Alice Goes to War

9 days, three sessions, one shoot, one gallery visit (with cake), and an arts festival – that’s how Alice came to launch MOSTYN Cylch’s Digital Project.  From our first meeting at Ysgol John Bright (YJB from here on in), on 9th September, to the end of the following week, Alice Goes to War had been devised, researched, storyboarded, filmed, edited and installed in Bathing Machine No 6 for the LLAWN 02 Festival. Writing this now, I keep checking the dates – I feel I’m missing out a week, or adding a session but, no, it is true, and there’s nothing quite like a deadline…

 an antiqued mid-shot of Alice in Wonderland looking towards Llandudno Pier and the horizon

Alice Goes to War Publicity Still
original image © Jan Miller

I’m Jan Miller and that wildly creative introduction was my first experience of working with the amazing people who’ve since formed the core of the Cylch/Circuit Digital Project group, not least YJB’s powerhouse of a teacher (and best badge-maker), Millie Jones. I’m off to meet her today to get her reflections on the project as a whole and to talk about how the partnership between MOSTYN Cylch and YJB has worked from the school’s point-of-view. In the meantime, this is my own reflection on how Alice came to be.

a pink and white striped Victorian Bathing Machine at Western Gardens, Llandudno

MOSTYN Cylch Bathing Machine No 6
© Jan Miller

Although YJB’s History department and MOSTYN’s Learning & Participation Curator, Naomi Horlock, had already liaised with Millie Jones, the school’s Inclusion Co-ordinator, we had to hit the ground running from the 1st session to make the LLAWN deadline. My starting points for the commission were – the physical space and context of the Bathing Machine, LLAWN’s theme of ‘The Presence of Absence’, and the historical fact that, when MOSTYN was used as a Drill Hall during WW1 the school’s then headmaster, Maddoc Jones, had been a Drill Sergeant there.

spider map 1st session

spider map 1st session

Millie introduced the group of  Year 11 students and, linking to the WAR exhibition at MOSTYN, we explored ideas of what the Bathing Machine and the sounds & images of war represented. The group’s main idea for what we had planned to be a film trailer screening at that point, was to contrast the Bathing Machine’s pink striped ‘nostalgic’ exterior with the soundtrack of war inside the space, as well as incorporating Llandudno’s historical connection with Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who spent family holidays at the resort during the 1860’s.

2 short, after-school sessions later, working really quickly in small groups, we had researched imagery for the main themes: Alice in Wonderland and War and got hands-on with the technology (iPads, mobiles, projectors, laptops & my Canon 5D DSLR). With the emphasis on each person looking through the lens from their own viewpoint, they photographed and rephotographed projected texts, words, images, exploring the macro, pixellation, differing resolutions, in order to visually abstract their original ideas and imagery and to change the scale.

digital abstraction © Jan Miller

© Jan Miller


I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure how these two could be successfully brought together but crucially, during the last session and using only found sound (plus a crash course on the Final Cut Pro editing software),  Lucas & Emily made what would become the complete soundtrack for the final piece.

By the end of the first week, we had a plan.

This is the first in a series of blogs on the MOSTYN Cylch Digital Project by artist Jan Miller