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July 30, 2014

Rejecting the image

There are certain post codes which mean your chances of getting a job or a loan from a bank can be virtually zero.  Once an area has attracted a bad reputation, often courtesy of a media obsession with negative reporting, that stigma can be very hard to shake off – even when there is no basis for it. Three women from Bridgeton in Glasgow decided they’d had enough of being judged by their address and decided the Commonwealth Games would be a useful platform to tell their side of the story.


Glasgow City Council

Three women from Bridgeton – who have no previous experience of filming and editing – have joined forces to create a bold new film to challenge many of the false, stereotypical beliefs that still exist about their neighbourhood.

Nessie Howard, 66, Nancy Humphries, 76 and Mary Alice McLellan, 39, created ‘Judge for Yourself’, which portrays their own, real-life take on the perceived issues of gang violence, bigotry and isolation in Bridgeton.

Nancy Humphries said: “I, like Mary Alice and Nessie, have lived in Bridgeton all of my life, so I know the reality of what it’s like living in Bridgeton, and it’s a far cry from what people and the media often make it out to be.

“I was fed up with all the negativity I kept hearing and reading about my neighbourhood, from the Orange Order to youth brutality – it’s disproportionate, it’s not all accurate and it’s not fair. We have a fantastic, close-knit community here, which looks after its residents – you just have to look at all the fantastic community projects, such as the Human Library, Thenue Housing Association and the Bridgeton Community Learning Campus.”

The three women began the project by conducting a survey of their local and surrounding community to find out what residents and visitors thought about the prejudice around Bridgeton.

“The survey uncovered a resounding agreement amongst interviewees about what the main stereotypes are”, said Lucinda Broadbent of Media Co-op, the film company which provided the training and production elements of the project. “Gang violence, bigotry – or more specifically, sectarianism – and isolation, in terms of older people feeling stuck in their homes and too scared to go out, featured strongly in people’s thoughts. That’s why we chose to base our film on these issues. We wanted to show that in many ways, Bridgeton is not the place people often think it is.”

The project came about as a result of a conversation between Nancy Humphries and Pauline Kelly, Hate Crime Policy Officer for Community Safety Glasgow (CSG). They met during an event at the Mitchell Library, where Nancy told Pauline about her views on Bridgeton, and how she felt that the district didn’t deserve the harsh and negative reputation that it has. This inspired Pauline to create a new community project – using recently acquired lottery funding – who made sure that Nancy was one of those to be placed firmly at the helm of driving the project forward.

Pauline Kelly, Community Safety Glasgow, said: “Nancy’s story really was the source of inspiration for this film. With training and assistance from a local film company, Media Co-op, we’ve been able to provide Mary Alice, Nessie and Nancy with all the skills and expertise they need to produce this highly emotive, very effective piece of work. Not only will it be shown to the local community, it will go live via social media channels so that it reaches a much wider audience, and hopefully helps to change prejudicial attitudes towards Bridgeton.

“Not only that, the film will be projected in the windows of four prominent buildings in Bridgeton throughout the 2014 Commonwealth Games, so that the thousands of athletes, visitors, spectators, VIPs and public that pass along London Road can stop and pay attention to the story these ladies have to tell about their beloved neighbourhood.”

The two-minute film features three stories relating to gang violence, bigotry and isolation, each initially presented in a stereotypical context and surroundings. This sets an expectation in the audience’s mind as to what is going to happen next, based on the viewer’s possible preconceptions about the character or situation they observe. A pleasant surprise then follows each story, prompting the viewer to immediately reconsider their views and expectations of the people who live in Bridgeton.

Mary Alice McLellan said: “I really enjoyed the whole film-making process, from creating storyboards and interviewing the community for ideas, to operating the camera and making sure all the technical elements were correct. I’d love the chance to be able to do something similar in future.

“I really hope that lots of people get the chance to see our film – the best thing about Bridgeton is the fantastic people who live here, as well as the fact that it is getting regenerated. I think the film shows that Bridgeton is full of good people and that it’s a fun and safe place to be.”

Nessie Howard added: “I’m proud to have been involved in making this film. It has really helped me through a difficult time in my life as I lost my husband in September. I love Bridgeton – I remember what it was like living here in the fifties and sixties, I’ve brought my children up here, and I’ve watched in recent times as the district has been regenerated.

“I loved every minute of making this film, and I would love to get the chance to do it all again. I learned so much from everyone at Media Co-op – they were very patient and taught me such a lot. They make it look easy but there is a lot of hard work behind making a film!”

Judge for yourself  – see the film here