Day 10 – Union Street Media Arts

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Old Trafford in southwest Manchester used to be a thriving part of the city, with the nearby canal, jam and Vimto factories providing mass employment in the early twentieth century. Now among the 10% most deprived areas in England, suffering problems of unemployment, poor housing and low educational achievement, it also has levels of youth crime well above the national average.

One local project, Union Street Media Arts, is helping teenagers build their skills and keeping them off the streets. Their vision is to increase young people’s ability to speak for themselves and be represented by using the power of media and art. Set up by a young couple, Natasha Boojihawon and Roop Sagar, with a passion for their community – they’ve set themselves up as a social enterprise, using the money from the their professional film production company to pay for the youth work. This means they won’t be directly impacted by government spending cuts, although the young people they work with are seeing cuts in Education Maintenance Allowance and a massive hike in student fees.

Natasha talks us through some of the issues young people face locally – drugs, alcohol, violence – and describes how they use theatre and film to explore those issues. The young people put together entire storyboards, film their script and edit a film all in one three-hour session, and then share the result on YouTube. There aren’t many other youth services in the area, and none have the kind of focus on building useful skills like film-editing and operating a camera.

We meet two young teenagers who have been part of the project – and it’s clear that Unions Street is like a home from home. They produce video blogs after visiting a local museum, and show us a recently painted mural project which explores the good and evils in society. Union Street is exactly the kind of place that will help these kids stay on track and give them a voice.

Both Roop and Natasha have a big passion for the work they do. “We’d like to have kids here one day, and we’d hope that other people would do the same for us” says Natasha.

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