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Women in Film: From Her POV Week Three

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features a behind-the-scenes look at camera and lighting techniques. 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 Three

Before I tell you all what we got up to this week, I’m thrilled to say that now things are a little more settled I think it’s time I tell you a little about the films! Firstly, I can reveal there’s been a change of plan from one of our production teams. Their original idea – “Where I Came From”, exploring the story of a female refugee with a mix of drama and real life testimonials – was proving a challenge due to our time frame: not having the time to build up trust and relationships with individuals and charities to the extent that would do justice to their idea and, more importantly, the stories of the people the team wanted to approach. It is an extremely sensitive subject and would no doubt involve some incredibly traumatic experiences that people might not feel comfortable sharing with a film crew – and the last thing the team wanted was anybody feeling uncomfortable. Luckily, you might remember that Writer/Director Kam had two ideas, and the team decided that it was perhaps time to make a change!

The films are both ‘coming of age’ dramas but explore their ideas and themes in different ways. Kam’s team are now working on “Black Cherry” – a film that explores race, class and sex, all through the relationship that Ange, a young woman of Indian/South Asian descent, has with her boyfriend Ben. ‘Throughout the story this subtext is held back, but as tensions rise [there is] the sense that these issues may erupt, breaking through the veneer of tolerance, adding a dangerous and contemporary feel.’

The other team are working on “Blood Warriors  directed by Rosa. The film centres on ‘an incredibly unique self-styled all-female Bristol BMX crew. The film spends a day with the young ladies as they face the trials of being a teenage girl who demand[s] to be heard.’

You could say that the week of 9th and 10th February was Lights, Camera, Action week as we were joined by camerawoman Sarah Edwards, who took us through the basics of camera and lighting. I’m a complete novice to lighting and my experience of camera work is limited to in front of it, and then only very briefly as an extra and a challenge competing for the most Youtube hits in a set time frame. That in mind, I was blown away by the sheer amount of kit Sarah has in her arsenal to do her job as a camera woman, which greeted us as we walked in. But never let it be said I’m not willing to try new things!

Camera

Thursday and most of Friday were devoted to camera work. For the “theory” part at the beginning of the sessions Sarah wanted to cover a few of the photography basics. These included:

The rule of thirds: this is one way of producing a photo or piece of film that will draw the viewer’s eye and engage their attention. Divide everything into thirds, with two horizontal and two vertical lines so you have nine parts. The idea is that you place the object/person you want your audience to focus on in that scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet.

Depth of Field: this is the distance between the nearest object in a frame and the farthest. It will affect how sharply your subjects appear in focus in a frame.

ISO or International Standards Organisation: in photography and filmmaking, this is the industry standard that measures the camera’s sensitivity to light and is measured in a numbered scale. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive. Most cameras now allow for the photographer to change the ISO settings to what they require depending on the surroundings.

f stop: in this industry, f stops are used to quantify ratios of light or exposure.

Focal Length: simply put, this tells a photographer the angle of view and the magnification.

We also explored camera angles, colour and camera movement, with a little help from clips from Luther, Marvel’s Jessica Jones and the movie Drive, to name a few examples!

After Thursday’s theory, to help reinforce Sarah’s introduction, each team was given a camera. The idea was to play around with Focal Length and Depth of Field, by having one of the team “model” for the camera, moving it further and further away, and each time switching to a lens with a higher focal length and seeing how the image is affected. I got to model for Team Black Cherry.

Lighting

For the beginning of Friday, we shifted the focus to lighting. Our eyes will adjust to changes in light and for a Director of Photography on a shoot, the tools of your trade are usually in three categories, measured in Kelvin.

3200k: this is known as Tungsten and is orange.

4300k: florescent or mixed colours

5600: “daylight” – this is blue.

We also looked at White Balance – making the colours in the frame appear as natural as possible by removing unwanted colour casts. The light you choose will evoke tone and atmosphere in your piece, whatever genre it might be.

