Category: Performance

Jun 22 2009

Sue Hutton – Competent Communicator!

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Less than two years after becoming a founder member of East Midlands Speakers, a local club affiliated to Toastmasters International, I have become a Competent Communicator.

This means that I have made ten speeches in front of my peers following a programme set out by Toastmasters. Each speech had a particular theme, such as Get to the Point, Vocal Variety or Persuade with Power. As I progressed through the programme, each speech became progressively more demanding.

I spoke on topics as diverse as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dancing on the Dark Side (gothic bellydancing), Information Access and Water Usage in the UK. Although the schedule was interrupted for major hip surgery in February 2009, I managed to finish the programme in good time to contribute to the club’s bid to become a President’s Distinguished Toastmaster Club.

One of my favourite speeches was Number 6, He Who Must Be Obeyed! a humorous take on what it’s like to be a member of a choir.

By the time I reached the tenth speech, which required the speaker to Inspire Your Audience, I had very clear ideas of what was needed to make a meaningful presentation.

  • Passion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Interaction with the audience
  • Knowledgeability
  • Rehearsal
  • Presence

I am more than ever convinced that people wanting to make effective speeches and presentations could learn a very great deal from the skills of acting and performance.

You need to be able both to connect with and care for your audience to get your message across.

What do I mean by caring for your audience? Speak to their needs. Know your subject. Look them in the eye. Make your voice interesting. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

If you would like to know more, please contact me. I aim to write in more detail at a later date about using performance skills in speaking.

Dec 30 2008

He Who Must Be Obeyed

East Midlands Speakers Club held its final meeting of the year over Christmas dinner on 15th December.

I was lucky enough to get a speaking slot and presented my Level 6 speech from the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual.

Since the theme was Christmas, and I was in the process of an intensive round of singing with the Leicester Bach Choir, I hit on the idea of singing snatches from Handel’s Messiah. Why? To illustrate how a choir is an example of achieving a goal under the direction of its Music Director – He Who Must Be Obeyed! Watch the video to see how.

I also delivered this speech at the choir’s Christmas lunch on the previous day. Since they were ‘more in the know,’ they fell about laughing!

If you live in Nottingham, Derby or Leicester, or other parts of the East Midlands, and would like to use the Toastmasters International programme to develop your speaking skills and confidence, come and visit us at East Midlands Speakers Club. We meet every first and third Monday of the month at The Clockhouse, London Road, Shardlow, Derbyshire. Visit the website for more details and directions.

Dec 29 2008

Toastmasters International

I am now a member of Toastmasters International

I joined East Midlands Speakers’ Club last year to support two friends with whom I had worked in the 1980s. We chartered to Toastmasters International in June, celebrating by holding our first speech contest and  a charter dinner at the end of September.

East Midlands Speakers Club - Charter Dinner

East Midlands Speakers Club - Charter Dinner

Here are the members of East Midlands Speakers Club ‘dressing to impress’ at the dinner with the exception of me who was taking the picture.

Two of our members won our Area speech contest held on 5th October.  Judy Dyer won the humourous speech contest with her tale of Gregory, her green parrot, and Stuart Webb proved that he could speak extempore by winning the table topics contest.

They both went on to take part in the divisional (UK and Ireland) contest in York on 19th October.  Stuart came third in this national competition.

As for me, I have been participating in all the ‘leadership’ roles as required by the competent leadership award, and reached my Level 5 speech in the competent communicator programme last Monday October 20th.

The objective of the Level 5 speech is ‘Your Body Speaks.’ The evaluation concentrates on posture, gestures, body movement, facial expression and eye contact. I chose to speak about gothic bellydancing, which naturally gave me scope. Watch the YouTube video to see how I performed.

My camera had been set to video-email, which explains its tiny dimensions.

First published 25th October 2008.

Dec 29 2008

Singing John Betjeman

I look forward to the summer as a quiet time, but this summer has been anything but.  Perhaps it’s just that I’ve been using the time to catch up with tasks that I haven’t had the opportunity to tackle before.

This summer, I have finally succeeded in downloading video from both my JVC Everio (read how awkward that episode managed to be) and also from my JVC tape camcorder, which was used to film my show last year – How to Get On In Society! – a review of the life, poetry and broadcasting of Sir John Betjeman.

I was able to edit the files to produce videos of five of the songs that I sang, musical settings of Betjeman’s poems by Madeline Dring and Mervyn Horder, and uploaded them to YouTube.  Watch them at my YouTube channel

Performing at How to Get On In Society!, Leicester, September 2007. Song of a Nightclub Proprietress, poem by John Betjeman, music by Madeline Dring.

I also uploaded a video of Tom Chambers, a friend of my son George, reciting A Subaltern’s Love Song.  He really was the right age for it.  JB sounds just a bit too old and leery when you listen to him.

Well done Tom!

First published 21st September

Dec 29 2008

Gothla UK 2008 Videos

Excerpts from the first seven performances at Gothla UK 2008, British Theatre Dance Association, Leicester, 18th July.

