Maxwell Dean is a 27-year-old copywriter with an interest in cinema and social issues. Here he talks about how horror cinema and examples within the horror genre explore the concept of death and mortality.
No one can escape from death, whether you are rich or poor. As the 17th century dramatist James Shirley writes in his poem, Death the Leveller:
“And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.”
Perhaps this is why cinema that explores this concept can often have such a universal appeal.
Cinema, and, in particular, horror films, can allow us to explore themes of death and our fears within a self-controlled safety and comfort. Indeed, upon reflection, our reality is often scarier than a cinema experience.
If we take a closer look at such notorious films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), it could be argued that they simply reflect the time period in which they were made. To America, the loss of life during the Vietnam War and horrifying incidents like the Mai Lai Massacre were recent history upon the film’s initial release.
This social commentary within horror cinema has continued with such films as George A Romero’s Dawn of The Dead, Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and more recently, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.
To further understand the appeal of this cinema it is also useful to go back to the medium’s verybeginning. In the 2000 documentary American Nightmare, Professor Tom Gunning of the University explains that when cinema was first invented it was received as a new symbol of immortality. Through it’s moving images people and snapshots of their lives were captured in time and could be played over and over again for the first time; death was, in so many words, no longer total.
Yet, at what at first seemed to promise immortality, as he puts it, ultimately delivered ghosts.
Ghosts also play an important role in The Devil’s Backbone. This lesser-known masterpiece, centred around an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, teaches us that our ghosts and death itself, can provide us with important lessons about ourselves. If approached from this viewpoint, we should not be scared of death. As the following quote in the opening sequence tells us:
“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber”
This message comes after a powerful opening visual sequence which recalls the scene of horror in Picasso’s Guernica, as a bomb falls from a plane above the orphanage. Through such depictions of horror and death, The Devil’s Backbone and films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre simply remind us that the only true ghosts can be find within our own history. It is our inability to learn from death and such tragedies as The Spanish Civil war which creates them.
Kent’s The Babadook is another film which explores these ideas, but within a more personal story of family grief and issues of mental health. It centres on a widowed mother in suburban Australia who is struggling to raise her child on her own. Here these concepts take the literal form of a frightening monster from a children’s book. Rather interestingly, the visual imagery of this monster harks back to the past and imagery of German Expressionist cinema, most notably The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this particular film directly reflected the deep scars and fractured psyche left on the German population by the horrors and mass slaughter of WW1.
The ‘Great’ War’s battlefields were an obvious inspiration for Caligari’s images of twisted alleyways and oddly angled, man-made landscapes. The film’s writers, both former soldiers, had seen the horror of WW1’s bloody battlefields first hand and in so many words, faced and survived death itself.
In The Babadook the monster's power is only defeated when the mother faces her grief head on and learns to accept it as part of her life. With this I, for one, believe that the film sends a powerful message on challenging mental health stigma within our contemporary society. At the end of the day, no-one should be ashamed to have suicidal thoughts. We will all face challenging times in our lives.
Facing our fears and exploring concepts of death is a key part of being human.
Blog by Maxwell Dean written for the November 2017 theme #CMdeath
Every month it’s our mission to bring you an interesting talk from an engaging speaker. So, here at CreativeMornings Cardiff, we’re always on the lookout for good speakers. But what makes a ‘good’ or even ‘great’ speaker? After all, different speakers can be engaging in their own way. Some are quiet in their delivery, some gregarious, some make you laugh and some have even made the CM Cardiff audience cry! So, we thought we’d throw the question over to you. Here’s what you had to say.
‘Nerves is a good sign in a speaker’
Sarah Morris, founder of CreativeMornings Cardiff said: “A good talk for me is genuine, speaks of personal experience and is well researched/insightful. In my experience nerves in a speaker is a great sign and means you’re in for a brilliant talk, because it shows they give a shit!”
Luke Stanton of Open Eye Photography and CreativeMornings team member reckons a good speaker is: "Someone who’s informative and funny but also leaves enough things open to encourage interesting questions and audience engagement.”
As a member of the Ignite Cardiff team, the speaking event featuring inspirational talks from passionate people, Steve Dimmick has introduced more than 300 different speakers to the stage, covering all topics imaginable. He says the best speakers were: “well-practised and knowledgeable”.
On Twitter, the team behind Cardiff Bay creative co-working hub Rabble Studio said: “Authenticity, passion, story and amazing use of GIFs!”
Designer Martin Lee Grügel responded with: “Articulation, sense of humour, openness and a strong sense of purpose.”
Product design student Kirsten Mark said: “#Storytellers #positivethinking #honest #toptipsshared”.
