Laura Dudley, Make Works Derby and Derbyshire Coordinator, tells us how their student collaboration to realise their region has reached into their community. 

When given the task of developing our region for Make Works we decided to act in true Derby Museums style and open this voluntary opportunity to Derby University and Derby College students. As Make Works promotes accessibility and collaboration with makers, fabricators, facilitators and artists we saw this as an exciting opportunity to maximise the reach of our region and allow for exciting skills and experience development for students locally. Since joining the Make Works Derby and Derbyshire team as Project Coordinator in November 2017 as part of the Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making development I have seen just how captivating engagement with this project has been for students volunteering on the project. We are currently working with a collection of four Derby College IMedia students, two University of Derby Volunteer Film-Makers and two University of Derby Volunteer Photographers, who have been participating in the project since December 2017. 

In collaboration with Andy Taylor-Smith from the creative film production company We Are Caravan, we have been running training sessions in film-making, photography, copy-editing and interview skills with students in preparation for them to assist on filming visits. Students have embraced this opportunity, and have similarly to myself, found their own interests invested at the heart of Make Works and local makers in Derby and Derbyshire. 

With Derby College we have been focusing on developing early technical level photography skills, running training sessions in such areas as shutter speed and depth of field. Alongside these, students have undertaken on-site and off-site photography exercises at The Silk Mill to build on their experience of working directly with makers, and live environments. This has included visiting local businesses in the city centre and shooting in our Silk Mill workshop. Students and tutors have reported back to us that this has allowed them to build their confidence when shooting independently, and talking to new people, skills which are integrated into the Make Works factory visits, but also in our everyday lives. I feel that allowing students the opportunity to build on social skills, as well as technical skills, has made a huge difference to their experience with Make Works, and I now feel passionately that engaging students on this level can be majorly beneficial to their future personal and professional development. On filming visits students felt at ease to ask questions, and explore, which in turn encouraged makers to discuss their passions and processes openly. 

When getting to know the Derby University students we felt it was integral to fuse their participation in Make Works, with their current interests and future career development, thus we had conversations prior to them beginning work on the project to fully understand where their interests’ best sat within the project. From feedback I have received from students at this stage I believe this has been an integral part of the project for them. Training activities have consisted of analysing current listings in terms of film and photography material, and then placing where certain techniques were best suited. We then set mock listings where we gave students a time limit to work and provided them with a maker. When doing this we worked with Graeme C Smith who specialises in laser cutting, this enabled students to get a first-hand experience of working with a maker and allowed them to understand the different elements involved in working in a live environment.

 

We have then provided them with the film material for them to analyse, and potentially build on certain skills for the next session. Student film-makers have provided feedback that this opportunity has allowed them to really look at how they engage with makers and consider how to react when given a new environment to respond to. For both students this was a relatively new way of working that has allowed them to explore and test their skills. 

At this point in the project, I feel Make Works Derby and Derbyshire has allowed students to test and explore their current skills and passion for film and photography and build on this through working in a new environment. I have received feedback form students that working with people in a documentary style has allowed them to see the importance of building relationships and having conversations, especially in the context of interviews, and has given them an understanding and real interest in local making and manufacturing. 

On reflecting on the project, Derby University Student Film-Maker Ashley stated: 

‘I feel the technical skills I have learned will be majorly beneficial when producing films in the future. Increasing my pallette of tools from which to work from has allowed me to be more creative and flexible when searching for resolutions on how to realise my ideas; whether for a particular shot or scene. 

Many aspects of the project have been memorable and enjoyable, but for me the highlight of the process has been acquiring knowledge about the niche industries that I have visited and the hardworking people that run them. During the process I have found that the makers are extremely passionate, driven people; doing what they truly enjoy. I can strongly relate to this, with my own ambitions being driven by my strong passion of films. This part of the process has been enlightening.’ 

I believe that Make Works Derby and Derbyshire is a current and broad opportunity for students in the region, and one which can provide them with the chance to explore an interest and develop skills to aid them in their future career progression. We aim to extend the reach of this collaboration through the development of our future listings, so watch this space. 

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