If you don’t use it, you lose it. Thoughts about the National Media Museum

Long before I worked in Bradford, I visited the National Media Museum, then called the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television. I was in Yorkshire for a few days, staying Leeds whilst taking in a gig (ah, those were the days), and wanted to do a bit of sight-seeing. Being an avid photographer and cinema goer, the Museum sounded like the ideal place to spend a few hours.

It was very different of course in those days, but won me over completely. Not as interactive as museums now need to be for the YouTube generation, it still had a great selection of exhibits and things you could play with (using a vision mixer, getting ‘blue-screened’ onto a flying carpet, etc.). I left Yorkshire to head back down South feeling that I had spent my time well and telling everyone about what a gem the Museum was.

Several years later, I’d finished my doctorate and was looking to start an academic career. I had three offers of a job, one in the South, one in the North East, and one from Bradford. Two things made me choose Bradford: the advice of my supervisor, the late Professor Dick Grimsdale, whose opinion in these matters I valued extremely highly, and the fact that I remembered the wonderful Museum.

After working in the Computing Department for a couple of years, I had the opportunity to move to the ‘EIMC Unit’. This innovative department ran courses in digital media (before digital media was a term) jointly with Bradford College and the Museum. The chance to work closely with the experts from the Museum and to have access to their facilities was far too tempting, and I was lucky enough to move across the EIMC shortly afterwards. I’ve been working here ever since.

Besides the professional interest, the Museum was an essential destination when some of ‘my friends from the South’ came to visit. Not only was it a great place to wander round and grab a bite to eat, I was also proud to shatter the preconceived ideas about what people would and wouldn’t find in Bradford. A national museum? In Bradford? You’re kidding?

(Of course this does beg the question “why not?”. Why should nearly all the national museums be in London? Why is it the Northern ones that are under threat rather than the facilities in the London ones? But I’m not going to get political here, I’ll save that for another time.)

All that was a long time ago. It’s no longer the first place that I take people. I don’t go to see films there as often as a I did. I don’t grab a coffee or a bite to eat there very often.

Sure, part of this is because my life has changed. I don’t get to the cinema much at all anymore now I’ve got two small children. I’m much busier than I was as a young(ish), energetic chap enjoying the good life in a Northern town.

But I take it for granted. I forget how lucky I am to have a national museum, especially one on a such an interesting topic, right on my doorstep. I forget how fortunate I am to have the Bradford International Film Festival here every year, how very lucky I am to have the Bradford Animation Festival on my doorstep. How amazing it is to be in the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. Other cities would bite your hand off to have such a great institution in their centre.

So the time has come to use it rather than lose it. Visit it. Use the café. Use the cinema. Take people there. Because even if all the campaigning works and the museum stays open, to be sustainable it needs people to use it more.

And I need to remember why I came to Bradford in the first place, and why I later came to live and work here.

Save the National Media Museum from Simon Lawson on Vimeo.

The launch of the SCIM OB truck

Tom Ingall interviewing Ian Palmer It’s a week on since the launch of the SCIM OB truck and time to reflect on the event. It was great fun to be interviewed by Bradford SCIM graduate and BBC Look North celeb Tom Ingall.

Then it was back down five floors to see the truck itself and for Tom to cut the ribbon to formerly ‘open’ the truck for business.

It’s great to have this facility, which is the only facility of this size and capability at any university in the UK. Giving the students the chance to learn what working on a real outside broadcast is like will really given them an edge.

With more and more ‘event’ television programmes driving the ratings (the Olympics would be just a small example of this of course!) the ability to go out in the field and capture events from wherever they happen is a key skill that they can develop to the fullest.

You can see some more about the truck and the launch here.


Graduation – another celebration of success!

The highlight of the year, our graduation is tomorrow. It’s always fantastic to see everyone get their degrees, and the friends & families pleasure in seeing them walk across the stage is always great to see and hear.


Here’s my bit about the School from the brochure:
It’s been another busy and successful year for the School. Our students have won prizes from the Royal Television Society and from the BBC in its Developing Talent Awards, showing that our courses continue to produce graduates capable of working to the highest standards.

We started a new initiative with the BBC to develop the skills of their software engineers, who will be trained by our staff at the BBC in Salford and London with a view to working towards a masters degree. We developed a ground-breaking new Masters degree in Music Video Creation in collaboration with the world famous Mute Records. We created the Digital Working Academy to provide work experience for students and recent graduates, resulting in 98 students working on commercial projects worth £108k, with some of these students already finding work for the companies who commissioned the projects.

Our research continues to develop and grow, with income attracted in areas including modelling of toxicity to help avoid animal testing of substances, the digitisation of archaeological bones to help understand medical conditions and creating a 3D model of the cornea. And we are now the university in the UK to have a full high-definition outside broadcast truck.

It’s a pretty good summary of the year.  We’re on first tomorrow at 10am, and there’s a reception for gradautes afterwards, invite repeated here in case you missed it:
Following the ceremony, you are invited to a free drinks reception with live music at the Norcroft Centre from 11.30am–1.00pm
(prizes presentation at 12.15pm)
Graduation Photograph in the Student Central Lecture theatre
1.15pm Department of Computing and Maths
1.45pm Bradford Media School
2.15pm Creative Technology
(please arrive 15 mins beforehand)

I hope all goes well tomorrow. And for those of you graduating, well done, good luck and when I pronounce your name wrong tomorrow (and although I’ve practiced, I WILL get some of them wrong), please forgive me!

At last, a new update

Finally managed to get an update out to the School, the last one was in November! No excuse except (a) there’s been so much happening that there’s been no time to tell anyone and (b) I was waiting for some more definitive information. I’ve now found a small slot of time as my trip overseas was cancelled (just as well given the flight situation) and I think there’ll never be any definitive information!

Most of the last few weeks (post the move, more of that later) have been looking at how we fill the hole left by the HEFCE cap on numbers. Overall we’d been looking at growing our UG numbers in line with previous policy and obviously the halt on this has resulted in some head scratching. Postgraduate growth will be difficult (how will people afford it?) and overseas recruitment is very competitive. I hope Brown (or whoever it might be) gets his ‘crack down’ on bogus colleges to reduce the number of overseas students by 40,000 correct and does just that without impacting on legitimate students at legitimate institutions.

We’re obviously looking at more flexible delivery and programmes aimed helping those students not able to find a place due to the cap, but this is very much uncharted waters for everyone. Mind you, it seems the HE sector is very much like this every year!

At least it’s never boring…