A new member of the crew

Within a matter of days I’ll be welcoming the latest member of the crew on board… ‘Little Bean’ as our as yet unborn offspring has come to be known, will be joining James and I sometime in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll be somewhat distracted from work for a bit!

My Maternity Leave is now underway (no really, it is!), and I am officially on leave until September. However, do get in touch through the usual channels with questions and job offers as I’ll gradually be returning to work, albeit on a part time basis.

About a week to go?

I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has wished me well and supported me throughout my pregnancy (especially those who have happily lugged film equipment round for me!). I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some new projects with a fresh perspective when I return!

2011 – The Year in Review

This year has been a pretty shoddy year for blogging. Thankfully that’s because it’s been a fantastic year of increasingly ambitious, interesting film projects with wonderful people. This blogpost is a bit of a round-up with some thank yous thrown in!

2011 montage

Pool of Memories

One of the most exciting and rewarding projects has been finally getting the ‘Pool of Memories’ project underway. After months and months of plotting and planning our funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ were able to throw ourselves into implementing an extensive and exciting programme of oral history interviews about the swimming baths and its 104 year history. I’ve been working in schools around Balsall Heath and Moseley to bring History to life for local pupils through using our interactive Virtual Tour website and Pool of Memories archive, then guiding groups through filming their own oral history interviews with members of the public. The response has been wonderful and it’s been difficult to keep a check on my enthusiasm in order for us to actually get the projects done!  Here is a taster of what we’ve been up to in the six projects completed so far!


What’s Wrong With Wolverhampton?

There was also no shortage of enthusiasm, or talent, from students at Mediacove who I worked with at the start of the year to create a documentary ‘Wolverhampton in Focus’ which investigated the claim by a Lonely Planet article that Wolverhampton was amongst the worst cities in the world!  Needless to say we uncovered a huge amount of positive stuff going on.  The documentary was a springboard for a live streamed debate, where the group took charge of finding panelists, chairing the discussion and filming the whole thing in the Mediacove studio.  I thought it was a fantastic template for empowering and innovative media work, but don’t take my word for it… here’s the Behind the Scenes film where the group talk about how the experience has changed their lives.  More information on the Mediacove blog

Young people making films

As the cuts to youth projects began to bite I spent some time with young people at Fox Hollies Forum in Acocks Green producing a short film with them to highlight the need for good quality, safe youth provision in their neighbourhood.  The group did a fantastic job of making their case and the film formed part of a wider campaign of lobbying and demonstrations that certainly puts any notion of apathetic young people to rest!

Meanwhile pupils in and around Billesley took part in a range of fun after-school clubs organised by the lovely crew over at Balsall Heath’s very own Round Midnight.  I led a range of film-making workshops which saw Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils getting to grips with using camera equipment and exploring how they can create their own short films.  I also joined the gang at Round Midnight to help pupils document arts activities happening at King Edward VI Girls Grammar School in Handsworth.

Promoting health

2011 has also been a year of promoting some important areas of the NHS, specifically services aimed at supporting children and families.  The year began with a whopping 10,000 DVDs of my Health Visitor film going into production to be distributed to new parents across Birmingham.  As I type there are a further 1,000 copies of a film about the referral process for children with suspected ADHD in production.  A third film aimed at young people and carers outlines the health services provided through the ‘Looked After Children’s Health Team’ for children and young people in the care system in Birmingham and will go into production shortly.  That project involved working with pupils at Firsbrook School in Quinton to create a short animation – loads of fun and my first animation!

A day in the woods

One of the most fun parts of my job is the opportunity to delve into other people’s worlds.  I was really lucky to be able to join a group of three and four year olds in Moorcroft Woods as they explored the woodland through the use of stories, crafts and their own observations.  The ‘Forest School’ supported by the Wildlife Trust and run through Rowley View Nursery School is all about getting kids out of the classroom and giving them opportunity to get muddy and let their imaginations run wild.  The response from the kids was absolutely wonderful to see and it’s hoped that more schools will grasp the opportunity to get involved in similar schemes off the back of the short promotional film we produced.

Film training

Finally I made a couple of trips down to London to deliver film-making workshops to the lovely folks at Friends of the Earth.  This is one of my favourite bits of work as it’s always hugely amusing to see what adults get up to when they’re given free rein to play with a camera!  I’ll leave you with a short film produced in one short hour long session – it shows you what can be created in a short space of time, as well as giving you some tips for your own film-making!

Huge thanks to all of the organisations I’ve worked with over the past year and all who have assisted in bringing some great stories and projects to light! Happy film-making for 2011!

Pool of Memories progress

35 pupils in four schools have now been part of creating a total of eight films about the history of Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, all of which will eventually be added to our online archive of the building at www.poolofmemories.co.uk.

