The Tetley Feast Documentation & Critical Reflections on a collaboration between Leeds College of Artâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s BA (Hons) Visual Communication, Community Organisations from South Leeds & The Tetley contemporary art gallery Edited by David Collins
Photograph: Elliot Baxter
Foreword Graham Tansley Programme Leader, BA (Hons) Visual Communication The BA (Hons) Visual Communications programme (VisCom) at Leeds College of Art is committed to making the world a better place through the creative use of communication design. We take a diagnostic approach, enabling students to explore a wide range of media before deciding what they want to specialise in. They then develop the professional skills appropriate to their chosen careers with the ambition of progressing onto useful working lives that make a positive impact on society. As part of our idealistic yet pragmatic approach we have encouraged students to work with charitable and voluntary organisations in Leeds since 2000. We believe that by encouraging and supporting students to work with diverse groups of people during their programme of study both parties often benefit. The organisations benefit from the skills the students can offer, and the students in return gain invaluable
insight into, and experience of working and communicating with, people with a wide range of life experiences. Over the past few years we have been involved in several large collaborative projects where teams of students have worked with partner organisations in the city: ‘A Series of Artworks Carefully Arranged’, curation of an exhibition to partner a Damien Hirst show at Leeds Art Gallery; ‘Messages Across Leeds’, a pop-up mobile workshop with over 20 community organisations across Leeds; ‘Remembering Oluwale’, a theatrical celebration in collaboration with Leeds Young Authors and the Baggage Handlers theatre group. The educational benefits of these projects were very clear both in terms of skills learned and critical insights gained. In 2013 we decided to take the process a stage further, running a far larger collaborative project involving all our Level 4 and Level
5 students*. The result after a huge amount of research, negotiation and planning was The Tetley Feast. What you will read here is a record of, and reflections upon, the work and experiences of students, staff, academics, organisations and workers involved with The Tetley Feast. I would like to thank everyone involved with this project but in particular Marianne Springham and Sharon Hooper for their determination and enthusiasm to ensure the project actually happened and David Collins for ensuring this publication came together. I hope you enjoy reading it. To find out more about the broad range of work our students create, please visit either the Leeds College of Art website or our own VisCom archive at www.viscomprojects.com. * Levels 4, 5 and 6 refer respectively to the first, second and third years of the BA programme
The Tetley Feast
Photograph: David Collins
Contents Origins of The Tetley Feast..................................6 Introduction.........................................................8
The Projects The Bridge.........................................................12 HALO.................................................................14 Hamara..............................................................16 Helath for All.....................................................18 The Hunslet Club...............................................20 Kushi Dil............................................................24 Menspace..........................................................26 Richmond Hill....................................................28 SLATE................................................................30 Vera Media........................................................36 Celebratory Event..............................................40
Community Organisation Managersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Responses The Hunslet Club...............................................45 Vera Media........................................................46 Health for All.....................................................49 The Tetley..........................................................50
Critical Reflections The Importance and Benefits of Co-Developing Arts Curriculum whilst Connecting with Communities Marianne Springham & Sharon Hooper..................53 Social Design, Who Benefits? A conversation about the relevance, challenges and questions posed by The Tetley Feast Bianca Elzenbaumer in conversation with student partcipants..................................................61 A Feast Pointing at Itself: looking at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event to identify some similarities, differences and productive synergies between social design and socially-engaged art David Collins...........................................................67 What Makes a Successful Collaboration? Loren Turton............................................................74 Practicing Socially Engaged Design within Education: an analysis of The Tetley Feast Isabel Drake.............................................................77 Giving More Than You Take: a conversation about the ethics, responsibilities and practicalities of facilitating student participation in community-based projects Dr. Loraine Leeson in conversation with Marianne Springham...............................................81 Closing Thoughts....................................................86 Acknowledgements.................................................87
Origins of The Tetley Feast Marianne Springham Project Manager The initial idea that became ‘The Tetley Feast’ grew from my experiences of working on creative projects with Leeds communities, and also running the community department at Leeds College of Art where we provided access for people facing barriers to creative education. My first experience of working with undergraduate students was in 2011 on a project called ‘Messages Across Leeds’, where I worked in partnership with the BA (Hons) Visual Communication (VisCom). The socially-engaged ethos of the programme closely matched my own approach to education and the socially-engaged experience of the staff team made everything run very smoothly. The project encouraged Leeds residents to ‘send a message’ and contribute to a series of largescale exhibitions in accessible venues throughout the city. As a result, I began to realise the power of student collaboration within community-
based work to free projects from restrictive funding and enable me to explore more creative forms of education. In 2012 I took a post as Year Two leader on BA VisCom. The programme leader, Graham Tanlsey, encouraged me to develop ideas for a large project which could both expand links to local communities and support students to develop self-awareness as responsible practitioners. In response I began exploring ideas for an external project in partnership with Project Space Leeds, a local contemporary art gallery. They were renovating the locally well known, unoccupied Tetley building, transforming it into a large contemporary art space in South Leeds. An area with a wealth of grassroots activity. I had been seeking a host space for a project that could connect VisCom to the diverse groups operating in the area. In terms of
location, the gallery had potential for connectivity to the wider area, and the project would support them to meet new neighbours. Graham was keen for the project to be sustainable and we thought encouraging new positive relationships, was a good start. Also, the lack of restrictive funding meant there was real freedom to explore ideas and to respond directly to the South Leeds groups we wanted to work with. Once the initial idea was in place I worked mainly with Sharon Hooper, the Year One leader, who took on the role of assistant project manager. It was not an easy project to run, overseeing a complex network of groups operating within a large demographic, was a real challenge for us both. Looking at the feedback from students and collaborators however, it is clear the project was a success. It exceeded our expectations on many levels, and provides compelling
evidence that projects of this nature are highly valued by students within design education.
