I had seen a sign in Filwood Hope as I knew I liked writing and reading and people had told me I should try journalism. It was at the Knowle West Development Trust and there was the youth club Mouth Of The South, and I still have all the copies [of the newsletter] at home… I joined on issue 2! It was the summer of 1999 I think. I remember [KWMC Director] Carolyn taking me into her office and I thought it was really fancy – but it was a darkroom behind a gym … She gave me a camera and she told me to have a go and play with it and then she taught me how to use it. And then I went on to [do] lots of photography [at] the Knowle West Carnival and I loved photographing that, it was the best thing ever.
I remember when it changed from project to a centre, it felt more everlasting, it wasn’t something that was going to be pulled away at any moment and that was good cus I felt like that it would be there to support me to develop my career. And when it moved from Filwood Community Centre to the old doctor’s surgery, and the article in the Guardian ‘How The Westers Won’. It was funny as before I was always in the doctor’s when I was sick but then I was going for a completely different, good reason. [KWMC Youth Media Worker] Sandra’s office was the midwife’s room. It was quirky to be in that space – odd but interesting.
…I met Jo Hansford, a photographer, and she took over Mouth of the South and it became so fantastic: she was really good at what she did and she worked with Carolyn, part of the KW Media Project. She organized us to go to Portugal and that changed me. After that trip I could see my photography had changed and become better and when we came back we had an exhibition and it was the first time I’d done something I was really proud of and I could say ‘I did that’. [It] made me realize I wanted to go somewhere, travel, do something; up to that point I’d never left the estate. After college I got an apprenticeship here and I was able to do a lot of photography and journalism and a bit of graphic design and it showed me I was a creative person.
It changed me because Carolyn and other people invested time in me and it was the first time anyone had ever done that for me: showed me how to do things. Getting the apprenticeship for two years gave me the confidence to reapply to university after at first not getting into my choice of university and feeling stranded. I felt it liked I owed it to myself to go to university and I studied English because of all the journalism stuff I’d done when I was younger. Jo Hansford got me [a] work placement at The Evening Post and Venue Magazine and I knew I wanted to do journalism. The Evening Post people told me that none of the staff had degrees in Journalism but in other topics so I decided to do English.
I took photos for the University newspaper: hundreds of people wanted to do it and applied, and I was worried cus I sounded different. I was also doing photos of weddings to pay to get through uni, so I did the photos as more people wanted to do the writing, plus I had my own equipment already, which I’d got through KWMC social enterprise funding – they helped me raise the money.
…All the people that worked at KWMC made such a difference to my life and I just wanted to give that back as a teacher. I started teaching kids that reminded me of Knowle West: I did photography with them, and I had a book that was really good called Open the Curriculum through Photography, and so I volunteered with these kids not in mainstream school, and then I got a job at the school as a teaching assistant, while I was still at uni. I was studying Shakespeare and that what they were learning in the class! So I was at uni Monday and Tuesday, school Wednesday to Friday, photography weekends. I always had loads of jobs even when I was a kid!
Having this building in the area is better. Since having this building different people have come into the area that have never come into the area (except for that time the reporter came from the Guardian). And having rooms to rent bring new business in the area and people getting to know the area. I know lots of people now who did photography courses here who still do that now…
[During] my apprenticeship there was a pot of money, 50k for a youth project in the UK. I was curious what Carolyn [was] doing and she was showed me she was filling in application forms for charity [funding] and that was a shock to me as I always saw her as the photography person…She showed [me] what she was filling in and how to do it, and so I asked if I could have a go, and she said ok…I gave the final content to Sandra to submit; it was really close to the deadline.
Then she got an email saying we got to the top 50. I thought ’50, that’s a lot!’…And then we got down to the last 20, then 5, and we had an interview in Ruthven Road (the temporary building): me, Sandra, Carolyn and the charity person.
…Then we waited months and months. One day Carolyn called us all in and told us we had it! We had a party down the health centre café. I was really proud of that.