BBC Blast Truck in Hull 31st August and 1st of September 2006

The BBC Blast Truck is being supported by the Ultralab team for a tour around the UK undertaking creative outreach work with young people.

The big grey trucks rolled into Hull and were situated in Hull College car park for a two day visit with extended hours. The truck acted as a drop in centre for young people wishing to experiment with digital creativity, dance, music and ethical fashion. Bookings were also taken though the BBC Blast website. The venue was run by Paul from Connexions Humber in association with the BBC. Sadly it rained for the duration of the visit.

I ran classes in clay animation, digital photography, silent movies and creating comics.


It was really nice to be back in Hull, this is not the first time I have worked within the Hull region. In 2004 I was part of the ‘International Certificate in Digital Photography’ (ICDC) project in association with Creative Partnerships Hull.

Back in 2002/3 I worked closely with Richard Millwood, Hamish Scott-Brown and Professor Stephen Heppell of Ultralab on the ‘Input CBBC’ project. We worked in Hull and the North of England region with schools, colleges and community centres to find out what television would be like if young people made it themselves. There is more information on the project on this website.

BBC Blast Truck in Newcastle 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st of August

Hamish Scott-Brown joined the BBC Blast Truck in Newcastle to be Lead Facilitator in a feast of film, animation and music. The event was highly successful for everyone involved.

BBC Blast Truck in Glasgow 11th and 12th of August

st-andrews.jpgHamish Scott-Brown headed to his native Glasgow for a couple of days onboard the BBC Blast Truck as facilitator. Hamish’s role as Lead Facilitator is to lead creative workshops while supporting local facilitators as they come onboard the truck to run their own creative classes. Glasgow was a huge success for BBC Blast with film being a particular favorite of the Glasgow young people.

BBC Blast Truck in Bristol 2nd and 3rd of August

bristol.jpgThe BBC Blast Truck headed down the M32 Motorway to join Hal MacLean for an exciting two days of film and dance.
Hal represented Ultralab as the lead facilitator at this location. Matthew Eaves, Hamish Scott-Brown and Hal MacLean are on a rotation system throughout the tour, doubling up at some locations to support each other at some of the larger events.
Hal was pleased to work with Gail Taylor, who worked herself on an Ultralab project back in 2002 called ‘The Online Soap’. Hal also spent time working with friend of Ultralab Samantha Beddoes who filmed Hal and myself back in 2004 for BBC Blast’s November TV show, Sam now works for BBC Newsround and worked closely with Hal on Final Cut Pro, Apple’s film editing software.

BBC Blast Truck in White City, London 19th, 20th and 21st of July

Hal MacLean and myself joined the BBC Blast Truck in White City to in the lead facilitation role working with young people from the London Region on Digital Creativity projects. Hal and I spent two days of the event working with a group of budding young enthusiasts interested in a career in television. We demonstrated to them the technologies before undertaking a tough filming task. On the first day of White City we were joined by Ultralab’s Colin Elsey and co-Blast Lead Facilitator Hamish Scott-Brown who brought the young people from the Anglia Ruskin Summer School for a day on the truck undertaking an Animation task.
King Harold School’s Malcolm Burnett arranged for a bus load of his young people, spending their time between the truck events and the BBC’s 21CC Creativity Centre.
A huge amount of BBC staff were about for the three day event, in particular a strong presence of BBC mentors…. that’s people that work for the BBC helping the young people with advice.

The final day was completed with a big celebration of music, film and dance attended by well over 100 people. A great time was had by all.
Richard Millwood, Director of Ultralab joined the finale event and filmed the performances from one of the live cameras. Iona Walters, friend of Ultralab from ‘Input CBBC’ project days was also in attendance filming the dance participants in action. It was also great to see Gail Taylor, who was part of the Ultralab ‘Online Soap’ project back in 2002 (read more about it on this site), Gail now works for the BBC on mobile telephone projects and will be joining the Blast Truck when it arrives in Bristol, as a mentor.

Some images from the event:

BBC Blast Truck in Sheffield 6th, 7th and 8th of July

sheffield.jpgHal MacLean joined the BBC Blast Truck as lead facilitator onboard as it arrived in Sheffield for a fun packed three days, including a big showcase event of young peoples creative work.
The Ultralab team have worked extensively in Sheffield in the past, back in 2002 Hamish Scott-Brown, myself and Richard Millwood spent time working here on the BBC’s Input CBBC project, which gave young people the opportunity to be creative using computers to make television for broadcast, without adult intervention.

