Research & Networking – Open Forum at Gwent Archives

Research & Networking – Open Forum at Gwent Archives

When initially researching the Chartism exhibit in Newport Museum I noticed something pinned on the community notice board about an open forum to discuss the “Political Convicts Research Project.” The flyer featured a picture of the Chartist Riots in Newport so it caught my attention. Reading further it mentioned discussing a “Digital online Hub” by a film company. At first I was a bit worried that a professional company was planning something similar to ourselves but then it seemed to be tackling transportation rather than just the chartists march. Whatever it was it sounded like something we should go to to find our what was happening and maybe network with some of the people who would be at the event.

The meeting was in Ebbw Vale, one of the south wales valleys that played a crucial role during the industrial revolution and in turn a place where the Chartism movement became very popular. Myself and Hannah-Jane arrived at the meeting not knowing what to expect, I was surprised at the turnout, around 15/20 people. When we walked into the room I spotted Pat Drewett, he is the Project manager for Newport Councils ‘Chartist Commission’ And also the chairman of ‘Our Chartist Heritage’, a campaign group raising and educating local school children about the Chartist uprising. We met Pat previously a few weeks back when filming a commission for Newport Council promoting the Chartist schools march. We were planning on talking to Pat further down the line but we couldn’t resist telling him of our initial plans and he was really enthusiastic. He asked if we could meet after the talk for a coffee to discuss plans.

The Forum was introduced by Tony Moore of Monash University in Australia. Tony had previous experience working at various media organisations and had written a book on the transportation of convicts in the 19th Century called ‘Death Or Liberty’ and more recently it had been turned into a film by the same name. Tony gave a presentation about the success of both the book and film how it related to this new Project. The book and film focused on characters who were transported as convicts to Tasmania and how they eventually came together to bring about democracy in Australia. The new project proposes to extend on the story of these political convicts as well as telling the stories of some of the other convicts who were transported to Australia.

The project was described as a ‘Trans-media’ project and it was interesting that Tony called this an revolution in media and related it to the revolution in democracy. The project would use an ‘on-line hub’ to tell 100 stories in the form of mini documentaries, it would contain archive documents and be a digital exhibition that could be shared across the world  using computer displays and drawing on individual museums documents and artifacts.

The project would be mainly funded by the ARC (Australian Research Council) at a cost of $300,000 per year over five years. The aims of the ARC scheme are to support the initiation or development of long term research alliances between higher education organisations and other organisations including industry and other research end-users in order to apply advanced knowledge to problems and/or to provide opportunities to obtain national economic, commercial, social or cultural benefits.

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The presentation was essentially a pitch to the Gwent Archives group to ask for funding in the way of money or research time with monetary value attached. The ARC would offer funding but for this funding the project would have to be funded partially by outside sources. Gwent Archives hold vast information on Chartism and so would be an ideal candidate to take part, they would also benefit by having archive information collated for them and available online.

When watching the presentation I felt both excited and frustrated.relating back to our project I as thrilled that  we seem to have come up with an idea that there clearly is an audience for and that we’ve positioned it in a market that can probably benefit most from a trans-media experience. Seeing the convicts proposal is an acknowledgment for this type of media project. On the other hand I felt a bit frustrated that the convicts project has come about at this time as it obviously has a much larger budget and more scope than anything we could create. The saving grace is that the convicts project is taking a look at a different story to ours, also as it’s such a big project it will take a lot longer to complete. Tony was talking years in production where as we only have a few months to create our project. It does highlight however how much time is required to produce content to a very high standard.

After the presentation we met with a few of the members of the Chartist Heritage Association, They were very keen to talk with us after hearing us explain our plans during the talk. We met Les James who is a local Chartist historian; he is currently writing a book about uprising leader John Frost and he has previously put on exhibitions about the chartist leaders. Les was very interested in our idea but raised concerns about us going over old ground, he made the point that the Chartist uprising story has been told a number of times and maybe we should find a different angle. I appreciate Les’s comments but i also feel like although the story has been done a number of times it hasn’t been done to a very high standard; searching the web the story is generally told through slide shows of static images or poor quality video, I feel our treatment will offer the story in a new more professional looking format that will appeal to a media savvy audience. We met Rachael Lovering who was involved with the Newport museum and devised the museums Chartism exhibit back in 2005 and we had another chance to speak with Pat Drewett who was very enthusiastic. He explained that he also had plans for the same area that we wanted to base our mobile app in (Stow Hill) and that we could possibly work together to make one larger project. Pat agreed that we would meet again after our pitch as we hadn’t really expected to see him at the event but he also invited us to come with him on a walk to the Chartist caves in the Brecon Beacons where we could talk more and get some more inspiration for our project.

I left the talk feeling very excited that we seem to have chosen a good subject to explore and having the support of so many people who are experts in this subject should enable us to create something that is really appealing to it’s intended audience and done to a professional standard.

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