#keepswimmingmrb

Anyone who has read the blog for a while will know that I’ve spent a chunk of the past ten years championing Moseley Road Baths, a Grade II* listed Edwardian Swimming Pool in inner city Brum.  It’s a spectacular building, full of marble flooring, stained glass, original tilework, huge steel arches and wooden panelling.  It houses old ‘slipper baths’ for washing, which were used up until 2004 and closed during my brief stint working on Reception in the building.  It even has a steam heated drying rack, a remnant from its former days when the public laundry was a busy and important amenity for the local community.

But really those bits are incidental.  What really makes the space so alive and vital is the way it embraces the local community.  It’s not just somewhere to swim, it’s a real community hub.  Many swimmers have been coming for decades.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths wanted to capture this, so asked me to make a film as part of their ongoing collaboration with the World Monuments Fund, since Moseley Road Baths was listed on their 2016 Watch List.  The resulting film was used to kickstart a month long social media campaign to show some love for the building before the scheduled closure in Summer 2017.

If you need that again, here’s the deal…

  • Share online through words or images why you want to swim at Moseley Road Baths
  • Use #keepswimmingmrb – and #moseleyroadbaths if you can too!
  • Share the posts that are being put up by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and spread the love!
Moseley Yoga want to #keepswimmingmrb

To see the results, head over to the group’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.  And don’t forget to contribute and share!

Reaching Home, Reaching Out

Back in November I wrote about some dance rehearsals and workshops I had been documenting for ‘If I Could Reach Home’.  It was clear from the outset that something beautiful and vital was emerging.

The final performance certainly lived up to that early promise.  The result of the poetry workshops, dance rehearsals and careful choreography was a piece which showcased the beauty of classical Indian dance forms alongside the horror and heartbreak of modern day migration.  As so many of us struggle not to become desensitised to the human suffering on Europe’s shores, this was a very human and real response.

If I Could Reach Home at Rowheath Pavilion

Here is the film which documents the evolution of the project and which gives a few tantalising snapshots of the full performance.  I will be sharing those soon, so do check back if this whets your appetite!  For more information on Magdalen Gorringe’s work, including performance, choreography and her research work into Indian Dance forms in Britain, have a look at her website.

Untold Stories: sharing stories across the generations

This blogpost also appears on the People’s Heritage Co-operative website.

As part of The People’s Heritage Co-operative’s HLF funded project, ‘Untold Stories: Birmingham’s Wounded Soldiers from WW1’, Year 8 pupils at Swanshurst School took part in a series of workshops with Rachel Gillies – Community Film Maker to learn how to conduct filmed oral history interviews.

The result of their hard work is 11 remarkable interviews with a range of people discussing their own experiences and the experiences of relatives in some of the major conflicts of the 20th Century.  From shelling in the trenches of The Somme to the shelling of Hartlepool, patrolling the Suez Canal to holding the line in Korea, back to the UK to the aftermath of conflict in people’s daily lives, including the reality of medical care, the interviews are eye-opening and frank.

Students took on a massive responsibility in helping interviewees share their often harrowing experiences.  Special thanks must go to staff at Swanshurst School and to former teacher, Doug Smith, who facilitated the project and who organises the school’s annual ‘Veteran’s Day’.  Thanks also to Veterans, School Staff and Lt Col. Steve Jeffery who were so forthcoming and generous in their interviews.

The quality of these interviews really does speak volumes about the maturity and sensitivity of pupils who were only born in the 21st Century.  They are ensuring the the lessons from previous generations are passed on.  And in a world that feels in a state of flux, what could be more important than that?

Editing Untold Stories

Back in September I joined with colleagues from ‘The People’s Heritage Co-operative’ to share the findings from our project, ‘Untold Stories – Birmingham’s Wounded Soldiers from WW1’.  We launched a teaching resource and a film I had filmed and edited at Highbury Hall.  Ahead of sharing the oral history interviews from the project, here are some excerpts of a blog I wrote whilst editing the project film:

So here I’m sat at my desk, looking through scores of photos and hours of footage, wondering how I’m going to pull so much fantastic stuff together.  My job, you see, is to turn all of the lectures, interviews, workshops and explorations we have undertaken through our ‘Untold Stories’ project into a finished film for our launch on 13th September.

img_6975I have rich pickings here. Workshops where we delved into the archive to discover magazines produced by invalided soldiers, photos of injured servicemen following facial reconstructive surgery, lectures on the sheer scale of organisation required to ensure wounded soldiers were treated, genealogy workshops on tracing WW1 casualties, interviews with Korean war veterans, an interview with a serving Military Surgeon, explorations of Highbury Hall with a group of school pupils… it’s fair to say that we have been busy.

So perhaps for now I should just share some of my favourite snippets, and save the rest for the film.

img_7076My main involvement in the project has been working with pupils at Swanshurst School to teach them how to conduct Oral History interviews so that they are able to do their own interviews. Alongside former History Teacher, Doug Smith, and members of the People’s Heritage Co-operative, we ran a series of workshops to prepare the girls for interviewing war veterans during the school’s ‘Veterans Day’ event.

The stories that emerged over the course of Veterans’ Day really highlighted the variety of experiences. One gentleman spoke about his Grandfather being called up to serve at The Somme alongside his horse. Another interviewee highlighted a number of occasions when his father and comrades were injured in the trenches. Other interviewees spoke about more recent conflicts in WW2 and in the Korean War.

Whaimg_6965t was particularly striking was how much the pupils took away from the experience. Here are a few comments from pupils themselves:

‘You learn so much about where you live and what goes on that you feel responsible to continue this’.

‘I think that taking part in experiences like this can be even more informative than learning about it in lessons, because in this situation you’re learning more about actual people’s experiences’.

Of course I couldn’t share all of this without also sharing the project film itself!

Untold Stories: Birmingham’s Wounded Soldiers from WW1 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!

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.

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.

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.