BBC Blast Truck in Belfast 21st, 22nd and 23rd of June 2006

The BBC Blast Truck rolled in to Belfast. Hamish Scott-Brown stayed with the truck while it was in transit from its last tour location; Derry to its new home in Belfast. I flew home and flew back to join the truck and run Clay Animation classes.
While in Northern Ireland we’re lucky enough to be working with some of the BBC’s finest, including Michael who works on BBC Northern Ireland’s Newsline programme, editing together some of the news stories. Northern Ireland so far has been fantastic, both Hamish and I are shattered, but there is a real buzz here of activity and creative output…..we’ve really enjoyed ourselves…..and learnt a lot from the people we are working with.As ever, the quality of the content produced by the young people we are facilitating is simply excellent.Click to view a selection of pictures taken in Belfast.
It was also good to have Ultralab’s local Anthony Russell join us onboard to meet the team from BBC Northern Ireland.
One of the best bits aspects I think this truck offers is the ability to leave with any creative work made by young people. Each young person will leave the truck with a CD or a DVD containing their work, and using Apple technology they are also bluetoothing footage straight out of Apple’s iMovie right to their Bluetooth mobile phones.
We’ve been running film and animation workshops while VJ’s and DJ’s mix music and video in the adjoining room. Outside a cheerleading workshop has been teaching young boys and girls how to dance to music.

Watch the BBC 2 Blast Show about our Animation Creation: Play Now | Play in Popup

BBC Blast Event Producer Training Days in London 25th/26th May 2006

Ultralab have been commissioned by BBC Blast after a long working relationship over the years to provide the lead facilitation role on the first ever BBC Blast National Tour. Ultralab has years of experience facilitating groups of young people (on a global scale) working to use technology for creative purpose. The Ultralab team will be working with ‘Event Producers’ nationally to support the planning and rollout of creativity workshops across the entire 15 week tour. Hal, Hamish and Matthew will rotate during the tour itself, but will overlap in Northern Ireland and London.
Hal MacLean reflects on the training day, attended by Hamish Scott-Brown, Matthew Eaves and Hal himself:
You can’t really imagine what a juggernaut looks like as a training area, and the following images probably don’t really help except to show the amazing flexibility of the vehicle itself. These were taken at the BBCs outside broadcast depot in Acton.
Whilst this looks like a cafe area, you are seeing one side of the truck and the outside area that will be covered with a canopy. To the left is a low stage and between the windows are some floodlights that will give a great ambience to the space. The outside area is intended to be for sample workshops, dance work, performance and so on. It can hold about 100 people for a show.
The sides of the truck concertina up to form a roof, and extend the width of the space. The walls fold out and the floor unfolds sideways as well. A normal truck is about 7ft wide, but this image shows the extended width, which I estimate as nearer 25 feet.
On the inside the space has four tables which are fitted with 3 laptops each. Plasma screens around the edge (one per table) and an interactive whiteboard are available… along with loads of other techie stuff. The dividers around the tables are removable for more collaborative working.
With space for 12 laptops we reckon we could get 24 – 30 people working in there easily enough, but the limit is for 50 people inside when it is set up for a showcase. Towards the far right end of the shot is a doorway that leads into a studio space and more visible on the left you go into an editing suite – this will have 3 macbook pro machines in it as well as video mixing, hard discs, network equipment and shedloads of other stuff to allow people to bring along just about any format media and have it digitized so that they can work on it.
Here you can see video mixers, audio mixers and on the far right are a couple of tape ‘ingest’ drives – further over to the right, out of shot, are the network routers and hard drives, DVD burners, VTR machines… a veritable playground!
This suite looks in to a studio space which is going to be multifunctional – currently a backdrop screen and a chair are all that is in there, but look at the number of people – it can easily hold half a dozen plus camera crew…
The event producers were all there and anxious to know what they would be able to do in the space – true to form, Hamish and Matt introduced them to the joys of digital creativity through an intensive two hour workshop packed with stills photography, storyboarding, animation, garage band, iMovie… endless ideas and ways to actively engage the young people who will visit.
Hame, Matt and I will be working a frantic carousel of attendance at the different locations… supported by Richard and Colin (who hopefully will cover the Reading Festival as a location for the truck). Other locations are still being organised and it’s all hands to the pumps! Liverpool starts the tour *tomorrow*!!
Good luck to the Liverpool team, and to Matt who will be the lead facilitator on the day.

