Monday, 20 February 2017

Small Change

This film of Nabil Hamdi the author of small change may be of interest in terms of the arts and social cohesion. Nabil talks of the arts mediating between the state community and need, he also brings a critical eye to what gets talked about as equity.

Small change is an interesting approach to development planning which helps us to see the connections and networks between people place strategy and provision. One of the ideas of small change is that people think far to long before they act and then act far to long before they stop and think.

An example that sticks in my mind - is how Nabil was working in post Tsunami Sr lanca and he said that people were waiting around in tents 18 months after the disaster as they new nthat the western aid services would house them in purpose build accommodation  the people in the tents had all the skills they needed to build traditional vernacular houses yet had become dependent on people from the outside making things better, they were losing self respect. 

Work parties were organised and people began to build their own houses, recycling the debris of their former lives.  As well as building better places to live the community began to pull together, recognising skills and traditions valuing each others skills history and crafts.  Nabil would say that the issue was not just housing the issue was deeply embedded within community and the need to recover and move forward and the solution to the issue was complex and enormous yet through building houses and taking a level of autonomy and independence the process of building a new normal could begin.  People were not put off getting started by the enormity of the task.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Introducing myself: Panni Loh


I’m very interested in working on this initiative, and was very pleased to be invited on to the critical thinking group, as I have always seen art as a vehicle for social change for everyone to enjoy. In my art practice I have carried out various Live Art projects where I have been concerned to connect people of diverse cultures and faiths with one another and the natural world. I’ve also worked as an arts co-ordinator on socially concerned participatory arts for the local authority as well as arts and environmental charities.

In 2010 I completed my arts practiced based PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University on five contemporary British Chinese artists that was in part autoethnographical and examined several Live Art projects such as outdoor festivals and happenings. I’ve also worked as a researcher on various short-term projects at Sheffield Hallam University, and trained as a social worker having mainly worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues.

I am excited to meet everyone next week and look forward to engaging in discussion and hearing more about the work already done.

Thinking about next week

I'm looking forward to next week and meeting everyone properly.  One thought that I have about the arts and social cohesion is the idea that the arts can be very critical of the state of things and raise and air difficult issues.  In some of the academic projects I have worked on with Kate this gets called 'agonism'  .  I often say that artists don't sign the Hippocratic oath and their work can do harm or be harmful. Sometimes  art can ask difficult questions or probably more constructively build spaces where difficult questions can be asked. For example Ai Weiwei posing as a dround Syrian child on a beach asks us some very difficult questions about the world, the image and what it is possible and not possible to do with art.

 At the moment though in Sheffield between saving trees and libraries and anti trump rallies it feels like the best way to unite specific communities is to have a clear thing to fight against. At our adventure playground it was always easier to get people involved if it was under threat of closure, much harder to recruit people into the long haul job of working to keep it open.  So the question in terms of social cohesion is how do we work with some of the difficult things that bind people together.  A collective enemy, someone to blame, to hate to be afraid of, a council, a political part, a proportion of the population who vote for something we don't want, a proportion of the population who don't vote.