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My Week at the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award Bootcamp 2014

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This time last week I was sitting in this exact chair in Starbucks, DkIT School of Informatics and Creative Arts, planning my journey to Derry and feeling rather anxious about it!

What in the world was I worrying about? Absolutely nothing!

My journey begins with the completion of my music production project “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl on SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds at the end of last semester. On a whim I sent off my song to The Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award – Honeycomb – Creative Works.

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award

I heard about the award through one of my lecturers at DkIT, they insisted I give it a shot. Normally I wouldn’t even dream of entering competitions!

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks later telling me I was chosen as one of the top twenty digital creators of class of 2014 from colleges and universities across Northern Ireland and the six Republic of Ireland bordering counties! My prize was a week of workshops in Derry, meeting industry professionals, attending interesting talks about creative arts and business, working with the 19 other winners and an opportunity to pitch my skills to a panel of industry experts in a bid to win the grand ultimate prize!

I was immediately delighted but also a tiny bit anxious! Travelling 190 km to spend a full week with strangers! Shy, self-conscious and over-thinker- Steff almost completely backed out- if it wasn’t for the same lecturer who assured me attending the bootcamp was something I absolutely needed to do!

And glad am I for their assurance!

My drive up to Derry was very pleasant. As soon as I arrived at the hotel I met some of the other winners and I was immediately put at ease with their big smiles, interesting chat and genuine warmth. These were people like me!

That night we were treated to a fantastic meal in the Exchange restaurant in Derry city centre. The craic was ninety and the food was delicious!

The next morning (Tuesday) bootcamp officially kicked off with lovely welcomes from the Honeycomb team and straight into a fun personality workshop. After a card game which got the group instantly giggling and working together,  I learned about the four general different types of people (not that anyone can be labelled into any one type of course)- the two extroverted types and the two introverted types. I learned how these kinds of people generally think, behave and react to each other. The card game revealed that I am indeed an introvert- the kind who responds to others body language instantly, smiles a lot, tends to procrastinate, is generally quiet and shy and likes to take direction from others (over a cup of tea!)- yes, that’s me all over! I knew this already but it was lovely to learn there ARE others like me and how to approach the extroverts!

This was followed by a fantastic talk from Richard Williams from N.I Screen with great advice and useful information for us.

Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi
Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi

After lunch we started working on our pitching skills, learning how others deliver successful and smart pitches quickly and with structure.

After this we attended a Culturetech event in the Craft Village (much to my delight as there was a beautiful little shop I wished to visit there!) about starting up businesses in the creative arts. We listened to fascinating stories from three speakers about their ideas, their initial struggles, their developments and their successes. It was fantastic to hear how they went from their normal day-job to the job of their dreams.

Wednesday started with a workshop which was all about thinking on your feet- how to improvise. This was a lot of fun as it was all games that got us interacting as a group. I was initially terrified of staring into a strangers eyes- I tend to find looking into a strangers eyes unsettling- it makes me feel invaded and uncomfortable! And in turn, I tend to think I’m making them uncomfortable! I’m always aware of trust issues regarding eye contact but this is not my intent! (People I know and trust I am ok with!) So some of the games really freaked me out and I very nearly bolted but the ladies running the group were very understanding and said my feelings were totally ok- something I was never told before! It wasn’t long before I felt brave enough to join back in and enjoy the craic!

This workshop actually turned out to be one of the biggest benefits for me on reflection. It tied in perfectly with my life coaching that I’ve been working so hard on during the summer- building my self confidence, accepting myself, learning to feel joy towards myself and others, not feeling lost in the crowd and indeed- looking people in the eyes without fear.

After another amazing lunch, Josh Richards (science comedian and speaker, physicist, ukulele lover and astronaut candidate. graduate short-listed among 705 to colonise Mars with ) captivated us with his stories, his dreams, his infectious laughter and smile. We fired loads of questions at him and even though his hour ran out, he stayed back and chatted some more with us over coffee, we milled around him, taking photos and asking as many questions as we could! He really touched my heart and he will very well be the source for inspiration for a very future song I wish to write!!!

Meeting Josh Richards!
Meeting Josh Richards!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!

We continued our pitching skills workshop afterwards, pitching fun ideas to each other and then working on the tough stuff- our real pitches to deliver to the industry panel the next morning! We also received mentoring from industry experts- invaluable experience!

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

The next day (Thursday) was the day of truth- we were all a light-hearted bunch of people with all of our different personalities but one thing we shared- an anxiety about pitching our skills or business ideas to an industry panel! It was a big deal as we wanted to do our best- it wasn’t about winning, it was about doing a good job and pushing ourselves that little further.

