One of the highlights of the European Public Health Conference was the film festival, which saw five mini-documentaries presented by film Maker Simon Parsons. These films looked at different aspects of the living and working conditions of different communities in Glasgow.
Working Men was strong on banter and dialogue between an elderly and a young worker. Frequently amusing and light-hearted, it highlighted the strong sense of meaning that work brings to people’s lives, and raised questions about the quality of work experienced by many today.
Sense of Place focused on the efforts of one individual, Alice, to bring regeneration to the East End of Greenock. It showed that a strong sense of drive to preserve belonging and community solidarity can lead to inward investment and empower local people to play a part in creating and preserving communities.
Young Mums was a moving account of the views of three teenage mums. These mums, brought together by a scheme that allows them to continue in education while looking after their babies, gave them the opportunity to explain their aspirations, explore their newfound role as mothers, and describe how they are viewed by society and how they view others. It was a reminder that by focusing on any group, such as ‘teenage mums’ in this particular case, we ignore the fact that each and every person is an individual with skills, hopes and aspirations.
Bolting Doors, Mending Fences focused on a resident of Renfrew with a strong personality who refurbished his house and garden with the help of local children. His account of repeated attempts to bring festive Christmas cheer to the local neighbourhood was funny, but depressingly illustrated just how culturally and socially deprived certain communities can be.
Finally, Miniature Cities – Glasgow & Gothenburg compared these two northern-European cities on a range of themes: health, lifestyle, culture and the environment. While there were quite large (and expected) divergences on some lifestyle factors, both cities had surprisingly similar differences in male life expectancy between the least and most deprived neighbourhoods, nine years in Gothenburg and ten years in Glasgow, and both have the same incidence of poor mental health (20 per cent of their populations).
Overall, the films emphasised the important role played by community solidarity and individual agency (the potential capacity of each individual to act and take action) in preserving health. They were a chance to hear directly from people experiencing adverse living conditions in their daily lives and their attempts to improve them, and the fact that these issues are pervasive across countries.