a passing understanding of Facebook. Where’s my wall? Who gave me a poke? Why do these people I have never met want to be my friends? I valiantly keep up my Facebook site as a feeder for my blogs and Tweets, but in truth I don’t really ” get it” . However, in a sense, this doesn’t really matter. Nobody “gets” it all. There is a myth, promulgated by lazy thinking,  which talks about the younger generation being the first truly “digital natives.”
I reject this notion. Many of my students at the Skillset Media Academy  University Of The West Of Scotland find themselves seriously challenged by the problems associated with the new media. They may be able to text and log on to Facebook, but as for building their own  digital footprint or monetising their creativity, they are as much at sea as an old age pensioner looking aghast at a Computer Mouse for the first time. Or a lecturer trying to understand a “poke”.
The truth is that there are no experts in this field. Things are moving so quickly, and old technologies being superceded, so that we are all simply catching up in one way or another. Every teacher has something to learn from his or her students. Every student can share  something no one else in the class has found, and there is a refreshing democracy to the whole process. It’s a heady brew indeed.
So finally what can graduating Theatre Students do on a practical level ?
So to repeat, and in more detail, here are my ten tips action checklist.  It’s not definitive, and I am sure you could add or contradict much of it. That said, it has worked for me and my students, and there’s no reason to believe even following just  some of them will make a real difference to your creativity.  (I wrote these for Theatre Makers, but it could be just as easily applied to Writers, Poets, Engineers  or Wheeltappers.)  There is creativity within us all, and WEB 3.0 and UGC gives us the chance to explore it with the biggest group of collaborators  that has ever existed. The rest of the world.
Tip 1. Carry out a Google search of your name. If you discover that the only thing online about you is a photo of the tattoo on your bum and the fact that you were hungover on Sunday, then you need a digital makeover. Get a new Facebook or Twitter account, and start posting professionally  and creatively.
Tip 2. Change yourself from a consumer to a creator. Go on to and create your own blog site. You might discover that you can buy the rights to .net or whatever for about £25.00 for three years. It’s inexpensive, and looks very professional.
Tip 3. Investigate the blogosphere and  find out who’s interested in the same things as you. Comment on their blogs, and start to write your own modest input. You know that voluntary workshop you do every Thursday night in Garthamlock? Blog about it. Tell people what you are up to, ask for advice, start a conversation.
Tip 4. Think Small. Be specific. Write this in big letters above your computer screen. No one knows your narrative but you. Your story is unique, and may well be interesting to others. NEVER underestimate how exotic you may come across as to someone on the other side of the world who has never missed the last bus home from Yoker and had to walk all the way up Great Western Road.
J.R Prufrock’s life could be measured in coffee spoons. Choose your metaphor and tell the world.
Tip 5. Think Big. Be Universal. Write this in big letters at the bottom of your computer screen. Spread your ideas on your new professional site  via Twitter, Facebook and the myriad of other platforms that exist. Between the “thinking small” of your initial idea, and the “thinking big” of disseminating your story, lies the true WEB 3.0  crucible of creativity.
Tip 6. Be passionate in everything you do. Again and again, employers tell educators that they are looking for graduates who are bright and passionate, not quiet and introspective. Get out there, develop the glint in your eyes, and ally it to  a degree of sensible arrogance. If you don’t blow your own trumpet, no one else is going to do it for you. Get rid of the Scottish Cringe which we seem to imbibe with our mother’s milk.The Creative Industries is no place for shrinking violets.
Tip 7. Network. This DOESNT mean going up to strangers at the Citz bar  and handing them your card. It does mean going to meetings and workshops, asking questions, getting noticed, and most crucially,  forefronting YOUR WORK, however modest.  Remember that the work HAS to be at the centre of  the networking process.  All it needs for you to be a  successful networker  is for one  threshold guardian to say to  another ” I’ve heard that X’s show is quite good”  and you are away. Don”t worry about being put down, you’ll find that most doors are open for you. Any older and well established creative who is NOT interested in engaging with emerging talent is an irrelevance anyway,  and should be ignored.
Tip 8. If you want to be creative, hang out with creatives. There is no shortcut to this. In every village, in every town , in every city, there are groups of makers, doers, creators. Become one of them, and you will find that one of the most wonderful things about creativity is that it is contagious.
Tip 9. Be flexible, and don’t specialise too soon. Be aware of the need to take advantage of serendipity. If you get the chance to do something but fear you don’t have the technical skills, ask someone who does. There is a strange breed of creature out there who understand things like  Final Cut Pro and can turn your shaky DV  footage of your theatre workshop into a wonderful piece of archive or reportage. Cultivate these people, and ask for their help when you need it.
Tip 10. Finally, always have a backup plan. If things don’t work out for you, after a while , take the hint. We can’t all be Gregory Burkes  or Emily Watsons, but at least you will have tried.
Stuart Hepburn. March 2011

I have blogged in the past about using new media platforms as a learning & teaching resource. The entire content of our  BA (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Programme at the University of the West of Scotland is delivered using Twitter, Posterous and Youtube at the very core of Teaching , Learning and , crucially Assessement. From it’s inception in September 2010, student engagement with these platforms was developed gradually over the first 15 weeks of the programme. In the second trimester of the programme there is now 100% participation from  the students and participating  staff across a wide range of New Media . However I had carried out no empirical research on the pace of takeup from the students. This was due to the fact that September 2010 was the first time I had run the programme and I had other things on my mind more pressing than research.

However it has become clear from the level of student engagement and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way been a qualified success. Obviously I was hampered in that I had no data to demonstrate to what degree this had been the case . I also did not know if the alacrity with which my small group of 15 Performance students engaged with these new platforms could be replicated across the board with other Creative Industries students. The students had, after all, been interviewed and recruited on the basis of using these new media platforms as the key deliverer of their creative screen acting work.