PoMP - Park Hill School

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, run by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths has involved pupils in researching the history of the building, taking a tour around the Baths, learning how to make films and conduct interviews, and then finally editing their interviews together into short films to be added to our archive.  Ever since I started making films in the community, back when I worked as a Receptionist at Moseley Road Baths it’s been my aim to get this lovely building celebrated more within the surrounding area.  We certainly seem to be achieving that!

PoMP - Park Hill SchoolPupils have really loved the tours and have asked some really great (and challenging!) questions about the building and how it was built and is maintained.  On several occasions I’ve seen pupils dashing up to parents and teachers to tell them all about the things that they’ve learnt.  Apologies if you’re one of those people who has been bombarded with trivia!  However, we know that young people are exactly the kind of ambassadors we need to ensure future generations enjoy the building.

PoMP - Percy Shurmer SchoolAll of the children have picked up on the film-making really quickly.  We’ve had some real giggles mucking around with the microphones and playing around in front of the camera!  We soon managed to form film crews with a Director, Sound Recordist, Camera Operator and Interviewer.  Many of our interviewees have commented on the professionalism of the group.

IMG_4461

All of the questions for the interviewees have been written by the pupils, who have shown a great level of maturity in their questions.  These budding young historians have really grasped the concept of oral history recording and its importance for helping people to understand the past and its relevance to us today.

PoMP Clifton Junior

The quality of the interviews has been excellent, with some really interesting stories coming out as a result of the groups asking such good questions.  We’ve learnt about the diving boards and drinks for a penny in the 1950s, competitive swimming in the 1960s, school trips to the Baths in the 1970s, someone almost having a baby in the pool in the 1980s and then in stories from more recent years we’ve learnt about the technical side of rebuilding the windows, what it’s like to work there, as well as hearing about the campaign work to keep the building open.

With five more school projects budgeted for over the course of the three year project I am now looking for other local schools who may wish to participate.  The project is aimed at Year 6 pupils, but can be tailored for other year groups.  The finished films are added to our archive, and many will appear on our online archive, www.poolofmemories.co.uk.  They will then be used as part of our exhibition work and will form the basis of an extensive drama project.  If you would like your school to be involved then you can contact us at memories@friendsofmrb.co.uk.

Here is an example of one of the films, created by Year 3 pupils at Clifton Junior School.

Moseley Road Baths

As you may or may not be aware, when I’m not making films I’m running around doing stuff with the rather lovely group that call ourselves the ‘Friends of Moseley Road Baths‘. As the Baths’ friends we highlight its current plight (open at half capacity with just one pool, in need of urgent repairs and with its future hanging in the balance), campaign for its future and importantly, help celebrate its past.

Pool of Memories Day

As part of that I worked with members of the group to make a successful funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a whopping great £48,000 for a ‘Pool of Memories‘ project!  I won’t go into huge detail about the project here as I’ve already spent the evening blogging, tweeting and mailing like crazy. However, I draw attention to it now as we have a rather exciting event coming up on Saturday 30th October.

It’s the Memories and Memorabilia Day and there’s loads of stuff going on, including a talk by the lovely people at Victoria Baths in Manchester, tours of the building, and yours truly interviewing people about their memories of the place.  We also have cake!

Come along and find out more about it!

Lichfield Festival roundup

A week after the film-making workshop at Lichfield Festival and I’m still smiling!  Last Saturday saw me running around the Festival Market with a band of aspiring film-makers, grabbing interviews and bits of footage of some of the highlights of the Festival.  With a carnival atmosphere, gorgeous sunshine and the whole thing overlooked by the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral there was plenty to film!

We focused on the Festival Fairies, found out the true story of Punch and Judy, scouted for Scouts and caught some of the live dance performances.  Whilst I gave some guidance on planning the shoot and showed the group how to use the equipment, the group worked together to do all the filming, even approaching complete strangers to get interviews.

Lichfield Festival film crew

The night before had been the Premiere of the Memory Box project.  I’m now going to be producing DVDs of the films, which will be shown to school pupils to give them a better understanding of the Second World War.  The National Memorial Arboretum will be playing the films in their Visitor Centre, and of course we will be giving copies to all of the interviewees.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to staff at Stowe Short Stay School and St Francis of Assisi Catholic Technology College, the National Memorial Arboretum and the interviewees who kindly agreed to share their memories with us.  I’d also like to give a plug to Jennifer Smith who has made both projects happen.  As well as her sterling work setting up Learning and Participation programmes for Lichfield Festival she runs Spit Spot Theatre Company and is active in The Grange Players in Walsall.  She’s a busy gal, but if the opportunity to work with her ever arises, grab it with both hands!

Lichfield Festival Premiere

Lichfield Festival – Memory Box

Tonight is the second evening in a row where I’ve come home and flopped down in front of my computer – tired, but incredibly proud of my work and enthused by the young people and creative minds I’m so lucky to be able to work alongside.  As with my post about the Radiate Training I’ll keep it brief and promise to fill in the gaps later.