The Tetley Feast
Photograph: Elliot Baxter
Introduction Sharon Hooper & Marianne Springham Assistant Project Manager & Project Manager ‘The Tetley Feast’ was a sociallyengaged participatory design project, which took place during a six-week period in January and February 2014. It involved seventy undergraduate students from BA (Hons) Visual Communication (VisCom) at Leeds College of Art in the North of England working together with community organisations located in South Leeds. The project involved participatory production of visual work, culminating in a celebratory event at the The Tetley, a new contemporary art gallery in Leeds. Previously home to the Tetley brewery, at one time an employer of many local people and a well-known landmark, the Tetley is the first major arts venue to be sited south of the city centre. Involved from the outset, they were interested in connecting with local groups and getting to know their local neighbourhood. The Tetley Feast was a feast of ideas, taking its name from the Hunslet Feast, a local South Leeds festival 8
that took place over 100 years ago. The project connected students with some of the local, multi-cultural communities on our doorstep through social design practice. South Leeds has a growing and very diverse population, there is significant poverty in some parts but many of the people living there are both aspirational and working towards social change. The area has a rich network of grass-roots organisations who provide specific services designed to target inequality. These groups are vital to the area and have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience providing support to local people. Through conversations with local groups, we mutually identified those which we could support with students creative skills and access to resources not normally available to them. Students worked with: Richmond Hill Primary School; Vera Media, an informal education provider; Hamara an Asian health centre; Hunslet
Youth Club; The Bridge, a group of adults with learning and/or physical disabilities; Menspace, a group for single dads; SLATE, an alternative trading enterprise; a Polish women’s group; the Shakti project for Indian elders; Kushi Dil Bangladeshi women’s group. Students worked in small peer groups and were partnered with a host organisation. They spent the duration of the project working together to develop relationships. Level 4 students had a set outcome, to make a three minute documentary for their organisation. Level 5 students were free to decide how they might interact with their group and negotiate a creative response. Students listened to the needs of the group and worked together to create a variety of visual projects. The emphasis was to develop the core skills central to social design, as well as to value people and process over outcome. Working with these groups
gave students the opportunity to learn outside of the studio and apply theoretical and visual skills to specific professional contexts. The project embraced new technology and social media to expand notions of community and, as a whole, it gave students a broader world view. It also aimed to create a transformative dialogic learning experience for all.
The Tetley Feast
Photograph: Kate Green
Photograph: Elliot Baxter
Group Projects Over a period of six weeks in 2014, Level 4 and 5 students worked in small groups with 10 community organisations in South Leeds. They used their visual communication skills to engage with the people they met. On the following pages the students describe the organisations, the work produced and the processes they used to make it. All photographs in this section are by the students or mentors working with each specific group
The Bridge Level 5 Students Kristian Knight Chloe Stacey Sophie Kirk Alice Morton Julia Brown
Group Mentor Antonia Ions
The Bridge is not only an amazing place for people with learning disabilities to gain new skills; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a place of security, laughter and equality. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a second home to most and provides a valuable group of friends to all. During our time at the centre we ran a number of arts and crafts workshops. We also helped with the annual Christmas pantomime, creating stage props and organising a red carpet photo shoot for the cast before they shot off to their very own film star themed disco. For The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event we designed a photo booth that allowed the public to have their portrait drawn. We knew how much the people at The Bridge loved drawing and dressing up, so we wanted something interactive and imaginative for the final public event.
The booth featured sliding handles that would allow the person to decide on how colourful or abstract they wanted their portrait to be. With paints and pens available on the other side it was open for everyone to play around with different mediums and receive their own personal picture to take home. It was a great success with lots of people enjoying their time in the booth as well as all the other wonderful stalls at the event. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent at the centre and it was a pleasure meeting everyone at The Bridge. We met some great characters who will not be forgetten. Thanks to the staff who provided us with support during our time at the project.
HALO Level 4 Students Rees Newnes Bethany Wells Chloe Buckle Amelia Eve Robert Scargill
Group Mentor Bethan Sellar
Health And Learning Organisation (HALO) is a people-based project in South Leeds that provides a social hub for vulnerable adult members of the community with a wide range of health conditions and learning difficulties. The group meets every weekday at the Hamara Centre in Beeston and the staff describes their relationship with members as “like being part of a family”. In partnership with the project, Level 4 students were asked to create a three minute film that documented HALO’s work. We were asked to capture the friendly, approachable atmosphere at the centre and were told the film would be posted online to give a clear image of the project’s work to those who visit their website. As a result of the accommodating nature of everyone involved, and the wide variety of activities which take place, this task was a simple one to complete. In the four weeks, we
captured footage from a cycling trip, a sports day, a photography class and a dance class. Consequently, an honest, captivating, enjoyable film was created and the staff and members of HALO who attended its premiere at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event appeared delighted with the result. The film, much like the project itself, focuses on people as its subject, and stresses the value of human kindness. It describes how the project began, the work it does and the effect this has on the people involved. The final scene collates quotes from four members of staff interviewed separately, all of whom used the word “family” to describe their relationship with the group. It perfectly sums up the atmosphere at the centre and is a strong advertisement for the project to anybody thinking of joining, either as a volunteer or as a member.
Hamara Level 5 Students Joanna Buttercase Mary Broome Beatrice Mikulskyte Micaela Bogen Azhar Sagir
Group Mentor Bethan Sellar
Hamara is a community organisation in Beeston, which provides a range of services including healthy lifestyle classes for the elderly, a supplementary school and activities for nine to 13 year olds, workshops for young people who have been involved with crime and also a range of socializing events. Additionally, a sub-group of Hamara, HALO (health, achievement, learning and opportunities) supports and cares for people with learning difficulties and provides a day care community cafĂŠ, serving homemade meals to people living in the area and using the Hamara centre. Our team was tasked with creating a promotional video to be used on the organisationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website. We worked closely with Arif who runs the organisation, to create service which helps take pressure off their carers. The organisation also runs a video which shows the positive work Hamara does for the community. It needed to encourage people to use the services and support which the organisation offers, and to show potential funders how Hamara helps the community, and vulnerable people living in the area.
We spent two weeks with the different groups, getting to know individuals who benefit from Hamaraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work and learning why the organisation is so important to the people who use its services. After this, we began filming, often working collaboratively, sharing ideas and taking suggestions from staff. We attempted to film all the different classes run by the organisation to ensure the video showed the full range of facilities and services on offer. The video was structured around interviews with volunteers, staff, and members, each giving their own perspective on why Hamara is an important part of the community. After The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event, we returned to the organisation to put on an additional screening for those who had been part of the film, to show both the members and staff what we had created.
Health for All Level 5 Students Nic Brannan Zoe East Kate Green Rhea Ball Beth Jones
Group Mentor Emma Saynor
Health for All is a Leeds-based community development organisation. It works in partnership with local government, health services and local people to engage with and improve disadvantaged communities. In collaboration with Health for All our team worked with three different groups: The Shakti Project, an initiative that provides several activity groups for elderly people from an Indian background. Our brief here was to create a leaflet, video and series of publicity photos to help the groups attract members and funding. We visited a wide range of Shakti groups, meeting with them and their group leaders, taking photos, recording activities and doing interviews to camera, often with non-English speakers.
