We are happy to announce the release at COP27 of the first 2 videos shot and directed by young activists as the outcome of a Participatory Video project facilitated by Spectacle for FAO’s ‘Stories from local heroes fighting climate change, biodiversity, and malnutrition crises”
Over the last 6 months Spectacle has been supporting the United Nation agency Food and Agriculture Agency – FAO with our Participatory Video expertise in order to allow young activists from all over the world to produce short videos about their everyday struggle to mitigate climate change and develop better and more sustainable food systems. The project ‘Stories from local heroes’ aims at collecting stories from people whose communities experience the immediate impacts of climate change. Spectacle has facilitated the participatory video process to let young activists produce short documentaries about their effort in fighting malnutrition and biodiversity crisis.
Over the last 6 months Spectacle has facilitated online workshops with participants from Nepal, Nigeria, Kenya, Ecuador and Venezuela, working with them in Spanish and English and providing them with training on how to shoot good quality videos with their phone, developing their filming ideas and supporting the production of short documentaries that would illustrate stories they care about. Using our online editing experience, we engaged them in selecting and cutting the footage, directing us in the technical process of editing together the stories that would best represent their point of view.
The first two videos were launched by FAO at the United Nation conference on Climate change COP27, shown on big screens welcoming visitors to The Food and Agriculture Pavilion in Sharm El Sheikh for the duration of the conference. The first two videos are shared worldwide and will remain available on FAO’s youtube channel, which will also host 3 other videos that will be released in the coming weeks. FAO will offer Local Hero’s participants and their stories a platform to raise awareness on the effects of climate change and, more importantly, to inspire others with local initiatives aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change, improving biodiversity and access to sustainable food.
Spectacle has been pioneering Participatory Video practice and workshop based collaborative documentary making for over 30 years. Adapting to changes in technology, nature and duration of the collaborations, Spectacle has successfully deployed strategies to support existing local groups, social research participants, local stakeholders in making their own videos around the stories that most mattered to them. Spectacle provides technical training and workshop facilitation in order to allow people who have a story to tell to work together in order to share their messages with the rest of the world.
Since 2020, due to COVID related restrictions to travel and in-person activities, we have been further developing our Participatory Video practice in online working environments. We have been part of research projects based in different areas of the world, providing participants with filmmaking skills and tools to develop visual stories using the technology available to them. In tune with our long established practice, we have facilitated video making processes aiming at giving editorial power to participants. For this reason we have developed strategies not only to allow participants to record videos with their phones, but also to engage them with video editing and storytelling.
We welcome any opportunity to explore collaborations with research groups, NGOs and local communities to facilitate Participatory Video projects and develop participant-led video production.
Read more about our participatory model and past projects.
Are you an NGO or Community Centre or organisation looking to include your participants in the making of compelling videos addressing their interests and concerns? Why not engage them in a participatory video project? Spectacle has successfully adopted collaborative documentary making models for over 40 years, including award-winning participatory documentaries that have been broadcast on national and international television. We can design hybrid training-production programmes which will give you the best aspects of a collaboratively-directed film combined with professional quality production.
1) Training in shooting and editing film for you and/or your participants
2) Our professional shooting and editing services
3) A final short film and a fast turn around participatory project
Because every community is different, there is no single participatory process model. The goal is to create a space which is open to equal participation, sharing, and creating for a community. By giving artistic and editorial control to non-professionals, the final results are vibrant and multifaceted. The participatory video process centres the lived experiences of many people.
The benefits this can offer from a research standpoint are obvious. Whether you want to understand people’s experiences or just build community, a participatory project can be a joyful experience of co-creation and co-authorship of knowledge and art.
Spectacle has a long history of participatory work. From Germany to Colombia and across the UK we have led, co-led, and facilitated participatory film groups and workshops both in person and online for groups of all shapes and sizes.
Spectacle is an award winning independent television production company specialising in documentary, community-led, investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle’s documentary work has been broadcast and exhibited internationally. We have produced work on commission for clients including Amnesty International, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Howard League for Penal Reform, Council of Europe, Groundwork, the London Health Commission, the NHS, Big Local and the Wellcome Trust.
