I have never used the phrase “I don’t know” as much as I have this year, not least since Adeola, the case study’s Research Fellow and Visual Artist, joined a few weeks ago.
Now, I am not one for such phrases at the best of times. I know it’s down to the struggle to speak across disciplines, I as a Social Science Researcher, and Adeola, who identifies first as an Artist and second as a Researcher. I have no second or part identity. What I do have is a growing conviction that I must find ways to embed my research questions and preoccupations within a participatory arts context – one that take into account the riches the arts and humanities can offer. It must be credible, it must be grounded in relevant theoretical frames and it must allow me to elucidate more tellingly the lived experiences of the people I work with and moreover, provide credible evidence that can be used to inform policy and improve lives.
So, I find myself uttering new troubling (and annoying) phrases as we seek to find common ground and to begin to move forward together on the work that needs to be done on the Representing Butetown case study.
Looking back, like the other case studies in which the overall project is rooted, a lot has been accomplished since we started. Our latest case study report, Representing Butetown – Caribbean Elders Project 2013 – 2014, details our journey so far. This includes the launch event held 1st July 2014, in collaboration with the National Theatre Wales (NTW). The NTW Assembly model is rooted in a performance debate that responds to a local issue in a creative setting. It can be described further as a community-led dramatic experience that nurtures an exploration of one or several issues important to the local community; space is left during the performance for the audience to debate and react. The performances developed by the creative team in the four days leading up the event sought to find ways:
What a night! Something for a future post! Other 2014 highlights include:
This work includes collecting soliloquies and extracts from the novels such as the following taken from In the Falling Snow
Earl (on first impressions of England)
” ..even before I get off the boat England deliver a big shock to my system. Looking down from the deck I see plenty of white men in dirty clothes hurrying this way and that way up and down the dock, pushing wheelbarrows, and spitting on the ground and shouting at each other. These people don’t look like the type of white men I used to seeing back home wearing club blazer and tie and walking about the place ramrod straight. Jesus Christ, I don’t know England have such poor white men…I feel cold invading me body like it don’t care if it throw me down and finish me off right there and then on day number one, so even before I get off the damn boat England punishing my mind and my body and teaching me a hard lesson about what kind of place it is.” (p. 252, 4).
So work is progressing and elements are coming together. Our biggest accomplishment has been in finding ways to work with community, research and arts partners and colleagues. This case study calls for a particular focus on the creativity that is already present, and on the artists that have been working in our areas of interests for decades, and on the range of representations of value and significance that are already available. It also calls for a balancing of the pull of place and the pull of our focus on Caribbean elders. And of course, all this must be developed within an interdisciplinary, participatory arts framework, with a clear focus both on co-production of community representations of value to those who we are working with, and evidence of value to policy makers.
We have our work cut out. At this point, looking back over the journey so far, to coin a friend’s phrase, so far, so good.