Bazaar Cinema: Re-purposing Media and debating cultural rights of Youth Communities in London and Mumbai

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Languages Linguistics and Film

Abstract

Digital technologies have in the space of two decades changed the way in which media is produced, distributed and experienced. Yet the implications of individuals taking official media (such as film), re-making it in their own fashion and distributing it to their peers or more making it more widely available online, have been publically debated through a narrow lens in terms of legal stakeholders. This has resulted in statements prohibiting certain uses of film in particular, and yet the issue of cultural rights, of how we are able to engage with culture in the public domain, is an equally important framework. A legal definition of cultural rights as the protection of business practice continues to circulate in the public domain, with the Creative Commons providing a counter-legal position of open licensing. Problematically, a debate on the creative rights of citizens remains external to this legal framework, (dis)affecting a young demographic in particular.

However, cultural rights are not simply legislated but enacted, as activity in spaces such as Youtube and Vimeo, evidences. Emergent patterns of media consumption and interaction with ad-hoc or experimental tools are used to create media worlds that sustain identities, communities and networks, particularly those of a young demographic existing at the periphery of democratic processes; many young people, for example, are not engaged with the voting system. If a youth-created 'bazaar' cinema is consigned to the margins of the social-symbolic field, this marginal positioning is likely to have consequences for other symbolic interactions, as research has demonstrated in the UK (Willis, 2004). This paradoxical situation in which formal statements of regulation fail to govern patterns of media consumption, and the activities of creative repurposing continue to exist in an unofficial capacity, reproduces various forms of cultural exclusion. The research network provides a series of linkages between official and unofficial parties involved with film culture, not only in the UK, but cross-culturally. To focus research exclusively on national definitions of cultural rights risks staying within the parameters of naturalized understandings. The research breaks with these limitations by establishing an international network with partner institutions in Mumbai. The megacities of India provide one of the richest illustrations of bazaar cinema, as current scholarship demonstrates (Dudrah et al, 2012). Over the duration of the project, stakeholders in cultural industries and related groups in the UK are brought into the network to debate the outcomes of this international and mulit-stakeholder dialogue.

Planned Impact

Tower Hamlets has the third largest percentage of 20 to 34 year olds of all local authorities in the UK and 59% of the population are 15-44 year olds compared with 42 % for this age group in the country as a whole. According to the Audit Commission, Tower Hamlets has one of the lowest employments rates in London, and high numbers of young people who are not currently in education, employment or training (NEETS). There is a similar situation in M-Ward in Mumbai, where indicators of poverty and social exclusion for the communities living there are consistently registered as the highest in the city. This is a strategic moment to engage with TISS given their location in M ward, and their remit to engage with communities in the ward as part of the celebration of Tata's 75 years.

Film and media provide useful tools to engage young people, particularly those who have not engaged with traditional education systems. The use of film and performance for social empowerment has a long and established history in East London and Mumbai. As well as providing young people with hard and soft employability skills through engagement with new medias, international dialogue and access to potential employers, this project proposes to understand how the provision of media platforms for self expression and the publication of content provides young people with a voice and space to develop as active citizens (Beyond the Numbers Game, 2007). The development of a cultural rights agenda will feed directly into these dynamics. Findings from the network will feed into strategic and operational activities with youth and community organisations in both cities through direct participation, as well as indirectly through exposure to the networks, blogs, events held as part of the East End Film Festival, and publications in trade journals/ presentations. In addition, our findings will feed back through policy makers, with whom we have access through EEFF, HE institutional linkage as well as extensive links with Tech City Advisors.

The creative industries are an important growth area in rebalancing the economy, representing 5.1% of the UK's employment and 10.6% of the UK's exports of services. (DCMS 2011 stats)., as well as generating important 'spillover' benefits for other sectors that work with them to create innovative products and services (NESTA 2012). East London is home to the largest clusters of creative activity in the UK, it is designated London's Tech City and the home to the world's next generation of digital technology entrepreneurs (UK TCIO 2011). Access to companies involved in the Digital Shoreditch Platform tells us these companies are not able to access the youth demographic and in particular the 'disadvantaged innovators' working with organizations such as Hi8us. In addition to accessing this relatively untapped field of innovation, these companies are looking to engage highly lucrative youth markets.