The Saheli group, a luncheon group for elderly Asian women. We ran sessions introducing digital and smartphone photography to help members text images to family and friends and take better photos of their grandchildren. Health for Allâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Polish Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s group, for whom we ran a digital photography session. Although the groups were in some ways very different we found they all used food to celebrate their cultural heritage and to bond with group members and visitors like us. Recognising this common thread we created a series of illustrations of dishes from their respective food cultures as a talking point for the groups when they visited The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event.
The Hunslet Club Level 5 Students Nicola Toon David Taylor George Cox Miles Harrop Bhakti Mistry
Group Mentor Vicky Kortekaas
The Hunslet Youth Club is run by volunteers, who arrange classes and workshops such as gymnastics, boxing, football, performing arts, singing and cooking. These are provided mainly for children aged eight to 16, but people of all ages are welcome. They also run half term events, summer camps, dance competitions and fitness challenges. Different activities run throughout the day everyday on a weekly basis. It has many facilities that are available for hire including a main hall, bar and kitchen, dance studio, IT suite, meeting room and classroom, basketball court and football pitches. They also have a games room with the latest game consoles and gaming chairs, table top games, a pampering room, tuck shop and music studio.
Our group had a two hour time slot every Wednesday evening, giving us a lot of time to plan what we were going to do and how. Over the four weeks we ran creative workshops in tie-dyeing of fabric, marbling paper and modeling with cake icing. Each week we devised a one hour session and ran this twice during the evening. This approach proved very popular as the children who wanted to take part in our workshop as well as other activities running during the evening could do so. The work the children produced could be taken home for their parents/ carers to see. A few of their pieces of work, along with hand made bunting with the club logo and a bean bag chair, were displayed at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event. These were then given back to the youth club once the exhibition had finished.
The Hunslet Club Level 4 Students Fran Tredget Paul Scott Lucy Everitt Lorna Holdsworth
Group Mentor Vicky Kortekaas
The Hunslet Club is an independent voluntary club for young people from the South Leeds area. During The Tetley Feast we were asked to create a promotional documentary film for the club. When we first visited we realised the range of individuals they work with, not just young people, in fact all ages from toddlers to the elderly. They offer a huge range of activities and we really wanted to display this in our short film, although we found that there was so much on offer that we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t convey it all. Filming young people meant we had to take on board the issue of consent forms. These had to be filled out before we could film anywhere. This was in practice a really good experience for us as itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a key aspect of documentary making and something we will certainly come across in the future. It did however slow us down a little, but we knew once we had the forms signed we could film as much as we wanted, when we wanted. We constructed a timetable of all the activities at the Hunslet Club and then planned which ones we would go to, and when, so we could produce a good representation of the club.
During this project as a group we learned our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and developed new skills. None of us had worked with an external organisation before and working to a brief that was actually going to be used was exciting as well as challenging. We all learned people skills of all different kinds as we interacted with parents, children, teenagers and the staff at the centre. Overall The Tetley Feast was a rewarding experience. There were high expectations of what we were going to produce so when members of the Hunslet Club attended the final showing of the films and were pleased with the end result, we felt we had succeeded in our task. The club is now using our film on their Youtube channel and have shared the video on their twitter page.
Kushi Dil Level 4 Students Chris Filby Sarah Coletta Vicky Nelson Kate Priestley Julia Syrzistie
Group Mentor Emma Saynor
Our group worked with Kushi Dil (Happy Heart), which was set up for Bangladeshi women in South Leeds. It is run with the help of Health for All, an umbrella charity which provides funding and expertise to a large number of community initiatives. South Leeds is home to significant numbers of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage. The community was established after the end of the Second World War and migrants brought their cultural, ethical and religious ideas with them. Bangladesh is a Muslim country with very different ideas about the roles of women than those in contemporary Britain. In the Bangladeshi community women do not always get the same freedoms as their male counterparts and consequently, often find themselves isolated within UK society. Kushi Dil was set up so that the women of the community have somewhere to come together and allow them to speak to others in a similar position. It also gives them time to be themselves.
The group is split into two subgroups. The older Kushi Dil meets for two hours in the morning. These ladies were born in Bangladesh and are generally very traditional in their ways. In the afternoon the younger Kushi Dil meets. These younger women are all first generation British. Health and wellbeing activities, as well as the promotion of interaction between themselves and their community are the main aims. This is done through group activities such as cooking, aerobics, pampering sessions, games and also occasional trips away from the centre.
Menspace Level 4 Students Jennifer Smith Pierce Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Reilly Kit Cowey Laura McHugh Jessica Stephenson
Group Mentor Antonia Ions
Menspace works to improve the lives of men including single dads, men struggling to find employment and men with learning disabilities. Menspace organise a variety of activities in order to engage their members, ranging from walking groups to cooking clubs and horticulture. They place the emphasis on getting members out into the community with a focus on combating isolation. For example, through the dadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s group, they help their members access provision they might otherwise struggle to use for financial or time related reasons. They give dads an opportunity to take part in fun activities with their children without worrying about the cost.
We attended the sessions without camera equipment to begin with. During this time we got to know the members and their children by joining in with some of the activities such as the cookery sessions, Dadsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; group sessions and walks with adults with learning disabilities. During this time we got a feel for the spirit of the group and the positive impact that we wanted to capture in our film. We collected footage of the activities and also conducted interviews with the members of Menspace. We produced a film which we hope shows how important this group is to the members and the community.
We began by meeting with the manager Richard Lancaster to discuss what he wanted from the film. We discussed how the film should focus on what Menspace does for the individuals involved and how their lives have been affected since joining. Richard told us the group wanted to add the film to their website in order to attract new members and funding.
Richmond Hill Level 5 Students Ricardo Albarella Lucy Banks Hannah Warner Izzy Zubaida Monica Merino de Paz
Group Mentor Maria Brzozowska
At the time of the project, Richmond Hill Primary School had recently opened a new building offering larger spaces, more classrooms and allowing a higher student capacity. During the six weeks of the project we ran workshops with two classes of Year Three school students around their current history subject; Ancient Egypt. A few children had English as a second language and we had to consider this in our planning and delivery. We also had to keep in mind that all classes included children of widely varying skill levels and that some children might struggle with the tasks because of this. We met with the students once a week, giving them a short introduction to the topic of the workshop and then leading them through a creative workshop. As a group we wanted to work towards a project to display at the final exhibition, whilst at the same time allowing the children to do and say what they wanted in a creative way.
their own designs in each case. The products of the workshops were later combined to create three large pyramids on the walls in the exhibition at The Tetley. For The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event we wanted to show what the children had made in school along with a demonstration of how the work had been created. As a result we decided to run a workshop on the day of the event. To fit the context of the show we created a single collaborative piece for the one-day workshop. We created an outline of The Tetley building and collected local magazines, flyers and pamphlets for the children to cut out and use to fill the building with a colourful, collaged mosaic. The workshop ran smoothly and the children enjoyed being part of the event. When the children left we moved the collage to the exhibition area where other visitors were able to finish the piece.
