(UK) Participant research – notes from reflective diaries (UK group)

“Stoke-On-Trent is full of people who want to try and make a difference and enjoy coming together to socialize and to try and improve the area.  There is evidence of identifying problems “Signs of apology” and then trying to do something about it.

There is also a feeling of celebration of heritage in Stoke-On-Trent and a sense of pride.  The Burslem school of art celebrates sights of this city and people from it.  The clay chorus choir also beam with joy and pride meeting together to socialize and sing songs about the heritage of their city.

At the moment public policy is centred on the government’s ideology of the “Big Society” boiling down, from what I can comprehend, to shared resources, time and everyone doing things for themselves and then offering their services to others for free. With this in mind more and more communities have to group together and build their own projects, groups and activities if they want to get anything done.

The Spode site in Stoke is currently involved in a large regeneration and renewal project.  Community group RE:Stoke are involved in the project, however without their project meeting a target set by the council the chance of the same level of support, resources and money would be very slim.”

Sam Rushton

 

“6 Towns mean we have lots of different identities and specialism’s relating to the potteries, each struggle for their own identity and the local governments idea of pulling them together may not be the best idea- celebrate their uniqueness!

Being with the Polish and Lithuania people made me really appreciate having such a large nice park on the doorstep and that we should look at the positive features and not the closed unused buildings in the park.

We didn’t get to see much dilapidated buildings or rough areas on the trip for balance – for example just along the canal is a lot of empty factories.

We are lucky to be able to get funding to initiate and develop small projects in the community for artists and have amazing spaces to show work. History of the area means we have special buildings with rich stories and legacy to build upon.

We took part in a workshop at the New Vic that included painful acting exercise for an introverted artist”.

Janine Goldsworthy

 

“Arts are a primary means of engaging with people in a whole variety of contexts.

  • It is a way of bringing excluded people closer to mainstream society, with the aim of increasing inclusion, reducing alienation and increasing access to a whole range of important services and experiences.
  • It is a way of building social capital – both bridging and bonding.

Frequently, personal experience of oppression results in the development of empathy, guilt, anger and other emotions, that act as stimuli to action aimed at reducing oppression. Experiences of oppression (or perceived oppression) can also lead us to oppress others in retribution.

It is almost always the case that within specific cultures / societies there are common patterns of oppression – patterns that in some cases are almost universal – eg the oppression of women in male dominated cultures. This does not mean that individual acts of reverse oppression do not occur eg men oppressed by women, but it does mean that there needs to be action against the primary pattern of oppression, whereas the reverse is not true. As the only male participant in a group of 15 participants I was acutely aware that although that might seem oppressive (additionally, I experienced at least two acts by women that were discriminatory against me as a man during the week), my experience is not one of oppression – I was simply the butt of random, retributive sexism.”

Tony Jones

What has this told you about Stoke-On-Trent?

It has opened up Stoke-On-Trent to me.  I have always viewed Stoke from a health perspective and am finding that this study visit is opening my eyes to a strong cultural and arts history of the local area.

How does what you have experienced contribute to your practice and theory relating to it?

In research terms the links with the 2 sets of visitors (as well as looking at local projects) have given me new ideas about arts orientated approaches for evaluation.  Also, lots of scope to give thought to arts & health research, especially the design for future research projects.

Sue Molesworth

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