UK Rock Challenge Ambassadors Blog

Friday, 9 March 2018

Stage crew, the hidden heroes!


Backstage crew; our hidden heroes? It’s always great to go to a show and see your child on stage surrounded by some awe-inspiring set that “just appears” out of nowhere but what you hopefully don’t see is a team that is working hard to make the performance run as seamlessly as possible. So, what is it that a good stage crew does?

The backstage crew’s job starts as early as the dancers, they should be at every rehearsal learning the performance and getting to know the soundtrack, so they know when to move and how the dancers move so they don’t end up colliding. They will also hopefully have the opportunity to help build set and props over the coming months to be used during the show.

When it comes to the day of the event, the stage crew show up and their first job is to unload the set from the bus/van/lorry/horse box…. we’ve seen it all, and the work starts there. Inspect the set and make sure it hasn’t been damaged in transit then make any repairs necessary, you’ll then be directed by the Rock ChallengeⓇ crew where they want you to unload to.

At your rehearsal, you should have your stage crew treat it like it’s the real show, you don’t get timed during your rehearsal but it’s the one chance you get all year to get a rough idea of how you are going to do everything so take full advantage of it but remember that things sometimes change between rehearsal and show because the school before you or after you can cause changes to the plan so you have to be adaptive and think on the spot. It is this that makes backstage work so difficult but rewarding.

The show comes, and if you’re anything like me, your adrenaline rises and the panic sets in: I only have 4 minutes! But don’t worry, this is normal! Take a deep breath and remember that you know what you’re doing.
Get your set on stage as quick as you can, leaving space to get the rest of your set on and go back to do as many trips as needed. Work together, do not run and remember that safety and communication is key.
Once all your set is on stage and assuming that no one has been stood around doing nothing, it is then that your 4 minutes starts. The centre of the stage is marked so you can line everything up. It helps to assign someone to be your crew leader, have them be your conductor and make sure everything is lined up where it should be with everyone working safely. It is this person who should make sure everything is done and let the Rock ChallengeⓇ crew know to stop the clock. Don’t waste time asking about the 4 minutes as they won’t be able to tell you until after the show anyway.

Something that the judges are looking for is an adaptive stage. Although a big set will get you some points, a clever set will get you more. A choreographed stage crew is just as important to your piece as a lead dancer, they have to know the soundtrack inside out. The difference is that they often can’t see where they are going (from behind set) so they need to know this purely from looking up at the lighting rig or using the stage curtains.

As your 8 minutes finish, wait until the lights come back up and your 4 minutes will start again but you don’t have to get it off stage, just enough out of the way that it doesn’t obstruct the next school from getting onto the stage so make sure your dancers are clear then start moving your set into the wings. Have your van keys ready if you can and you are welcome to load your set up. Once everything is safely packed away, you can finally rest and wait for the results!

Remember to enjoy your day, drink plenty of water and eat to keep your energy up because it’s a long day. On the day there is no such thing as different stage crews, we are all one big stage crew so talk to the different schools. If you see people struggling then offer them some help because teamwork is what makes the show run on time and makes it look so professional.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Recognition for those behind the scenes!


It is easy to forget all of the backstage crew in Rock Challenge® teams as they are never seen by the audience, but they are key to the success of a Rock Challenge® piece. With so many marking criteria such as visual enhancement, soundtrack and set design & function relying on the efforts of the backstage team, they are just as important as the performers!

As we can appreciate, a lot of time behind the scenes goes into creating a Rock Challenge® piece, and this time is also used for those designing and making set, costumes, soundtracks, video plans and lighting cues as well as choreographing and rehearsing the performance elements.

