Ecovisions in Malawi

In June 2021, Spectacle had the opportunity to work with Dr. Michelle Nicholson-Sanz and provide video training for the participants in her innovative Young Ecovisions project

Dr. Nicholson-Sanz is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London . 

During the pandemic she launched a call for young people around the world to share their ecovision – an idea for how to improve their environment and engender greater sustainability in their community. Four finalists were selected, two from India, one from Malawi, and one from England. 

Fanny Chidoola from Lilongwe, Malawi whose Ecovision was selected

Dr. Nicholson-Sanz reached out to Spectacle as the second half of this ambitious project began: developing the ecovision of the finalist from Malawi, Fanny Chidoola. In order to realise Fanny’s ecovision, she partnered with Malawian forestry science student Khumbo Matemba. Fanny and Khumbo would be mentored by Dr Nicholson-Sanz to stage a theatrical performance to encourage the stakeholders in their area to realise the changes needed. The performance would be filmed and this material, as well as further footage collected by participants, would become a final short film detailing the ecovision and it’s progress.

As Dr. Nicholson-Sanz lives in Kent, England, the actual filming would need to be done by the participants on the ground in Malawi, and with a limited budget the participants would be making the most of the camera they already had in their hands in the form of a smartphone. 

Participants were able to upgrade the capacity of their smartphone with tripods and additional memory cards. 

Spectacle has been developing a training programme for just such remote smartphone based video research projects. Anyone who has tried knows, it can be difficult to achieve good quality videos on a smartphone, and even more difficult to record footage which can be easily edited. Through a series of participatory workshops, Spectacle worked to upgrade the capabilities of the participants’ smartphones affordably, and offered clear guidance on best practices and filming techniques. 

Participants such as Fanny Chidoola learned to film interviews
Demonstrating how to achieve good exposure using a smartphone 

By the end of the workshop series, the participants felt ready to use their smartphones to record the performances, instruct others on how to get the best results from their smartphones, and already had recorded a good bit of quality footage of self interviews, location footage, and interviews with other stakeholders on the ground. 

Khumbo Matemba reviews framing and technique of a self-shot interview 

We are very excited to see the final short film from Dr. Nicholson-Sanz’s Young Ecovisions project when it premiers. 

If you are running or considering starting a participatory video project, consider the possibilities of Spectacle’s training workshops for your participants or yourself. We conduct our training remotely, in almost any timezone, and using any equipment available from smartphones to camcorders. We have worked with hundreds of academics, researchers, and community organisations and received very positive feedback on our approach and the results that our trainees can achieve with their cameras after just a few workshops. 

Participants such as learned to film location and action shots in their town

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Bordon – The Next Tesco Town?

In a recent interview with Jack Warshaw, a local resident to the Bordon area and member of the Bordon Area Action Group (BAAG) committee, the suggestion that the Eco-Town development could lead to the decline of Bordon from a small and quaint town to becoming one of the many new emerging ‘Tesco Town‘ arose.

I hear you all now, what is a ‘Tesco Town’? We all, whether we like it or not have some association with this vast supermarket chain; whether it be the place you do your weekly food shop, your mobile phone provider or where you go for travel insurance – let’s face it, Tesco are taking over the world, well the UK at least.

But what does this mean for other businesses? It cannot have gone unnoticed that over the last few years, independent petrol stations have slowly been disintegrating and being replaced with Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons petrol stations, your good old corner shops which used to stock weird and wonderful products are now Tesco Express or Coop Local and fashion magazines are now filled with the latest bargains from George at Asda or Cherokee at Tesco.

This new supermarket craze is helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tesco controls over 30% of the grocery market and certainly does not seem to be suffering the recession blues.

The problem. Towns and villages are losing their charm, for each new Tesco store that opens up, a small part of that town vanishes being replaced by a  superstore with no local history. The days when shoppers knew which family owned which business and each store had a purpose are slowly disappearing as everything you could possibly ever need can now be found under one roof or online.

Jack states, ‘Tesco would be delighted if there was an Eco Town here because they would instantly try to expand to be even bigger… once again you’re looking at a clone town, a Tesco town, an anywhere town, the type of place where all the potential for individual character is eroded and lost’

You don’t need to look far for examples of Tesco towns, towns where the high street is dominated by chain stores and pleasant pedestrianized streets have been turned into car parks – there is even an online society concerned with the power these supermarkets have over the consumer market. This is of course not just happening here, the US are dominated with the giant supermarket chain Walmart and that too, is slowly taking over.

One thing is for sure; there are plenty of people unhappy with this supermarket domination and Bordon residents are no exception. Eco town or no eco town, surely the voice of the locals should be considered before turning what was a small and delightful town into a large and generic housing area.

To see interviews with Bordon Councillors, residents and Bordon Area Action Group members see our Eco Towns and Villages project page or our read the latest blog here.

Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Eco Town? Everyone is doing it…

Malmö in Sweden, Freiburg in Germany and Amersfoort in Holland, they’re all doing it – Eco Town’s appear to be the next big thing and the UK is not far behind. With potential eco projects already planned in Cornwall, Oxfordshire and Norfolk,  Spectacle have now turned their focus closer to home and onto the small town of Bordon in East Hampshire.

The town is looking to go through an enormous makeover with 5000 new homes built to the Government’s criteria on ‘Eco-towns‘ resulting in a vast amount of funding to aid the development of the Council’s Master plan.

The catch. The town’s population will double in size, the new homes may interfere with green spaces and wildlife, the development is proposed over 20 years and Bordon seems unlikely to be able to cope with the increase of people due to the lack of infrastructure and facilities already present.

It would seem Bordon residents are content with their small town status and although happy to foresee some improvements and increases in housing, the proposed 5000 new homes has generated  controversy.

Residents were generally satisfied with the initial plans of 2000 homes but the new plan of 5000 has triggered the locals to speak up and appeal this huge proposal for the area.

The Bordon Area Action Group (BAAG) has been formed to protest the plans and has attracted a lot of local interest. Spectacle visited the area on the 24th of April and interviewed several of the groups members and supporters as well as one of East Hampshire’s Council members and the interviews can now be found online on the Spectacle project page.

It seems the question everyone wants to know the answer to is what makes this new development Eco? Is this really an effective answer to going green or simply an excuse to solve wider issues such as housing and funding?

Click Eco Towns and Villages for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Eco Towns and Villages project pages for more information and videos.

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