Thursday, 30 March 2017

In Canada

I am in Canada for 3 weeks it seems a long time and I miss my kids and all of you but it is good.
I am doing a talk about this project and I am trying to work out what is good about it. What I really like about the project is that the Critical Thinking Group really are helping us think.
Lots of projects do things but not so many have thinking time built in.
I am trying to convey how that is important in the talk. I am also trying to work out what is working on this project that didn't work before.
Here are some thoughts:
1. We are not too arty. In some projects I think we have been too arty, that is, art comes first. In this project it seems to be much better, it is about the sugar paper, the meeting, the focus on what we can do, practicing stuff and making it happen.
2. The balance is about right between different sorts of expertise. I don't want to get into an 'artists/not artists and university/ community' kind of dichotomy but here I realise we are all much more connected in different ways and our sense of shared purpose is good.
3. I am getting so much by having in built time to think. Like lots of people on this project, I started as a community worker and I am naturally a do-er, not a thinker, I even tend to rush around while I write as it is stressful sitting still. This project has built in thinking time in the form of the Critical Thinking group and also John and Katy.
That's it for now. Hurrah for us.
I couldn't find a picture of Canada though so I will just post a piece of art that I did for Steve which went in the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield for one day. I was very proud of it but Steve said it was like Ransom notes. It was about bid writing. My mum was impressed though.

My research Blog

I'm going to try and write a research blog for this project.  I'm not expecting people to read it but I thought I would make it public so it feels less like the tree that falls in the forest that nobody sees or hears fall.  so here is the link I am going to write once a week and it will be, as is my way, very much around the houses.

In terms of our project at the playground we are taking a bit of stock and waiting for a bit of sun.  I'm going to work with Patrick at the playground most Tuesdays and we are going to build sopme kind of a platform which will be real and metaphorical.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

What is the point of this project?

Just in case it was not clear what we are doing I thought I would put up a note of a conversation I had with Jayne Humm who is the Chair of ARVAC. see here:
She works for the Big Local project and what she said was very interesting.

Jayne began by saying that she didn’t want a toolkit as they were too simplistic and implied that we could provide ‘off the shelf’ solutions to complex issues in communities. 

Jayne was interested in was the theoretical approaches to art and how people relate to art – this is often quite hidden. An account of what is the practice within arts approaches to social cohesion and providing the detail and implications of that practice would be very useful.

Jayne outlined some of the issues for her. This included local community residents and local organisers who are trying to understand the process around social cohesion as part of their work, and might find it useful to think about arts methods in this context. Her context is of the Big Local in which communities were trying to solve problems for themselves.  What might work is if they had an accessible way of understanding what is possible in certain situations, eg sometimes dealing with conflict in groups and how to find different ways of thinking about that that unsettle or diversify the issues in different ways. We talked about play (this links to the Adventure Playground project) and artistic methods that might unsettle long term grievances, for example, something an artist did in Northern Ireland that enabled people to listen to sotries differently.

What might be useful is a way of valuing different approaches that draw on particular theoretical traditions and to have that explained, maybe in a series of short films presented on the ARVAC website - not as ‘how tos’ but as ‘ways through’ issues or complexities within communities.

We ended up with the idea of ‘spaces for learning’ as a positive word to describe what we are doing. The project will be working on that idea and developing resources that could feed into a space for learning that ARVAC would find useful.

To summarise:
ARVAC is interested in what can the arts offer community researchers? This is not to arrive at a simplistic answer about using art techniques, but suggesting what’s important to understand about how art works and how people engage with art as well as how arts methods can be used in community research.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Practising social cohesion

Thank you all for an amazing two days - it felt like one of those rare times when for once the university did not dominate and we all listened and I did feel for once things could go better if the world was just a bit more like our group.
I have been reading Sara Ahmed's Living a Feminist Life and she talks about 'practicing feminism'.
One of the things I realised in the two days is about 'practising social cohesion'.
You don't just do social cohesion - it is something practiced in the everyday.
I think about Patrick's conversations with Mubarak about how to solve some of the really serious issues in the City of Sheffield, and I learn this way about how to practice social cohesion, how to really listen, how to make sense of things.
There are a lot of things I don't know and this group is here to help surface hard things as well as really good things.
I liked it when we did the social cohesion exercise with Mike as it was a way of having quite difficult conversations but in a safe space.
This is our image:

It felt quite joyful too but within that image were also some hard things.
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate you all being in the project.