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Leeds Animation Workshop (1976-)

Film Collective

Main image of Leeds Animation Workshop (1976-)

Founded in 1978 to produce animated films on social issues, the Leeds Animation Workshop (LAW) was one of the first groups to be franchised under the ACTT's Workshop Declaration, and to date has produced twenty-four short films as well as several title sequences and inserts for television programmes. The Yorkshire-based group was set up as a women's collective, and maintains its commitment to feminist and collectivist principles and to an 'integrated practice' of film production.

Together, LAW's five members (Jane Bradshaw, Terry Wragg, Stephanie Munro, Janis Goodman and Milena Dragic) combine skills in artistic, educational, administrative, media and cultural work and deal with every aspect of the making and dissemination of their films, from initial ideas and research through shooting to promotion and distribution. In addition, the Workshop has organised international festivals of films by female and ethnic minority filmmakers, and runs regular workshops in basic animation techniques for community groups.

LAW's films have been sponsored by diverse organisations, from media and arts bodies such as Channel Four, the British Film Institute and Yorkshire Arts to local, regional, national and international government and government and non-government organisations, including the EC, the Home Office, the NHS, the Health and Safety Council and Christian Aid.

Their first production, Who Needs Nurseries? We Do! (1978), an eight-minute film promoting day-care provision for the under-fives, remains in use today. Later films deal with health and safety at work, violence against women, women and homelessness, environmental pollution, energy conservation, stress at work, racism, harassment and bullying at work and school, and child sexual abuse. Most of these, too, are regularly screened in a variety of contexts: government agencies, housing associations, universities, colleges, training centres, trade unions, hospitals, banks and schools. Many have been broadcast on television, and a number translated into other languages. All the films are accompanied by substantial discussion notes, and their brevity (running times range from eight to fifteen minutes) makes them convenient for use in classroom and training settings.

Animation, with its humour and timeless imagery, can convey serious subject matter succinctly and in an entertaining and accessible manner. LAW's films typically present material from unconventional or traditionally unrepresented points of view (they have been dubbed 'Women's Eye Propaganda'), both drawing in and challenging audiences.

The Leeds Animation Workshop is a hardy survivor of the vicissitudes which have brought about the virtual demise of the independent film workshop sector since the early 1990s. Its early objectives intact, LAW flourishes because it has succeeded in securing support from bodies other than the media and arts organisations which were the mainstay of the broader workshop movement, and it continues to attract funding by virtue of remaining focused about the purposes of every production. Over the years, LAW has kept in constant touch with its constituencies, building a solid base of expertise in producing and distributing films that are accessible, engaged and provocative.

Lant, Antonia, 'Women's Independent Cinema: The Case of Leeds Animation Workshop', British Cinema and Thatcherism: Fires Were Started, Lester Friedman (ed.), (London: UCL Press, 1993), pp. 161-187

Annette Kuhn, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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