The Third Coast Short Docs Challenge – Neighbours, bees and me.

12 Apr

UPDATE – I’m very pleased to announce that my submission to this year’s Short Docs Challenge was selected as being one of the top 28 submissions (and there were 180 sumbmissions from some of the best and most creative radio makers on the planet!)

The Third Coast International Audio Festival is an annual celebration of creative radio making that takes place in Chicago. Radio makers come from all over the world to take part, and this year I am hoping to be there myself. And every year, they issue a challenge – or an invitation – for radio makers to create short documentaries, on a specific theme, with certain conditions and caveats.

This year, for example, it’s all about neighbours. You need to make a feature that includes at least two of your neighbours, inlcude a photo, and the title has to include a colour. You have just three minutes to play with.

And play is the name of the game – this is that chance for people who are new to radio to have a go, and for experienced radio makers to do something different outside the deadlines and constraints of daily work. I’ve been listening to the 2010 winners of the challenge, and the pieces are astounding. Subjects range from the love-life of slugs to an eighty day bike oddessey condensed down to three minutes. Not that time is a constraint for these pieces. Somehow they are the audio equivalent of Doctor Who’s Tardis – small on the outside, big on the inside. Time seems to slow down to let the stories be told in full.

I’ve been working on my own piece for this year’s competition. At first I thought I would do something about the disconnectedness of modern life. Until recently my little family and I were living in an Edinburgh tenement in Marchmont, and although we’d been there for two and a half years, I still only knew two of my neighbours by name. We got given our notice to leave the flat a couple of months ago, and I thought I might introduce myself to the neighbours I didn’t yet know and get to know them – a kind of reverse of what you do when you move in somewhere!

But something more compelling came my way by chance. Hugh, one of the neighbours I did know, spotted us loading the van with our worldly goods one day, and mentioned that he was helping someone move house too – his bees. Did he have a van, I asked? No… So, without really thinking about it, I offered to help move them with him.

I ended up recording the whole adventure last week, and you can hear a short extract from it below; it’s raw unedited audio, and in stereo, so best listened to on headphones.


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