Behind 'Writing Leeds'

A project with Saphena Holden

In 2013 the British Library challenged a group of young people to create a series of films that explored language and notions based on their cities sense of place. Set in locations close to the lyricists’ hearts, the final results depict the challenges, choices and difficulties that young people face today. Further Education student Saphena Holden’s work was featured in one of these films – we spoke to her about being involved in the project.

In the space of a few weeks, Writing Leeds aimed to produce three short films written by young people of Leeds, to reflect their sense of place, belonging, hopes, dreams they have for the future.
After workshops with over 15 shortlisted young writers, three individuals, including Leeds College of Music BTEC Music Technology student Saph Holden, were chosen to have their words put to film.
Shot on cinema cameras, underwater and on fire, the films provide a cinematic perspective to the harsh reality faced by young writers and millions of others growing up in poverty. The supporting documentary questions the social problems facing an emerging social class and asks what more can be provided to today’s youth living within it.
Saph’s story focused on her own bereavement following the loss of her older sister when she was ten years old. She has been singing, songwriting and rapping since then: 
“Initially I started writing poetry, and then went on to songwriting, and then when I started high school I was introduced to Baseline and Grime, so then I started rapping and I found that I could release more emotions through rapping.
“The Writing Leeds project was more about new form and writing, I really enjoyed it. When they first told me that I got chosen to do it, I just went for it, but I didn’t think it would be as powerful as it actually came out – the visuals of the final film were really moving.
“I was surprised at the screening of it how much a connection with the audience my work created – before my writing was just for me, but when it was shown at the launch night at The Everyman Cinema in Leeds there were people who were really emotional, and I was both taken aback and proud in that moment."

Studio 12, a space in Leeds for young people to support their work on creative projects, helped support the initiative – manager Jamie Hutchison worked alongside Saph on the project.

“We’re about providing young people a creative space and support to work on projects – whether that be film, animation or simply building up their portfolio in their chosen field.
For the Writing Leeds project, Saph came to us with a really interesting idea about her sense of place that she wanted to take forward and develop, and it was a real pleasure working with her on it.

"This not only created a beautiful film, but also supported our initiative as a whole – Saph came to us quite shy and quiet but she’s now a creative role model within our project for other young people dealing with bereavement.”
“So far, Saph’s film has been shown around the country and as far globally as Australia. We’re hoping to show it more over the next few months – watch this space for the next screening.”


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