UK Rock Challenge Ambassadors Blog: 2017

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Juniors and Seniors working together!

It is absolutely lovely to see Rock Challenge® senior teams working together to help out with their local junior school's J Rock™ performance - it creates a connection within your local community and a connection between the junior and senior event days which is great. We've gathered some stories from three of our Rock Challenge® Ambassadors who have had hands on experience with creating both junior and senior performances at the same time! Their stories will highlight some of the many benefits that can come from working together and embracing the Spirit of Rock Challenge®!

Ethan Morgan - "In 2017 Aberdeen had its first J Rock™ event. As it was the first junior event in the area, every school was new to the experience and the enthusiasm was fantastic. Near the start of the academic year, a few of the local primary schools contacted our school to as if anyone in our team would like to help out. I was so excited and thought it would be an amazing opportunity to gain leadership experience, but also because I love helping with the production of a Rock Challenge® performance. Myself and a few other students helped the primary school with choreography and soundtrack, and gave our knowledge on how the competition side of things works. We attended as many of their rehearsals as possible to ensure we remained ontop of our own school work. I picked up time management skills through this experience as I had to balance school work and my part-time jobs. On the day of the event, we came along to show our support and assist with face-painting, lighting and video. It was important to us to make sure that all the students had an amazing day as having fun was always more important to us than winning."

Lara Simpson -  "One of the highlights of my Rock Challenge® experience was getting involved in helping the local primary schools with their J Rock™ performances. As I was planning - and am  currently studying - to go down the route of primary teaching, the opportunity to help with J Rock™ teams was invaluable to me. It offered me the unique experience, gaining insight into what goes on after school hours, how to create more opportunities for the pupils and how to get the best out of an opportunity like Rock Challenge®. Not only did it help me pave my career path, but it allowed me to pass on my experience and passion for Rock Challenge® to other children and staff. It was really amazing to see them get so excited and become passionate about it too. I also felt that, coming from a small community, it really bought the community together and more involved in Rock Challenge® as a whole. I would strongly recommend volunteering to help your local J Rock™ team as it is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience."

Jordan Cullen - "At my school, we have always offered extracurricular clubs to our cluster schools and last year we thought why not widen that choice to involve J Rock™. We used this as a way to help our S5 pupils gain the leadership skills they would need to coach the Rock Challenge® team this current year. We started off by sending letters to the local schools to see who would be interested and when we heard back from the primary school closest to us, we then set off to meet them and get started! The coaches choreographed the dances, mixed the soundtrack and built the set that they required for their performance and throughout the year the primary school would come and practise in our big gym hall. On the day, they came to our school in the morning allowing them to feel even more involved in the day and the amazing performance that they had created, and from then on we were known as ‘Team Montrose’. 
Having the link with the school gave both teams the support they requried and allowed the students to gain communication skills, confidence, team building skills and how to work with people of all ages and abilities. 
I would recommend creating a link between your local primary school and providing them (or anyone else) that comes to you for help if you can provide them with it as the experience is one of a kind and the ‘Team Montrose’ link is still going with the current S5 and 6 pupils and is something I can see lasting a long time."

I think it's easy to see the all-round benefits to creating a link between primary and secondary schools. So, if you're a new J Rock™ team looking for some guidance or a secondary school looking to gain skills from working with juniors, get in touch with your local schools and make it happen!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

BIG choices to make: theme, soundtrack, set and more!

You’ve now got past that early 6am sign up on entry day and have officially been assigned to a J Rock™ or Rock Challenge® Event on the 2018 tour!

Let’s get down to those big choices you have to make as a team.

How do we choose a theme?
Choosing a theme can be tricky because it can literally be anything! It can be based on a film, book, musical, play, TV show, or completely made up from your own imagination! As Rock Challenge® is now into its 23rd year so there is plenty of inspiration from other schools to help with your choice and here is a link to the Rock Challenge® Pinterest board that might help with some ideas. In your production book there is a list of popular theme choices. You may wish to choose one of these and make it your own or you might decide upon something completely new! Please note all elements in your performance have to relate to back to your theme so make sure you choose something with a lot of scope to explore.