Our introductory session was on Egyptian Jewelry, during which we made an effort to get to know the children and to understand what level each student was at. The following three workshops explored hieroglyphics, Egyptian gods, and pyramids, with children creating
SLATE Shop Level 5 Students Rebecca Feneley Elliot Baxter Lowri Jones Sulin Baldwin
Group Mentor Izzy Bunnell
SLATE (South Leeds Alternative Trading Enterprise) is an organisation that helps local communities in South Leeds. They do this, firstly by offering employment and training to adults with learning difficulties, and secondly by providing an affordable, eco-friendly outlet to buy unwanted and upcycled furniture, saving this material from being wasted in a landfill. The ‘Feel Good Furniture Shop’ (SLATE’s original enterprise) runs in combination with SLATE’s vintagestyled ‘Feel Good Cafe’. The café is furnished using upcycled furniture from the SLATE shop, and fronts the Hillside Enterprise Centre, which forms part of an important community hub. SLATE’s ‘Feel Good Furniture Shop’ is located in Hunslet and opens seven days a week. It has a constant stream of customers, visitors and local friends, often becoming extremely busy, proving just how important their organisation is to the community. During the project we worked with SLATE to help create a fresh, visual environment for both the staff and customers, and to create more awareness of what SLATE stands for. Our group met up with SLATE once or twice each week to discuss what they would most like created and what they wanted to change at the shop.
Elliot Baxter worked as a photographer, creating a window display of personal portraits of the staff and showing a glimpse into SLATE’s daily work. Sulin Baldwin helped set up SLATE’s exhibition at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event recreating a beautiful vintage living room for guests to meet and socialise in, this was a great way to show what SLATE’s enterprise was about. Lowri Jones used her illustrative skills to create a promotional sandwich board for the shop, drawing customers in and giving the shop a friendly image. Rebecca Feneley created a wall mural for their counter area, to brighten up the interior of the shop and tie in with the vintage element of the café and furniture. Working with SLATE has been a real honour and a chance to gain insight into the lives of people in communities other than our own. We have met some great people throughout the project, and hope that we have in some way helped create work that will brighten the lives of the people visiting and working at SLATE in the future.
SLATE Cafe Level 5 Students Loren Turton Fran Bailey Lucy Thompson Barsha Pant
Group Mentor Izzy Bunnell
The SLATE café is a social enterprise organisation based in Beeston, South Leeds. It is linked with the SLATE Feel Good Furniture Shop which sells upcycled furniture. We worked with the SLATE café to design and create a new chalkboard menu. Initial ideas were to create a simple paper menu, however after discussions with café staff and customers we created a chalkboard menu which covered a whole wall with inspiration coming from the vintage feel of the café.
Helen, the café manager, helped to write and design the menu so it could be accessible to all users of the café, including people with learning disabilities and young children. The menu was painted straight onto the wall using chalkboard pens, allowing café staff to change the menu in the future, as needed. We also helped to up-cycle some of the furniture, which was then used at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event. The furniture display received many compliments from visitors and we hope this will have helped to promote the café and furniture shop to a wider audience.
SLATE Level 4 Students Isabel Drake Eve Jackson Thomas Jukes Gemma McDonnell
Group Mentor Bethan Sellar
SLATE or South Leeds Alternative Trading Enterprise is a group working in the South of Leeds. It comprises a shop selling reclaimed and second hand furniture and the Feel Good Café which focuses on providing affordable, high quality food. The café also serves as a show room for upcycled furniture. SLATE acts as a source of employment/volunteering for adults with learning difficulties giving them a valuable opportunity to work in a safe environment and to interact with customers, thereby improving confidence and communication skills. Several of the employees began working at the shop after losing their own jobs and are gaining experience at the store for future employment opportunities. It also provides furniture to disadvantaged families in the south of Leeds, much of which is donated or reclaimed from local house clearances. Providing people with the opportunity to donate their furniture, having it collected from the house and knowing it goes to a good
cause is a very important aspect of this group’s work. Also by reclaiming furniture which would otherwise be disposed of the group is preventing this furniture from going to landfill sites. Our group was focused on creating a promotional video which SLATE could use in store and on their website. The intention was to capture the ethos of the company and the positive outcomes it produces, both in the community and for the employees and volunteers. We wanted to use both the furniture shop and the café in our film as both showed the great things that SLATE do. Throughout the filming process we concentrated on the interactions between the customers, staff and the store in order to show the real experiences people have using SLATE and hopefully accurately portray the benefits this organisation gives to its local community.
Vera Media Level 5 Students Brad Mollett Julie Chapalain Anze Ermenc Jade Till Anisha Mistry Louis Chaplin
Group Mentor Vicky Kortekaas
Vera Media is an organisation based at the Hillside Community Business Centre, offering services in community learning, media production, consultancy and development. The company runs a variety of weekly workshops and other creative services for people that cannot, or may not be able to access mainstream education courses, be it through age, disability or other factors. At the initial meeting it was decided we would produce additional promotional materials to show off the variety and content of the workshops being run by Vera. These would be used as part of their online presence and also to document their work to the local council and similar bodies. In preparation for the project we visited a few of the courses as observers, our rationale being that we would then have a much better idea of their specific needs and how best to represent them, and also cater to their specific needs. For example, one of the English language sessions run at The Hub catered to Asian women, and in respect of their wishes we did not send any male members of the group to their sessions.
Our time as observers also served another important purpose; by introducing ourselves to the groups in advance we created a much more relaxed atmosphere when we returned to take pictures. This helped greatly to capture the images requested by Vera. The photographs we produced were well received by Vera. They were a significant addition to the organisation’s existing visual documentation and successfully demonstrated the positive aspects of the various courses, allowing potential attendees a better idea of what experiences and workshops are available to them. For The Tetley Feast we created a ‘map’ of all the different arms of Vera Media using our photographs of the sessions and a brief description of the events featured. While slightly unconventional in terms of an exhibition piece, it was successful, using material created primarily for promotion purposes in a visually interesting way, which communicated well to members of the groups visiting the event.
Vera Media Level 4 Students Helen Caulfield Joe Million Francesca Furniss Hannah Jackson Karenza Brigham
Group Mentor Vicky Kortekaas
Vera Media are based at Hillside in the South of Leeds. They have been making films for over 30 years and now also run a number of community learning classes aimed at adults who face some sort of barrier or difficulty in attending college. The classes run throughout the week in a few different locations at a range of different times. Subjects include creative media, radio production, wellbeing and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).
from the ESOL classes and Thelma Thomas who taught the classes. Al Garthwaite gave a great overview of the purpose of Vera Mediaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community learning classes which became the main voice over of the film. Thelma the ESOL tutor talked about her passion for teaching in this context and was also keen for us to interview her students as she believed this to be good practice for them in speaking English.
