11 April 2019

Rochdale creative writing groups

Screenwriting and film workshops for young British Muslim men of Pakistani heritage.

Young men's screen writing group

The Storying Relationships project invited British Muslim men, aged between 16 to 30 years old, to join us in Rochdale to explore the theme and topic of personal and sexual relationships. The aim of this series of workshops was to engage young men in creative writing and produce a series of 'Talking Heads' short films.

Challenges

Before this particular series of workshops, the challenges of working with young British Pakistani men had proved to be difficult. The project initially struggled with the right platform and a way in which young British Muslim men could engage with the topic of personal relationships, but also build an interest for these men to use creative writing as a means of exploring themes of love, desire, sex and relationships.

We had worked on an animation film series which included two men and four women, but after this, establishing creative writing as a tool for men was challenging. The project explored collaborating with groups and organisations in Glasgow, Tyne and Wear and Yorkshire, with an aim to facilitate creative writing or spoken word workshops to engage young men in screenwriting and film.

However, after a few attempts, the attendance for these workshops was low to none. We realised that the key to running successful workshops was to work with a partner organisation and a gatekeeper who has the passion in driving forward projects such as this - that engage with innovative methods with community groups. 

Collaborative screenwriting in Rochdale 

With the support of Empowering Minds and working closely with a local member of the community, Mohammed Sheraz, we were able to invite and engage 8-10 young men in writing their own stories, which resulted in the creation of a series of 'Talking Head' short films produced by MATOBO.

The facilitator for the workshops was a young man named Mohammed Barber (Mo), who himself had attended the Storying Relationships animation workshop series. Mo is also a member of Batley Poets and a volunteer at the local library. 

Mo was able to engage the young men with the topic of personal and intimate relationships by sharing the ways in which relationships, desire, love and sex are all topics of everyday life, but also highlighting ways in which relationships are a part of cultural life through film, poetry and music.

The men in the group also shared their own thoughts on relationships, such as meeting people, falling in love, marriage and the ways in which they too have fears that include the fear of not fulfilling their role after marriage and meeting up to religious and family expectations. These fears were quite different to the young women's creative writing group in Glasgow, who shared their fears of a loveless marriage, but both men and women's fears were complimentary and an interesting outcome of the creative writing workshops. 

The workshops in Rochdale were extremely motivating and the young men really engaged with each other and their writing pieces. The age group included men aged 16 up to the age of 28, all with different life experiences. The men were all supportive of each other and the group actively encouraged one another in their writing - despite some of the men who were returning to writing after a significant period of time, whereas others held a quiet passion to write and delved right in. 

The workshops also highlighted how creative writing can be a way of bridging the gap between young people, where they are able to engage with topics they may not have discussed openly or share aspects that had a fear of openly sharing. With a little encouragement, the men in the creative writing series created great pieces of fiction ranging from the first meeting, to titled stories  '"Qabool" - The happily never after' and 'You were created in pairs'.

The full range of films are available on the Storying Relationships YouTube channel. 

Note: Qabool means 'I accept' in Urdu.

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