Our friends at The Writing Platform have launched a bursary of £4000 for teams of writers and technologists to embark on a writing (or writing-related) collaboration over a period of three months. The bursary is open to UK residents aged 18 and over. 

They're after:

An original work that makes creative use of technology to push the boundaries of storytelling or the written form.


A project that seeks to address an issue of interest to the wider writing community, for example the dissemination of work or reader engagement.

We expect, and encourage, projects to evolve through the collaborative working process. At application stage we are looking for strong ideas and a desire to forge a genuine partnership.


The Writing Platform Bursary programme supports experimentation and inter-disciplinary collaboration between writers and technologists.

The work created by the teams will be showcased on www.thewritingplatform.com.

The teams will also have the opportunity to present their projects at Bath Spa University’s Mix: Text on Screens conference in 2015.


The deadline for applications is 5pm (GMT) on Thursday 4th December 2014.

Successful applicants will be notified by 5pm (GMT) on Friday 19th December 2014.

Projects will run for the three months from 15th January 2015 – 15th March 2015.

AuthorLeila Johnston

There are a couple of errata in the knitting pattern supplied in issue 4. This is very much our fault, not that of the wonderful artist, Jan Hopkins, who compiled the pattern and wrote the piece around it. Sincere apologies to Jan who did a fantastic job, and the correct pattern can be downloaded here

There were errors.

There were errors.

AuthorLeila Johnston
3 CommentsPost a comment

DATE: 14/09/2014

TIME: 1500 

LAUNCH LOCATION: 51.542955,-0.022108

Dear Citizen,

You have been specially selected to apply for a place on ‘Starship Hack Circus’, a one-way mission to planet KOI-3284.01. 

Just 50 special individuals have been chosen for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Leave your troubles, friends, family and species behind – and embark upon the most important voyage in the history of the human race.

Researchers detected a signal from the direction of the exoplanet in the summer of this year. Since then, our project has progressed rapidly to completion despite widely publicised naysaying. We are delighted to silence those who doubted whether a couple of months would be enough time to plan a long-haul space mission with no funding or expertise. 

There are a number of excellent reasons we decided to respond immediately with an airborne arts centre rather than waiting to get trained astronauts and a conventional craft.

It is widely acknowledged that culture is our planet’s greatest export. It is what makes us unique as a species; it turns thoughts into feelings and back again. It connects communities like nothing else. It answers our great questions, and suggests new ones to ask. Also, the arts currently have no safety protocols for space travel so it all worked out really cheap.



To protect the valuable range of skills in our special interdisciplinary field, there will be no space training. Your suitability for the trip was decided by an algorithm that considers your passion for speculative science concepts, your ability to sit still for long periods, and your contribution to life on Earth, particularly as detailed in your National Record of Achievement. These factors have calculated your inherent value, turning up a life insurance fee of £10, payable immediately via this link. This will be your ticket price for the trip.


Travel time

It will take 590 Earth years for us to reach the planet, or 354 years from the perspective of the craft. However, as you will be in hypersleep for the majority of the trip, your journey time will be an estimated two hours, 30 minutes. After some initial turbulence during take-off, we expect a calm and relaxing flight. A new issue of in-flight magazine “Hack Circus: First Contact” will be available to read during the boring bits.

Stay social

By the time we arrive, everyone back on Earth will be long dead. Indeed, the human race as we know it may well be extinct, the planet a smouldering husk after centuries of war and climate change. But there is no need to be downcast! The great news is, we have equipped the craft to tweet from deep space. These messages will be your epitaph, so take time to compose them. Remember to use the hashtag #StarshipHackCircus, or the technology won’t work.


Induction talks

To increase your comfort and chances of survival during this mission, there will be induction lectures from experts, including rocket scientist Dr David McKeown, the Head of UK’s SETI Research team, Dr Alan Penny, artist Kate Genevieve, and astrobiologist Dr Lewis Dartnell. There will be innovative radio technology by artist Sinead McDonald and Jeffrey Roe, and messages from a mysterious civilisation, interpreted by Chris Farnell.


