Images for Change

CAP North East's project to use photos to challenge poverty.

Roberts Street, party 1918

Background to the proposal

Members of the CAPNE group from the East End of Newcastle asked to host the Poverty Action Sunday 2005 event in Walker because they felt their community was at a ���kairos' moment in the regeneration process. Initially the idea was to invite members of the Walker community to tell their story, using the image of peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the heart of the community, which was pictured being held up in a boat by a strong woman. However, as we struggled to find enough willing speakers from Walker, we turned to our contacts in other riverside communities (MeadowWell, Benwell & Teams) Even CAPNE core members were astounded at the result. As each speaker told their personal story, a common cyclical pattern emerged of:

* post war decline of the heavy industries that lined the Tyne

the first wave of crude demolition of the old terraces and dispersal of communities

*followed by deepening unemployment in the 80s

* further selective demolition, leaving artificially divided and struggling  communities depleted of community facilities & resources to
* a more 'radical' approach, in the case of Newcastle, called ���Going for Growth��� and the political fall out that followed the controversial proposals
* an almost biblical remnant left grappling with yet further proposals for redevelopment ( in one case an academy imposed; in another a school and church closed)

In all this the unanswered questions 'For whose benefit? In whose interests?'
While the community speakers recognised where significant improvements in quality of life had been achieved - they felt it was often at the expense of their greatest strength - their community. It became apparent that there was a voice here, that had not been able to influence the course of redevelopment/regeneration in these areas, in a sustained and effective way. Moreover it became very clear that at the heart of these communities there were values that could help the whole region to develop in a more sustainable and human way. On reflection it seemed that CAPNE might have a role to play in enabling that community voice to be heard more effectively. We did not want to reinvent the wheel of Poverty Hearings and conscious of the role that photography has already played ; telling the story of these communities and giving them a higher profile eg:
* Byker Photography project
* Amber���s work in North Tyneside
* Daisy Hill Exhibition, currently at the Discovery Museum
* Jimmy Forsyth���s work & the photographic collection of the West End Local Studies group
we decided to explore with representatives of the communities, the idea of using photography to enable a wider cross section of people from the riverside communities to engage in telling their stories. This would bea first step in finding a stronger voice in relation to present and future developments in their areas. At this stage, an initial conversation took place about the possibility of Millfield House Foundation resourcing such an initiative.

Scotswood station

The Proposal - IMAGES for CHANGE

Stage I
It was decided to launch this initiative on Poverty Action Sunday 2006 at St. Mary���s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Newcastle. Over 150 people, many from the communities, witnessed the Bishop distribute cameras to community representatives, who were commissioned to go back to their communities to encourage people to take photographs in response to the following questions:

1. What makes you/your family special?

2. What makes your community the community it is?
3. What struggles have people been through and do you face today?
4. What do you want to build on for the future?
5. What do you want to get rid of?
6. What is your Hope for your community - your Dream?

The commissioning took place in the context of a service where the story of the raising of Lazarus was told from the perspective of different onlookers (Mary, the Gravedigger, the Mourners, Young People) to set the scene for the community stories of many ���deaths��� followed by the hope of new life. The all age participation in the event was one of its most striking and hopeful features.

Stage II 
To be launched around the time of Poverty Action Sunday 07  with two analytical workshops and visits to other areas of the UK as key events. The first workshop scheduled for 17th February at Westgate Baptist Church facilitated by Anne Stewart of Community Pride, Manchester.

Some members of CAPNE have had a longstanding interest in the work of Paulo Freire and his use of photography to identify generative themes which assist the analysis of the status quo, identifying obstacles to change, and  empowering people to take effective action for change (in a simplistic nutshell). It is not envisaged that we would follow his method in all its detail but that his principles would act as a steer in the second stage
We would also like to draw on work taking place in other parts of the U.K. eg:
a) Community Pride, based in Manchester & Salford, now in its 7th year of work to give communities a stronger voice in what happens in their neighbourhoods & City. They are currently launching a national project: Schools for Participation
b) Scottish Priority Area communities engaged in Training for Transformation programmes - a programme widely used in the developing world

This second stage will culminate in a National Event on Tyneside supported by National CAP which would aim to engage national and local policy makers & politicians, developers, media and  churches with the work of the communities. Scheduled for 10th November at Gateshead Civic Centre with Hilary Armstrong as one keynote speaker.  This will not preclude communities engaging in their own actions en route, but will aim to take a wider view of the processes and aims of redevelopment/regeneration - never losing site of those crucial questions ���In whose interests For whose benefit?���

We do not want to be too prescriptive about outcomes at this stage as the whole point of the process is to engage the communities in determining the outcomes. But we do envisage that the National Event in 2007 will give impetus to action for change rather than conclude action.

Summer 2006

Scotswood railway bridge today

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