Excerpts from six of the later performances at Gothla UK 2008. Deva Matisa expressly asked not to be filmed.

Video and editing by Sue Hutton. Videos uploaded to GothlaUK YouTube site.

First published 24th July 2008.

Dec 29 2008

Aarachna dancing at Gothla UK 2008

The second Gothla UK event took place in Leicester, UK, this last weekend, 18th-20th July 2008.

The hafla was held in the theatre of the British Theatre Dance Association.  Fourteen acts included some of the foremost exponents of gothic bellydancing – Ariellah, Sashi and Tempest from the USA, Deva Matisa from Germany and Morgana from Spain, as well as performers from around UK.

I have been the webmistress for Gothla UK since the beginning of 2007 and instrumental in setting up the online payment system.  I print the tickets, design the posters, send out the newsletters, maintain the blog and generally liaise with managers of the venues in Leicester in partnership with my daughter Rosie.

Over the weekend, I’ve stood on duty in the booking office at BTDA, been ‘chick on the door’ at Studio 79 and minded the Gothla stall at the souk (bellydance accoutrements).

The event passed off very smoothly. We had ladies coming from as far afield as the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Sweden as well as from all over UK.  It looks as if it will become an annual event.

I’m very pleased and proud to air this video I took of Rosie, stage name Aarachna, dancing at the hafla on Friday evening.  Her backing track was Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy by Rotersand. As her intro stated, there’s not a cyberman, doctor nor dalek in sight!

First published 22nd July 2008.

Dec 29 2008

Leicester Bach Choir in Germany

I travelled with the Leicester Bach Choir to Germany between 13th-16th June 2008. We visited Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where J S Bach worked for the last 27 years of his life

We sang a concert of accompanied and a capella pieces of European Sacred Music in the Stadtkirche of Meiningen on Saturday evening to an audience of over 100. The acoustic was tremendous.

We also sang the accompanied items in the morning service at Georgenkirche in Eisenach on Sunday. J S Bach was baptised at the font in the church.

View the photos on Flickr.

The video shows some of the more informal moments of our tour around Eisenach.

First published 18th June 2008.

Dec 29 2008

ELAPs Juniors and Ernie

Fairground roustabout summons the crowd to the boxing match

Fairground roustabout summons the crowd to the boxing match

I’ve had a great time the first half of this year directing East Leake Amateur Player’s Juniors (ELAPs Juniors) in Alan Ayckbourn’s Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations

Twenty-one youngsters travelled to the Dukeries’ Theatre in Ollerton to perform the piece at the NANDA Youth Theatre Festival on May 10th

The company rose to the occasion. I only wish I could have seen their performance but I had to stand in the wings as prompt as one young person consistently forgot his lines

Four kids were Highly Commended for their acting, three of them aged 11 or younger. I only wish the adjudication could have been more positive, but sadly, one had the feeling that the adjudicator did not like the play, had not read the script beforehand and chose to concentrate on irrelevant issues such as the naming of ‘visionary’ characters in the programme

He did manage to say that the ‘illucinations’ were good. For those who don’t know the script, Ernie’s parents have taken him to see the doctor since Ernie’s fertile imagination can bring situations to life. This isn’t always convenient. For example, the Nazi soldiers are all shot dead and a spy is murdered in the library

My favourite illucination was the fairground which gave everybody to adopt and express a character. Auntie May was played by a tiny ten-year old who scampered around the seedy former world boxing champion, Kid Saracen, felling him with a right hook.

Doctor leads the brass band through the surgery

Doctor leads the brass band through the surgery

I was delighted that the East Leake Revival Band gave us such magnificent support. Not only did the leader rehearse the kids in marching, he and his band also came all the way to Ollerton to accompany the final illucination in the background as a brass band.

The main purpose of adjudication is to give positive and constructive feedback, and thus is directed as much to directors as performers, if not more so. I agreed with the adjudicator about minimising the movement of chairs and tables, which ‘broke the magic’, and I could have done that differently at the festival if my brain had worked in time. I could also understand, with hindsight, what he meant about certain scenes being ‘rushed’.

But it would have been much more positive if he could have taken the time to congratulate ELAPs Juniors on their enthusiasm, confidence and diction. We spent a lot of time on warmups and bringing out voice in rehearsal. It paid off. Everyone could be heard at the back of the theatre.

We had an infinitely more appreciative audience at East Leake Village Hall the following week, when friends and family thronged in to support their Juniors.

First published 29th May

Dec 29 2008

Gothla, Jogle 2007 and Betjeman

It's not that I've been doing nothing, but that I have been doing a lot which has prevented me from updating my news.  It didn't help when I discovered that I wasn't able to log in to write an entry.  This was finally resolved when I worked out that the web host had changed security settings on my site.

Gothla happened in June.  I wrote originally about the positive interaction we were having with Internet marketing and social networking back in February

The event itself was a great success, and we are looking forward to repeating it next year, this time in a specialist performing arts venue in Leicester.  Over 100 people thronged to the hafla on the Friday evening.  The workshops were fully booked, such that Sashi repeated her Gothic Tribal Bellydance workshop on the Sunday afternoon, and even that was over-subscribed.

