Rowlands centre film club gives comfort in Selkirk

SCREENINGS of classic films have helped youngsters during the pandemic, according to a Borders youth centre.

The Rowlands centre, based at 26 West Port in Selkirk, has been running its Tuesday film club for the past six years, but due to coronavirus restrictions the centre was forced to close its doors and move some of its workshops – including the film club – online.

Charlie Dawson, a specialist youth development worker at Rowlands, told the Border Telegraph: “A lot of the young people were really anxious, and we knew the effect it [lockdown] would have on their mental health, especially if they lost that link [with the centre].”

During lockdown, the group ran a survey on young people’s experiences of lockdown and the future.

Rowlands reported that of the 63 respondents who took part, a total of 28 were slightly concerned about their mental health in lockdown, while 21 were either quite concerned or extremely concerned.

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“A lot of young people struggled being stuck in the house and not leaving,” Mrs Dawson said.

Mrs Dawson added that she and other centre staff had to “think on their feet” when deciding to move the film club online.

“It’s one of our most popular workshops,” she said. “We would normally work through a themed calendar, with films for mental health month, a month [for] women in film, and Christmas.

“But when we moved online we had to take away the themes and essentially chuck the calendar out the window.”

Instead of following the themes, the young people were given a selection of films and had to vote to decide which one they would all watch.

After watching the winning film over the weekend, the group would meet over a Facebook live stream – monitored by Mrs Dawson – to discuss the topics raised in the feature.

“It sparked a lot of debate,” Mrs Dawson said.

The youngsters have also made film requests, some of which have surprised Mrs Dawson.

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She said: “When we were virtual they were choosing really surprising films.

“Like All About Eve and Hitchcock films.

“I think they surprised themselves by watching things they never thought of before.

“The best part was that this made them watch things they normally wouldn’t.

“I was chuffed when they asked for What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

And now the group has returned to its indoor setting, using equipment – including a projector and screen – funded by Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA).

However, the centre is now operating new restrictions including a reduced capacity which only allows 15 young people in the building, with face coverings having to be worn at all times.

Under normal circumstances, the centre could welcome up to 60 young people on a Friday night, and 40 for the film club – which can now only host 10.

Mrs Dawson added: “We want to return to normality as much as possible. We want to be somewhere they know is a safe space.”

Border Telegraph | News