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Jack Hutchinson and neighbours

Jack makes a big difference to his local community - like lots of other local residents. He organises the gardening club and every year they create more than 100 hanging baskets to brighten streets around Fenham.

Jack is one of the committee members of Fenham Association of Residents (known as FAR).

Purpose of Involvement

FAR was marking its 20th anniversary - and more than forty years of community activism. The story of those involved is inspirational, and the residents agreed to tell their stories to help encourage other local areas to feel empowered to "think big" about what they wanted for their area.

What the Participants Say

Mark Gowland, FAR administrator: “Digital Voice developed this project, starting with an initial spark of excitement about creating a DVD to mark the achievement of Fenham Association of Residents - reaching 20 years as a registered charity - to produce something quite remarkable.

"By building trust with a degree of skill, honestly and care, Digital Voice were able to dispel any fear our volunteers had about being filmed or dealing with a media company. Digital Voice supported the residents through every step of the way, enabling them to feel both important and having a level of control which did not cause fear or insecurity.

"Digital Voice understood the brief but made the project special by focusing in on the particular people who were crucial to the telling the stories, in a way which was almost catharsis. Our story tellers list the battles they have endured, the help given, the development of the organisation, it reflects their personal battles and bravery over obstacles which would see the organisation finally be rewarded with a new community centre.”

What Happened

Members of the committee worked with the production team before any plans were developed, describing their personal experiences, looking at archive photos and helping shape the video outline. Once they were happy with the proposals, filming took place to fit around the times and locations that each person preferred.

Jack was filmed with his grandson in his favourite place - his wonderful garden and greenhouse. He described why he loved involving others in gardening and improving the look of the local area. "It gives everyone a purpose in life," he said.

Also filmed was Dorothy Ternent, a member of the gardening club. "We needed someone like Jack - you can see he's an enthusiast and he's enthused us." After hardly leaving her home, she became involved in the community centre and this led to volunteering with other organisations across Newcastle. "It's changed my life."

Benefits for Participants

Telling their story the way they wanted: Once trust is built up, it is very enjoyable to discuss the successes of such genuine commitment, looking at photos, discussing the results in groups and on camera. Mark concluded: "Thank you Digital Voice for a project which will live long in our hearts."

Inspiring other local groups: Mark Gowland describes the screening: "The documentary was premièred to an audience of local residents, City Councillors and funders at the Old Assembly rooms. They were overwhelmed to see the touching stories told by residents that they had known only through FAR. People from other organisations came up to me immediately after the screening to request copies. The documentary served to tell all about the battles and hard work which formed the basis of FAR, the background to an organisation which has given so much, to help so many but was run by so few!

"The success of the documentary is such you could live in any part of the country and you can empathise and care about the story the residents are telling and have a warm feeling that there are people who can make a difference – that for many more groups across the country, “You can go FAR”.

"The effect of the project was remarkable, a documentary, a story, a success!"

Sharing the Results with Others

  • Screening of the DVD at anniversary celebration at Old Assembly Rooms, Newcastle
  • Series of broadcasts on Community Channel
  • DVD copies distributed to community groups

Client and/or Funder

This project was funded by FAR and Age Concern.

Who Else Would Benefit from this sort of Project?

Many people have remarkable stories which deserve to be celebrated and inspire others. They may initially feel bashful about sharing their experience but reassurance and building the project around their preferences builds confidence and ultimately results in a very rewarding project with a permanent record.

How to Find Out More

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