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Capercaillie Dance Music

I commissioned composer, Sam Gallagher to create a piece of music for my children’s event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

In case you don’t know, capercaillies are big black Scottish birds who live in the Highlands. There are only around 1000 of these left in Scotland and every year they do a dance that attracts people from all over the world. This is a dancing capercaillie:

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I’ve written a book about a capercaillie called Cameron who can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles.

Cameron learns to dance on a walk through the forest with a red squirrel (Hazel Nut) but he doesn’t realise he’s learning to dance. For example, when a pine marten jumps across a branch above, it showers Cameron with pine needles. Hazel tells him to jump and shake them off. The flutter-hop is an actual capercaillie dance move in real life. I checked with the RSPB.

The Brief

During the event at the Book Festival we’re going to learn the real-life capercaillie dance moves. And we’re going to dance. But I figured dancing is better with music so that’s why I asked Sam to write a piece of music for the event.

His brief was The Lion King meets Grove is in the Heart with a Club Tropicana style intro (but with sounds of the cairngorms forests instead of a tropical beach – I recorded them when I visited). I also said we needed to hear the rhythm of the moves within the music e.g. shake-shake-jump for the flutter hop. Under, over, under, over…. needs an up and down type noise.

The Track

Sam set to work and a week later he sent me his track. As I listened my first thoughts were ‘this is not what I expected’. I kept listening and started to smile… ‘This is better than I’d expected!’. It’s better than anything I could have imagined, I totally love it. He also made me a version of the track with his voice narrating the dance moves over the top (so I can practice). Under, over, under, over…

I’m excited to bring you a wee sample of the track, click play below:

POP! That’s the noise a capercaillie makes when he’s dancing.

More Music from Sam: Litter and Dog Poo

I first commissioned Sam Gallagher to write some music when I was making litter and dog poo films as part of a campaign for Greener Leith. Here’s one of the films with his awesome dog-woof music in the background:

Love Leith 1: Dog owners rewarded for picking up poo on Leith Links (watch it on YouTube here):

Get Dancing 

If you want to hear the whole of the capercaillie pop track you’ll need to come along to ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the 18th August. Read more here. Get tickets here. Read about the schools event on the 21st August here. Get tickets for the event at Inverness Book Festival on the 23rd August here.

Image Credit Capercaillie: Laurie Campbell

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Events, Film, Media, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Annual General Review: 2013

2013 has been a challenging year for many reasons. People around me weren’t well. A few days building work took five months. Near the end of the year I was in severe pain and on three types of prescription pain killers. At one point I actually thought I was going to die.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. Isaiah 43:2

Through all of that, people were amazing. They dropped round with meals, someone gave me a £50 shopping voucher. Friends and family looked after me. I felt grateful despite the pain and strangely, at the point when I was least able to work – work came in. Commission after commission for the year ahead. It was a little overwhelming.

I’ve had help to get writing equipment too, an electric desk and a good chair. My back is much better and I’m off pain killers. The building work is done and I have a safe place to call home. I appreciate life more than I ever. I value my health and the need for rest more than ever. I appreciate people more than ever. I’m also really pleased we’re in 2014.

Last year was a year of firsts too. My first appearance in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, my first screen credit (that’s my name at the end of television show with the title ‘writer’) and I ended the year by signing a contract for my first picture book.

I’ve summarised the highlights in a countdown from ten…

TEN days in New York City 

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In February I visited New York to attend the Kidscreen Summit. It’s a huge children’s TV market and conference. I’ve always wanted to go and it was exciting to be pitching an eco comedy drama I’d developed for Visible Ink Television. I wrote about it here.

I also attended the Little Airplane Academy. It’s a three-day intensive course in all aspects of how to create a great pre-school television series. It was brilliant!

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NINE New Workshops 

I wrote about some of these workshops on my blog so just click the links above to find out more.

I start phase two of creating digital stories with the Govan Reminiscence Group next week so I’ll blog about that project soon – I can’t wait to share some of the moving stories they created with you.

Here’s the Filmpoem created when I worked with children aged 5 – 10 during the Film Poem Festival in Dunbar. I ran a poetry workshop and walk while Artist Alastair Cook was capturing film and composer Luca Nasciuti recorded sounds. What I love about this is that the words are entirely the children’s own:

Filmpoem Workshop – Shaking Shells from Filmpoem on Vimeo.

