Sorry for ignoring you, I promise I will do better!

VQ-Awards
I apologise for the lack of activity on my blog for the past month or so but work commitments have made me an absentee blogger. I would have posted but the seventy hour weeks for the past month have meant I have turned into a power sleeper and all round dull boy.

So what has had my attention for the past four weeks? Projects by the bucketful, you know how it is, a little like waiting for a bus, Wait for ages then three come a once.

The main focus of my attention has been an awards ceremony for the Vocational Qualification Awards at the college where I work. Now Oldham College has never been an organisation that ever does things by halves, it was a herculean task to produce and last Wednesday it went ahead to rave reviews.

Event Production is not a job for the faint hearted and being an Event Producer you are the guy were the buck stops should it all go Pete Tong. The secret to the job is you need to surround yourself with a great team of people who will always exceed your expectations and are not frightened to tell you that what you are proposing will work or not. It’s not essential but they also need to regularly tell you that you are clinically insane for undertaking such an idea in the first place and then prove to you that it can be done.

Now that’s not to say that some very intense conversations take place but it’s important that no one wastes time sulking or being precious, but in the end this working methodology leads to presentations and events that people remember and a piece of work that will look great on your resume.

Now once you have your team in place the challenge is to wrap them around the students so that they get the experience of taking part in a large scale presentation. That is what I like about working in vocational education, you get to see young people develop and learn new skills and gain confidence whilst learning doing the job.I think it is important for young people to experience first-hand the pressure that certain jobs inherently involve, it creates a discipline within individuals that would be hard to achieve in the classroom.

So with a twenty two man crew last Wednesday at 7.30 they all knew that what they needed to do and when to make the show a success.

Now I am lucky, not only do I get to develop these young people but I get to meet the other students who won the awards. It is their moment in the limelight, their fifteen minutes of fame a chance to shine in front of their peers and families, and that is a fantastic experience.

Some of the individuals who won awards had incredible stories to tell. A Lady who was an Iraqi Family Court Judge who came here three years ago is learning English and is helping out in a local Advice Centre, The Student who has been caring for his terminally Ill father and still completed his studies without ever missing a lesson.

The list is endless, everyone has a story but the one thing they all have in common is that they all turn up and study with the collective idea that education will improve their prospects in life. On that point I have to agree with them, the quickest way to improve your lot in life is to work hard and get an education and if you find a job that you love you have it made.

So I congratulate our winners and commiserate with the nominees, who hopefully will have another chance next year.

To my loyal band of followers normal service will be resumed as soon a possible.

It’s no big deal! Oh yes it is!

Retirement Road Sign with blue sky and clouds.

In this world driven by the search for celebrity, fame and money sometimes we overlook people who have had a huge impact on the lives of other people, because they quietly get on being brilliant at what they do without any fanfare or big gesture!

I have been fortunate to work with one such individual on and off for about twenty years and this week I have learned of his retirement. Without doubt he is a person who will be missed, not only by his colleagues but more importantly by the young people who he has taught over the years.

In a town like Oldham news travels very fast, we have a grapevine that is very impressive and this news traveled faster than most.

Now I have not named this individual because he would be mortified by the fact that in his eyes I had actually wasted valuable time writing this but more importantly he probably doesn’t think that his retirement doesn’t warrant any attention because its no big deal. To everyone who has worked or been taught by this person it is!

Normally it is not in most young peoples makeup to have a genuine affection for Lecturers however I have been bombarded by phone calls, Facebook messages and all the other manner of social networking paraphernalia asking me if i was true and what are we going to celebrate the end of an era (their words not mine).

It is obvious to anyone who has worked with him he has rare qualities that make him special. He is virtually unflappable and in all the time I have known him he has never had a bad word to say about anyone. His greatest quality is that he has the ability to see the best in people and make them feel like someone actually cares about what they achieve.

By my calculations (and I am not very good mathematically, other than invoicing and filling in expenses forms) In the time I have known him he has personally been responsible for the pastoral and educational needs of over 150 students a year, for the past twenty years.

By my reckoning that’s about 3000 individuals who have directly benefited from this mans experience and most of these individuals have gone on to become very successful in their chosen careers.

No matter were you travel to work in this country, when you tell them were you are from, nine times out of ten this mans name will crop up in the conversation, followed by the phrase “a great bloke”

So I hope we can pin him down and give him the send off he deserves and give some of the people he has helped over the years a chance to say thank you.

Working with the Living Dead

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Making films is a painstaking slow business which takes a small army of people with various skills a great deal of time. You start with a story, which in itself is getting increasingly hard to find. It should be original, entertaining and when read through should be thought provoking.

I have been lucky this week to be part of this process which has seen very inexperienced young people produce a piece of work which they should be proud of. Our script was developed from a story by a young writer called Fatima Al-Kassem, a second year media student from the college which I work at.

Many writers quite rightly are very protective of the story they are telling but to Fatima’s credit she allowed us to use her story and embellish it a little to help us enter this years round of film festivals.

So armed with a great script and a cast and crew of twenty eight people we embarked on a challenging two day shooting schedule nearly all of which was outside in the beautiful Alexandra Park in Oldham.

Now living on the edge of the pennines its a brave producer who envisages that it won’t rain at some point across the production window but we decided it was worth the risk. We had tried to arrange shooting at the start of March but we were beaten by snowdrifts, fog and Ice, so we postponed it until this week.

To enable our band of inexperienced students we added experienced seasoned production professionals who helped our guys to produce something quite magical.

Even the weather was more than kind, although I did get my head sunburned and I can do a great impersonation of a very red person. Now to those of you who are saying I should wear a hat, I did have one in the car boot but I inadvertently dropped the Camera Case and Tripod on it this morning making it into a a heap of shattered straw.

Now the aim of this exercise isn’t to make the students experts in camera work, make up or even directing actors. Its about them learning how to behave, respect each other’s abilities and work together as a team.

On the first day it is always like what could be described as a schoolyard football game, twenty two people running around after a ball with everyone expelling a lot of energy with little progress being made.

By lunchtime on the first day something magical happens, they start to delegate and get involved and that is what is needed. These young people worked relentlessly for eleven hours a day during this period and they enjoyed every minute of it.

The Director Ben Mann who is highly experienced and very patient gave them the confidence to make suggestions and was courteous enough to listen and explain the process and why maybe things might not work rather than dismissing ideas out of hand.

The Cameraman Chris Stonnal also allowed them space to get involved and explained what makes a great shot and the highly experienced Andrew Corrie the Production Manager gave them the opportunity to make decisions that helped deliver a great production.

What I mainly remember about the last two days is the youthful enthusiasm that young people bring to any project, The sheer bravery to try things that any seasoned professional would  think twice about doing,

The understanding of the Actors when we had to pour buckets of water over them (that was more preferable than throwing them in the lake) and the young Actress who in full suicide corpse makeup caught the bus home because she thought it was a cool look.

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I am very fortunate to work at a college that offers young people these types of experiences, who are visionary enough to think we should be developing character as well as promoting academic study. But one thing I am sure of is that our students will probably be the only students at an FE college doing this exercise this week, or for that matter any week.

The production will be ready in around three weeks and I will post it here for your perusal. So look out for our film ‘Redemption’ and see if you can spot the living dead.