Hawick, Scottish Borders
What is the aim of the project?
To use film as a tool to bring people together, have conversations and make positive change.
Where is it taking place?
In the Scottish Borders town of Hawick.
What has been achieved?
Hawick is famous for cashmere, rugby, and its Common Ridings. Since 2010, thanks to the work of Alchemy, Film and Arts can be added to this list. Alchemy complement the town’s multiple identities by providing year‐round access to cultural and creative learning opportunities and delivering Scotland’s biggest experimental film festival. SIMD lists areas in Hawick amongst the most deprived in Scotland. Deindustrialisation, depopulation, rising unemployment, a lack of public infrastructure and youth flight inform ‐ and are exacerbated by ‐ a lack of creative provision.
A 2018 Scottish Borders Council/Future Hawick feasibility study identified Alchemy as a key agent in the establishment of a local film and media hub for local young people. In response, Alchemy initiated Film Town, a three‐year pilot programme that has successfully expanded into a community engagement and creative learning strategy encompassing all of its current projects. Alchemy work with artists, first‐time filmmakers and non‐arts organisations, including regional and national services, to collaborate on films that allow participants and partners to express themselves on issues relevant to them through creative and experimental means.
To address the impacts of COVID, Alchemy responded to local need by devising and delivering digital and outdoor film projects with partners such as Borders Additional Needs Group, Hawick Archaeological Society and communities in Newcastleton to reduce the effects of rural isolation during lockdown. This allowed groups to connect with service users through filmmaking technologies at a time when the effects of digital exclusion were especially acute.
Across 2021‐22 Alchemy launched two programmes: Outwith, a year‐ long filmmaking and professional development project engaging fifty 16‐25‐year‐olds across the Borders; and Viewfinders, a two‐year filmmaking and digital skills development project working with teachers from all seven of Hawick’s primary schools. Viewfinders addressed a lack of regionwide infrastructure for creative youth programmes and a need for greater digital and media literacy among teachers, following the earlier than anticipated roll‐out of iPads in schools due to COVID‐19.
Who is running it?
Alchemy is a film and arts organisation working with communities and artists locally and internationally, using film as a means of starting conversations and making positive change.
Why did the judging panel like it?
The judges were impressed by the breadth of groups and communities which Alchemy Film & Arts were engaging with across Hawick, the wider Scottish Borders, nationally and internationally. The strength of partnership development, reaching across higher and further education, heritage, culture and the third sector, was clear. Alchemy’s year‐round structured and supportive approach offers multiple marginalised groups and communities the opportunity to be creative using all aspects of filmmaking, and more. For example, the Viewfinders programme, supporting teachers across seven local primary schools to develop filmmaking and digital skills, shows that creativity can be used in all aspects of learning, from maths to biology. The judges considered this an innovative approach to embedding creative learning across the curriculum, with clear benefits to teachers and pupils. The judges were particularly impressed by Alchemy’s determination to embed ‘Film Town’ as a meaningful driver for change for communities in Hawick and beyond.