Birmingham’s Culture blogged

As I type the seconds are ticking down until midday on Saturday 24th April, the deadline for submitting your cultural shenanigans in Brum onto the Birmingham Big City Culture Blog.

The blog is part of Birmingham’s bid to become the ‘City of Culture’ in 2013. It’s hoped that through allowing people to add their ‘cultural activities’ over a 24 hour period that the website can get a snapshot of the broad range of exciting activities taking place across the city. Reading through the blog so far I’m really enthused by the variety of events, both in the city centre and in local neighbourhoods. It’s really lovely to see children’s events in community libraries next to contemporary art exhibitions at the IKON, next to research projects by students, next to lunchtime chamber music at the CBSO centre.

What really strikes me is that we seem to see culture as encompassing all kinds of different activities, many of which would never normally register on the radar of those who spend time hand-wringing over Birmingham’s lack of culture. The blog is incredibly refreshing, and really highlights the passion and pride we have about what happens in our city.

So, in the spirit of the blog, and not wanting to fall into the stereotype of the unassuming Brummie, here’s my contribution on what I got up to yesterday!

For more information on the bid you can go to the bid’s website or follow them on Twitter.

Reel Health Stories

I’ve recently found out about a film competition taking place over the next couple of months which I have been asked to promote.  There are now huge amounts of festivals and competitions, locally, nationally, internationally, and often online.  What I think it particularly nice about this one is its focus on health from a slightly different perspective.  I’ve made a number of films that have focused on patients’ experiences and I find it fascinating – it’s so personal, fundamental and touches us all in some way.  The fact that this is being judged by a bit of a hero of mine, the Director Ken Loach, is even more fantastic!  So, onto the details!  Let me know if you apply!

Want to make films? Industry professionals to judge YOUR short film on illness, wellness, madness, or anything else about bodies and minds

*Now open for submissions*

Judges include Ken Loach and David Morrissey.  Deadline 28 May 2010.

Who can enter?
Open to all.  £100 first prizes in the under-18 and the over-18 categories + 2 x £50 runner up prizes + £100 special educational prize.

What kinds of films?
We want films that show just what sickness, healthiness, madness and addiction mean to you and the people you love. Show us what you feel strongly about. Eating disorders, chronic pain, embarrassing illnesses, scary diagnoses, staying fit, caring for others – all of these, and more, are possible subjects.  We definitely don’t need films on policy-related health issues, e.g. the NHS.

Submissions will be used to help student doctors understand how their patients really feel about health, sickness and treatment – the film that does this best wins the £100 special educational prize.

Films should be between 20 seconds and 5 minutes long.

All genres accepted: fiction, documentary, experimental, animated, musical… Films do not have to be documentaries about real individuals, doctors, nurses, hospitals, GP surgeries etc (although they can be if people get permission).

All mediums accepted e.g. mobile phone, super-8, iFlip, digital camera, 35mm, 70mm(!). But entries need to be on DVD or submitted digitally via our website (see http://www.reelhealthstories.com/How_to.html).

See http://www.reelhealthstories.com/advice3.html for example films, but we bet you can do better!

Who are the judges?
Director Ken Loach, actor/director David Morrissey, movie producer Camille Gatin, and UCL Director of Medical Education Professor Jane Dacre.

When will the films be screened?
Screening is at the Rowan Arts Project’s ‘The Big Day Out’ in Whittington Park on Sunday 4th July 2010, and at UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus in October 2010.

How can I find out more?
Visit the Reel Health Stories website; Facebook: Facebook; twitter: @reelhealthstory.
Project lead Dr Katherine Woolf 020 7288 3546 or filmfestival@ucl.ac.uk.

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.

Health Projects

The more observant amongst you may notice a few changes to my website.  More colour, more information, a couple more pages.  I’ve realised that whilst I’ve been tweeting away (@RachelGillies in case you were wondering) and blogging regularly on the Friends of Moseley Road Baths website, I have left my own website criminally neglected.