Sarah also explored Documentary Lighting, and how a great Digital Imaging Technician can be very helpful on a shoot, including how imperative it is you make two copies of everything you do!

Tying both camera and lighting together, Sarah once more sent us out with a camera. This time, we could also experiment with different types of lighting and colour, and show her what we’d learned throughout the two days she was with us.

Again, I was on team Black Cherry. We had producer Holly making tea using different kinds of camera angles, decided to be a little ‘out there’ and lit the toilets in such a way to make them look like a jail cell, and I made my camera woman debut filming Holly come down the stairs with the help of some coloured gel. It looked like something out of a horror movie, in the coolest kind of way!

Stay tuned for Week Four, where we moved away from the camera, to focus on sound.

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

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:
www.facebook.com/xlrfest/
@change_creators @xlrfest
#xlrcollective

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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.

Gallery

Monday

Monday was all about the months ahead, focusing on what leadership is, different leadership styles and each member of The Collective’s personal journey, informed by talks from the XLR Collective Project Manager James Kennaby and the KWMC Youth Programme Manager Mena Fombo. 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

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.”

Wednesday

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
#XLRcollective

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.

Screenwriting

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.

Women in Film: From Her POV Week One

Come behind the scenes with From Her Point of View, Knowle West Media Centre’s three-month training programme for female filmmakers. Find out more about the experience of women in film with this weekly blog from  Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

What’s the story?

“Fourteen incredibly talented women have been assembled by Knowle West Media Centre as part of their new project: From Her Point of View. Their mission: change the face of the film industry, which currently sees women massively under-represented, by equipping them with all the tools and top notch training they need to create two short films. The group meets for one day and an evening each week.

“The training will include workshops on screenwriting, lighting, sound and camera work, just to name a few. The two completed films will be screened as part of Bristol Film Festival’s event celebrating the contribution women have made to cinema.

“Come back over the coming weeks to meet the team and get an insight into what we’re all up to, through the eyes of either me, the project’s Press Agent, or some of our team!”

Week One: Induction and First Workshop – Practical Film Making

From Her Point of View kicked off on Thursday 26th January with our first evening session. It started with a chance for us all to meet for the first time, get to know each other a little bit and talk a bit about our roles on the project. Along with some games to break the ice, we heard about the project in a bit more depth.

After the games, the women split off into their two production crews and talked more about their visions for their films. On one team we had talk of a coming-of-age drama featuring an all-female BMX gang, with the plans for elaborate and incredible costumes, perhaps with an Elizabethan vibe. The other team had a decision to make, as Director/Writer Kam brought two ideas to the table. Enthusiastic praise was given to both, but eventually the group decided on Where I Came From, dramatizing the story of a female refugee. With excerpts of real testimonial, the film would blend the documentary and drama genres.

We also came together as a whole group for a short ‘mapping’ exercise, where we looked at ourselves, our values and what’s important to us. The challenge was to break these elements down into finer and finer detail. The premise was that the teams could apply this approach to their filmmaking, because whatever else you add to your film it will boil down to two essential elements: intention and obstacle (which we’ll hear more about in our Screenwriting workshop). Each crew member was given a document detailing the different roles and responsibilities on the project.

Throughout the evening I was struck by how enthusiastic and passionate the women are. Being in a room with creative, like-minded women creates an exciting and interesting buzz and dynamic. This quality served us well, as the following day saw us thrown in at the deep end with our first practical workshop!

Workshop

Friday 27th January  began with a brief induction to all the kit the production teams will have at their disposal to make their films, and how each go about booking all their equipment out, with a little help from Barry, Knowle West Media Centre’s Creative Technology Manager. We were also introduced to Tom  Stubbs, of biggerhouse and JUMPcuts films, who set us our first challenge.

Tom brought with him a selection of everyday objects and split the group up into smaller teams. Our challenge was to create and cut together a film over the course of this single session. We had to chose objects from Tom’s collection and feature them in the films. He also stipulated a couple of other rules: every member of the team must be in the film, it must feature three different types of shot (Wide, Mid, Close up) and it must feature four elements/words: DISCOMBOBULATE, PULSE, DUSK & QUAIL.