The Really Creative School Event

Martin Doherty reflects on the ‘Really Creative School Event’ which was funded by NCSL and began on the 12th of September:
Personnel involved: Martin Doherty, Tony Browne, Hamish Scott-Brown, one NCSL Electronic Learning Facilitator (Matt Parrott), two Ultralab researchers providing technical expertise – Matthew Eaves and Matt Sisto
Watch the material produced at the event by clicking here.
Aim of Event:

  • To create a virtual school visit through web broadcasting
  • To showcase a school involved in remodeling their curriculum
  • To create a virtual discussion using web broadcast and simultaneous community discussion
  • To stimulate debate among community members

Event Background:
This event stemmed from the work of the Re-modeling the Curriculum Community, one of the Talk2learn Online Communities, which has been the focus for in-depth headteacher discussions on creativity in schools and the mechanisms for promoting creativity in the school curriculum.
Many of the postings to this community ask for information on how schools start the journey towards being a creative school, what materials are useful in planning and requests for information on how a variety of problems can be overcome. A number of the postings express a wish to visit creative schools to see first hand how things are done. Given the geographical spread of the schools involved visits are difficult to organize and expensive to undertake. In response to these difficulties the Really Creative School Visit Event was constructed
Event Rationale:
The event starts from the premise that if it is difficult to have interested headteachers visit really creative schools then the solution is to have the work and experience of really creative schools made more readily accessible to interested headteachers. This is usually done through the production of reports such as OfSTED’s The curriculum in successful primary schools. Such reports are useful but the text-based format lacks the punch available through using internet and multimedia techniques.
By creatively combining the use of community software, video and internet broadcast technology the team set to organize an event where the work of really creative schools could be revealed to interested parties without the constraints imposed by geographical location, travel and time. The team believed that participation in such an event should help schools starting on the journey to a more creative curriculum practice to foster mutually supportive relationships with like-minded fellow practitioners that will have long term benefits for all parties. In short, the use of video records the practices and the reality of the creative school while the use of broadcast technology allows many interested practitioners to gain useful insights without the creative school being frequently disrupted. In addition the use of community software allows the creation of an on-going support community which, apart from allowing the flow of experience and documentation between schools working in this field, has the potential to develop mentoring between experienced schools and those just starting out on the journey.
Event Structure: Timetable for event of 22nd, 23rd and 24 th September
Pre-event activities:

  • The event is advertised in the Online communities and interested members are contacted to inform them of event.
  • The host schools prepare useful materials and documentation that they wish to share with those taking part in the event. This material is posted in the community.
  • Host schools identify exactly what they would like to be recorded and broadcast thay best reflects the practice of their schools.
  • Host school obtain permission from parents of those taking part in the event remembering that if will be broadcast on the internet.

Friday September 12th:

  • Video making training day for pupils from Claypool PS and Rivington and Blackrod High. An Ultralab team will assist pupils to shoot and edit some videos for broadcast.
  • The video equipment is left in the safe-keeping of the schools to prepare some videos for broadcast on 23rd /24th September.

Monday 22nd:

  • Ultralab team arrive and work with pupils to edit their videos for broadcast
  • Video shooting in Primary School continues on Monday Afternoon

Tuesday 23rd:

  • Video shooting in Primary School continues throughout the day.
  • Online broadcast of footage begins at 10am . Video clips are repeated throughout day to allow heads to dip in and out throughout day.
  • Online community active and accepting questions and comments
  • Shooting in Secondary School continues
  • PM 3 visiting headteacher tour the school with host head and the tour is recorded and snippets broadcast.
  • Possible use of live webcam of discussions on the tour
  • 4.30pm Live Online Broadcast of Panel discussion between visiting heads and host head with the theme of Fostering a Creative School

Wednesday 24th:

