Report – Creative Keynote: Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE
Changemaker and award-winning performance poet Jay Hulme introduced tonight’s Creative Keynote with an honest and inspirational plea for breadth of inclusivity, understanding and empathy for all. Jay’s performed poetry came from personal experiences of what it is like to grow up transgender, and how different an experience that might have been in an accepting and tolerant society.
· Those in charge do not always have your best interests in mind
· In order to create the stories that are needed, our greatest role is to step aside for others
· It is not how you use a camera, but what you use it for
Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE is the Founder and Chair of 5Rights Foundation, a Crossbench member of the House of Lords, award-winning film and television director and producer, and co-founder of educational children’s charity Into Film.
Tonight’s Creative Keynote was a multi-strand narrative tour de force. Baroness Beeban Kidron’s retold her own story, inviting the audience to discover chapters of her life, including experiences that informed her career, her identity, her fiercely feminist films and later political activism no less. It is in her firm and unwavering belief in the importance of stories as a way of communicating identities, that Kidron reflects upon ‘the sense of what it truly is to be human.’
In pinpointing moments of challenge in childhood and in her words, ‘the alienating, embarrassing and from time-to-time absolutely hilarious’ prospect of having to carry a tiny notepad around to communicate whilst learning how to talk again as a young child, she observed earlier than most that all people need a voice. Every one of us. It became apparent to her those who spoke, those who listened and those who were ignored, which was all learnt from her compromising position of silence.
With photography and the camera, there came an outlet guided by Eve Arnold. In the world of pictures and stories, there was an endless fascination for Beeban and one that put her on the trajectory for a career in film, television and creativity. In her television adaptation, ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’, she commented that although the need to defend their production was constant, the impact and legacy of the programme was everlasting. She observed that it helped people be brave enough to be the person they wanted to be.
Treading the path for women filmmakers, Beeban Kidron discussed the time when you could easily count the number of female directors on one hand, let alone those who were also mothers. She commented that women have to make their own history, one that was not under conditions of their own making but as it exists around them. This can be noted in her first encounter with Devadasi, (an Indian tradition of dedicating girls and women to deities, opening up the creative life to many of them. This practice through the prudery of the Victorians has descended into sexual slavery). Beeban remarked that she got on a flight to India ‘mad as hell’, with a rescue to embark upon, but the complexity of the situation soon became apparent when the child’s parents revealed their dependency on the practice.
Again, with no agenda or wider view, she began to notice that children on the whole were becoming quieter, with a noticeable rise in mobile and internet technology. Beeban explained the moment of realisation that the internet was designed to be a place with no one gatekeeper, and equality for all. But if this is the case, this meant children were to be treated the same as adults, in a space and digital environment never really designed for them. It was through this that the 5Rights foundation and campaign was born, and alongside others Beeban began to develop a framework that aims to transpose the rights of children to the digital environment, asking the questions that need asking and listening to those who need a voice the most. With more political, legislative, governmental and academic interest than ever, the necessity to redesign and rethink the digital and online spaces children and young people frequent is imperative. Not to ban, or block or to take the censorial highroad, but to build an environment that has children in mind.
Beeban concluded, ‘it’s a big hill, but we are marching up it right now.”