Developing close partnerships are key to the work of the WEA. Encouraging participation from groups who may have experienced exclusion from society or found it difficult to participate in community projects is fundamental to the WEA’s mission.
The following projects were the result of a partnership between the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) NW Region, the Oakfield Day Service (United Response) and Merseytravel.
'From Oakfiends to Ironmen'
The first project promoted Liverpools’ diverse communities, celebrating the Capital of Culture in 2008. A group of adults with learning difficulties from the Oakfield Day Service created a fantastic animations on a course run by WEA tutor Tina Read and Sam Hatton with help from Liverpool based Animator James Munro.
An animation entitled ‘From Oakfiends to Ironmen’ was created by the learners who took inspiration from a visit to a Dr Who exhibition, seeing the tall ships on Liverpool docks in 2008 and visiting the cast-iron figures on Crosby Beach, Anthony Gormley’s sculptures entitled ‘Another Place’.
In producing the animation the learners developed a wealth of new skills. The group storyboarded the concept and developed the script. They were the voices of the main characters and they also sourced, made and recorded sounds with musician Marcel Musset.
They created artwork and took photographs during their inspirational visits, manipulating the images in Photoshop and Flash to bring them to life.
As well as the animation, an additional 12-minute documentary film about the making of the animation was also created by the learners depicting the new skills they had acquired.
‘From Oakfiends to Ironmen’ is set around the City of Liverpool docks and Crosby Beach. The characters meet Doctor Who and travel in time in the Tardis highlighting historical changes in the city of Liverpool.
After meeting the evil Oakfiends, the characters run back to the tardis and travel to Crosby beach where a battle ensues with the Daleks. The Ironmen scupltures come to ‘life’ and save the day.
Learners and friends received the red carpet treatment for a gala screening of their animated film, at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology in Liverpool in July 2009. Among those invited to the premiere were special guests Liverpool artists, The Singh Twins.
Veronica Astor, who heads up United Response’s work at Oakfield, said:
“We are really proud of this animation as it demonstrates what great skills people with learning disabilities possess - creative, artistic, and technical. Everyone loved working on it and were all excited about the premiere and sharing the day with our special guests.
Peter Fox and Josephine O’Connor, two of the twelve students from Oakfield commented:
“It was fun to do and all of us enjoyed working together. It was great to see the finished film and today we all felt like film stars.”
The animation was also featured on the big TV screens in Liverpool city centre, an exciting moment for everyone. The animation also won an award at the Wirral International Film Festival.
WEA Project Manager Alex Whittle said:
“From Oakfiends to Iron Men is an outstanding piece of creative work and a great example of what can be achieved through partnership working. The WEA already has plans to work with United Response on more projects of this kind, so we hope that this will be the first of many red carpet events!”
Indeed that wasn’t the end of the story...
A second project saw the creation of ‘Jacks Journey’ an animation depicting the difficulties faced by disabled people using public transport and the film will be used by Merseytravel to train staff and raise awareness of the issues faced.
Jack’s Journey developed from a workshop which brought together people from Oakfield, other transport users with a range of disabilities, people who work with those affected by disability, and transport staff.
The animation sees Jack, who uses a wheelchair, going to work on his own, using public transport. It depicts the problems he faces on his journey, and portrays the different types of issues faced by people with hearing, sight and learning disabilities.
Part of the film includes a tv programme reporting on an interview with train and bus drivers. The learners gain understanding from the transport staff perspective regarding helping people with disabilities.
Over 100 people attended the premiere and to see those involved be presented with awards for their efforts. Richard Bolsin (WEA General Secretary) and Mark Dowd (Chair of Merseytravel) attended the event and commended those involved in the project.