Communications specialist Emina Redzepovic said: “Honesty, passion, journey, humbleness, openness”.
Creative director Deborah Withey’s top ‘good speaker’ attributes are: “Enthusiastic delivery and knowledge of subject”.
And ‘honest’ got a few mentions. Marketer Louise Reed said : “Honest, humble, inspiring and insightful” and filmmaker Ben Smith tweeted: “Honesty, humility, insight”.
‘Cut through the noise’
Dan Tyte is the managing director of Cardiff communications agency Working Word PR and author of the novel Half Plus Seven. As someone called on to speak at events, as well as having organised many speakers for events over the years, we asked Dan – what makes a ‘good’ speaker?
“People have got enough noise in their lives so the speakers that cut through this for me are the ones that make it feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend you’d like to have, feeling comfortable, challenged and learning something new about yourself and the world around you.”
Miranda Bishop is the managing director of social media agency Talking Social Media and one of the team behind Ignite Cardiff. So, Miranda knows a thing or two about what makes a good speaker. She says:
“I always think being a good speaker is more than just projecting your voice, staying planted and making good eye contact. Really great speakers have something authentic to them and aren’t trying to play the role of a typical ‘public speaker’.
“I met a fantastic speaker last year who sat down for his whole talk and isn’t naturally gifted at projection but had figured out his style and was totally authentic to his personality. He was a brisk speaker so left plenty of well-timed pauses. He was also very, very technically minded, so he broke up the complex information with funny techy memes. It meant that even if you weren’t following the technical side of his talk, you could very easily follow the concepts he was showing.
“When I talk I like to be well-prepared but I also like to have a few stories, jokes or anecdotes in my back pocket that I can pull out depending on certain responses from the audience. It means that I’m not just following a set script and that people get much more of a genuine experience with me.”
We want to hear from you!
We are Creative Mornings Cardiff# and we want to hear from you! Want to deliver a 20-minute talk at a future CM Cardiff event? Do you know someone you think would make a great speaker? Get in touch! We’d love to hear your suggestions. You can watch videos of past CM Cardiff speakers here.
Photography by Open Eye Photography & Gareth Strange
Blog by Talia Loderick
In July, the CreativeMornings theme was Equality and we were excited to welcome speaker Lyanna Tsakiris to bar and restaurant 29 Park Place in central Cardiff.
With more than 15 years’ experience in integrated communications consultancy, Lyanna Tsakiris co-founded Station Rd Marketing in 2014. She is also co-founder of Re:Program, a not-for-profit initiative designed to raise the visibility of women in tech, digital and entrepreneurship in Wales via events, mentoring and leadership initiatives.
Lyanna spoke about “the F word – fairness”. She added: “It’s really important for us to be having these conversations. We all need to be out there sharing our stories. The more we talk about things the more we learn and the more we break down barriers.”
Lyanna’s talk on gender equality in the creative industries and the business world and how this led her to co-found Station Road Marketing and Re:Program resonated with the CreativeMornings Cardiff audience. Some were inspired to share their own experiences after.
We also asked our MorningPeople what equality means to them.
- Taken for granted
- Helping other people out
- Celebrating difference
- Respecting everyone’s colourful nature
- An opinion formed based on both someone’s character and their actions –nothing more
- Flexible working hours for men too, so both parents get a chance at a career with children
- Being fair
- Always treating people how you want to be treated
- Choice and voice
- Fairness, equal opportunities and open minds
Missed out on tickets for CMequality? Don’t worry, we filmed Lyanna’s talk. You’ll be able to watch it back on the CreativeMornings Cardiff site this month.
On Thursday, 8 June 2017, the UK goes to the polls yet again. It certainly feels like we’ve had more than our fair share of elections lately. Here at CreativeMornings/CDF, we thought we’d take a creative stance on politics and speak to the makers of some of the art inspired by this latest General Election but also the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU.
Graphic designer Sean Rees
Why did you design this piece of political art?
When I got the invitation to contribute to the ME & EU project it sounded right up my street – Brexit among other events has created a massive divide in Britain and overseas and no matter what your stance, it’s undeniable that damage has been done. This was a chance, albeit a very small one, to reach out and try to re-connect.
When used correctly, particularly in politics, humour can be an effective way to engage people of opposing viewpoints, when we’re not on the defensive and let our guards down we are most able to listen.
What has the response been like?
All you can do it put it out there and hope it resonates. History has shown us the power of design to provoke and bring people together. We can play an important role in engaging people in our ever changing political, social, economic and environmental landscape. Or at the very least to think and engage.
