Knowle West Media Centre meets Denise Britt

Written by Roz on 13 Feb, 07
Focus on city challenges World-class connectivity

2 November 2006

I met with Denise Britt. Denise told me about having taken part in a digital storytelling project with KWMC. Denise said that she had made a digital story based on why she started doing volunteer work. The story was about her life and the impact that volunteering has had on her. Denise explained that she started doing volunteer work to help people who needed help. The first thing she did was to raise money for someone with Cerebral Palsy to fund a trip for him to go to the Peto institute in Hungary. The visit to the Peto Institute was intended to aid the boy in learning to walk and it was quite successful as he did learn to walk. Denise explained how she had done the fundraising with a friend of hers and how they had organised an event in a room at the City ground on valentine day and evening. This event raised money, as did an event at the Venture when there was also a fun day at the front of the school by The Venture, which included an auction, a sports event for young people and a disco in the evening. This event raised about £2000.

Denise told me how this initial fundraising experience led her to get more involved in things happening on the estate. She explained that she also was involved in setting up Knowle West Against Drugs (KWADs) because her son was a drug user. Since then she has been involved in lots of organisations. She is now heavily involved in neighbourhood renewal and has been involved in this since the beginning. She said that this work is hard at times because it is hard to understand what it is we are trying to do, especially when Government guidelines keep on changing. She said that it can therefore become quite frustrating, and even more so when interventions are short circuited due to short term funding. Denise said that the limitations placed on work, by short term funding, mean that its difficult to ever achieve anything meaningful and that even three year funding isn’t really long enough because by the time something is set up and established it comes to an end. She said that for it to be effective funding needs to be for at least five years. She reiterated the frustration that short term funding causes.

Denise then talked about her digital story, telling me that it was entitled ‘My Journey’. The story was about how Denise has moved on over the years, whilst her son has stayed in the same place. She said that she found it a very good thing to do and that she thought many people, especially if they have a story to tell would find it valuable. She said that people might want to do digital storytelling to have a nice record for themselves of their story. She added that she has used her story for different things, for example, she has used it educationally to show how she learned to do voluntary work, and has found that the story within the piece of work engages people.

Denise told me that she was one of six people who made digital stories at the same time. She said that it was very interesting to see the different stories that people told and how they came out of it.

Denise said that she gives a lot of talks in schools and prisons and other contexts, around being the parent of a drug user and how drug addiction affects the family. She said that the DVD of her story articulates something of this experience and so it has been a useful resource in these contexts. Denise said that many people could get a lot of use out of digital storytelling, especially young people.

Denise added that her story also articulates the impact, of the things she has done as a volunteer, on her. She said that the story is about the effect volunteering has had on her, and how going to different places to give talks has affected her.

Denise said that she was amazed at how much she got done in a limited amount of time when making her digital story. She added that she was really pleased with the final outcome and hadn’t expected it to end up being as good as it was and that it was really good.

Denise said that the story was the main thing she had done, digitally. She said that she uses a computer, for email and things like that, but she doesn’t really feel like she really understands it or knows much about it.

Denise suggested a need for showcase type events, so that people can find out what you can do with digital technology. She said that she has a digital camera and that she can put her photos onto her computer but that this is all she knows about it, and she doesn’t really know what else to do with it. Therefore, she said, it would be really useful to see examples of what you can do with it, such as the things you can do to a photograph once it’s in the computer. She said that at the moment her photos just sit on the comouter and that she doesn’t do anything with them.

Denise then talked about Knowle West and how there is so much going on that you don’t ever know half of what is going on. She said that therefore it would be very useful if there were ways in which digital technology could address this need for greater communication. Denise said that although there is some stuff on line about what’s happening there is the need for more.

Densie said that she thought digital technology could be useful in getting more people involved in things that are going on. For example, to get more parents involved in the parent’s group at the school, and to get more women along to the women’s group which meets on Wednesday evenings. Denise said that some of the women who go to the women’s group have been to KWMC and have been involved in different projects there.

Denise said that she thought there would be great value in KWMC showing more people the sorts of things they can do with digital technology, because not many people realise what you can do with it, for example, how you can make a story with images and everything and save it to DVD. She said that she thought there was no age limit on this and that people of all ages just don’t realise the possibilities there are in using digital technology.

Denise then talked about KWMC’s new building and suggested that it would be good if someone made a digital story about that; about how it has come about and developed, how decisions have been made and what has happened behind the scenes to make it happen and how it is built.

Denise then said that, with this example, as with most others, we are often too busy doing the thing to be able to think about it. She said that making a story about the thing we have done is a chance to think about it as well as being a chance to get other people to think about it.

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