(UK) London – thoughts on research by Jane Goetzee (UK)

The UK Localise team hosted a week’s visit to London, providing a timetable of events and trips within the city for Polish and Lithuanian participants to sample participatory arts activity and to consider what each activity was about, who was it for, how did it develop, how did it function. How did it compare to Polish and Lithuanian equivalents? were there any equivalents? and so on. The 3 UK participants each had research questions around the subject of participatory arts which they presented briefly to the rest of the group. The 3 each chose a day during which they invited the rest of the group to explore their questions using very slight, creative means.  This was an attempt to flag up particular aspects of community arts activity – for discussion and study.

The other aspect of research was to consider the concept of ‘the study trip’ – what was the content? its practicability? its aims? how did it function as a research tool? Some of the more obvious findings regarding practicalities are listed below.  An added potential benefit of this trip was the opportunity to document the findings of a very varied group of people ; observations from an Eastern European perspective would be expected, but also from the standpoint of working community artists, community arts managers, of advanced scholars and relatively inexperienced practitioners of cultural animation.  There was some documentation.

There was warm intermingling of participants, friendships were made; discussion of research questions was ad hoc and fleeting, reflection time was short and methods of evaluation limited by time constraints.  People thrown together way may function efficiently and communicate the things they need to and no more.  In terms of use of a study trip as a research tool it maybe concluded that yield was not high and so the findings are not favourable.

This result is not clear because several issues if addressed could result in ‘the study trip’ being invaluable in research terms.  Eg: cost – funding did not stretch to a ‘gathering for reflection’ venue.  Eg: an organisational glitch –  too many people, not enough facilitators, the choice of London, its unfamiliarity and sheer size and busyness, its streets and transport systems;  or a time issue – getting the balance of visits and free-time was a contentious issue.

A unified – and loud – declaration of intent regarding what the research aims were may have tasked the whole group in a focused way – imbuing a sense of responsibility regarding the research documentation. Add the space and opportunity for reflection, and perhaps a feedback imperative, and rich material will be captured.  There is a risk that although (happily) individual participants benefited personally in terms of their own practice, good observations were made – a vote of confidence regarding study trips – but were lost to the Localise research project. The financial and organisational issues resulting in this loss may stem from unrealistic expectations of funders.

Practical issues

CONS:

no dedicated study or discussion space

need of a clear itinerary

London – a huge area to travel around, a very busy, chaotic place for newcomers inc hosts

no reflection time after each session

no real chance to feedback at the end

herding is not easy for elders – and unnecessary with the right prep

 

PROS:

enforced socialising

logistical negotiation – shared problem-solving

supported explorations of new bits of London

common interest and sharing of knowledges

comparisons of different approaches, within London and across Europe.

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