Graphic designer Lauren Goodland
Why did you design this piece of political art?
When I graduated last year I always said I wanted to create work that helped to make the world a more positive place. We’re facing a massive problem at the moment with few people registering to vote, especially the younger generation. Voting is something people fought for and it’s so important but the turnout is still really low - at the local elections in Newport this year it was something like 36.3%, which is disgusting!
There’s a Charlie Chaplin speech from the film The Great Dictator that is still relevant. It shouldn’t be though, as it was created in the 1940s. I hope that the speech from that film (Chaplin’s first film with dialogue) would inspire people to register to vote, even if just a small percentage of people. I left a few prints in university campuses as it’s even more important that young people vote - it’s our future after all and we have the ability to shape it.
As a graphic designer I like to think that I have tools to be able to create things that people will see. The Government haven’t really done anything ground-breaking in terms of improving voter turnout, so I feel like it’s down to normal people - musicians, artists, YouTubers. We have the ability to influence!
What has the response been like?
The response was great - I even had an interview with BBC Radio Wales based around voter apathy. I had a few tweets from people that had managed to find the prints, but I have no idea who picked up the rest - I kind of like not knowing where they’ve ended up!
I do have a funny story about one ending up in a bin though, on my last drop-off too! Stupidly I left one on top of a bin in a shopping centre and as I was exiting in the lift the cleaner put it in the bin. My mum, being a top mum, went and stuck her hand in the bin and got it out. So sorry to whoever got the last print that was possibly covered in bin contents.
We’ve found some other examples of political art & design being shared across social media.
This is by designer and previous speaker Gavin Strange
This by designer Mark James
And this spotted at the Little Man Coffee by The Amplifier Press
Last March we were lucky to be joined by Pinar Ogun who gave a talk on the theme of taboo. We loved her different style of presenting, and we were also very happy to see some new faces join us. So we asked some of our MorningPeople what they thought about Pinar’s talk. Here’s what they said….
“I’d been wanting to get to the Cardiff CM for ages, but one thing or another meant that I’d not been able to get there. This month, I finally made it, and it didn’t disappoint! It was really great to be amongst other creatives and listen to the incredibly inspiring Pinar Ogun talk about her experiences relating to the topic of ‘Taboo’. The atmosphere was really relaxed and generally just felt like a nice place to get the day off to a good start! I’ll definitely be going again.”
Josh Bedford - Illustrate Digital.
“Pinar’s talk was so passionate and moving. It’s so nice to listen to someone who is clearly speaking from the heart. One quote that has stuck with me was when Pinar spoke about a group of young people she had worked with. A group that had led quite difficult lives. Pinar said, ‘They were younger than I was, but somehow they were so much older.’ As someone that works with children, that really resonated with me. Thank you Pinar.”
Gareth Thomas - Made Clear
“My introduction to Creative Morning in Cardiff was the Taboo talk by Pinar Ogun. Pioneer’s talk was inspiring, challenging and heart breaking as she brought us along with her through the story of how and why she is doing what she is doing.
I’m new to the city and it was really great to meet a lot of people who are working in creative areas. Everyone was so friendly and eager to talk, whether people knew each other already or it was a first encounter. It was really interesting to see the diversity of the creative sector in Cardiff and I am looking forward to the next one.”
Lizzy Willmington, Student / Law School at Cardiff University.
Our recent speaker Suzanne has been reflecting on her talk and experience…
So here I am out the other side of my Cardiff CM talk and marveling at the persuasive powers that some people possess. I’m a great fan of Cardiff CM and of the team that give so much of their time and energy to driving it but I’ll admit that I wasn’t much enamoured with the concept of speaking. I turn up each month relaxed; safe in the knowledge that some other creative soul, with much more interesting things to say, will regail me with stories of their work/life battles/achievements and impress me with their brilliance. Combined with free coffee and some friendly networking it’s an agreeable way to start a day.
So having been cajoled into sharing a few moments of my own story; how would I describe the experience? Well, true to form both the team and the audience were warm, supportive and responsive. Month after month this coming together of familiar, friendly faces makes the world feel like a sunnier place and so it felt good to give a tiny bit in return.
I was acutely aware that people had a small window of time before their work beckoned and they had to get on with their day. It’s been a long life - I edited hard. In hindsight I left some major things out and put some minor things in. Maybe I gave people the wrong end of the stick. Maybe I need to do another talk just to clarify what I said and didn’t say the first time around. And maybe I shouldn’t say another word. Hindsight, apparently it’s a wonderful thing.
Ultimately, thanks to everyone involved, I can honestly say I’d recommend it. Whether you feel you’ve got something to say or not, if Melin or one of the team get in touch, say yes. I can assure you that the CM crowd are very, very good listeners.
