Chapter Voices: Matt

Posted on: 20 Aug 2014 by Matt Beere

We caught up with Matt Beere to talk about his life at Chapter and his work as Learning and Participation Officer.

I’ve been working for Chapter for over 10 years and in that time I’ve worked in most departments. I first started here as Cinema Assistant back in 2003 after graduating from the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) with a degree in Theatre and Media Drama. I’ve worked for the Theatre, I’ve done some work for the Gallery, I’ve worked on the Box Office, I’ve worked in the Cafe and I’ve worked in the Bar. And sometimes all in the same week

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of changes at Chapter, the building itself has been modernized and developed and the organizational structure has been adapted and modified in order to meet the demands of a new, more challenging economic climate.

My main role here at Chapter has also changed, and steadily over the last 5 or 6 years I have been responsible for building up a successful programme of education initiatives, bringing new audiences to Chapter, running workshops and developing new and existing partnerships with fellow educators inside and outside of the cultural sector.

The variety of education and learning projects that Chapter designs, develops and delivers is wide and far-reaching. Our education work covers activities in both mainstream and non-mainstream settings, having delivered projects in schools, colleges, universities, prisons, community centres, youth centres, pupil referral units, and of course our own building. We run in-venue activity and also have an outreach programme, often working with groups that are classified as ‘hard to reach’, both socially and geographically.

We have delivered education projects across Wales, and have even developed and facilitated international collaborations such as the Oslo/Newport Takeover Cardiff animation project last October, which was supported by the British Council and Wales Arts International. Looking for models of best practice and replicating successful projects from our colleagues throughout the UK and Europe, as well as sharing our own success stories, is all part and parcel of my role, as I look to implement new, innovative projects.

August has always been a quiet month for activity here at Chapter, and for us in the Learning department it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the year gone by, and prepare for the upcoming Autumn and Spring terms. During school holidays and half-terms we run our popular film activity days, a full day of fun activities with a film screening included. Our next Activity day will be 25th August exploring the world of Earth to Echo, with the following activity days in October half term- a spooky Super 8 Halloween special!   

We have just completed the first year of activity for a three-year project running animation classes for young people on the autistic spectrum. These classes are run at Chapter and we’re already seeing some incredible benefits in terms of the social development of some of the young people that have taken part. We are looking forward to collating some of this evidence and will be organizing a one-day symposium in December, to hear from others working in the same field, to share our findings and to showcase some of the work that has been created so far. Our next ten-week course starts in October.

For the last 2 years we have also been supporting the Film in Afan project with film-based in-school curriculum-linked literacy workshops working across all year groups at every key stage. The Upper Afan Valley is a fairly isolated area, and it’s been a real pleasure to teach the young people of Glyncorrwg, Croeserw, Blaengwynfi, Abergwynfi and Cymer. I remember we had to postpone several school workshops in January 2013, the end of year our first year, due to really bad wintry weather. The whole of the Upper Afan Valley was cut off due to frozen roads, it was like another world, like Narnia. For about three weeks there was no getting in and no getting out! The teaching staff in the schools there are some of the most committed I have worked with, and I have been welcomed and supported during my workshops, inspiring kids to watch films, to learn about films, to understand how they are made whilst at the same helping the class teachers achieve their classroom and curriculum objectives. In June I also delivered 13 creative workshops further down the valley in Bryn, Cwmafaon and Pontrhydyfen. In June we also delivered a Young Person’s Film Academy at Croesrw Community Centre; a Saturday morning Film Club, where each week participants learn about different aspects of the film making process. Over the final year of the Afan Project we will be delivering a further 12 in-school workshops, 12 more creative workshops in community settings, and another Young Person’s Film Academy. 

The Young Person’s Film Academy has been a core part of our programme in Chapter for the last four years, and is normally run from our Chapter Cinema 2, with our most recent Academy being run in May and June. In addition to the Young Person’s film Academy we also run a Junior Moviemaker session on the first Saturday of each month in Cinema 2, where young aspiring filmmakers under 16 years old can come and watch short films together and talk about what they like about films, and even get to see their own mini masterpieces projected on the big screen.  Our next Chapter Film Academy will run in January 2015.

Starting in October, we will also be running a 10-week sewing course for young people, due to the successful taster sessions we run earlier in the Summer. Using interesting themes, textures and materials from our film, theatre and visual arts programme as inspiration, this extended sewing course for young people aged 8-11 will teach participants basic sewing skills in a fun and ’sewcial’ way.  

In October we will also be hosting some film-study events aimed at A Level film students, with a screening of South African Oscar Winning 2006 film Tsotsi. I’m very much looking forward to this as I will be leading a post-screening on-stage interview with Tsotsi himself – actor Presley Chewenegae, who will actually be in Chapter with his theatre company as part of our AfroVibes season.

I am also looking to continually develop partnerships with schools, and will be heading to Newport to work with Ringland Primary at the end of September. I will also be developing a series of ten in-venue workshops for Howells School in Llandaff. In November we will be a partner venue in the National Youth Film Festival and will be running two weekend film-making courses for young people aged 5-19.

There are also a few exciting projects in development at the moment that I can’t mention, as funding has yet to be secured but let’s just say they will keep me and the learning team busy for most of 2015! For the moment though, I am happy for the breather that the Summer holidays offer, as Autumn will be on us before we realize, and it’ll be all go.

In many ways I’m in a privileged position in Chapter, as some days my work is in Chapter, and some days my work takes me off site. Some days I am glued to my desk, some days I am glued to a Cinema seat. One day I’m a primary school teacher making pipe cleaner insects with 5 year olds, the next day I’m a secondary teacher analyzing classic film scenes with 15 year olds. Some days I just watch films, the next day I’m running a filmmaking course. Some days I am writing funding applications,  or writing lesson plans, or preparing workshops. The next week I’ll be at a media conference, or talking about our education work on a panel of practitioners at an International Film Festival. Some days I am being inspired, by the creativity of young people while some days I am the one inspiring others. It’s full on but it’s fun and there is a great balance between managing the programme and being on the ‘front line’, collaborating with young people, guiding, teaching and inspiring and learning.

Of course, all of the work I do is only possible because of all of the wonderful staff at Chapter all working together. Without a great Development team, we wouldn’t be able to find the funding to put these initiatives in place and make them work. Without a great Marketing team, nobody would know about the activities.   

I’ve worked with and continue to work with lots and lots of great people; which is why working at Chapter, well it’s always felt like having a second family. It’s an ever changing family of course, as life will always take you to different places; be it just across the bridge to England, to the Wild West of Pembrokeshire or in some cases to the opposite side of our small blue planet; it’s inevitable that people move on.  Having been at Chapter for over 10 years I also have the memory of having worked those who have moved away from our world completely, but who are still talked about, still remembered and whose voices I still can hear.  It’s the past, the present and the future that makes working for Chapter what it is, and an exciting place to be. 

Matt will be blogging regularly about what he’s up to. If you’d like any further information about Chapter’s Learning activity, please visit the Learning section of our website or email Matt at matt.beere@chapter.org

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