Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Feminist knitting designer.

Concrete: Students’ film on homelessness wins BBC prize

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The documentary, entitled 16:01, was created by Guy Wilson, Will Hanford, Nate Dove and Alex Francis, and was originally displayed over five screens at the Forum. This meant that several different shots could be viewed at once, while the main interviews were shown. However, it can be seen in its single-screen form here.

It was shown as part of a series of fifteen films made by students for Campus City in February, a presentation at the Forum which was a collaboration between UEA, BBC Voices and the SeaMedia project. The students were given the opportunity to make a film based on any subject, as long as it was relevant to Norwich and Norfolk.

Speaking to Concrete about the inspiration for the film, Wilson said: “We wanted to tackle it and get a real strong issue, given the platform that we had, the great opportunity that it was. We saw the opportunity to do something important and to make something that could make a difference.”

Hanford added that the idea initially came from information he had read about the issue. He said: “Because of stuff like your National Insurance number, you can’t really get a job if you don’t have an address … You can’t get a bank account, so if you’re homeless, you’re stuck. You can’t properly claim benefits or anything either, so you think, well, surely that’s a failure of society?”

Wilson added: “You’re basically discriminated from the system. So it was that gross unfairness that made us think ‘Can this be true? We’ll have to look into this.’ So that’s what kind of started it off.”

The two expressed the importance of representing the film’s subjects correctly. Wilson said: “We were very aware of the fact that we didn’t want to tell their stories through our perspectives, we wanted it to be very much theirs. So that’s why the whole film is narrated by them in the interviews, we don’t make an appearance. We don’t speak at all, which I think is very important.”

They spent two works working with outreach charities and the Bishopbridge housing shelter before they began filming. Wilson said: “We started off the process by making contacts and arranging meetings with the homeless prevention workers and charities in Norwich, and they were very good and helpful and welcoming. But there was a mutual agreement that we would shadow them and see their work without the cameras to see how it was first, before we brought the cameras in.”

Hanford added: “You need to gain people’s trust, especially with an issue like homelessness when you’re dealing with people who are quite vulnerable, and issues that are quite sensitive. And in order to get the most powerful story, you’re asking them to confess things to camera that they might be quite ashamed of.”

After being shortlisted for the BBC award, the group were invited to a conference at the BBC’s Media City in Salford on 24 May, where they were announced the winners. While organiser David Hayward said he was “very, very impressed” with all of the nominations, he described 16:01 as “truly astonishing”.

Speaking about their success, Wilson described himself as “very surprised, very shocked, obviously very happy … it’s been a culmination of a lot of work, so it feels good. I think the award is important because it’s for innovation, not just the technology we used, as we were quite limited by what we had. But the idea was what was important and that was what was recognised. It was very nice of them to have considered us, there were lots of prestigious journalism schools that we were up against, so we were very lucky to win.”

He also said: “Hopefully it’s a success story, but it’s not our success story, the success is due to a lot of collaboration between the University, the BBC, the SeaMedia project. But also the ultimate success has been down to the Bishopbridge House, the residents there, the outreach workers and homelessness prevention workers who were so welcoming and willing to bring us in and share their story.”

The winning team will be rescreening the film on a continuous loop between 6pm and 9pm on Wednesday 6 June on the Fusion Screen at the Forum.

Below: 16:01, winner of the BBC postgraduate student journalism innovation award.

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