At Rock Challenge®, having students as stage crew is a requirement, so already the students involved in creating and moving set are vital. The stage crew need to be able to set and strike their set in a 4-minute time slot, either side of the performance. With Rock Challenge® sets getting increasingly bigger and crazier, students can be working with extremely heavy, large, and complicated set pieces. Therefore, communication is key for the set to be put up in an efficient, but more importantly, safe manner. As well as getting the set on and off of stage before and after the performance, they are also key in moving pieces of set smoothly, safely and successfully during the piece, in a way that adds a unique element to the performance. At Rock Challenge®, we also look for teams that co-operate among themselves, but also with other crews. What performers may not know, is that at some venues, there is a scramble at the interval to move the first half set out of the venue and the second half set into the building, and often this is a huge team effort involving all stage crews. Without the hard work and determination of Rock Challenge® stage crews, the event would not run as seamlessly as it does.

More backstage team members with a role during the show that you may not notice are; the lighting designer, who calls the lighting cues during the performance to their lighting design they created that day; the follow spot operators, who move the follow spot lights to focus on certain performers on stage; and the video director, who instructs which camera shots they would like to be shown on the screens and on the DVD to highlight the most important elements of their Rock Challenge® piece.

Other backstage members at Rock Challenge® can include those who design and make the costumes, and those who design and apply make-up to the performers. At event days, time can be limited in terms of getting ready for shows, and schools are increasingly becoming more ambitious with the costuming character elements and the visual enhancement elements. Therefore, all help is much appreciated!

Somebody who may not even attend the event day could be the soundtrack designer. The soundtrack is important to tie a story or theme together and can really add that extra level of engagement to a piece.

To those of you in Rock Challenge® teams, please give a great pat on the back to your backstage team members. Also, if watching a performance, try to keep an eye out for a stage crew member – try to spot them if you can!

Emily Dimino
Rock Challenge® Ambassador

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Set design and construction tips!

The 2018 Rock Challenge® tour has just kicked off, but for many teams, the creation of your production may still be underway, but it is never to soon to start thinking about next year or adding more to your piece this year. One of our Rock Challenge® Ambassadors, and set design and construction extraordinaire, Steven shares his top tips. 

Firstly, be sure to pay lots of attention at your Rock Challenge® event and see if you can spark some inspiration. If you see something you like on the day speak to the other schools, ask how it was made and take photos, that’s what the Spirit of Rock Challenge® is all about, everyone should be friendly and happy to share their tips! Many teams tend to have staff or parents who are able to build their set. If not, there are people within the Rock Challenge® family who will be happy to help by offering advice on how to build it yourself. If you're looking for a hand, don't hesitate to pop a message up on the Facebook official group or shoot Rock Challenge® an email and they can forward you on to a local Ambassador who is here to help!

Set design and construction can sometimes be a bit of a scary subject for a lot of schools, sometimes you don’t have the budget or the facilities to make a truck load of set but it’s important to remember that big set doesn’t necessarily win you a Rock Challenge®. A clever, well used set can take you far. 

I’m often asked about how and when should set design come into the process of creating your Rock Challenge® and, in my opinion, it should really be from day one. When you’re deciding a theme and imagining costumes, dances, soundtrack you should be thinking about youset and how you can interact with it. Another thing that you need to remember when creating the scale of your set pieces is that you will need enough stage crew members to shift it onto and around the stage.The Rock Challenge® crew and volunteers will be there to help on the day but you can't expect them to do it all.

So how should it be built? There is no right answer to this question, as everyone has their own way of doing things, the only common rule is that everything has to be safe. Personally, I like to use softwood planed timber, plywood and polycarbonate hollow structured sheets because they are lightweight and therefore easy to move around the stage. I would recommend that you avoid MDF (it’s heavy, doesn’t like getting wet, plus it’s carcinogenic when cutting), foam (it may be light but it breaks easily, and can make the stage slippy for the dancers) and castors (wheels) that are too small (they may be cheap but unfortunately most stages aren’t smooth and level so they can get caught, break and be difficult to control). 

Here's an example of a set piece from frame to fully built!

So how is it done? My advice is to make a solid frame and cover it with light material. The trick to remember is that the set piece needs to look good from a distance. It can be that "easy", a simple wooden frame held together with screws (meaning it can be taken apart and the wood re-used next year!) Then it can be covered with whatever exterior you require to display your theme. 

