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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Articulating the Liminal: Enabling Access to Voice

Drainville, Elaine (2018) Articulating the Liminal: Enabling Access to Voice. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This PhD project consists of 8 outputs from my 40-year career as a filmmaker both inside and outside the UK Film and TV industry, along with a 30,000 word written commentary that reflects on this selection of work and my experiences as practice based researcher at the University of Sunderland. This provides an exploration and examination of methodologies that I have developed to enable contributors that occupy a liminal space to find their voice in my participatory film and video practice, providing the means for the marginalised to more authentically represent themselves. Crucially, I shall explain how the involvement of my various contributors in the act of production has allowed them ownership, so that they are not simply subsumed either by the demands of the industry or the desires and intentions of the filmmaker.

The key line of enquiry here is how film and filmmakers can enable access to voice for those groups of people in impoverished communities (such as women, children and refugees), the portrayal of whose lives are typically marginalised in mainstream film, media and society. The work encompasses, for example, the politics of my own communities, including working-class women and children, as well as the labour movement’s ideological struggle (most notably exemplified by the miners’ strike of the 1980’s). It demonstrates how film can enable voice for women, children and refugees both in Palestine and here in the UK, even as their everyday lives are blighted by conflict and violence. It also illustrates the value of ground breaking work by filmmakers through landmark productions such as Veronica 4 Rose (1983), the UK’s first lesbian made-for-television film, which gave voice to the lesbian community through collaborative approaches to production.

The portfolio of work documents an original and significant contribution to knowledge about the history, praxis and methods of how liminal communities have been enabled to express their voice through participation both at structural and symbolic levels. It charts the impact of alternative in-roads into mainstream practice and production forged under the auspices of the Workshop Declaration (1984).

The submission is situated in the context of its intervention in current and recent debates, and builds on the work of Anne O’Brien, to demonstrate that women filmmakers can take a critical, feminist position, producing positive outputs from within a ‘liminal space’, even as they acknowledge the potential for women to be victims when viewed from such a position.

My aim in writing the thesis and compiling this body of work is to contribute to an understanding of how those who work with the medium of film can privilege the politics of the community and empower its poorest and most marginalised groups (i.e., those whose lives are necessarily lived at the ‘edge’ of society) and, in so doing, to offer new directions for media practice, education and training.

The motivation for the thesis mirrors the motivation for my work as a filmmaker throughout my career. As a working-class, dyslexic lesbian, I understood from the outset that I was only ever going to work at the edge of mainstream media. Thus,the motivation for producing this thesis is to leave an accessible yet scholarly record of my experience, while also illustrating how filmmaking at the edge can provide a positive contribution to community. In short, I believe the thesis will assist future students and others involved in filmmaking and, as such, make a significant contribution to knowledge regarding radical and alternative cultural film production.

Drainville PhD Articulating The Liminal 28.09.18_.pdf - Submitted Version

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Depositing User: Klaire Purvis-Shepherd


Item ID: 10923

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Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2019 09:00


Author: Elaine Drainville

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Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries

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