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  • Justin Cliffe

Camelot - A reflection

Updated: Jun 10



In the early bit of 2019 I was approached by film maker Alison Hargreaves to work on her brainchild project, Camelot. Working with a group of boys from the Rhymney Valleys, the idea was to devise with them a new play based on the story of King Arthur, which would be filmed live and included in the documentary. In our initial meeting we talked a lot about masculinity, boyhood, role modelling, destiny, aspiration, future-scaping; and the creativity of young people. Instantly Camelot became a dream project for me, and I took on the role of Directing the play within the film.

There was a lot to love about working on Camelot. The school was amazing (shout out to Idris Davis), and commuting to Abertysswg became a sort-of mindful pilgrimage for me and my semi-depressed monkey brain. Meeting Alison was truly inspiring, no triteness intended. She is this vibrant, active, kind, creative film maker with awesome vision, and the perfect blend of compassion and professionalism. Not only that, but I got to spend time scratching creatively and goofing around with a group of primary school boys whilst exploring something that felt important and deeply meaningful. All this whilst meeting tonnes of other amazing creative artists, working in the heart of Wales during the Spring and Summer. I mean, come on.

Working with the boys had its variables. One week we'd be building a giant cardboard castle in the main hall, the next week they'd be writing uber cool songs and/or dressing up as a woodland monster made out of snot. This process, as ridiculous as it sometimes got, was always taken seriously by the adults who earnestly facilitated it. From a writer to a props maker and everything in between, the team worked hard to realise the boys vision for their work, and that was the part that interested me the most. There was something so exiting about offering the boys the opportunity to control their own narrative, even in the context of retelling the story of King Arthur. What would they do with it? Where would it take them? What would they talk about? And how would they imagine their landscapes, lives and futures when given authorship of them?


Now almost a year on the film is finished and it has gotten its official release featured on a two part compendium of short films commissioned by The Uncertain Kingdom, it's available to stream on Amazon under the same name. The whole series of films are an interesting collection of 20 shorts that are somewhat experimental, either factual or fictional, seeking to express something about what it means to exist in a modern Britain.



Having never seen the finished film, I sat down the other night to watch it with a tiny amount of trepidation, but mostly maximum amounts of celebration, ready to revel in the joy of Alison's finished project. I thought it was amazing. Concerning its self with the lives of the boys, it captures a very unique snap shot of their lives, with a focus on Finley, who plays a young King Arthur, both literally and metaphorically. Taking us through some nigh-on fantastical looking landscapes and following the boys as they race through the streets on their scooters, the play exists somewhere in between these moments and expresses the boys potential to imagine and create their own destinies, in their own land.


Camelot, for me, has always been something that stands between two times. Not the then and now (which would be so easy to look back on and pine for given our current times) but the now and the not yet, leaving open, always, the potential for change. It's gentle, but it's there, and when examined further I find it so powerful. The idea of these Welsh Valley's boys, growing up enshrined in the stoic history of a dead industry with typically stubborn masculinity, perceived immobility, the assumed status of their lives, taking control and being given autonomy. With it they imagine these expansive new worlds whilst remaining loyal to their own. With a truth and a commitment to the place in which they live, they dream bigger for it and draw energy towards it, rather than dream themselves away towards somewhere else. They are proud and aspirational, they are fantastical and grounded.

During this time in quarantine, some quite exciting things have happened for me. If I'm honest, it's really kept the buzz going and certain projects, new and or old, finishing or beginning, reacting or reflecting, have kept life interesting and offered me fresh perspective. The release of Camelot was one of these exciting things, because it reminded me of a time when I was creating something meaningful with a team of kind and committed creative individuals and a room full of mischievous boys who were very raucous but also so gentle. If they are actually the future of this country, then we should be proud.


Go watch it now!


Mucho,


JTCx


Additionally I want to say thanks to Rhiannon White for putting my name forward for this gig.

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