It’s not as scary as you might think, just be sure to take your time and plan ahead! And remember: as long as it’s safe, you’ve done a great job!

Stoddy

Thursday, 25 January 2018

2018 Ambassadors!


This year we have expanded our amazing Ambassador team, welcoming 17 new members to join Katy Bowman, Owen Broomfield, Katie Daniel, Emily Dimino, Robert Holmes, Chloe Jarvis, Anja Johnston, Karen Mackay and Emma Marshall as part of our 2018 Ambassador team!

Here is our new team members and a little bit about them…

Shaun Ryan
Hi I’m Shaun Ryan and I’m from Portsmouth on the South Coast of England. 2018 will be my seventh year being a part of the Rock Challenge family! I became a part of this amazing family in 2012 after watching the Southern Premier final and I was just blown away with the amount of talent displayed on stage and I knew from there that I needed to get involved. During my first year I supported at my local event in Portsmouth and was then able to travel up to the very first Scottish final. The following years I added new events such as Bournemouth, Crawley and even heading up to the Northern Premier finals. I’m incredibly proud to become an ambassador for the 2018 UK Rock Challenge tour and can’t wait to see both returning as well as new schools take to the stage across the UK and really show what the young people of the UK are made of! Good luck to all of the schools taking part in 2018.


Chris Struth
Hi I’m Chris Struth, I am a Spanish teacher at Larbert High but I first became involved with Rock Challenge at my old school. I love the whole Rock Challenge process but my favourite part is the actual event day - the atmosphere is amazing and it is great to see all of the schools come together to compete. I also really like how Rock Challenge can bring different groups of pupils together who might not normally have the chance to work together. As an ambassador for Rock Challenge 2018, I am really looking forward to being part of the events this year as well as encouraging new schools and groups to become involved with the magic of Rock Challenge and the Be Your Best Foundation.



Linzi Grimwood
Hi I’m Linzi Grimwood, I have been involved in Rock Challenge for 10 years. Started as a participant with my school and then volunteering at the 2012 National final, and continuing that following university. It is lovely being able to give back to an event that I truly believe in. I love the atmosphere of every Rock Challenge event from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. I am looking forward to the 2018 tour and being an Ambassador for Rock Challenge.





Jordan Cullen
Hi I’m Jordan Cullen, I have been participating in Rock Challenge since S1 so this will be my 7th year! I have been a performer in S1-4 for Arbroath Academy and then S5 I moved to Montrose Academy, and then in S6 I became a coach. I specialise in highland dance but learnt contemporary dance through Rock Challenge and now am part of a team at Napier dance. Finally I have volunteered since S3 and enjoy every minute. I am excited for all the new schools and to experience Rock Challenge from a different angle.


Ben Pallister
Hi I’m Ben Pallister, I have participated in Rock Challenge for 4 years whilst at secondary school taking on roles as both a performer and video director. Seeing both sides of the performance has been extremely rewarding for me and allowed me to realise just how much I love performing. In my final year I got the lead part and successfully qualified through to the finals! I have made some amazing friends through Rock Challenge and hope that those performing in 2018 have the same fantastic experience.





Beth Ackroyd 

Hi I’m Beth Ackroyd, previously I was a performer and student leader during secondary school and sixth form. Rock challenge gave me the confidence to choreograph and run large groups of students, whilst also being the highlight of my school experience. I hope I can help influence other students to participate and be exposed to the same enjoyment I did, whilst giving back to an event which helped me overcome so many obstacles.



Emily Chandler
Hi I’m Emily Chandler, as soon as I was old enough to participate in Rock Challenge at my school back in 2011, I took part. The whole thing excited me; performing on stage, getting to create a concept, choreography, fundraising. And it was the best part of my school experience. It was always something that got me through my personal struggles during my time at school, it helped me gain confidence and I made some of my best friends through doing it. I'm so excited to be an Ambassador for Rock Challenge now.



