A well deserved award for deaf children’s filmmaking project

Award-Winning Filmmaking Project Sparks Deaf Children’s Ambitions for Creative Careers in Birmingham:

Signature recently got in contact with Bhulla Beghal, a filmaker and Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA) who was recently involved in leading filmmaking workshops at Longwill Primary School. Longwill offers a safe and encouraging learning environment for profoundly deaf children aged 2-11 years old. To learn more about the inspiring project, read for more. 

Background:

 The Common Ground Arts programme underpins this project, bringing high-quality artist residences to the Birmingham Special Schools Cooperative Trust. The programme uses a school improvement and outreach model to hire artists to collaborate with teaching staff and students. Each individual school collaborates with an artist to plan and deliver a bespoke, accessible, and engaging arts residency for the students.

At Longwill Primary School, the collaboration not only adhered to this model but also blossomed into something truly magical.

The project was a great success and was honoured with the Royal Television Society Midlands award for Creative Community. This accolade illuminates more than a triumph, rather it is a gateway into the film and television industry for a generation of Deaf children, who were kindled by the magic of filmmaking in a 2-month project.

Longwill Primary School:

Longwill set its focus on the art of filmmaking. To facilitate the project, Common Ground Arts approached Bhulla Beghal, a local filmmaker who possesses a profound understanding of the Deaf Community due to being a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA). This project was not only extremely beneficial for the pupils but was also a very special project for Bhulla. The project enabled Bhulla to break down any pre-meditated beliefs about Deaf children working in film.

Bhulla had an instant connection with the pupils of Longwill. Bhulla’s knowledge of BSL enabled him to communicate effortlessly without any barriers, allowing for a smooth flowing filming process.

The Project:

The project was conducted over 13 days for three classes spanning Year 5 and 6. Filmmaking is not a straightforward process and requires creative collaboration from all involved. The project promoted teamwork and also prompted a conversation that involved strategy and clarity. Over the 13 days, students explored various aspects of filmmaking, from initial idea generation to final editing.

The processes involved and enabled the student’s creativity to flourish through the means of storyboards and script writing. The exercises allowed them to transition from documenting real-life to crafting stories set in mystical worlds.

The students truly embraced this opportunity and by working together they created short film scripts which they then directed, acted in, filmed, and edited using iMovie. The film was not solely within the four walls of the school, students ventured out to create mini documentaries about different aspects of the school, such as the playground and the school dinners.

Overall, the students truly blossomed during this process as they gained confidence, engaged in deep thinking, and unlocked their potential. Filmmaking enabled Deaf children to communicate through their emotions, thoughts, and personal experiences.

The Exhibition:

In June, Common Ground Arts hosted an exhibition of the artistic outcomes from 7 artists working in Birmingham’s Special School Co-operative Trust at the Midlands Arts Centre. The Longwill Show, a film made by the students under the leadership of filmmaker, Bhulla, was featured offering a unique perspective into the richness of expression within the Deaf community.

Over 3.5 days, 1200 people visited the exhibition and many left with the desire to learn BSL having watched the students creatively communicate their feelings using film.

Impact:

Overall, the project was transformational as it highlighted the accessibility embedded within filmmaking. The students learnt new methods of communicating and in the annual staff review of the school year, the project was voted in the top 3 highlights of the year by all internal groups.

The students of Longwill are now equipped with the skills and confidence they need to work in film and the creative industries in the future. The art of filmmaking has become a language for these students and learning filming and editing on devices accessible to them such as iPads allows them another means to express feelings, emotions, and experiences.

Here is what those who work at Longwill had to say about the project:

Gemma Hall:

 This project was very exciting for the children and staff alike and we all had fun whilst learning new skills.

 As a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), Bhulla has insight of what life can be like for Deaf individuals, the barriers faced and presumptions that can be made. From our first meeting, I could see how exciting this project was going to be with his passion and ideas. This said, I could never have imagined, just how incredible the finished project would be. Each week, the pupils were guided to learn different skills used within film making. With Bhulla’s ability to sign, it meant that he could communicate with the pupils on a one-to-one basis, with no need for staff to facilitate this. The pupils were enthusiastic and engaged within the sessions. To see the creativity, learning and application of new skills and expression of their thoughts was marvellous.

 Martin Belton and I represented Longwill at the awards ceremony. The reception from the room was incredible. As we made our way to the stage, people we passed signed ‘congratulations’, ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’. In addition to this, as we reached the stage, almost every person in the room was clapping in sign language. Having been associated with the Deaf community for over 16 years, advocating for the rights of deaf people both within my professional and personal life throughout this time, this scene made me very emotional.

 Alison Carter- Headteacher of Longwill Primary School:

At Longwill, I often talk to our pupils about how we all want them to be ‘Proud to be Deaf’ and this arts project exemplifies everything we, as parents and staff, dream of for our Deaf children! This creative collaboration with Bhulla not only exceeded my expectations – it also actually went off the scale! To watch our children express themselves with such insight, confidence, eloquence, and humour was awe-inspiring!

The children learned so much about themselves, the world of film, and the opportunities for their future world of work and the pride in the richness of the Deaf community.  Longwill School for Deaf Children has a simple vision for its children, that they are always proud to be Deaf, able to thrive in both the Deaf and hearing world and to be able to make a difference to society. This project fulfilled this aspiration beyond measure.

 I am so proud of all the Deaf children at our school and so thankful to be part of this wonderful collaboration between the seven schools in the Birmingham Special Schools Co-operative Trust and our talented and committed creative partners within the region.

 This remarkable journey from project inception to award-winning recognition is a testament to the transformative power of arts initiatives and the belief they instil in young hearts. The project has opened up many paths for not only the students at Longwill but also Deaf children worldwide. Through illuminating the opportunities that are available within filmmaking, Deaf children are able to acknowledge the creative opportunities that they can pursue in the future.

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