  • Video shooting in Secondary School continues throughout the day.
  • Online broadcast of footage begins at 10am . Video clips are repeated throughout day to allow heads to dip in and out throughout day
  • Online community active and accepting questions and comments
  • PM 3 visiting headteacher tour the school with host head and the tour is recorded and snippets broadcast.
  • Possible use of live webcam of discussions on the tour
  • 4.30pm Live Online Broadcast of Panel discussion between vistting heads and host head with the theme of Fostering a Creative School

Follow up to event:

  • The head teachers of the secondary school and the primary school will co-host a Hotseat discussion in the NCSL in Dialogue Community focusing on the practicalities of Leadership of a Creative School .
  • Video material will be edited and posted in the community as a resource for future development
  • Community items will be posted to encourage the swapping of experience between those who have taken part in the event.
  • Mentoring possibilities will be explored between participating schools.

Organisation and Changes
The event ran more or less to plan but certain technical challenges were not overcome. The most notable of these was the inability of the LEA to clear the gateways through their systems to allow the internet broadcast from Claypool Primary School to take place. Due to this last minute hitch the broadcast had to be abandoned with the material being recorded and placed as a streaming internet broadcast after the event. The Live Panel Broadcast did take place from Blackrod and Rivington High School using an ISDN line that did not use the LEA systems.
All the video material pupil videos, school tours and panel discussions are now available for viewing from the Really Creative School Visit Event Page in NCSL in Dialogue in a streaming format which allows 24/7 viewing of the material by any NCSL member.

  • The event allowed two creative schools to showcase their methods to others.
  • A valuable resource has been created for any school wishing to begin the journey to a more creative curriculum.
  • The pupils and staff of two schools have been trained in valuable video techniques which they plan to extend.
  • It has been illustrated that using readily available and relatively inexpensive computer and video equipment any school can showcase their practice and share it with others.
  • Young pupils can plan, make and edit interesting documentary style videos with a minimum of teacher input.
  • Another technique has been demonstrated which may be used with NCSL programmes eg Network Learning Communities and Local Network Communities to further their work.

Lessons Learned:

  • It is difficult to interest busy schools in this type of experimental activity. Some thirty schools from the Ofsted report were contacted before the host schools were identified. In the end the host schools agreed because of the relationship build up with the facilitator in other activities.
  • The event demonstrated that the combination of video footage, curriculum development material and community software is a powerful one.
  • Timing of the event is crucial. Sadly with the changes in the software and the login problems being experienced by members hampered attendance at the event.
  • The event could have benefited from more advertising.
  • Streaming video, while currently prone to bandwidth issues, is a powerful addition to the techniques available to bring the work of schools into the online community in a real and graphic way.
  • LEAs require very substantial notice to prime Firewalls, and allow FTP access.


  • The techniques developed being explored further during other events e.g. Ultraversity PR material, from zero to hero, an everyday Teaching Assistant’s rise.
  • The possible links with Network Learning Communities attempts to have schools share practice be explored further.
  • Training for ELFs in these techniques should be considered.

Watch the material produced at the event by clicking here.
Some images from the event:

Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station becomes new focus for Lifeboats.TV (28th – 31st January 2002)

Hamish Scott-Brown, Colin Elsey and Matthew Eaves headed over the sea to Dun Laoghaire in Ireland to begin the second lot of filming for the Lifeboats.TV project.
The crew there were amazing, providing excellent stories and accounts of rescues which were turned into video and audio files, and incorporated into the Lifeboats.TV website.
All the research conducted so far on this project has been done in conjunction with young people, exploring how creative use of technology could be used to enhance their learning, bringing the RNLI bang up to date with its uses of technology at the same time.
Watch a male crew member explain what it is like to be in a lifeboat on a shout.
Click to watch a movie about the kind of person do you need to be a lifeboat crew member.
photos_dunlaoghaire.jpgThis movie explains why a female crew member does what she does.
A young male crew member explains what he thinks a person has to be in order to be a lifeboat crew member.
View the pictures taken at the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station.
And finally…
This film is one of the best we managed to capture, and explains with emotion why it is that lifeboat crewmembers are prepared to risk their lives to save those of others.
Matthew Eaves (Ultralab)
Colin Elsey (Ultralab)
Hamish Scott-Brown (Ultralab)
Micky Slatford (RNLI)
Peter Bradley (RNLI)
Some images from the event: