Rethinking migration and integration through film

The first Lincoln Green Film Festival is coming in summer 2019, helping to transform communities through arts and culture.  Today’s blog is written by Henriette Mahamane from Leeds City Council’s communities team, who was awarded a British Council grant to bring an African dimension to the festival.

The Lincoln Green African film festival is the fruit of a partnership between different Leeds City Council services (Leeds International Film Festival, Leeds 2023, Communities and Environment, and Housing), the University of Leeds, East Street Arts and local communities groups including Leeds Refugee forum.  This unique project aims to build stronger communities through art and culture in Lincoln Green, one of the most deprived neighbourhood in Leeds.

Lincoln Green is a place where a growing number of new communities have chosen to settle. Occasionally this has led to community tensions and other challenges. However, Leeds City Council takes a compassionate approach to migration…let me tell you more about our unique approach.

In the early 1990s, US researchers developed a strategy called asset-based community development, or ABCD. It challenges the approach of looking at “what is wrong” in a community and encourages us to work with “what is strong” instead. These strengths can be anything from the skills of local residents to the influence of community associations. This project looks at Lincoln Green’s diversity as a strength that makes the area a vibrant melting pot which will become one of Leeds’ next cultural hubs.  Our ABCD approach makes those who live in the area identify with our project more easily and gain a stronger sense of belonging and pride for their local community.

A community engagement meeting at Leeds Refugee Forum in Lincoln Green

lincoln greenNow what’s that got to do with film?  The film festival will showcase films on the streets and community centres of Lincoln Green. It will be free, making it accessible to all, especially communities that may not have access to art and culture. It will showcase long and short films, documentaries and animated films for all audiences including young people. Debates and discussions will be held on topics such as integration and gender, with the aim of bringing together both new and settled residents.


We did some research into similar approaches to community integration using the arts.  We found that West Africa has a long tradition of engaging with hard to reach communities through street theatre, music and film.  We decided to apply for a British Council grant to find out more about approaches to community engagement from this part of the world and to make links with African film industries in both Senegal and Nigeria.

Last year I was very fortunate to go on the first research trip to Senegal in order to learn from their best practice and to create new partnerships for the film festival.  As a result of this visit to Senegal, the first edition of the Lincoln Green Film Festival will be held in partnership with Senegal’s Cinematography section of the Ministry of culture, Cinecap film production company and international film festivals such as “Films Femmes Afrique”.

We will be using everything we learnt from the Senegal visit to help us put together the first ever Lincoln Green Film Festival in summer 2019.

Henriette Mahamane meets with Hugues Diaz, the Director of Cinematography at Senegal’s Ministry of Culture

And you can now watch a video about the visit to Senegal by following the link below (password:s3n3gal).

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