Thursday, September 03, 2015

the politics of community, documentary and policy

Hugh Kelly and I are speaking at this event in Sheffield as part of an ESRC seminar series on 'Ways of Neighbourhood Working' on October 1st - here's what we are talking about: 

Reflections on regeneration: the politics of community, documentary and policy

Hugh Kelly, as Swingbridge Media, has been making films and videos with communites on Tyneside for 35 years. What can be learned from his engagements with various regeneration initiatives? At various times his work has been cast in the role of documenting social and physical changes, campaigning for alternatives, celebrating apparent 'successes' or challenging the failures of urban policy. Underlying all this are ethical, political, pedagogical and representational dilemmas about how participatory approaches to film-making might open up spaces for people to speak out, share their worlds and offere responses to the local impacts of policy initiatives that almost invariably originate from 'elsewhere' and which often fail to acknowledge underlying structural inequalities. Who decides what a 'challenging neighbourhood' is and in whose interests are policy 'solutions' implemented? 

This presentation/conversation reflects on 35 years of practice and draws on material produced for Remaking Society, an AHRC Connected Communities pilot demonstrator project (2012 - 2014) that sought to address the value(s) of participatory arts and media practices in communities experiencing high levels of deprivation. A film that Hugh and Graham made, exploring some of these issues, can be found here

In this conversation we will share some brief extracts from Hugh's work and discuss some of their implications, in the context of wider debates about community media, inequalities, and community politics. Can a participatory film-making process confer some power on its participants? Are there ways in which it might frame more constructive dialogues between unequal communities?