Born of Coal
This film about the legacy of the miners’ strike of 1984-5 was made by Ryan Bramley who at the time was a second year English Language and Literature student. The film was made in the summer of 2014, and funded through the University of Sheffield’s Engaged Curriculum project. Ryan was supervised by Dr David Forrest. Ryan worked with various groups and individuals within Barnsley to explore the question of community in light of the events of the 84/85 conflict. The film captures a set of wonderfully rich narratives around themes of friendship, loss, solidarity and pride. As part of the project Ryan also reflected on the ways in which such an exercise might be integrated in the curriculum in the form of filmmaking dissertations, which offer an alternative to the semester 2, level 3 option in the School of English.
Born of Coal is Ryan’s first film. A shorter version was screened at the Showroom Cinema in May 2015 as part of the This is Our City event.
Excerpt from Ryan’s project blog:
The ‘Filmmaking and The Engaged Curriculum’ project was originally inspired by a personal interest of mine in the social history of Barnsley, my hometown. As a relatively small town in South Yorkshire that had, like many other northern regions, suffered as a consequence of post-industrialism, I was particularly interested in the resilience of my local community through periods of hardship in recent years. In this regard, one event in particular stands out as a talking point that, even today, surpasses all others in its controversy: the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. Thirty years on, the ‘sense of community’ that is said to have existed then is something that is spoke of rather nostalgically back home today, especially by the older generations who lived through it and witnessed its effects – the same is rarely said of today. I wanted to discover the extent to which the perceived zeitgeist of social togetherness actually existed during this period, and determine whether it survived the aftermath of the notorious strike – or was destroyed by it.
With the supervision and guidance of Dr David Forrest and Professor Brendan Stone, this stimulus was transformed into a creative practice-as-research project, with its roots firmly ingrained in ‘Storying Sheffield’ – a second-year English module run jointly by the two aforementioned academic supervisors. Through my recent study of this course, I developed both an understanding of, and interest in, the important use of personal narratives as a method of understanding space, place and community. This recognition will be applied to the creation of a short, documentary-style film, collating audio and audio-visual representations of these accounts with both archive and contemporary footage of the Barnsley area. This creative medium allows the research to be influenced by the personal narratives and my verbal interaction with them, which in turn will influence the style and production of the film. This bilateral engagement allows a broader understanding of contemporary subject matter, as opposed to being limited by my own interpretation of static, written sources.
‘Filmmaking and The Engaged Curriculum’ aims to promote the use of creative practice-as-research as an academic approach that can contribute towards a more comprehensive learning experience. This alternative study technique, if used properly, can provide an enlightening accompaniment to the more tradition methods of degree-level study, furthering the learner’s academic enrichment in higher education. I will be reflecting on my learning experience throughout the course of the project via this online blog, documenting the advantages and disadvantages that I encounter. It is anticipated that this information could be used to inform and advise future students and practitioners on how creative practice-as-research can be used suitably to accomplish these aims.