Tag Archives: Professor Anna Birch

INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR ANNA BIRCH

As we remember Mary Wollstonecraft throughout September here is a wonderful interview with Professor Anna Birch about the life and legacy of the author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman.

Professor Anna Birch Interview

Anna has been a great supporter of Unity Arts and here she was in  April on Newington Green last year giving a talk at our Hackney Dissent event which was celebrating Wollstonecraft’s 260th Birthday.

 

As she mentions during the film her company Fragments & Monuments created WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP  a great outside research activity during these strange times.

The interview was conducted by Ellen Gage one the researchers from the Heritage Team who is currently working on a paper looking at the travel writing of Wollstonecraft.

Ellen wrote a blog about the research, filming an interview process for us here Behind The Scenes With Anna Birch

The film was shot and edited by Neil Webster with the support of the Unity Arts Digital Outputs Team, including Christian Mahier-Smith and is part of our National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.

BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT – Update

We are continuing to implement the online research, activities and events measure until September.

We have been busy however.

There have been submissions of responses to the An Essay on The Writings and Genius of Shakespear by Elizabeth Montagu

Here is an example from Priscilla Olympio

Phoebe Monologue – AS YOU LIKE IT

For more info in how to submit these outputs follow this link

Show Us The Genius Of Shakespeare – Elizabeth Montagu Study

We are continuing work on the preparation of STEWY installation at home and delivered paints, felt-tips, and hard copies.

You can download the PDF and we will collect the coloured in sheets after lockdown has been lifted and deliver workshops to complete the piece for exhibition.

Some of our participants made personal solo visits to Wollstonecraft sites on her birthday including laying flowers at her monument at St Pancras Old Church

We partnered with Newington Green Meeting House in their online Wollstonecraft birthday events and supported the launch of the new WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP  by one of our heritage partners,  Fragments & Monuments, in collaboration with Scary Little Girls

We are continuing work on our digital outputs including the edit of the interview with Professor Anna Birch – supported by Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films. We have started the edit of the book of community produced poetry Hackney Dissent and the heritage booklet Blue Circle Of Dissent.

In addition we are building a YouTube channel containing ALL our filmed outputs over the last 10 years.

Unity Arts YouTube channel

If you need materials or support with your at home research or are new and would like to know more about this project, please contact us via the form below.

WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP Launch

WOLLSTONECRAFT WALKS APP has been launched today by one of our heritage partners,  Fragments & Monuments, in collaboration with Scary Little Girls

Today is of course the 261st birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and the app focuses on the life and times of Wollstonecraft and her impact on women, politics and 21st century society and culture. You’ll discover secrets about Mary, her life and her Green!

In the app you can find:
WOLLSTONECRAFT WALK GUIDE: Take a guided audio walk around Newington Green stopping off at significant locations (The Cobblers, Newington Green School, Lady Mildmay pub) and
listen to the words of iconic feminist writers whilst hearing about the herstory of Newington Green.
Podcasts – hosted by Marina Garvey Birch and Erica McKoy:
speaking to local people about their experience of the walks, readings from Maya Angelou, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Michelle Obama
BTS convo with Anna Birch (Fragments & Monuments) and Rebecca Mordan (Scary Little Girls).
Fragments & Monuments performance and film archive (2000-2020)
School Assembly resources

‘We are confident this brand-new app will bring our historical neighbour Mary Wollstonecraft back to Newington Green
for a new audience. The Green is where Wollstonecraft set up a school for girls in 1784.’
Professor Anna Birch, Artistic Director Fragments & Monuments
“Everyone is talking about these unique walks, are they worth the hype? Yes!” The Independent

OUTSIDE PROJECT ACTIVITIES ON PAUSE

In response to the situation we all find ourselves in we are pausing all outside and group activities during April, May and June.

This will of course mean postponement of the Easter Workshops, our event at New Unity on 27 April and the research trips to Bath and in London will have to take place later in the year.

Nevertheless, we are taking this time to do heritage research and activities for BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT at home.

All team members, volunteers and participants can be sent materials and packs and we can use this time for painting, essays, installation creation, editing and online research. Here are some prompts we are using at the moment.

Hackney Dissent Research Materials

We can go to not only The Vindication of The Rights of Woman by Wollstonecraft but also her travel writing and stories for children.

We can take the time to return to Shakespeare as Elizabeth Montagu advises in 1769 in An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear.

You can also follow in Mary Wollstonecraft’s footsteps! Fragments & Monuments and Scary Little Girls Feminist Performance Hub have a new new app Wollstonecraft Walk App

Our next planned event will be 18 July at Dr Johnson’s House and our Wollstonecraft event at New Unity re-scheduled for 10 September. This may of course change.

We will keep in touch via email throughout this time and ANYTHING we can do to help please contact us!!!

 

Behind the Scenes: Filming an Interview with Professor Anna Birch

Having graduated from university in 2018, I thought my research days were behind me. However, an exciting opportunity to dust off my research skills arose when Lil Warren, Heritage Outcomes Manager at Unity Arts, told me of their latest project Blue Circle of Dissent. This National Lottery Funded project focusses on the lives, work, and circles around Mary Wollstonecraft and Blue Stockings Society leader Elizabeth Montagu.

My first independent assignment was to interview Wollstonecraft expert Professor Anna Birch for a short documentary film. Anna is the director of Fragments & Monuments, a company which creates performance and film work about the life and legacy of Wollstonecraft.

