On Health and Safety: Part 2

Q.2. A fire has broken out in the building that you currently work in, endangering the staff present and the building itself.  What should your first course of action be?

Please select one of the answers below

a. The fire has broken out just at the right time as it is currently your break period.  Cracking open your little used locker you locate the marshmallows that have sat in the locker for the past 8 months and, using a fork no-one has cleaned within the past month, you head over to where the fire is and toast the marshmallows.  You laugh hysterically as your colleagues vacate the building whilst you sate your belly.

b. The fire is close to your desk, however you notice that Gill, on secondment from the Lancaster office, is trying to leave before you do so you accidentally trip her up and run over the top of her to get out of the office.  The cause of the fire, it is later ascertained, was your specially ordered fan from HR, even though you ordered it in November and the office air conditioning was to blame for the high temperature.   

c. Fire excites you!  It strengthens you!  You have become disillusioned with office life and believe that, just like the dragon queen from telly, you too can become tougher and more leader-like if you throw yourself into a fire and survive its red hot embers.  Your remains are later found cramped into a fetal position.  Nobody mentions the embarrassing porn magazine found in your smoldering locker to your mother at the work service. 

d. You locate the nearest fire alarm and push the trigger, indicate the nearest fire escape and help colleagues through before closing each set of doors as you exit the building and wait for the fire brigade to turn up.

UK Government Effectively Cuts DSA from 15/16

Something that I wrote and posted elsewhere that needs further sharing:

There are some quietly dramatic changes ongoing in higher education in the UK currently but there is one issue that is particularly close to my heart that, as I scanned newspapers and current affairs magazines over the past few weeks, seems to have received scant media coverage or attention.

On the 7th of April David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, released a ministerial statement on future changes to the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) that will affect students from the 15/16 academic year on-wards.  The Disabled Student Allowance are non-repayable grants, available to both part-time and full-time undergraduate or postgraduate students, that assist with additional costs that a disabled student incurs in relation to their study in higher education, such as when a disabled individual may need a note taker during lectures, a library helper to find and handle books, or when they require specialist equipment for studying and for producing written work.  Those disabled students who are currently enrolled and agreed DSA will not be affected by the new changes, but students who start in 15/16 academic year will be affected.

The aim, Willetts declares in the statement, is to modernise Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) by reviewing the £125 million-a-year support given to thousands of disabled students in the UK.  Essentially the Student Loans Company, the not-for-profit company that provides student loans and DSA in the UK, will be limiting the support types and equipment allocation that they currently fund for disabled students who attend higher education.  Willetts states that he would expect the higher education institutions (HEI’s) to pick up the slack, and provide and pay for the more general support types needed by individual students with disabilities.  Thus the limited public funds available for DSA will support and supply disabled students applying for higher education with a core allocation for certain complex types of support (such as specialised software), whilst hoping that the individual institutions will have the frameworks in place for providing more generalised support types for disabled students in conjunction with support suppliers.

The only mainstream magazine that I have seen mention or discuss the announcement is the ever reliable Private Eye magazine (current edition No. 1364, page 9), and online independent bloggers such as Assist Tech.  Private Eye quote the fact that the National Association of Disability Practitioners (the providers of support that invoice the Student Loan Company for support given) have stated that the move as described by Willetts would create an enormous disincentive for universities to recruit disabled students because of the costs involved.

The value of having a centralised loan company that can collect information, review procedures and investigate providers of equipment and support will surely be lost if individual HEI’s have to rely on a  binary system of dealing with both the Student Loans Company and the individual practitioners, during the providing of support for disabled individuals in higher education.

Following the ministerial statement by Willetts, Paul Higgs, as a part of the Higher Education Student Funding Policy in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also released a more in-depth Student Support Information Note in April 2014 (SSIN, fully accessible here).  In it the nuts and bolts of the modernisation program is highlighted, and it makes for depressing reading:

  • The bulk of the non-specialist non-medical helpers (NMH) support that is currently funded by DSA will no longer be funded by the Student Loan Company.  This includes library or laboratory assistants, note takers, personal helpers, mentors or specialist helpers.
  • The majority of the equipment that is currently funded by DSA will no longer be funded from 15/16 on-wards, only specialist equipment that is specifically needed by the student will be funded.
  • No assistive technology support or related non-medical helper support is expected to be funded either.
  • Funding will no longer be provided for consumable items (paper, ink etc).
  • No funding will be given for additional costs regarding accommodation changes where the accommodation is funded by the HEI, if this is to be a problem the HEI itself is expected to meet the cost.

