Heritage Lottery Fund: Young Roots

We have traveled up, down and across the country making a recent set of videos. These videos were commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund to promote their funding programme called Young Roots.

The heart of Young Roots is the young people who have the ideas, run the projects and gain a whole range of skills and qualifications along the way. To make sure that we were really going to be speaking to our target audience we had a number of consultations with a group of young people who gave us their very knowledgeable and sharp insights into this process.

The young people we met and worked with did a fantastic job of informing and invigorating our approach to the videos. Their discussion of heritage and how to present ideas of heritage was essential in helping us develop the concept for the our initial video. We call it, This is Mine.

After the consultations were complete we went out to visit projects in Newcastle, Forfar (in Scotland), Cardiff and Brixton, London. We had read through a wide variety of projects that we could visit and sadly there were so many that we wanted to visit but restrictions meant we had to limit our visits.

We started in Newcastle and were just as excited as the group we were scheduled to meet:

We began walking along the Tyne to get some establishing shots and then walked through town up towards Circus Central and were really taken by the city which neither of us had ever visited before.

When we arrived at the old church that houses Circus Central the group really got our filming for this project off to a bang. Juggling, headstands, unicycles and fancy dress were all de rigueur for the day. These guys were so mature and clearly passionate and excited about their wonderful project it was a real pleasure to film them. After visiting the Discovery Museum and Tyne and Wear Archives we finished the day on a moor just outside the city getting some wonderful action shots that can be seen in the This is Mine video.

Our second visit was up in Scotland and, for a project about Heritage, it was particularly poignant that we were visiting Forfar. The town where my father and grandfather had both been born. Forfar is a small town surrounded by beautiful Scottish countryside.

We walked along the shores of a loch and climbed hills before finally dropping in to meet the gang of young weavers at the PitStop Youth Cafe. The atmosphere at PitStop was very friendly and we immediately felt welcome. It felt like a very open environment where everyone was allowed to make themselves at home and offers of food and cups of tea were plenty. We arrived, it has to be said, with some trepidation as to how excited young people might be about weaving but again we had underestimated these young people. Their passion and enthusiasm was infectious. They showed off their weaving skills, gave us a historical tour of Forfar before taking us to the hidden Angus Archives in the grounds of a ruined church.

Before leaving Scotland I managed to have a brief visit with my dad and grandfather to discuss their memories of Forfar and touch on my own heritage as part of this journey.

It wasn’t long once we got back to London before we were off to Cardiff to film at Cardiff Story Museum and Butetown Youth Pavilion. As with Newcastle our tour through city really took us by surprise, not just the glorious weather that we were very lucky to have but the vibrancy and excitement of the city. Sadly my phone was broken that day so there were no Cardiff tweets despite filming the Castle and Millennium stadium before even getting to the Butetown Pavilion..

We were warned that filming at the Pavilion on this evening might be difficult as it was a girl only evening and we wouldn’t be able to move freely through the building as it was a safe environment for young Muslim women. We were welcomed very warmly and if there were concerns about having two men roaming their corridors they were mostly hidden from us. We were limited for time so flitted between rooms filming art work, group leaders, articulate and funny young women, a small fashion house and an editing suite. We left Butetown to the sounds of laughter and with a clear sense of the excitement and sense of achievement these women had from working on a project with such a broad scope.

Back in London it was a very odd experience to just jump on a number 37 bus to visit visit our next HLF project in Brixton at the Photofusion gallery.

The work of this Organised Youth group was very moving. Their review of the Black Panther UK movement was clearly personal but also grasped the wider ramifications of that work and it was wonderful to see young people tackling these issues in a modern context. We met three young men who gave us a tour of their exhibition, talked us through how they had achieved  their goals and then took us up on to the roof of the gallery to let us look down over Brixton Village. It was a really great to be able to leave one of the projects and be able to recommend the output from the young people to my local friends as something that was really worth a visit. Even better is that I know some people did visit and loved their exhibition.

Once filming was complete we had a great deal of footage because everyone had such great positive and meaningful things to tell us but it had to edit down to three short videos. This took a great deal of honing and trimming and once those first drafts were complete we shared them with our Young Media Consultants again and with HLF. A little bit of back and forth between all interested parties has honed these fantastic projects down to these videos. The first focuses on the young people and their journeys while the second is targeted more at youth and heritage leaders who need to be on board to support young people through these projects.

Thank you to everyone involved for an amazing, eye opening experience throughout the project.

Young Roots — Young People

Young Roots — Group Leaders

HLF: The Family La Bonche

We have been engaged by Heritage Lottery Fund to create a series of videos to promote their
#YoungRoots funding stream. You can read more about the programme on the HLF Young Roots web page.

Our filming strategy to create three different videos involves visiting a tiny fraction of the projects that are currently happening across the UK and our first stop was with The Family La
Bonche in Newcastle. They are a young circus group working with Circus Central who were just as excited about us coming as we were about getting to visit them:

This was the first time either of us had been to Newcastle and to say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The city is beautiful and the riverfront in particular is spectacular.

