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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

Review of Same Skies Film Screening

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On Tuesday 11th October, Same Skies Think Tank held a screening of films in the basement of Hyde Park Book Club. There were refreshments, there were catch-ups, first-time in-person hello’s, and there were a host of smiling faces from around West Yorkshire. What drew me to the event is my interest in the power of community, and the transformative visions that can come about from people having a say in their own neighbourhoods. My Msc research involved looking at urban visions as suggested by groups around Leeds, and their implementation into reality, so I was particularly interested to learn about some other examples of where visions ultimately have been built into reality.

Claude Hendrickson and Neil Mckenna spotlighted in a small stage during a Q&A Being shown were three films generated by the West Yorkshire Walks series of events, with filming having taken place as people and organisers toured others around their local neighbourhood, explaining their interest in locations of Chapeltown and Gipton. The projects explored in the film included Chapeltown Cohousing, Frontline, Latch, and the East Leeds Project. It was inspiring for me to learn more about Frontline, a housing project involving 12 unemployed Afro-Caribbean men, building their own homes and learning skills along the way in the 90’s. The footage from the walks shows the houses still standing in good health today, proving the built legacy of a visionary project. However, the project clearly provided much beyond the bricks and mortar of those 12 houses. It was, then, brilliant that Same Skies had invited the co-ordinator of Frontline, Claude Hendrickson, to the event for a Q&A.

Rochyne Delaney McNulty introduces her film about Frontline Self Build Hearing the setbacks, and adaptability of the East Leeds Project was striking. The film showed two organisers planning to build a welcoming and diverse arts space in Gipton, an area where artists currently have no place to practice their craft. The group had set out an area of land on which they wanted to build this exciting project, however, after the film one of the organisers spoke about the current status of the project. With the land having become unavailable, the group had located a disused squash court in the leisure centre. The walls were too damaged to play squash, but this has no effect on the ability to work on art, and so a studio was created. This attitude, of taking spaces and resources that aren’t being used - that are just sitting around - and turning them into important community assets is amazing. It speaks to a mindset where we see places for their potential to provide, rather than their potential to earn profit, and where we clear our own pathways to get there without waiting for others to present them.

It became clear from the films that these Walks, having started during the pandemic, offered a way for participants to engage in community-led projects in person, beyond the screen at home. This was at a time when social contact with others, let alone strangers, was very low. The films that came from them, then, ended up presenting a very human and personal viewpoint on the projects. The directors mainly opted to point the camera and let it roll. Conversations, tour guide moments, and speeches all came into the films to explore the various projects. The evening film screening took on a similar warm and familiar feeling. It was a pleasure to attend.

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