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Talking, walking & making

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UEP's Manchester-Salford case study informs Abi Gilmore's reflections on methods. In particular, Abi offers an account of a complex participatory project in Cheetham Park, Manchester which was a collaboration between the Manchester Jewish Museum, an artist-in-residence, University researchers, and participants from local community and stakeholder groups.

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Talking, walking & making

  1. 1. Participatory engagement methods and the co-production of knowledge in Cheetham Park, North Manchester Abigail Gilmore and Luciana Lang, University of Manchester Understanding Everyday Participation Methods conference 26 May 2016
  2. 2.  Development project for UEP research identified Cheetham Hill  UEP ethnography and qualitative research highlights parks as spaces for participation & cultural value, but problem for policy makers, including Manchester City Council  DIY Commons programme commissioned by Buddleia by Torange Khonsari, Public Works; becomes Leverhulme artist-in-residence with Manchester Jewish Museum  Researcher-in-residence scheme, team-building and collaboration between PGR and PGT & cultural partners;  AHRC Connected Communities festival funding  Common interests in participation, engagement, audience development andThe Commons
  3. 3. Commoning: the social practices of managing a shared resource  Located within sets of social relations “the object of a set of use rights, multiple owned and embodying or reflecting the fact that communities have many interrelated members with many interrelated needs” (Hyde 2012: 19).  A verb not a noun “The activity of commoning is conducted through labor [sic] with other resources; it does not make a division between “labor” and “natural resources”. ..it is labor which creates something as a resource, and it is by the resources that the collectivity of labour comes to pass” (Linebaugh 2014: 13).  Conditionally inclusive and finite “Commoning is exclusive inasmuch as it requires participation. It must be entered into” (Linebaugh 2014: 15).
  4. 4.  to develop a space for participation where participants could identify and strengthen their connections to Cheetham park in North Manchester  to trace the historical connections between the Jewish museum and a local park, using methods which brought people together using everyday cultural practices, mixing socially engaged practice with anthropological and museological methods  to ‘safeguard the park’s future by celebrating its past’ by developing social infrastructure for Cheetham Park, in response to local governance & austerity  to foster participation in this social space (between the park and the museum) and to increase participation in both the park and the museum Outputs included a website, a three-minute film, printed gazettes, craft workshops, a series of four lectures, events in the park, and a park activity with a local primary school
  5. 5.  Arts & cultural management (Abi) drawing from critical cultural policy studies and cultural management and on the ‘evidence based’ from UEP mixed methods; cultural planning drawing on resources co-produced through public and community engagement and knowledge exchange on the basis of the UEP research  Anthropological methods (Luciana) ethnography, walking, oral histories and interviews – primarily participant observation, or ‘deep hanging out’  Museological methods (Jeni) interest in artefacts and how their entrance into/acquisition and position/curation within collections articulates their wider social values and relations; use of crafts making & film to explore and document these engagements  Social activism and engaged practice (Torange) – an architect interested in social space and social infrastructure – using slow engagement methods working with crafts and in public spaces to engender conversations and reveal connections with space and site
  6. 6.  talking - allowed the researchers to network, liaise, and negotiate with stakeholders, and that involved talking on the radio, presenting the project, inviting guest speakers to talk about local history, and getting locals to talk about their relations with the park.  walking - helped to situate the park geographically within Cheetham Hill and in relation to other local landmarks such as the museum and the local school, and historically, as we walked around and talked about the ruins of the park’s golden age, such as the band stand, the water fountain and the park gates.  making - fostered a sense of collectiveness: by making crafts while in the park; by making curiosity frames; by making a banner; making a film out of stories; making music in the park; making tea; making a fire; making a website; making friends; etc.