Newcastle

It manages to feel both large and compact all at the same time with culture round every corner. We spent a good couple of hours filming some location shots of this beautiful city before meeting up with the La Bonches around lunchtime. We walked in on trapeze acts, juggling, and uni-cycling.

LaBonche

It was a real pleasure to meet this group of young people, who really stretched the entire age range of the Young Roots age range 11-25. They are so passionate about their chosen discipline. They had endless energy to repeat tricks and seemed to enjoy impressing us as much as we enjoyed being stunned by their skills.

Lunch was delivered by unicycle, naturally, and juice was balanced on heads before we headed off to the wonderful Discovery Museum which is home to the Tyne and Wear Archives, the partner organisation the group had been working with.

Archives

They have been looking into the local archives of circus and fairground memorabilia collected by Arthur Fenwick, the son of a local businessman who had started Fenwicks department stores, after he had returned to the family business following a few years of having run off to the circus: something these young people could easily connect with. Their enthusiasm for circus was such that the archives could never have been boring to them but were instead a treasure trove of heritage and stories. These stories were pouring out of everyone and sadly we already know that very few can make it into our final films.

Once we had finished looking around the archives and learning about women who went shopping with their live pet crocodiles once upon a time in Newcastle (True Story) we juggled and stilt walked back to minibus and headed out to the countryside to a beautiful moor just outside the city limits which is the traditional home of visiting circuses and there we filmed some lovely shots of the young people engaging in their chosen skills. They never failed to impress and kept raising the bar so we got some fantastic footage and had a wonderful day with this family of entertainers who have an amazing Young Roots project and very bright futures.

Horniman Museum: The Great Walrus Move

This week we have have had many early mornings and late nights filming and editing a one tonne over stuffed Walrus that is over 120 years old. He is the focus piece in the Horniman Museum‘s Natural History Gallery but this summer he is on loan to Turner Contemporary in Margate for an exhibition called Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing.

WalrusHead

The video is just over two minutes long but because it’s in time lapse it covers three full working days of material.

We started by going in a few days early to his spit and polish so that he would be leaving looking his best. There was a very surreal moment when Christopher Biggins arrived to take a couple of shots of the walrus and then disappeared again. Nobody seemed to know why and the museum wasn’t even open yet. Anyway the walrus looked very clean and relaxed at the end of that day.

On Monday we did arrive at what we thought was a “very early” 0715hrs to begin filming his departure but contractors and museum staff had been in since 6am to prepare for the moment everyone was very anxious about. Lifting the one tonne gentleman over the cabinets by way of a winch. We did question why they couldn’t just move the cabinets but turns out that the beautiful Victorian casing is much more problematic to move than an overstuffed walrus.

There was a lot of excitement in the air, with a slight hint of nervous tension, and there was a lot of interest surrounding the fact that he was getting x-rayed before he left. Apparently this is the first time he has ever had his insides examined. I overheard two Natural History curators casually discussing if they thought any of his bones were still inside. They both agreed that his skull and flipper bones must be there as the shape of them was accurate compared to his over stuffed body. They were of course proved correct. I love it when people obviously know what they are talking about. Expertise at work!

To create the sliding effect whilst maintaining the time lapse effect can be done with a very expensive piece of equipment or with a lot of patience. On this occasion we went with patience. We placed the camera on our slider and moved the slider a quarter of a centimetre every three seconds. The result is a dynamic and fluid shot.

This is why when the moment came for the walrus to fly over the cabinets I missed the whole thing. I was fully focused on moving the camera a solid quarter centimetre. I managed to get a look of his while he was suspended in the air which was rather awe inspiring. There was a palpable sense of relief when he touched the ground again and applause spontaneously erupted for all those involved. It was a great job, well done and exactly to plan.

Heave! Have you ever seen a Walrus fly?
Heave! Have you ever seen a Walrus fly?

After a little bit of crating he was allowed an early night because the next day he was wrapped up, padded and battened into his crate for the journey to Margate. He looked rather peaceful and we decided he looked like he was going to Margate for a spa treatment. His crate was then fully closed up and he was left in isolation.

The next morning was another very early start and we all hung around in the gardens waiting for his grand exit. The conditions were arctic, perhaps to make him feel more at home, and after waiting for some time he was lifted into the lorry very quickly and easily.

See you back at the Horniman in September!
See you back at the Horniman in September!

We thought we had very little time to get into position to see him leave the site so dashed off but in reality everyone else went off for a cup of tea and we stood on the south circular in rush hour traffic in windy and cold conditions waiting for everyone to return. In minutes it was all over and off he went to Margate.

You can read more on the Horniman’s own “live blog” of the events and their very interesting The Great Walrus Move Storify of tweets and instagrams.

Story of the move is also on the Telegraph, ITV, Londonist and many other websites. He even made it on to BBC South East news. What a celebrity.