Watch Suzanne’s inspiring talk here
We recently published the brilliant Gavin Strange’s CreativeMorning talk on Love. His passion for what he does was tangible and we all left reeling from his barrage of inspiration and gifs! Our partners for that month were the talented group that make up BrandSixtyEight, a group of design and branding specialists based in Cardiff Bay. Director James Horsham was inspired to do a write up:
We really enjoyed supporting CreativeMornings and particularly enjoyed the theme of love and Gavin chose ‘love what you do’ as his take on it.
There were about 100 in the room eagerly awaiting his start and when he did he didn’t disappoint.
The rap music began and Gavin very naturally danced his way into his talk. I think everybody was a bit surprised but at the same time excited about what was coming. The good news is the man can dance. I remember thinking at the time ‘a big entrance, hope the rest is as good’ and it was.
Gavin clearly has a lot of energy and a genuine love of life, his family and his work. His presentation never stood still. He talks at a million miles per hour and his slides go at a similar pace. I was amazed at how he managed to go so fast and keep everything in sync.
Gavin packed so much in and came at it with so much pace and energy it was hard to fully absorb. What I do remember and what I have taken from it is if you love what you do and you work hard you will be successful. I don’t mean in monetary terms; I mean emotionally successful. Gavin clearly loves his job at Aardman, he loves his personal work under his Jam Factory brand and he loves his wife and her hand made Jewellery business which he is also involved in. He’s also written his first book Do Fly, which is the latest addition to the DO lecture book series. It’s hard to imagine how he ever has a spare minute, but be admits that if you love what you do its never work.
I’m a pretty busy person running Brand Sixty Eight in two countries and the one thing in my life that that slowed me down and diverted some of my attention was Children. I remember Gavin talking about wanting to be a dad and not just any dad, he wants to be “the best dad in the world”. I remember thinking how much I love being a dad but at the same time how much ‘what you do’ changes.
I’m convinced Gavin will make a great dad and that next chapter in his life will undoubtedly be the most rewarding. We wish him well and if we have a topic of ‘Change’ after he’s experience child rearing and we will welcome him back!
Check out Gavin’s talk for yourself here: https://creativemornings.com/talks/gavin-strange/1
Just over a week ago, on a Friday, I went along to CreativeMornings Cardiff. I’ve been before, but not for a long time. I’ve probably been to more in Edinburgh than I have in Cardiff. But my memory of each one is of meeting great people, really interesting talks, and coming away wih a load of new ideas. This one was no exception.
Suzanne Carpenter is an illustrator. She spoke with great humility and honesty, things I love about CreativeMornings (and creative people in general).
Forcing yourself to network
Something Suzanne mentioned immediately struck a chord with me. I reached for my notebook and scribbled it down.
I was never very good at networking and selling myself. I would rather sit in the corner and do some colouring. If someone came over and expressed an interest, then I would happily talk to them.
I’m very much paraphrasing here, sorry Suzanne.
(I’m a prolific note-taker, but over time this only seems to have provided a negative impact on my handwriting.)
- Having already looked at Suzanne’s Instagram account, describing what she does as colouring in might possibly be the understatement of the century.
- I feel the same way about networking and self-promotion.
To be a networker, you must think like a networker
At a networking event earlier in the week, a speaker advised students… if you’re afraid to sell yourselves, take on the persona of someone who is good at networking. Just for the next hour or so.
I like that way of thinking. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to achieve more than you thought you were capable of.
But I prefer to show and not tell. Let the work do the talking.
When I started out I wanted to be a web designer. So I started designing my own sites until someone paid me to do theirs.
When we started Reserve (a holiday rental agency we built over the last 10 years), we only had a couple of properties. So we did all we could to market them brilliantly (excellent photography, the best marketing materials, guest reviews anyone would be proud of). We waited for people to see it and come to us. And they did. About 300 of them.
I’ve got a whole page of thoughts and ideas from Suzanne’s talk. As always I was very happy that I went along (and arrived over half an hour early — super keen!). But this stayed with me above all else.
Think about what you want to do, and start doing it.
by Gareth K. Thomas / Made Clear
We asked the Cardiff folks for their favourite moments to celebrate February’s theme #CMmoments
Last month was the month of love and to celebrate our friends at Stills Branding wrote the #StillsLoves blog series. We were so happy to be a part of the series.
Here are the kind words from Stills Branding about our monthly events. These guys are inspirational in the Cardiff scene and it’s great to know that our events are bringing together some of Cardiff’s most creative individuals. Take it away Still…