EIGHT Finalists in a poetry competition

I felt honoured to be asked to judge the EuroStemCell creative non fiction writing competition. I judged the poetry category. There were eight excellent finalists, read more about the competition here and find the winning entry here.

SEVEN Live Performances

Unbound

The highlight was being part of the Illicit Ink graphic fiction event during the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I read a story I’d written about an otter who’s an artist, while Guardian cartoonist and author Stephen Collins drew the story live (Thanks to Chris Scott for the picture above). I wrote about it before and after the event.

There were a few other live performances in 2013, see my gigs section for all of them. 

SIX Children’s Television episodes broadcast

Earth Explorers

I saw my name for the first time at the end of CBeebies science show Nina and the Neurons. It was exciting and strange to see it. I realised it made me a professional screenwriter but I didn’t actually feel any different to how I was before.

I was the screenwriter for two episodes about engineering and later in the year I wrote four episodes about space. I also worked on storylines and development for the series. Read more here.

FIVE Leith Library Residency highlights

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Here’s the Leith Library top ten highlights blog I wrote when the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland residency finished in the summer.

FOUR weeks on a writing retreat

Thanks to the Creative Scotland and Scottish Book Trust Residency at Leith Library, I got to go on my first ever writing retreat. Half of it was spent in Ullapool (thanks to my writer friend Mairi) and the other half was cat sitting at my sister’s in Lancashire. I wrote about it here.

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THREE pages on otters

I was commissioned to write a double page spread on otters but it expanded into three pages for a children’s magazine when I added a few ideas for otter fun – think dot-to-dotter…

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TWO Outdoor adventures:

The Capercaillies (rare scottish bird) dance very early in the morning so I had to get up at 4am. I live tweeted the adventure – I know, no one was awake to see it but I wanted to do it anyway. Here’s a picture of the amazing sunrise from the RSPB Loch Garten hide:

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And here’s the video I made about it:

Read more about the capercaillie adventure here.

On the subject of outdoor adventures, I also went canyoning (jumping off rocks into the river in a forest) and I watched a friend do the Great North Swim. Here’s a picture blog about going wood foraging for the first time.

ONE picture book contract signed

I can’t say much more about this just now but I can say it’s being published with Floris Books and will be out in July. It’s one of the books I wrote on my writing retreat so I need to say a massive thanks to the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland. I was funded for nine months in the Library and three months to do my own thing. Without that funding I would never have been able to take a month off to write.

What Else?

I went to three weddings and no funerals. My best friend from primary school got married in Brighton. There are four of us who have been best friends for over twenty years. Two of us were bridesmaids, one was a bride and the other was the vicar! Our vicar best friend sat on the top table and was somewhat of a celebrity.

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Earlier in the year we all went to see the vicar (Hannah) run the London marathon. I wrote about that here.

Some Priorities for 2014

  • Health
  • Rest
  • People
  • Writing

I want to write three books and a new sitcom. I wrote three and a half books last year and a sitcom the year before so I’m hoping I can do it! I lost four months being ill in 2013 so if I’m healthy I figure that gives me some more writing time.

Exciting and New in 2014

I’ve got new glasses and I’m starting the year with a cat called Oscar.

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Just now I’m writing for CBeebies, two scripts down and one to go. I can’t say which show it’s for, sorry!

This week I launch a positive news blog called Common Good Edinburgh. I’ve been funded for a day a week for six months to work on this project and I’m really excited about writing about some of the amazing things that are happening in our city.

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Next Week I start phase two of running digital story workshops with the Govan Reminiscence Group for the Britain from Above Project.

Next week I’m also starting a project writing science shows with young people from a secure unit with the National Museums of Scotland and Cardiff based company Science Made Simple.

Last week we launched Forest Families in Gorebridge, I’m the storyteller for the project – more here.

The week before last I piloted a new nursery workshop I’ve written called Timmy the Turbine – I’ll blog about that soon.

Thanks

I want to say a massive thanks to everyone who’s been part of my 2013. Thanks to friends, family and colleagues for laughter, support and encouragement. I’m looking forward to 2014.

My Annual General Review 2012 is here. My Annual General Review of 2011 is here.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Education, Events, Film, Media, poetry, storytelling, Writing

 

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Valuing Adults with Learning Disabilities

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Last month I was social reporting at eSAY’s 6th Birthday Party. The event took place to share the latest statistics from the Scottish Consortium of Learning Disabilities (SCLD) on adults with learning disabilities in Scotland.

