Four people, thousands of choices, one road

Hey all,

We’re excited to tell you that we’ve been working on a narrative based adventure game for PC and smartphone called Great North Road. It’s currently in development and we hope to share the prototype with you in the autumn. Christopher Harrisson (Vinland illustrator) is on board as art director and Daniel Shapely is our Game Developer. If you’ve played Kentucky Route Zero, Banner Saga Trilogy and Telltale Games, you’ll probably like this game. And if you like Black Mirror, Kipo and the age of Wonderbeasts and Snowpiercer then you’ll probably be into this. It will be multiplayer and as easy to play as Candy Crush, we hope.

More soon.
Team Dean

Sketch credit: Christopher Harrisson

We Shouldn’t Bail Out Our Theatres, We Should Nationalise Them, or, The Ship Is Bailed But The Hole Is Still There

“Theatre eh? Bloody hell.” – David Lockwood.

Threescore and twelve years ago yesterday, an idea was brought into action by polemical Welshman and absolute smoke-show Aneurin Bevan (pictured) to fix an industry that was a mess. The part-privately, part-publicly funded healthcare industry had no shortage of brilliant staff and good intentions, but it had deep-seated structural problems. Some service providers were simply unaffordable to ordinary people, and many that weren’t teetered on the brink of financial collapse. Commercially-oriented management led to huge gaps in provision, underpaid frontline workers, and a system frequently stratified along class lines. Sound familiar?

Out of this mayhem, despite a global crisis and a drastically weakened economy, came a new, unified service, one free at the point of use for every man, woman and child. One that would transform our perception of hospitals from places of dread to places of safety, from pits of last resort to national assets. And fuck knows, it wasn’t perfect then and isn’t perfect now, but we still swing-dance around beds to celebrate it to this day. 

Most people would probably be hesitant to draw analogies between the performing arts industry and the NHS. On one level, there will never be parity between the people that ventilate your gran and people like me who potter around their spare room drafting concept albums about cartoon bears. But on another, they both receive public funding, so the gulf of public esteem between them has something to do with how that money is spent, and what we get for it.

In 2001, when a different Labour government made museums and galleries free at the point of use, public perception of them was similarly transformed, and attendance at them both skyrocketed and diversified. Theatres, however, weren’t coming along for the ride, sitting as they did in a separate, more commercial tradition going back to good old bear-baiting, paper-stacking, nicking-the-theatre-to-pay-less-rent Shakespeare himself, and likely beyond. They were different, right? They could make their own way in the big wide market. No need for public funding to get involved. Except that’s not how it’s worked out.

Theatre is the most-funded genre by Arts Council England (whose founder Keynes was, ironically enough, the chair of a failed theatre), yet all of its funded organisations charge for entry for the majority of their programme. Some, like the Royal Opera House, charge hundreds of pounds, a practice that would create outrage if it happened at a library, museum or gallery. The fact that their funding from ACE is ring-fenced for administrative and “core” costs, rather than artistic spending, grants the ability for most of these organisations to pursue commercial agendas while still banking public funds, all the while casualising and undervaluing the labour of their frontline staff. This is a big part of why there is widespread public apathy, or even resentment, for the theatre establishment, a thing we who are in it often don’t see or want to see: public money goes into a thing that much of the public can’t or don’t want to use.  I wouldn’t hate on anyone for applying to this bailout to safeguard their businesses and livelihoods, but those who wish to defend it ideologically must do the same for the bailouts of the airplane and car industries. An arty veneer of respectability can’t obscure the fact that both are filled with private companies who keep their surpluses when they succeed, beg for handouts when they fail, and pay top dollar to their executives throughout.

