Friday, 17 June 2011

Fashionista on the Farm

For the past month or so I have been flitting between Hackney, where I live, Sheperd's Bush, where I study, and Kentish Town, the subject of this term's project.

I had never been to Kentish Town before but instantly fell in love.

My favourite thing about Kentish Town has to be Kentish Town City Farm. When it opened in the 70s it was the first of its kind; there are now 15 city farms in London.

Walking down Kentish Town Road or through a labyrinth of residential streets you wouldn't expect that just a few hundred metres down the road you could find yourself standing amongst goats and sheep, listening to the piercing cry of a cockerel. The farm, which includes a yard, classrooms, several fields and community allotments, is sliced in two by a busy train line.

The farm is a hub of community, run with the help of volunteers, including young people doing community service or work experience and little ones who can work there from the age of 8. From the first moment I stepped through the rickety door and into the yard (heels swapped for a trusty pair of boots and denim shorts) I thought it was a brilliant story that I couldn't wait to investigate further.

The course I am studying at the London College of Fashion is print and broadcast journalism. For the broadcast part of the course we had to create a 30 minute documentary about an aspect of our assigned area. Watching children pushing wheelbarrows through the yard whilst birds sang in the trees and a train clattered past I decided I wanted to use our 30 minutes to tell the story of this extraordinary city farm.

I took some photos and went back to my group buzzing with tales of city chickens and Farmer John, the gruff yet affable head of the farm who swaps between barking instructions at the children and fondly smiling and joking with them.

I was pleased when the rest of the group fell for the same charm that had me hooked.
For the next few weeks I became a regular visitor at the city farm. At 9 o'clock on a weekend I would be there with camera, microphone and notepad, ready to spend the day interviewing workers and visitors or filming pigs rolling happily in their muddy enclosure.

When I approached families to ask them if they minded me filming their visit to the farm they would inevitably ask what university I was studying at.

"Bizarrely - the London College of Fashion," would be my general reply. When I applied to LCF I never thought I would find myself here: holding my camera above my head and jumping backwards into a bank of nettles to avoid two huge and boisterous pigs charging down the path towards their enclosure, or climbing onto a stack of hay bales to record the colourful chaos of a May Pole dance.

The farm is first and foremost a working farm, but it arose through a need in the community as somewhere to provide both an escape and to give young people an education that goes beyond the classroom.

One day we filmed a school visit in which the farm's education officer took the children around the farm, showing them young potatoes in the soil and explaining why it is important to sheer sheep as one ewe wriggled uncomfortably under the arms of Farmer John and his whirring razor blades.

At one point a girl spotted the resident farm cat hiding in the corner of a barn. The education officer took this opportunity to try and explain why cats are an important form of pest control on any farm.

"Now children, what do cats eat?" he asked.

A tiny hand shot up in the air, "cat food!"

Of course.
In our documentary I tried to tell the story of the farm and show the role it plays in the Kentish Town community. In today's world we are so often surrounded by negativity that I wanted to show a modern day success story. 'Big Society' seems to be David Cameron's buzz phrase and an ideal he is looking to create. But over the past few months I have found that if you look closely and venture to places like Kentish Town City farm, you will find a society that is already bursting at the seams.
Filming our City Farm documentary was definitely one of my favourite things about this term. I have completely surprised myself: of all my lectures at LCF my broadcast lessons have been by far my favourite. With this in mind I have decided to specialise in broadcast journalism next year.

When I arrived at LCF I was completely focused on print journalism and would never have even considered getting behind or in front of the camera. The past year has been a huge learning process for me and has opened my eyes to exciting new opportunities.

I have found that finding a story and planning and filming it isn't all that different to writing an article. Although I always want to write, I ultimately want to be a journalist. Journalism is undergoing such huge and exciting changes at the moment that I think to emerge in 2 years as an employable journalist I have to really embrace these changes. Moving image is becoming so much more important that I hope an understanding of how to film and edit will stand me in good stead.

I do find the prospect of broadcast journalism a little daunting. As I said before it is never something I would have seen myself doing in the past. But I have realised that I am at university above all to learn, so I should make the most of the facilities and opportunites available to me to learn the most I can about this dynamic and ever-changing industry.
For now at least though, the wellies are off. But if journalism doesn't work out you will know where to find me: I will be down at Kentish Town City Farm, chatting to Farmer John and sitting in the sunshine admiring that view.


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