Loughborough University London and University of Malawi collaborate on virtual communication for social change and disability inclusion event

Media for development students at the University of Malawi experience the Netflix Paralympic documentary Rising Phoenix and converse with Loughborough University researchers and film producer Greg Nugent on production, disability, representation and inclusion in the film industry.

Earlier this month (2 September 2021), Loughborough University London and University of Malawi collaborated to offer a unique experience for Malawian media for development students.  The evening lecture kicked off with a screening of the Emmy Award winning Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix.  The 1h46min film tells the compelling story of the Paralympic Games and features athletes such as Ellie Cole (Para Swimming, Australia), Tatana McFadden (Para athletics, USA) and Ntando Mahlangu (Para athletics, South Africa). 

Following this, students enthusiastically engaged with film concept creator and producer Greg Nugent and Dr. Emma Pullen (Lecturer in SSEHS) in a virtual Q&A hosted by Dr. Jessica Noske-Turner (Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Media and Creative Industries) and Prof. Mufunanji Magalasi (University of Malawi).

Greg, who prior to making Rising Phoenix was the Director of Brand, Marketing & Culture for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, shared with students his motivations behind the film and his vision to challenge the narrative of disability on television and showcase the important role Paralympics has on society.   

Aligned to this, Emma provided insights into how broadcasting practices and perceptions have shifted in the UK since London 2012 around Paralympic sport and disability. She further shared her passion for research in this area and its future potential both inside and outside of the UK. 

As young Malawians and future media producers and communicators, the students felt they could relate to the film’s story, and it appealed to perceptions about disabled people.  

One student explained:

"The film provided a whole new avenue to look at and a whole new group of people to explore and film. It hits a lot of different areas such as politics, economics and gives us as film makers a lot of new ideas".

The students were encouraged by Greg to go out and make films and as future leaders never be happy if everyone in your team looks the same as you. Go out and find the voices that are different!   

Keen to learn more about Para Sport Against Stigma? Listen to our latest podcast on LU’s Experts in Sport here.

Project Background

Malawi competed at last month’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Represented by Taonele Banda, she competed in both the women’s 1500m and 400m in the T13 classification. 

This virtual event is a result of the Para Sport Against Stigma project. This 4-year initiative is a collaboration between Loughborough University London, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), University of Malawi, and the global law firm Hogan Lovells.

It is part of the world’s largest Assistive Technology programme, AT2030, a £20 million initiative led by Global Disability Innovation Hub, to increase the availability of assistive technology by testing “what works,” and reach 15 million people.