Bob Morris - Memory Box

The project was commissioned by The Lichfield Festival as part of their Learning and Participation programme.  Pupils from two schools have researched aspects of World War Two and filmed interviews with veterans and people with memories of the period.  The result is 12 excellent films that were premiered at the Wedge Gallery at Lichfield College this evening – but you can go and view them there next week during the festival.  This evening many people were moved to tears, and Len Owens, an SAS veteran was keen to praise the pupils.  In my mind praise doesn’t come higher than that.

We have been experimenting with using a Blog for the project, to enable pupils to communicate with each other and share their work, so you can read more about the film making process on the Lichfield Festival Learning and Participation Blog under the category ‘Memory Box’.

everybody

There’s so much to be said about the wonderful Radiate training scheme that I (shockingly) last mentioned on here last November.  I’ve just come back from the final exhibition and evaluation session and my head is buzzing with ideas! I’ve met so many inspiring creative minds and I really hope that this scheme will form the basis of some great collaborative educational projects.

Anyhow, in place of a proper update I wanted to share the final film that I created with pupils at Frankley Community High School.  Let me know your thoughts!

everybody from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Playing with a Flip

Now, I’ve never claimed to be at the cutting edge of technology, and in fact it was quite a relief when recently chatting with local photographer and all round lovely lass Jane Baker (you may know her as Greensnapper, purveyor of fine photography for the Jubilee Debt Campaign, Friends of the Earth, The Terrence Higgins Trust and other great pics coming soon to a good cause near you), to learn that I’m not the only local media maker who shies away from talking techie and comparing the size of our lenses with anyone who’ll get theirs out.

Fortunately, I have a husband who can happily while away the hours looking at the finer details of any given gadget, reading reviews, posting on forums and generally boring me rigid. Happily his nerdishness and my impatience to just DO go together quite nicely!

So, with that in mind, we’ve got our hands on a Flip Ultra HD. James did the reading around, I pointed a camera in his face. The result: just some initial thoughts on Flips, their compatibility with various computers and their use when traveling. It’s not a definitive guide, it’s not meant to be. But it does give you an idea of what’s out there and how it can be used… enjoy.

Recording local histories

One of the reasons I decided to make films within the community was a strong belief that we need to be proactive in recording stories that are important to us.  You know, the things that don’t make the history books.  Or the source material in history text books which provides a footnote to ‘the bigger picture’.  The fact is, that our common history and heritage is a sum of all of our personal histories – within our families, our community and our locality.

So it’s with a huge amount of excitement that I’ve entered 2010 with some fantastic oral history projects on the boil.

Back in December I spent the day with people who live in and around Kingshurst.  Part of the morning was spent interviewing pupils from Kingshurst School.  The rest of the day I had the privilege to run a workshop with some of Kingshurst’s older residents.  I call it a privilege as it really felt special to indulge in chatting with them about their memories of the area and its development over the past six decades.  We were lucky enough to be able to use a selection of photos collated by local resident Stan Tarrant to provoke some really interesting discussion.  The result of the workshop is a lovely selection of interviews, illustrated by Stan’s photos of the area over the years.  We’ll be launching the film sometime in March, so watch this space for an update on that.

Also in December, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths discovered that our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been successful.  This will entail, amongst other things, a series of workshops in schools over the course of the next three years, where pupils will have the opportunity to plan, film and edit oral history interviews with people who have memories of swimming, working, socialising or bathing at Moseley Road Baths.  For more details on the project take a look at our blog – we’ll be announcing details of next week’s launch event soon.

As if that’s not enough to keep me on my toes, I’m going to be working with pupils from two schools to produce a series of films for this year’s Lichfield Festival.  The pupils will have opportunity to interview veterans of the Second World War and to visit the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas.  They will also be actively encouraged to explore their own family’s histories.  I’ll be keeping you updated on our progress and letting you know where you can see our finished films!

A good direction

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to be attending two events on 11th November.  Both were incredibly stimulating, and got me really enthused about developing my own creative practice to bring exciting new educational opportunities to young people, and crucially, to help them to be confident to voice their own thoughts and ideas.

I’m very pleased to share the news that I was accepted onto the Radiate Training Scheme which gives ‘creative practitioners’ (that’s me apparently!) the skills and support to develop their own creative practice in schools.  The scheme runs from December to next July, and in that time I’ll be attending a number of training days and will devising and implementing a project in a school, mentored by Radiate and school staff.

All in all last week gave me a renewed sense of why I think that film can be such a useful tool.  A good direction methinks.  As the quote on the Radiate frontpage says ”It’s a fantastic opportunity to see the working environment in which I want to be a part of…’