Birmingham’s arts and crafts heritage: an introduction by Roger Shannon

18 June, 2021

Birmingham’s arts and crafts heritage: an introduction by Screen and Film School Birmingham’s Visiting Executive Producer, Roger Shannon.

It’s as in-vogue on the small screen right now as any baking-related show – the subject of arts and crafts.

The list is as long as your sewing arm: The Great Pottery Throw Down, The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft, Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters and of course, The Great British Sewing Bee, which is hosted by the effervescent Birmingham-born Joe Lycett. Ahead of our grand opening in September, our new Visiting Executive Producer Roger Shannon shares some thoughts about the artistic side of the second city that many people may struggle to see between the old stereotypes. But before that, here is an introduction to Roger himself and some of his hopes for the future, as we prepare to open our doors in the midlands:

Roger Shannon has been an industry professional for 40 years, and a Professor of Film and Television for the past decade. During that time, he has been associated with over 20 UK feature films, many shorts, documentaries, and numerous Television projects. He is probably best known for being the Executive Producer behind a group of highly acclaimed independent feature films, including the award-winning Butterfly Kiss, as well as Beautiful People, Under the Skin and Lawless Heart.

Roger Shannon, Screen and Film School Birmingham’s Visiting Executive Producer

 

Roger was the founding Producer at Birmingham Film and Video Workshop, as well as the founding Director of the Birmingham International Film and Television Festival, and when asked to discuss his position with us at Screen and Film School Birmingham he had this to say:

“I’m delighted to be associated with the degree-awarding Screen and Film School Birmingham, which is an inspiring new addition to the burgeoning media scene in the city, and one that will enrich the art and craft of independent film production, film culture and experimentation.”

 
Roger’s association with our midland’s city, and indeed our school’s Digbeth location, runs deep: 

“In 1985 I produced my first feature film in Digbeth (‘Out of Order’ directed by Jonnie Turpie), turning Digbeth Civic Hall (now Digbeth Institute) into a film studio in the process. It seems so fitting that now Digbeth will have its own Screen and Film School, nurturing film talent and screen creativity for the future.”

Roger also has a proven flair for spotting and nurturing talent in our industry, which has been illustrated through his affiliations with companies as impressive and illustrious as Liverpool’s MIDA, the BFI, the UK Film Council, and also Scottish Screen. 

“In my role as Visiting Exec Producer at Screen and Film School Birmingham, I will aim to help the students in shaping their future careers within an international industry, that is now more than ever showing an enhanced creativity, ambition, and growth, particularly in cities such as Birmingham.”

Our students will be in safe hands when Roger joins this September. His passion for film craft shines through, but he also has an intimate knowledge of Birmingham and its cultural heritage.

Here we have asked Roger to share some insight into a side of Birmingham’s artistic history that doesn’t always make the headlines, but is now firmly in the minds of most avid TV viewers, and for good reason:
“Having a new Screen and Film School opening later this year in Digbeth is a marvellous addition to the city’s multi-woven infrastructure of talent nurturing and talent development, which is so vital for the future of the region’s cinematic arts and crafts.

As a producer of films and TV in and around Birmingham for over 40 years now, it’s heartening to hear that the new degree-awarding School will associate itself with experimentation, innovation and independent film culture, whilst also supporting the social and cultural ambitions of change inherent in film.

Such aims and ambitions chime historically with creative traditions in Birmingham and are also more recently in step with the encouraging uplift in the fortunes of the city’s screen industry, which has seen writers, producers, directors, and performers fashion award-winning profiles here: Steven Knight, Adil Ray OBE (Screen and Film School Birmingham’s Patron), Kit De Waal, Khaled El Hagar, Sima Gonsai, Sean Spencer, Sarah Walker, Lorna Laidlaw, and David Harewood, all spring to mind.

Mention the phrase ‘arts and crafts’, and you inevitably call to mind the influential creative movement of that same name, a movement through which artists such as William Morris and Edward Burne Jones were so prominent and whose legacy is marked with indelible footprints across the city and the wider region.

Primetime television in recent weeks has given us the refreshing sight of Birmingham playing a central role in a spate of arts and crafts type shows. There has been All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewellery Star, a series which was wholly filmed in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, at the beautiful 130-year-old School of Jewellery building. Furthermore, one of the UK’s most rapidly rising TV stars, Birmingham’s Joe Lycett, has had audiences in stitches with the silk-smart thread of his wit, whilst hosting the series, The Great British Sewing Bee.

These shows have helped to profile Birmingham in a ‘softer’ tone than has often been portrayed in recent times and tapped into the city’s creative undercurrents.”

We can’t wait to have Roger as part of our team of industry professionals when our Digbeth home opens this September. The passion and knowledge he expresses here when discussing just one facet of Birmingham’s creative identity is a tantalising taste of what he will offer going forwards, for our new group of students.


 

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