I wanted to share some of the content from the day because working at this event changed my thinking – I realised I’d underestimated the contribution adults with learning disabilities can and do make to our society. But first I’ll explain what social reporting is…

Social Reporting

Social reporting is about capturing an event from the inside using audio, video and photos. I’ll give you an example. During the first talk of the day (Professor Gyles Glover on research in England) Clare Mills tweeted a picture of her notes, expertly drawn on her Ipad:

I was impressed by her use of graphics and I found Clare during the first break. I said it would be great to share what she was doing with a wider audience and asked if she would mind doing a quick interview. We talked about what she does a bit first and then I used my phone to take a picture of Clare with her Ipad (note the balloons, I wanted to show context was a party):

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and I used the soundcloud app to record a live audio interview with her about what she was doing:

Listen to the audio on Soundcloud here

This was then shared online in real time so people following the conference could see Clare’s notes and then hear from the artist herself about what she was doing and how this was relevant to bigger debate about sharing statistics with adults with learning disabilities. So social reporting is about connecting something personal, relevant and specific to the bigger picture. It’s all about people and stories.

Why People Matter

Here’s one of the video interviews captured by social reporter Cath McKay at SCLD. She interviewed Sandy Galbraith, an adult with learning disabilities who works for SCLD. One of the things I like about this video is Sandy talking about his experience of interviewing adults with learning disabilities. He’d written certain types of people off as not having a meaningful contribution but he was surprised by what people did offer when he gave them a chance to have their say. I think we’ve all been guilty of that! I must confess I was impressed by Sandy’s answers to questions in this video – I may have written him off because of his disability – I realise now I was wrong and I felt comforted to see this error echoed and corrected in Sandy’s own confession “it just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”:

Why People Matter #esaystats from SCLD on Vimeo.

Valuing Adults with Learning Disabilities

My favourite interview of the day was with Sandra, Joanne and Colin from the ASSET project at Falkirk Council. This amazing story demonstrates it’s possible to successfully integrate adults with learning disabilities into a workplace. Sandra points out that Joanna and Colin are working unsupervised – they are a genuine help not a hinderance. These adults are working independently but sadly they are only paid £2 a day:

Valuing Adults with Learning Disabilities #esaystats from SCLD on Vimeo.

I should maybe say before I filmed this I spoke to Sandra, Joanna an Colin and asked each of them what they would like to talk about. They were not forced or pressurised into saying anything. Sandra was grateful they’d been listened to and treated with respect.

The great thing about being at an event like this is I got to share stories that really matter. I agree with Sandra, we should value the contribution Joanna and Colin make with more money. I’d be interested to hear what you think?

Personally this event has changed me. I admit I was wrong and judged others wrongly. It’s good when you realise what an idiot you’ve been sometimes! Thanks to people like Sandy, Colin and Joanne I’m now different.

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You can watch the rest of the video interviews from eSAY’s 6th birthday party on the SCLD vimeo channel and listen to audio interviews on the SCLD Soundcloud channel. Find all the statistics shared at the event here.

I work as a social reporter for Third Sector Lab and we were working for the Scottish Consortium for Learning DisabilitiesImage Credit (top photo): Clare Mills

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Education, Events, Film, Media, storytelling

 

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Engaging with Communities in the Digital Age

Earlier this year I trained staff from Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, Scottish Community Safety Network, Scottish Business Resilience Centre and Trading Standards Scotland to become social reporters:

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Social reporting is about capturing an event from the inside using audio, video and photos. It’s about asking the right questions and sharing the answers to enhance the experience for people attending an event in person or for those joining in remotely through social media. Brilliant conversations happen at conferences in between sessions – the social reporters aim to capture those conversations and share them in real-time.

Later today the team I worked with are covering ‘Community e-Ngagement: Engaging with communities in the Digital Age’ as social reporters. Here’s what’s the event is all about:

Community e-Ngagement is your chance to learn new social media skills and become part of the ongoing discussion about how we engage with local communities in the 21st Century. This full-day event at the Crowne Plaza, Glasgow, will cover:

  • The benefits and risks involved in using new media for engagement
  • Key social media channels community engagement professionals can use, including blogging, Facebook, Twitter and more
  • Practical examples of other Scottish organisations using digital media for social good
  • How to plan and measure your engagement online

How will the social reporting work?

