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Archive for March, 2017

We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part Two

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make…Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities.

Charlotte’s Blog: Part Two – “On becoming a resident, communal living and further developments in cyanotype”

I can’t believe I have been working in Knowle West over a month now, I actually feel a little bit at home already. I managed to find accommodation at the Lee Abbey house, a Christian missionary community in the heart of Filwood. I have to admit, being brought up a casual atheist all my life, with little experience of spirituality and god, I was a bit unsure of how I would find it. Would the household judge me? Convert me? Annoy me? I’m afraid to let you all down, as I don’t live in a sitcom or a bad horror film, the group were pleasant, warm and welcoming and we all got on like a house on fire.

[The house] was once an ex-convent, inhabited by a community of nuns in its previous life. The house is a beautiful, winding, redbrick maze of creaking cisterns, deckled 70’s wallpaper and soft green carpet. It is home to three different family groups, consisting of five adults and twi children. It was amazing to see how this group integrates together and shares living spaces. Staying in communal living has broken down many assumptions about shared spaces.

I was able to interview the group and discover why they chose to live communally, how sharing space works economically and socially. What boundaries exist in communal living[…]? My favourite question, and one which demonstrates human nature and our interactions, was which room is your favourite room to share with others and which is your least favourite?

It was obviously the Kitchen as the favourite shared space. People love sharing food and cooking. It is a source of heat, a place to talk, catch up, and talk about the day.  And what was the least favourite? The Bathroom.

The Lee Abbey house is part of a wider Christian community and you can find out more they do in Knowle West here.

Building the Cyanotypomatic

The second stage of development [of] my work in taking the cyanotype process further was to make it bigger, by encouraging neighbours to make a large cyanotype piece. Now this was a bit of a thorny experience. What appeared to be a straightforward, simple yet effective concept, as is ever the case, took two weeks of long labour and unforeseen circumstances.

The basic concept is two light-proof boxes which house a long reel of cyanotype wallpaper. This is fed through two slits in each boxed and rolled around a wooden dowel. Inside the trailer is a UV lamp which exposes the wallpaper as it passes between the boxes (imagine how an old film camera looked from inside, when you fed the spool of film from one reel to another).

I had been using a bike trailer previously for portable printmaking workshops – the trailer itself was essentially a big black box on wheels, so perfect for a mobile exposure unit. I won’t go into the details of labour and process of the whole endeavour, but it is now in the existence and ready to take on the real world.

Saturday 4th March – We Can Make…Homes event

Thanks to our wonderful English weather the week leading up to the event appeared to be a little hit or miss, (torrential). But we were fortunate on the morning and the morning could actually be described as sunny. Knowle West Media Centre took over the corner of St Whytes Road for a day, exploring what community-led housing could mean for Knowle West and just how citizens could take part in this. It was a chance to spend time together discussing different ways citizen-led housing could take place. The team arrived early and put the giant gazebo up at a rapid pace, which was to house the PhysiCAD group. A fantastic team who are working with a Lego-inspired interface for virtual and rapid prototyping, they wanted to explore what St Whytes could look like with further developments and look at any potential issues such as parking with the residents. We also had representatives from Wikihouse, the MA Architecture lot [from the University of the West of England] and of course tea and cakes, as provided by the local community centre and the baking group!

I arrived at 11am with my bike trailer, ready to knock on people’s doors and demand they bring out some object for printing with. The event went smoothly – admittedly I only managed to make my way around a few houses – but I had the greatest response, with people coming out to talk and bringing some of their most prized possessions. My favourite was a Betty Boop statue and an Alien ornament.

Then we all had a natter as one of the neighbours was getting ready for their wedding anniversary. We all gathered round to look at the cake she just had made for it. It felt lovely for a minute – standing in the sunshine surrounded by community spirit. And then, as in true Bristol fashion, we all ducked for cover from the torrential down-pour.


Change Creators: The XLR Collective – Music is Power

This week the Change Creators: XLR Collective’s session was entitled #musicispower.

The session was all about the power that music has to influence, inform and spark change on a personal, national and international level. This session was less about the classic activism songs like Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” or Edwin Star “War” and more based around independent artists who are striving to make a difference within their local communities.