We will depart Earth from The White Building in Hackney at 1500 on Sunday 14th of September. This should leave adequate time for you to get your affairs in order. To bequeath your estate to the Hack Circus project, please email with your credit card details. 


The Starship Hack Circus is ready when you are. Join us. 


DATE: 14/09/2014

FLIGHT TIME: 2.5 hours


LOCATION: The White Building
Hackney, London


Commander Leila Johnston

Commander Chris Farnell

Commander Sinead McDonald

Chief Engineer Jeffrey Roe

Head Flight Attendant Nadia Kamil



Dr Alan Penny
Dr David McKeown
Kate Genevieve
Dr Lewis Dartnell



LJ Rich (music)
James Rogers (design)

The White Building (vessel and technology)
Duncan Gough and Eva Liparova (concept)

Benjamin Schapiro (researcher)


COST OF YOUR PLACE: £10, pay here.

AuthorLeila Johnston

We have a podcast! It's on its fifth episode now and the HC Ringmaster, Leila, has chatted to a range of artists and makers on the fantasy technology/everyday magic axis, including Helen Zaltzman, Warren Ellis and LJ Rich.

The latest episode is below:


Synesthesia and glitching the world with LJ Rich

AuthorLeila Johnston

We chatted to Sarah Angliss, regular Hack Circus performer, musician, artist, and sound designer, about her recent work constructing a complete audio experience for the restored HMS Alliance. A version of this interview will appear in Hack Circus issue #3 in June. (And they never, she tells us, say "Dive!")

Tell us about the HMS Alliance project – how were you brought on board? 

HMS Alliance is the last surviving World War II era submarine. Building work started in 1945 and she was in service from 1947. Alliance patrolled the oceans and conducted cloak and dagger missions throughout the Cold War (to this day, no-one will say where, officially, but I’ve heard the rumours). I was hired to work on the project by museum designer Henry Lyndsay, after he read some of my thoughts on museum audio in the journal Museum Practice. 

Alliance is a rarity as almost all her original fixtures and fittings are still in place – from the periscope, diesel engines, sonar equipment and underwater telephone to the ladders, bunks and heads (toilets and sinks). But it’s an odd feeling walking through Alliance as none of her equipment is running (although a lot of it is still in working order). And of course there’s no crew, so you really don’t get a sense of the hubbub on board when she was an operational vessel with 65 hands working, living and sleeping on board. And that’s where I came in. Henry wanted me to use sound to evoke the submarine’s past – we were both keen to create the impression of a inhabited, working space, while avoiding the perils of the dreaded museum dummy. 

As soon as I stepped inside Alliance, I sensed her acoustics were very unusual and knew it was important for people to experience those directly. I didn’t want to rely on an audio guide – kit that looks flashy but actually isolates visitors from the natural acoustic and from one another behind headphones. So I recommended a scheme involving 50 speakers dotted all over the boat, by equipment, tannoys, mess tables and so on. And I created an ever-changing, naturalistic sound piece which played through the speakers, suggesting sounds were coming from people and equipment all over the submarine.

Crucially, this wasn’t a static soundtrack, like an old school museum tape recording. It’s made of hundreds of tiny events which play randomly but also relate to each other, using simple algorithms. For example, after three climbs up a ladder a hatch closes, then someone makes a report over a tannoy. I found this approach gave the impression of a living, working space. I also specified a few extras, for instance tactile transducers in the floor plate of the engine room, so we could shake the floor, giving the visceral bass you feel when the diesel engines are working at full pelt. We also put in a few triggered sounds here and there - for instance, the sound of dice being thrown in a game of uckers, men turning in their bunks or a mewing cat lost in the Ward Room (Alliance brought a cat back from one mission).

I worked closely with Henry, actor Colin Uttley and curators from HMS Alliance to create this soundtrack. And crucially, I called on the museum’s volunteer guides for technical help. The guides are all retired Royal Navy submariners so are brimming with stories and information about life on board. So was Chris Munns, the museum director - a former Commodore, Chris helped Colin with a highly-technical script for a fast-moving emergency dive.