There is, of course, core funding that will remain in place and accessible for disabled students from The Student Loans Company itself in complex situations (although complexicity in this instance is not defined further).  The HEI should hopefully have core support ring-fenced from its own allocation of funding and have such frameworks in place for the support of disabled students from the 15/16 academic year on-wards.  The aim of the statement and intended proposals from Willetts and Higgs is to ensure that the DSA is up to date, consummate with the use of public funds and its spending, and to make sure that HEI’s are abiding by the 2010 Equality Act, which ensures that disabled individuals have an equal playing field, in both academia and in employment compared to the average non-disabled individual.  This is an honourable view certainly.

Yet I retain deep reservations about this latest move by the government.  Yes it has only just been announced and yes it is not currently in practice, but I worry for disabled students access to higher education and to academia generally.  This move will force a greater financial burden onto educational institutions throughout the country.  The economic worth of study, and of the place of academia within a national economy generally, is not in dispute, but the availability of access to academia by every sector of society is.  The move is also slowly breaking down the great vision that study is worth it for its own sake as limitations are further placed on the value of access to education.  Furthermore it is another demoralising move towards eroding the individual freedom of disabled people by dismantling core government support, and fanning it out instead to a variety of organisations and companies.

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite, who is a post doctoral research associate in student experience at King’s College London, argues in a critical and perceptive article for The Guardian‘s Higher Education Network that the latest publicly available records state that the DSA annual spending statistics are actually down compared to previous years (12/13 academic year compared to previous academic years).  Further to this, she also questions the areas that are being proposed to be cut by central funding from The Student Loans Company, highlighting that the

Proposed changes to DSA funding may fundamentally redefine disability in higher education. Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADD/ADHD, have been singled out for the largest cuts, and there is a real danger that their needs become invisible.

Willetts has chosen to restrict focus to more “complex” SpLDs and those requiring “most specialist” support. This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between a medical diagnosis and the support requirements that students may have. Indeed, it is ironic that the one group singled out for cuts to academic support are those whose disability explicitly affects learning.

It is worth reading Lewthwaite’s full article as it exposes some of the concerns from the academic sector itself, as well as highlighting issues that will affect disabled students and their access to education.

Patoss, the professional association of teachers of students with special learning difficulties, has also raised its concerned with the changes proposed by Willetts.  In a statement, mentioned on their post on the proposals, Paddy Turner has stated that “the size and the scale of these cuts is unprecedented and represents a retrogressive step in equality for disabled people“.  

Needless to say I will be interested to see the development and implementation of the modernisation of DSA in the upcoming years ahead.  I will also keep an eye out for further information as and when it becomes available.


A thank you goes to Chris Morley, who highlighted in the comments section below several invaluable articles that helped improve this post.

Further Information

  • The ministerial statement by Rt Hon. David Willetts, MP for Universities and Science, can be read here.
  • Paul Higgs SSIN statement on the changes in DSA for 15/16 can be found here.
  • Read Sarah Lewthwaite’s perceptive article in the Guardian’s Higher Education Network section here.
  • Have a read of Assist Tech’s personal view and much more detailed response to Willett’s and Higgs’s statement here.  Worth noting is where the ministerial statement found the statistics it uses on the access to a laptop question.  It is misleading at best.
  • The National Union of Students has blasted the decision by Willets in this article here.
  • Read the legislation for the Equality Act 2010 here.

Kneecapped By The Government

The UK government have managed to pass a pretty horrendous bill for the democracy of the country.  It is hoped, or at least I hope, that the bill will be changed again shortly, but I do not hold out much hope.  At times it seems as if this country is sleep walking to a place I dare not think about.  I am intensely aware of the many freedoms we have in the UK, of our beautiful country, but I do fear for the future.  The civilian population must remain vigilant and hold our politicians to account over their links with big business.  It is easy to get carried away with these kind of things, but we must make a stand for moral democracy and the right of the everyman.