I started Friday’s session feeling pretty overwhelmed – I’m a blogger and aspiring writer who had never even thought about approaching film before and with no experience other than watching films and one outing as an extra. Having said that, being thrown in at the deep end was fun and useful: I got experience being in front of the camera, an idea of what makes a good shot, and had a go at cutting/editing a scene.

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

Chris’ KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I first came into contact with the Media Centre through the Knowle West youth club in my mid teens. I began by attending little filmmakers nights and even made a small video at the Knowle West Health Park which was a very embarrassing parody of Men In Black! I was bullied throughout almost all of my school life, so in my later teens when it got so bad I refused to return to school, Carolyn [Hassan] and KWMC were able to step in and place me on extended work experience with them, where I began learning film editing and how to use several media packages in a professional environment such as Flash and Final Cut.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

It’s changed massively. When I first got involved with the project it was a small office in an old doctor’s surgery, now it has its own centre and has expanded massively.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

It has, it pulled me out of an awful situation, it helped me build my confidence and meet new people. It was also a stepping stone in to the media world which I found myself in later in life.

What other difference has KWMC made?

It’s been a while since I was really involved with KWMC, but when I was there KWMC was always involved in community projects. I remember SafeRoutes in particular which focused on bringing hazards and dangers to the council’s attention along several routes through Knowle West.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

I have many fond moments with KWMC, from my first time on a film set to boring poor Sandra [Youth Media Worker] to death recounting episodes of Dragon Ball Z! I certainly remember a trip to London to meet and look at another media group, I experienced my first time on a tube train and my very first Wagamamas meal! But I would say my favourite memory was hosting and entertaining a group of guests from Japan who didn’t speak much English, which was not only a real confidence booster for me, but also an extremely fun day! These and many other memories will stick with me forever, so thank you to Carolyn and KWMC for giving me that opportunity.


Chris Foster

Michael’s KWMC20 Story

We asked artist Michael Smith to reflect on his time at KWMC and he responded by creating five new pieces that mix hand-drawn characters and computer illustration. Can you spot some familiar faces alongside Michael’s alter ego The Dark Fox?

Gallery


Story and artwork by Michael Smith, artist

Iman’s KWMC20 Story

When did you first come to Knowle West Media Centre and what did you do?

I came to KWMC in February 2016. I was the communications co-ordinator for the project Change Creators.

How do you think KWMC has changed during the time you’ve known us?

I only worked at KWMC for 10 weeks, however in this time there were always new projects taking place, exciting events happening, there was never a dull moment and the centre was always changing. Since leaving it’s been easy to keep up to date with everything going on at the centre via social media and the website and I’m always excited to see what’s new and what opportunities I can share with other young people I know.

Has KWMC made a difference to you?

KWMC has made a huge difference in my life. Not only was this the first time I was able to work within my studied field of media, I was also able to gain knowledge from graphic designers, artists, film editors and directors, creative tech technicians, communications officers, and other young people with bright ideas and passionate views. I got to work alongside incredibly talented and creative people and each day was filled with new and innovative discussions.

What are your favourite KWMC memories?

I have many but a few that stand out to me are: the sometimes heated but fair debates me and other staff members had in the office, it was great to be in an environment where people were open to different views and took your opinions or experiences into account. The trip to Barcelona with the Change Creators was definitely three days to be remembered. Although I was there to help document the journey and assist in making the weekend run smoothly, I also learned so much from the speakers and sessions at the Barcelona Fab Lab and came home with a whole new understanding of technology. I would also like to mention my last day, where I had a true KWMC send-off with lots of tea and cake. Although I was only at the centre for 10 weeks, it took me about 10 minutes to feel right at home.


Iman Abu Saleh, communications intern for Change Creators project

Ruth’s KWMC20 Story

What was your earliest involvement with KWMC?