My work was part of a huge refurbishment of HMS Alliance. Backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and a huge amount of local fundraising, Alliance has undergone an extensive conservation programme, from patching up holes in her casing that were letting in rain and pigeons to polishing up the equipment in the control room. 

My audio was one of the finishing touches, along with some scenic work from designers Diarmuid Byron O’Connor, Lottie Sweeny and Graham Taylor. Contractors DJW were also asked to reanimate some of the dials on board. They did so using Arduinos and servos.

What were some of the technical challenges in designing an acoustic experience inside a submarine?

It was tricky to reconstruct certain technical details on board, for instance, how the machines sounded and how certain commands were spoken. The submarine was in service across three decades so these details would have shifted over time. The service life of the volunteer guides stretched over a similarly long period. So there would be frequent disagreements about, say, the rpm of the propellors (which in turn, affects how they sound). I wanted the veterans to feel our reconstruction was authentic. So this was a knotty problem. Henry made the decision to have time move forward as you progress from for’ard to aft though the boat (as you can see on the video). This really helped to unscramble things. I’d say we’ve ended up with a composite, sonic impression of life across the decades – a compromise that just about works.

I also listened to documentaries for clues and did quite a lot of pitch shifting, time stretching and other processing of existing recordings to create many of the sounds. And did quite a few sound recordings on board. A big challenge was the sound of the diesel engines, used when the submarine was on the surface. The originals are no longer running. We knew this sound had to be right – and I wanted a high fidelity recording to get the full, visceral effect of room-shaking engine noise. Curator Bob Mealings tracked down a working Allan engine in Internal Fire, a museum in Wales, and BBC sound recordist Richard Gott was dispatched to make a recording. I processed this to create the sound that’s now on board.

Physically, the most obvious challenge was the submarine’s location and our never-ending fight against the icy chill. In the depths of winter, a handful of us were working in the empty submarine, a large metal box on a coffer dam in Gosport harbour. I wore double thermals and still the damp, icy cold rose through the floor and up through my legs. I was so chilly, most of the day, I felt downright sleepy and could scarcely hold a pen – not the best condition when you’re trying to program a fiendish MaxMSP patch or make precise sound edits.

I since learned that submariners always had to contend with the temperature of the surrounding waters. On some missions, they spent weeks in unwashed woolies – in others they were all kitted out in nothing more than sarongs. 

In other ways, the submarine was a delight to work in, especially compared to, say, a Tudor house where you need to hide every single wire behind panels and you can’t drill a single hole. The submarine was such a jumble of cables and trunking, from so many different decades that the company who laid down the wiring could simply add ours to the heap. The place had ample, ready-made space for wiring. Our 21st century cables were hidden in plain sight.

What was it like meeting original submarine crews? Did it affect the way you approached the project? 

I loved working with the veterans – not least of all because my own grandfather, Emlyn, was a submariner so I’d always been curious to know more about his life. Every time you meet the veterans, you hear more extraordinary stories, many of which we tried to represent one way or another on board. And these men have remarkably good sonic memories, especially those who worked with sonar. As well as critiquing work in progress, they would sometimes make the sounds of machines for me, on cue, to give me a clue about where I was going astray. If you visit HMS Alliance, you may be able to join a guided tour which is conducted by one of the volunteers.

What did you enjoy most about it? 

Colin, curator Alex Geary and I had the perfect day out at the Submarine Escape Training Tank. It’s a reconstruction of a submarine compartment, under the escape hatch, and there’s a 30 metre-high tank of water above it, so you can simulate an escape at sea. While we were there, trainers flooded the tank (just up to our ankles), as they would have done in an emergency escape scenario. Once the compartment was flooded, the submariners would swim out of the escape hatch, whistling as they surfaced to avoid rupturing their lungs as the pressure decreased. The noise of the flooding was superb. I think some of it might make its way onto my next album.