Scriptonite Daily has done a particularly effective blog post on the ins and outs of the effects of the bill which is highlighted below.

From the Scriptonite Daily website:

“Last night, the UK government passed the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.  A bill gagging charities, NGO’s, bloggers, community groups and most attempts at organised opposition to the government in the year prior to a general election…and just in time for the General Election next year.

What is the Gagging Law?

 The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, or Gagging Law, was hailed as the UK government’s answer to the issue of commercial lobbying.

But, this bill does not take on the political power of wealthy corporate lobbyists.  Instead, it kneecaps any attempts at organised local and national opposition by civil society, so as not to influence the outcome of general elections.  It is a gagging law.  The law puts in place a range of bureaucratic and financial barriers amounting to a gag on free speech and effective opposition.  These include:

  • The maximum that can be spent before groups have to be registered with the Electoral Commission £20,000 in England and £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Reduce the overall UK-wide spending limit before elections from £988,500 at present to a new limit of £450,000.  To put this in perspective – campaign group 38Degrees has 1.7m members, this would mean neutering their spending power on posters, staff, adverts and ancillary costs to just 26p per member.
  • Putting in place a spending cap of just £9,750 in a particular constituency, in the year running up to a general election – while the local MP can spend as much as they like until just 4 months from the election.

The new spending limits will come into effect on 19th September this year.”

Read the full post here.

As bloggers we must raise our voices.  To stand idly by is to legitimise the actions of those that lead us.

An Interview with Kevin Kinnersley: Skyweb Studios and Beyond

I recently had the chance to chat with Kevin Kinnersley, a dear friend of mine who runs and owns a number of businesses aimed at improving websites online for a wide variety of customers.  I was intrigued to hear why and how he had started his main business and where his work was now leading him.  Now, more then ever, businesses are using the internet to advertise their goods but a key part of this is the site of the businesses themselves.  Kevin has worked for a number of years designing websites for a wide variety of businesses and individuals and I was keen to see how, or if, his views have changed on his approach and use of the internet as a main business tool.


Don’t Bend, Ascend: Hi Kevin, welcome to Don’t Bend, Ascend! When did you realise you had the interest and passion to start the website and designing websites for other web users and businesses?

Kevin Kinnersley: I first realised I wanted to do something in design when I was a child, I used to sit and constantly try to draw and I failed every time. I often wondered why everyone in my family could draw except myself. I knew I could do it and I kept trying, one day I got so frustrated at trying I said to myself “I Wish I could draw!!”…from that day I then could. Coincidence or all that hard work finally paid off?  You decide.

Not long after that I started to use the Internet, I was fascinated with computers ever since I can remember. At the age of 11 all I used to do in my spare time was play Final Fantasy games or attempt to make websites. I remember those days so well, it feels like it was yesterday and I don’t think I will ever forget these days of my life.

I would come home and attempt to make a website in Microsoft Word *laughs*. I’m not sure how much you know about websites but let me explain that Word by default is very annoying, if you have ever tried to put an image on the page with some text, you might of noticed how the text suddenly jumps to somewhere else? – Well trying to make a website in word takes this to a whole new level. When you do a website in word, it might look perfect in normal view but then when you view it as a web page, it’s like someone has just flung things on the page – It does not look how you expect at all.

After playing about with Word I eventually found out why this happened, websites need to be written in code, and by doing it in code you can put anything anywhere you want and it will actually display correctly.  By using Word it’s what is know as a “What you see, is what you get” editor and this is never the case, you never get what you see! As I mentioned earlier it looks fine when you are designing it in word, but the moment you look at it as a web page it’s all wrong.

This is when my journey into building websites really started and from there my whole life began.

DBA: What did you hope to achieve and have you reached that goal?

Kevin: At first I just wanted to achieve making a successful website, making it look exactly as I wanted and talking to the world. I used to think by having a website everyone in the world would see my website.  This was not the case, it wasn’t until I was around 17 that I really started to understand websites and how big they are. It’s not just about making the website function and look nice – you have to do a lot more just so people can find you on the internet. Getting a website online for me, is easy now, getting online is just the start. After this you have to market it and try to get to the top of the search engines.