But if the Conservative Party can pull a u-turn on decades of entrenched thinking about public spending, so can we. Rather than pickle the established order in a jar for when this all passes over, we could do previously unthought-of things if theatres were transformed into public assets, unshackled by the profit motive. We could put a young company in every school, touring shows in every community hall, have salaried theatre makers delivering engagement programmes measured in years instead of days. We could open up programming to local residents, democratising and rejuvenating what people see at their local venues in the way many rural touring schemes have done. Publicly funded theatres wouldn’t have to compete with West End shows anymore, because they’d be offering something wholly different. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would finally make theatre publicly owned, not just publicly funded, and if another crisis rolls around, it wouldn’t need an additional penny to keep functioning. And maybe at the 2076 Olympics we can baffle the world with scenes of ushers twerking over a lighting desk as giant glowing letters commemorate the National Arts Service. Just a thought.

Jack’s views are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Jack Dean & Company. He’s also no angel, so if you want to indulge his own reckless commercial impulses, check out the “Services” tab in the top bar.

Job Opportunity: Game Developer

We are seeking an experienced game developer to work on the early R&D and prototyping Great North Road (working title), a new 2D narrative adventure game for PC.

The Company

Jack Dean & Company is a new non-profit organisation set up to deliver the artistic projects of Jack Dean and his collaborators. We work with exceptional and inspiring artists to tell stories of how things could be.

The Project

Great North Road will be a narrative-driven multiplayer adventure game, taking inspiration from games like The Banner Saga trilogy and Kentucky Route Zero. Set in a future beyond Peak Oil and the climate crisis, it will see the players take on the role of a caravan of settlers headed north along the A1, a historic British motorway that traces the route of the centuries-old Great North Road. They will face a series of surreal and mythical encounters from English folklore on the way, cooperating to solve problems and making difficult collective decisions that will meaningfully impact the narrative. The project is supported by Arts Council England and Proteus.

The Role

We are looking for someone to work closely with Jack Dean (writer and composer) and Christopher Harrisson (art and animation) to develop and test a prototype of the game. The Game Developer will take text, music and art from the team, build them into a project file on either Unity or Gamemaker Studio 2, and offer teaching sessions to the team on how to augment and edit the game on their own. This role can be done remotely, but ability to attend face-to-face meetings is a plus. Pending further fundraising, this role will be continued and expanded to support further development of the game.

Fee

£4680(based on 40 days’ work at £117 per day on a freelance basis).

Timeline

We are aiming to release a prototype in late September, and will work towards this from June on a flexible schedule to be agreed with the Game Developer.

Person Specification

Essential

– A friendly, empathic and personable approach to game making.

– Experience of working closely with artists of different disciplines and levels of game development knowledge.

– Experience of programming the core logic of games using either the Unity Engine or GameMaker Studio 2.

– Creativity, open-mindedness and willingness to experiment with different ideas.

– Experience of making games with online multiplayer.

– An enthusiasm for story-driven games.

Desirable

– Teaching or training experience.

– Ability to attend face-to-face meetings in Exeter, UK.

– Experience of conducting prototype playtesting or alpha testing.

– Experience of developing games for smartphone.

How To Apply

Please send a CV and a brief cover letter outlining your suitability for the role, including links to relevant projects, to jackdean1989@gmail.com .

Deadline for applications: 3 June.

Interviews in Exeter or over Skype on 10 June.

If you have any questions before applying please feel free to get in touch.

Fox’s Law, or, If You Want To Actually Support Artists through Coronavirus, Stop Asking Them For “Creative Responses” To It.

Today is the day of the week, in the parallel universe that we’ve slipped into, that I head down to Sainsbury’s, stand in the one-in-one-out nightclub-style queue, then head in to pick up groceries. Every week, I head to the aisle where the vegan milks are stocked in search of my favourite by far, Oatly Whole. Every week I stare at the empty cardboard containers where it once stood. Of the many things this trash-fire of a situation has thrown into sharp relief is the law of supply and demand. Not just with products, like toilet paper and dense, creamy Swedish plant goo, but also of course, with labour. I would hazard that many are now experiencing what many artists have known all along, that, as the late great Jeremy Hardy put it “unless you’re a nurse or a bin man, chances are your job is utterly pointless”.