 




Chris Williams 
Hi I'm Chris Williams, 2018 will be my 8th year being involved with Rock Challenge. I am currently studying performing arts. I have been lucky enough to experience so many different Rock Challenge events around the UK. I am really looking forward to volunteering again for the upcoming tour and seeing everyone's hard work and commitment pay off. Good luck to all those taking part this year. 




 

Lara Simpson
Hi I’m Lara Simpson, I have been involved in Rock Challenge for 6 years, and ever since starting my enthusiasm and enjoyment has done nothing but grow. I am so excited to be volunteering as an ambassador, meeting other people across the country involved in Rock Challenge and encouraging other schools to get involved!






Emma Cathro
Hi I’m Emma Cathro, I took part in Rock Challenge with my high school for 4 years and I could not recommend it more! It improved my confidence, I made amazing friends and most importantly I learned the true meaning of team spirit. I’m so thankful to Rock Challenge for giving me such an incredible experience and I’m very excited to keep being involved as an Ambassador.





Sophie Sanderson
Hi I’m Sophie Sanderson, I have been involved with Rock Challenge for 12 years now, both performing and volunteering, and am looking forward to meeting new people who are getting involved this year!





Chelsea Powe

Hi I’m Chelsea Powe, I have been involved in Rock Challenge for 8 years from performing whilst I was in school to returning to help out with my school involving costume/prop making, hair and makeup and set design. 2017 was my first year volunteering and I volunteered at 4 events and aim to attend at least 7 events in 2018. I am very excited to be an ambassador in 2018 and looking forward to raising awareness of Rock Challenge within my local area.




Florence Gill
Hi I’m Florence Gill, I have been part of Rock Challenge for the past 5 years both as a performer and more recently the leader of my schools entry. My involvement in Rock Challenge has been “life changing”. As the first student from Campsmount Academy to apply to a US college, I have based my application on my passions for English, Music and Drama, all of which I have honed through my involvement in Rock Challenge. During my time with Rock Challenge I have also taken on extra tasks such as teaching children aged 5-13 drama, helping with various charities, running a community radio, working as a technician at a theatre and raising awareness through various projects about equality, the importance of good mental health and extra-curricular.


Steven Stoddart
Hi I’m Steven Stoddart, I am a 29 year old electrician from West Cumbria. I have been involved in the UK Rock Challenge since 2000 as a performer and have tried most of the roles associated since, working back stage, building and designing set, lighting, soundtrack and everything else between but unfortunately I cannot dance even though I try and fail. Rock challenge means a lot to me because it has given me the confidence that I have today to be able to take control of situations and work under pressure. It has given me a release that allows me to enjoy the better things in life. I have volunteered to be an Ambassador again this year as I think it is important to engage with people and promote the ethics that the UK Rock Challenge holds.


Ethan James
Hi I’m Ethan James, I have been in the Peterhead Academy Rock Challenge team for 6 years now. To start with I was only a performer, but later got involved in the production process; helping with choreography, costume & set design, soundtrack, lighting, and face painting. I also assist other Rock Challenge and J Rock teams as I enjoy helping out. My participation in Rock Challenge helped me get into University, where I now study Costume Design & Construction. I have loved volunteering the last 2 years and will continue to stay involved with Rock Challenge as an Ambassador on the 2018 tour.



Paige McKillop

Hi I’m Paige McKillop and I’m 19, from North East Scotland! I’ve been involved with Rock Challenge for 3 years now, 2 competing with Montrose Academy and 1 being a liaison with them. I wanted to become an Ambassador this year so I can do more for this amazing charity! I can't wait to go to different events around the country and see all different styles of performances there are as well as the positive message they should always send out.


And Mika Rowe-Bailey.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Stuck on fundraising ideas... well look no further!

