The Arsenal Foundation

Caribbean history comes to life

Sweet Patootee Turning Point
One of Mildmay’s elders listens to the Turning Point soundtrack to give feedback. “If they didn’t like it they’d have told me straight!” says Tony

The Arsenal Foundation has helped Sweet Patootoe Arts, a non-profit arts organisation that creates historical and contemporary films and documentaries around black heritage, launch a new project with the help of Mildmay Community Centre. Mildmay centre manager Teena Phillips tells us about it…

“It’s a simple truth: a great management team can make all the difference. Here at Mildmay our team takes great pride in the reputation and trust we’ve built at this wonderful facility: welcoming informality enabled by expertise, creativity, down to earth sincerity and passion. This is a blend that we know is valued by our diverse user groups and across our borough.

“When Islington’s Sweet Patootee Arts approached us about working with our members for their latest project – a film project called Turning Point – they made a great first impression.

“Their management team, Tony and Rebecca, have bags of experience from their arts and heritage projects with a variety of communities, and the project is hugely exciting.

“Turning Point is a video installation that will open on November 12 at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. It combines performance and storytelling with archive material, visual art and a 3D soundscape inspired by oral histories of ordinary black people after the First World War.

“Turning Point will be pitched at national and international gallery, cinema and online audiences – it comprises rich, immersive storytelling that hovers between stage and screen.

“The result of going ahead, from our side, has been a really lovely once-a-week get-together with Tony, Rebecca and our Golden Oldies group. With many of the long-standing membership having sadly passed away over the past couple of years, the group has recently acquired some new members. These include some of our older community from the Caribbean, many of whom came to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. Our oldest member is in her nineties and she runs her table with a wit unmatched by anyone else around her.

“The Caribbean elders have provided invaluable feedback on the stories in Turning Point. They have also participated in the soundscape, providing their voices for two of the four stories n the exhibition, giving the piece the authenticity that is a trademark of Sweet Patootee Arts.

“For our members, having the opportunity speak with Tony about days gone by has been great – it has been a really insightful journey for those who have participated in the project. Tony not only listens but hears them and evokes a feeling of value in what they have to say.

“For us this is an absolute gem for a project and, as Tony has said, it brings a sense of ownership to the participants. It has also been an amazing opportunity for us here at the Mildmay Community Centre to see an appreciation for our members and to hear the laughter at the stories – some of which can be quite saucy! – from our older members. These are the stories that, all too often, become long since forgotten. In this case, those stories will live on.”

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