Theatre makers are continuously evaluated on the quality and saleability of their product. If your oat milk isn’t flying off the shelves, better get back to the lab and start squishing out a new blend, the logic goes. One could make a justification for this in a world where theatres are similarly dependent on commercial returns, as existed in the before times. But now the supermarkets of theatre are closed, kept in business only through the largest arts council bailout in history (one paid for, incidentally, by draining Project Grants, a fund mostly used for artist fees), and yet the suppliers are still made to bid for contracts they will struggle to fulfil. And so comes the spate of “Digital Commissions” where those who have worked mostly or exclusively in a live medium are asked, while navigating the rest of the chaos likely to have entered their lives, to generate ideas and source equipment for podcasts, videos, and other online media where an established and competitive market already exists. For some, this may be an easy pivot. But those are not likely to be the ones most needing support. This might seem like adaptation, but it seems to me much more like the opposite of that: an stubborn attempt to square the circle of the twin facts that a) theatre artists have value and b) that value cannot currently be properly shared with the world. Theatre administrators’ and theatre artists’ jobs are made equally pointless by the pandemic. Only one group is being asked by the other to change their entire output to suit the circumstances.

I often deploy a crude measure I call Fox’s Law (named after the poet Kate Fox who I first saw making use of it) to find out whether a thing being asked of an artist is normal. To do so, the law states, simply ask the question “Would you ask a plumber to do this?”. So in this case, the question is “Would you ask a plumber for a creative response to Coronavirus?”, or if you want to be stricter in the analogy “would you ask a plumber for a plumbing response to Coronavirus?”. To which the answer is pretty clearly no: you would expect them to carry on as much as possible, doing what they can when they can and accepting when that is nothing.

There’s no doubt these commissions are well-intentioned. Many of those issuing them could easily get away with simply cancelling their entire programme and leaving it at that. The instinct to distribute money to artists is correct. The instinct to push them to create a product they’re not suited to making is more questionable. Although creativity comes in different conditions for everyone, a rushed and hectic race to leave the comfort zone will suit few. Normality is over. Can we, as an industry, leave behind the urge to force business as usual? Nick Cave put it beautifully in his recent blog:  “For me, this is not a time to be buried in the business of creating. It is a time to take a backseat and use this opportunity to reflect on exactly what our function is — what we, as artists, are for.” If there is going to be a future for theatre, now is the time to start thinking of artists as valuable not just for what you can buy from them right now, but how you’d feel if the milk was off the shelves forever.

Job Opportunity: Director, Vinland

Director for Vinland

We are seeking an experienced, confident and empathetic director to work with Jack Dean on Vinland, a dark, wintry Viking adventure for ages 9 and up. 

About Vinland

Vinland retells the incredible historical tale of the Vikings’ last journey to America, inspired by the Viking sagas of Erik the Red and his family. The show will feature animation and live drawing by Christopher Harrisson, as well as live music looped on stage. It is supported by artsdepot, Arts Council England and Bristol Ferment. For more info on the show and Jack Dean’s work, visit here.

The Role

We are looking for someone who will take on a supportive and facilitative role throughout the creative process, enabling conversations between the writer, animator, designer and technician that make up the rest of the touring team and keeping cohesiveness and morale high. In the rehearsal room they will act as an “outside eye” making sure all the different elements of the show fit together, and ensuring the show gets to a finished state by opening night.

Person Specification

Essential

– Experience of working in a facilitative role as a director, and ability to motivate and bring the best ideas out of people.

–  A calm, empathic and enthusiastic approach.

–  Experience of delivering professional small-scale touring theatre shows.

– Experience of working with projection and/or AV designs in live performance.

Desirable

– Ability to commute to Exeter.

– Experience of making work for young people, especially the 9-12 age range.

Timeline

17 December: first production meeting. 

3 January: second production meeting.

14 January: third production meeting.

27 January – 14 February (Monday – Friday): rehearsals in Exeter.

Fee

£1500 (based on 15 days work at £100 per day) plus travel and accommodation.

How To Apply

Send a CV and a short covering letter outlining your suitability for the role to jackdean1989@gmail.com .

