MCFly co-editor speaks to Jacqui Carroll about her environmental work at REELmcr, the dire funding situation and successfully engaging working class communities in the climate change agenda.
What does reelmcr do and why?
REELmcr works across the North West running projects with working class communities on a varied range of subjects from social history, community cohesion, environmental issues and just about anything that effects those communities. We have been doing this for eleven years now and as you can imagine it’s not easy in this current climate where funding is a thing of the past and arts projects are seen as a luxury in these communities.
We set up because we didn’t feel the working class had a voice – they are under-represented in government, the media, law well just about everywhere. We are the people that the media see as CHAVs. A word I despise and think should be banned. People really need to think twice before calling someone a CHAV and realise what it stands for – council housed and vermin or violent. I have spent my whole life living on council estates and I’m very proud to be working class and educated.
What environmentally-related films have you made? Are they available to view?
We have made the Green Wave – which can be viewed on the REELmcr You Tube Channel. We also have over 30 of our films on the site. In 2010 we were funded by Manchester City Council to work with the community of North Manchester, Charlestown and Higher Blackley to raise awareness of environmental issues which we will all be facing. Not a typical group to engage in a project of this type but it was a massive success, it changed people and the habits of a lifetime. People actually got rid of their cars and began to use the bins provided by the council which they had no idea what they were for at the start of the project.
We remained in contact with this group since and have been trying to raise the money to develop the film further and use it across the North West to inspire others but unfortunately in May 2010 we got the “greenest government ever”! All funding went down the drain and we have never been able to raise the money to continue this good work which is heartbreaking.
What happened to the people that made the Green Wave – are they continuing in their efforts?
The community we worked with on the Green Wave are now back together as we have raised funding from Heritage Lottery to start a brand new project around the birth of the NHS and stories from the now closed Booth Hall Hospital in North Manchester. It began last week and it has been wonderful to see them all again. They have all kept up with their recycling and they have all reduced they carbon consumption drastically since the project.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of our work is seeing people’s pride of their achievement at the premiere and seeing the journey they have been on. We have seen many of our participants go on to great things – we’ve worked with young people who have been wrote off at an early age who are now at the most prestigious acting colleges in the country. It is just wonderful to see people reach their potential and also have pride in their communities.
Any upcoming films?
This year we began a project in Abbey Hey in East Manchester funded by Adactus Housing Association working with their tenants to train them to make a documentary around the retrofit which was due to take place early this year to make the old terraced houses environmentally sustainable. Unfortunately there have been issue around planning and the retrofit will not take place until 2013 so this project is still ongoing.
What do you think the responsibilities of local authorities and housing associations around working with tenants and citizens on social and ecological justice issues?
It has become increasingly difficult to raise money for environmental films but I do believe that housing associations are trying their best with smaller projects especially for community allotments which is something we have come across in Moss Side, Fallowfield, Salford and Abbey Hey. I believe a lot of work needs to be done with people who are experiencing fuel poverty as this is going to get worse as this recession deepens. We are only at the beginning of the cuts now.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I want to take the opportunity to thank Marc Hudson who we met during the Green Wave project who has become a good friend of REELmcr since and will always support the good work he is doing in every way we can. He is wonderful in the Abbey Hey film but it might be some time till you can see that.
I feel blessed that I am able to do this work as I get to meet some of the most inspiring people living in communities that have been long forgotten. Having the opportunity to put some life and pride back into that community is what keeps me going.