The East End Film Festival has an 11 year history. It reaches large and varied audiences and has an increasingly high profile. This year the festival celebrates linkage with emergent Indian cinema, and hosts Mumbai based director Vikramaditya Motwane in residence. This project enhances this commitment, provides EEFF with links to Mumbai based personnel and organizations, as well as young people. EEFF has an ongoing focus on social justice and commitment to supporting fresh new talent, another area that will be further enhanced through this work.

Publications


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Description Key Findings (7)

1 Young people's attitudes to cultural rights (of media repurposing) versus IP (Intellectual property Law) were similar in London and Mumbai. The legal prohibition on re-using commercially produced and protected media was not an issue for young, socially disadvantaged people in East London who felt that their lives generally fell below the radar of official recognition (they were not significant enough to be pursued for IP offences). In Mumbai with a similar demographic, a culture of re-purposing media and technological 'hardware' was a practice perceived as living by skilful adaptation of the means to hand (expressed as a practice that thrives until a time when it may be physically stopped). Neither group expressed fear nor concern regarding law enforcement for IP transgression because of their perceived low social and political status.

2 Repurposing media is a political means to an end: In East London, young people were concerned with the production and repurposing of media as a way of producing a message (to highlight racism, to express opinion), not for its own aesthetic value or merit. In Mumbai, young people were concerned to make media 'with a message' and with an aim to impact on and change public opinion on a particular local issue. The concept of a means justified by the end, including illegal appropriation of media content, was the common sensibility.

3 Parody is a political tactic: One of the common features of handling and reworking media by young people in East London was to parody or make ironic the discourses of racism or ethnic misrepresentation that operate in mainstream broadcast media. This finding has a timely resonance with changes to European legislation (European Copyright Directive effective from 1 October 2014) allowing certain forms of parody of 'original' media.

4 Young people in Mumbai practiced a different version of parody: not of texts but of the technologies themselves. The adaptation of software and hardware was part of a culture of adaptation and re-purposing, where the practicality of making of media was a strongly integrated part of the final text. The mimicking of the technological set-up of professional film shoots, for example, through repurposed lighting and sound equipment, produced a type of mimesis that acknowledged the gap between the socio-economically disadvantaged producer of media and the well-resourced.

5 The circulation of re-purposed media through social media reproduces the micro-geographies of ethnic difference: the workshops in East London found that young people were using of social media to distribute their repurposed films, and in so doing, reproduced the boundaries of neighbourhoods. The tagging of films with postcodes, for example, was a common practice in the circulation of videos online.

6 The young people involved in workshop discussions of their own and other's media could be both nuanced and reflective in their understanding of how identity is tied to place. For example, it was common to find an aspiration for films made about local places and events (often involving conflict) to be understood locally, along with frustration that a focus on local issues limits the representational appeal of their work.

7 Increased inclusion of disadvantaged young people in the public sphere requires infrastructural support: The most effective enhancement (in East London) of young people's inclusion in the public sphere and public debate is through the provision of a cultural infrastructure and training. The training of young people as curators, programmers, marketing workers and events organisers for Cutting East, produced and consolidated through the research network as a facet of the larger East End Film Festival, provides a route into broader social engagement that enables young people to set their own agendas. This was indisputably the view of the workshop participants who did not identify with the need to write manifestoes or statements of intent. They preferred to debate cultural rights within the more formal forum of the Cutting East Film Festival than making statements on websites. Manifestoes were regarded as a 'bourgeois' mode of asserting the self and personal rights that the groups did not identify with. This gives rise to a further set of research questions about how communities regard their individual and collective identity, and their cultural and political rights, which in this research network were inseparable for participants.
Exploitation Route These findings may be pursued in the following ways:

- At the highest level, the findings concerning how to enhance social and political participation in the public sphere of disadvantaged and excluded young people in East London through the resourcing of cultural infrastructure and training may be fruitfully fed into Government policy review of the merits of Prevent, a 'counter extremism' measure widely recognised to have failed to achieve its goals through its lack of knowledge of communities affected.

