building a City of Literature

Joanna McIntyre and Susan Jones of CRACL have been awarded funding from the University’s ESRC Impact Accelerator fund for a project called ‘Building a City of Literature’.

The project builds on over a decade of educational research in the Centre on the most effective ways of developing sustainable partnerships between schools and local cultural organisations.  It extends our work on the signature pedagogies of creative practitioners and uses arts apprenticeship and mentoring models which have been explored in CRACL research in order to develop local knowledge amongst pupils and teachers, using the arts as a means to develop a sense of value about place.

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Teachers from three Nottingham city schools joined us at the School of Education to launch the project. They will be working with creative practitioners from local arts company Sheep Soup to support their pupils in researching, writing and performing plays about the communities in which their schools are located.  They will start by exploring some of the resources which have been developed as part of CRACL’s long-standing research partnership with community arts company Excavate.

These include the scripts of two community plays, written by local playwright Andy Barrett.  The first play, Road to Bilborough, is a spy story about the friends and neighbours who migrated into a local council estate in the 1950s.  The second, A Lifetime Guarantee, was a play which resulted from a project which examined the history of the site of Nottingham’s former Raleigh factory (now the Jubilee Campus).  Performed by a community cast, both plays toured local venues to packed out audiences.  Both were based on the oral histories of those who lived and worked in the places they are about.  The oral histories generated as part of the Raleigh project have been archived on a website, and this will provide further material for pupils and teachers to explore.

IMG_0765.JPGWith these two plays and the website as a starting point, the Building a City of Literature project will support teachers and pupils to explore the processes involved in researching, writing and presenting stories about the places in which they live and learn.  One of the outcomes of the project will be playscripts, which will be published as a resource for schools to use.   Work from the project will also feature on a website, developed in collaboration with the teachers involved, which will support other teachers with practical strategies for developing place-based approaches in their schools.

By working with local creative practitioners, the young people involved in the project will also be made more aware of the possibilities available to them to engage with creative organisations in the city, whilst the development of place-based approaches to teaching and learning of literacy offers strong support to Nottingham’s UNESCO City of Literature status and to the Arts Council’s initiative on Cultural Education Partnerships, both key aspects of Nottingham city’s agenda for engagement with the arts in the city.

telling stories, producing evidence

Frances Howard is researching the Arts Award with ‘disengaged ‘ young people. She writes

Pat and I are working to support The Mighty Creatives (TMC), the East Midlands Bridge Organisation, to run Artsmark Support Workshops based around ‘Evidencing the Impact’.

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The Artsmark award was re-launched in 2015 and is a mechanism for helping schools to enrich, develop and strengthen their arts and cultural provision. Schools accredited with Artsmark embed the arts in whole school planning and improvement and enable access for their pupils to high quality resources and networks of cultural organisations.

The workshops are designed to help schools explore how they can best capture evidence of impact on children, staff and the wider school. Teachers undertake practical planning exercises which ensure they consider how best to capture the evidence of impact as they go, in order to be able to reflect on the wider impact of their Artsmark journey in the final case study.

The key questions that we have been posing in these workshops are based around the nature of evaluation: What are we hoping to do? What do we expect to see as a result? And what evidence can we gather to see if this has occurred? Key messages we hope to communicate on telling your overall story include thinking small, incorporating a variety of data and thinking about the analysis of data.

Alongside these theoretical considerations and practical exercises, CRACL postgraduate researchers, myself included, have been presenting empirical examples of data gathering and analysis on their research with schools, arts programmes and children and young people.

These workshops are on-going, taking place twice termly, across the East Midlands region.

We are looking forward to continuing this relationship and developing the work further.

 

circuit conference

Conferences. We all get to go to them and sometimes we present. Sometimes we even organise them. This year Nicky Sim got to organise a very important conference – the first of a series of wrap-ups of the Circuit programme. It was held at Nottingham Contemporary on March 10th.

Circuit is/was a four-year programme funded by Paul Hamlyn. It brought art galleries and youth organisations together to provide cultural programmes and festivals for young people who might not typically be engaged with an art museum.

We are connected with Circuit in two ways – Nicky has conducted ethnographic research into ‘partnership’ through a TATE – Nottingham AHRC funded studentship, and Becky Coles and I are doing a longitudinal study of 21 people engaged in the ‘youth’ programming/curating collectives. So Becky and I were there, as well as Nicky of course.

The conference theme addressed the possibilities, risks and challenges of developing democratic practice between young people, youth organisations and galleries. (Young people are defined as 15-25)

The attendees came primarily from the ‘youth’ and ‘gallery’ sectors with a few other people, researchers and arts administrators, added in.

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The proceedings were a mix of presentations and discussions with some time for ‘table’ conversations.

Some of the learnings of Circuit were clearly on show, both as displays and in the discussions. Youth Collectives have taught galleries that

  • successful programming for young people is inter-disciplinary – film, music, visual and performing arts together
  • young people need to see themselves represented in gallery activities
  • there has to be something for me, something that is relevant to me
  • activities have to offer something – personal development, the opportunity to socialise, new connections
  • activities have to be free and accessible.

Difficult questions were raised and some of the more obvious tensions emerged – the terms ‘young people’, ‘diversity’ and ‘hard to reach’ were an ongoing issue. The hierarchies of power within galleries, the continued attacks on the youth sector and informal education, the possibility of institutional critique becoming a programme of concrete activity challenged all of us.

Becky and I were both pleased to discuss the gallery as a ‘gig’  economy and the parlous state of employment in the arts in general and for young adults in particular; this is a major issue emerging from our research.

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conference line drawings by @askthefaces, a Nottingham based artist

Nicky and Rachel from Circuit did a great job in organising the conference. Nicky’s commitment to ensuring that a wide range of views were on the table was enacted through the programme. The process and the topic were congruent.

I’m sure all of us left with some key things to think about and  even perhaps with a concrete action in mind.

Youth Forum: democratic participation through the arts

We have just completed our second interim report of the Serpentine World without Walls programme. This featured research into the first stage of Youth Forum, a programme conducted with Westminster Academy high school students. The artists commissioned to run the programme are Barby Asante and Teresa Cisneros.

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We report that:

In this project, young people were encouraged to draw on their own experiences, resources of knowledge and skill to develop ideas, to plan, to make and to show and share artefacts they had made. If the ‘discipline of form’ provided a framework and required the patient development of craft skills, it also allowed the young people to draw substantially on, and to contribute to, their ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll, 1990).

Observation, discussion with the young people, Education Curators and the commissioned artists gave clear evidence that art-making activity was greatly valued by the young people. Levels of concentration (or distraction from some) were indicators of levels of engagement and involvement in the project. Overall, a palpable sense of purpose and progress was evident in the various 8 studio spaces at the Cockpit when the young people were making things. They garnered opinions from others, negotiated and reflected. The young people generally felt that they permitted to give voice to their ideas, opinions and concerns.

 

The full interim report is here as a downloadable PDF

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