Its getting to that point where the Rock Challenge 2018 tour is about to begin and the start of some amazing events! But it’s also where schools are thinking of different ways to fundraise to be able to get costumes, set, hair, makeup and travel costs to get to their event. So below is a list of fundraising ideas that I have put together that may help raise money towards everything you may need: 

  •          Cake sales
  •          Bag packing
  •          Guess the number of sweets in a jar
  •          Quiz night
  •          Penny jar (every team member puts whatever random change they can find and put it in a jar)
  •          Within the school each class designs and creates a product sell at break times and after school (bookmarks, bracelets, necklaces etc)
  •          Rag bags (bag of unwanted clothing would be handed in by pupils and brought by others and team members)
  •          Guess the teddy bears name/birthday
  •          Bingo night
  •          Raffle/tombola
  •          Zumba-thon
  •          Non-uniform/dress up days
  •          Talent show
  •          Rock Challenge Party Night (invite the whole team and other pupils and teachers if you would like too. Small price for tickets and include sweet stalls, photo booth, dance competitions etc)
  •          Fundraising page (Virgin Giving, Go Fund Me, Just Giving)


There are endless ideas that you could do but this is just a list to give schools an idea on fundraising ideas whether they wish to use them or not. Even the simplest ideas can help you out and raise a lot of money, but any ideas you come up with and decide to use like mentioned before will not only raise money, but it will also bring the team together as you’ll be working on something that means a lot to you all and that you’ve been working hard on for a certain amount of time! I hope these ideas will help you all out and you raise the money you need to go towards such an amazing performance! We can’t wait to see what you’ve all made or created and we know that whatever you have raised will go to something special!

Good luck and happy fundraising!!

Chloe Jarvis 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Juniors and Seniors working together!

It is absolutely lovely to see Rock Challenge® senior teams working together to help out with their local junior school's J Rock™ performance - it creates a connection within your local community and a connection between the junior and senior event days which is great. We've gathered some stories from three of our Rock Challenge® Ambassadors who have had hands on experience with creating both junior and senior performances at the same time! Their stories will highlight some of the many benefits that can come from working together and embracing the Spirit of Rock Challenge®!

Ethan Morgan - "In 2017 Aberdeen had its first J Rock™ event. As it was the first junior event in the area, every school was new to the experience and the enthusiasm was fantastic. Near the start of the academic year, a few of the local primary schools contacted our school to as if anyone in our team would like to help out. I was so excited and thought it would be an amazing opportunity to gain leadership experience, but also because I love helping with the production of a Rock Challenge® performance. Myself and a few other students helped the primary school with choreography and soundtrack, and gave our knowledge on how the competition side of things works. We attended as many of their rehearsals as possible to ensure we remained ontop of our own school work. I picked up time management skills through this experience as I had to balance school work and my part-time jobs. On the day of the event, we came along to show our support and assist with face-painting, lighting and video. It was important to us to make sure that all the students had an amazing day as having fun was always more important to us than winning."

Lara Simpson -  "One of the highlights of my Rock Challenge® experience was getting involved in helping the local primary schools with their J Rock™ performances. As I was planning - and am  currently studying - to go down the route of primary teaching, the opportunity to help with J Rock™ teams was invaluable to me. It offered me the unique experience, gaining insight into what goes on after school hours, how to create more opportunities for the pupils and how to get the best out of an opportunity like Rock Challenge®. Not only did it help me pave my career path, but it allowed me to pass on my experience and passion for Rock Challenge® to other children and staff. It was really amazing to see them get so excited and become passionate about it too. I also felt that, coming from a small community, it really bought the community together and more involved in Rock Challenge® as a whole. I would strongly recommend volunteering to help your local J Rock™ team as it is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience."

Jordan Cullen - "At my school, we have always offered extracurricular clubs to our cluster schools and last year we thought why not widen that choice to involve J Rock™. We used this as a way to help our S5 pupils gain the leadership skills they would need to coach the Rock Challenge® team this current year. We started off by sending letters to the local schools to see who would be interested and when we heard back from the primary school closest to us, we then set off to meet them and get started! The coaches choreographed the dances, mixed the soundtrack and built the set that they required for their performance and throughout the year the primary school would come and practise in our big gym hall. On the day, they came to our school in the morning allowing them to feel even more involved in the day and the amazing performance that they had created, and from then on we were known as ‘Team Montrose’. 
Having the link with the school gave both teams the support they requried and allowed the students to gain communication skills, confidence, team building skills and how to work with people of all ages and abilities. 
I would recommend creating a link between your local primary school and providing them (or anyone else) that comes to you for help if you can provide them with it as the experience is one of a kind and the ‘Team Montrose’ link is still going with the current S5 and 6 pupils and is something I can see lasting a long time."