So, I’ve now added a photo here and there, plus some of the broken links are gradually getting fixed.  There are a few more films appearing (once I can get them uploaded to my Vimeo account).

Most importantly I’ve added a new page for all of my films relating to health and fitness.  A huge amount of my work is based on health and wellbeing but so far it’s barely got a mention on here.  So, hopefully the Health and Fitness Page will give you a flavour of some of my work to date… and there will be more to come as I have a few things in the pipeline.  Keep checking back for updates!

Wildlife Diaries online

I’m chuffed to bits to be able to share the ‘Green Rivers Wildlife Diaries’ film with everyone. It was premiered at the end of 2009 to a lovely audience comprising friends and family of the group and local decision makers from around Walsall.

Read more about the project, have a look at the film and let us know what you think! It’s now up on my website here!

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!

Green Rivers Wildlife Diaries Premiere!

As I type the DVDs are being produced and packaged, the activities are being prepared and our fantastic, talented young people are rehearsing their presentations for next week’s Grand Premiere of ‘Green Rivers Wildlife Diaries’.

The young people from Blakenall and Goscote in Walsall have worked with Julia Morris from The Wildlife Trust and myself over the last year, to devise the project, produce a workplan, submit a funding bid and then research, plan and film their own short documentary!  The result is a really lovely film which illustrates just how passionate and knowledgeable the group are about the wildlife on their doorstep.

But this film is more than just a record of urban wildlife.  The group from Green Rivers Community Association used the BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ as their starting point.  Through the film they hope to show local residents the wealth of wildlife in Walsall, and to educate them about how to look after these animals and create habitats for them to thrive.  It contains practical advice on everything from creating a bee and butterfly friendly garden, to how to build an insect home, how to spot a water vole and how to tell the difference between a frog and a toad!

The group would love for local residents to attend the Premiere on Thursday 17th December at Green Rock Primary School.  The screening will begin at 7pm sharp.  If you live locally and want to attend then please contact Julia on 01922 711 228.

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…’

Back to School

It’s taken me months to get round to writing up a page about my work at Robin Hood JI School over the Summer Term.  Luckily some of the reason for this has been that I have busy with running around on several other project, including an extensive project with The Wildlife Trust (more on that later!) and another film project for Solihull Libraries!  However, the main reason is that it involved so many different and exciting strands that I wasn’t too sure where to begin!

You can now find a summary of the project on the Schools Page although it still feels as though I’ve not done it justice.  As a freelance film-maker it was such a fantastic experience to challenged to produce something fun and exciting which would leave staff and pupils with a lasting legacy.  Pupils not only had DVDs to take home, I genuinely believe that they grew in confidence and would now be able to produce their own films.  In fact, a browse round the school’s excellent website this morning revealed that Year 4 have been making their own Origami Videos! Great stuff!

I’m hoping to build on this schools work through taking part in further training.  I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Radiate Training Scheme (fingers crossed for that!) and next week I’ll also be attending the ‘Youth Voice’ seminar at Queensbridge School which looks excellent!

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

I’ve been a member of Friends of Moseley Road Baths since 2006, and to my shame we’ve only just got round to putting up our own website. OK, that’s not strictly true – we’ve tinkered a bit with a MySpace page, we have a Facebook Group and we also launched the fantastic Virtual Tour last year which is packed full of photos, video and facts about the Grade II* listed building.  The Virtual Tour explores many places which are strictly off limits to the public at present.

So, it’s taken a while but eventually here is the official Friends of Moseley Road Baths website which will be a one-stop spot for information about the campaign, events such as the ‘Memories and Memorabilia Day’, our ‘Pool of Memories’ project and articles in the press, such as the recent news that the building has made the Victorian Society’s Most Endangered Building list again for the third year running.  In time as the project expands we hope to add more information, but in the meantime have a look and please get in touch with your thoughts and ideas!