These days, submariners don’t learn escape routines; they’re taught survival skills instead. They learn to live in a small compartment on minimal rations while they wait for rescue.

As someone who primarily works with sound, I was fascinated by the skills of Henry and the scenic artists – for instance the way they made a perfect replica of a mug of tea and a fry-up, right down to the smears of sauce on the plate.

Most of all though, on this project, I loved the sound bleed – something most museum designers hate. If you watch the YouTube video, you’ll hear I didn’t make any attempt to isolate sounds between compartments. This made sense to me. After all, when HMS Alliance was a working submarine, shouts from the seamen’s mess would reach the forward torpedo compartment; engine noise would rattle the galley and so on. Leaving sound to bleed naturally created a wonderful mush of sounds, especially along connecting corridors. I’ve been so touched by some of the veterans’ comments on the experience. Terry Fearnley, a volunteer guide who served on Alliance from 1968 to 1971 said ‘it really feels like you’re back on board’. 

AuthorLeila Johnston

Matt Keen and James Rogers did such a wonderful job on our Reality-themed issue 2. We're thrilled to announce that they're back for issue 3! Design is magic and a massive part of what makes a magazine what it is. We really thought you should meet these wizards.

Introduce yourselves!

We're Matt and James, designers of Hack Circus issue 2 (and beyond). We both studied Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam and specialised in typography. We met during a collaborative project in our second year and we’ve been working together on and off ever since. Our interests include language, technology, photography, print and of course type – both using and designing typefaces.

Where did you go for inspiration when you working on issue 2 of Hack Circus? We looked at magazine design in general, with a particular emphasis on the ones which were visually striking. Then we read all of the articles several times, picking out any possible visual elements that we could work with, and brainstorming any ideas that occurred to us along the way. We designed each article to have its own character according to the content.

Oh, and we watched the Matrix as 'research'! That was where the colour scheme for this issue's cover came from.

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 14.47.47

Which is your favourite spread or piece of design work in the issue and why? M: Mine is probably Staying Alive, the emulators spread. I love the way the diagonal lines interact with the text - we took them from the ZX Spectrum's original logo.

J: Mine would be The Clock Of The Long Now just because the diagrams of the clock are beautiful. I love complicated technical diagrams and the ones we were provided with for the article work really well in contrast with the simple, sans serif text.


Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 14.47.21

Tell us about a great piece of design you often find yourself referring to, or find particularly inspirational at the moment. There isn't really one specific piece of design which we continually refer to because we're constantly looking for new ideas and we find new things which inspire us every day. It depends what kind of projects we're working on at the time, although obviously as typographers we particularly love anything print or type based.

Do you subscribe to many magazines yourselves? Which ones? We have a joint subscription to Eye magazine – it's pretty much the gold standard of magazine design so it makes sense for us as editorial designers to keep up with it. And it's beautiful.

What would your ideal design job be? M: I'd love to be a graphic prop designer for films. So designing things like all of the documents that characters hold, or books they read, or street signage that they go past.

J: I'd like to work in a small, type-focussed design agency. Somewhere I'd be able to work within print design, typography and typeface design all at once.

Check out their online portfolios: Matt and James.

AuthorLeila Johnston

Well, Hack Circus: THIS IS REALITY happened! (Or did it? etc) And thanks to the speakers, the audience and the marvellous Site Gallery (who gave us their space and equipment and helped us out all evening) we had a fantastic evening. It was a fine way to launch issue two of the magazine. We learned there's an overwhelming likelihood we are nothing more than computer simulations that think they're people; the secrets to manipulating emotion through music, why people like miniature things; how technology has been lying to us for years; how to dance with code – and a lot more.

Here are some photos and tweets from the event... more pics on Facebook.

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AuthorLeila Johnston

sineadWho are you and what do you do?I'm a visual artist based in Dublin. Mostly I tinker with things; cameras, electronics, light-bulbs, code, time-and-reality. I also pretend to know stuff about science.