As I discovered, most of the work for producing a filmed interview takes place off-camera; this blog is to give you a behind-the-scenes insight into the process.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
I began by asking myself a question: what did I already know about Mary Wollstonecraft? Answer: that she was Mary Shelley’s mother, and that she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), marking her as the first British feminist. There was a lot more to discover…
I read about Wollstonecraft and made notes on what I wanted to know more about. I became particularly intrigued by her travels: she went to live in France in 1792 – when the turbulent revolution was well underway – and travelled to Scandinavia in 1795 to recover a stolen ship in an attempt to win back her former lover.

In a series of meetings with Lil and the Digital Outputs Team, we decided that the interview with Anna would focus on Wollstonecraft as the pioneering female travel writer. I had also learnt three tips for filming day: don’t wear stripes, wear make-up, and wear bright colours. My monochromatic wardrobe struggled with this third tip, but as a wise man once said: two out of three ain’t bad.

When turning my research into questions, I wanted to create a narrative structure to help the interview flow. The questions would begin by setting the scene, asking Anna about her work and involvement with Wollstonecraft. Then we would turn to Wollstonecraft’s travels to France and Scandinavia, and finally her personal life and legacy, concluding with my favourite question: ‘what do you think Wollstonecraft would make of society today?’. With the questions finalised on paper, it was now time to bring them to life.

Lights, Camera…
Of course, I wasn’t working on this interview day alone. Lil was directing, Neil Webster from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Christian Smith were filming, and Sarah Warren was Production Assistant. On filming day, we met for a briefing before walking to Anna’s house (where we would have arrived earlier if my walking pace could match a Londoner’s!).

While Neil and Christian set up the filming equipment, Anna took Lil, Sarah and me up to her library for coffee. Although set-up took longer than anticipated (about an hour), it gave Anna and I valuable time to get to know each other off-screen. We had been to the same university, so we talked about its theatre scene and the lack of female writers on the reading lists, before moving on to Anna’s work with Fragments and Monuments. Anna and the company challenge the traditionally held definition of a monument as something static: they create living, dynamic ‘monuments’ to Wollstonecraft, such as walks that enable participants to trace Wollstonecraft’s footsteps in Stoke Newington. It struck me that our short film would also be a moving monument to the writer.

…Action!
With the all-clear from the crew, Anna and I took our seats at her kitchen table, under two fabulous STEWY prints of Wollstonecraft. Neil and Christian had set up two cameras ‘Parky style’: one at the front of the table with both of us in shot, and one behind my left shoulder for close-up shots of Anna – shots that I kept ‘dirtying’ by inadvertently moving into view!
We wanted the conversation to feel natural, so I listened carefully to Anna’s answers and would pick up on something she had said to link to the following question. Our time spent chatting beforehand really helped during the interview as it felt like a continuation of our conversation upstairs. This rapport translated onto the screen: Sarah said that we looked like we had known each other for years!

We filmed the interview in one take, pausing only once for Neil to reset his camera.  After wrapping, we had a post-interview debrief at the Luminary Bakery, and I then walked with Sarah to Newington Green to visit Wollstonecraft’s former stomping ground (and future site of her memorial sculpture).

“That’s a wrap” doesn’t signal the end of working on the film, as the editing process is just beginning.

Taking part in the interview was a wonderful experience that combined independent research with working as part of a team, all to create a work that will be shared with a wider audience. It was inspiring to meet passionate and knowledgeable creatives, and intellectually stimulating to research and discuss such a fascinating female figure.

I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the finished film, and to working with Unity Arts further on Blue Circle Of Dissent.

Ellen Gage

Location Photos by Christian Maier Smith

HERITAGE FILM TRAINING

Unity Arts are creating a series of short documentaries for the National Lottery Funded BLUE CIRCLE OF DISSENT.

 

Following workshops and training in the spring and summer The Digital Outputs team, with professional support and mentoring from Edwin Louis Fear Films and Meddle Films, were part of the crew that produced HACKNEY DISSENT

During the coming months we will be training, writing and shooting more footage for these documentaries including interviewing experts like Professor Anna Birch.

with an eventual project output of an installation film for our exhibition in Hackney in November 2020.

Please contact us via the form below if you would like to learn more about interviewing experts, writing scripts for documentaries, how to choose relevant underscoring, helping the edit when shooting.

There will be opportunities to be part of the crew and gain credits and work for portfolios.

All levels of experience welcome!!!!

 

NEWINGTON GREEN BIRTHDAY PARTY!

On 27 & 28 April 2019

we celebrated the 260th birthday of

Mary Wollstonecraft

The 27 April saw a small gathering on the site of the proposed Wollstonecraft statue in Newington Green. The weather was awful but we managed to sing Happy Birthday, shoot a short film and begin the work on the STEWY  installation for next year.


Our large outside event on 28 April saw over 130 people gathered in very windy and cold weather to have a birthday picnic on Newington Green with a small installation

A specialist talk from Professor Anna Birch

Singers from St Mary’s Community

Extracts from Wollstonecraft’s short stories for Children by one of the Hackney Pirates Young Writers group

Songs of Rebellion from Young Dissenters Choir

We all lit candles and sang Happy Birthday!

And we ALL ate CAKE!


It nearly rained on us but everyone was very cheerful, the Lizzy’s Café, Newington Green Action Group, Fragments & Monuments and Dr Jenny Littlewood were so supportive and we had a lot of additional sign up for the project .

We hope everyone learnt something about the wonderful woman Mary Wollstonecraft and we look forward to all the research, trips and workshops coming up.

NEXT EVENT –  HALF TERM WORKSHOPS AT HOXTON HALL!

Photos by Sharron Wallace