Deadline for Applications: 5pm on Sunday 24thNovember.

Interviews & auditions: 4 December in Exeter.

Job Opportunity: Designer, Vinland

We are seeking an experienced Designer to work with Jack Dean on Vinland, a dark, wintry Viking adventure for ages 9 and up. 

About Vinland:

Vinland retells the incredible historical tale of the Vikings’ last journey to America, inspired by the Viking sagas of Erik the Red and his family. The show will feature animation and live drawing by Christopher Harrisson, as well as live music looped on stage. It is supported by artsdepot, Arts Council England and Bristol Ferment. For more info on the show and Jack Dean’s work, go here.

The Brief

We are looking for the Designer to create a complete visual identity for the show, including sets, props and costumes, but with a particular focus on set items that can double as moveable projection surfaces, can integrate with the on-stage technology and can be easily transported for versatile touring. The designer will be responsible for making and delivering all materials, either through themselves or through their own subcontractors.

Person Specification

Essential

– Experience of creating sets for small-scale theatre touring.

– Experience of creating designs that work with projection. 

– Ability to collaborate closely with other creative team members (ie performers, directors, writers and technicians) to achieve a shared goal.

– Access to own making facilities or studio, and ability to transport set items from there to the rehearsal space.

Desirable

– Ability to commute to Exeter.

– Driving license and access to own vehicle.

– Experience of working on shows for young people, especially ages 9-12.

Timeline

9 December 2019 – Designer confirmed in post.

17 December 2019 – Presentation of first draft designs.

3 January 2020 – Presentation of completed design, start of making period.

27 January 2020 – First day of rehearsals, delivery of materials.

27 January – 14 February 2020 – Rehearsals in Exeter, adjustment and tweaking of materials.

Fee

£2000 fee (based on 20 days’ work at £100 per day) and £1000 materials budget, plus travel and accommodation where needed.

How To Apply

Send a CV and portfolio (document or link form) to jackdean1989@gmail.com.

Deadline for applications: 5pm on Sunday 24November.

Interviews: 4 December (shortlisted applicants will be asked to prepare a very rough design concept).

Ludds On Tour #7: The Roof Is On Fire

Part of Ludds on Tour, a series of blogs by Jack Dean looking at how the histories of places where Jeremiah  is touring relate to the events of the show.

For all the misery, anger and betrayal mixed up in the stories of dissent in the late Georgian period, there are a fair few that, though often grim, are hard not to laugh at. Though not formally associated with the movement, the attack in Sunderland March 20th1815 had all the same basic ingredients of a Luddite raid: A new machine (the coal staiths, a platform with a mechanism that loaded coal onto boats to be taken downriver for export), a group of workers who stood to lose their livelihoods from its introduction (the Keelmen, who handled the transportation of coal along the rivers of the North East, around a thousand of them in this case), and an objective (quick and total destruction). 

The Keelmen showed up at around 4pm and quickly accomplished their objective, blocking the river with their boats, seeing off the local law enforcement and chopping down the staiths. They continued on to burn them the ground, and the Durham County Adviser described what happened next:

“A young man, called Bennett, a carpenter, about 18 years of age, who had undertaken to set fire to the building in which the machinery was contained, by attaching a burning tar barrel to the roof, fell whilst in the act, and was so severely bruised he died the next morning, very fortunately for himself; for had he survived, he must doubtless have suffered a disgraceful and ignominious death, as an atonement to the offended laws of his country.”

Even during a coordinated assault, teenage boys seem to be unable to keep from showing off, particularly at great heights and with fire. Carrying flaming tar barrels around is a tradition in my home county of Devon, but it proved fatal for poor Bennett.

Job Opportunity: Technical Stage Manager, Jeremiah Autumn Tour

Critically acclaimed spoken word artist and theatre maker Jack Dean is looking for an experienced technical stage manager to support his new production ‘Jeremiah’, which is touring in Autumn 2019.

