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.

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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.

Celebrating our services – Libraries

Do you remember the name of your local Librarian when you were a kid?  The person who helped you work your way through different sections of the library, from the toddler ‘Ladybird’ books through to the Enid Blytons, the Roald Dahls, the Dick King Smiths, the Judy Blumes and the Paula Danzigers?  Who helped you navigate your way through the non-fiction for your school projects?  Who organised holiday activities which got you touching wild animals, writing book reviews and taking out huge piles of books in order to get a sticker at the end of the summer?  I remember Gill, the librarian at High Heath Library vividly.  I was in awe of someone who worked with books for a living.  The library was divided into a child and adult section, and I still recall how special I felt when I crossed the threshold for the first time, turning right instead of left as I went in.

That library closed years ago and it’s always saddened me that pupils from my local primary school will never get the chance to skip down there, two by two and hear a story sat on those tiny chairs, then frantically battle with the rest of the class for the ‘best’ books to take out.  That now looks to become the norm as libraries are faced with closure throughout the country.  Some councils are considering closing all of their local libraries.

Closer to home where I live in Balsall Heath, the magnificent terracotta library which greets people as they enter the area is covered in scaffolding and has been for several years.  Whilst it’s still functioning and providing a fantastic service, particularly for local pupils, the building needs extensive work.  Meanwhile, the library up the road in Kings Heath is completely closed to the public.

A few years ago I was commissioned by a dedicated and passionate librarian, Jenny York, to produce a series of films about the work that libraries in Yardley were doing with the local community.  Even back then it was important that they could produce evidence of the impact of their work to help secure funding.  The result was seven short films about different projects.  There is more information on them over on the ‘Libraries’ page.

One of my favourite films is the ‘Yards Ahead’ film.  I think it really shows the passion that kids, teachers and librarians have for their community library.  I could continue to wax lyrical about the service, but I’ll let the film speak for itself.  Enjoy.

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.

Pool of Memories at Anderton Park School

We’re now full speed ahead with the Friends of Moseley Baths’ Heritage Lottery Fund supported Pool of Memories project after months of planning and interviewing the public.  Last month I went into Anderton Park School and worked with eight Year 6 pupils, researching the history of the building, learning how to make films and then interviewing people with memories of the building.

Pupils at Moseley Road Baths

I had a huge amount of fun with the group, and it was especially exciting to see the enthusiasm for the building that the pupils developed over the course of the week.  The aim of the project, as well as teaching research, speaking and listening skills, technical film-making skills and interview techniques, was to instill a sense of ownership of the building in the pupils.  The upshot is that they can’t wait for it to reopen so that they can go swimming with friends.  They can also reel off a whole list of facts and figures about the building, particularly the boiler room, which is astounding!

We’ve now got two short films, edited down from almost an hour of interviews, which we showed to all of Year 6 at the end of the project. The reaction we got was great, and both pupils and teachers asked lots of questions and were interested in running the project again. It really is the case that Moseley Road Baths inspires and excites people of all ages and backgrounds.

Here are a few short films we made with the Flip which is the pupils talking about the project in their own words. The first is a rehearsal of the presentation that the pupils gave to the rest of the Year group. Enjoy and feel free to add your own thoughts on the project using the comments box below!

I’m starting projects at Clifton Junior School and Park Hill School in the next month… more news to follow on that soon!

What we did this week from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Ibrahim talks about the project from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Umar’s thoughts on the project from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

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!

The future of Creative Partnerships

You’ve probably picked up on these pages that I’m incredibly enthusiastic about fresh, exciting and creative ways of learning. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with a broad range of youth groups and young people for all kinds of projects.

I have a particular soft spot for the Creative Partnerships scheme which involves so-called ‘Creative Practitioners’ (that’s shorthand for talented, creative people from a range of disciplines with a passion for learning!), going into schools and inspiring young people and staff through all manner of different workshops.  I do film workshops which can focus on literacy, IT, research and communication skills to name the most obvious ones, there are plenty more!  The bottom line is that attainment and engagement amongst pupils increases massively in places where these projects run.

So, whilst it’s been on the cards for a while, it’s devastating to hear that the planned cuts to arts funding may hit Creative Partnerships hard.  Have a read of this article in today’s Guardian for more on the background to it.  On the plus side, this report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers shows that there is a clear economic benefit to these projects.  Whilst measuring Creative Partnerships projects by their economic value kind of misses the point, it does hopefully provide a stronger case for the continuation of the scheme.

Just in case you’re in any doubt about the scheme, here is a video I worked on with young people from Baxter College in Kidderminster.  I can’t claim to have been the lead in the project – credit there goes to Hayley Pepler and Alison Grade – it was an inspiring project to be a part of and really highlights the benefits of CP projects.  Young people scripted the trailer for a series of programmes they have yet to produce, then quickly picked up the rudiments of filming, sound recording and directing, before going on to liaise with staff and pupils throughout the school to film everything in a day.  I’ve met professional film makers that would be unable to pull that off!  The buzz that you see in the video isn’t just all show, it’s a genuine excitement that passed around the school as the day wore on.  Magic.

Baxter TV Trailer from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

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.