Creative Dundee

Blog: Press Change

Photographs by Ben Douglas

Gemma Nicol and Lisa Williamson from hidden route reflect on their time facilitating Press Change – a pilot youth community journalism project led by Creative Dundee for Dundee’s Changemakers Hub.

As part of Dundee’s Changemakers Hub, we’ve been leading Press Change – a pilot youth community journalism project supporting a small cohort of young people to develop their skills, confidence and agency. Over ten days, five young people and five creative practitioners came together to explore local issues and opportunities for greater social and climate justice across Dundee.

Supported by  hidden route‘s Gemma Nicol and Lisa Williamson, photographer and youth worker Ben Douglas, digital designer and filmmaker Avery Duncan, and youth worker and activist Fatima Ishaq, the young people developed a series of individual creative projects using interviews, photography, sound, poetry, and more.

In this blog originally shared with Dundee’s Changemakers Hub, Gemma and Lisa share more about how they supported the young peoples’ journeys; from building more confidence and connections, to using creativity to make their voices heard on what is and what could be.

Press Change is a youth community journalism project led by Creative Dundee as part of Dundee Changemakers Hub. This brand new pilot project aims to develop their skills, confidence and agency in raising their voices, whilst exploring local environmental and societal issues across Dundee.”

This is the brief that we set out to explore on this pilot project – discovering as we went, what happens when people come together and think about what it is they would like to say about their community, about the world around them, and how they might like to say it; through writing, art, photography, music or even sculpture. 

As a group we have been meeting fortnightly in a shop space in the Keiller Centre to develop a series of individual creative projects with a variety of aims, from amplifying the voices of the people behind community projects in Dundee to exploring the relationship between art and community by interviewing people on the streets of the city.

But how did we get to this point? We started by asking lots of questions. We had to find out what was important to us as a group and as individuals so we could start to figure out how to shape our projects.

So we began with a few prompts to get us thinking:

What subjects are important to you?

  • Local history
  • LGBTQIA+ rights
  • Food poverty in areas of Dundee 
  • Everyday stories
  • Seeing good in the world

What would you like to see more of?

  • Local creative initiatives
  • Community Connection 
  • Green Spaces

What creative outputs interest you?

  • Graphic Design
  • Photojournalism
  • Sculpture

There were lots more questions and lots more answers, and these started to give us a sense of what we might start exploring. These initial questions and the exercises that accompanied them allowed us to start finding the common threads whilst acknowledging the very individual areas of interest that each person held. 

Of course a key element to any project that looks to embed collaboration and skill sharing at its core is to build a sense of community, to get to know one another and to feel at ease sharing ideas with one another.

As practitioners we did this in the only way we know how – games! Setting up challenges to find the things we had in common, finding out who can talk about the colour blue for 30 seconds, drawing portraits of one another in an exercise we have dubbed ‘the David Shrigley Challenge’, and holding debates where we voice our opinions around the very important topics in life such as ‘Tea or coffee?’ ‘Pizza or Pasta?’ and of course ‘Would you rather be able to time travel or teleport?’.

And whilst these seem like light topics to talk about, they actually paved the way for us to feel more confident about the topics that really matter to us and wanted to discuss. 

We spent time exploring and learning from the different skills of the creative practitioners, developing our skills in photography – heading out to explore the city centre with our polaroid cameras in hand, and being encouraged to look up, to look around and to take portraits of our partners. We developed our design skills by writing, drawing and creating our own mini zines, and we thought about political action, activism and community through discussions and conversational prompts.

Something that became very clear very quickly is that there was a real interest in gathering people’s stories – undertaking interviews with a variety of people across the city. The changemakers were keen to use their projects as a way to tell the stories of other people in the city.

Once ideas were bubbling away, a question still remained – how do we share these projects? 

So we headed out of our wee shop to get some inspiration. Taking in the brilliant Dundee Tapestry exhibition at the V&A, as well as Michelle Williams Gamaker’s ‘Our Mountains are Painted on Glass’ at the DCA. Giving us lots to reflect on about how you share work, how you frame what you have created and what you want to say to an audience. Leaving us with lots to think on what is the best way to share our work and importantly who do we want to share our work with?

We were also invited to chat with journalists at DC Thomson, we went on a behind-the-scenes tour of their busy offices, chatted with staff about their jobs and discussed how we research and engage with news, what kind of news and platforms we go for, and what helps us trust and share content with others.

From here it was time for the young people to start developing their projects on their own, with our support of course.

We had interviews taking place at community organisations all over Dundee, and young people hitting the streets of the city centre to interview people. Pairs in the library scouring the archives of the city and a small team raiding ScrapAntics for material to create a sculpture of the world that will house a poem about climate action, all the while another participant created their own original piece of music on Ableton in the corner of the shop.

With a wealth of stories, writing, photographs, a piece of music and a sculpture to show for our time together, we’re delighted to share more about each young person’s project in this series of blogs, also giving insights into their processes and learnings.

We also invited them to talk about their project and experience at our recent Not Another Visioning Event, on Tuesday 26 March 2024, at the Steeple Hall.

It was wonderful to see the young people growing their self-belief and enthusiasm through this project; challenging themselves, developing new friendships, and learning new skills.

The young Changemakers shared with us how much they have developed their confidence, skills and agency even within this short Press Change pilot, while valuing the opportunity of experiencing new things in a small, supportive collective of people.

Culture and creativity brings people together – in shared moments we find much-needed space to build community and confidence, and collectively imagine possible futures. The climate crisis can feel a daunting responsibility, it is clear to us that these young Changemakers demonstrate how vital it is to create safe(r) spaces, and find creative approaches to ensure perspectives are heard and action can be taken collectively.

hidden route are a Dundee–based theatre company who facilitate spaces where young people from all backgrounds and experiences can come together to collaborate, be curious and respond creatively to the world around them.

Dundee’s Changemakers Hub is being designed and delivered by a collective of five local community organisations: Transition Dundee, The Maxwell Centre, ScrapAntics, Uppertunity, and Creative Dundee. The Hub will offer support, events, workshops and micro-grants to connect and amplify collective community action.

The Hub is part of a growing national network of Climate Action Hubs funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Action Fund, which aim to build local awareness of the climate emergency, develop local plans, help groups take up funding opportunities, and contribute to a Just Transition.

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