What will you be talking about at Hack Circus: THIS IS REALITY? I'll be talking about how we look at realities, and the machines that help us do so.

What are you working on today? Today I'm working on an artists' residency in rural Finland, a presentation on WordPress, new negatives, and my son's English homework.

Give us one insight about reality based on your work... Size matters.

Name one great project you’ve seen recently. My friend's Twitter Knitter - a 70s knitting machine that's been Arduino hacked to knit tweets. I love it because it's totally pointless and brilliant.

brainfreezeWho are you and what do you do?I'm Chris. I write words for people if they pay me money. Those words include this book, a lot of the content for an actual zombie trial at the Science Museum and far too many tweets.

What are you going to be talking at Hack Circus: THIS IS REALITY? I'm going to be finally answering the question "Are you actually a brain in a jar hooked up to a computer simulation?" Loads of people are acting like this is some sort of really deep philosophical conundrum, but really it's very straight forward and I will finally give you an absolute, definitive answer to that question. Probably.

What are you working on *today*?  Today is divided between writing copy for a website that sells lawnmowers, and editing a short story about an extremely violent 8 bit video game.

Give us one insight about reality based on your work... If you think reality is a story and you're the protagonist, the odds are you're actually somewhere between the comic relief and the villain. You know, apart from me. I'm the protagonist.

Name one great project you've seen recently.  I enjoyed the Tourist Trap game at Geek 2014 in Margate. While everyone else was busy playing retro video games we were given an envelope full of old photographs and given an hour to recreate all of them using only what we could find around the convention venue. Anyone who can get a bunch of complete strangers to go out and start constructing donkeys out of coats has achieved something important as far as I'm concerned.

James and Leila Stenography, geiger counters and so many envelopes. Impresarios of the unfashionable, Hack Circus founder Leila Johnston and Boring's James Ward come together for the first time to discuss the highs and lows of putting things on.

LJ: So, events. Why do we keep doing them? I think I'm a bit addicted to putting on things for "people who have something a bit wrong with them". Do you think there's something wrong with us?

JW: I think there possibly is something wrong with us. There's something wrong with people who make the decision to put on an event rather than go to one. Going to an event is great. You just buy a ticket and then go to a place and sit down in a chair for a bit and things happen around you and then you go home. Putting on an event is awful. You have to go to a venue and arrange to hire it and pay a deposit which you'll lose if it turns out that actually no-one is interested in your stupid idea. Then you have to email loads of people and tell them about your stupid idea and ask if they want to take part. And then you have to actually do your stupid idea. This thing is now a reality and all these people have turned up and are sitting in their chairs and waiting for things to happen around them before they can go home. And then - finally - it's all over and no-one died and you think you can relax but someone says "So when's the next one then?" and you have to do it all over again and again and again forever until you die.


LJ: You know, you're making me think we maybe shouldn't bother. You're absolutely right; it's a bind. My favourite thing is the way you spend six weeks talking about it and trying to drum up interest, you get retweets and everyone asking about it, but no one buys a ticket until the last fifteen minutes... when suddenly, *everyone* buys a ticket. And it's stressful knowing all these people have given up some portion of their lives and come to this thing because of you. If they don't have a good time, it's on you. They're going to tweet about it; they're going to have opinions about you. I wonder if we're a bit masochistic, really.

But there are good things about doing events. I think I find them addictive because they're so all-consuming and there's so much lurching uncertainty about the whole thing. I kind of love the risk. And I love the feeling that I'm in a position to give someone the platform they've deserved for a long time, but no one has taken a chance on them yet. That's what happened to me with the organisers of Culture Hack Day and Interesting, a few years ago, and taking part in those live things had an impact on my life and career that would never have happened if I'd just carried on plodding through the abstract digital world. 

