A Soft Rebellion in Paradise
This enquiry focuses on the post-industrial city of Sheffield, its female citizens, and their empowerment, explored through filmed participatory performance, and extends Brown’s methodologies developed in Detroit from 2015-2017. Seeking to re-position forgotten history and re-imagine current political activism by demonstrating what community cohesion and collective action can look like now, the resulting film serves
as both reminder and catalyst. Central to this is the questioning of the systematic historical and contemporary silencing of women through the performance of a series of ‘Soft Rebellions’; an approach Brown developed in Detroit as a way of employing the collective energy of protest, with participants dancing, eating and applauding in places where it is considered transgressive.
Following the ‘Me Too’ movement (2017), and the centenary of British female suffrage (2018), Brown’s film A Soft Rebellion in Paradise references the city’s history of female activism, where in 1851 the Sheffield Women’s Political Association was the first British organisation to call for female suffrage. The film took the utopian-sounding ‘Paradise Square’, historically used for protest, as its location with over 200 women performing Soft Rebellions including clapping, being silent and chanting the words of a commissioned poem by Geraldine Monk, with sound design and score by musician DIE HEXEN.
Using an all-female crew, production team and cast, the film was commissioned in February 2018 by Sheffield Culture Consortium’s ‘Making Ways’ initiative, funded by an Ambition for Excellence award from Arts Council England. Following a period of research and field work into the history of Paradise Square, and historical and contemporary activism in the city, filming took place on Sept 2nd 2018 with participants invited directly and through open call. The film was premiered in Paradise Square in Sheffield on Saturday 8th June 2019 as part of DocFest film festival.
A Soft Rebellion in Paradise, 2019.
This project contains further videos that can accessed via the full case study below.
The resulting enquiry took film-making as an auto-ethnographic embodied form of research methodology to explore the research question. The proposed film focused on the continual history of Sheffield as a place of political activism and empowerment, seeking to highlight the voices of women, which are so often lost or not heard in historical and contemporary narratives.