Helen Ward's Story
Helen embarked on her Fellowship in 2012 to develop a project for young artists and filmmakers called ‘Kids for Kids UK. ’
A community interest company located in County Durham, Kids for Kids UK (KFK UK) is run mainly by volunteers, with professionals being brought in subject to funding for specific projects. Each year the organisation runs a national film festival and competition showcasing films made by young people alongside the delivery of a programme of community filmmaking projects in the North East.
Helen wanted to make links with film festivals, community filmmaking and media organisations in Asia to inspire young people in the UK to share their stories through film, and also to encourage international collaboration. Being based in one of the least culturally diverse areas of the UK, she was also very keen to be able to bring the unique cultures of Asia to her local community where, due to poor transport infrastructure, children and young people are unable to access more culturally diverse cities and therefore lack international exposure and an understanding of what it is to be a world citizen.
Helen travelled to several cities in China, South Korea, Japan and Laos PDR for six weeks to research young Asian people's film festivals and wider community media organisations. She experienced how these festivals operate, made strong partnerships and worked with media organisations. She learned new interesting ways of working with film and media to inspire young people to develop a voice and to collaborate both remotely and as part of Cinemasports – a unique film initiative she partnered with in South Korea.
Helen’s Fellowship developed her skills and knowledge in young people's film festivals, filmmaking and media. It gave her the confidence to become a leader and influence opinions in her community. She applied her learnings through her Fellowship to manage the organisation on her return and was able to secure funding from the BFI (British Film Institute), creating the only BFI Network Academy for young people in County Durham.
The Fellowship helped Helen to broaden the scope of KFK UK to provide film and media activities for young people who then go on to make a positive contribution globally as well as nationally. She has been able to increase cultural diversity and awareness by screening Asian youth made films, bringing in national and international artists to teach and mentor the young people, planning tours of other countries and encouraging intercultural dialogue through Asian/UK partnerships. KFK UK continues to run year round activities in partnership with Jack Drum Arts, another community interest company that Helen runs.
KFK UK is a source of entertainment and a platform of learning and sharing for the young people of the town and the wider community of South West Durham. Volunteering for it helps many of them develop confidence, life skills and often facilitates their decision making process when it comes to choosing their GCSC subjects.
"Kids for Kids UK and Jack Drum Arts is a place where I come to feel safe. I know the people who come here have the same creative interests and want to work together to share with the community. The group is open to everyone so we are very mixed, both in the things we like to do, in our appearance, in our age, and in our ability. But here we can all be ourselves." - Sam Ward-Hardy