“Let Us Speak”: people talking about culture, tolerance and mutual understanding

Penny Jackson produced a film for Tuttle and Counterpoint, asking people in the street for their views on cultures and what it means to live in a multicultural society.

Penny’s starting  point was words about the British Council’s work, and she used this to prompt strangers she met in the street to give their thoughts.

I think there are some powerful messages in this film: when I first saw it last week, it felt quite hard-hitting. Their views are disarmingly honest; there is a certain charm, too, in the frankness of their thoughts.

Bits of the film I found quite moving, particularly the man who was visiting the UK and valued Britain’s many cultures.

The British Council And A Bacon Sandwich

I wanted to make a film about the British Council and as I had come to the project knowing very little about them I wondered how much others knew. “Tell me what you know about the British Council?”  I asked. I asked friends. I asked friends of friends. I asked people in shops and at bus stops. My family joined in. They ask me on a regular basis “What are you up to now?” Which actually means “Have you got a proper job yet?” I noted  their response to “I’m doing some work with the British Council.”  Everyone it seems, had heard of the British Council some knowing more than others with many saying “I should know- but I don’t”. My  film takes from a market research technique and  captures the many responses I got from a variety of people.

Before shooting I needed to get some idea of how it might all pan out, I can’t draw, so story-boarding is out of the question and as I fancy myself as a bit of an actress  I decided to do a mock-up of what I thought the final film might look like, so dressed as nine characters I  acted out various responses. None of the lines were scripted – it really is all one big improvisation and proved to be such a success I turned this ‘sketch’ into a spoof film doing some extra filming until I was happy with the result.

The screening of my two films, alongside Penny Jackson’s film took place at ICA on December 3rd 2009 with talks from the rest of the Tuttle Team whom  have been working with the British Council and Counterpoint over the last few months.

Welcome

We are a group of consultants, members of London’s Tuttle Club, who are helping Counterpoint, the British Council‘s in-house think-tank, to look at interesting ways of talking about what the Council does and has done, in the context of it’s 75th Birthday this year.

We are carrying out work in four project streams, each of which you’ll be able to read about and discuss here. This blog will be short-lived in this incarnation as it will shortly move over to the new Counterpoint site (to be launched on 12th October 2009), but we are committed to carrying the work out as openly as we can and so we will be writing about our experiences, what we’ve done and what we’re learning as we go along. No point in waiting for the corporate infrastructure when something like this is freely available.

The project streams are:
Conversations – we are experimenting with getting conversations about culture and cultural relations started in small, face-to-face groups as well as online.
Testimony – we’re asking several people to reflect on the question “What has the British Council ever done for me?” and we’ll be making some short films out of the results.
Film Archive – we have access to the Council’s film archive going back to the 1940s, we’ll be exploring that and writing about what it tells us about how views of culture have changed in the lifetime of the Council. We hope also to be able to share clips of archive material.
Exploring the Social Web – we’ll be working with staff of the Council to teach and encourage them to extend what they do by adding the use of social media and online social networking to their working lives

Please do join in through the comments form that you’ll find on every page. We’re interested in what you think about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and what you else you think the British Council should be doing.