Once you have a theme, the next step is to think of a title. Some schools like to avoid the obvious – for example, if you were doing Alice in Wonderland you could call it “The Adventure into Wonderland” or something different to the movie title, this means that you have some mystery around what your theme is. But one area where you definitely don’t want any mysteries is in your 60-word theme description. This is the only thing the judges will know about your performance before the show and so it is important to get as much information as possible in there as well as making an impact.

Now that you have your theme and a catchy title, there are many more choices for your team to make.

Your team will need to create a soundtrack for your performance, it is important that the music is relevant to your theme, and aids in the storytelling of the piece. The soundtrack can be a mix of songs, noises, voiceovers; it must be merged together and placed on a disc before the event day! There are some rules on soundtracks, such as; it must last 5-8 minutes and all music must be commercially available. You can find all rules and guidelines in the Production Book.

Set Design
Having set is important as it will add to your production and help to tell your story. Some schools don’t use set however there is an award for Set Design & Function so if you can, it’s advisable to use some! This can be anything relating to your theme; in the past schools have used flat boards which are painted to reflect the scene they were in. You can incorporate your set into your performance by creating it so that your performers actually stand on the set, or by having the set move freely around stage tying into the choreography. Little things can make a huge difference with set design – for example, you could include lights on your set which will help it to stand out, but only do this if it is relative to your theme. You must take into consideration the 4 minute timeline for your stage crew to construct your set on stage at the beginning of your performance and further 4 minutes to dismantle your set and remove it off stage at the end of your performance. There are rules & guidelines around set design which can be found in the Production Book. Here's the link to our Pinterest board for some ideas and inspiration!

Of course, costumes are a vital part of the performance, it can make a performer go from looking like a human to looking like a tree, insect, animal or one of your favourite fairy-tale characters! There is no limit when it comes to costumes, you can go as little or as crazy as you want with them. They can either be purchased or created using DIY depending on your budget. Here's the link to our Pinterest board.

Make Up, Hair & Props
As well as costumes, the use of hair and make-up design to portray their characters is very popular. There is really no limit for this either, just makes sure it stays relevant to the theme. You can use Pinterest for ideas which will be great for your teachers to use to get some inspiration. Here's the link to our Pinterest board. Props can also be used, which can add to your performance and will allow marks towards the award for “Visual Enhancement”. Not all schools use props, it really depends on whether or not the props would add an extra element to your storytelling.

I’m sure by now your heads are filled with ideas, so get going, start building and creating and have fun!

Katy Bowman x

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Entry day complete! Now what?

Congratulations to the dedicated and probably very sleepy teachers who woke up super early for entry day! You did it! So now that you've secured your place at a 2018 event, what next? Getting started on a new Rock Challenge® or J Rock™ is always an exciting time of year but it can also seem a little daunting. The start of a project is a blank page and all you have are questions. What sort of theme do we want to do? Would this story work? Is it original? How would we show that? Is it even possible to tell? Who knows, but you've somehow got to find a way to give your creativity a direction. 

In the next few months on this blog, we're hoping to help you along the way. We're giving you regular posts chatting about theme, set design, costumes, planning, fundraising and so on. Hopefully what we share will be helpful and, if not, at least really interesting to read. 

     This blog is written and run by voluntary Ambassadors from all over the UK and with the support of UK Rock Challenge® we're hoping to give some insight to various aspects of creating your own performance but also the wider Rock Challenge® community and what that can mean! We will be gathering examples from schools across the country with varying levels of experience and opportunity so it should apply to everyone! 

We are so excited for the 2018 tour, it is going to be so amazing! With over 50 events across the UK, including a whole bunch of new events in new locations and another National Final, 2018 is looking to be a pretty exciting tour. We're counting down the days. 

