Unforgotten coat 1920x1080The Unforgotten Coat is an acclaimed children’s book, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Walker, 2011). One thread of the narrative concerns the recreation of Mongolia in Polaroid photo form by two refugee brothers living in Bootle. The Unforgotten Coat book was illustrated by Edge Hill University lecturers Carl Hunter and Clare Heney, who created digital images of the Polaroid photos from the story.

The book won the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis 2013 in the category Best Children´s Book and has been translated into several languages. It remains a core text for the Reader Organisation’s reading groups in the community and has been praised for highlighting the plight of young asylum seekers

In 2013, further creative research was undertaken culminating in an exhibition hosted by the Edge Hill University Institute for Creative Enterprise. For this exhibition, the images have undergone a further transformation, from digital images into physical, analogue Polaroid-style photographs.

The Unforgotten Coat exhibition features at Bank Street Arts

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A photographic exhibition created by Edge Hill University academics and inspired by an award winning children’s book is now being exhibited in Sheffield’s iconic Bank Street Arts.

Inspired by Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat, a children’s book about two Mongolian refugee brothers living in Liverpool, The Unforgotten Coat exhibition features stunning and atmospheric photography taken by film-maker and musician Carl Hunter and film-maker and photographer Clare Heney, both lecturers at Edge Hill University, which transforms Liverpool into a version of Mongolia through the medium of Polaroid photos.

In 2013 Carl and Clare undertook further creative research to create the exhibition, transforming the original images from digital images into physical, analogue Polaroid-style photograph which have since toured across the UK, featuring in venues including Shandy Hall, Calderstones Park’s Mansion House,

The Unforgotten Coat exhibition will show at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield for the full month of September where it will be part of Opening up the Book, a festival of Book Arts and related practices. Read more here.

 

The Unforgotten Coat photographic exhibition tours the UK

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A photographic exhibition created by Edge Hill University academics and inspired by an award-winning children’s book has been taken on tour across the UK.

Inspired by Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat, a children’s book about two Mongolian refugee brothers living in Liverpool, The Unforgotten Coat exhibition features stunning and atmospheric photography which transforms Liverpool into a version of Mongolia through the medium of Polaroid photos.

The novel was originally illustrated by film-maker and musician Carl Hunter and film-maker and photographer Clare Heney, both lecturers at Edge Hill University, who created digital images of the Polaroid photos described in the story. In 2013 Carl and Clare undertook further creative research to create the exhibition, transforming the original images from digital images into physical, analogue Polaroid-style photographs.

The Unforgotten Coat exhibition launched in November 2013 in Edge Hill University’s flagship Creative Edge building with a public reading from Frank Cottrell-Boyce, before starting its open-ended touring as part of the 10th annual Penny Readings Festival in St Georges Hall, Liverpool.

The Reader Organisation then hosted the exhibition in Calderstones Park’s Mansion House, Liverpool throughout April 2014 where it was chosen to launch the refurbished Coach House Gallery and featured as part of the organisation’s efforts to promote shared reading and local heritage.

In April 2015 The Unforgotten Coat exhibition will feature in Yorkshire’s Shandy Hall, before moving to Bank Street Arts in Sheffield for the month of September 2015 where it will be part of Opening up the Book, a festival of Book Arts and related practices.

The Unforgotten Coat won the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis 2013 in the Best Children´s Book category, and has been translated into several languages. It remains a core text for the Reader Organisation’s reading groups in the community and has been praised for highlighting the plight of young asylum seekers.

Department of Media research in the top 5 in the North West in the REF 2014 intensity rankings

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Edge Hill University’s Media research has been ranked in the top 5 in the North West in the national Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 when ranked on research intensity.

The REF assesses the quality of research at universities across the UK and informs research funding allocations from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, HEFCE. Following the Department of Media’s submission, 45% of work submitted was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Impact from research in the department was illustrated by case studies featuring the work of Professor Roger Shannon into the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop (BFVW), which led to the rediscovery of lost work, and Carl Hunter and Clare Heney’s visual storytelling in The Unforgotten Coat which has been part of a massive literacy campaign with the Reader Organisation.

Read more about the department’s impact case studies here.

Unforgotten Coat at Penny Readings Festival

Video highlights from Frank Cottrell Boyce event

Watch highlights from the hugely successful event at edge Hill university with much-loved author Frank Cottrell Boyce reading from his award-winning book The Unforgotten Coat.

The Unforgotten Coat has since won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2012 and Best Children’s Book at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013. It has also been put forward for the prestigious 2104 Board on Books for Young People International Honours List. The nomination is because the book highlights the lives of today’s young asylum seekers.

The evening was also the last chance to see the stunning and atmospheric photography from the book, which transforms Liverpool into a version of Mongolia through the medium of Polaroid photos. The imagery was created by film-maker and musician Carl Hunter and film-maker and photographer Clare Heney, who both lecture at Edge Hill University.