I’ve achieved my original goals, and a lot more. Around 2007 I was really into Myspace, but not in the way the world was. Everyone used that to chat and hang out online, it was the cool place to be but I liked it because you could customise your own page and I always made my page unique. This was actually harder to learn than websites as myspace only gave you so much control with what code you could insert and often their coding used old methods. From time to time they would update their website and then anything you had previously created could instantly stop working and you would have to fix it…time and time again.


Bands were using Myspace and at the time I had no idea if they would pay to have me design their page but I really wanted to give it a shot. My friend who I was in business with back then was hesitant, he thought bands would never pay for this and they would expect it for free or for next to nothing. Still that didn’t stop me, I wanted to do it, regardless of the money – the money was just a bonus, more than anything in life I just like to design and help people who can’t do it. Helping people is the best feeling in the world, mix that with my passion – designing and there is nothing better.

DBA: What was the competition like when you started and how has this changed with the rise of many new and exciting websites (ie what is your unique selling point).

Kevin: The competition was tough, we had a few big competitors and one massive competitor called bandspaces. These guys had been doing Myspace Designs for quite some time and they had already built up a massive client
base, not just that they had worked for celebrities and where even recommended by Myspace. Still we kept going and persisted. Even though they were a massive competitor we still had a lot of clients wanting Myspace work.  Quite often we got praised on our design skills and at how good our prices where.

Things have changed now due to Myspace no longer being popular, my friend and I decided to go our own way. He now has his own business and I have kept running Skyweb Studios myself. Things have slowed down a lot and for
some reason Facebook doesn’t seem to have the same effect with design as Myspace did. Bands are either using a free app to get music on their page or not doing much at all. Facebook does not give you the best customisation,
Myspace let you make your page feel like your page but with Facebook it’s not quite the same feeling – this could be why there isn’t as much need for a designer on Facebook.


There could be a whole lot more to this but from what I have seen, more business owners want their own Facebook Page compared to bands. I’ve had to change the way I do business and things are a bit quiet at the moment due to this.  I’m in a huge transition phase however it’s funny you have asked me to do this interview as the other week I had a massive realization and I have decided to not worry so much about the business and not drive it so hard. I was wearing myself out by doing too much work and focusing on the business too much. I am now taking a laid back approach and just been a freelance designer. I will work whenever the opportunity arises but I am no longer making this my life.

This is now possible due to getting a part time job at a supermarket, this brings enough money in to pay the bills and allow me to do work on Skyweb in my spare time. Before I was trying so hard to make Skyweb my main source of income but now I realise that’s not entirely what I want, sure I would love it if it could but the reality is at this current moment It’s just not happening. I’m not giving up and I will keep aiming towards making more money but I’m no longer letting it rule my life. Before I was living in a state of emergency, not spending any money I make, living with parents, constantly saving all my money for the future and worrying whenever I do not work. I could never relax!

DBA: Are there any particular sites or businesses website designs that you are most proud of? If so why do you feel that satisfaction, is it knowing that a job has been done well or that the customer is happy with your hard work?

Kevin: I often find it hard to be proud of anything I do, but I am also trying to change that. From 2011 I have started a transformation and have been trying to improve in areas where I consider myself weak. For instance I never credit
myself for a good job, I never think highly of anything I do and I should. Since late 2012 I have really changed and I am now able to do this, it’s still hard to but some things I am proud of. I’m very proud of my new website aimed at
business owners, Skyweb Studios.

This website had taken me a long time to make, if I had to count up all the hours I would say it had taken me a good 5 – 6 months to get it where it is today…and like all websites it’s still not finished. I’m still not satisfied with it
but I was satisfied enough to get it online as it’s working and looking nice and clean. I do need to work on a bit more content for it. It had taken me so long to make because as I was working on it I constantly made changes and as I was
developing it I kept learning new things as I went, in the end I started the website from scratch three times. This happened as I decided to use the latest technologies and code making this website ready for the future.