So... watch this space! And to those sleepy teachers, get an early night tonight, you've earned it! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Rock Challenge: Why you shouldn't be afraid to go for it

As a sufferer of anxiety disorders, participating in new experiences can be scary and daunting.

In 2013 I took the plunge and applied to be a part of the wardrobe team for my school's Rock Challenge® entry for the 2014 tour. I had heard about the experience from my friends who had been competing for years and it sounded like a lot of fun. I luckily got a position and the team started work on drawing up costume and make up ideas for our piece. This was great fun and I got to meet students from different years at the school, taking measurements to order and creating costumes. 

February 2014 came around, along with my first ever Rock Challenge® event in Stevenage. I was able to mask my fear among my team mates but I was afraid. What would the day bring? How does the competition work? 
We arrived at the venue and as part of the backstage team, we unloaded the van with our set inside. Immediately I felt at ease as friendly members of the Rock Challenge® team gave us clear instructions as to what to do. After a morning of unpacking make up and costume, the morning production meeting came around. This was the event I was most anxious about because of the loud music and crowds of people. However I had no need to be so anxious. There are options to stand at the back of the meeting, plus the music isn't too loud and the information given by the team is presented in a humorous way to make you feel like part of a Rock Challenge® family. Also, everyone from your own team and other schools look out for each other during the whole event beginning to end. 

Armed with information about the day ahead, the day zoomed by due to the excitement and fun I was having and soon it was time for our performance after an evening of painting make up on a cast of around 60 people. 

My first Rock Challenge® experience, despite being initially daunting, is the thing I am most proud of. I took the plunge and applied for the team and Rock Challenge® has changed my life in many ways. It has shown me not to be afraid of the unknown as people are extremely friendly and understanding and you may be missing out on something you will love. 

After my first experience, my school went on to the Southern Premier Finals, and I became Head of Wardrobe for our schools next entry. I then applied to be a Rock Challenge® volunteer, standing on the stage and dancing despite this being the thing I used to be so scared of! 

Rock Challenge® has allowed me to grow in confidence, and really is open to anyone and everyone. Don't be afraid to take part, and certainly don't be afraid to follow your dreams!

Love Emily D

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

How I became involved with Rock Challenge

September 2007 my son started secondary school & got involved in Rock Challenge®, to be honest I didn’t pay much attention to what it was until the following year. The school Liaison Teacher made an announcement that she needed help to paint set, so I decided to go along & give her a helping hand little did I know that that was the start of my involvement with Rock Challenge® & the Be Your Best Foundation. That first year, my involvement was very much in the background as I wasn’t sure what the whole “Rock Challenge®” thing was about. Then the big day was here, off we went to our local heat; set, costumes, props, make-up & kids in tow, everyone getting more excited the nearer we got to the venue. As we entered the building the whole place was buzzing, vans were being emptied, set was stored, kids were jumping & dancing everywhere, I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for!

Rehearsals began, then the morning production meeting, that was when the whole place erupted & everyone when wild. I was quite nervous & very self-conscious, not knowing what was about to happen. I had a reputation in school of being a bit strict but the atmosphere helped me relax & be myself, which came as a bit of a surprise to quite a few people & they realised that I could have fun. After that the day went pretty much the same as any other event, it ended all too soon but I knew I would be back as I’d had the most amazing day.  The next year I was involved right from the start, I even joined the supporters group, became the teacher in charge of the stage crew, was this the start of my addiction? Probably! I even began to look forward to the production meetings, still hiding at the back for teacher’s one though. Our performance this time got us quite a few awards & a place in the final at Grimsby. The bug was well & truly taking hold!

By now just taking part at my local event wasn’t enough, I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do more. My son had already begun volunteering at our local events & mentioned that he would like to go to other events, so we decided to volunteer for a few of Scottish events. I was a bit apprehensive as I didn’t know anyone apart from the “crew”, but after speaking to some of the other volunteers on the volunteer's Facebook page where everyone seemed friendly, I began to look forward to it. When we arrived everyone was very welcoming & made us feel right at home, just like one big happy family.  That week I met some of the most amazing people I have the pleasure of calling friends.