ABOUT JEREMIAH

Jeremiah is a loud, rambunctious new show with live music by rap storyteller Jack Dean, telling the incredible true story of the much-misunderstood Luddite rebellion: A cellist, violinist and guitarist work with loop pedals to create a lush, epic original score that mixes hip-hop and cinematic composition styles, while Jack Dean delivers an epic true tale with dozens of characters, all contained within rap verse metre.  

THE ROLE

The tour takes in. a range of venues, from studio theatres to pubs and village halls. The TSM will be responsible for 

– Liaising with venues over technical requirements and FOH procedures.

– Managing getins and getouts, implementing the show’s lighting and AV designs to the highest possible accuracy.

– Operating lighting and sound during the performance.

PERSON SPECIFICATION

ESSENTIAL

  • Proven ability to program and operate Qlab 3/4
  • Experience of rigging lighting and sound equipment, focusing lights, programming lighting desks and mixing live sound.
  • Experience of using projection and AV design in a live performance context.
  • Experience of working on touring studio-scale theatre shows.
  • Ability to interpret and adapt ground plans and technical specifications and communicate these to venues.
  • Empathy, flexibility and strong communication skills to support the touring company through performances.

 DESIRABLE 

  • Proficiency with Mainstage 3 or other DAWs.
  • Experience of using ETCnomad software or similar.
  • Experience of working with captioning.
  • Driving licence and access to vehicle.
  • Able to commute to Exeter.

TOUR SCHEDULE

Mon 26 – Wed 28 August: Rehearsals at the Barn, Exeter (travelling home on last day)

Tue 3 September: Performance at the Navigation Tavern, Mirfield 

Wed 4 September: Performance at the Leggers Inn, Dewsbury 

Thu 5 September: Performance at Mill Valley Brewery, Cleckheaton

Fri 6 September:  Performance at Arts Centre Washington 

Wed 11 & Thu 12 September: Performances at Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol 

Thu 17 October: Performance at Launceston Town Hall 

Fri 18 October: Performance at Old Bakery Studios, Truro 

Sat 26 October: Performance at York Theatre Royal Studio 

Sat 30 November: Performance at the Pound Arts Centre, Corsham 

Due to the length of the get in, the TSM will be required to travel to the performance locations the day before each show or run of shows, and home the day after, unless living within commutable distance (for rehearsals they will travel to the location on the 25th August, and back on the evening of the 28th). A half-day’s fee has been added to the total for each time this happens.

FEE:

£113 per full day, £57 per half day (total of £2096), plus travel and accommodation

TO APPLY

Send a CV and brief covering letter outlining your suitability for the role to jack@jackdean.co.uk

Interviews will be held on Thursday 8 August via Skype.

Deadline for Applications: Friday 2 August at 5pm.

Ludds On Tour #6: The Hampshire Hog Writes A Letter (Hampshire, 1816)

Part of Ludds on Tour, a series of blogs by Jack Dean looking at how the histories of places where Jeremiah  is touring relate to the events of the show.

William Cobbett was a complicated man, even by the standards of his day. Born in Farnham but settling in Botley in 1805, he was a wealthy landowner mainly known for being founder, writer and editor of The Political Register. This was a weekly newspaper that started off with Tory leanings but soon fell foul of the establishment after advocating universal suffrage and publishing recordings of parliamentary debates, which was illegal at the time (although it was less progressive in other ways, being pro-bear-baiting and mocking William Wilberforce for his support for ‘the fat and lazy and laughing and singing negroes‘). He spent two years in prison for “treasonous libel” because of the paper, leading to a cartoon being published titled “the Hampshire Hog in the Pound” (pictured above) essentially poking fun at the idea that jail was hardly going to slow down his money-grubbing schemes. Certainly Cobbett was a shrewd businessman. When the government started heavily taxing newspapers in a bid to quash dissent, Cobbett made a move way ahead of his time and purged all news content from the paper, leaving only pure opinion. This made it technically a “pamphlet” allowing it to circumvent the tax, and it was a huge hit, its circulation jumping from one to forty thousand. Critics called this new paper “the twopenny trash”. Cobbett was so unphased by his haters that he adopted the moniker himself.

