This week Dr Deirdre McKay and I wrote a short piece for the Conversation about what we learned from a series of creative workshops with members of the public, which were focused on issues surrounding waste plastic – an issue gaining increasing levels of media attention.
The launch of Blue Planet II in October 2017 was notable not only for its spectacular imagery, but in making a longstanding environmental issue the focus of public attention: the problem of plastic waste. Since the documentary was screened, over 500 newspaper articles have been published that refer to the series’ dramatic depictions of sea creatures entangled in ocean-borne plastic. These stories include everything from regional newspapers that propose local bans on plastic straws, to national news columns that point to Blue Planet II as evidence of heightened public concern with waste. Even the documentary’s production team noted their horror about the waste plastics they encountered, with the crew describing how they ‘collected every piece of plastic they came across while filming’.
Human activities in places like the UK can affect animals in some of the most isolated parts of the world. However, the lives and deaths of these animals are often invisible. In order to overcome this problem a number of academics have argued for the importance of telling stories – like those in Blue Planet – that help to make the lives of species that are near-extinction more visible. These stories can help us to understand the consequences of issues such as plastic waste, and recognise what could be lost if these problems continue. For instance, there has been growing concern with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a collection of plastic waste the size of Texas that has gathered in one of the most isolated parts of the Pacific Ocean. Thom van Dooren’s work has described how young birds who live amongst this waste often die because their stomachs are so full of plastic that they cannot eat or drink enough to survive. This point is brought home by Chris Jordan’s haunting images of albatross skeletons filled with colourful bottle-tops, cigarette lighters and other such debris that led to their death.
All of this media attention and academic work has been enhanced by a number of social media awareness-raising campaigns and online petitions that lobby for change. However, banning plastic raises some complicated political issues and it is easy to feel helpless about how to tackle such a complex environmental problem. In our own research, therefore, we felt that it was important not just to tell people about the problem of plastic or to make its effects visible, but work with members of the local community to explore possible solutions.
For instance, during November last year, I was involved in some workshops as part of the Being Human festival. Facilitated by Dr Deirdre McKay, the workshops encouraged people to ‘play with plastic’ in order to gain a sense of the environmental issues it poses. In addition to craft-making activities with local artists, in the first workshop I presented research by scholars in the Environmental Humanities that links plastic pollution to the extinction of species such as albatrosses. In the second workshop, Dr Ceri Morgan engaged in more participatory modes of storytelling – where people composed their own stories about the role of plastic in everyday life. The below images offer some examples of what people created in the workshops.
The piece in the Conversation includes further reflections on what we’ve learned from these workshops, here.
Attention Keele UG & PG Media students & recent graduates and post-graduates!
Fancy some paid work experience as a Radio Production & Broadcast Assistant or in a role involving Music Journalism or Graphic Design?
A range of fantastic paid internship opportunities in the field of creative communications and marketing open only to Keele students & recent graduates and post-graduates are being made available through the Keele Internships scheme.
Please see attached documents for current media and communications related openings.
After almost 10 years (!!) I have finally got back into film making! I plan to make this MasterQuiz video into a series of short YouTube videos with a dry, surreal comedy style (similar to Adult Swim). Inspired by Dr Steve Brule: Check it Out! I decided to make my own series of videos in this style.
Made with the assistance of Keele MCC Students and independent actors.
Congratulations to the creators of Endless for wining the award for the best film in this year’s Digital Video module!
Endless follows the story of Lily as she begins to create her first video blog to share the stories in her life. But her vlog soon becomes a cry for help for the domestic violence she receives in her relationship with her boyfriend Ben.
Digital Video is a first year practical module which gives Media students the opportunity to work together as a group to produce a short 5 minute film. The winners of this year’s best film were voted for by their classmates.
Last MCC Movie Night of the year! So crack open the mince pies and get your slippers on for our screening of Elf
Meet Buddy, a baby raised by elves who grows to realise he doesn’t quite fit in. Determined to find a place where he belongs, Buddy searches for his real dad – in New York City! A laugh-out-loud comedy Starring Will Ferrell, James Caan and Zooey Deschanel.
We’re very pleased to be part of two events in November, which are run as part of the Being Human festival. Hosted at B-Arts, we’ll be exploring some creative ways we can deal with the problem of plastic waste – which has been in the newspaper headlines recently, with the discovery of a new plastic garbage patch in the Pacific that is the size of Mexico.
One of the difficulties about dealing with plastic is that we often think we’re disposing of it responsibly when we recycle, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The problem with plastic is that it’s not just harmful when it’s discarded (as with famous images of it harming wildlife, such as the below image), because plastic is equally problematic when it breaks down. Frictions caused by ocean waves make an ideal environment for it to break down into tiny particles, which we might not be able to see but – as Thom van Dooren has described – can lead to the slow death of species such as albatrosses. These workshops are, we hope, the start of a series of initiatives where we can use a range of creative approaches to re-think our relationship with a material that is simultaneously so everyday and so fraught with problems. More about the project can be found here.
First Year student Shauna successfully completed a 24 hour filmmaking challenge this weekend! Her short video, The Artist’s High, can be seen here:
The film follows the Journey of an artist who decides to go on a train and see where life will take her. She has never seen fireworks before and so she’s amazed at this new experience with all the new colours. However the train journey and visiting new places never actually happened and it was just a hit of Heroin. The whole “trip” Is played backwards and you see that the first step that she took was really just a step in the drugged up world she’s living in. You later discover that it never happened when you see a rope tied around her arm with a needle in the other hand laying unconscious on a couch.
Shauna’s intentions of the film is not to promote or romanticise drug use, but use the 24h film challenge as a creative outlet for her passion for film making!