For the ‘Urban Village’ project we planned to accompany members of the Roma community, with a local film maker, to an allotment where they were engaging in the development of the land for growing food and other plants. Community members would engage in workshops to co-create video footage about their experiences of the allotment project and the impact this had upon their identity and sense of place, photographs would also be taken. This would then be developed into an exhibition and short film shown at a shared event for the broader Coventry-wide community, policy makers and stakeholders.
As events unfolded it became increasingly evident that the project was no longer viable. We returned to the aims of the project to think about how we could still facilitate the co-creation of a short film with the Roma community so that it was still their voice, telling of their experiences whilst engaging in a creative media process. The obvious solution was to ask the community to send us videos and other media detailing their experiences on the allotment. We realised that the facilitated workshops would not be possible but it was possible to provide some information, training and tips on how to create videos. By providing this we could still work with the local film maker and the community to develop a short film and we could also use a digital scrapbook to curate other artefacts such as photographs, audio and / or writing (creative or otherwise).
Our main risk is that we are now at the mercy of our participants to provide content that a) can be developed into a film and b) can assist with the research aims. To this end one of the researchers, Rosa contacted the Roma charity ‘The Roma Project’ and some of the local families involved in the allotment project, and discussed a way forward. They were involved with developing the logo for the project and in structuring the timeline. We are also working with our film maker to ensure that the Roma participants receive helpful information to enable them to provide creative video content for the final film. The film maker is also from Romania and has agreed to translate materials into another language where relevant.
We also had to rethink our exhibition and sharing event or at least have a plan B. This is where we decided to make use of a digital scrapbook to collate and curate additional information, artwork, photographs, writing or other creative content that participants would like to share in exploring their creative process. We are still hoping to have our sharing event at the Belgrade Theatre after the crisis and have been working with them to find ways of facilitating this. In the meantime, weekly conversations are happening with several key stakeholders and we are navigating the ethical implications of carrying out this field work with the families, the organisations and the film maker. In-kind support has also been pledged by IN2 from Germany to allow the project to use the digital scrapbook tool for the collections.
This also meant that our budget needed to be realigned. With more assistance required from ‘The Roma Project’ and the Belgrade Theatre and less time for the film maker we adjusted our budget but managed to bring the total in at the same level.
At this stage we have accepted that we have less control over the process and are more reliant on communication that is not ‘in the moment’ but only prior and post content creation. We have mitigated where we can and are open and dare we say excited about the creativity that may emerge as a result.
Heidi Ashton (Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies)
Rosa Cisneros (Coventry University- Centre for Dance Research)