- The LBTH (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) and the EEFF (East End Film Festival) may introduce the mentoring of young people involved in Cuting East film festival by media workers located in East London (Digital Shoreditch, EEFF festival sponsors), to strengthen training provision in the locale by partnering with commercial organisations. This is currently a policy discussion item.

- Queen Mary may use the findings to inform its policy on impact and local communities, feeding into the planning detail of estates and of how access to the campus is granted on the one hand, and how links with the community may be sustained on the other. Queen Mary is widely regarded as an island by those disadvantaged communities that surround it and the research network was highly successful in finding ways to dissolve that notion of a bounded institution through a series of activities, changes to access regulations and screening facilities.

- Community leaders in M-Ward, Mumbai and Mile End, London will take further the findings to develop future exchanges on common themes. Ongoing discussion between community groups and researchers is considering the topics of parody, neighbourhoods, and socio-cultural difference and food. Both Mile End Community Project and researchers at the TATA Institute (Mumbai) exchanged texts on the political and cultural importance of food.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description The Bazaar Cinema research network has achieved impact along the different axes of its form; these involve Queen Mary, the East End Film Festival (EEFF) and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH), Mile End Community Project (MCP), and the Tata Institute of Socal Sciences Mumbai. The Institute of Public Engagement at Queen Mary has responded to the value of the research and acted to cement relationships with its immediate communities by creating Honory Fellowships for the two community leaders of Mile End Community Project (MCP), Nurull Islam and Ali Assan, awarded in July 2015. As a result of the success of the collaboration of groups in the network, the East End Film Festival and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (the latter providing some financial support for the festival) has entrusted the management of Cutting East, (the wing of the EEFF for and by young people), to Nurull Islam and Ali Assan of MCP. Queen Mary Film Studies department continues to have input into Cutting East. In summary, the network functioned to inform local authority cultural policy on engagement with hard-to-reach, socially disadvantaged young people in the Borough. During the course of the project, the nuanced history of cinema-going in East London became evident as a topic through which the rapidly shifting ethnic communities of East London could be evidenced and understood. Research Assistant to the project, Dr Gil Toffell, was employed by LBTH to conduct research on the history of South Asian cinema-going in the East End and curate an exhibition at the Genesis Cinema attracting local interest from the community (the East London History Society and other groups). He has subsequently obtained a publishing contract from Palgrave Macmillan for a monograph on this topic, and has gone on to work on the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'Religious faith, space and diasporic communities in East London: 1880-present' as a result of his experience gained working on Bazaar Cinema. During the running of the project, the research team found that the original proposal had invested too much responsibility in young people as leaders, without being able to provide the appropriate training. As a result, the community leaders of groups (MCP and Phakarma) became the key interfacers for young people. MCP community leaders visited the TATA Institute (Mumbai) with the research team in 2014, where the presentation of the project produced new ideas for affiliations. These are currently in development between MCP and the TATA Institute. The findings of the research inform the subsequent method of working with young people as well as providing a spur to further collaborative work between the two cities of London and Mumbai.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services
 
Description Film Festival Training of Young People
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The AHRC research network's (Bazaar Cinema) focus on attitudes towards and the value and meaning of repurposing film within communities has impacted on the practices of the Cutting East Youth Film Festival. The festival now provides training to young people in mixing sound and image, Cutting Sounds, in addition to the other forms of training young, disenfranchised people in East London in aspects of programming, film jury work, events organisation and marketing.
URL http://www.cuttingeast.co.uk
 
Title Workshop materials (London) 
Description The project team collected materials from workshops with young people. These include notation, photographs, some videos made by young people for the exploration of re-purposed film and documentation of the discussions following. Please note, the research methods were ethnographic rather than quantitative as the term 'database' suggests. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The materials generated with young people in London provided the basis of discussion with researchers working with young people in Mumbai. One of the main points of discussion was the emphasis on the political message and meaning of videos produced through the London workshops compared with documentary craft in the work of young people in Mumbai, and parody and dissent. 
 
