Over the last couple of weeks, Esther and her support crew have been out in St Helier Open Space and General Gordon Square, Woolwich shooting The Bench Project film. Not blessed with great weather, they dodged the downpours and got some great clips. Here's an insight into life on set.
Esther Johnson, filmmaker on the project writes:
Film can be a tool for social change and challenge opinion and preconceived views in order to break barriers of understanding and encourage discussion between communities and societies.
As part of this research project I'll be making a film that will express the views and memories of several frequent users of the two areas of research – Gordon Square, Woolwich and St Helier Open Space, Sutton.
The film aims to initiate dialogue around the uses of such public space, highlight thoughts around the design and illuminate memories and stories that have occurred in these places. On meeting contributors for the project, I have discussed how they use the respective spaces; how frequently they visit; how the space makes them feel, both in the past and present; what they think about whilst sitting; and potential changes for the future they feel could improve these locations.
The humble bench will be the micro-loci for the film. The bench can be a site where one can find a practical and welcome respite from exhausting activity and a peaceful place of contemplation. The bench can also act as a meeting place for friends, or an unexpected stranger of which a new friendship or foe can originate. Public benches can also provide a poignant memory of a loved one through a memorial via the engraved plaque.
Principally, the film will reveal personal stories of bench users; stories that if one was a passerby in either of the research locations, one would potentially have no idea that the bench user had such tales to tell. The film will act like that stranger who joins you on a bench to ‘watch the world go by’ and break the ice by starting a conversation with their fellow bench user.
Our Sutton fieldworker, Diana Coman, writes:
One of the benches at St Helier Open Space has an interesting mix of people using it. It is the one nearest the Hospital.
I’ve met two women there – both in their 30s/40s, both drinking. One was on crutches and had come from physio treatment at the hospital.
The local safer transport team were there doing their bike checks.
The bench is also used by the ambulance crews for a quick fag break during their shifts.
Last week I observed a woman (20s) sitting there who was clearly upset, having a massive row with someone on the phone about an infidelity. She was joined by two other women who sat with her for some time clearly talking through the problem/issue.
So for me the bench is a ‘coping’ bench.
The women drinking were dealing with stress and physical problems, partly by taking time out and having a drink outside of the hospital walls. The young woman distressed about a relationship breakdown was trying to cope with what had happened to her. The ambulance crews are taking time out – maybe having had to handle a difficult event. They are using the space as a place to get away from the work area for a short time. The police were there to help the community cope with problems over bike theft.
It's a bench that is the venue for many stories.
Why you think benches are interesting?
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