The website has been updated with video and links to a photo gallery on Flickr

No sooner had I finished, temporarily, with Gothla, then I was organising the John O' Groats to Lands' End bike ride on behalf of my son and four of his friends.  Seventeen year old lads have the energy and fitness levels to do the ride, but lack the organisational know-how.  More sombrely, we discovered that they did need adult backing anyway to be able to make bookings at campsites.  Several campsites demurred at the age of the boys and only accepted them when they knew that they would be accompanied by adults.  I was surprised to find out that most campsites will not accept bookings from same sex parties.

Notwithstanding, the ride went ahead and was hugely successfull and fulfilling for all involved.  I have written up the story of the JoGLE on the web, which we hope will be a useful resource for anyone else wanting to undertake the journey.  Furthermore, the boys raised sponsorship of £1180 in aid of Cancer Research.  The cheque presentation took place last week during half term.

Finally, I researched, scripted and starred in an entertainment at The Richard Attenborough Centre in Leicester at the end of September, entitled, How to Get On in Society! John Betjeman revealed in his poetry and song. I had fantastic support from friends and was pleased that we managed to get around 60 people in the audience, including members of The Betjeman Society.  Again, I'd had to trudge the streets of Leicester to distribute leaflets and talk to media outlets.  It's not enough to send press releases by email.  You have to get on the phone as well or meet people directly.

And I took my Open University exam in Economics a week later.

First published 28th October 2007.

Dec 29 2008

Percy and Asthma Research

Girl blowing dandelion - emblem of the British Lung Foundation

Girl blowing dandelion - emblem of the British Lung Foundation

My father Percy, died of asbestosis three years ago yesterday. Donations made at the time of his funeral were used to set up a 'Breath of Life' fund by the British Lung Foundation. I have supplemented this over the last two years with proceeds from my recital in October 2005 and sales of my CDs to friends in 2006. If you visit that page, you will see a photo of Percy giving the thumbs up, just 36 hours before he died in his sleep.

Speaking to a representative at the British Lung Foundation, I decided that the money collected in Percy's name should go to asthma research.

Asbestosis is a terrible disease. It crucifies the lungs, making them stiff and rigid so that they can't move to breathe air in and out. Some days when I visited Percy in hospital during his final weeks, he would say that he'd had terrible mornings, but would never explain why. I think his lungs must have just stopped. Even the constant oxygen supply wasn't enough to get the muscles working. It was almost as if he had to be primed like a pump.

Why did Percy get asbestosis? He worked for firms in the 1950s and 1960s which used asbestos as fire-proofing materials in partitions. The workers were told to use masks, but probably didn't because it was held to be namby-pamby. We think that one of Dad's favourite friends, Len Watkins, also died the same way.

But I hope that asbestosis will be a disease on the wane, now that society is aware of the dangers.

Therefore I agreed that the funds collected for Percy should go to asthma research, since the incidence of asthma is actually increasing. My daughter Rosie has asthma. Asbestosis is a disease of the past, I hope. Asthma is a disease now. I think that Percy would have wanted it that way. He was always looking forward, while remembering the past.

It's awful to know that he was told in 1979 that he had pleural plaques on his lungs which would probably lead to asbestosis and his death. But he never told us, and he never let it get in the way of enjoying his life.

Here are some words from the British Lung Foundation about their work.

"The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity working for everyone affected by lung disease. The charity focuses its resources on providing support for people affected by lung disease today; and works in a variety of ways (including funding world-class research) to bring about positive change, to improve treatment, care and support for people affected by lung disease in the future.

Asthma is probably the UK's most common lung condition, affecting about five million people in the UK. Although the causes of asthma are unknown at present, we do know that various factors contribute. The airways of someone with asthma are inflamed, which makes them more likely to become narrow and so making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs. The symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight feeling in the chest.

Certain factors – known as "triggers" – are known to make asthma worse. When asthma gets worse for no apparent reason, this is known as an asthma attack. Some of the triggers include the common cold, allergies such as grass pollen, house dust and animal fur, irritants like tobacco smoke or a dusty atmosphere, strong emotion and pollution.

There is no cure for asthma, but with treatment, most people can lead normal lives. Many treatments are available, given either as an inhaler or in tablet form. The British Lung Foundation is currently funding a number of research projects into asthma. Dr Graham Roberts at the University of Southampton is investigating whether pregnant women's diets affect their babies' chances of developing asthma and other chest problems.

Dr Andrea Venn at the University of Nottingham is conducting research into whether living close to a main road increases the risk of developing asthma, allergies or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. lthough there is already evidence that pollution can worsen the symptoms of people living with lung diseases, it is not known whether traffic pollution can cause these conditions or cause a longer term decrease in lung function."

If you have been moved by Percy's plight and his bravery, please consider making a donation to the British Lung Foundation.

First published 20th March 2007.

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