Whether covering a national book event or grabbing an exclusive interview with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the youngsters behind the VOMO project are certainly giving this region’s youth a voice of its own.
For over a decade now, VOMO (Voice of My Own) has been helping young people in the Borders use the medium of the moving image in a series of short films to tell the world what they feel strongly about.
Able to call on experienced film makers, TV and radio producers and youth workers, VOMO gives young people up to the age of 25 the opportunity to learn the skills of professional production - scripts, storyboarding, locations, technical and legal stuff, editing, graphics, directing and acting.
And since the summer, the latest in state-of-the-art equipment has seen the production of a web-based weekly TV news broadcast from new studio premises at the Volunteer Hall in Galashiels.
The station www.vomo.tv was launched after the award-winning youth film group received funding from Creative Scotland.
VOMO project manager Robert Sproul-Cran is amazed by the station’s rapid progress. “Our first programme went out about the end of June, beginning of July, after we were able to acquire cutting-edge technology that only hit the market this year and which allows us to do multi-camera mixing.
“The result was that, suddenly, overnight, VOMO was able to produce studio programmes and cut between cameras for a truly professional output.
“The youngsters are filmed against a green screen and then the footage can be dropped into a range of virtual studio settings.
“It means in under a year, VOMO is offering something only previously available at colleges in Edinburgh and Glasgow, if at all.
“This is not only a Scotland first, but I would think almost certainly a first for the UK as well.”
VOMO TV’s weekly news report is recorded on a Friday afternoon covering developments through the week, as well as previewing what the weekend and following week has in store. Between 20 and 30 young people are involved and recently its young news crew covered the opening of the new Borders Railway, and managed to snatch that exclusive interview with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon right under the noses of the national and international media pack.
VOMO TV’s Facebook page has received praise from Vietnam, Africa and the USA. Now the aim is to build up a number of self-contained ‘news units’ to cover such locations as Peebles and Eyemouth, creating original content and sending it in for broadcast.
“Because we record the programmes in one take, it is ‘live’ in a sense,” explained Robert. “And VOMO also still produces specific short films if there is particular subject people want to cover or a certain group wants to make one.”
The weekly programmes, which are upload to the web channel on a Saturday, are accompanied by a piece of original music - the current score being a specially composed track from local young musicians and recorded at the Indigo Rooms nightclub in Galashiels.
Robert believes the new station will lead to long term benefits for the Borders. He said: “Our young talent has always had to leave the area to be trained, and then stay away to find a job. Even worse, many young people couldn’t even get training places because they had no chance to gain the experience they needed for their CVs.
“Now the young people of the Borders are gaining experience of live vision mixing unavailable anywhere else in Scotland. VOMO’s achievements are being recognised, and that’s fantastic news for the prospects of our young people. And they are taking to the technology with total confidence.”
Project co-ordinator Lisa Cowan agrees: “To the young people of the Borders I’d say - this is your TV station, and it’s run by young people. Come and get involved, either from the Galashiels studio or from your own part of the Borders. You can contact us through the website, or just come along on a Friday afternoon.”
“VOMO has always believed in supporting young people and offering them opportunities to help them realise their potential, regardless of the challenges they face. VOMO makes it possible for young people to have a louder voice in their community and discover and develop their skills and abilities.”
Other opportunities may include a weekly soap opera, comedy show, chat show, book programme or a weekly report from a sports club. VOMO TV will give anything a go.
The funding for VOMO TV has come from a number of sources, including £10,000 from the Big Lottery; £50,000 from the Cashback for Communities scheme, through Creative Scotland, as well as £100,000 from Creative Scotland’s Time To Shine project.
Councillor Vicky Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for Culture, Sport, Youth and Communities, says portfolio managers at Creative Scotland and other funding bodies clearly hold VOMO in high regard.
“I see this as the start of some very exciting developments as VOMO creates a new structure and new way of sharing its message with the public,” she added.
l Any young people interested in experiencing the world of TV can contact Lisa Cowan at lisa.cowan@scotborders.