Lucy’s Story

I was recently involved in delivering a film project with Geese Theatre at The Farndon Unit, a secure mental health unit for women.  It was fantastic to collaborate with Emma and Ruth, experienced practitioners with a real passion for and belief in transformative arts provision.  More to the point, they had a belief in the people they were working with and the experience and tools needed to help participants have a positive experience.  I’m incredibly proud of the finished film and the responses to it.

Over the four weeks of the project, the women took the lead in developing the story that they wanted to share, took on acting roles, got involved in audio recording and operating the camera and created an impressive film illustrating some of their own experiences on their journey towards recovery.  As a facilitator and film maker I learnt a lot, not only from working alongside Geese, but also the staff at Farndon and the women themselves. The group were so generous in sharing their stories, ideas and enthusiasm – even on days when they were finding it tough.

Their film and their experiences of the project were recently shared at Elysium Healthcare’s Service User conference.

I know that travelling to and standing up at a conference to discuss the project was a huge step for those members of the group who were able to travel to present the film.  I’m already looking forward to another project with Geese and another opportunity to learn from both practitioners and participants as I shape my own practice.

If you want to learn more about Geese Theatre’s work then I highly recommend the current exhibition at Mac Birmingham which documents and celebrates 30 years of their work.

Planning, collaborating, telling stories

Planning, collaborating, telling stories.  All the stuff that I love.  Here’s a bit of an overview of what I’ve been up to so far this year.

I have spent part of this year working part time as a Project Co-ordinator on ‘Living Memory’, a two-year Heritage Lottery supported project that records and celebrates photography collections and life stories from across the Black Country.  It’s been an intense and rewarding role, delving into fascinating stories and stunning images from across the area, as well as making connections with community organisations and projects that I was completely unaware of before.  The project will hardly scrape the surface of the rich narratives there are to uncover, but you can get a flavour of what we have been doing on the project website (where you can also sign up to get occasional updates into your inbox) or by following us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  A personal favourite story of mine is John Shrimpton’s – whose efforts contributed to the formation of the Sandwell Valley as a nature reserve and protected it from development.

I’ve continued my longstanding relationship with the Lichfield Festival this year, developing their ‘Hear My Voice’ learning and participation programme, this time with elders across Walsall and Lichfield.  Textile Artist Liz Blades and I have been visiting Dementia Cafés, the weekly ‘Mind Matters’ session in Beechdale and drop ins for over 50s to develop our project on the theme of journeys.  I have been taken aback by how open people have been about discussing their memories – often they touch on personal traumas and tragedies and frequently these experiences have not been shared so candidly before.  Our task will now be to carry this work forward into the next phase.  The textile patchwork quilt which illustrates some of these memories will be on display at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre over the course of the Festival.

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, work has continued on the Birmingham Friends of the Earth Heritage project.  A group of volunteers have been scouring through the archives housed at the Library of Birmingham and have unearthed some fascinating stuff about the 40 year history of The Warehouse, BFoE’s home since 1977.  A few weeks ago I trained up a team of volunteers in a morning to conduct oral history interviews with people who have a connection to the building and to BFoE’s work.  With 17 people to interview over the course of the afternoon it was a hectic day, but so many lovely anecdotes emerged and there was a really strong sense that these people were early pioneers and advocates of many of the actions that we see as positive and important today.  I’m in the process of knitting these stories together.  A short film and accompanying booklet will be ready for the Autumn.

Behind the scenes I’m still plotting and planning other projects, including ongoing collaborations as part of the People’s Heritage Co-operative.  Next week I’m embarking on a new project making a film in a setting for women with mental health needs.  I’m also going to be presenting Women’s History Birmingham‘s work to this year’s Community Archives and Heritage Group conference, which this year focuses on Conflict, Protest and Reconciliation.

The Care Act – the Nottinghamshire Experience

Summer 2016 is knocking on the door.  OK, well not today.  Today it’s raining, but this past weekend the sun was beating down on the bluebells and blossom.  I’m ever the optimist!  Anyhow, it’s reminded me that it’s getting on for a year since last summer’s excursions up to Nottinghamshire with Sam and James from Iconic Productions and I’ve still not blogged about it properly.  The reason?  I helped them to produce a suite of films for Nottinghamshire County Council to explore aspects of the Care Act – how it affects both statutory and third sector organisations, what the public need to know, what is being done on a local level to provide excellent care for adults who have care needs.  I was mainly involved in interviewing – and there were some really fascinating stories to be told, like this film incorporating Julie’s story.

