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'Rainbow' Rehabilitation Centre, Shilovo (Ryazan region)

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Shilovo is a small town around 300 km from Moscow in the Ryazan region. It is built beside the Oka river, a tributary of the Volga.

We wished to visit a smaller scale orphanage outside of the larger cities, and identified the Rainbow Rehabilitation Centre in Shilovo as suitable. Strictly it was not an orphanage, but it did work with children whose parents could not cope, or who had for one reason or another disappeared. Prior contacts to enquire about visiting were positive and we arrived in August 2008.

However, when we went to the Rainbow centre we were told that filming was 'absolutely impossible' - it was the summer holidays, no children were here and there were building works upstairs. But we were advised to see the town education authorities. In this case, as soon as we outlined our project and that we had been in contact before, the official phoned the centre and ordered them to show us around, including 'finding' some children... 'Go to the town museum for an hour, then call at Rainbow again', we were told.

The museum proved an excellent diversion, with a personal guided tour by the director. We returned to Rainbow for a transformed experience. This time several staff were on hand to guide us around (very closely). Five children had been found to talk to us. There were no signs of any building work.

We had a very attentive tour, talking to a number of carers as well as the children - including the centre's psychologist (who had initially been the one who rebuffed us). Her consultation room provided the central device for this project - a slowly changing star-field of coloured lights used therapeutically with the children. We were monitored throughout by a lawyer - a very discrete woman who reluctantly agreed to talk to us directly.

The resulting work explores the contrast between the simplicity of the children's responses and the careful management of our visit by officials and carers. However, we are very grateful to all concerned for their time and attention on that day.