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Stories from diverse Pillgwenlly communities hit the big screen

Documentaries about the communities of Pillgwenlly in Newport – created by Film students at the University of South Wales – have been showcased on the big screen.

Two films, one focusing on the history of the Transporter Bridge which looms large over the district, and the other on the Pill annual carnival, had their premiere at a special event in Barnabas Arts House on Thursday 27 October.

The MA Film students have made the documentaries as part of Ffilm Cymru’s Foot In the Door training programme, which creates opportunities for people to learn and transfer skills onto film and TV productions in Wales by the likes of Netflix, BBC, Sky, Lucasfilm, Disney and S4C.

Since this spring, 300 such opportunities have been available to people in Newport thanks to a collaboration with Newport City Council, which has secured funding from the UK Community Renewal Fund.

As part of the project, the students have worked with Pobl Group on a series of hands-on workshops, teaching storytelling and film shooting skills to local people, while gathering stories and memories for the two documentaries.

Watch the trailer for Bridging Lives

Sally Lisk-Lewis, Skills Partnership Manager at USW, said: “It has been a joy to see our students listen and learn from the people of Pill, document their stories, and develop strong and long-lasting bonds with the community. This has been such a collaborative effort.  The films do a great job of capturing the spirit of Pill, its rich diversity, history, and the people and places that make it so special. It’s been a privilege to be part of this process.”

Faye Hannah, Head of Skills and Training at Ffilm Cymru Wales, added:Ffilm Cymru Wales and partners work with communities to develop skills in Newport for the long term. This collaboration between Pobl Group and the University of South Wales is a perfect example of what is achieved when communities tell their stories through their own lens.”

Samantha Howells, Area Regeneration Manager for Pobl Group, said: “This project has been a huge success and a fantastic experience for everyone involved. It has brought community members, students and partners together, upskilling local people in Pill and capturing great memories, enabling a wider audience to hear these stories.

“‘It is important to us at Pobl that as part of our commitment to the Masterplan and regeneration work in Pill that we promote the strengths and acknowledge the rich history and culture of the area, but more importantly that the stories are told by the people who know and love it best, and these films have captured that beautifully. There is a real pride in Pill and that was evident in the room on Thursday night when the community was able to share its memories on film, and in person after the screening.”

MA Film student Angus Sinclair Maddocks directed the Pill Carnival film. He said: “Working on this documentary was the most ambitious film I’ve taken on to date, and was a challenging experience that I learned some valuable lessons from. The people of Pill were very generous with their time and eager to help, for which I’m very grateful.”