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!

So what happened to March?

It seemed to fly by and I have no idea where it went. The last time I posted it was all about struggling to pull together the proosal for the new academic calendar (that’s been to ASPC, LTC and Senate and been approved), the impending academic review (we’ve had the panel meetings and are waiting for the report) and the BCS accreditation visit (which went well and we await the written feedback).  And of course the City Park opened, which whatever you think about it has transformed the city centre and it’s a joy to see so many people out there enjoying the recent good weather.

If that’s not enough for one month, we’ve had the opening of the excellent Life Online gallery and TedX Bradford at the NMeM, another BBC RAC meeting, and Spurs have gone from Champions’ League certainties to Europa League hopefuls and back again.

In the middle of all this, we’ve moved offices. As you may know, I was in a shared space with the staff support team in the basement of Horton D (hence the original title of this blog). With the reclading of the building (which has gone very smoothly and looks great), we had to find temporary accomodation for the Student Support Office. This gave us an opportunity to rethink how we use our space. The position of the recruitment office was far from ideal (up some stairs and along a corridor), especially given the amount of traffic on applicant visit days. Given where we were located, i.e. in the ‘basement’ which of course is actually at ground level (don’t ask, it’s one of the challenges of labelling floors in buildings that are built on hillsides) and so had easy access, it made sense to use this forced temporary move to use that space more effectively. Hence the Recruitment Office is now using that, both as office space and to hold receptions and recruitment events. We’ve now moved to the fifth floor. So time to rename the blog. The Student Support Office is temporarily where Recruitment were, and when they move back we’ll continue to use that space for supporting our partnership work (someting that was originally located with us in the basement).

As with all these things, the disruption is substantial, but the move seems to have gone very smoothly with all parties happy with their new space. Which is something that is often tricky to achieve. So thanks to all involved, both in terms of those moving and the tech support team that made it happen, for such a slick operation.

As well as the cladding operation, those of you who used the small entrance door facing the Richmond Building will have seen our new ‘porch’ being constructed. The ‘official’ entrance to Horton D is round the back up the curved steps facing the Chesham Building. No doubt this fitting perfectly in the architect’s vision at the time, but now that we get a lot of traffice to and from the Richmond Building, and in these days of more awareness of access for those with mobility problems, it really didn’t make sense. Now the building work is complete we need to populate that space to make it more interesting, which will hopefully happen over the next few months.

Besides hoping that the warmer weather will drive away any more snow, there’s much to look forward to in April. The Bradford International Film Festival has a superb line up this year, with a wide variety from the obscure masterpieces to classic cartoons. If you’re in Bradford while it’s on, there really is no excuse not to pop along to something. There’s another ACE meeting, which are always interesting and lively. And of course there’s the usual day-to-day expected and unexpected challenges.

I expect come May I’ll be looking back asking ‘what happened to April’?!

Two days in London

This week began with a trip to London for a meeting with Skillset about CPD modules and a visit to the BBC.

The Skillset meeting went well, and we are  looking at developing some modules to fit into the ‘Build your own MA‘ programme. This is very different from traditional PG programmes and offers a flexible approach to study for people already in industry.

Tuesday was my first event as a member of the BBC’s Audience Council. It was an induction event covering the responsibilities and what the BBC Trust expect from council members. We also had a chance to have a quick tour of the studios and the newsroom and meet some of the people working there (and yes, I still get a bit excited at being in the Later with Jools Holland studio when they’re preparing for the next show).

It was a very interesting day, and I must admit looking forward to taking on the role of chair of the Yorkshire Regional Audience Council, although it will be a big responsibility, especially for someone from the South!

I’m expected to draw on my contacts and networks to get a wider picture of peoples’ perceptions of the BBC’s output, so questions/answers on a postcard to the usual address please.