Discovering history and the Wiltshire landscape through film

Monday, March 17, 2014

As a film director, it’s really enjoyable to see your work on the big screen at festivals, or on tv, but for me there is something even more special about sharing your skills with young people and inspiring them to produce a film for the first time. The Virtual Landscapes project gave both the group of 11-14 year olds from Westbury and myself the opportunity to explore the local Wiltshire landscape and learn about our social history, as we visited the military badges carved into the chalk hills at Fovant, near Shaftesbury.

After a steep climb on a sunny Winters day, and with a few poor choices of footwear, we reached the badges and the summit of the Iron Age hill fort, having experienced the same conditions as the soldiers who created the badges exactly 100 years ago. Exploring the site with archaeologist Rachel Foster, supported by Youth Development Coordinator Sandra Samuel, and being chased by some friendly cows at the top of the slope, the history was brought to life for us all and the ideas for film and animation were starting to flow. 
In the following 8 weeks we had film, photography and animation workshop sessions, supported by the youth workers, at Westbury Youth Centre, with a total of 18 young people engaging in the project – the 5 core members all currently putting the finishing touches to their well-earned Bronze Arts Awards project folders.
One of the highlights for me was a photography workshop we did with the group of girls, who all wanted to wear moustaches, to look more like the soldiers that created the badges. They were all incredibly quick in picking up the technical skills of using the camera and studio light, and loved posing for the camera, creating a variety of different mouth shapes in each photo so that they could create their own cartoon characters and animate them to talk in subsequent sessions. They then put themselves in the shoes of the soldiers and produced some beautiful lyrics, imagining how they would feel – and the result is a wonderful combination of film, animation, poetry and history, which I can’t wait for you all to see (or for those of you that clicked the play button before reading the text, I hope you enjoyed it)!
It has been wonderful to lead this Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots project with Westbury Youth Centre and Wiltshire Council and I have a feeling there will be more films and animations to come out of Westbury in the near future, as there are some very talented and creative young people that now have the bug for film production!

These films were produced by young people at Westbury Youth Centre. The group visited the badges at Fovant, near Salisbury, with archaeologist Rachel Foster, to learn about the history of the location, climb to the top of the Iron Age hillfort and experience the badges from close-up.
Virtual Landscapes is a Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots project, initiated and funded by Wiltshire Council and coordinated by Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival. The film was produced and developed at workshop sessions at Westbury Youth Centre, supported by Youth Development workers. and mentored by director Jamie McDine.
The young people that produced this film are also completing their Bronze Art Award as a result of this project.
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