WORK is a partnership project in which four artists created short films in collaboration with audiences and organisations across the Midlands. The project was led by Animate Projects, with partner arts organisations: Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, Junction Arts, QUAD and Vivid Projects

Since 2018, we have been working with artist and filmmaker Esther Johnson who directly engaged with employees, volunteers and users of the Freedom Centre in Bolsover. This period of research and relationship building helped shape the form and content of a new collaborative film about contemporary working lives.
Esther Johnson’s film ‘a ROLE to PLAY’ and the three other short films centred around modern day working lives premiered on 1st May 2020. Watch all four films here:
Esther continues to volunteer with Bolsover Reading Group and is currently putting the finishing touches to a newspaper ‘Class Work Tribune’ which will feature work from the reading group, content from the film and a newly commissioned piece by Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan. The poem ‘Here are the Words in the Reading Bank’ can be found on the WORK website here:

You can find out more about Esther’s process in making the film and creating relationships with Bolsover and the participants in these two pieces of writing:
Esther Johnson interview on WORK website
Esther Johnson blog for Tribune Mag

In autumn 2018, Stephen Cotton (a reading group participant, previous Freedom food bank user, and now employee) and Esther Johnson went to London to meet Dennis Skinner MP for Bolsover at the time.
The time together was a great opportunity for Stephen to discuss issues he felt were important in his local community in Bolsover, struggles he and his family had directly experienced. We were joined on our tour of Parliament by a group of Reading University Politics students and Labour Party members. The group proved to be an inspired matching for the exchange of experiences and issues between two very different areas in England – Reading and Bolsover – and especially in terms of differences in economics and industry.

Here are some of Stephen’s thoughts on Dennis Skinner and our trip:
“I’ve met Dennis Skinner before but I’d never been to the Houses of Parliament before and I wanted to know what it would be like walking around the building. And it’s history. I’m into my art and my history and I like how things work as well. I learnt more about Dennis Skinner. I know he’s always been a straight shooter. He’ll tell you how it is. Which is good because you don’t get much of that in Parliament. He’ll tell you how it is and if you don’t like it you’ll lump it. He’s always stuck up for Bolsover and the people…I think he’s always thought about other people, he’s not one of those people who’s in it for themselves.
Last time I went to London I was in the Army cadets and I didn’t really look round London. We went to London to one of the camps. I’d never been on the tube so it were a different experience ’cos I get buses round here and it’s not as cramped as they [the tube] were. It was like sardines in cans…I couldn’t believe the other people that came [the Reading Uni undergraduates] and that Dennis took time out to take us around and with people not even from his constituency. I think he’s thinking of everyone really.
I liked standing where they do on Question Time, The Houses of Commons that was pretty cool. I thought that were pretty good. I asked him [Dennis] if he would ever want to be Prime Minister and he said ‘No, because I’d get fired in the first week. ‘
He did say about Markham Vale and that we’re getting more industrial estates now coming to Bolsover with the motorway. They’ve brought an extra junction [J29A Duckmanton Interchange opened in 2008, also dubbed Skinner Junction] off the motorway coming into Bolsover. I don’t think those jobs would be here if the motorway hadn’t been there.”

“We are so pleased to have been involved in this partnership project, and to support Esther’s process in the creation of A Role to Play. It is rare to have the luxury of time within a project to build relationships over such a long period of time in the ‘making’ process and it is lovely to see them ongoing, even after the film has been made. I look forward to sharing this with Esther and the participants within the Bolsover community.” Amy Smith, Project Coordinator