Working with the Local Community to Open Minds and Transform Lives

14 Apr 2016 BY Bex Wolfendale

3 mins
Opening Minds Transforming Lives
Opening Minds Transforming Lives

Opening Minds, Transforming Lives (funded by Big Lottery Fund) is an exciting and visionary project for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Greater Manchester. Using the power of film we are collaborating with local arts and cultural organisations to increase young people's personal, vocational and educational development, while simultaneously increasing social cohesion in the local community.

Since the project's inception in November 2013 we have partnered with 18 arts and cultural organisations to bring a truly exciting and diverse range of activities to the young people of Greater Manchester. Activities have ranged from filmmaking workshops to VFX careers master classes, to industry interaction Q&As, to screening and review writing workshops, to interactive tours and discovery trails all taking place in a rich array of exciting venues!

Opening Minds, Transforming Lives is highlighting how teachers all over the UK can make the most of their town or city's rich cultural footprint. One of the things I've learned from the project is how receptive arts and cultural organisations are to supporting events which bring more young people to their venue.

The recent Greater Manchester on Film Festival (GMOFF) saw 22 bespoke screening events hosted in 9 different arts and cultural organisations. Each event reflected the specialism or focus of the venue and, with educational workshops or industry interaction events - including Q&As with filmmakers - accompanying each screening, a variety of fun and memorable learning experiences have inspired young people to aspire.

After a Next Goal Wins screening and Q&A with film producer Kristian Brodie at The National Football Museum, teacher Catherine Johnson of The East Manchester Academy said:

It was fantastic, the topic of the film (sport, teamwork, resilience) was really relevant to our students and it really engaged them, and they were able to ask a load of interesting media and career related questions to the Producer afterwards. It was really valuable for them.

Catherine Johnson, Teacher at The East Manchester Academy

GMOFF was also able to bring families to places of cultural interest in a way never previously experienced. Mother, Helen Kelly, following a screening of Fantastic Mr Fox at The Whitworth Art Gallery said: "Into Film has given my daughter the chance to experience cinema for the first time! She is visually impaired and struggles in a traditional cinema setting. Here she has been able to move to a position where she can 'see'. Many many thanks."

Opening Minds, Transforming Lives events have so far reached 1,850 young people. It's highly rewarding to see young people exploring film in untraditional environments, appreciating and benefiting from the culture on their doorstep like never before, whilst simultaneously improving their literacy, critical thinking, communication and teamwork skills.

It's been inspirational and makes you think positive and that giving it your best is worth it

Louis, aged 10, following a Q&A with cast of Believe.

Film is a fantastic way to introduce topics and themes to young people and combining this with a themed visit to a place of cultural interest can really help to bring a wide range of educational subjects to life, truly engaging them in their own learning. This is especially true when working with hard to reach young people who may not feel that arts and culture is 'their kind of thing'. Using the highly accessible medium of film opens that cultural door and begins to break down those barriers, ultimately opening minds and transforming lives.

Wolfendale Bex author

Bex Wolfendale, Project Manager

Bex Wolfendale is Big Lottery Fund Project Manager for Into Film with over 12 years experience  in the UK Education System specialising in projects working with disadvantaged young people.

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