by Ryan Bramley
One month on, and here I am again, writing another blog post for Stories of Change. Who would’ve thought it?
Quite a lot has changed since January. Barnsley’s got a new manager – they’ve even won a couple of games – a small miracle by recent standards. More importantly, though, the final semester of my English degree has begun, and a triple measure of excitement, opportunity and apprehension now clouds my mind on a daily basis. Three years just isn’t enough. I don’t want to stop there.
Something tells me I probably never will.
Joining Stories of Change as a Research Assistant, then, seems a massive step in the right direction. When an opportunity like that came up, I knew I had to grasp it with both hands. Chances like that are few and far between. I’m extremely grateful for being given the role, and looking forward to working with the Future Works team over the course of the next few months.
You might say that I’m not in a position to turn down work. I’m a student, after all – I need money for my stockpiles of cheap coffee and smart-price spaghetti – yet, I don’t feel comfortable taking on a role on anymore if I can’t engage with the work. Especially if it’s something creative, like filmwork. If I can’t understand what’s on screen, appreciate it, get it, even, then I’m just a guy behind a camera, or a bloke behind an editing screen.
That’s why I spend a good proportion of my time on a film job talking to the people around me – those I’m working both for and with – to get a feel for what’s going on. Sure, there’s dozens of people out there who can do a better job than me when it comes to production. They’ve had years of training; I’ve taught myself. But I’ve seen those same professionals standing quietly at the corner of a room, speaking to nobody, getting their shots, then disappearing until something else kicks off a few hours later.
I’m not like that, but then again, I guess I’m not a commercial filmmaker, either. I’m a film practitioner. A lot of my own early research, like this project, is centred on personal narrative and its uses, and film is a creative medium that provides a particularly strong platform to project these voices from. In my last post, The Silk Mill Spins, I stressed the importance for this project to fulfil a primary research aim: to ensure that diverse voices are heard – and by as many as possible.
That’s why, when the Stories of Change RA role came along, I didn’t think twice. By the time I’d followed them to the Derby Silk Mill, Portland Works, and the Advanced Manufacturing Park, I knew what Future Works were all about, and bought what they were trying to achieve. I already felt that I’d contributed to their ideas, yet I knew I had more to offer. Now I’m part of the team, and I couldn’t be happier.
As with my previous work, I hope to bring something more than my film expertise alone to the Stories of Change project. I’m as much a Storying Sheffield graduate as an English student, bred in the same school that has stimulated the birth of Matt Colbeck’s enabling Coma Voices, the wonderful Women of Steel film and, of course, not forgetting my own project, Born of Coal. Indeed, without Storying Sheffield, this blog post itself probably wouldn’t be here.
Born of Coal is comparable to this project in a lot of ways: motivated by the link between the coal and the communities that have been built on it; inspired by those who live there, and seen their personal and communal fortunes both rise and fall as a result of the politics of industry, to which their fates have so often been inextricably tied. When those decisions are made, the only ones who tend to see the long-term effects are those who are directly involved. I’m from one of those communities myself, but only when I’ve actually spoken to people have I realised some of the true social impacts of deindustrialisation: poverty, hardship, divorce – and sometimes, even worse.
That’s where I came in. I knew that the stories I’d heard, from childhood and beyond, had wider social worth. So, I rang a few phone numbers, held a series of interviews, and made a film with them. I hope that, when Born of Coal is released online, more people can realise how important these voices truly are – they are, in themselves, stories of change. And it’s not all bad – there are some happy, cheerful, and even hilarious tales to be told. With this new RA role, I can help hand over the microphone again, so even more narratives can be heard.
But above all, I’m just happy to be a part of Stories of Change, in whatever facility. I really can’t speak highly enough about what Future Works have done so far – I love what they’re doing, and I’m looking forward to reinforcing their accomplishments wherever I can.
In a time clouded by the uncertainty of change, this story could be a real silver lining.