Magical Spaces and Places


Can filmmaking improve literacy skills? Our weeklong Magical Spaces and Places project in Southend set out to explore this idea by using their favourite places as a way to embrace creative writing.

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Working with a group of 12 Children from Milton Hall Primary School and 12 young people from Turning Tides, we created two short artist made films about their favourite Spaces and Places in Southend. Based at the Forum in Southend, Signals, Southend Library staff, poet Justin Coes and Author Julie Irwin guided the young people in selecting their favourite places and responding to them through drawing, poetry, creative writing, film and animation.

Over the four days each group set out to produce an artistic film. Working with Poet Justin Coes, the first group produced ‘Southend Our Friend’ which features a poem about the Seafront, and is narrated over images, sounds and animations that they produced throughout the week. The second group worked with author Julie Irwin to write a spooky tale, and then filmed this at Southend Central Museum and the Odeon Cinema.

Setting up the shotgun microphone on Southend seafront

Whilst on they learnt and lighting techniques as well as how to properly use professional audio equipment – making sure it was captured at the right levels for each location. Then, on the last day they analysed these recordings and began to experiment with post-production editing software, giving them an insight into the whole film making process from script writing to post-production.

…they took the knowledge that Justin had taught them in the classroom and then applied it.

When we were out on location the young people were very inspired by their favourite places and spaces. For example 3 young people from the group came up with a short poem whilst on location and then performed this to the group. It was great to see they had took the knowledge that Justin had taught them in the classroom and applied it whilst they were out in their favourite place.

Throughout the week we used many techniques to improve the young peoples literacy skills. Julie and Justin encouraged the participates to come up with extra descriptive details and literary techniques to add to the narration, giving depth to the films and engage our audience further. Literacy skills were furthermore improved by all yp’s in the booth. Everyone involved in the project had to record some form of narration. The yp soon learned that recording narration isn’t as straight forward as reading it out loud. They learnt that you have to read as clearly and fluently as possible. The author, poet and videographer helped them to practice their lines out loud, covering different ways of exclaiming their lines and the effect this can have on the audience.

The premiere of our two films on the Big Screen in Southend

The final two films were a huge success and it was a pleasure to premier them on The Big Screen outside the Southend Forum (where the films were subsequently shown everyday until 19th May) with lots of proud young people and their families in attendance.