Strength Based Approach from Iconic Productions on Vimeo.

There is quite a range of different films incorporating interviews, presentations, animation and motion graphics.  Plus a voice that you may recognise.  You can view the whole suite of films on Iconic Productions’ Vimeo site, but I particularly like this short animation.  Meet Bob.

Strength Based Support Animation from Iconic Productions on Vimeo.

And if that impresses you, have a look at Iconic Productions’ 2016 showreel.  Talented, talented people.

Iconic Productions – Showreel 2016 from Iconic Productions on Vimeo.

Broadening Choices for Older People

Like so many people, when I look at the options facing me in my old age there is a level of apprehension. Within my own family there have been difficult choices to make when it comes to accommodation and care of elderly relatives.

So, it has been a welcome relief to collaborate with the wonderful BCOP (Broadening Choices for Older People), eight years after I was first invited to make a short film for them. BCOP are a charitable organisation, providing exceptional care and accommodation to people over the age of 50. Accommodation ranges from small houses and apartments for people able to live independently, right through to nursing care for people in the later stages of dementia. Their care homes offer a ‘Sensory Experience’, including pet farms, ‘Sensory Streets’ with sweet shops and tearooms and a huge range of tailored activities and outings for residents. And innovation isn’t just about homes and care – the newly refurbished Anita Stone Court offers a Shared Ownership model, the first of its kind, which allows residents to gradually release equity from their homes to cover care costs as needs change.

2016 marks BCOP’s 70th Anniversary, so we kickstarted the year with a film documenting some of the many aspects of the Charity’s work.  Once again I teamed up with Sam and James at Iconic Productions to produce something which not only looks really impressive, it also tells the story of the organisation from the perspective of those who know it best – its family of residents, their families and the staff.  It was screened at a celebratory meal for staff and supporters in January and it was humbling to see lots of smiles, nods of recognition and thumbs up as the film was playing.

Broadening Choices for Older People from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

There will be plenty more to come over the rest of the year as Sam, James and I continue to document the next stage in BCOP’s journey to create broader choices for people in their later years.

What is ‘Care’?

Care.  It’s about wanting the best outcome for someone.  Working with them to make that happen.  Simple, right?

In practice, providing ‘care’ can be complex and far from straightforward, particularly within the NHS and the vast range of services it provides.  Recognising these conundrums, and against the backdrop of ‘The Francis Report’ into care standards which stemmed from malpractice within hospitals in Staffordshire, I was commissioned to make a series of short case studies looking at what patients, their families and health practitioners understand by the term ‘care’.  These films now form part of the training that all medical students at Birmingham City University undertake prior to their first placements.

It was an eye opening and frequently emotional experience, exploring the tough calls, tight relationships and massive dedication required on a daily basis to ensure that patients receive the care and treatment they need.  It was a real privilege to be invited into people’s homes and lives and have them speak so candidly about their experiences.

Here is one of the seven case studies – Madeleine and Liz.  Liz articulates so well how sometimes you have to be, if not cruel to be kind, certainly assertive.  More films in the series can be viewed through the Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Student Hub portal.

Patient Stories – Madeleine and Liz from BCHC COMMS on Vimeo.

Health Visitor promotional film

One of the wonderful things of being a film maker rooted in my local community is seeing people who I have worked with or filmed in the day to day. Yesterday I went swimming and saw someone who I had last seen when I filmed her on a bug hunt! Today I was chuffed to bump into (and film!) two women I had met about three years ago when they were attending a breastfeeding support group! Not only are their daughters growing up big and bright and happy, one has a younger sibling and the other will have one imminently!

Unfortunately they had not seen the final film which promoted Health Visitor Services. So, if you are one of the two wonderfully obliging women who have allowed me to put the camera in your faces on more than one occasion, this is for you!  Thank you!

Health Visitor Film Part 1 from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Health Visitor Film Part 2 from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

‘Looking After’ children in care

Life can be stressful enough for children and young people within the care system without being passed from pillar to post when it comes to healthcare.  The Looked After Children’s Nursing Service provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for health screening and support.

I worked with pupils at Firsbrook School in Quinton to produce a short animation to illustrate what happens at an annual check up.  The young people, themselves classed as ‘Looked After Children’, worked with their Art teacher, Richard Upton and myself to create the animation.  This involved discussing their own apprehensions and experiences of accessing health care and advice.  This formed the basis of the script which we developed into a stop frame animation, using characters the group developed themselves.