As well as undertaking productions, Spectacle runs short, sharp, affordable training courses and community based media workshops. We believe our courses are the best around, largely based on the exceptional feedback we have received from the hundreds of people we have trained over the years.
We are a small, socially-minded company, our training and commissioned work income supports our unfunded community based work.
How do I begin a participatory video project?
We are offering a bundle of services that will guide your staff through a specifically designed programme of training and production based on your video project. There are many options for how we could design your programme together. We can accommodate any time zone where your participants might be located.
We can offer practical workshops on video making. These bespoke training workshops can be tailored to the needs of the client including: a variety of cameras including smartphones, DSLRs, camcorders, etc; visual storytelling including storyboarding or idea generation; filming techniques guaranteed to generate quality footage.
We can teach you how to teach your participants to film, and how to run your own participatory project.
Travel permitting, Spectacle can assist you in your real shoot. You will have complementary equipment (second camera, audio recording, lights) and extra crew if needed.
We can train you on how to effectively use video editing software, sitting together in front of your project to get the editing process started.
If you want professional editing, we can finalise your video with the possibile option of drop-in editing sessions.
Finally, we can guide you through uploading and promoting it on your social networks and media platforms.
We can facilitate this entire process from beginning to end, give you the skills to run it yourself, or any hybrid in between.
Read more about our participatory model and past projects.
As England enters a third lockdown where all people are ordered to “stay at home,” at Spectacle we are reminded of a community in Clapham Old Town, Lambeth SW4 that was told to “get out” of their homes.
In Rectory Gardens, there lived a group of creative and industrious people. As young artists and divergent thinkers they turned a derelict bombed out row of uninhabitable houses into a flourishing artistic community. For forty years they lived in a housing backwater largely unaffected by social housing policies, despite sporadic attempts by the council to “formalise” the street. They created a housing cooperative, until Lambeth, the ‘cooperative Council’ began taking their “million pound” houses from under their feet. The community that now included the vulnerable, elderly, and unwell, was broken up and dispersed.
A Tragedy in the Commons
Rectory Gardens (RG) is a L shaped Victorian pedestrian street in Clapham Old Town SW4 that was badly damaged by bombing during WW2. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the decimated houses attracted a group of squatters who saw the opportunity to create a utopia. This motley crew of characters with their own ideologies, housing needs, and reasons for living outside of the norm, formed a collective community which lived in relative harmony for four decades.
By the 1980s these squatters had revitalized the houses, and formed a housing cooperative. Rectory Gardens offered a home for all kinds of artists, free-thinkers, draft dodgers, and other socially liminal characters. Through the 80 and 90s, it remained a diverse community at the epicentre of a flourishing arts scene.
The street was host to an industrious community of artists, musicians, poets and unconventional ‘free thinkers’ who found a cheap way of living while developing their creative endeavors. It became a hub of cultural activities initiating art studios and cafes that brought life to the area. Spectacle interviewed both Vivienne Westwood and Maggi Hambling about the value of Rectory Gardens’s cultural contributions.
Residents of this dynamic community were the initiators of much that made the area distinct and attractive, the skate park and cafe on clapham common, Cafe des Artistes, Fungus Mungus, Voltaire Studios, bric-a-brac shops, rehearsal studios, artisan crafts and pool of skilled creative labour. The street itself had a public garden that served as a safe play area in the day and a performance and social space in the evening.
As with any tragedy, their success was key to their end as well. The artistic growth contributed to the popularity of the neighborhood and ultimately its subsequent gentrification. The council had its eyes on the properties, and though the residents tried to work with the council to legalize their living arrangement the deal fell through. The residents were recently evicted by Lambeth Council, who sold the houses to a developer on the private market.
Evicting the community was devistating for the mental health and well-being of many of these elderly and vulnerable residents. They lost not only their homes but their community and support networks. Many struggled to live away from their home of forty years, some died or were sectioned. Housing is integral to well-being, a point overlooked by this profit driven housing department.
