30: six short films about ritual
In January 2015 six students from Leeds Beckett University met up with six family groups located in the South Leeds area to begin a film project that had been in the starting gate for some time. In close collaboration with Alan Dunn of Leeds Beckett, BasementArtsProject has been facilitating a project that looks at community engagement and the idea of promoting not just art, but the idea of art education to members of the South Leeds community.
Our remit was to create an opportunity for students and members of the community to engage in a project that would allow them to experience something of each other’s lives in the process creating an artwork. Through this the idea of a film project was born. The process of filmmaking brought together two very different groups of individuals, who were able to engage with an idea and learn from one another. The students discovered about long-standing local communities and the kind of issues surrounding life in South Leeds whilst the community members gained practical experience within a University environment.
Early on the morning of Sunday 18th January: Cressida Barrett, Leah O Connell, Annabel Crosby, Kirsty Doyle, Beccie Dyson and Rhianna Mayhew, all students of BA Hon Fine Art at Leeds Beckett University headed out to Beeston, South Leeds for a rendezvous with six family groups from the area. Undeterred by the frost covered early start, our students and families spent a couple of hours together as they prepared to film a small snapshot of daily life over the course of a half hour period. The end films will look at ritual and the instances of ritual in daily life, observed not only from the outside but also from within. This sort of film often leans towards a documentary style but the intention here was to move towards the realm of art film – whilst acknowledging the documentary nature of its beginnings. The film takes several different viewpoints all of which begin at the same time, 9.30am, as people are preparing to head out and meet the day. Over the course of half an hour the students interacted and filmed the activities of the Jeffers family, Kathryn and Geoffrey Elliott, Julian Lake and Claire Bentley-Smith and their respective families. These vignettes were supplemented by a part improvised, part scripted journey through Beeston led by Ewan and Zoe Mitchell. The footage was created using a mixture of professional cameras and audio recording devices alongside more commonly available technology such as I-phones and I-pads, the idea being to promote the textural qualities of film alongside the more conventional aspects. In the process the segments were filmed from multiple viewpoints encouraging family members to take part in the act of filming as well.
In the next stage of the process members of the community were invited to take part in a somewhat mammoth day of editing at Leeds Beckett University. Along with Senior lecturer Dr Alan Dunn and Jimi Lund, members of the family groups from the community dropped in throughout the day and worked with the students on piecing together a series of short films from the amassed footage, somewhere in the region of nine hours-worth, generated during that one half an hour session on a Sunday morning. In the process of garnering engagement from the community an interesting cross section of individuals emerged; this ranged from the purely curious through to the professional practicing artist. In finding such a diverse group with the willingness to think, act and work together, an unexpected narrative starts to emerge, one that sheds new light through old windows, suggesting different avenues, fresh strategies and possibilities for future engagement. Over the course of the next few months the finishing touches will be added to the films and private screenings will take place to allow for conversations surrounding the outcome of the project. Once this has happened the decisions will be made as to where and how the first screenings of these works will take place. In doing so the emphasis will remain as it has from the very outset of this project on the confluence of background, experience, diversity and education. We shall report further on this project nearer the time of the screenings in June.
This project was made possible through the efforts of Deborah Davies of BasementArtsProject in securing the funding through the Community Development Fund and that of Dr Alan Dunn and Marion Harrison of BA Hons Fine Art at Leeds Beckett University
We would also like to thank the following people for their involvement in the project and for taking the time out of their schedules to work with us
Cressida Barrett, Claire Bentley-Smith & Lincoln, Leah O Connell, Annabel Crosby, Kirsty Doyle, Beccie Dyson, Kathryn & Geoffrey Elliott, The Jeffers Family, Alistair Kaye, Julian Lake & Family, Jimi Lund, Rhianna Mayhew and Zoe & Ewan Mitchell