My 2nd year of volunteering I decided to join the accreditation scheme which means I had to complete certain tasks; such as collecting the schools in time to perform (runner), helping on the merchandise desk, to helping with admin, backstage & looking after the school liaison teachers over a number of event days to earn your bronze, silver & gold award. I was presented with my bronze award at my local event later that year. Being a volunteer you get to continue your Rock Challenge® experience after you leave school without the stress of performing & see what it’s like to work in different venues with professionals. It is such an amazing thing to be involved with as you get to see some fantastic performances & very talented young people doing something they enjoy & having fun.

For me Rock Challenge® isn’t just about a drug free high, it’s been more about giving me the opportunity & confidence to try things that I otherwise would never have done, getting involved has opened a whole new world & given me the chance to meet some fantastic & amazingly talented people. It gave me the confidence to overcome my fear of motorway driving so that I could attend the National Final. During my 10 years of being involved with Rock Challenge® I have made lifelong friends, gained confidence & challenged myself to try new things, I look forward to every event that I can get to & I am no longer bothered about making a fool of myself on stage…it’s all part of the fun. I feel very privileged to be part of this fantastic organisation that give young people in our country the chance to be all they can be.

Thanks for reading & if you are in any doubt about being a volunteer, I would say "just do it, you won't regret it!"


Monday, 9 January 2017

Rock Challenge.. One of the best things I've ever done

I started my Rock Challenge® experience back in 2013/2014 when I competed with my local school; Kings College, Guildford. It was the first time the event was brought to Guildford and the first time our school was able to get involved and I was excited to get started with everyone! As a sixth former it was my job alongside my class and dance teacher to come up with a concept and routine that would do our school proud.

We took our performance of 'The 5 Senses' to G Live and as a school we had such an amazing day watching other schools and being able to show what we had come up. At the end of the day unfortunately we didn't place in our heats but as a team this taught us we can be so much stronger next year but for myself I had the joy of being to perform on stage in front of a bigger audience then I usually do and being able perform with the rest of my team a performance that I had pleasure to choreograph.

The next year was not only my final year in sixth form but the last year dancing and being involved in Rock Challenge® with my school and so I wanted to make sure with the rest of my team we made it the best yet. So with the rest of my sixth form class we discussed we wanted to base our performance on a real life experience, so we took the concept of slavery. This piece meant a lot to all of us as we all knew it was such tough topic so we wanted to be able to portray it and show the audience we understand what slaves went through back then as they went through such a hard time.

So with our performance of 'I don't want to survive, I want to live' once again we went to G Live, this year the atmosphere was even better and had so much more confidence in myself and couldn't wait to perform again with my school. When it came to announcing the results that night I was more nervous than I've ever been but in the end we managed to come out on top and win the Guildford heats! This meant we were able to go on to Portsmouth for the finals and being able to perform a piece I've never been more proud of. The day arrived for finals and the day consisted of stress, fun and laughter as we really needed to all work together as were going up some talented schools. Rehearsals went so well and we received so much support from everyone we all knew the performance in the evening would be great. Unfortunately we didn't place at the finals, but if it taught me one thing is that I have made so many friends and how much stronger of a team we had become and I had such an incredible experience being able to dance and choreograph the last 2 years.

I knew after leaving school I'd be upset about not being involved in Rock Challenge® anymore until I found out I could become a volunteer. I'd thought this would be the best experience for me and boost my confidence even more and it did! The people I got to work alongside with have become some of my best friends now and I can't wait to get back to volunteering with them. Becoming a volunteer has changed me and opened me up to more experiences I can get involved in.

That's been my Rock Challenge® experience so far!
Lots of RC love!

Chloe J