JW: Yes, it can be very stressful. You're responsible for all these people. They have two days of free time at the end of the week and they've decided to use part of that time to come to your event and if it's not very good, then you've slightly ruined lots of people's weekends. And there's loads of other things which are involved and which people don't notice. Every year, I get a sore in the middle of my hand because once I decided that everyone who came should get an envelope of stuff, and I decided to get a rubber stamp and stamp the word "BORING" on all the envelopes, and on the envelopes inside the envelopes and it's lots of envelopes and it takes ages and it hurts my hand, but I still do it, even though it makes no difference to anyone's enjoyment of the day because they only have one envelope to worry about. They're not interested in all of the other envelopes. Quite rightly.

But, as you say, there are definitely really good things about it too (if I sound a bit too negative right now, it's because I'm at the point where I can begin to see all of the work that I still have to do for Boring and I'm scared). Discovering someone amazing who has a particular interest in something unusual and being able to say to loads of people "Hey, look at this!" is a really great feeling. And the sense that even though you are the person who has organised everything and planned everything, when it comes down to the actual content - the talks themselves - there are always surprises because you don't know exactly what everyone is going to say or how they're going to say it, and there's this beauty about seeing the different ways in which each person has approached the over-arching theme of the event. You start off with something small - a single word or concept ("boring", "time travel") - and then people add to it with their own interpretations and it becomes this enormous collaborative thing and (hopefully) people like it and you've made people happy and that's nice. So yeah, there are good things about it too.

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LJ: Mate, *you're* worried about time? I've got a week and a half to fill an art gallery in Sheffield! Seriously though: I know you'll sell out, but I also know you've got a lot more people coming, and a lot more to do in preparation than I do. Especially with the Russian dolls nested envelopes thing. I always appreciated all the envelopes, by the way, even if no one else did. I think the attention to detail really helps with these events, regardless of whether you get much feedback about it.

That's what I tell myself, anyway. I did two events about the apocalypse in 2012. The tickets cost £5 but I handed out sackfuls of goodie bags worth about £20 a piece. If you came to one of these "Events" you got an afternoon of entertainment... plus sweets, vouchers, publications and review copies of hardback books that weren't even out yet. I really didn't have to supply such comprehensive goodie bags, but I felt I wanted to put on the best party ever for the end of the world. The stress of it all did me in, of course, and I swore I'd never do anything like it, ever again. But however hard you try to remember what a killer it was last time, it turns out a year is *just exactly too long* to remember that, and there we all are again the next year putting ourselves through it all again. I think the stress gets a bit less each time. Certainly, most people are forgiving of things like technical hitches as long as you keep talking, thank god.

The pressure I'm feeling now is all about doing justice to the Hack Circus performers and speakers – all of whom I know personally to some extent. I completely believe they *deserve* a full house, and they're travelling a long way. As you say, it's not our thing: you supply the idea and this sort of... *raft*, which you, er, paddle forwards... and people come and pile stuff on it, some of which helps to catch the wind, some of which weighs it down and makes you work harder. (So glad I started with that metaphor.)

People put a huge amount of themselves into these things, but they get a lot out of them too. Were it not for my IBM tills talk being so well publicised by the journalists at your last event, I might not still be receiving emails, corrections and marriage proposals from IBM enthusiasts a year and a half on. I like how you call yourself the 'Chairman of the Bored'. We are like chairmen, producing and moderating something. I still prefer to think of myself as a kind of Hugh Hefner figure, though.

JW: To be honest, I think I'm kind of lucky. For whatever reason, Boring always seems to sell well, but I don't think that's anything to do with me. It's just because it has a kind of eye-catchingly counterintuitive name that people seem to like it, and so I get the credit for something which was unintentional and started by accident. Also, it's only once a year, and it's in London so it's easier to recruit people.

Out of the two of us, your project seems much more ambitious. Putting on regular events, with different themes, in different cities to support a self-published print magazine. What on earth were you thinking? I mean, it's brilliant. Well done. I loved the time travel issue and event. But fucking hell, you don't make life easy for yourself, do you?

I like the awkward raft metaphor.

And I don't think I actually called myself the 'Chairman of the Bored', it was just something a journalist came up with and then kind of stuck. I'm not very good at coming up with catchy lines like that. I tried using the slogan 'Boring puts the "IUM" into "TED"' but it didn't catch on.