My pitch went good! I couldn’t help but be nervous, my voice revealed that! But I felt good- I did push myself into something I would normally run away from- and hey, it didn’t hurt! 🙂 I pitched to them my skills as a music producer- what I could offer them if they were a top music studio, what ideas I have for the future of recorded music, my experience etc etc! My three minutes flew by in a heartbeat.

After a very pleasant walk around the city and lunch, there were more talks to listen to.

Greg Spence (producer of Game of Thrones) inspired us with his stories of the work he’s done, his journey and what he loves. He showed us the incredible work that goes into Game of Thrones (I knew it was brilliantly done but their pre-production is out of this world!!!). He didn’t just talk for the film/video/tv people, he spoke about the other creative work that goes into making a tv show (music, art, design, textiles, animation etc, etc.).

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.

The last talk was more business- how to get investment in projects etc- valuable information was learned.

Bootcamp came to an official close that evening with two announcements- the person who came up with such a brilliant business idea that it was going to get further advice from an industry professional and the overall winner of the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award.

It was after the celebration that our lovely group parted- some of us left for home and some stayed for further partying and Culturetech events! I went home as Derry is about a three hour drive and well, I missed my cat 😉

My cat missed me too :)
My cat missed me too 🙂

It took me the rest of the weekend to recover from such an intense week! The wonderful thing is we’re all keeping in touch. All the Creative Buzz Award winners are connected online and we are doing a great job staying in touch!

The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy - graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media. James Heffernan - graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media. Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production and Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)
The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy – graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media.
James Heffernan – graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media.
Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production.
Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)

Thank you Honeycomb Creative Works for a brilliant week. I gained so much, I’m so glad I went! You did a brilliant job and events like these really do perk up people like me! I have new friends, new contacts, new skills, new self-confidence and new experiences!

Enjoy Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
Enjoying Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier ;) yum!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier 😉 haha yum- worth it!

Update: The seven DkIT graduates were featured in this weeks DkIT Times, read the full article at DkIT graduates attend CultureTECH festival | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

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My Trip to Oxford :)

Oxford, baby! What can I say?! My first time in the U.K was a real mind opener! I’m just totally blown away by Oxford, particularly by the world famous SAE Institute!

I was invited to Oxford earlier on this year by my dear audio-adoring friend, Lee Fitzpatrick who I know from my previous life in Ballyfermot Music Production. He is a student at the SAE Institute and wanted to show me what his amazing college has to offer.

Straight off the train after arriving from Birmingham International, we walked through the beautiful main streets of Oxford city, Lee drawing my attention to the pub where Tolkien wrote the Lord of The Rings. I was struck by the gorgeous sandy colored buildings, the architecture was indeed very beautiful.

Oxford beauty: The Bridge of Sighs

Onwards to the SAE Institute! We wasted no time in getting there! I was trembling at the excitement of finally visiting this amazing place I had heard so much about!

And I was not disappointed. Audio Heaven. A fast paced tour of the building with its endless secret stairwells, glassy corridors and many, many doors leading to various media-related treasures left me breathless. Every room was filled with the very best of audio gear I have only imagined in my dreams. The building was quiet and had a very relaxed, creative atmosphere, it was a Bank Holiday so there were no classes that day. Students were indeed hard at work on their day off, I had the pleasure of listening to projects and watching students at home in their creative academic environment. They were so friendly and warm hearted, delighted to hear I was from Ireland studying Music Production also. The overall vibe was one of disciplined hard work with a relaxed atmosphere.

“I’m just happy to be here!” Me at the World HQ of SAE 🙂

After being introduced to the fabulous Neve studio (the one I have been waiting for!) and the 7 other studios, we went to the cosy SSL studio and mixed one of my personal projects. Every Mac computer in the building (and there are MANY!) is fitted with the latest versions of every digital audio workstation known to man, and my Logic Pro 9 project worked like a dream. Logic Pro and Pro Tools are both taught in the institute, something which really impressed me as a Logic fan. I was among kindred spirits who had the same passion for the intuitiveness of my favourite DAW. I felt right at home!

With trembling hands I sat in front of an SSL and prepared to embrace this fabulous piece of technology…

Later in the evening we set forth, back to the Neve studio where Lee had booked a long session to continue one of his projects. There we spent an intense few hours recording vocals and overdubs, again working with Logic Pro 9. I have a tendency to be shy of studios and especially top of the range gear, I was honored to be assisting Lee and watching how he worked.

Hello gorgeous Neve Genesys!!!
The amazing Joel Rundle!
Lee, audio genius working hard!