Description Collaboration between Queen Mary Centre for Public Engagement (CFPE) and Assan Ali (Mile End Community Project) 
Organisation Mile End Community Project
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team has continued to involve Mile End Community Projects in the development of the University's relationship with local communities.
Collaborator Contribution Mile End Community Project leader Assan Ali has collaborated with Queen Mary's Centre for Public Engagement to make a video about his various work experiences with the researchers and local communities. He has an ongoing relationship with the CFPE. The URL relates to a recent collaboration in which Assan speaks about his work in 2015. The page features videos of people involved with the CFPE that were made by MCP, therefore the display and framing of engagement is the result of the collaboration between this charity and HEI.
Impact As a result of the collaboration, Mile End Community Project is involved with a number of Schools and Departments at Queen Mary and has become integrated into the life of an HEI.
Start Year 2013
 
Description London Borough of Tower Hamlets partnering MCP for Cutting East. 
Organisation London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The research team has worked with both institutions to grow the young people's arm of the East End Film Festival (EEFF), Cutting East, through contributions to training young people and the provision of training facilities at QM.
Collaborator Contribution LBTH went into partnership with MCP by commissioning MCP to manage Cutting East in 2015 (and possibly for future years), with Queen Mary department of Film Studies involvement. LBTH dedicated two film officers to work on the project for a certain number of hours per week.
Impact Cutting East Film Festival March 20th-22nd 2015. The film festival for and by young people was organised by MCP, delivering programme training, research and events management skills for socially excluded young people in the LBTH, East London. The festival included live performances of poetry, graffiti artists and speakers in addition to film screenings, therefore it effectively crossed disciplinary and entertainment boundaries. As a focus of activity and debate, it provided a public service to young people, their families who also attended the festivals, and the local community more broadly (details of attendees were collected by the research team and LBTH officers).
Start Year 2015
 
Description Conference Launch of Project 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact All three members of the team presented a paper on aspects of 'Bazaar Cinema'. The audience included senior figures in the field of Film Studies internationally who the team met with again to continue the discussion of re-purposing media and socially disadvantaged groups of young people.

One of the results of the team presentation was that a member of the audience became a member of the advisory board to the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://necs.org/conferences#/node/437
 
Description Culture Cafe, Mumbai 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event at the Culture Cafe produced inter-cultural debate about young people and cultural production in Mumbai and London.

Further exchanges were planned between community workers in Mumbai and MCP on Mile End, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.eventshigh.com/detail/Mumbai/e29c249f755f0db3cc1b8b8f1435fb39-%E2%80%9Cdeveloping-critic...
 
Description From Mumbai to Mile End, Cutting East Event 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation of film work by young people from our Mumbai partners, 4 of whom visited London in June 2014, stimulated debate with young filmmakers, political activists, festival organisers and members of the public.

Some members of the audience asked how they could become involved with activities in the festival.

Unfortunately the programme URL is not live at present but the link below shows an image of the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.cuttingeast.co.uk/cutting-east-2014/
 
Description Hosting of Conference on Piracy and Media 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The research team organised a symposium in June 2014 on the topic of Media Piracy, involving the international legal expert Lawrence Liang (Bangladesh), Professor of Law (LSE) Ann Barren, film makers Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar (TATA Institute, Mumbai), media arts entrepeneurs, students and community groups. The papers and discussion shared different cultural perspectives on the subject of piracy and brought different interests into focus and dialogue.

The debate was continued in workshops with young people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/hss/133446.html
 
Description Training of Young People as Film Festival Organisers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The training sessions (approximately 11) focused on a different aspect of organising the Cutting East film festival each week, inclduing marketing, programming, curating, interviewing, panel organisation, social media and journalism.

Members of the group of young people (some of whom had attended our Bazaar Cinema project workshops in Autumn 2013) were able to take the initiative to write articles and interview filmmakers as online materials for the website in advance of the festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.theguardian.com/sustainability/gallery/2014/aug/14/guardian-volunteering-week-2014-cuttin...
 
Description Workshops with young people (London, Autumn 2013 and 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact We ran a series of workshops with young muslim men (aged 16-18) at Queen Mary and at MCP to engage with their ideas and practices regarding media repurposing. During the workshops the participants made short repurposed works (with moving images and at other times written texts) and discussed each other's work as a group.

The workshops engendered discussion of how young people get into university, of how local people may access the campus of Queen Mary, of how young people may become involved in debates about film and media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014