Workshop: Words and Pictures: Poetry and Mobile Phones – Report

Thursday 24 September 2015 4:40pm by Dr Becky Parry


Rosa Ferro, Artistic Director, Il Nuovo Fantarca (Italy)

Giacomo Verde, cross media artist and director of ‘Video Poetry Cell’ project (Italy)

Il Nuovo Fantarca is a social cooperative working in media studies and video art, and they run a writing workshop exploring the creative possibilities of shooting first, scripting later, using phones and free downloadable film-making programmes.

After general introductions to the background and the development of the project, Rosa outlined its aspirations to bring mobile phones and poetry together in work with young people.

Rosa referred to the banning of the mobile phone in schools but that smart phones are just tools and if schools forbid them teachers will never understand their value to young people.

Young people use language differently when they text. Rosa is concerned that the Italian language will be lost so an aim of the project was to use language in a different way.

Teachers have told Rosa that poetry is difficult for teenagers, especially for those who are disengaged or no longer attend school. So this became another aim of the project.

The examples shown demonstrated how using images in this way can help young people begin to engage more with symbolism.

Rosa used visual material (slides) to describe her pedagogical aims and approach.

Rosa emphasised that the mobile film poems were not necessarily narrative and this created a space for a different aesthetic, perhaps more consistent with young people’s home mobile phone use, combining the poem with music and moving images. They edited the films within their phones.

Very interestingly, Rosa stressed the need to stand back from teaching and let young people learn for themselves – not to tell them too much but make the experience playful, and not worry too much about teaching film language.

Rosa observed that this approach can disrupt the authority or power of the teacher but is worth pursuing.

The production activity is followed up by a written composition activity which attempts to enable the students to transfer their new meaning-making skills.

_DSC4691Delegates were invited to participate in a practical activity to give them a better sense of the project. This involved suggestions of words or phrases to accompany the images.  Rosa and Giacomo entered the words into the software to demonstrate how the young people had worked. Delegates tentatively tried out the approach and the value of the collaborative nature of the activity became more apparent. A poem was jointly written to accompany a very short film clip of two girls skateboarding. Contributors to the poem became increasingly vocal and the process gained momentum.

One of the delegates wanted to voice her own version of the poem, mirroring perhaps the engagement of the students as they become increasingly invested in the choices of language being made.

The films made by the students were then shown, demonstrating how they had designed the words in tune with with the moving image to add meaning even further.

Rosa left us with the thought that the whole process offered young people a different way to show how they understand the world. What is more, that those young people from disadvantaged backgrounds made films were just as creative and beautiful as any other students. The speakers both shared their surprise at how well the young people responded but even more – how surprised the teachers were. One teacher commented: “the students’ language was always there.”


Dr Becky Parry

Lecturer, Education and Childhood Studies, University of Leeds
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