Horniman: Museum of the Year Finalist

Following the Horniman being announced as a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year award we were asked to come in on Thursday and get a flavour of their visitors’ reaction to the news and we had a really great time.

We spoke to all sorts of visitors: some on their first visit, families who go two or three times a week, people who have been visiting for 60 years or more, teenagers, toddlers, parents, grandparents and people from all over the world.

The message was clear; people really love the museum and gardens. They use it to research design, culture, to learn about animals, entertain children, engage in art activities, to enjoy the gardens, to listen to music both indoors and out…  the reasons are endless and different to each person or group we spoke to. We asked visitors to sum up the Horniman in one word and here are a few of the things they said:

Horniman words2

Video coming soon…

Good Luck Horniman!

On a side note, we also took these pictures when we popped into the aquarium at the end of the day:

Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish

Horniman Museum: Collections People Stories: Meet the Team

Recently I did some filming for a “Behind the Scenes” look at the Horniman‘s Collection People Stories project.

I was keen to do this as the project is very large and we have heard several times at events we were filming just how many people were working on the project but I think it can be difficult to grasp who they are and what they are doing, as well as to some extent why they are doing it from a distance. So we got up close but not too personal.

I was welcomed to the Museum’s store which is where all the objects not on display are held. As you walk in it feels quite cramped as the ceilings are fairly low in the stairwell and leading into the staffroom. I arrived in time to sit on (and film clips of) a catch up meeting for people involved in the project. This was very interesting as it let me get a bit of an insight into how they worked, communicated and kept links with the Forest Hill site where the curators etc are based.

When I was taken into the stores it was a very different environment to the offices and galleries in Forest Hill. There were cases for mummies, buddha statues and boxes beyond boxes of objects in large halls. Off the main halls were rooms with Victorian cabinet cases in them. In the middle of one of the halls a special office and photography studio had been set up and this was where I began my main filming.

Cases and cabinets and drawers...
Cases and cabinets and drawers…

I interview Kirsten Walker, Director of Collections Management & Special Projects, who is overseeing the whole project with Dr Sarah Byrne who appears in several of the CPS videos. She gave me an overview and then let me talk to (a different) Sarah and Rachel who were part of one team doing, what they called, The Physical Review.

The Physical Review, in many ways, could be seen as quite mundane and repetitive as they have to go through many boxes each day and review: look at, check and photograph many objects. Luckily these guys are precise, love objects and are working with a fascinating collection. I was only there briefly and saw a range of Hindu amulets and figures that were gorgeous but I wasn’t allowed to touch them as I didn’t have gloves on.

It is also these guys who are often responsible for many of the objects found on the very popular blog the review has on Tumblr. Do take a look!

Then I spoke to the Project Photographer, Dani, who explained all the various kinds of photography the project involves, she showed off her whizz Photoshop skills and I was fascinated watching her climb up and down the huge trolley which she has set up, surrounded by boxes of artifacts, to photograph large objects from above.

I filmed a conservator repairing a broken boar’s tusk charm, documentation managers and the collection manager, who I managed to track down and interview in the Armour store. While I was there I got some quick snaps of a Suit of Armour, poking out from under a dust sheet and the spears which were the backdrop to our interview.

A very traditionalyl museumy room
A very traditionally museumy room

I spoke to the Deputy Natural History curator, Paulo, who explained how he had assisted his colleagues on the anthropology review by identifying the skull of a vulture that was part of a Nigerian charm. I had actually seen the charm on the tumblr page already:

Click on the pic to read the posts on the tumblr page
Click on the pic to read the posts on the tumblr page

In person though I was really impressed by the size of it which I hadn’t really appreciated from the tumblr page. Paulo showed me a variety of skulls from Birds of Prey in a room full of deer heads and horns. This is him holding the charm and, for reference, he has big hands.

Click on pic to link to hear more from Paolo on theHorniman tumblr
Click on pic to link to hear more from Paolo on the Horniman tumblr

It was a great day full of some very interesting sights and passionate people.

* * *

There were more passionate people when Chris and I visited the Museum again the following week to interview the Anthropology curators who are heavily involved in the review.

They were all absolutely fascinating and clearly really enjoying the project and having the luxury of time and resources to re-evaluate the fantastic collection in their care. We got philosophical but also I wanted to try and eek out of them the practicalities of what being a curator is, which I hope I managed to some extent… I certainly felt that I left with a better impression of what that day-to-day role is.

We spent a lot of time walking up and down a warren of offices with piles of papers, folders and precariously balanced objects (ok, not so precariously balanced!) . Messages of respect for the objects’ cultures of origin were clear from everyone and as was a shared inquisitive character. A common sense of cultural exploration and a hope that anthropology and museums can really help people try to see the world in a new way seemed to be at the forefront of their minds.

It was fascinating and exciting to hear them talk about how this was possible and I fear if I say anymore I shall start to spoil the video which will be coming soon!