We initially met with Al Garthwaite, the director of Vera Media to find out more about the organisation and what they wanted from a documentary. She explained they wanted a film, which would show the range of work they do and which could be used for promotional purposes.
We were pleased with the final video as it gave a good visual representation of the different classes and the interviews provided a clear idea about the purpose of Vera Media.
We decided to attend a couple of the sessions to get a feel of how the classes were run and the opportunities the sessions provided for people. After this, we took camera equipment and started out by filming a few establishing and general shots of the lessons and activities. We then interviewed Al Garthwaite, women
Photograph: Vicky Kortekaas
Celebratory Event 12 February 2014 The Tetley The Tetley Feast
The Tetley Feast concluded with a one-day celebratory event at The Tetley contemporary arts centre. This was designed, curated and hosted by the students and included a continuous screening of all the documentary films, exhibitions of photography, posters, leaflets, graphic design, craft and books, installations made up from furniture from SLATE, interactive workshops for children and adults. At the centre of it all was a specially commissioned community cake made by Level 6 student Rachel King and young people from The Hunslet Club.
42 Elliot Baxter, David Photographs: Collins, Vicky Kortekaas
Over two hundred participants from the community groups and seventy students attended the event. Visitors were served with drinks as they enjoyed an Indian buffet provided by Hamara. For one afternoon and evening The Tetley building was transformed into a bustling hub of community activity, showcasing the diversity and creativity of South Leeds.
The Tetley Feast
Community Organisation Managersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Responses
Photograph: Vicky Kortekaas
Donna Hall, Youth Worker, The Hunslet Club If I’m honest I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the project. I hoped it would be a positive experience for the students, and also I thought it would be useful for me to gain more experience of the creative arts. When the students first visited I sat them down and talked to them about the club for quite a long while, and I thought, I hope I haven’t scared them off, but they all came back and I think they all really did enjoy the experience of working here. When they came along to the first youth session I made sure I had some good strong youth workers with them. Our members have such a mixed range of abilities and personalities, with some that show off a little bit and others who are a little quieter, so they needed the workers at first to help them feel confident with the group. Once they got going, all the students showed a high level of commitment throughout the different work they were doing. They were
friendly, they were approachable, and their confidence really grew over the weeks.
lovely photographs and we tweeted them and put them on Facebook, so that was lovely.
I think the craft sessions inspired some of our members, and I know that arts and crafts is something they want to do on a more regular basis. The tie-dying and baking sessions they did were like a breath of fresh air and because it was different on a weekly basis the kids loved it. As for the film, it’s amazing. I think there could have been much more in it, like the weekend activities and the breakdance classes, but then considering the time scale that probably wasn’t possible. There are some amazing bits of footage and personally I can’t see any flaws.
A couple of the students have just come back and done a little bit of street art in the youth sessions. When I told our young people that the two lads were coming back they were just in awe, they were really, really excited. For us it’s brilliant that they loved working here and they’ve got something out of it. One of them is now wanting to go on and do youth work and work with young people which is absolutely brilliant.
We brought a group of members along to the opening at The Tetley and they all said how amazing it was. I was really surprised when we walked in, how the students had their own little sections for each of the projects they had worked with. We took some
We’ve already used the film the Level 4 students made and we plan to use it for future conferences. Also, we are putting a film together ourselves about the evening activities we run at the club and I know we will use certain parts of their film in that, which is great.
Al Garthwaite, Director, Vera Media For you and your organisation, what was the most successful element of the project? The involvement of our adult learners: answering students’ questions; seeing themselves on film and in photographs; attending the event at The Tetley. Going to a new venue that they would never otherwise visit is really important, especially for our women ESOL learners, many of whom seldom leave their own areas. Also the film. What was the least successful? Arrangements did not always work as smoothly as I had hoped. Another time I would spend more time discussing and defining the project with the students, after they had a chance to get a feel for what we do. These are learning points for the future.
What did you think of the film/ work produced?
How did the project impact on individuals/ group/ organisation?
The film was good, and as I had expected. I think our community learners wanted something longer but we had always been clear that it would be no longer than three minutes and that’s entirely what I expected and got. It’s an ideal length for promoting our work. The film has been, and will continue to be, useful to Vera Media.
It expanded some of our adult learners’ horizons, especially those with learning difficulties and the women who are learning English. They enjoyed seeing themselves on film and in photographs, having been nervous at first. It was also invaluable for them to visit The Tetley, as some of them hardly ever leave their own neighbourhoods. This increases their confidence.
How will you use the film? How will it benefit you and your organisation? It will be attached to our redeveloped website. It has been sent to Leeds City Council (the funder), who are impressed. We have used it to promote our work. The learners liked it; it made them feel valued. It is most beneficial.
Overall, has the project made any difference to the group and/ or your organisation? Yes, it has. The adult learners who participated have become more confident and those who didn’t dare participate now regret that, which is good learning in itself. Giving
learners new experiences is always worthwhile. Leeds City Council Community Learning managers are impressed with the project and the opportunities it gave learners and this is favourable to Vera Media’s reputation. Did you enjoy the event at The Tetley? Yes, but it was very hard work! I love the little Vera Media cake sign which now sits on top of my computer. Good to see so many people who wouldn’t usually be at The Tetley enjoying themselves there. Would you like students to work with you again? Yes. Having learnt a lot from this experience, I would organise things differently and hold another project meeting when the students have had a chance to meet our adult learners. The film group was fine as it was
always clear what they would do (and also it’s my area of expertise). I am not an artist and nor are my tutors – we are media/English/music specialists, and so needed to explore ideas together more thoroughly once the students had met our community learners. How would you like the project/ relationship to continue? More projects. Given what I’ve learned from this one, another would be even more successful, I am sure. Is there anything you think we could improve? Perhaps stagger arrivals at The Tetley to avoid big crowds, but I realise this might be difficult. Have you any other comments? Thank you very much for this opportunity. I look forward to the next.
Photograph: David Collins
Pat McGreever, Chief Executive, Health for All We hosted four groups of students, each working with one of our member organisations: Menspace; Kushi Dil; Sangam network of older people from south Asian communities and The Bridge, Polish Women’s Group. In all cases the students just got stuck in and were also very respectful. They listened and they were very professional in the best sense of the word. They turned up when they were due to turn up, there were never any complaints to me about not following things through, so I couldn’t fault them. I just got the sense it was a positive experience. Really valued. I think they produced some beautiful and useful pieces of work which we will use into the future. We showed the films and the Sangam booklet at our AGM shortly after the project finished. Even the one-off session with the Polish group went well, where they made a beautiful piece of work in one day, it was just astonishing. So I think the whole experience has been very positive.