             It was in this publication on November 30 that Cobbett published his “Letter to the Luddites”. This hefty nine-and-a-half-thousand-word article touches on a lot, including a whole set of tables regarding the price of produce, but in essence tells them that all their problems are due to taxation (which you can probably figure out from the above, he was not a fan of) and the government’s quantitative easing, or as he calls it “the paper-money bubble”. In essence then, though he declares sympathy with their plight, he propounds the idea that the Luddites had merely some sort of blinkered, technophobic fixation on destroying machinery, rather than an agenda for social change, an idea echoed later by Marx, and still commonly held to this day. He pretty nakedly states this somewhat condescending view in his final paragraph:

“For past errors I make all possible allowance. We all fall into errors enough naturally; and, no wonder that you should have adopted erroneous notions, seeing that the corrupt press has, for so many years been at work to deceive and mislead you. This base press, knowing what would be the inevitable consequence of your seeing the real causes of your calamities, has incessantly laboured to blind you, or to direct your eyes towards an imaginary cause. Machines, Bakers, Butchers, Brewers, Millers; any thing but the taxes and the paper-money, in all the acts of violence to which you have been led by these vile hirelings you have greatly favored the cause of corruption, which is never so much delighted as at the sight of troops acting against the people.” 

The Political Register had a wide working-class circulation, and was read outside London, so this article may not have been wholly screaming into a void. But the complex arguments of a complex man could not quell the Luddites’ anger, and the sight of troops acting against the people would come in the following year on a dramatic scale. But to find out about that, you’ll need to come see the show. Or I guess, look it up on Wikipedia. But the show will be more fun, promise.

Ludds On Tour #5: Radcliffe’s Army (Harrogate / Huddersflield, 1812)

Part of Ludds on Tour, a series of blogs by Jack Dean looking at how the histories of towns where Jeremiah’s touring relate to the events of the show.

[Okay, so although Joseph Radcliffe’s dynasty of Baronets would not take up their family seat in Rudding Park, Harrogate (which they owned until 1972) until a few years after his death, his role in the Luddite Rebellion makes the tenuous connection worthwhile.]

Radcliffe was the Magistrate of Huddersfield during a high-water-mark of the Rebellion: the assassination of William Horsfall. Horsfall was a mill owner in Marsden who had previously stated his plans to “ride up to his saddle girth in Luddite blood”. This may sound hyperbolic, but in the violent context of the time, where private police forces were often hired and deployed to crush Luddite attacks, it could be taken more seriously. Ultimately, the Luddites got to Horsfall first. Four men ambushed him on his way to market and shot him off his horse. One accountof what happened next gives another indication of the civil tensions at play:

“as soon as he fell after being wounded the inhuman populace surrounding him reproached him with having been the oppressor of the poor — they did not offer assistance — nor did any one attempt to pursue or secure the assassins who were seen to retire to an adjoining wood.”

Clearly not a popular guy. After his death, Radcliffe brought hundreds of troops to the area to track down the killers. Eventually four were arrested and put on trial, and Radcliffe led the prosecution. The confession of one of them, Benjamin Walker, sealed the fate of the other three while saving his own, and William Thorpe, Thomas Smith and George Mellor were hanged in January 1813. Shortly after, Radcliffe’s army helped track down and hang 14 more luddites for a raid on Rawfold’s mill.

Many were in favour of this kind of brutal repression. In fact, a few months later, the bourgeoisie of West Yorkshire clubbed together and commissioned a portrait of Radcliffe (pictured above) to say thank you. Nonetheless, while Horsfall’s saddle never saw Luddite blood, the first Baronet Radcliffe would see enough for both of them.

[PS, if anyone knows anything about Sir Sebastian Everard Radcliffe, the currently alive 7th Baronet Radcliffe, please do let me know. Keen to find out what he’s up to (probably not hanging people any more, but you never know!)]