The Seven Ravens – First Experiments

The story of a young woman who discovers, from gossip overheard at her workplace, that she had seven brothers who were cursed and turned into Ravens when she was a tiny infant. Despite her parents pleas to stay at home, she resolves to set off on a quest to rescue them.

Ada sets off for work

This was first shown as a work in progress, working title The Keeper, at the Hidden Door Festival, In Between Space, The State Cinema on Saturday 2nd June 2018

The show was presented hourly from 2 pm to 9pm and, though suitable suitable for 8s to adult – it enjoyed success with the Festival’s mainly adult audiences.

Images from Hidden Door 2018

Audience Feedback

  • This has an enormous amount of potential . Many interesting issues presented and performed in an engaging and visually attractive way.
  • I [name given] liked everything on display, thank you
  • I liked the materials used to create the piece. Reminded me of the film Coraline.
  • Use the carpet shapes more! Also, wanna see those ravens!
  • Loved it! Fluidity of movement was fantastic! Beautiful!
  • Very beautiful and atmospheric installation.
  • Loved the light!! And I liked the felt landscape.
  • Loved the colourful felt landscape, the puppet, iceblock, story sound, light, words, and performance. Well done – very engrossing.
  • Love the intimacy and directness of the performance.
  • Really liked the puppet and felt landscape.
  • Great carpet exploration and love the north star 🙂
  • Very evocative and imaginative piece.
  • Was really drawn in when puppet appears … just want to know how it ends! 

Background Information

The Keeper draws inspiration from a Grimms’ fairy tale, The Seven Ravens,  and is aimed at adult and family audiences with a lower age of  8 years (parental discretion for children younger than that threshold). It is a performance/installation with puppetry, live image capture, processing and display; projection, needle felting, and specially composed music and song.

The Keeper is a creature who guards the Glass Mountain. In the traditional version of this Grimms’ fairy tale, he is a rather friendly gnome. This project involved the creation of a non-human marionette or puppet who guards the glass mountain and which contained a Raspberry Pi computer, a Pi camera and a small screen. It was programmed to steal, in real time, the images of all it encountered and to store them in the glass mountain.

a raspberry pi mini computer, mini screen and pi camera
The character of The Keeper will contain a raspberry pi, a pi camera and a screen.

The design and creation of this creature for Hidden Door 2018 explored how the function of housing the microcomputer and its camera might influence the design of the final form of the marionette/puppet. It also explored how to make the creature move, interact with other puppets and people (audience members) it meets. The sole desire of The Keeper is to capture the images of all it encounters – and to keep them within the walls of the Glass Mountain forever. Puppetry is important to the realisation of this character because he is not of our world, he is formed, shaped by what he needs to be – a collector of images.

There is an obvious connection to be made between The Keeper and his Glass Mountain and social media, online identity theft, and the digital rights of children and adults; this is not an oversight or happenstance. The setting for The Keeper and his mountain will be within an updated Grimms’ fairy tale world of digital exploration, exploitation and experimentation.

Exploring a way to make the puppet

The installation element of this stage of the work involved creating the glass mountain in which images were ‘stored’ and displayed, creating some of the artefacts and environments of the future play, exploring some modern day parallels to the original story and working out how these might fit into and inform a narrative, exploring some of the data around young people’s use of digital products, issues around safety and the checks, balances and measures they use for personal safety online.

Why This Story?
The inspiration for The Keeper came from several sources. The primary one is the story itself – a strong female hero who rescues her seven brothers turns the usual fairytale fodder of ‘damsel in distress’ on its head. The Keeper character is a simple and age appropriate exploration of the issue of sharing images online without realising that once they are posted control is lost.

Future Plans
Tragic Carpet plan to develop The Sevens set in the modern day, having as its lead puppet a young woman who sets off on a quest to find and save her brothers who are being kept in the Glass Mountain, and who will use her STEM knowledge and experience to help her on her quest.

It will be suitable for primary school aged children and their families and will tour to festivals, museums and galleries and arts venues. It will address the issue of gender balance in the digital and other STEM industries, will present a strong digitally competent female lead character, and will have as one of its themes the exploration of online identity and keeping safe. We are looking for partners.

Creative Team at Hidden Door on The keeper (work in progress)

Freda O’Byrne – lead artist

Kim Edgar – composer, musician, singer

Elspeth Chapman – designer and puppeteer

Pete Searle – production manager, lighting designer

Rikki Guy – Creative Developer

Needle Felting Helpers

Ingrid Tait

Ewa Wawreniuk

Lana Svirejeva-Hopkins

Gregor Fergie

Supporters and Supporting Organisations

Edinburgh Hacklab

Edinburgh Ice Company

Prewired Code Club

Hidden Door 2018

Edinburgh Tool Library / Tribe Porty


The State Cinema Leith

The Brothers Grimm

Raspberry Pi Foundation

Raspberry Pi Projects

Pi camera projects

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