When I saw some of the films from the other community projects, I saw clearly the difference between the polished, prepared, promotional films and the films where the students were ‘let loose’ with a group to let their creative juices flow. I’m sure there is a place for both. Personally I think what is most interesting, is to make something which captures people’s lives. I think there are hidden seams of our communities that don’t have a voice and I’d be interested in using the medium of video to capture those voices, making peoples voices heard. The Tetley Feast has probably made us realise how powerful that medium is or can be. The potential is amazing. And although I haven’t done anything about it yet and I haven’t got any definite ideas, it could be interesting to do a video project which crosses the line between the very clear organised film, and the “let it happen” approach.
For the Menspace and the Sangam groups, actually seeing themselves on film, and speaking about their experiences was a positive experience. With Menspace in particular, it’s that idea they can use the film to almost connect with people who might feel a bit isolated and to see that there’s a group that they can join, and being able to connect with new members. As for the final event, there were just some brilliant aspects to it, particularly people meeting each other who wouldn’t have met each other before. Personally I met some Chinese women who had worked with Vera Media and I wouldn’t have met them otherwise. I thought the whole project was like a journey. I just love where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do.
Kathryn Welford, Head of Participation, The Tetley When The Tetley was first approached about The Tetley Feast project I was in post as Head of Participation and embarked on the project through a conversation with Marianne and other lecturing staff at Leeds College of Art. I was really enthusiastic about the project and saw it as an ideal opportunity to engage with communities in South Leeds (who were relatively unknown to us) through a structured and supported partnership. It seemed strategic to begin a partnership project with our HE partners in the city and to develop student links. I also knew of Marianne and Sharon’s expertise in community arts and participation and felt The Tetley would benefit enormously by working with them on a community development project. To me this was an opportunity for The Tetley to make those links with communities through a partnership, which had plenty of expertise and capacity to deliver. We would never have been able to do a project on this scale ourselves as we neither had the expertise nor capacity.
My vision for the project was to try to engage with a breadth of communities in South Leeds and to develop a sense of ownership for The Tetley amongst those communities. I felt our USP as an organisation was the heritage of the building and our experimental, project space ethos in terms of creative activity. I also wanted to develop The Tetley as an open space where communities could host their own activities, meetings, events etc. creating a community hub, which could be responsive to community needs. These aims were held by me as Head of Participation but weren’t explicitly discussed, and therefore committed to, across The Tetley. This lack of strategic engagement from The Tetley limited the scope and sustainability of the project. In terms of the final outcome of The Tetley Feast, it was exactly what I had hoped for and it lived up to my expectations. The displays and films were of high quality, as was the
welcoming and participatory nature of the events. I really liked how The Tetley Feast changed and animated areas of The Tetley, i.e. the café in the foyer. It was great to see people visiting The Tetley from the different groups and using the space. It was also great having students use the building and be based at The Tetley for the teaching sessions in the development stages of the project. The Tetley Feast highlighted a host of people and organisations we could potentially work with, it also highlighted our limited capacity to commit staff time to such an initiative. Ideally, a member of staff would have been more involved much earlier on in the project – visiting organisations and communities with the students, leading workshops, inviting groups back to The Tetley for sessions before The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event and generally building those relationships and being part of a consultative, creative process
alongside the Leeds College of Art students and staff. In practice the building had only been open about 10 months when the feast happened which meant we were still building up the staff team and finding our feet in terms of a shared strategic plan for community engagement. I would suggest that The Tetley might in the future try working with a smaller number of groups but in an intensive and longer term way. I also felt we needed to generate a core offer in The Tetley which such communities could begin to access, i.e. drop-in sessions at the weekend, regular community creative lunches, etc.
really powerful and beneficial way of working for The Tetley, Leeds College of Art and all the community partners.
The Tetley Feast made clear the potential for The Tetley to engage with, and meet the needs of, its local communities. It was also a fantastic and creative way of brokering â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;introductionsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, starting conversations and helping The Tetley build a community offer from the ground up. Partnerships of this kind could be a
Critical Reflections on The Tetley Feast
Photograph: Kate Green
The Importance and Benefits of Co-Developing Arts Curriculum whilst Connecting with Communities
Marianne Springham & Sharon Hooper Project Manager & Assistant Project Manager Artistic practice can no longer revolve around the construction of objects to be consumed by a passive bystander. Instead, there must be an art of action, interfacing with reality, taking steps â&#x20AC;&#x201C; however small â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to repair the social bond. (Bishop, C. 2012, p.11) Many universities balance formal teaching with learning outside the classroom. However, there are few Higher Education undergraduate creative programmes developing sustainable socially-engaged projects in the UK. It requires a significant amount of additional administration and planning to develop projects which are seen as additional to the main acquisition of formal skills and subject knowledge. Known widely as service learning, it is a valuable practice, especially for design students. The opportunity to work with diverse groups encourages a more naturally developed process, emerging from real world responses to their ideas and working methods. BA (Hons) Visual Communication at Leeds College of Art is a multi-disciplined design course which requires students to be broad in their approach and understanding of design principles. We believe this can be realised through dialogical, socially-engaged practices that explore methods of participation and collaboration by placing student experiences outside the recognised learning centre within a real world context. Encouraging transferable knowledge through a direct experience of
working and connecting with audiences encourages enriched learning to take place within a new context. It also develops creative thinking as a responsive practice. The value of socially engaged scholarly activity to a visual design course can be hugely beneficial to both students and communities as long as it is developed in consultation with both. The Tetley Feast was a project that was co-developed with local organisations to ensure it was appropriate, needed, and most importantly wanted. It was not manufactured solely for the student experience but in direct response to ideas and suggestions made by local organisations. Grant Kester, an academic whose writing underpins and validates dialogic and community art practice, suggests: Projects created in collaboration with politically coherent communities tend to be characterized by a more reciprocal process of dialogue and mutual education, with the artist learning from the community and having his or her preconceptions (about a specific community or a specific social, cultural and political issue) challenged and transformed in turn. (Kester, G. 2004, p.151) We recognised the specialised knowledge and experience of people working for and being supported by these organisations, often overseen and hidden within
a broader social context. These diverse experiences and this knowledge became important and something that, as academics, we could not necessarily offer our students. The value of experience in education has been well exponated by Dewey (1938). He argues experience is the continuous interaction between people and place, and that communication is the key to individual and community success, hence our desire to enable a socially interactive experience from which students and others could benefit. The project started as a service-design inspired project that placed seventy students with ten local organisations, each of whom had stated an interest in working with us to develop a participatory relationship. It was agreed that the groups would work together with the students and co-develop ideas to visually represent the community organisations to a wider audience through the development of documentary film and photography, creative photography, drawing, making and other workshops. One of the main aims of the project was to promote positive engagement that would lead to sustainable longterm relationships. It was important these were dialogic and that people created learning opportunities together. Influenced by Lave and Wenger’s theories of communities of practice, we sought to enable learning environments amongst the community groups and students that were dynamic, interactive and inclusive. Lave observed that participatory social practices often result in learning, even if it is not intentional. ‘Rather than asking what kind of cognitive processes and conceptual structures are involved, they [Lave and Wenger] ask what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place’ (Hanks, 1991, p.14 in Smith, 1999). Lave and Wenger believe learning is a tacit occurrence in the right environment, and this was achieved in our project through students and community groups listening, observing, negotiating and interacting with each other.