In the long run it saved me time, rather than cost as this website will adapt to any screen size. Look at it on your desktop computer and it will work, look at it on a tablet or a mobile phone…and it will work. You will be able to see
the content without having to scroll or zoom and this is thanks to the new things I learnt. It’s also HTML5 ready which is the latest version of HTML. HTML5 and Responsive web design (how it looks on many devices and screen sizes.) is really going to take off over the next few years, and I am ready for it now!

Another website I am really proud of, maybe even more than my new skyweb studios site is my latest website GameCatchup. This website is more of a personal website and I work on it in my spare time. It was however another test. I have taken what I know a step further and decided to code it differently. Instead of coding every single website I make manually I now use a feature in WordPress which saves me a lot of time. Instead of taking weeks to get a website online I can now do it in a few days – this is all thanks to WordPress and the skills I have learnt. The thing I like most about Game Catchup is the content, it’s honest opinions on games that I love, playing games and writing about them is my other passion. Mix that with web design and you have Game Catchup!


With a website with content this big and personal it takes a lot of time to do, more than actually developing the website but the end result is worth it. I hope to make this website a nice place to be for gamers looking for honest reviews on games. In time, I hope to get the site bigger and have several writers making reviews about their favourite games – I don’t want it to just be my reviews, I would like everyone to get involved, and anyone is welcome!

So these are my two recent websites I am proud of. In terms of older designs from Myspace I am proud of a few profiles I did for clients such as Kara Mann and Shez420. See, I am starting to be proud of a few things, I am trying!

DBA: Where do you see your business in a few years time, do you have any further hopes to develop it?

Kevin: Honestly, I don’t know – is that bad? – As mentioned in my answer to question 3 I have transitioned and I now see myself as a freelance designer – as such I will be trying to do nothing but design. I want to try and eliminate any programming from my day to day tasks if possible. I enjoy design, I feel calm and happy when I design and I get lost in it. Time just disappears and I know this is what I want to do, this is what I was meant to do. I’ve been practicing it since I was 11!

Don’t get me wrong, I will still do other work and if I have to code a website for someone I will but now I am returning to my main passion which is designing. I am looking to start designing business websites and logos. I did not mention above but in 2012 I decided I will give logo design a go and I have learnt a lot since then. I used to think I could not do logos but that was far from the truth, I just needed to practice and believe I could. I’ve had nothing but good comments on any Logo I have created and my partner says I have a talent for these things. She says I just understand when it comes to logos. Where to place things, how to do the text etc. Sometimes I underestimate myself as I just quickly do something as a sketch and she says it’s great and I am usually thinking “what? it’s just a sketch, I hardly did anything”. She makes me realise that what I have I often take for granted and forget that not everyone can see how to put things together which comes naturally to me in the design parts of things.

I know one thing for certain, so long as I am breathing Skyweb Studios will remain! I’ve often said to my friends and partner that my business is my passion. I don’t want the business to expand very much and I will never want to sell it for millions. It’s a lifestyle business for me and that’s what I like about it. I could not imagine my life without Skyweb Studios and I hope it remains in my life for a very long time. It’s my life, Skyweb Studios and Kevin Kinnersley are one and the same!

DBA: Awesome! Cheers for the interview and good luck for the future!

Kevin Kinnersley’s websites:

  • Skyweb Studios, his main website building business page.
  • Skyweb Studios design portfolio.
  • GamesCatchup, a site dedicated to Kevin’s passion for computer games across all formats.  Guest reviews and entries are also welcome.

The Grey Zone

Make no mistake, Guantanamo Bay is a stain on the sullen face of democracy.  For 11 years a  joint British and Saudi Arabian citizen has been held at this American base without being charged.  Despite the protestations of the British government, a lack of critical evidence and numerous protests, Shaker Aamer remains locked up in Guantanamo Bay, deprived of his basic human rights and subject to degrading torture.

Despite the hope of President Obama calling for the closure of the prison, based on Cuban ground, the prison is still operational, still torturing and still being run in defiance of basic human rights.  Amnesty International has repeated called the prison a ‘human rights scandal‘, The International Committee of the Red Cross found repeated detainee abuses when it inspected the camp in 2004, and Human Rights Watch has stated that ‘(the US) has refused to apply the Genevea Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan, and has misused the designation of ‘illegal combatant’ to apply to criminal suspects on U.S. soil” in a 2003 report.

