The story about In-Valid You/th

Gill Haddow

The story about In-valid Youth began back in the summer of 2015. The Wellcome Trust has an enhancement award for some of its funded projects.  The enhancement is for public engagement and I was keen to do something with members of the public about ideas around changing the human body with non-human animals and auto-biotechnologies.  Eventually Kate Wimpress director of the North Edinburgh Arts project, Ali Grant, development worker from Muirhouse Youth Development group and Allison Worth, Patient and Public involvement Advisor at the Edinburgh Clinical Trials Research Facility thought that it would be a brilliant idea to engage the young people of Muirhouse (an area in Edinburgh that has experienced chronic deprivation) about their views of using biotechnologies to repair and replace the human body.

The idea is a spin-off from the Wellcome Trust funded University Award ‘Animal, Mechanical and Me; The Search for Replaceable Hearts’ that is based on exploring patient experiences of implantable cardiac devices and public views of using non-human animals and auto-biotechnologies to repair and replace the body.   The key to the Muirhouse film project is that the young people, supported by artists and academics, take control.  We are provisionally calling it ‘In-valid You/th’ and we hope it will allow a handful of teenagers to make their own 8 minute film about the fictional experiences of young people whose bodies have underwent repair or replacement with prosthetics or implants (for example, Josh Cathcart, aged nine years recently became the youngest recipient of a ‘Touch Bionic’ hand).

Creating a film about individuals who may have faced stigma due to apparent physical disadvantages, may resonate with the structural constraints of living in Muirhouse. The chronic economic deprivation of the Muirhouse lived environment requires repair, replacement and regeneration in a similar way that some young people’s bodies do.  The views of the ‘digital citizens’ born in the internet age, are key to exploring how future bionic technologies will be received, given current social and ethical issues about implanting devices and prosethetics.

The funding pitch we made stated:“The participant-actors will 1) benefit directly from learning about the film making process through the support of directors, animators and musicians and 2) gains to self-confidence through the completion and dissemination of the outcome and 3) by challenging themselves about stigma of physical difference creates opportunities to challenge others and their prejudices about health and wealth (e.g. the ‘undeserving poor’).”

Will we achieve this? Part of chronicling the journey is to see what we do achieve and how it is achieved as well as documenting the inevitable things that we could never have foreseen.  We have been funded by the Wellcome Trust for the next 18 months so here goes!



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