Rolling out the red carpet

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Mitchell Miller reports on Govan's Sundance on the Southside

We are walking through a pedestrian underpass in Govan, and my 12-year-old "guide" points excitedly to a jagged silhouette across the middle of the tunnel. Someone has driven a car down two narrow flights of stairs, into the underpass and burnt it to a crisp. My guide clearly knows the culprits but isn't telling, and appalling as it is, the sheer ingenuity is impressive - to coin the vernacular, pure gallus, a stunt worthy of the movies.

That's Govan for you, many would say, but Moya Crowley and Lesley Anderson are showing local kids much healthier ways of emulating Hollywood. Ms Anderson is playing host at the Roots in the Community (RITC) office in Kinning Park, and they are telling me about their week at the Sundance Film Lab in Utah (under the watchful gaze of her cardboard cut-out of Russell Crowe), and their plans for Govan.

Ms Crowley runs Plantation Productions, a film and video outfit based upstairs. Running a film company is no easy task; tough deadlines, hectic schedules and shoestring budgets that easily fray are common to even the biggest, but Govan presents additional obstacles. Their area is the stuff of the grittier class of crime drama; youth gangs, no-go areas, poverty, deprivation and crime. But Ms Crowley has long adjusted to such occupational hazards.

"A lot of our work is about addressing and overcoming territorial issues," she says. "We do our best to break down barriers between us and the children and between each other." And she can show you the results, such as the documentary on the last Govan Gathering Light (GGL) festival made by local young people for RITC. The process of getting young people to produce short films such as Fae Govan (premiered at the festival) not only celebrated their birthplace but taught them many new skills without their even realising it.

The same went for the Young Govan Roots films, which brought pupils from all parts of Govan together in reinterpreting aspects of their heritage, producing a documentary on the famous hogback stones in the parish kirk.

Schools in each of Govan's five constituent areas have welcomed the expertise of Plantation and RITC, as providing relevant creative activities sorely tests already overstretched budgets.

"It doesn't cost them money," Ms Anderson says, "and it act-ually works.

For most projects, we had 90 per cent attendance."

Much of what the young people do fits with the school curriculum, and improves on new literacies, such as understanding the media. "Once they understand how editing works," Ms Anderson says, "they can better understand - and make up their own minds - about what they see on the news".

But Ms Anderson is careful to point out that the end product is secondary to the learning it imparts. "We genuinely know how young people can benefit from this and how their core skills can develop - it's the process, not the product. This is not about putting them in the industry."

Making films demands discipline, organisation, creative judgment - and especially time management. Youth workers and teachers will speak, often with a shudder, of the difficulties of getting a teenager out of bed. Yet Plantation's young film crews have been seen taking advantage of empty streets at 6.30am. And the relationship with the young people can become long term.

"Trainees become trainers, and share their experience with others - they realise they have something to say that others want to learn from," Ms Crowley says.

Back at the brainstorming session in Kinning Park, plans are afoot to apply lessons learnt in Utah. One idea picked up at Sundance is for the next Govan Gathering Light to host a real film premiere - with red carpet, press kits and "press reporting". Local pupils will take on the various aspects of the entertainment industry, from journalism to marketing to photography.

The aim, amid all the pageantry, is to impart a range of vital soft and core skills.

And then there are the plans to link with projects in Ireland and the Netherlands, for holding a Scottish Filmlab, a film festival and taking up the many pledges of support and collaboration picked up at Sundance.

It has been a long road for these organisations, requiring patience, understanding and a great deal of hard work. In the case of some young people it takes two years to get them ready to film. But neither Ms Crowley nor Ms Anderson shows any sign of discouragement. Far from it.

"What excites me," Ms Crowley says, "is how giving them access to film and video opens up all these possibilities for them. They get so gallus, they have this new awareness of what they're capable of." There's that word again - but so much better put.

For information on the work of Plantation Productions and Roots in the Community, contact Moya Crowley at or Lesley Anderson at

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