I like to think that I was there at the very beginning, because I managed the project which employed [KWMC Director] Carolyn to do a photography project in Filwood Community Centre, right at the very start of the whole thing.

How did that come about?

That was in the very early days – arts and health now is kind of a known type of work, but back then, which was the [late 80s], arts and health was quite new, in terms of people thinking about using the arts to support people’s health and wellbeing…There were two health promotion officers who were really supportive of the arts and they had some money to put into doing three pilot projects and one was at Filwood Community Centre with Carolyn…

What different do you think KWMC has made to the community?

I think it’s about having something…that’s grown and been very embedded, and that people have literally grown up with.  So the fact that people have engaged with it at different points in their lives and that that has affected them…just that ownership. 

Has KWMC had any impact on you over the years?

[KWMC has been] just a really good example of really high quality work in a local community, that’s both embedded in that community but also has that real, far-reaching vision and impact. So I think it’s seeing that it can work. I think [with] so much of what used to be called ‘community arts’ and ‘arts and social context’…you might get the really good participation or you might get the really good high-quality outcomes, but you don’t necessarily get both.  I think that’s what Knowle West Media Centre does, it does both. And that’s because it’s about looking out and getting artists in and being prepared to always think ahead and be ahead of the game, and look at the context of people’s lives and doing things that aren’t separate to the context of people’s lives.

Have you got any favourite memories?

We did the [Demanding Conversations] conference – that was amazing, that was exciting.  Getting some really top names like Jude Kelly, Matthew Taylor, Dame Baroness Young, coming and having a really good, intense kind of debate, discussions about socially engaged practice means.  That was a fantastic event and everyone was very positive – quite often at those kind of events people moan and you don’t feel there’s really a chance to talk and thrash through issues, but I felt that we did it in such a way that there was that opportunity.

Now we all just talk about big data, don’t we?  It’s just a given, it’s out there in the public realm.  But how long ago was [Whose Data]?  Six, seven years ago, when it wasn’t [public] and people were all like, ‘what is this thing about big data?  I don’t get it?’ And the fact that we got such a good response to the call-out.

…If you think of all the artists that have worked with you over the years and how that has affected their practice…it’s those ripples isn’t it? I think that’s what we often forget as people that are producing, managing, it’s very easy to forget the effect they have, long-term, on all sorts of other people in different ways.  And you can only do that when you look back.


Ruth Hecht, grant manager for the 1996 photography project that developed into Knowle West Media Centre

Emma’s KWMC20 Story

My enduring relationship with Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) started in the early 00’s when I was a young mum studying media at university. I specialised in video production and made a social justice piece that attracted the attention of one my technical instructors. She had worked with KWMC and saw parallels between its ethos and the social interest documentary video work I was becoming passionate about. She connected us, and for that I will always be grateful.

There are key words that, for me, embody my experiences and memories of KWMC. One is ‘opportunity’. Being a rookie video maker, fresh out of university, chances to initiate and develop your professional skills and expertise are hard to come by. Add to this [that] I had family responsibilities to juggle so I needed flexible opportunities.

In those days, KWMC was a small outfit (relative to now). It was sited in the old health centre building which offered a base for its burgeoning activities. The building was pretty rough around the edges but people that worked there were resourceful. Everyone made the best of it, and through the vision and tireless optimism of [KWMC Director] Carolyn and [Assistant Director] Penny, and the commitment and dedication of their team, better resources and facilities, and even an entire new building, would later come.

Back then, video production meant being a one-person band, shooting and editing a video solo without the luxury of a crew. That also meant all the responsibility for the resulting output firmly rested on your shoulders! I was effectively a newbie and yet, despite that, Penny had enough faith to send me off into the community to make films that had been commissioned by local service providers. I very much appreciate that Penny and Carolyn affirmed my potential but moreover I think that they recognised my interest and enthusiasm in engaging with people on their own terms, reflecting the kind of values KWMC embodies.