The world is currently in turmoil, thousands are dying in a vicious and bloody war in Syria, protests are on-going in Turkey, Brazil has had numerous large scale demonstrations de-crying the state for its lack of improving social issues, and Greece is under the boot of austerity, with the rise of the Golden Dawn party becoming a worry for Greece’s citizens and Europe.  It is time for a strong moral and ethical backbone.  Guantanamo Bay exists to facilitate the prisoners of war carried out in the wake of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack in the US.  I believe that prisoners should be treated fairly and equally, that they should face legal justice where guilt is in evidence.  I do not believe torture and the de-basing of human rights is the correct, moral or ethical approach.

Shaker Aamer is currently on hunger strike, as are many of his fellow prisoners in Guantanamo Bay who protest their ill treatment, torture and abuse.

When you dehumanise the enemy, you dehumanise yourself.

A Blog Repost: Immigration Into Britain

There is a detailed, well researched article on the actual facts of the current state of immigrates into the UK, and to what benefits they are legally entitled to.  Please read, as there has been far too many ill conceived rhetorical talks by prominent politicians of the current UK Coalition Government that scaremonger the general British population.  The mainstream media have, largely, colluded and printed numerous scare stories.

From Scriptonite Daily

“The Coalition went into overdrive on immigration this week, announcing plans to put a stop to so called benefit tourism and ‘respond to the concerns of citizens’.  But what if the concerns of the citizens are misplaced?  And to what degree have these concerns been placed in the minds of the citizens? Today, we expose some of those inaccuracies and reveal the facts about immigration.

Net migration to the UK fell by a quarter last year from 242,000 to 183,000. This was largely caused in a fall in the number of overseas students choosing to study in the UK (the first in 16 years), and a rise in the number of Britons emigrating (108,000 to 127,000).

However, Immigration is once again and issue for the British people, according to politicians and the mainstream media.

It is no surprise that ‘the British people’ believe immigration to be an issue when so many myths, mistruths and outright lies are promulgated by politicians in pursuit of their votes, or media outlets in pursuit of their custom.”

Read more the immigration post here.

It is well worth reading the other post on Austerity Kills.  Far to often stories such as these are swept under the carpet.

‘We Are Improv’

Humans have expressed themselves for many thousands of years in the form of portable carvings, cave art, open air art and monumental structures, however what cannot be excavated or reconstructed is the pure visceral thrill of the performance, be it on the part of the actor or of the audience.  Whilst we today we have the wide choices of plays, films, games, and television to watch and entertain us, there is nothing quite like watching or partaking in the performance of improvisation, a free form expression in which the subject and responses can be as varied as you can imagine.

I am very happy to introduce my friend Katy Bateson, a Lancaster based performer, who has started her own improvisational group entitled ‘We Are Improv‘.  The group have been together for a number of years now, regularly meeting up to improvise and improve their skills and ideas.  They have attended workshops throughout the country, and very soon they themselves will start playing live in Lancaster and will start putting on shows further afield.  I recently had the chance to ask Katy, the founder of ‘We Are Improv‘, a few questions on the nature of improvisation, her influences and why we should all join in.


DBA (Don’t Bend, Ascend):  Katy, in your spare time you are a improvisational teacher and performer, but why did you decide on improvisation in the first place?  Who where your influences, and why did you feel like you wanted to set up your own group?

KB (Katy Bateson): Improvisation is acting without a script, where you respond to offers from the audience or your fellow improvisers.  There are a wide range of different styles from short form improvisational comedy like ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway‘ and ‘Paul Merton and Chums‘ to the improvised staging of Jane Austen novels (‘Austentatious‘) and musicals (‘The Maydays‘).

I was given the gift of improvisation when I was 8 years old, and 16 years later improvisation still fills me with the same wonder and joy.  Most children reach an age where they stop playing, their barbies are packed away into the loft, they no longer pretend to be flying ponies or get married to each other in the playground.  In short we begin to grow up and begin to live more in reality and less in our imagination, but I am truly blessed that finding improvisation so young means I have never stopped playing.

