Coast of Soap Ships

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    Abstract

    The principal aim of Coast of Soap Ships was to examine issues of representation and self-representation of working-class communities and identities. The research examined how members of working-class communities would represent themselves if given the opportunity. It also explored what skills and infrastructures were needed in order to allow for this process. The film was made in response to an episode of Secret Millionaire (Channel 4), but actually engaged more widely with the current representation of working classes in Britain (Rowbotham, Beynon 2001, Tyler 2008). The episode of Secret Millionaire, however, was set in the community of Barrow-in-Furness which represented the community in a particular way without allowing self-representation. Considering the media context – Jenkins (2008) for example argues that we now live in an era of participation culture – this exclusion was notable. Heney drew on research of participation culture (see also Johnson 2007, Ross 2010) as well as research into vulnerable audiences, and in particular children (Buckingham 1993, 2000; Gauntlett 2005), to construct a project that would provide training to a teenage community group which would then make a film with the support of a small production team. Heney (with co-director Hunter) decided that in order to allow for well-crafted self-representation, the community should use a more established form of media, namely still photography. At the same time, using still photography would also create a sense of disruption and draw the audience’s attention to the constructed-ness of the image, thus drawing attention to the dichotomy of real versus imagined or apparent. The film challenged the current representations of working-class communities as illiterate, unemployed, drug-dependent and chaotic in relation to family relationships, and instead presented them as intelligent, articulate and able. The film was shown at Keswick Film Festival where it won first prize. It was also put up on the Channel 4 website, where Paula Carter, Channel 4’s viewers editor, commented: ‘Complaints don’t come more eloquent than this.’
    Original languageEnglish
    Media of outputOther
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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