Headwaters: a prologue by Scalarama Merseyside

Fri 04 Jun 2021

Michael Pierce and Monika Rodriguez from Scalarama Merseyside introduce Headwaters: a programme of archival film and conversation curated for AND Festival 2021.

Hello, we are Monika Rodriguez and Michael Pierce from Scalarama Merseyside. Since 2015, Scalarama Merseyside encouraged and supported the development of local cinemas, especially within community settings. For AND Festival 2021, we are presenting Headwaters, a series of events that include online local heritage screenings, a family-friendly feature film in the grounds of Bidston Observatory and community-led conversations, guided by the theme of water. Alongside these events, we will be telling our own story and sharing our creative process through a series of journal posts.

Our experience with film archives started in 2018 with a project called The Spirit of Liverpool, in which we reclaimed women’s histories by exploring local collections of previously hidden footage.  We followed that in 2019 with Recycle Cinema, a project examining Liverpool’s relationship with the environment. Our love for archives led us to campaign for local histories to be respected and preserved, holding a callout for people to bring their own films to be digitised through our Home Movie Day. Through this work, Abandon Normal Devices contacted us, proposing a community film archive project as part of their 2020 festival taking place along the Mersey. Formed through long conversations with the AND Festival team, we planned a series of workshops and events at venues including Birkenhead Town Hall and Bloom Building, before the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Since then, we worked together to reimagine the content and a new format for the project, whilst also recognising that the pandemic has changed the world completely and is a major part of the environmental emergency we’re so keen to discuss. We had in mind the need to face this crisis and for the project to reconnect us with nature. For us, creating the project has been part of a healing process as well as a chance to experiment with a new way of working. 2020 for us, was a year of reflecting on how we must use our white, European, non-disabled privilege to name and dismantle racism and discrimination, and liberate all genders from oppression. 

We designed the Headwaters programme holistically, creating four chapters that tell a story about water across time using the river’s journey as inspiration. Our vision for the project is to connect and stand in solidarity with other individuals, organisations and collectives, to create a better world for the next generation and all living things.

We start with the source, our first chapter reflecting our personal connections to water and cinema through this  journal , followed by online event Show and Flow, dedicated to the preservation of stories about communal spaces, such as cinemas and swimming baths. Join us for this event and share your stories in a safe, online space.

The story continues with branches as we become more aware of the use and misuse of water in our society; this journal piece will reflect on our own activism, using cinema as a tool. For our second online event, Turbulent Flow, we will call on the stories of water protectors – those who seek clean rivers, seas and oceans, a fair share of resources and a restored relationship with water, based on respect.

The journey meets mythological channels in our third chapter. We were inspired by The Song of the Sea, an Irish folktale about a brother’s quest to save his sister, where water is a symbol of guidance, wisdom and spirit (screening at Bidston Observatory as part of the Observatory Cinema programme). Our third journal will collect the sound of the rivers and the voices of local communities.

For our fourth chapter, the river will meet deltas where we will pose questions about our future relationship with water at an event at Bloom Building, using interactive elements such as video clips, music videos and the work of local filmmakers and the festival’s artists. Our final journal piece will summarise and reflect on the project’s findings.    

Our next journal will be released next week. To find out more about our work and for extended pieces, subscribe to our Substack. (link: https://cinemanation.substack.com)

The Headwaters programme:

Wed 16 June | Show and Flow, online via Zoom | Reserve your place

Wed 23 June | Turbulent Flow, online via Zoom | Reserve your place

Fri 2 July | Headwaters: Natural Flow ft. Song of the Sea, Bidston Observatory, Birkenhead | Tickets

Sun 11 July | Future Flow, Bloom Building, Birkenhead | Reserve your place

Headwaters will be hosted online and at Bloom Building, Birkenhead from Wednesday 16 June. View the full programme.

Image description: Two ducks on a lake in Killarney National Park, Killarney, Ireland with misty hills in the background. Photo credit: Alejandro Luengo on Unsplash