Most people think that improvisation is a terrifying concept with people always saying “I couldn’t do that” but everybody improvises every second of the day, you don’t wake up and plan the encounters and conversations you will during the day, we all improvise everyday and it comes very naturally.  The thought of having to learn a script fills me with terror after the freedom improvisation allows, in improvisation there is no wrong because there is no plan!  Improvisation is built on the idea of saying “Yes and…” where you accept the offer of your fellow improviser and add to it, you can’t fail if whatever you say is going to be accepted!

Improvisation is breathtakingly beautiful and exhilarating, every performance or workshop is shared between the actors and the audience only to ever be seen by the people in that room, as soon as the final bow is taken everything exists only as memories.  No film, book or television program has ever made me laugh as loud, smile as wide or cry as hard as improvisation has.

It is safe to say that Improvisation is an addiction, what starts as attending a few classes can quickly become travelling the length and breadth of the country to do courses, and before too long contemplating scaling the globe to attend improvisation festivals.

I decided to start-up my own group whilst on holiday in Turkey, my brain suddenly decided that I needed to start my own group so I did.  Although I loved doing improvisation courses around the country, I wanted to be able to improvise closer to home where I could focus on improvisation that interested me, and that didn’t break my bank balance with trips to London.  I love improvisation with a passion and teaching it and spreading some of my passion and joy seemed like the most natural thing to do.”

DBA:  It is clear to see that you are very passionate about the art form, however what do you personally hope to achieve?

KB:  “I hope to have an improvisation group that is performing regularly in Lancaster, we have currently performed once for friends and family and we’re working towards our second performance in April.

I want to help spread the word about improvisation and bring improvisation to the North as at the moment it is highly concentrated in the South of England, mainly in London and in Brighton, but small groups further North are helping to spread the improv joy.

I also want to encourage more people to get involved with improvisation by running courses.”

DBA:  How do you feel that improvisation has helped you develop as a person, and how have the people you have met and taught helped?

KB:  “Improvisation has helped me become the person I am today, if you can stand up in front of a room full of people with nothing but an audience suggestion and create something beautiful there is nothing that you can’t do.  I have the confidence to speak in public and laugh more in one improvisation class than most people probably do in a week.  I have met some incredible people through improvisation.  My fellow improvisers are the most inspiring, creative, encouraging, intelligent people I have ever met.  I have improv friends that span the globe who I have shared more laughter and honest moments with than most people have with friends they have had a lifetime.  Although the time I get to spend with these people is often brief, it is worth every glorious second.

I’ve also done a lot of improvisation with The Maydays who are an improvisation group from Brighton that specialise in musical improv.  I’ve done some wonderful workshops with them including going to their 5 day improv residential that they hold in Dorset each year.  I’ve also done some amazing workshops with Parallelogramophonograph from Austin Texas and Jason Chin from Chicago.”

DBA:  I think I know the answer, but finally why would you recommend improvisation to other people, especially to people who have never tried it before?

KB:  “Improvisation is life changing, if find the right teacher you can find a place where you are truly accepted for who you are, where you are surrounded by a group of people who are encouraging you and supporting you.  Improvisation will boost your confidence and your happiness.  You will meet wonderful new people and feel exhilarated and free.  With improvisation the possibilities are endless, it is very therapeutic.”

It is clear to see the passion and high esteem that the founder of ‘We Are Improv’, Katy Bateson, has for her art and the hopes that she has for her company.  It is an especially brave act to start your own improv group, at a time when the cultural cuts in the UK are affecting the access and funding of culture throughout the country.  However, where there is a will, there is a way, and Katy has demonstrated her steely determination to help bring laughter and smiles to audiences across the country, wherever her and her improv partners go.

For further information, or to register an interest and book a performance, please email Katy at info@weareimprov.co.uk.  The website, www.weareimprov.co.uk, has recently been upgraded, and visitors can look forward to an introduction to the group, and be kept informed of upcoming shows and blog entries.  Currently ‘We Are Improv’ are based in Lancaster, but hope to provide shows to a wider region.