The Tetley Feast project itself created a sense of identity through its aim to work together, a domain through shared belonging, and a community in itself through interactions together. It is from this that the student practice, in various different forms, developed. Students’ ideas and visual work aimed to improve the visual representation and visibility of the local groups and had to focus on the needs of others. Whilst not everyone involved was aware of the broader project until the end event, everyone was involved at the level of personal engagement in small groups. Within these each individual’s experience was valued and had an impact on the outcomes. Many of the projects involved filmmaking and this practice perhaps exemplifies the nature and difficulties around ideas of participation and community engagement. Participatory film and collaborative and community media are all terms that are often undefined and used interchangeably (Milne et al, 2012, p.4). Traditional notions of participatory filmmaking (digital filmmaking in our case), whereby camera and sound equipment are given to groups of people as the tools by which they can represent themselves, normally in a socio-political context, were never the intention of our project. Our socially-engaged approach, however, did necessitate the social and communication skills noted earlier and holds similar aims to those of participatory video: to bring people together and to represent a common purpose. Whilst the genuine ability to communicate a message through a third party with a potentially different cultural lens is debatable, the genuine attempt at understanding difference in the project is of pedagogical worth. Students grappled with issues of gaze, frame, authenticity and transformative potential. Perhaps the empowerment came through the collaborative process of making films (and other media) and through the engagement between local groups, participants and students. The process of making was as much a product as the finished artefacts. Fun and the sheer pleasure of an experience is hard to convey, but as Milne et al. recognise, it is often one of the intangible benefits of participation or collaboration. They refer to Pithouse and Mitchell’s work which calls for the
need to visually document participatory processes, what they term ‘looking at looking’ (2012, p.5). Whether our project is pure participation or not, perhaps the photos will definitely attest to the level of fun experienced by everyone. Learning is all pervasive and need not be confined to the ivory towers of academia. Nor do the skills learnt need to remain in the community sector alone. Communication, organisational and people skills are necessary across all professions, especially in a global creative environment. Project partners and relationships The project was originally proposed in conjunction with The Tetley contemporary art gallery with the intention of building connections between it, the people of South Leeds and Leeds College of Art. We worked with The Tetley’s head of participation, Katherine Welford, throughout the developmental stages of the project to decide how this could be supported. Initially we thought the venue was the perfect setting to connect with South Leeds, especially as a space where groups could be located during the project. However, it became a difficult three-way relationship between Leeds College of Art, the local groups and The Tetley, with numerous voices that confused students. The Tetley were particularly concerned with contemporary art practice within communities which was not integrated early enough and became dislodged within the project. The Tetley’s commitment to the project reduced towards the end, largely due to a change in their staffing and the renovation of their new building. In hindsight, the project was possibly too large for them to commit to just after relocating to a new venue. The project instead became more centered on the partnerships between Leeds College of Art students and the community organisations, which became stronger and more defined as the project progressed. The Tetley supported the end event, but plans to support future relationships between them and the local groups did not take place. However, it further allowed students to reflect on the significance of their
relationships with the local groups and cemented their allegiance. Using the building for the event gave it a sense of kudos and brought the building to life. The sheer numbers of people gave a sense of temporary ownership of the space, which felt empowering to everyone involved. Methodologies We sought to encourage students to value process over outcome, focusing on the development of professional, collaborative and social communication skills. Students were also encouraged to develop participatory approaches to foster ideas inclusively by working alongside, with and/ or in consultation with groups. Positive relationships are key to a successful design process, as described by Nelson and Stolterman. They argue “Design is, by definition, a service relationship.” (Nelson, Stolterman, 2012 p.41). It was important to build a framework that enabled students to have the freedom to build a genuine rapport. ‘Genuineness’, ‘trust’ and ‘understanding’ are identified as key attributes by Carl Rogers in any learning relationship (Rogers, 1967 pp.304-311 in Smith, 2004). Hence most of the Leeds College of Art staff effort went into the role of facilitation, organising the infrastructure of the project and seeding academic ideas and ethics at the onset. Students collaborated together and were placed in small peer groups when working with community organisations. Key lectures introduced students to the concept and process of social design drawing on designers such as Papanek, and showed examples of contemporary, national and international projects. Ethics, as guided by Involve (an organisation specialising in community engagement), assisted the safeguarding of students and participants and underlined students’ social and moral responsibilities. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (1978) proposes a learner can make more progress to do that which they cannot do alone by working with someone or a group of people who can, especially if supported by an enabling structure, such as group work within a social setting. Throughout The Tetley Feast, student learning Critical Reflections
was mediated, social and situated, in that they needed to communicate (both verbally and visually) within a social network in a specific professional context. Drawing on VisCom staff experience of socially-engaged practice over the past twenty years, students were provided with a supportive structure of peers and mentors. This framework avoided the process being overly prescriptive and allowed a plurality of voices within the project as the students could take more ownership of the process, it also enabled students to work collaboratively in unfamiliar circumstances. Process The brief for this academic module required student groups to produce work in response to the needs of a specific local group. Prior to the commencement of the project, tutors met with managers of the organisations to establish trust and expectations. To commence with authenticity, it was important to be located in the same geographical area as the groups. Gui Bonsiepe (Fathers, 2003, p.5) argues we must recognise the significance of a ‘local context’ when considering design needs. Outsiders, however benevolent their intentions, cannot resolve problems without first embedding themselves within South Leeds. Hence the main bulk of teaching, which occurred in the first week, took place within the Tetley building, and enabled students to familiarise themselves with South Leeds. Additionally, early meetings between students and groups enabled relationships and initial ideas to form. Following this, students started to visit and engage with them in their own space. Students decided upon their own timetable and needed only to attend a weekly tutorial with their tutor at Leeds College of Art and see an occasional mentor on location. Technology played many important roles within the project. The use of a social network platform, which permitted both online public-facing and private spaces within it, allowed students to share ideas, materials and to critique processes privately on a group blog. It acted as a repository for documentation of the project, allowing students to upload photos, films, documents and work56
