Introducing: Colin Nightingale – Creator & Creative Producer (UK)

Revelland works with an incredible team of artists, performance designers, sense specialists and organisers. This series of articles gets you familiar with everyone involved. Please meet, Colin Nightingale.

Ask yourself what you want your audiences to feel and what messages and emotions you want them to take away after attending your show.
Colin Nightinale

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your profession and specialty.

“I’m Colin Nightingale and I’ve been working in the field of experiential art and performance for nearly 20 years. I’m co-founder and director of A Right/Left Project, which create projects that involve immersive storytelling and challenge conventional forms of interacting with art and music in transformative ways. We conceived and developed the walk-through album experience Beyond the Road with the British musician James Lavelle (UNKLE). It’s a multi-sensory installation merging visual arts, music and film which premiered at Saatchi Gallery London in 2019 and then opened in Seoul in July 2021 and has been enjoying an extended run despite the pandemic.”

“I’m also Associate Creative Producer for the multi-awarding winning Punchdrunk, who are generally considered the pioneers of immersive theatre. My association with the company started in 2002 and I quickly became a key member of the core team working on all major projects including Woyzech (2004), Faust (2006/7), The Masque of the Red Death (2007/8), Tunnel 228 (2009), Sleep No More in Boston (2009/10), NYC (2011-present) and Shanghai (2016-present), The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable (2013/14). Last year we received a BAFTA nomination for a live 12 hour one take film, The Third Day (Autumn) staring Jude Law and featuring the first acting performance by the singer Florence Welch. I’m currently the Audience Experience Curator for the new London show The Burnt City which is scheduled to open spring 2022.”

How did you get to this point in your career? What were the key turning points that shaped your (unconventional) path? What skills and attributes were indispensable within this journey?

“I gave up any formal artistic education when I was 13, and ended up at university doing a vocational management degree. It was during this time that I realised I was very passionate about art and culture, particularly music. After university I was very busy DJing and setting up gigs and parties during spare time from my day job project managing fundraising events for charities. In my late twenties I started actively exploring the fringes of the art scene in London and through this ended up discovering a very early Punchdrunk project. I realised instantly that it was something that I’d been searching for. It was breaking lots of conventions and was crossing art forms which was exciting for me as I didn’t really identify with the way artists tend to be categorised and saw that as very limiting to creativity. I was introduced to Felix, the founder of the company, and we connected very quickly. We shared lots of similar ideas and approaches and so he invited me to get involved. Over the next few years, a core group of collaborators was established and we all worked very hard to eventually get to a point where we could give up our day jobs. During this time I was working for a festival organising large scale outdoor art and performance across a range of unique locations around London including Trafalgar Square. The skills I learnt during in this job were very helpful for the work we were developing within Punchdrunk and I had lots of relevant experience, skills and knowledge I could feed into the process especially as the scale and ambition of our projects was constantly expanding..”

Can you share some of your highest highs when it comes to adding your specialty to a music performance?

“Creating a special one-off experience with Jack White back in 2014 for the release of his album Lazaretto was definitely a huge highlight. The event was set up in secret and very fast but all went amazingly well and I think we created something pretty memorable for everyone involved.”

“In recent years creating Beyond The Road has felt very satisfying to share with audiences in London and Korea, as I had been dreaming of creating a walk through album for years. Whilst not focused around a live performance, I think we developed a new, fresh approach to listening and experiencing music. It involved the deconstructions and rebuilding music three dimensionally so that audience can actually walk into a piece of music.”

It’s important that audiences have an emotional attachment or to ‘feel’ the work I’m involved in creating and so it’s normal for me to try find ways that projects ideally work on different sensory levels as it maximises the opportunities for all audience to engage with it. By taking this approach, I generally find that accessibility can naturally be part of the creation of the project.
Colin Nightingale

Do you dare to share an utter fiasco with us as well?

“Not sure I have any stories of total disasters and I believe that you often learn as much from getting things wrong as you do from succeeding. Early on in my career a wise person told me never to be scared of failure and with that approach, even when things don’t go according to plan then you can still feel like you are developing and moving forward anyway.”

If we would join you on a random working day, what would it look like?

“It really depends on whether I’m on site with a project or just in the planning stages in the office but either way a lot of what I do is about the communication of ideas and directing people and resources. Half my day is normally taken up my meetings and if I’m on site with a project then will also lots of individual follow ups with people to make sure that they understand what we are trying to do and so provide support for them. If I’m in the office then there tends to be a lot more emailing. At least once I week I try to find time without a specific agenda to just do some thinking and researching of ideas.”

Why is accessibility important?

“I believe strongly in the potential for Music and Art to be transformative and have positive impacts on peoples lives and so everyone should have the opportunity to experience it. I have found exploring ways to make projects more accessible has always been a rewarding process on so many levels.”

How does your specialty benefit creative accessibility (inclusive solutions for exclusion issues that add value for multiple target groups and promote equal experiences for all)? Can you give a concrete example regarding immersive live performances?

“For me, it’s important that audiences have an emotional attachment or to ‘feel’ the work I’m involved in creating and so it’s normal for me to try find ways that projects ideally work on different sensory levels as it maximises the opportunities for all audience to engage with it. By taking this approach, I generally find that accessibility can naturally be part of the creation of the project. Over the years I have learnt lots about how to craft an experience from observing audiences. One of the most profound experiences for me was shadowing the first visually impaired Punchdrunk audience member as they explored one of our shows. The free roaming nature of the show meant that they were still able to craft their own unique journey through the space as do all audience members. After their visit, I remember so vividly receiving feedback about how empowered they felt and how different it was to their normal experience of theatre.”

Early on in my career a wise person told me never to be scared of failure and with that approach, even when things don’t go according to plan then you can still feel like you are developing and moving forward anyway.
Colin Nightinale

What has been the most memorable experience within the Revelland project so far?

“The project was due to start just as the pandemic sent most of Europe into lockdown and I remember feeling so happy that things were able to pivot quickly and the sessions with the bands were reimagined in a virtual format. I don’t think any of us were really sure how things would work, but hearing from the bands and all the sense experts was definitely a highlight of the early months of isolation at home and despite the situation there was a lot of positive energy from everyone.”

Do you have any advice for emerging artists who want to take their live performance to a next level and simultaneously become more accessible?

“Ask yourself what you want your audiences to feel and what messages and emotions you want them to take away after attending your show. Once you start to have some clarity about this, then have fun dreaming up new ways that this could be achieved through the different senses and then start to bring these ideas into the way you craft your performance.”

Want to know more about Colin? Make sure to check out www.arightleftproject.com and www.punchdrunk.com.

Header photo taken by Stephen Dobbie

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