My colleague John Quinn and I teach a module on the Film Making and Screenwriting Programme here at UWS titled “Team Writing For Television.” You can read about the background of TWFTV as I have blogged previously about the module here .We
decided to attempt to use Twitter as a platform at the centre of the module for student feedback ,f eedforward and reflecti0n, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

Since the start of the Module in February 2011, there have been over 300 (and building)  separate #TWFTV responses from the students. You can carry out your own #TWFTV search on twitter to have a look at them right now.  They range from reflections on  lessons, suggestions for new themes and Television Series to studied , and real time comments on shows I have asked them to watch out of class.This has been a voluntary process. Every time John or I get an interesting tweet on #TWFTV, we RT this to our own followers. There are no marks or brownie points for the students, other than the fact that we have shown them that we read their tweets, and will respond to them if we can. The sight of a student’s face when you reveal that you are indeed going to analyse their favourite long running TV series because of a casual mention on Twitter makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Thus, they KNOW that we listen to them , and the engagement goes up steadily as a result. A point to note is that the content of the students tweets,( contrary to fears expressed by colleagues) has been overwhelmingly positive and creative as the take up has grown steadily. It takes a bit of courage to throw open the doors of the classroom to one billion potential eyes and ears, but so far no one has flamed us online, and even if they did, as is the way with Twitter, the dogs would bark, and the caravan would move on. At least I hope that is what would happen. We shall see.

As the module has progressed,John Quinn and I have been monitoring, reflecting and reacting to the tweets, and have now carried out a short interim survey of the up take and use of Twitter and feedback from the students, to see if we can draw any general conclusions. We are specifically interested in exploring the use of Twitter as a tool for enhancing the Teaching and Learning experience from the perspective of the student.

There have been some serendipitous events as a result of this process. Peter Kosminsky (@kosmoSFL )  tweeted back to us on our response to his recent mini series “The Promise”. Francis McKee of the CCA in Glasgow  ( @CCA_Glasgow) RTd one of our responses also using the hashtag.  Reaction to our discussions have come from followers of The Glasgow Film Festival, Step2CollaboTV, and even as far afield as the States and Australia. In this way, the #TWFTV hashtag, which started off as a modest attempt to engage some students in Ayr with their teaching and learning has spread its wings far afield. It’s no Justin Beiber, but at least it is causing a small ripple or two in the Tweetoshpere. I even recieved an email from New Zealand asking me about the module and if we taught it by distance learning!

Below are some of the preliminary data and findings of this anonymous survey.
It is worth noting that the *12.82% of students who had used Twitter in the past for academic communication were all studying on my Contemporary Screen Acting programme. None of the remaining students had used Twitter in this way before. This survey was carried out in Week 5 of a 15 week module, so we are one third of the way through the process.

Response rate 78% (39/50)

1. Prior to the start of the TWFTV module, had you ever communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: *12.82%
No: 87.18%
2. Since the start of the TWFTV module, have you communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: 53.85%
No: 43.59

3%. Do you think that social networking platforms are a useful tool in communicating feedback to your peers and tutors?
Yes: 94.87%
No: 5.13%

4. Would you like to see more modules using social network platforms for class feedback and engagement?
Yes: 82.05%
No: 17.95%

5. Do you prefer using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs to the university VLE Blackboard for feedback and communication?
Yes: 76.92%
No: 23.08%

We also asked for comments from the students about the use of Twitter. These were almost wholly positive .

One note of criticism was that ” It’s not fair that students who don’t use Twitter have an advantage by getting their views across.” my response to that was , if you think that they are gaining an advantage, then engage!

Another comment was ” You should use Facebook. Students don’t like Twitter”

Actually we ARE using Facebook, all my Tweets are delivered to my Facebook site, and at least two of our  teams use Facebook pages to communicate with one another, as well as Googledocs and , suprise surprise, Blackboard. However I am happy not to use Facebook directly, as that’s where students tend to hang out and discuss…well everything. And I don’t want to hear everything, I only want to hear about stuff relating  to TWFTV. I don’t have to follow them or find out what they did on Friday night, but I am able to key into their thoughts and comments every time they decide to use the TWFTV  hashtag. I make sure that I do a #TWFTV search once a day , and then RT any interesting material, and also ensure that I act upon any good suggestions. One very interesting corollary to this is that it is many of the most reticent students who use Twitter, the ones who never ask questions in class, the silent majority. Twitter gives them the ability to ask questions and make points without having to intervene at class.

I should add that Twitter is used exclusively as an ADD ON platform to our VLE, Blackboard. All important messages, assessments,dates, pdfs of lectures and the like are posted on Blackboard, and these are supplemented by a weekly videocast from me which you can see on the blog above.

These findings were  presented and discussed at the Student Engagement in Learning & Teaching Forum (SELT) in the classroom of the Future at the University Of The West Of Scotland on Thursday 3rd of March at 10.45 GMT. We carried out a real time discussion with the students and staff, and  demonstrated  a real time Twittter Ticker on display. The idea that a group of students can contribute any where , any time , to a discussion about the delivery of their own teaching and learning is a relatively innovative idea, and one that I will continue if I present the final figures. Another interesting point which came up in discussion is that we fully expect the students to continue engaging in online discussion using #TWFTV after the module has finished. We will archive the searches and use them as a resource for next years class. It may be the case that this cohort of students will carry on this method of feeding back in other classes. Time will tell.

We will continue with the monitoring process as the weeks go by, and share our data and findings in a concluding blog. along with a set of  conclusions.

Watch this space, and for a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

I will be presenting the final results at the TeachMeet event at UWS Ayr on Thurs  April 23rd.

Stuart On Twitter

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