AnimationThe young people are given annual check ups by a specialist team of nurses, and they also have the opportunity to discuss health issues with a specialist paediatrician.  This means that their physical and mental health can be monitored and managed, and support can be offered where needed.  Files are kept in one place and the young person will usually see the same person each year.

This animation formed part of a further film, based on interviews with nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants within the Looked After Children’s Health Team.  This explains in some details what children and young people can expect.

Daisy Hale, Elliot Sturman did a sterling acting job undergoing a mock check, and Jennifer Smith did a fantastic turn as a Social Worker (maybe a new career beckons?).  Huge thanks to everyone within the team was brave enough to go in front of the camera!  Thanks also to everyone at Firsbrook for making me feel so welcome – staff and pupils alike.

Got your attention?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which is hotly debated and widely misunderstood.  Where is the line between a ‘spirited’ or ‘badly behaved’ child and a child suffering from ADHD?  How can you tell?  Fortunately in Birmingham there is a service to which children can be referred in order to try and determine exactly that.

I was commissioned by Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust to develop a short film to outline what the ADHD Nurse Led Service does and to explain to parents, carers, school staff and school nurses how referrals can be made and how the assessment is conducted.

ADHD referral

1,000 DVDs were produced back in January (yes, I am incredibly behind in my blogging!), which are now being circulated in schools.  This is an important tool in aiding understanding of the condition and compliments the awareness-raising that the ADHD Nurse Led Service is already doing.

The film was produced in close collaboration with the ADHD team – Kim, Chris and Mel.  However, the real star of the show is Scrabble, Kim’s Springer Spaniel, who showed real professionalism in demonstrating some of the key symptoms of ADHD!

If you would like a copy of the film, or want to know more about the service then head to the service website for more information.

Monoxide Mole investigates

Over the past year there have been a number of really sad stories in the news about people dying as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  The tragedy of all of these incidents is that they are so easily preventable through a knowledge of the possible dangers and by getting appliances checked by a qualified and registered engineer.

In a bid to educate people on the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, the Gas Safety Trust funded Moseley Community Development Trust to work with local pupils at Park Hill Primary School to help spread the message.  Phil Beardmore, an expert on home energy issues (one of the many hats he wears!) developed a training session to teach adults working on the project what Carbon Monoxide is, what can make it hazardous, the signs of poisoning and how it can be prevented.

Gas Safety Project

This was a unique project as it was pupils themselves that took the lead on creating an advertising campaign.  I worked alongside the wonderfully talented and creative Sandra Taylor (formerly of the rather marvellous Playtrain organisation) to help the group develop their ideas, find creative ways of expressing what was quite a complex subject (especially for Key Stage 2 pupils!), and then to realise their vision through drama, narration, film and animation.

The result is a fun, informative film, developed and created by the pupils themselves which is now being shown in homes across Moseley.  The pupils learned new skills over the course of the project, but more importantly really took the message of Gas Safety on board.  1,000 DVDs have been produced to make sure that the message is spread far and wide, and the information is now available online on the Moseley CDT website.

Thanks to Sandra for all of her hard work co-ordinating the project, to Phil for his excellent training and support, to all the supportive staff at Park Hill, to Tony Thapar at Moseley CDT and to Ben Lister for his excellent work on the edit. Above all, well done to the pupils who put so much effort in and made the project such a giggle!

Celebrating our services – Respite Care

I’ve listened to the news with horror over the past few months as more and more news is emerging about local authorities and NHS Trusts slashing budgets for some really crucial and valued services.  I’ve been lucky enough to go into libraries, care homes, hospitals, schools, Children’s Centres, arts projects and youth clubs across the West Midlands and see first hand the marvelous work that people are doing – often on limited resources.    The idea that these valuable resources are under threat fills me with dismay.

A few weeks ago there was the news story that a mother is considering putting her daughter into full time care as local respite care services are being stopped.  I saw myself how valuable respite care is to families last year when I was commissioned to produce a film for a Respite Care Centre, Edgewood Road, in Kings Norton.  200 DVDs were produced to go out to families who are considering using the service.  It has also been shown to the Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust Board who are so impressed by the work taking place there that they have recently requested that the film is added to the Trust’s website! You can view it on the main page here (though I’m not sure how long it will be up for).

Edgewood Road

I really hope that this film can play a small part in acknowledging the importance of the service and helping to ensure that services continue with the funding that is needed. In our society it’s crucial that we ensure no-one is ever faced with raising a child with severe disabilities without support. And it’s the most fundamental thing that children with disabilities, some of whom will not experience adulthood, have the opportunities to enjoy their childhood.