Unforgotten Process: Creating the Impossible Exhibition

Roy Bayfield, who co-curated the exhibition, writes about a process that took inspiration from failure and made friendship its driving force. 

“It is perverse to make more work than is necessary”- Peter Buse, 40,000 Roses – or, the Perversity of the Polaroid in The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation (Vassar College, 2013)

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What could have been simply a beautiful exhibition of illustrations from a highly-acclaimed children’s book has, in the process of its creation, become something altogether more strange and wonderful. A recreation of home rendered unhomely; images receding through layers of time; an analogue magic lantern show inverting a digital world, with no end in sight. Some Polaroid snaps on a wall.

To try and get some bearings: The Unforgotten Coat is a children’s book written by Frank Cottrell Boyce.  It was written for a charity – the Liverpool-based Reader Organisation – and went on to win both the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2011, and more recently the German Children’s Literature Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013. In the story, based on real events, two Mongolian refugee brothers, Chingis and Nergui Tuul, arrive at a Liverpool primary school. Julie, the book’s narrator, is assigned to look after them as their ‘Good Guide’, a nomadic tradition. The brothers’ Polaroid photos of ‘Mongolia’ are a feature of the narrative, and were created as illustrations for the book by filmmakers Carl Hunter and Clare Heney. Frank Cotrell Boyce describes the process: ‘I came up with a story about a set of Polaroid photographs. Some more neighbours, Carl Hunter and Clare Heney, took the photos. A lot of photos! A bin bag full of Polaroids. We sorted through them all and sometimes the story took a swerve just to include a really good one. Other times bits were cut because we couldn’t get the picture right’ (Blog on My Red House website, Dec 2012).

The illustrations in the book are digital photographs, created to look like Polaroids, complete with aged textured frames:

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Edge Hill University, Carl and Clare’s academic home, wanted to run an event relating to The Unforgotten Coat; a reading with Q&A perhaps, maybe an exhibition. In the summer of 2013 some dates were agreed, so the exhibition, at least, was going to happen. So now Carl and Clare needed to decide how best to exhibit their images. I have a hazy recollection of saying ‘you could do them as actual Polaroids’ at some function or other, and Carl liking the idea. That, perhaps, is when it all went deliciously wrong.

Making digital images into analogue Polaroid-style photographs is, it turns out, not a trivial matter. For a start, film had to be acquired. There is a current brand of Polaroid film, but only at a size smaller than the classic format replicated in the book. Stock made by the ‘Impossible’ company still looks like the real deal, and works in the old cameras, albeit with a slower process of development. In the summer, concurrent with Carl and Clare’s mentoring students on a BBC project, various experiments were undertaken, including printing large-scale hard copies of the digital files and photographing them. This never quite worked – there were issues of focus and framing, and a kind of inescapable flatness. They were bad, but not in the ‘bad=good’ way. Alternative approaches were mooted; recreating the images at the original sites (difficult given the extensive use of props) or going to the locations and holding up hard copies of the images, sliced from the book with a scalpel and photographing them, hand and all. I began to envisage some kind of mad road trip around Merseyside, fake Polaroids (or where they the real ones?) flapping in the wind, hourly-paid hand model getting anxious, images snatched in the seconds before the authorities arrived…

Impossible were poised to bring out a new device, the ‘Instant Lab’, which promised to convert images from an iPhone to their Polaroid-style film. As time went on this began to seem like the best solution. We bought one on the first day it came out, together with several packs of their PX-70 film, ‘FOR YOU TO SHOOT 8 COLOR PHOTOS WITH A POLAROID TYPE SX 70 CAMERA’.

As well as a practical solution to a production problem, a device designed to turn digital images, the modern successor to analogue, ‘back’ into ‘real’ photos offered an appealing bizarreness. It was as if the technology had come full circle, or at least formed a strange, possibly infinite loop.

Of course, it still wasn’t simple. The creation of a one-shot, this-is-it image that develops itself, in the dark, in a kind of built-in chemistry lab would never be simple. First myself (as I had an iPhone), then Carl (as a new departmental iTouch for future use as a marketing social media generator, when it will doubtless spawn thousands of Instagram images in the carefree world of total digital profligacy without consequences, had been acquired and loaned to him) burned through packets of high-end 8 COLOR PHOTOS Impossible film like 60s-era chain-smokers working through packs of Guards. Still the discard pile grew vast and unwieldy, while the ‘OK to exhibit’ pile remained stubbornly small.

