Monday, May 29, 2006

Media Education Association Update

The regional meetings designed to enable consultation on the proposed Media Education Association took place over the last two weeks. Each meeting was asked to produce two delegates to take part in a final planning meeting on June 17. This meeting should formally set up the association and 'take over' from the Steering Group. The new association should be up and running from September 2006.

I chaired the meeting in Manchester which had 19 people present and a further 8 apologies. The meeting had to be business-like to get through the agenda, but there was plenty of enthusiasm and a fair amount of discussion. Two delegates were chosen. The group agreed to meet again in July at FACT in Liverpool to hear what happened on June 17 in London and plan for further developments in the North West.

The Bradford meeting chaired by Nick Lacey had slightly fewer people, but still enough to make progress and they are meeting again on July 11.

If you live in the North West or Yorkshire, leave a comment here and I'll email you details of what is happening. If you live elsewhere, go to this link to see the details of the May regional meetings with contact dates.

It looks like something may really be happening, so thanks to all of those who have volunteered to work on this venture.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bradford Riots

It's over a week since the local elections and since Channel 4's broadcast of The Bradford Riots. I'm surprised that there has been relatively little mention in the national press of the local results in Bradford, where Labour actually did well, taking seats from the Tories and reducing the BNP's seats. In Keighley, Labour won all three seats, including one for an Asian woman – a significant success, I think.

The Bradford Riots is a 'realist drama' based on the events in July 2001 when a National Front march was proposed for Bradford and Asian youths took to the streets to defend their territory. The independent production company stated that they could not get permission to restage the events in Bradford so the film looks a little bizarre to the locals with key scenes shot in parts of Liverpool.

Some of the national critics have complained that the central character is not 'typical' because he is a university student. But from what people tell me the story sticks pretty closely to 'real' events. It was researched, written and directed by Neil Biswas. He is, I think, from the Bangladeshi community in Whitechapel, the location for his first feature, Second Generation in 2003. He does a good job and the film is well worth watching. At the end, I was moved and angry on behalf of the family at the centre of the drama. But that was mostly because I knew the story was 'true' - by which I mean that what happened to the characters actually did happen to real people.

It's very difficult for realist television drama to do more than that, but the day before I went to see Jean-Pierre Melville's L'armée des ombres (Army in the Shadows) What a movie! I love Melville and this a digital restoration by a French archive of a 1969 film. The colours are muted and the film is relatively slowly paced over 145 mins. But Melville is in complete control. I wish I could think of easy ways to introduce this kind of filmmaking to younger audiences. There are no car chases and little direct conflict in this story about the French resistance, mostly based on Joseph Kessel's novel, but also on Melville's own wartime experience. The action as such comprises an escape from custody, a reluctant execution, another escape from a firing squad and a 'mercy' assassination. Between these dramatic highs are long periods of tension building,with marvellous performances by the likes of Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret.

Melville is an expressionist rather than a 'realist', but I was convinced of the 'reality' of the situations that faced the resistance fighters. I particularly enjoyed Lino Ventura's flight back to France from London. Prepared to jump from an RAF plane with his parachute harness over his overcoat and suit, our hero has his glasses firmly taped to his forehead with elastoplast. It's those touches of humanity that make this a great film.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Media Education Association

The proposed 'Media Education Association' (a provisional name) is now at the 'lift-off' stage with a series of regional consultative meetings being held in the last two weeks of May. The meetings are at 'twilight time' after school in various locations. Go here to download a pdf with all the information.

As one of the original working group, I'm chairing the regional meeting in Manchester at Cornerhouse on 24 May and Nick Lacey is chairing a Bradford meeting on 15 May. There are ten more around England and Wales, so there will be one within travelling distance for many of you. The aim of these meetings is to discuss the work done so far in setting up a 'paper organisation' and to widen participation and take in new ideas. So far, it has been a handful of media educators, mostly outside classroom teaching, who have done the leg-work. Now we want the proposed teacher-members to take over and drive the Association forward through recruitment and development of policy. We hope therefore that the regional meetings will each produce two representatives who will be able to attend a London meeting on June 17 which will formally set up a committee to found the Association. (These two 'representatives' are not already decided, anyone can put themselves forward.)

If you are really keen to get involved, get to your nearest local meeting and make your voice heard. We do have some funding to pay travelling expenses for delegates to the London meeting and to get the Association started, but after that it will be up to the members to grow it.

If you can't make the meetings, please make sure you have registered your interest by going to the weblink here. This is an exciting initiative and I hope it sees a new generation of committed media teachers working together to move media education forward.