I think it's easy to see the all-round benefits to creating a link between primary and secondary schools. So, if you're a new J Rock™ team looking for some guidance or a secondary school looking to gain skills from working with juniors, get in touch with your local schools and make it happen!


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

BIG choices to make: theme, soundtrack, set and more!

You’ve now got past that early 6am sign up on entry day and have officially been assigned to a J Rock™ or Rock Challenge® Event on the 2018 tour!

Let’s get down to those big choices you have to make as a team.

How do we choose a theme?
Choosing a theme can be tricky because it can literally be anything! It can be based on a film, book, musical, play, TV show, or completely made up from your own imagination! As Rock Challenge® is now into its 23rd year so there is plenty of inspiration from other schools to help with your choice and here is a link to the Rock Challenge® Pinterest board that might help with some ideas. In your production book there is a list of popular theme choices. You may wish to choose one of these and make it your own or you might decide upon something completely new! Please note all elements in your performance have to relate to back to your theme so make sure you choose something with a lot of scope to explore.

Once you have a theme, the next step is to think of a title. Some schools like to avoid the obvious – for example, if you were doing Alice in Wonderland you could call it “The Adventure into Wonderland” or something different to the movie title, this means that you have some mystery around what your theme is. But one area where you definitely don’t want any mysteries is in your 60-word theme description. This is the only thing the judges will know about your performance before the show and so it is important to get as much information as possible in there as well as making an impact.

Now that you have your theme and a catchy title, there are many more choices for your team to make.

Soundtrack
Your team will need to create a soundtrack for your performance, it is important that the music is relevant to your theme, and aids in the storytelling of the piece. The soundtrack can be a mix of songs, noises, voiceovers; it must be merged together and placed on a disc before the event day! There are some rules on soundtracks, such as; it must last 5-8 minutes and all music must be commercially available. You can find all rules and guidelines in the Production Book.

Set Design
Having set is important as it will add to your production and help to tell your story. Some schools don’t use set however there is an award for Set Design & Function so if you can, it’s advisable to use some! This can be anything relating to your theme; in the past schools have used flat boards which are painted to reflect the scene they were in. You can incorporate your set into your performance by creating it so that your performers actually stand on the set, or by having the set move freely around stage tying into the choreography. Little things can make a huge difference with set design – for example, you could include lights on your set which will help it to stand out, but only do this if it is relative to your theme. You must take into consideration the 4 minute timeline for your stage crew to construct your set on stage at the beginning of your performance and further 4 minutes to dismantle your set and remove it off stage at the end of your performance. There are rules & guidelines around set design which can be found in the Production Book. Here's the link to our Pinterest board for some ideas and inspiration!

Costumes
Of course, costumes are a vital part of the performance, it can make a performer go from looking like a human to looking like a tree, insect, animal or one of your favourite fairy-tale characters! There is no limit when it comes to costumes, you can go as little or as crazy as you want with them. They can either be purchased or created using DIY depending on your budget. Here's the link to our Pinterest board.

Make Up, Hair & Props
As well as costumes, the use of hair and make-up design to portray their characters is very popular. There is really no limit for this either, just makes sure it stays relevant to the theme. You can use Pinterest for ideas which will be great for your teachers to use to get some inspiration. Here's the link to our Pinterest board. Props can also be used, which can add to your performance and will allow marks towards the award for “Visual Enhancement”. Not all schools use props, it really depends on whether or not the props would add an extra element to your storytelling.

I’m sure by now your heads are filled with ideas, so get going, start building and creating and have fun!


Katy Bowman x