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  • June 2022

    Sun, 24 Jul 2022 15:33:09 GMT

    Writing this up, I realised what a social month this ended up being. Even without EMF (and I met up with loads of people there and they were all lovely) I saw loads of people both for The Burnt City as well as a general social catchups, including an outdoor skating session with Samathy I haven't even seperated out into a section here.

    EMF Camp 2022

    I finally made it to another EMF Camp! I last went ten years ago, to the very first one, and for various reasons hadn't been back since. Back then, it was in a pretty small field in Milton Keynes. This time it was in Eastnor and oh my gosh has it grown since then!

    I travelled down with Samathy and Lex, and met up with Claire and Emmett too, who we had discovered earlier had also bought tickets. We pitched up all our tents together in the Nottingham hackspace "village".

    I bought some LED lights modified to run from a USB battery pack, and I'm really pleased with how it lit up my tent.

    In other LED news, Samathy taught Claire and me how she made her LED necklace/brooches, and we both had a go at that. It was really nice to catch up with them both at the start of the festival.

    In the evening, one of the tents that would be used as a (secondary) nightclub was testing its sound systems by running a cèilidh dance. Claire and Emmett persuaded me to go, and despite being nervous about it, it ended up being a lot of fun, I'd do it again. (I wasn't very good, but I think most other people there were also beginners, albeit ones with a better sense of rhythm!)

    After the cèilidh we went over to Nottingham Hackspace's we went to see Barbot, Samathy and Lex's hackspace project for the camp. Setting up a long mechanised drink dispenser on a wobbly table in a field proved quite tricky, but they made it work! The bot itself was very neat, taking orders from a webpage and moving the glass under each ingredient in turn. It even dropped an umbrella into the cocktail at the end!

    Claire and I signed up for a blacksmithing lesson on Friday, the first full day, in which we each made a fire poker with a lovely feather (or leaf) tip. It felt quite adventurous compared to the little trinket I made in 2012, and I'm super pleased with the result.

    In the afternoon, I visited Jodi ([personal profile] squirmelia) who was set up in the Gothic Village with some tentacles! One blew bubbles when you approached, and the other one was a home-made theramin. There's a video of me playing with it.

    In the evening, someone was making a fire cyclone. It looked impressive!

    After that we went to Null Sector, the nightclub tent located at the far end of the site (though, in general, EMF was pretty loud. Definitely needed earplugs which were partly successful, but also I was just having a good time which offset the tiredness from not sleeping as well as I could have).

    From the outside

    From the inside

    The nightclub was quite revelatory for me. I haven't actually been to one since a housemate at Uni dragged me to the on-site club there, and it was an awful experience for me. This one, on the other hand, was relatively small, well lit, played good music, had lasers, and had a layer of theatre smoke drifting around ankle height. I happened to be wearing a skirt about that length, and the smoke swirled around it in a really pleasing way as I danced. It made me very happy.

    The next morning I attempted to stream at my "usual" Saturday time of 10am. I decided to use it as an excuse to go to the tent full of retro arcade games. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent site wifi couldn't quite penetrate the assorted electronics within, so the stream was a bust, but I did get to play Sonic the Hedgehog on a Mega-Tech System, something I had never heard of before: essentially a Mega Drive with several game ports, surrounded in an arcade case. You could choose between four games to play.

    Playing Sonic the Hedgehog on an arcade machine is a very different experience to playing it with a game console! It took me several attempts to get past Green Hill Zone; the joystick just isn't very well suited to it.

    Some of the other games

    Speaking of Sonic…

    I took an issue of Sonic the Comic that I hadn't read before with me, aiming for the 1990s experience of a summer holiday camping trip. (I did look for Monster Fun, a new comic that one of the Sonic the Comic the Podcast hosts is involved with, in WH Smiths at a service station on the way there, but it didn't seem to be in stock there.)

    I didn't get to as many talks as I had expected to. There were three marquee tents that hosted talks, but, unlike the first EMF, also so many other things to do around the site! There were workshops, the Null Sector (more on that in a bit), a go-karting track (didn't get a chance to go to it, wish I had), areas to chill out in, a bar, and just people generally being creative around the site.

    One such item was the Sneakernet, which delivered post (including some free postcards) to anywhere you liked within the festival, provided you could be specific enough. They also claimed that with the correct postage they would send real mail too.

    Testing that to its limit, I slapped three first class stamps on the back of one, and wrote to Emily in Norway. Amazingly, it turned up on 14th July, about six weeks after I posted it. Nice!

    Postcard, photo from Norway.

