My Inspiration: Andrew Wilson | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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100 PEOPLE is an experimental feature film portrait of Shieldfield, a small residential neighbourhood, formerly an area of farming and horticulture, located just outside the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. 

Initiated and led by artist Andrew Wilson, this ambitious work combines several conversations between residents and workers, diverse in age, ethnicity, and economic background, to create a complicated and multi-voiced portrait of coexistence. It’s a poetic, funny and often moving reflection on our not-to-distant past, precarious present, and an everyday collective-resistance. 

It features an original score from cellist Ceitidh Mac and composer Anna Hughes and is set to premiere at The Star & Shadow cinema on Wednesday 1st November and will be screened from Shieldfield Art Works on Saturday 4th, Wednesday 8th, Thursday 9th, Saturday 11th, Wednesday 15th, Thursday 16th, Saturday 18th November.

Here, Andrew Wilson tells us what inspired the film…

I was invited by Shieldfield Art Works (SAW) to work with them on what would be a continuation of a previous project we’d worked on in Shieldfield, a small residential neighbourhood located just outside of Newcastle city centre. 

Having got to know many people in the area I’d seen many grass-roots ideas and projects emerge and how they were developing active relationships to meet people’s immediate needs. This includes community gardening projects, youth provision where there was none, and regular activity that targeted social isolation.   

Essentially the people of Shieldifield, or so it seems to me, were developing a mixed approach to doing-stuff, powered by a handful of small organisations and many individuals diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, religion, social and economic status, and sexual orientation. 

Given the scope of all of this, and the precarity that surrounded much of it, I was initially cautious about SAW’s invitation to initiate something else, something new. 

So, I began to think about storytelling, and how difficult it seemed to attempt to tell a complex story about many different many people, doing many different things. 

Our default stories, or at least the ones we hear over and over again tend to like lone and exceptional heroes. But in the course of pushing this lone-hero forward, who or what gets lost or left behind?

This question became the driver behind the 100 People project. 

Celebrated author Ursula K. Le Guin* wrote of this predicament from the context of palaeolithic, neolithic and prehistoric times where the hunter (the action-hero of the day) who provided the occasional meat for dinner would dominate ‘the story’ despite the fact that most of what humans would have eaten back then were gathered roots, nuts, berries, or grains. 

‘It’s hard to tell a gripping tale of how I wrested a wild-oat seed from its husk, and then another, and then another, and then another …’ writes Le Guin. 

Writer and activist Rebecca Solnit** wrote that ‘we are not very good at telling stories about a hundred people doing things’ and that when it comes to understanding our role as ordinary people what really matters is ‘the ability to co-ordinate and inspire and connect with lots of other people and create stories about what could be and how we get there.’ 

Within the residential neighbourhood of Shieldfield, there is a growing tendency to share knowledge, share resources, offer peer support, and create possibilities for encounter and collective joy. 

Any attempt to articulate a story about the many people engaged in this activity will of course be messy. For all of the activity here in Shieldfield there is no singular spokesperson, no hero, and as such it’s a story that remains difficult to tell. 

But what if we tried?

*Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, 1986

**Rebecca Solnit, When the Hero is the Problem, 2019

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