There are social reporters in every workshop so even if you’re not at a workshop you get to hear about it from the perspective of the people who are.

Imagine something interesting comes up during a workshop and we all want to know more. An hour later there’s a video interview on YouTube with an expert perspective that gets to the heart of an issue.

How do I follow along? 

Find the conference programme on the eventbrite page here.

You can follow the action during the conference on twitter by following @NWatchScotland or using the hashtag #CommEng13.

There’s a blog for the event with loads of great resources like video clips from keynote speakers and top tips for using social media, find it here.

You can watch videos on the Neighbourhood Watch Youtube channel and listen to audio clips on their Soundcloud page.

What about me?

I’m really looking forward to today. I’ll be supporting the social reporters as they bring back their audio and video clips. We start the day with a briefing – just to make sure everyone knows who’s covering what. I might end up doing a bit of social reporting too but my priority is making sure everyone else is okay. I’ll be helping to edit and download clips and I’ll be helping to share content through various social media channels. I really love working in this role for Third Sector Lab – it’s great to see people growing in confidence and enjoying themselves as they capture digital stories.

Third Sector Lab have programmed this event and are providing the social media coverage on behalf of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Events, Media, storytelling

 

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Nina and the Neurons: Earth Explorers

Earth Explorers

Earth Explorers, the eighth series of CBeebies flagship science show Nina and the Neurons began this week. I’m the screenwriter on four episodes of this series, my first episode will be broadcast tomorrow.

My Episodes

  • Living in Space: Thursday 26th Sep, (4.30pm CBeebies)
  • Night and Day: Tuesday 8th Oct, Tuesday 5th Nov (4.30pm CBeebies)
  • Living on Earth: Thursday 10th Oct, Thursday 7th Nov (4.30pm CBeebies)
  • Shooting Stars: Friday 22nd Nov, Friday 6th Dec (4.30pm CBeebies)

You can watch live on CBeebies at 4.30pm or catch up later on BBC Iplayer

The Show

Nina is a scientist who answers questions from children with the help of her neurons. It’s a live action show (the children and people are real) with animation (that’s Nina’s animated senses neurons).

Small Beginnings

One reason I’m ridiculously excited about this series is because it all about earth science – geology, geography, oceanography, geophysics and space. I studied geophysics at university. Geophysics is the physics of the earth. Or physics for people who like the outdoors. But that definition may not sit right with the rock climbing theoretical physicists. Or the couch potato geophysicists.

Anyway, it’s funny to think it started for me when I was the age of the children who will be tuning into Nina tomorrow. My journey began with museum visits, a dinosaur collection and a little telescope. Now I’m writing on Nina. It’s exciting to think we might inspire a generation of children to explore the wonderful world around us and discover the science behind it through Earth Explorers. That’s geophysi-cool. I know, I’m a geophysi-geek. I’m not ashamed.

Another reason I’m excited about this series is because I was part of the team that came up with the concept for it back in 2012. It’s really exciting to see it become a series and I’m looking forward to watching it.

I worked on the last series of Nina and the Neurons too – Nina and the Neurons: Go Engineering. More here

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Education, Events, Media, Science, Writing

 

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Edinburgh Book Festival: Words and Pictures

I’m massively excited to announce I’m going to be storytelling in the Edinburgh International Book Festival with award-winning cartoonist Stephen Collins. It’s a team effort, he draws and I talk. We’re a dynamic duo.

At least that’s what I’m hoping we’ll be after we practice on Skype next week. He lives in Herefordshire so we won’t meet for real until the day of the performance. Yep I know, a little scary but also an exciting challenge (breathe Emily, breathe!). Speaking of which I’d love for you to join us on:

Saturday 24th August, 9pm, Unbound, The Spiegaltent, EIBF, Charlotte Square (FREE)

We’re one of several writer illustrator duos performing in ten minute slots at Illicit Ink’s Graphic Fiction Spectacular at Unbound. You might have seen Stephen’s work, he has a weekly comic in The Guardian Weekend and a monthly comic in Prospect magazine. His debut graphic novel is about a giant evil beard:

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A First Time for Everything

It’s my first time appearing in Edinburgh Book Festival and my first time performing live with a cartoonist. I’ve appeared (keep thinking it sounds like a magic trick) in the West Port Book Festival (2011) and Portobello Book Festival (2012) but never with an illustrator. This is my third book festival appearance OF ALL TIME. I’m a newbie.

