Finding out about Arthur Conan Doyle has been fascinating the past few weeks. He was such an interesting man and his works are so beloved, it’s incredible to see just how far his influence reaches, even now. For example, the Doyle Collection work closely with local community groups in the Portsmouth area; one of which is the Portsmouth Autism Network. (bio below)
PASN aim to support anyone affected by Autism in the Portsmouth and surrounding areas, and one group of teenagers are currently working alongside Paul from Strong Island Media, a media company who specialise in film-making, to create an animation based on Doyle’s The Lost World. I was lucky enough to sit in on two of their sessions and I was amazed at the insight and creativity these kids have at their fingertips at such a young age!
At the first session (for both me and them) the group were shown around the Doyle exhibition in the Portsmouth City Museum and were presented with various Lost World related memorabilia from the archive, including film posters. The kids loved it and will be putting together an exhibition of all their favourite bits to go alongside their animation. It was interesting to find out by a show of hands that the majority of them had read the Lost World but not Sherlock Holmes! The more I research, the more Sherlock Holmes seems to take over as the epitome of fandom, but it made me happy to know Doyle’s other works are still appreciated. After all, it was the basis of a classic film from my childhood: Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
After the museum exhibition, the group were introduced to the concepts of animation and the equipment they would be using. They learnt it takes 27 frames to make up a second’s worth of animation and that there are many different types of animation. This lead into them learning the ropes of the camera and making their own short animations (using fewer frames per second). Needless to say their excitement was uncontainable; they were so engaged and attentive. This was clearly a project they were going to enjoy and get a lot out of.
By the second session I sat in on, these guys had made terrific progress. Not only had they planned their own story line, they had designed characters and knew all the terminology for the different shots they wanted to produce. They spent most of the session creating the characters for the animation and the backgrounds. Their creativity is astounding: they were layering clothes realistically and picking bits of original artwork (copies) to cut up and use as appropriate landscape.
The fun they were having was palpable; giggling together and discussing what they were doing. Sometimes, the things they said were incredibly insightful. For example, when talking about the book The Lost World and describing Professor Challenger, one of the kids said, ‘it should be Professor ChallengING!’ This had me in stitches, yet, she’s right. As a character, Professor Challenger is brutish, egotistical and beats up many a journalist (which they took great joy in re-enacting).
It just goes to show, you can learn so much from those much younger than you and you shouldn’t underestimate them just because of a disability. I had so much fun with these kids and I can’t wait to show you all their work. I’ll try and make sure I get a copy of the animation and put it up here when it’s done.
If you want to know more about PASN:
PASN have been running for about 10 years and aim to support anyone affected by Autism in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas. They run a whole host of activities to support families and children with Autism, including a monthly support group for teenagers to participate in social activities; a monthly gym and soft play activities for those who are 4-10 on the spectrum (the equipment is exclusively hired to limit noise and stress), as well as weekly computer club for teenagers; coffee mornings, and outreach 1:1 sessions for families with children of all ages working directly with the families providing support and strategies. There’s something for everybody.
Special mention to the Strong Voices project by Artswork whose funding made this project possible.