LJ: Haha I know. I am out of my mind. Actually, the venue booking and the people booking are, for me, the easy bit. I don't know why I have to make my events four/five hours long though – most things, especially most things put on by one person (I'm just realising this now) seem to be more like one hour long. I think it's to do with trying to make everything the best thing in case it's the last thing, which the apocalypse events were of course the platonic example of. I obviously need help. This conversation is quite therapeutic.

You've got to push "Putting the 'ium' into TED" through! Putting the 'x' into 'TED' would also be good, for those occasions one runs up against a former lover at an event (these are small communities after all). I'm trying to think of other words for tedium now. I imagine you have to spend a lot of time thinking up synonyms for boredom...

Do you like putting together your own intro? I quite enjoy that part, because it's the only opportunity you get to do whatever you like and set the tone for your own event.

JW: Yes, I think setting the tone through the intro is important. A couple of years ago, I did an Edinburgh show with Peter Fletcher and Lewis Dryburgh and it was a sort of mini-Boring with us each doing two ten-minute talks during the hour. The intro music was Ho Renomo by Eno & Cluster, which is this quiet, contemplative instrumental which sort of builds slightly but then drifts off before reaching any real conclusion, and we had it playing over a video of George Perec quotes taken from Species Of Spaces ("What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us"). I think there was a little clip of someone stirring a cup of tea as well, although that might have been at the end. It sort of sounds a little pretentious, but that was the point. In Edinburgh, there are so many shows where there's loud music at the beginning and people come out and they'll all "Are you having a good time? Wooh! Yeah!" and ours was not a wooh yeah show. We needed to make it really clear in the first couple of minutes that this wasn't a stand-up show, it was just three men talking about little, insignificant things for an hour.

With Boring, I like to have a video playing as people come in, but it's a video where nothing happens. Last time it was a roof of a suburban house and the camera doesn't move at all and it's only when a bird flies past or a tree moves in the wind that you can tell that it isn't just a photo, and then words slowly fade in and out welcoming people and there's more Eno (Discreet Music). But then once that's done, I like to play The Thrill Of It All by Roxy Music because it has this brilliant introduction which is kind of exciting, and it's my way of saying "OK, this is starting now, you're allowed to get a little bit excited if you want to", because although it's about boring things, it is a show and I want people to enjoy it.

I think with an event, you're creating a little bubble which is cut off from reality. I'd like to make it more bubble-like, but for reasons of practicality, cost, and fear of testing the patience of my audience beyond breaking point, I am limited. Do you have things where you think "If only I had an eccentric millionaire backer, this could be so much better"?

LJ: Ah yes the Eno thing is perfect. I love putting together intros too. Using the same people for so many of my different projects means I can make my intros personal and ground the speakers in their other work. I got to mention Alby Reid's previous 'decimal time' invention in the intro to my time travel event – where Alby was speaking. Then I used that as a jumping off point for a discussion about a friend's suggestion that weeks should be two weeks long and the subsequent implications of that. It was a weird and well thought out idea, but it turned out he was just sick of missing the binmen. I feel much more relaxed talking to the audiences of my own events than those of others; I kind of think of the attendees as guests at my party. I guess it's why people never look very nervous giving talks at weddings.

I think there's always a part of you that imagines a family of mysteriously wealthy bumpkins will swoop in, share your vision, be unable to act on it themselves (for some reason), but be sufficiently motivated to reward you with the riches you need to make it all happen. It comes from the natural desire to make something happen without having to be your own fundraiser and cheerleader, as well as everything else. But there are also ways of accessing some of the millionaire backers through their international corporations (I'm told, I've never managed to get any money out of them myself) – arts organisations etc. It's crushing though. You have no idea what you're doing, filling in these forms, trying to make an artistic case, knowing there will be compromises and you'll be up against 500 people with more experience at squeezing money out of things than you have.