Taking a break, Lee introduced me to the magnificent Steinway grand piano in the main live room.

The main live room, Steinway grand piano and Lee (proud as punch!)
Lee is not just a studio professional 🙂

After wrapping up the session some hours later, we made our way to the film department and set up for a shoot, another one of Lee’s many projects! The popular Nerd Vs World series on YouTube. I was delighted to watch the visual set-up and delighted to help with the audio end of it. Something I never did before. The session ended pretty late in the night (or should I say early in the morning?!) and that was my first day in Oxford.

My second day was fun also, a proper school day, Lee attended his morning classes as I worked on my own project in the Practical Room, a room full of Macs and mixing desks, racks of equipment and controller interfaces. Everything I was permitted to use, thanks to my BCFE qualification, even though I felt like I shouldn’t even breathe near the stuff! I was assured I was most welcome to use anything I wished.

The Practical Room, my home all day Wednesday 🙂
Working away on my project in Oxford 🙂

Later in the evening, after meeting the kind staff of SAE, I was invited to attend the guest lecture which was due to take place that day. The building was abuzz all day, the lecturers walking through the corridors, nabbing students, reminding them that a very special guest would be attending and not to miss out.

The very special guest was the very, very mind-blowing, beatjazz master, Onyx Ashanti. Onyx is the creator of a futuristic, improvisation based technology which involves live looping with software synths created (not triggered mind you, everything is live) by devices attached to his hands and mouth. Hard to explain, which is why I’m leaving a link here: Onyx Ashanti: This is beatjazz | Video on TED.com. I enjoyed his two hour lecture, despite being highly aware I was the only girl in the room (and the only non SAE student hahaha!). Onyx passed around the various parts which make his technology work, explaining in fine detail his technology, pure data and what inspires him to do this music. I was truly honored to be in his presence and I am very grateful to have been permitted to attend this lecture.

Exhausted from so much information, we chilled out with friends and remembered that we are Irish and Oxford has fantastic night clubs, it would have been a shame to pass up a dubstep night out! In Irish style, we partied in Oxford city centre until the small hours, enjoying wonderful music through the safety of ear plugs- never leave home without them!

We’re Irish and we know how to party! Myself and Lee 🙂
Rock and roll 😉

And so was my experience of Oxford! A truly wonderful place with wonderful people. Oxford was every bit as exciting and educational as I thought it would be. I am left with a great desire to attend this wonderful college to pursue my own studies but alas, I am already 1/4 of my way through my current degree programme! I will surely come back to Oxford in the very near future and further explore the city, see my friends and exchange more music ideas and thoughts!

Thanks so much for the invite Lee and thanks to the kind people of Oxford 🙂 Until we meet again 🙂

Thank You Ballyfermot College of Further Education!!!

After spending 7 years in the dark depths of the music industry, Ballyfermot College of Further Education has taught me valuable lessons and renewed my passion for music by shining a big, bright, warm light on the joys of audio and sound. I’m sure any graduate or current student of BCFE will tell you that their experience at the college was the most rewarding, fun, creative and interesting time of their academic lives. Last night I graduated from Music Production, earning a Higher National Diploma, in the Concert Hall of the R.D.S, with mixed emotions; the joy of receiving my qualification and some sorrow, to say goodbye to the best 2 years of my life and the people I’ve met during that time.

My time in Ballyfermot CFE was certainly the most challenging, creative, interesting and inspiring time of my life so far, words cannot express how honored I am to have studied under the amazingly gifted teachers, Larry O Toole, Franziska Prendergast, Pete Holidai, Liam Caffrey, Patrick Daly and Oliver Sweeney. They really are an excellent team of teachers who inspire their students to better themselves and open their minds to new ideas and paths.

Ballyfermot CFE is an excellent college and I would highly recommend anyone to study there, speaking from the creative arts side of life, their courses, facilities, lecturers and staff are second to none! I am very proud to be a graduate of this wonderful college. BCFE opens doors one never ever seen was there!

My academic path continues to Dundalk Institute of Technology where I am studying Music and Audio Production (can’t get enough of it, can I?!), it is a brand new course and the first B.A in Ireland that’s 100% music production based. I am very excited to be studying and I hope to grow even further musically there and enhance the skills Ballyfermot CFE has given to me.

Thanks to all the excellent staff at BCFE, thanks to my partner and family for your support, thanks to my friends I’ve made there. Stay in touch. x

Myself and my dear friend Andy, proud graduates
Myself, Mr. Geoffery Harvey presenting my award and my programme leader Larry O Toole