Knowle West Media Centre meets James Edwards and Tony Monks

Written by Roz on 22 Jan, 07
Focus on city challenges World-class connectivity

15 November 2006

I met with James Edwards and Tony Monks. James is a Sports Development Officer and Tony is a Senior Sports Coach. Their jobs are about building relationships with disaffected young people using sport as a hook. However, their funding was originally focussed on sports activity, but due to changes in their funding they are now able to extend upon their remit, and therefore upon th type of work that they have already been doing using new media and linking with other local organisations and opportunities. James said that in effect, the way the funding is focussed has caught up with the way they were working, which is through a multi agency approach. He said that it is important that people work together to realise aims that are common, and that he has witnessed this happening increasingly in Knowle West, but that more support to ensure that it happens and to extend upon it was also important. James highlighted how, through working together, a range of interlinked opportunities and can be facilitated, sustaining involvement with local people and supporting them to develop their skills beyond one area or level. The more links there are the more able people are to identify the specific skills they want to realise and ways in which they can develop them.

James explained how he’d come to use new media through first using video. He explained how the young people he works with have made a video with him and KWMC called ‘Strength of Belief’ and that it is a very powerful film about a local football team who James works with. The video also maps the progress of the football team’s year. The team ended up getting to a final of a big tournament that was held at Bristol City Ground. James told me that there is a section at the beginning that is about setting the ground rules and that at the end young people talk about their experience, with one young man saying that what’s important is having a sense of belief, and trust in the (youth) workers. James explained that this is where the title comes from and how, by working in this way, whereby the title and the content of the film are led by the young people involved a meaningful involvement is established that can nurture a sustained engagement.

James told me that as a consequence of the success and impact of the work that he has done using video he now has an apple mac, which he uses to make CDs and DVDs about all sorts of things. For example, he told me about a project where ten young people from Knowle West and ten young people from St.Pauls, all with a love of football, have come together. He explained how this project has challenged the existing stereotypes the young people had of each other and how the group have, through their common interest in football, got on with each other and eventually realised that they face the same issues in life. The project was reported on local radio, which was a popular outcome for the groups involved who are consequently still in touch with each other. The young people involved spent a whole week with each other, spending some time in Knowle West and some time in St.Pauls. In this way they shared something of each other’s cultural experiences; for example the young people ate fish fingers, chips and beans in Knowle West and curried goat in St.Pauls. The project was called ‘breaking down barriers’, which, James said, is what it did.

James and Tony also told me about their work with young people on the verge of exclusion. They have worked with a core group of young people for ten weeks, outside of school, on a one to two or one to three ratio basis, to discuss the issues facing these young people and to facilitate relevant activities with them. This project is tied into the Respect campaign and James highlighted how the notion of respect was something the young people involved had not really considered before doing this work. James commented on the impact this work has had, simply by stimulating an opportunity for the young people involved to just sit down and think about respect. Digital media has been an important tool in this project also, as the young people have made films that have been put onto DVD about respect. In making the films the young people needed to consider what respect meant to them and how important it was for them to have respect from others.

James and Tony underlined how photography is a useful tool, but often photos taken are just put into a drawer and forgotten, whereas by using new media photographs can be used to create narratives. By including photos in multimedia work they are then used and seen more widely as they can be put onto DVD along with video, audio and text. James pointed out that one of the positive things about this is that young people appearing in such productions are often recognised by others as having been involved in or part of a dvd. He told me that this sense of recognition was very important for young people who he has worked with and it has positive impact on their sense of self worth.

James and Tony also pointed out how useful the dvd productions were in explaining their own role and the work they do with young people. The dvds that have been produced act to articulate and evidence what it is they do and the impact it can have.

Tony then talked about the idea of having a monthly newsletter that might realise a similar outcome, informing local people of the work they do and the opportunities that it stimulates for young people. He said that such a newsletter would benefit from having a dvd attached to it, and that the main content could be on the dvd. He talked about this being circulated widely, ideally to all homes in the area. We talked about Mouth of the South and how the newsletter might relate to it. James suggested that maybe there could be a dvd that goes into Mouth of the South every 3 months or so.

James then talked about other idea he has for more work using new media. Tony and James talked about the Nike advert, in which different people kick a football and as it goes out of shot, it comes into the next shot of a different person who then kicks the ball on. They talked about how this advert represents the way that football connects people globally. They talked about the idea of using this device to produce a video of Knowle west, whereby the viewer follows the football from one scene to another, each of which night depict a different area of activity within Knowle West; e.g. The health park, KWMC, restore, etc. They suggested that such a video would be an ideal way to celebrate, communicate and promote the work that goes on in Knowle West.

James added that video was a very useful tool for promoting their work when they need to represent it to different audiences. For example, when they go into schools to talk about what they do dvds are a valuable resource. They told me it would be great to extend upon this use of new media because there are things that they talk about in schools which are new to some young people and which would be more easily and widely understood if represented through video; for example, archery, or other sports that are unfamiliar to some young people.

James also told me that he finds the process of making dvds so enjoyable that its not unusual for him to stay up until 2am putting a video together. He underlined that this is because of how engaging a process it is, which in turn implies the potential for using it as part of a wider process of engagement. He added that he would love to be able to do more work using video and new media, especially focussing on the yo8ubng people’s production of content.

James and Tony talked about how the process also involves young people from Knowle West acting. They agreed that young people from Knowle West seem to be great actors and that they seem to be able to perform for video really easily, especially when they are involved in the planning and therefore understand what it is they are involved in representing, rather than if they had just been asked to do or say something to camera.

James talked about the idea of a film making club for young people he works with. He suggested that one idea might be to involve the young people in watching films as well as making them, and that, for example, they might watch lots of gangster films and then make a film in that genre, but possibly as a parody of it, as in Bugsy Malone. James talked about the popularity of film, especially from genres like gangster films, and how this meant it had potential to be used as a hook by which to engage a wider diversity of young people. For some young people the idea of making a film would be enough, but for others the idea of watching films might be a necessary element for in order to gain their interest.

Tony and James suggested that it would also be useful to have more support from the film industry and talked about how local professionals in the field might support the work they do, for example, by a know actor or local celebrity appearing briefly, possibly in cameo roles, in dvds the young people make.

James added that he never had the chance to do these things himself, as a young person in Knowle West, and so he is keen to ensure, through the projects he stimulates, that young people in Knowle West do now have the opportunity to do such things.

James and Tony underlined how the work they do using new media extends the sense of possibilities for the young people they work with. For example, through being actors the young people might consider the possibility of acting as a career. To this end James suggested that links with acting schools would be useful. He said that there is enough interest from the young people involved to warrant this being an element of the work they do that could be extended upon by opening doors that don’t usually have many opportunities for people to step through.

James said that new media, specifically dvds, are an alternative, more accessible, platform to a stage. As such they are a platform that builds on what it is that James and Tony already do. For example, in the dvd they have made about racism playing football becomes performance and so the role of digital media is in the platform it constructs. The use of digital media as such a platform captures young people’s interest in being in a film, especially as they are able to take away the result on dvd.

Tony and James told me they have a new timetable, which includes a lot of film based work. James added that he thought it was important that local people’s experiences and identities were represented through film.

James told me that he had been shown how to use the kit he uses for making dvds with young people at KWMC. He explained that he had done a three day training course at KWMC in digital storytelling and that since doing this course he has been able to use new media in his work in the ways described, thereby also becoming more familiar with it himself. He underlined how this has thereby extended upon his own skills in ways that are meaningful and very useful to him personally as well as in his role.

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