CREATIVE students at Teesside University have helped an arts organisation which supports the homeless sector to produce its very first digital opera.

Students on Teesside University’s BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels and Animation programmes worked with Streetwise Opera to co-create two projects.

The Northern Echo:

Screenshot from The Deer Rising

The Deer: A Story in Eight Chapters, which is a 60-page graphic novel; and The Deer Rising, which is a six-minute animated film.

Streetwise Opera (SWO) is an arts organisation that supports people affected by homelessness to inspire change, create community, and empower people to realise their own creative potential.

SWO aims to transform lives by supporting people to make meaningful connections through the arts, rebuild social networks, improve wellbeing, and develop new skills.

The graphic novel component was edited by Senior Lecturer Julian Lawrence and illustrated by the 2020-21 Year 2 Comics and Graphic Novels students.

The Northern Echo:

Julian Lawrence

The animated film project was co-directed by Julian Lawrence and Artistic Director Emma Bernard, with animation by Teesside University student Joe Punton.

The film consists of powerful animations, lyrics and harmonies that are centred around a deer that is hit by a car.

'The Deer Rising' is an animated adaptation of the fifth chapter of the graphic novel and focusses in on the moment when the deer, lying hurt on the ground, chooses to embrace courage, get up and overcome death.

Julian Lawrence, senior lecturer in comics, graphic novels and sequential arts, said: "Working with Streetwise Opera on The Deer Rising has been inspiring and moving.

"Right at the start of the process, once artistic director Emma Bernard, animator Joe Punton and I created a rough version of the film (called an animatic), I knew we were onto something special.

"The music, the visuals, and the love come together in this sweet little animated short.

"I have worked with Streetwise Opera since 2019 with the creation of the After Winter graphic novel and love the work they produce.

"I have also created a book chapter about the collaboration between Teesside University and Streetwise Opera, to be published this spring."

Marigold Hughes, Streetwise Opera manager, said: "It was a completely joy working with the staff and students at Teesside University on the journey of The Deer.

"This project started in lockdown, wherein we worked with eight composers to co-create eight new pieces that told the story of a young deer, overcoming adversity and discovering life anew.

"As Covid restrictions prevented us from bringing it to the stage, we were delighted to work with the students to bring it to the page, in the form of the graphic novel – and then to the small screen, in the form of a short animation.

"The Streetwise performers really enjoyed working with the students on the development of the visuals for the graphic novel, and the students seemed to also really enjoyed being involved. The whole project felt like such a genuinely positive and constructive collaboration."

Watch The Deer Rising project here