It's got a mirror, it's got beds and look out of the window, there's a beach and there's a little lifeboat in case you drown!" A young lad looks around a hotel room in a new promotional video for the Isle of Man. School's Out, made entirely by students from the Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel, is full of appealing energy and fun, but this moment, touching and funny, is its best.
It all began in 1993. A play on drugs, researched and written by QEII students, gained immediacy and glamour when Caroline Webster, at that time playing a paramedic in Casualty, was drafted by deputy head Julie Harmer to arrive in an ambulance with lights flashing. Such was the impact of the play that Julie Harmer was able to get sponsorship from the local Lions Club to make a video with the same students. Those Year 11 students targeted their video at the then Year 9 children, who in turn went on to make another piece on bullying, called Who's Listening Anyway? It is that same group, last year's Year 11, who made School's Out.
Commissioned by the Department of Tourism and sponsored by Midland Bank, the team of six students, assisted by Caroline Webster and Julie Harmer, made a fast-paced magazine-travelogue, aimed at parents and teachers who would book a trip, and also the key stage 1 and 2 students who would take part. The Isle of Man, full of Celtic, Viking and Norman history, with beautiful wild scenery and interesting geography, is safe, accessible and reasonably priced. All of which useful information can be gleaned from the video which has, as Caroline Webster says, "the raw energy which 'yoof' programmes want: the quick cuts, wonky camera angles and fast edits which young people love".
Says Julie Harmer: "The videos have involved almost the whole school. The original group is now in Year 12 and they have involved others of the sixth form in making programmes. They also run video groups for others lower down in the school. Two of our GCSE art students have been designing the jacket with professional designers. They've gone through the whole process, from original idea to transferring it on to computer. Others in the school are learning about editing, about transferring information onto CD-Rom." As Caroline Webster laughs, "It's gone crazy, it's wild, the cameras are out every day."
Next on the agenda for the students at QEII is the making, on commission, of 12 four-minute programmes for a new cable television company, Tara TV. Operating out of Dublin but with a reach over the whole English-speaking world, the cable company covers matters of Celtic interest and also has plans to screen School's Out.
This media interest has spurred on the wider community around the school, with arts and music workshops springing up for adults too. The same feeling of excitement which makes the video so attractive infects the school and, as Julie Harmer says, "They have gained a tremendous amount, above all in self-confidence".
Further details from: Department of Tourism and Leisure, The Sea Terminal, Douglas, Isle of Man. Tel: 01624 686841