Stories and Voices
is a volunteer at Charlton Park Academy.
He is a writer, blogger and filmmaker.
1000 Londoners – Matt #183
Text © www.1000londoners.com
1000 Londoners is a unique digital portrait of our city.
It offers an insight into the lives of 1000 people who consider themselves to be Londoners, taking in all ages, religions, race, income, interests and opinions.
Each week, a profile of a Londoner is posted on the home page. The profile contains a 3 minute film that gives an insight into the life of the Londoner, as well as their own personal photos of London and some answers to crucial questions about their views on London life.
Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival
The first Charlton and Woolwich Film Festival was a wonderful event, bringing the love of film to South-East London like never before. I was lucky enough to be asked, by school, to help organise it, coordinating with the people behind the festival. That, in itself, was a great experience, and I now think of those guys as firm friends.
My contribution to the festival was a talk about cinephiliac moments. These are moments in film which viewers become obsessed with; something compels cinephiles to write about these moments, and try to explain why they are obsessed with them. My Master’s work was largely concerned with such moments, so for me to give a short talk on my three main cinephiliac moments was not only logical but rather fun.
For it’s contribution to the festival, Charlton Park Academy proposed putting on a screening of Shaun The Sheep, asking me to write and deliver the introduction. I was quite apprehensive about this at first, never having spoken in public before; but once I had watched the film, the intro came easily, and the staff at school were happy to help me input my speech into my ipad.
The screening itself was splendid. It was quite well attended, and I’m pleased to say that my nerves evaporated as soon as I began to ‘speak’. Being a student of film, I was unsure how much in terms of theory to go into, but I think I struck a good balance. However, before my introduction, quite an entertaining safety film, made by the students, had been played.
It really has been a wonderful couple of weeks. For me personally, not only have I learned a great deal, but I have made a great many friends too. I now feel sad that it is over, but hopefully next year’s Charlton and Woolwich Film Festival will soon be in the planning.
Communication Works 2016
Communication Works 2016 was a great success. Around thirty exhibitors came to the annual event at Charlton Park Academy, displaying the latest in communication equipment and technology. The special guest this year was comedien Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy), who performs using his Lightwriter. He gave an opening address and then stayed throughout the day.
Lee is fast becoming an ambassador for communication aid users, having been on Radio Four and increasingly appearing on television. Speaking personally as a communication aid user, having him at this event and getting to meet him felt quite an honour.
There were also several seminars throughout the day. One was about making a video, to be played on inset days, where students could tell teachers what they liked and did not like about school, and how to improve things from their point of view.
Another seminar was by Paul Richards. Paul runs Stay Up Late, a charity which enables people with disabilities – particularly learning difficulties – to have fuller social lives by ‘buddying’ them with able-bodied volunteers. Too often, he noticed, disabled people were being taken home early from shows, clubs and music venues because their personal assistant’s shift ended. I know from personal experience that this has caused many nights out to be cut short. Stay up Late introduces people with disabilities to volunteers who are prepared to stay out longer, even into the early hours, so that people with disabilities can enjoy the type of social lives everyone else has.
Another highlight was Pen Mendonça who helped people visualise what was being said by drawing graphic representations of it on large sheets. She was constantly adding to her pictures throughout the day, creating images which were both expressive, fascinating and quite amusing. It was like a constant commentary in image form. The way that she was able to keep up with everything going on in the hall, translating it into such stunning imagery, was truly remarkable.
Communication Works 2016 was, then, a triumph. I think all who attended would have found it richly rewarding. It was good to see everyone discussing communication, something so essential to life yet something so often overlooked and taken for granted. This event brought the subject into focus, bringing together a diverse community of people, and getting them talking.
Volunteering at Charlton Park Academy
I started to work at Charlton Park Academy about five years ago, when I first moved in with my girlfriend Lyn. I needed something to do to keep me active, having previously been based on a campus of a northern university, and we thought volunteering at school might fit the bill.
Also, since leaving my own school eight years before, I had been highly influenced by the pro-inclusion, anti-special school lobby. I was becoming aware I might be slipping into dogmatism, and felt I needed to see the other side of the debate. Either way, I needed something to keep me out of trouble, and, as it was just around the corner from our bungalow in Charlton, volunteering at Charlton Park Acadmy seemed perfect.
What I found, I must admit, opened my eyes; the situation was far more complex than I thought. In my first year there, I was asked to help with the school radio station, where every friday a group of pupils crated their own short radio show. It was great fun, and I really enjoyed watching the students learn about broadcasting, turn taking and many other things. It became very clear to me that this was certainly no place for dogma, and that the situation with these students was very complex indeed. Inclusion, I now think, is a noble idea, but student welfare must come first.
I would certainly like to continue to volunteer at school. I like to think I impart some of my wisdom and confidence to the students. My bachelor’s and recently-passed master’s degrees are in film, so perhaps we could incorporate that somewhere. More importantly, though, I hope I can continue to learn from my experiences at school, thereby becoming a more well-rounded individual and better human being.