The session began with a series of music videos covering a wide range of topics from Benin City (Club closures), Soundsci (Black Lives Matter), The “Fracking Song” – “My Water Is On Fire”, and also a poignant song from London based MC, promoter and youth worker Shay D entitled “Set Her Free” addressing domestic abuse (below):

The XLR Collective discussed songs and musical experiences that had created a long lasting impression on them. They introduced each other to new music, discussed the impact of the songs and events and reflected on how music has the power to change moods, attitudes and communities. A key question arose from the discussions:

“how can we use this information to create better music events in the future?”

Further exploring the topic with music and events that had an adverse impact, and looking into the reasons why they were ineffective, the session ended with some core values to instil when creating events, and some core aims as a collective in order to create a long lasting impact through their event(s) later in the year.

Keep in touch with the XLR Collective:
@change_creators @xlrfest


Change Creators: The XLR Collective – Inspire Week

Over the next seven months the new cohort of Change Creators – The XLR Collective will be making waves in the city, tackling social issues using musical and creative solutions. You will meet individually through their online profiles over the course of the programme. The Inspire Week, which ran from 20th – 22nd February 2017, gave the group the chance to travel around the city and meet some amazing local and national organisations, getting them ready for the journey ahead and fuelling their fire for social change.

We talked about Bristol-wide policies with Elected Mayor Marvin Rees and Councillor Asher Craig, discussed mental health with charities including Off The Record, and Integrate UK opened the group’s eyes to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). The group also explored a wide range of other topics and organisations.



Monday was all about the months ahead, focusing on what leadership is, different leadership styles and each member of The Collective’s personal journey. After a full-on day the group had a debrief to get ready for the next day. After getting to know each other on day one, the feedback was exactly what we had hoped for:

“[I’m] inspired and grateful to be around people who are doing things that I aspire to do.”


Tuesday, we were out and about in Bristol, kicking things off with an inspirational talk from Julz at Ujima Radio. Originally from Knowle West, Julz gave a unique perspective on the area and shared his understanding of some of the challenges faced by people in the local area. He talked about his background, and explained ways that the group can make a difference to their local area by just getting involved and “not being scared to shake things up”. 

That was followed by a tour / meet and greet with the DJs, presenters and volunteers at the radio station. It was great for the group to meet some inspiring people who are championing talent in their local community and striving to make a positive difference.

From there the Collective headed to Desk Lodge for a Social Issues ‘speed dating’ session. The group met:

– Off The Record
– Barnardo’s Care Leavers Team
– Integrate UK
– Daniel Edmund from Milk for Tea

Each person focused on specific social issues facing people in Bristol and explained what they are doing within the city to combat them. Daniel from Milk For Tea concluded the day and shared the story of how Milk For Tea create open conversation around male suicide and provide support, alongside creating networks through local events in London, Bristol and more.

“There’s no one way to be a man, anytime people don’t understand you they will try to attack you.”
Daniel Edmund


Some feedback from the Collective from Day 2:

“I’ve always been a bit cynical about charities but it’s nice to see people who are genuine and have drive. It’s made me hopeful and it’s refreshing.”

“I feel re-connected with a lot of things happening in Bristol – and more informed.”


On Wednesday we began our day at Bristol City Hall with some seriously inspiring talks from Elected Mayor Marvin Rees, Councillor Asher Craig and Phil Castang from Bristol Plays Music. Asher started the day, explaining how the council works and her journey to becoming the councillor for Saint George. Marvin Rees, with his background and passion for music, was excited to talk to the group about their ideas and offered some examples of how musicians have the power to change so much within their local communities.

Phil Castang, or as the group ended up calling him “The Castang!”, began by explaining the role of Colston Hall and Bristol Plays Music within the local music scene and their education work. He gave the group some poignant and honest advice about striving to create what you want, no matter the challenges that you face.

Asher then guided the Collective around the building, showing them the Elected Mayor’s office, board rooms, the Cash Hall and many other intriguing spaces. The group marvelled at the fusion of old and new elements in the building.

The afternoon was spent back at Knowle West Media Centre, reflecting on the three days, discussing the issues the group feel passionately about and making some songs exploring social issues in a creative way. This reminded the group how their creative skills can be utlilised in a wide variety of ways. The songs were hard-hitting, honest and diverse.

“I feel empowered and capable following these few days. I feel able to do the right thing. We’ve met people who are doing the right thing and that’s great.”