Scan of an exhibited image: Unforgotten 1

Then there are all the discards. Everyone loves the broken images, the unexpected chemical swirls, bizarre over- or underexposures, ghosts in the machine, love letters from the goddess of chance. None are failures – even a black panel is a photograph of the inside of the camera. Yet somehow these were not right for the main sequence – an interesting aspect of this particular bit of creative research. One can love accident, rough edges, unintended outcomes, imperfection, arbitrariness – but there is still a boundary of acceptability, a judgement to be made.   Nevertheless it was always intended that the discards should be exhibited as well, which led to a whole set of further questions.

 

Assorted discards: 

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My suggestion that a school old desk could house them elicited the Facebook-response from Carl that this was ‘the best idea since Spiral Scratch’, which I took as assent to the approach, and bought a desk. In the final days Carl simply invited me to use the desk and discards to make my own ‘creative response’ to the main sequence, which I did, working with University Curator Joan Steele to deliver a workable artefact. The Carl/Clare process is like that, an inversion of the auteur approach – somewhere along the line, you end up being trusted as part of the gang, a sort of autonomous collaborator within a structure that has been agreed through intuition alone. Perhaps like being in a band.

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Somehow, on the day of the exhibition opening, it came to an end. There is an exhibition, inhabiting as its first outing a peculiarly-shaped corner of Edge Hill’s new Creative Edge building. Vaguely gallery-like without being a gallery, the chosen exhibition space has, among other things, a toilet entrance within it, and a drinking fountain that appeared unheralded after the exhibition was mounted,  but nevertheless it seems right. The building, so recently-occupied that it still has a provisional feel (Carl and Clare’s office immured by soap dispenser refills when we met to plan the final stages) makes an Ideal Home for a set of ambiguous pictures, swimming against the digital tide.

So now we have photos on a wall to look at.  The process of producing them has involved so many layers of substitution, multiplication and transformation that it is hard to firmly locate any actual subject of these images. Try to retrace the steps: at a minimum they have travelled from ideas in the text of The Unforgotten Coat, to digital jpegs made by Carl and Clare, to images designed on to book pages. Then (restart!) from jpegs to Impossible PX 70 prints, via the screens of Apple devices, through the lens of the Instant Laboratory. Each stage adding or subtracting a layer of process, of rendition into pixels and pigment… the final selection seems to hold all of that history in the white frames.

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A compass points towards Bootle, a map title says Mongolia, but the images are somewhere else. Where are the subjects of these photos? Lost, inaccessible, glimpsed through the distorting lens of perverse process but out there somewhere…in the psychogeography of Merseyside, and shared by the characters in the book, the readers of the book, and its creators; in the cat’s cradle of friendship that brought them into being. Impossible, yet unforgotten.

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Roger Shannon on The Unforgotten Coat

In the best of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s writings, and The Unforgotten Coat is one of his best, the unfamiliar arrives onto a very familiar landscape, but before too long the fantastic is revealed to be in the familiar, and not the other way round. While the prism of prose (and of Polaroids too on this occasion) bends our expectations, as in the best of storytelling, things aren’t what they seem.

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Frank’s tale of Mongolian visitors to a Bootle school fizzes with all the soda of a playground beverage. Like his Alka Seltzer powered Apollo type rocket, his story turns our assumptions completely upside down and leaves us babbling away, giddy with the blurred vision of uncertain truths, and cackling like a hyena from the Mongolian steppes.

The nomadic brothers, Chingis and Nergui, part settling in north Liverpool bring a global version of magical realism into the quotidian of the schoolyard, transplanting Mongolian culture into the lives of their welcoming Bootle class mates. Unsettling as much as exhilarating, contact with the arrivals brings riddle upon narrative riddle for pupil and teacher alike, while Frank Cottrell Boyce, the writer, teases us with the twisting impossibility of there ever being just one truth in storytelling.

The elegant use of Polaroids – by Carl and Clare –  as a tool of storytelling exposes a retro paean to our analogue past, but also a visual reminder that images aren’t what they seem. The clever interplay between Polaroid and textual story here is akin to what could be called ‘slow cinema’ . . . akin, a kino . . . whereby the image meditatively and with indecent sloth steps forward from the pre-digital blackness.

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Frank’s writing in The Unforgotten Coat, in keeping with his screenplays and his other novels, elicits comic truths of friendship, family life and lived loyalties that give us hope for a future world, where folk won’t have to fear for that uncivilising late night knock on the door, that vanishes and banishes them.

 

Roger Shannon is Professor of Film at Edge Hill University

 

 

Author brings award-winning book to life

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Much-loved author Frank Cottrell Boyce will read from his award-winning book The Unforgotten Coat at an Edge Hill University event this month.

Frank, also a screenwriter and co-creator of the legendary Olympic opening ceremony, will bring to life the “inventive and magical” story about two Mongolian refugee brothers living in Liverpool at the Ormskirk campus on 28th November.

