The Kids Film Co-op 1983

Over the summer a film crew tours different parts of Sandwell in search of actors, technicians, script writers, special effects team, costumes and props makers.

Following in the footsteps of some of the early drama work of the company,  the Bus was turned into a mobile film-making unit for the summer to create a series of short films, using all the ingredients of a normal arts playscheme – games, drama, paint, showing off, food and a celebration but adding media to the mix. The Bus would turn up ‘on location’ on the Monday morning and the ‘film crew’ would set out their chairs and various pieces of equipment and wait. There was little in the way of advance publicity – the week before film scouts may have be seen in the local area, looking for locations for the shoot, putting up a few select posters, but relaying mostly on word of mouth. Before long, local kids would gather at the site and enquire what they were doing.

Kids Film Coop

“We’re here on location. We’re shooting a film this week”

“What’s it about?”

“Well, we don’t have the full story yet. We’ve only got the title. We’re waiting for the script – and the actors. They were supposed to be here at 11…”

Of course, the actors never turned up, neither did the other technicial teams. There was clearly a crisis unfolding. Cue the Director, getting increasingly red-faced and frantic on phone:

‘What do you mean, they’re stranded in Belgium!! And where’s the script? You posted it two weeks ago? C’mon, you’re having me on! I’m on a deadline here!”

While there was a general title for the film to be shot – Horror House/2000 Years B.C./Island of Treasure/Planet of the Moss Men – before long The Production Assistant would suggest that maybe the local kids could help out a little. “Perhaps. Maybe. It depends… We’ll have to draw up a contract…” And they did – working on scenes with acting coaches, set-building and creating costumes and special effects, devising the piece, assisting with the recording and filming, publicising the film premiere on the friday night, with the bus as a backdrop for the open cinema. Local parents and residents helped out with food for the premiere so moms and dads could see the exciting results of the week. Relationships were developed with local tenants groups. In Brades Village, teenagers became part of the FX team, building a T.Rex, creating a volcanic scene (and blowing it up). One Windmill Lane estate, a group of older girls diligently supervised the make-up for the zombies and general horrors.

Using media production in this way (and finding 1001 uses for cardboard) became an integral part of Jubilee festivals and community celebrations.

Little of the original film material exists as it was shot on Sony black and white reel to reel video ½ inch magnetic tape, which gave an interesting grainy quality at the time but has not survived. This particular technology, while not available in the domestic market, was already beginning to be surpassed by the advent of Betamax and VHS.

Kids Film Coop

Making a film could be full of pitfalls, especially in the scripting stages, as this particular conversation (recorded for the Annual Report) illustrates.

Playworker: What’s this scene about?

Girl: Well, it’s a picture of a caveman hitting a cavewoman on the head with his club and dragging her back to his cave cos she won’t do what’s she’s told.

Palyworker: Hang on a minute, I’d don’t think I’d let someone do that to me…

Girls friend: Neither would I.

Playworker: Look, what would you do if a boy came up to you while we’re filming and thumped you just because he’s a caveman?

Girl: I’d thump him back of course.

Girls Friend: So would I.

Playworker: Well then…

Girl: But it’s not like that in films.

Girls Friend: It is in ours…


What has survived is some documentation from Brades Village shot on standard 8mm colour film – but without sound.

Jubilee establishes a darkroom resource with the Community Association of West Smethwick.

Jubilee present a keynote speech at the Institute of Baths and Recreation Management Annual Conference in Southport.

The compact disc goes on sale in UK.

The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television opens in Bradford.

In the autumn, the first US cruise missiles arrive at RAF Greenham Common in the autumn.

The United States invades Grenada.

The first mobile phones are introduced by Motorola Company.

An IRA bomb explodes outside of Harrods on December 17th during the pre Christmas Shopping Season, killing six people.