Over the last few years the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures has run a series of participatory arts projects to support marginalised communities to advocate for change in their lives. This story gives a flavour of some of the projects we've been involved with and where we are going with this work.
All this activity began with the 'Screening European Heritage' project. This was an AHRC Care for the Future project looking at the ways in which historical dramas across Europe reflect, and generate, debates about history, heritage and national identity. It was led by Paul Cooke and Rob Stone.
The project looked at a wide range of films across Europe. We were consulted by the government on the relationship of film to national identity, tourism and 'soft power'.
As a result of the 'Screening European Heritage' Project, we were invited to spend a week working with young people from Leeds, East Germany and West Germany at the former main prison of the East German Secret Police. We explored the way Germany's difficult past is represented on TV and cinema screens and what lessons can be learnt from the period of history for young people today. We worked with the British Film Institute Academy, Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin e. V. and Bautzen memorial to make a series of short films about the issues we discussed.
This project gave rise to other research projects for the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures.
This is the Yarn story that gives an overview of the work we did on our AHRC project, using digital tools to explore 'difficult heritage'. This included exploring the legacy of the Holocaust, difficult child birth and PTSD.
These projects led to further work with different communities, looking at how digital tools can be used to help them explore difficult historical questions and how they relate to their lives today.
In South Africa we also began to work with the Bishop Simeon Trust and Themba Interactive to use filmmaking and other artistic practices to support the young and vulnerable people they support across Gauteng to raise awareness of the issues that they face in their daily lives. This became the #Changing the Story project that we continue to work on today.
The first of these used YARN to work together with BST, Themba and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Foundation to explore the implications of xenophobia for the young people they support in their 'Safe Parks'.
This work continues to grow, and we've received funding for 2 more AHRC projects connected to our work with Themba and Bishop Simeon Trust. These project are part of the broader Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), set up by the UK government to support international development.
The second of our GCRF projects saw our participatory arts programme expand to work with groups in India (led by Will Gould) and Brazil (led by Stephanie Dennison). The particular focus was on the privileged place historical dramas made for the large and small screen frequently have in 'nation-branding' exercises. The project began with an investigation of how all three nations use their history as an important asset within their 'soft power' strategies, focussing in particular on the instrumentalisation of film in each country.
The project then worked with international development agencies to explore how these national narratives are experienced by some of the most marginalised groups within these societies. Through a process of co-production the project team made a series of video responses by these groups to the way their nations' histories are presented to the world. The purpose of the videos was be to support these groups to reflect upon their place in society, allowing them to contextualize their struggles globally by learning from the experience of our other case studies, and to develop awareness-raising campaigns.
At the start of 2017 we organised a seminar looking at the role of participatory arts in development, as part of our GCRF work and to explore future ideas.
This event was part of a number of workshop run by CWCDC during 2016-17, looking at how digital technologies are opening up communication possibilities for some communities, while closing them off for others.
More recently our work has developed still further. We just been awarded some further GCRF funding to work on a participatory filmmaking project in Nepal. This will use filmmaking to support communities to find solutions to the wide-spread misuse of antibiotics across the country.