Inspired to write the tale based on a real life story that happened at Joan of Arc Primary, Frank, who lives in Liverpool, said the book started life as a free gift to promote the charity Reader Organisation. Children’s book publishers Walker gave away thousands of copies on buses, at ferry terminals and through schools, prisons and hospitals.

The Unforgotten Coat has since won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2012 and Best Children’s Book at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013. It has also been put forward for the prestigious 2104 Board on Books for Young People International Honours List. The nomination is because the book highlights the lives of today’s young asylum seekers.

“It would be amazing to win this award with any book I’d written, but it is a special joy to win it with The Unforgotten Coat,” the author said. “The photographs in the book were created by my friends and neighbours – Carl Hunter and Clare Heney. The story was based on a real incident in a school in Bootle.”

Frank, who received an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill in the summer in recognition of his collaborations with the University and his contributions to children’s literature, film and TV added: “I’m really looking forward to coming back to the University to read from the book and give an insight into the inspiration behind it, which I’m sure the audience will find interesting.”

The reading will be followed by a Q&A with Frank, chaired by Edge Hill Professor in Film Roger Shannon.

The evening is also the last chance to see the stunning and atmospheric photography from the book, which transforms Liverpool into a version of Mongolia through the medium of Polaroid photos. The imagery was created by film-maker and musician Carl Hunter and film-maker and photographer Clare Heney, who both lecture at Edge Hill University.

Frank was born in Liverpool in 1959 and studied English at Oxford University, before moving back to his home city to begin his creative career. In the early 1990s, he wrote for Brookside and Coronation Street. His move into films began in 1995 with the original screenplay for Butterfly Kiss. He has since become one of the leading and most respected screenwriters of his generation with credits including award-winning movies such as Hilary and Jackie, Revengers Tragedy, Millions, and Grow Your Own in collaboration with Carl Hunter. Directors such as Michael Winterbottom, Julien Temple and Anand Tucker have all benefited from Frank’s screenplays.

The event on Thursday 28th November is free and will be held at the University’s new Creative Edge building. Arrival is from 6pm ready for a 6.30pm start, with refreshments and networking opportunities afterwards. Book online at www.ehu.ac.uk/bookevents.

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Pictures tell a thousand words

Captivating photographs taken by two Edge Hill University lecturers are being used to illustrate a new book for disadvantaged readers.

The Unforgotten Coat, which is being launched for World Book Day on 3rd March, features the work of Carl Hunter, bass player for Liverpool band The Farm and who teaches film and television studies at the University, and Clare Heney, a senior lecturer in media.

Their innovative polaroid images have been used to enhance the book which has been written by British screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Carl, who has worked with Frank on a number of projects in the past, most notably the movie Grow Your Own, explained: “Frank was asked to write the book and he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Clare and I to illustrate it with photographs. The story is based on two Mongolian boys who enrich the lives of schoolchildren in Bootle before they are deported. Twenty years later, a girl who remembers the boys decides to visit her old school before it is demolished and finds one of their coats in lost property. Inside she finds an exercise book with pictures they had taken. She realises that the pictures though were not of the exotic land of Mongolia, as the boys claimed, but images from Bootle, and our pictures depict this.

“Frank would give us parts of the story and we would have to think up images that would illustrate the words. Other times we’d take a fascinating photograph and then Frank would work it into the story. He’s a great collaborator and generous with ideas and time. It was creatively challenging but we really enjoyed it. My favourite image is one of Clare’s, the eagle perched on the arm of a Mongolian boy at sunset. In actual fact, we created this one by using my arm wrapped in my daughter’s friend’s, old sheepskin coat, with a cut-out paper eagle taped to the jacket at a sunset in Seaforth. Or another one is where the boys talk about how the flowers are gigantic in their country. We re-create this using an Iris against a backdrop of dolls furniture to give this same visual impression.

“This was a great project to work on and I’m looking forward to seeing the children’s faces when they read it.”

The project was initiated by The Reader Organisation, who works continuously to promote the value of shared reading, highlighting the important connection between literature, individual wellbeing and social cohesion.

They find people who are not readers, such as prisoners, children in care or the elderly who have lost their connection with literature, people who are isolated, lonely, or who could otherwise benefit from reading books, and bring them together for the simple pleasure of reading aloud and discussing the thoughts and feelings that are evoked.

The book will be launched on World Book Day, which aims to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

To mark the occasion, Carl, Clare and Frank will be taking a group of disadvantaged children on a train ride to London on the day, where they will be read the book on the journey. Edge Hill University students will film the day’s events.

Approximately 50,000 copies of the book are to be given away free before it becomes a hardback and goes on sale in September.

To coincide with the day on 3rd March, a ‘readathon’ of the book will take place at the Bluecoat Chambers in School Lane, Liverpool. The book will be brought to life at this chain-reading event by book lovers of all ages.