The first few projects I did with KWMC taught me an immense amount, both technically and artistically, and in terms of the nature of community work. I was hooked by the creativity of the work and the authenticity of working with groups in a participatory way. I had an existing connection to the area through my daughter’s paternal family, who have lived in Knowle West for decades. However, as my work with KWMC grew, through various projects, I got to know more about people living in the area and could see the positive impact that engagements with the organisation had.

As KWMC grew, so did I. The opportunities to develop professionally kept coming, camera work, editing, producing, directing and then I started to help young people there to learn the skills I had developed, by facilitating youth media projects. I have worked with many inspirational people at KWMC but no account of my history there would be complete without mentioning [KWMC Youth Media Worker] Sandra, a staunch youth worker, who I had the pleasure of working alongside on many occasions. She is a local and understood better than most people what kinds of issues and challenges young people in the area face. Her care for young people’s wellbeing and her relatability made her exceptional.

So, in effect, I started to become a media educator as well as a creative practitioner. Prompted by this shift and by a desire to push myself further in terms of my own education, I decided to do a part-time masters degree in media at the London Institute of Education. All of my fellow students were working in school settings and I was rather an anomaly as a community based media practitioner. I didn’t even like the sound of being a teacher or educator at the time because it felt too hierarchical. I just felt like I was helping people to learn! But anyway, I tried to use what I was studying through the degree to become a better youth media facilitator and KWMC was wholly supportive of that ambition.

The communities of Knowle West have long been of interest to universities seeking to research the area’s historical association with multiple deprivation and marginalisation.  KWMC has always insisted, nay demanded, that it is not willing to collude with researchers that parachute in to ‘research’ ‘the community’ for their own gains. Such a fish bowl approach undermines its fundamental tenet of relationship building and the need to develop trust as an underpinning to operating effectively and authentically as a community organisation – doing with people, not to people. Therefore, it was completely fitting that KWMC went on to form a partnership with the University of the West of England to collaborate in a successful funding bid for a doctorate that would enable research that was based and rooted IN the community, looking into young people’s creative practices with new technologies. The importance of this collaborative research was that it recognised KWMC as an equal partner in the process rather than as simply as a connecting or intermediary organisation.

Given my longstanding relationship with KWMC, my interest in youth media work, and having recently finished my masters, I successfully applied for the PhD research role that the bid enabled (presenting yet another opportunity!) Carolyn was my research supervisor, alongside my academic supervisor, and I spent several years doing research based at KWMC. I worked using participatory approaches to involve young people in the research process, reflecting KWMC’s core principle of active community participation. It was an invaluable experience.

After finishing the research and gaining my doctorate, opportunities started to arise for university teaching and research, building on my community media knowledge and expertise. Higher education is the world I occupy now for the most part, and I have, in many ways, come ‘full circle’. I now teach on the degree course which succeeded the one I completed 14 years ago. I am teaching a new generation of media practitioners and producers (some of whom will hopefully work in community media) and I still have a tangible connection to KWMC because it’s one of those special places that never leaves you or you it. I have taken students there to learn about the innovative work it does and, post-doc, I have been involved in further research with KWMC, again, around young people’s creative media work.

I do, in the context of working in higher education, allow myself to use the term teaching to describe what I do. However, I continue to apply the principles of community media work, fashioned in the bosom of KWMC, and I always will. This means mobilising another key descriptor of the organisation, the notion of ‘relationship’, which refers to the importance of building equitable and respecting relationships as the basis for engaging in meaningful developmental processes – social, cultural and educational. In fact, this is possibly the greatest and most productive asset anyone can bring to bear to such work.

KWMC values people and people value it. Carolyn is a visionary leader, steering the organisation to incredible achievements, with the support of her amazing team. Her humility and her tenacity in the process of that journey are admirable. Knowle West Media Centre has been a positive touchstone in my life, and I have seen it be so for countless others.  Therefore, I am truly glad that, after 20 thriving years, it continues to act as a pioneering force for good.


Emma Agusita, media educator and creative practitioner
Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
Bristol
BS4 1NL
+44 (0) 117 903 0444
enquiries@kwmc.org.uk

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