    In the early evening we went back to Null Sector, which hadn't started its nighttime music yet. However, in and around the actual dance area was a lot of creative tech, including a robot that could mimic your arm movements, an electron microscope with a chap showing off what it could do, and various retro-tech art instalments.

    For my last evening there, I joined Claire and her friend Aisha in the secondary music tent ("Stage B") where an artist called 2xAA was playing electronic music made with/from a Game Boy. It was very chill and there were more lasers and I had an extremely nice time. (The venue also had free ear plugs, a very nice touch.)

    Overnight there were gale force winds, scheduled to be bad enough that the organisers put out alerts to make sure everyone had their tents secured properly. I extended the guide ropes on my waterproof cover and they survived the night, though on the side taking the brunt of the wind, one peg had come out and another one was barely holding on. Hooray!

    The Sunday was the last day there for me (the festival technically lasted until Monday morning). After lunch a group of us (Claire, Emmett, Aisha, a chap from Notts Hackspace called James, and myself) walked to nearby Eastnor Castle to explore the grounds. There was some pretty woodlands (including a rope swing I of course had a go on), an obstacle course (possibly for children, but most of us had a go), and a hedge maze that we all really enjoyed and turned out to be a good place to just have some nice conversation.

    The middle of the maze, which had a raised platform

    Upon getting back to the camp, I packed up quickly and then Samathy and Lex kindly drove me back to Nottingham. What a great long weekend!

    Here's the list of sessions I made it to:


    * The opening ceremony


    * Improve your Memory
    * The SEGA Dreamcast: Frankenstein's Console
    * Story Twine (by Lex! I wrote a very short Twine story, which I might develop into something for IF Comp...)
    * Anatomy 102: Is that normal!?!


    * Opening the Door for the Globally Excluded in Tech

    Burnt City

    I was in London for the third and fourth weekends of the month. The first weekend I took as a day trip to go and see Punchdrunk's The Burnt City with Jodi and some of her friends. This was the first Punchdrunk performance I'd seen and I had no idea what to expect, and went in completely naïve.

    (Obviously skip this section if you also want to go in unknowingly.)

    How do I describe the Burnt City? It's an immersive theatre performance, mostly interpretive dance set to music, in which the audience is free to walk around the performers. The audience all wear opera masks to distinguish them from the actors, and the performance takes place in a vast space that's been fitted out to resemble streets, town squares, shops, bedrooms, and all sorts, in a cyberpunk-cum-first-world-war style. There are multiple things happening at any given time so you'll never see the whole performance in one go. (It appeared to be on a loop of sorts though, so there's about three chances to see the major events.)

    This show, I was told afterwards, is based around the greek tragedies of Hecuba and Oresteia. There is, in fact, a whole wiki dedicated to figuring out what fully happens in the show, and it was fun to look through this afterwards, though I definitely wouldn't have wanted to have seen it all beforehand. However, if I go to another Punchdrunk, I will at least familiarise myself with the source material, since it would have been good to be able to identify characters at the time—a lot of our discussion was "that guy with the mask. No, the other mask. The one that talks to the woman in the dress", etc. Confusing!

    The immersion element was fantastic. Because of the opera masks, the crowd was easily distinguishable and almost felt like we were ghosts roaming around as the scenes played out. This had quite a voyeuristic feel to it for some of the more intimite scenes. I quite enjoyed having a mix of watching a particular area play out, and then following a character from it around to see what happened to them next. It was a pretty coherent story considering I didn't know the characters, there was barely any dialogue, and I don't understand the language of interpretive dance.

    I'm rather tempted to go back for another performance. I'll certainly attend Punchdrunk's next show when they have one.

    There was no photography allowed inside (you even had to put your phone in a sealed back for the duration) but here's a photo of myself riding the newly-opened Crossrail on the way home.

    Escape room

    I spent Friday evening through to Sunday morning on the last weekend in London again, this time seeing Emily, Tim, Pete and Matt. I met up with Emily on Friday evening and we went to Pho for dinner, where I discovered they do a curry as well as the eponymous dish. It was delicious. We stayed in a hotel in Tooting, which I think is the furthest I've been south on the Northern Line. The next day we went over to Pete and Matt's place where we met up with Tim, went out for bubble tea, and played board games for the afternoon and evening, before crashing on their spare beds.

    On Sunday we played an escape room which was disappointingly not a great one, but it was still great to hang out with them.

    After Tim and Emily left for the airport, I met up with Emmett and Claire who happened to be free for the couple of hours before my scheduled train from St Pancras. We caught up in a nice quiet bar and wandered the Kings Cross canals until it was time for me to get my train.

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