Spectacle at Rectory Gardens
In the spring of 2014 Spectacle was contacted by the residents of Rectory Gardens. They wanted to record the final months of their squat-turned housing-cooperative. Rectory Gardens had been a lively arts community for over forty years, but growing conflict with the local council left the residents desperately fighting to avoid eviction, something that perhaps some media advocacy and intervention could assist them with, they believed.
During our preliminary engagement with Rectory Gardens, Spectacle offered training to any residents who were interested in filming techniques. Spectacle conducted workshops where participants learned camera techniques, collected peers’ stories, and collectively discussed the footage and ways to continue the production process. The production process was dictated by the participants themselves, and they shaped the narrative scope by inviting ex-residents to contribute with their memories. This work developed into an archive of oral histories of the street.
The production has continued for over six years, far longer than the initial few months originally envisioned. Together, Spectacle and Rectory Gardens residents have collected over 150 hours of footage including: long interviews with residents; key events on the street; residents resisting evictions; historic footage filmed by residents during the 90s; and residents in their new flats, reflecting on living away from their community where they lived for decades.
During Spectacle’s engagement, RG has been dismantled through evictions and relocations, and the residents have been scattered to various and disparate areas of the borough. The street, on the other hand, has been transformed to make way for the arrival of new wealthy tenants.
Framing the Street
Spectacle’s video archive of Rectory Gardens brings out many topical themes and offers inspiration for the post-Covid City through an examination of the past. Rectory Gardens is a portrait of forty years of resistance to the government housing policies.
The houses themselves were initially built as philanthropic poor-quality Victorian housing for low-income workers. After Rectory Gardens was bombed and left derelict post WW2, it provided a solution for postwar homelessness through squatting. It offered fertile ground for experimenting with alternative ways of living, resisted the “slum clearance” in the 1970s, Thatcherism, and the sale of social housing in the ‘80s. Their methods and ideologies represent a range of approaches including anarcho individualism, anarcho-syndicalism, socialism, capitalism of small artisanal businesses looking for cheap space, and the daily necessity of the socially excluded and the legally marginalised.
By the 2000s, the constant push to turn London’s affordable housing into profit, was nibbling at the edges of Rectory Gardens as well. The insidious forces of “regeneration” and contemporary privatised gentrification have been endemic in London where, even by global standards, the commodification of real estate is extreme. Through eviction and rehousing the community was broken up, and the squatters were replaced with live-in guardians, the modern sanitised, privatised version of squatting.
It’s important to note that not all parts of London have been equally gentrified, and Lambeth Council, where Rectory Gardens is located, was famous for its tolerance of alternative housing organisations and leftist leanings. They referred to themselves as ‘the cooperative council’ and ‘Red Ted’ Knight and his ‘Socialist Republic of Lambeth’ were the bete-noir anti hero of the tabloids. There were many houses like Rectory Gardens which were uninhabitable after the war, and Lambeth had few resources to deal with them. Squatters quickly took advantage of the council’s disinterest and moved into these spaces. Lambeth greatly benefited from the labour of these groups, and many cooperatives were able to legalise their situation, but RG was not.
The Project Now
The filming part of this project has come to a close, and we are looking for partners in the next phase – telling the story of what has disappeared.
We are searching for funding and partners to assist in bringing the dispersed community together again for an online participatory editing process. The process will let the former residents of Rectory Gardens tell their story, by sifting through the 150 hours of footage and drawing out narratives and themes to share with a wider audience.
Searching for Partners for Rectory Gardens Online Participatory Video Project
If you are interested in exploring collaborations or can suggest potential funding streams please get in contact. We welcome academic researchers, activists, social historians, and all others.
This project is relevant to: well-being, health, housing, social housing, urbanism, urban planning, human geography, sociology, participatory methods, co-creatation, co-authorship, knowlege sharing, community filmmaking, and participatory film.