Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Celebrity and Community

Time to Fix the Environment: Manchester shows that Celebrity and Community is not a Toxic Mixture

Celebrity and Community are much-abused words.

The darker (or should we say glitzy?) face of celebrity is greedy, ego-centric people and their failing relationships; their multiple addictions; their constant see-saw between the need for high visibility and a hard-won private life. Occasionally, a token charity is endorsed, or a baby adopted – and that provides the living proof of the beating human heart.

For many people of modest means there is an objection to the cult of celebrity, and a system that permits awesome inequality. Is a footballer really worth a million times more than a nurse? It’s not the indvidual celebrity that we love or hate, it’s the systematic inequality that sanctions it. Perhaps we need to remember, however, that celebrity springs from celebration – coming together to share and endorse something. Pleasure not pain.

The word community has its own problems. First, we are beginning to doubt that it exists. People don’t know their neighbours, let alone trust them. Private pools, clubs, societies, cars, schools, property allow people to build a wall around their life, cut off from the ‘great unwashed.’ And the local community can be a prison house for ordinary people too; we find ourselves trapped in a concrete jungle without local amenities, or we just don’t share the same language, gang or subculture. A local community can also imprison with the dead hand of low aspiration and low achievement. We are told that in some communities social capital is undetectable. That said, there are often rich and nuanced linkages between people that the sociologists and policy makers are unable to quantify. And communities often unite around an issue, if they have the opportunity or the confidence

But when celebrity and community authentically meet few would doubt the benefits.

I would like to briefly note the work of a community media company based in Manchester UK who have worked with over 80 local people to write and produce a 40-minute film called Green Wave. It’s set in the year 2080 and deals with a range of ways that ordinary people can make a contribution to tackling climate change. the project was inter-generational, with a cast ranging from a baby to 87-year-old Ralph Wagstaff. Participants explored meaningful green actions and learned act for the first time.

Guest star appearances have come in the shape of John Henshaw (Early Doors) and Frank Sidebottom comic Chris Sievey. They will be joined by Danielle Henry (Torchwood and Survivors). Commensurate with the civic pride, the film’s premiere will take place at Manchester Town Hall.

The crossing of celebrity and community has gained publicity and esteem for the project, for the film company, for the participants, the stars, and climate change awareness. A virtuous circle and all-round winners !

A Note on REELmcr

“REELmcr is a dynamic, not for profit social enterprise, committed to giving a voice to the most alienated, deprived, under represented and vulnerable communities. We provide intergenerational community groups from across the North West, with the opportunity to gain experience of innovative media production and a chance to tell the personal or collective stories of individuals and communities, using filmmaking as a medium for storytelling, encouraging groups to focus on the issues that affect all members of their community, rather than their differences, cohesion is the goal that underpins all of our projects.”

1 comment:

  1. Yes , you make some good points about the construction of community , the film process and our relationship with it and the place of status and stardom as integral parts of the dream of cinema . The idea of being entertained by celebrities who are part of us but have been catapulted by film into a special glamorous world that we can vicariously enjoy . Also wondered if Chris Sievey is well now?

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