The idea of creating a bubble – a separate reality – is definitely a huge part of the appeal. Do you think you're quite controlling? I think I probably am. I really enjoy the way that it's one thing in my life where I can make a lot of the decisions involved and know that it will all work out how I pictured it, without compromises. But I guess you pay for that right by not teaming up with influential sponsors etc. And yeah, who wouldn't want to have someone hand over a wad of cash and say "Do whatever you like. Seriously, rollerskates, A.I poetry, whatever the fuck you like. I trust you".

For the first apocalypse event in 2012, I had loads of really expensive ideas. I wanted a countdown clock and maybe a person hidden inside it, and people walking around in radiation suits with geiger counters and stuff. But of course the event never lives up to that, so you're left with something that will always come second to your imagination. In a way I've stopped thinking 'big and expensive' now so I can be as pleased with the results as everyone else. Maybe that's bad. It kills me that there are so many events that seem to sell out, get loads of financial backing, and have no ideas behind them at all. But perhaps we're the ones doing it wrong.

JW: I know exactly what you mean about feeling more relaxed talking to your own audiences. I guess I kind of think "Well, these people have decided to come along to this stupid thing I've dreamed up, so they're probably OK". Boring is the sort of event that I would go to if I wasn't the person organising it, so I assume the other people and I must have something in common, some sort of shared interest. And also, I do actually know quite a lot of the people who come anyway, so that helps (although maybe not – if something goes wrong, maybe it's better if it happens in front of a load of strangers instead of in front of a load of my friends and family).

I think the options for corporate sponsorship of Boring are slightly limited as it's not exactly a word many companies want to associate themselves with. Red Bull gate-crashed once. They heard about it on Twitter and sent some people along with a load of cans to give to people to help them stay awake, which I thought was quite clever, but it would have been nicer if they'd also given me a load of money. It's not like they're short of cash, the energetic bastards.

One idea I had for Boring which I quite liked but have never got round to doing is to have a stenographer sitting on the stage taking down everything everyone says. I imagine hiring a stenographer is quite expensive though. Mainly I just want to play on one of the machines.


The next Hack Circus event will be at Sheffield's Site Gallery on March 15th. Boring 2014 will take place on the 31st of May.

heatherWho are you and what do you do?I'm Heather Fenoughty, and I'm a composer and sound designer for film, theatre, games and multimedia.

What are you going to be talking about at Hack Circus: THIS IS REALITY? The notion of 'magic reality' and the manipulation of audience perceptions through audio in site-specific theatre, the technology involved (and if I've got time the effect of music and sound on the brain and how that feeds back into the audience members' journeys through the story).

What are you working on *today*? A score pitch for a feature film.

Give us one insight about reality based on your work... Reality is perception; it's the framework or 'matrix' we create in our mind, through which we navigate the world about us. It's pattern recognition and magical thinking, and we're at the mercy of our subconscious minds creating our own personal realities and directing our actions (some might say!).

At a most basic level, audio has a more direct link to the subconscious - evolutionarily, hearing is one of our early warning systems as we'll often more likely hear a threat before we see it - and so, when it comes to storytelling in the open world, in site-specific theatre, setting the scene, manipulating our focus and the level of emotional importance of that focus that our subconscious relays to our conscious, sound design and music is integral.

sicchioWho are you and what do you do?I am Kate Sicchio. I am a choreographer and media artist. Most of my work involves movement and technology. I am also a Senior Lecturer in Dance at University of Lincoln.

What are you going to be presenting at Hack Circus: THIS IS REALITY? I will be performing with Alex McLean. My part of the performance always fails because I can not keep up with the computer generated score. But I also get to mess up Alex's code too.

What are you working on today? Today I was working on the technical side of a new piece and trying to get data from the web to send over OSC using node.js. It almost works. Almost.

Give us one insight about reality based on your work... Working with dance and technology is really about patience.

Name one great project you've seen recently. Currently I am obsessed with Sophia Brueckner and her singing of her code. It's oddly emotional.

AuthorLeila Johnston