  7. 7.  Oral histories – as process and for ‘product’ (data)  Talking and managing relationships, the distinctions between ‘networking’ and ‘hanging out’  Networking & managing relationships: WaiYin; Growing Manchester; Sow the City; Living Streets; Zest Healthy Living Network; Greater Manchester Local Record Centre; Reverend David Gray; Rainbow Surprise, Northwards Housing Association; St. Chad’s Primary School; council representatives and councillors ‘  Photo and object elicitation – using MJM collection and social memories to encourage testimonies which help us understand everyday participation in the park, e.g the film
  8. 8.  Luciana: locating the park and the museum in local cultural geographies  Bird walk & walk with Sow the City to discuss possible orchard site  St Chad’s & the Walking Doctor/Living Streets  Overcoming threshold anxiety? facilitated participation & audience development
  9. 9.  Making crafts while in the park;  Returning the park to the familiar, or staging nature - making tea; making a fire;  Mirroring historical making practices – e.g. making a banner;  Making music in the park, reflecting parks’ participation histories Long history of the utility of crafts in community engagement and integration – e.g. Richard Sennett on settlement houses, and Addams late C19 programmes: “Hull House contained a floating residential population of people from the streets, combined with more permanent, university-trained tenants; the latter, influenced by Ruskin’s beliefs in the unity of hand and head, taught courses in bookbinding, or they stage-managed plays, or ran the youth-club…to rouse people from passivity the organiser has to focus on the immediate experience (Sennett, 2011: 53)
  10. 10.  Crumpsall History Society using the Manchester Jewish Museum space as a direct result ofTorange’s residency  Consideration of threshold anxiety in relation to both the park and the museum: audience development for MJM, or rather raised confidence of the institution in programming for different communities  Importance of time as resource – impact not immediate; always ongoing  Development of networks – and social capital (Luciana andWaiYin)  Environmental theme in the political agenda now associated with the park – this was not the case previously  Evidence of participation – Manchester Parks Strategy…but a long way to go
  11. 11.  Feeling at odds with being an agent for community engagement  Tensions regarding temporal dynamics: time- consuming networking in a short-term project conflicting with long-term participative observation  Different expectations/stances regarding top-down and bottom-up approaches which ties in with the 'threshold anxiety' felt by people who wouldn't want to be involved in a project with Manchester Jewish museum  Different priorities given to the need for the park to qualify for membership in an ecological network
  12. 12.  Familiarity and naïve optimism with project methods  Project too ambitious in time-scale and resources needed to recruit people and manage relationships across wide range of stakeholder groups  Concerns about achieving outputs and legacies and reporting them – producing ‘product’ (data, evidence, documentation)  Frustration that multiple perspectives in project didn’t align – shared interests do not always mean shared outcomes
  13. 13. Different degrees of participation (from spectatorship to co- production):  Participatory arts/‘Socially engaged practice’ as a methods tends to focus on “process, not product” - makes distinction between art which people may engage with and work which is made with people (the engagement is the artwork – Ranciere, Debord &c).  Drama and theatre also has long traditions of methods for co- production, design and participation  Growing acceptance that these processes can be designed to produce social outcomes which happen to/with participants.  Museums outreach and engagement about working with and reaching into communities for audience development often with specific outcomes in mind.
  14. 14.  Top down? Not bottom up – no locally based arts and crafts people in the community, expectation that the university could provide resources including experts  Different expectations about parks – expect authority to take control of the park (e.g. compared WaiYin – more commons, different, council owned)  Question of where knowledge can be held, curated and whether acquisitioned into museum collection “Commoning is a radical concept because it is not just about policy: it is a personal and collective experience that challenges prevailing economic narratives. It insists upon the active, knowledge and participation of people in shaping their own lives and meeting their own needs” (Bollier, 2016:7).
  15. 15.  Outcome-focus disquieting to Luciana (less so Jeni) as was not associated with normal research process  Ethnographic methods are doing research but not necessarily 'making knowledge with'  Outcome of intervention always intended - but naive in expectations from short project  However outcomes from project may still arise... Pathways are established through stakeholder engagement.  Tensions between different expectations of methods allow this reflexivity

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