The only thing I’ve done that’s similar in terms of live creation of words and pictures is smartboard storytelling is schools.I draw a story on the smartboard as I tell it to the children. I’ve noticed they are most forgiving of my drawing ability (or lack of it). I once sketched a forest and I heard a small child whisper “she’s amazing!”. I can’t wait to see a professional cartoonist in action. I’ll most likely be whispering “he’s amazing!” just like those kids.

What Story Will We tell?

I can’t decide if I should improvise a story by taking suggestions from the audience or do a pre prepared story. Obviously I’d still write a script for sections of an improvised story – I’m aware you need to practice to improvise well. I love working with an audience to create something together. The other option I’ve been thinking about is a to read part of a new story I’ve been working on over this summer about an otter who’s an artist. He’s a little different to his Mum and brothers (he creates shell pictures and poops in perfect pyramids!). It’s for 6 – 9 year olds but it’s pretty magical and is all about the purpose of art and other people’s perception of it so the themes would be relevant. I’ll see what Stephen thinks but any suggestions in the comments below would be useful.

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Everybody Yurts… Sometimes

One thing I’m really looking forward to is the delights of the authors yurt. Free drinks, food and magazines. I’m actually allowed in there by myself (last year I was a plus one). This year I may even take my own plus one….

Storyshop

If you like free book festival things (who doesn’t) a buddy from my writers group, Louise Kelly is appearing at Storyshop in the Spiegaltent at 4pm on the 24th. Do go and see her, it will be good!

Neil Gaiman

Another reason to visit the Book Festival on the 24th is to see Neil Gaiman talking about his latest story ‘Fortunately, the Milk‘. I’ve got tickets (hurrah!) and I’m hoping there’s a chance I’ll see him in the authors yurt earlier that day. Then maybe later (you never know) he might recognise me at his show and later still perhaps I’ll make a bad joke about the milk in the authors yurt (see what I did there) and at that point he’ll ask me what I’m up to in the festival and I’ll tell him all about that night’s Unbound and then, with him being a fan of graphic fiction…

NEIL HIMSELF will be in the audience. Perhaps in disguise wearing a giant evil beard!

I cannot guarantee Neil Gaiman will appear in the crowd at Unbound on the 24th August, this is entirely fantasy and speculation. But he might be there.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in Events, Media, storytelling, Writing

 

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Filmpoem Children’s Workshop

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This weekend I’m running a three-hour Filmpoem workshop with six children aged between 6 and 10. The workshop is part of the first Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar and I’m excited to be facilitating the workshop with artist and Filmpoem project founder Alastair Cook.

What is a Filmpoem? 

The programme puts it like this:

A filmpoem is a single entwined entity, a melting, a cleaving together of words, sound and vision. Poetry often tries to deal with the abstract world of thought and feeling, rather than the literal world of things. The filmpoem is the perfect marriage of the two.

Find out more and see examples the Filmpoem website.

How do you make a Filmpoem with children?

I’ve been planning lots of short interactive activities to get our workshop participants thinking like poets.

  • We’ll explore how we interpret our world through memories, imagination and observation
  • We’ll investigate rhyme, rhythm, meaning and anthropomorphism
  • We’ll take a sensory walk to collect new memories, objects and words

Every time I introduce a new concept we will do an activity or game to make it fun and relevant. So we’ll meet the camera as an example of anthropomorphism (he has three legs, one eye and 1 ear – he hates having his ear tickled!) and all of these activities will help us to think like poets and will work towards producing a brilliant final Filmpoem.

The workshop concept was created over tea and cake at Alastair’s many months ago. I chatted through ideas with Alastair and following that he ran a pilot with poet in residence Rita Bradd. Here’s the film they created:

Filmpoem Workshop/ All Tangled Up from North Light Arts on Vimeo.

I’m really looking forward to creating something wonderful with Alastair and the participants this Sunday. I’m also looking forward to the rest of the Filmpoem Festival!

The Filmpoem Festival is supported by Creative Scotland, East Lothian Council and North Light Arts. Find Filmpoem online or follow Filmpoem on twitter (@filmpoem). I contributed to one of Alastair Cook’s Filmpoems last year and blogged about it here.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Education, Environment, Events, Film, Media, poetry, Writing

 

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