The XLR Collective are now formed, informed and ready to develop their ideas. This is set to be an amazing seven months. Watch this space!

Follow Change Creators: The XLR Collective on Twitter at @change_creators

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Two

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features how to work with actors and write for the screen. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Two: Working with Actors & Screenwriting

Now we all know each other, it was time to hit the ground running! This week began with a session led by Esther May Campbell: An Introduction to Working with Actors. A self-taught writer and director, Esther has some impressive and inspiring credentials. Her debut feature film ‘Light Years’ premiered at the London Film Festival in 2015, she won the Best Short Film BAFTA in 2009 with ‘September’, and has worked on shows like Wallander and Skins.

Working with Actors

The session began with Esther distinguishing between actors and non-actors, and how you would change your approach and style of direction depending on your casting decisions. This gave each production team food for thought and started the process of thinking about this in relation to their scripts. Esther also talked about scale of performance – the intensity you want a scene to have. To start this process simply, she encouraged us to think about it on a scale of 1 to 10. She also touched on the principle we will continue to hear about: Intention.

For a director, Intention is all about what you want the scene to do, and how you explore this within the wider frame of your character’s story. To tie this in with the idea of scale, she asked two of us (Rosa and Florence) to help her with a demonstration. The rest of us had to give a setting, and a beach was suggested. She then took Rosa and Florence aside and gave them an intention, without letting the other (or us) know what it was. Rosa and Florence then had to run with this and ad lib a scene, and play around with scale of performance.

Next, Esther gathered us all back around the screen in the main studio to watch some clips from a couple of films and see if we could identify the intention of the scene. The catch: the sound had to be muted!

This workshop was a real eye opener for me. As a lover of films who particularly enjoys watching an actor’s performance for the finer, more subtle nuances, it was great to gain a bit more insight into how their choices and director’s influence can affect the bigger picture. We’ll be lucky enough to have Esther with us again in a few weeks’ time.

The rest of the evening passed with each production team meeting to discuss their next steps, ahead of needing a first draft of their script in a fortnight. Both production teams also had a brief chat with Carrie Love about preparation for Art Department. We’ll hear more from Carrie in March at our production design workshops.


On Friday 3rd February, I felt I’d come into my element as our workshop was on screenwriting. As an aspiring writer and blogger who wants to get into the creative industry in some shape or form, I confess I had never thought about writing for film prior to taking part in this project, but I know I found it incredibly helpful. Film is a visual medium, so you show your audience, not tell them. I’d always thought of writing being the opposite of this, but I soon learned that you can translate many of the skills between the two disciplines.

The presentation was broken down into several principles, so here’s a brief run down:

Use your creative truth – Everyone’s voice is unique and will colour what you create. You will have a perspective that no one else has and can explore what is important to you.

Let your theme guide your plot – Think more widely about what you want your film to achieve and explore. Your characters will drive the plot and represent the themes in the action they come across.

Intention and Obstacle Ah, our old familiar friends! We were briefly introduced to Intention and Obstacle in previous weeks. Intention is what your characters want and Obstacle is what prevents them from achieving this. Whatever else happens in your film, it will boil down to these two must-have elements. Everything else will hang on this, so it must make sense. The intention must be established at the beginning, and the simplest way is by having your characters say what it is, thereby engaging the audience from the outset. Remember that your obstacle does not need to be overcome and that the crux of drama will come from you pressing your intentions and obstacles.

Plot – What happens: setup, conflict resolution, beginning, middle, end. Choose an idea that you can do justice to within your time frame, focus in on a small aspect and infer the bigger picture.

Character Your characters are fictional creations and therefore they don’t need to be real; they can just serve the purpose in your narrative. Your characters are defined by their approach to the obstacles that block their intentions.

Research ‘Hard research’ is about specifics. If you have a character that has a particular occupation, for example, [details of] these things will need to be part of the narrative to make it convincing. ‘Soft research’ gets you closer to your subject matter and is more useful if you don’t know what exactly you are looking for. Think of soft research in terms of intentions and obstacles.

Writing technique – Show, don’t tell. Be economical with your words: ditch adverbs, adjectives are your friends! Give your audience just enough to understand your plot.

This gave us a flavour of how important a screenwriter is. One of the teams are about to learn this in relation to their project […] More on this next time…

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

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