in-progress. It supported communication between groups working in different locations and allowed mentors and tutors to monitor progress. Community participants and the wider public could also engage with parts of The Tetley Feast social platform. In addition, Twitter gave us a public presence and we gained many followers, especially leading up to the end celebratory event, helping to situate the project within a broader social and cultural context and adding to its ‘realness’. Technology also featured in other ways, with students using cameras, video cameras and mobile technology to enable participation and interactivity amongst participants. For some groups, such as the Hunslet Club youth group, it was simply a case of the young participants watching themselves back on camera. Other groups didn’t have access to technology and this was also a critical factor. For example, students working with the Polish women’s group taught accessible photography workshops using participants’ own mobile phones. The project finished with a one-day celebratory event at The Tetley. This was designed, curated and hosted by the students and included the screening of films, an exhibition of photography, graphic design, craft, installations, interactive workshops and a celebratory cake. Over two hundred participants from the participating groups and seventy students attended the event. One of the organisations, Hamara, provided food. Although the end event was not the main driver of the project, it was an important aspect and a great celebration of community, art and engagement. Evaluation Qualitative and quantitative surveys from students and participants revealed well established and respected relationships between the two. The depth of response depended upon the frequency with which the students were able to meet the group. For example, students working at Hamara attended Monday to Friday and were able to fully immerse themselves in the organisation, whilst other students who worked with groups that met once a
week, had a more limited experience. Students had a far more positive experience of working with participants than collaborating with peers. Community groups were transformed into communities of practice for the duration of the project and these became a context for learning for all, with students bringing new ideas and ‘a breath of fresh air’ (McGeever, P. Feedback Interview, 16th May 2014). However, some students found working within a community of practice difficult; the shift to working with a lack of individuality was problematic. Some student groups split and they worked independently of each other focusing on their own practice, basing the project around their own creative identity instead of working for the good of the group and community. This could possibly be a result of being placed within a student peer group by tutors, rather than choosing whom they would work with for themselves. Grant Kester argues “dialogical encounters seldom involve a complete loss of identity. Rather identity is only partially transformed.” (Kester, G. 2004, pg.157). Whilst loss of subjectivity was a difficult experience for some students, there was transformative potential for them to encounter other ways of working and thinking. Our online social platform worked well for students, tutors and mentors, and helped with the formal academic assessment of students. However, the site itself failed to establish a dialogic relationship with both community groups and the wider public. Many students questioned its use and were reluctant to use it at first, preferring more familiar platforms such as Facebook instead, whilst some students said it was invaluable in enabling them to work collaboratively. Comments post-project reveal many of the organisations had neither time, nor access, nor skills to engage with the platform and would have liked prior training. However, the site does still function as a project archive and resource. The majority of students stated the project was a valuable experience, most citing working with others or bringing different groups together as the main reason, as well as achieving the aim to make groups visible to
a wider audience. Following the event, the student films were screened to the groups within their own settings. Participants enjoyed seeing themselves in the final productions. As one group manager identified, it added to their sense of self-worth (Iqbal, A. Feedback Interview, 9th May 2014). The photographic skills taught to some groups are still being used and enjoyed and most of the ‘product’, be it information design or documentary film, is being used by the organisations. Students valued the development of their ability to interact with diverse audiences. As a year two Erasmus student reflected: It did not just develop ourselves [sic] in a creative photographic project, it also permitted us to interact with people who we probably would not have met in daily life, which deeply enriched our personal experience. I assume that our approach on people [sic] evolved different [sic] as we went along the project [sic] depending on what kind of people we were dealing with, and this is probably the best way to become more open-minded. (Chaplain, J. Student Evaluation, 19th March 2014) The space given to students to engage with organisations and think for themselves allowed a process of praxis, which can be defined as ‘acts which shape and change the world’ (Lindeman, 1944, cited in Smith 2011, p.103). Conclusion The framework and freedom of the project worked well for students. Evaluations and feedback indicated they valued the process of the project and could see its worth, especially in terms of social interaction and learning through experience. On the whole student conduct was excellent. They rose to the challenge of engagement and, as one manager identified, this was due to being given ‘carte blanche’ to interpret the project on their own terms (Iqbal, A., Feedback Interview, 9th May 2014). Derrick refers to Schon’s ‘swamp’, the ‘messiness’ of life, as the site of real learning (Schon in Derrick, 2010, p.150). He argues, ‘Creativity is part of a toolbox for liberal arts skills. […] Critical Reflections
Skills to cope with the unexpected are worth cultivating […]’ (Derrick, p.148). The unfamiliar setting outside of the studio has given students confidence as well as social and professional skills. Although the impact on the groups was positive, managers identified the project had a greater impact on students. One manager acknowledged the worth in ‘educating the younger generation to be socially responsible and understanding that the positive effects of working with people can be a valid form of success,’ (Jones, F. Feedback interview, 15th May 2014). The local organisations seem happy with this outcome and value investing in young people as a means of social change for the future. Managers also broached the subject of funding and goodwill. For some, the time spent attending the event was unpaid and we are aware the project would not have been possible without a great deal of goodwill and personal commitment from individuals within the local organisations and Leeds College of Art staff themselves. Projects of this nature are very time-consuming and also require additional funding, in this case student transport and material costs were paid for by a local Community First Grant. Without this, the project would not have been possible and this highlights the difficulties of running and sustaining projects of this nature in the future. Now that a successful model of practice has been established, we are currently running (February 2015) a similar project, but with more time and space for students to ‘play’ with process and integrate participation more effectively. We are working in partnership with Health for All, a large community organisation that has clearly defined aims and a centre for the final event. Students are working with groups whose structure is more amenable to an immersive student experience. Having reflected on the project, we are also able to make clearer links between theories around community-arts engagement and practice, and students are benefiting from seeing their dialogic development within the curriculum and the positive impact this has on their own creative progress.
Whilst we agree with Harland and Pickering who argue, ‘the grand claim of a liberal education is that it frees educated people to help society and perhaps make the world a better place to live in’ (2011, p.85), we would also contend that we have a lot to learn from community organisations and their participants, who are themselves very capable and experienced in shaping a better world for all. Acknowledgements We would like to thank all students, community organisations and participants who worked with us on The Tetley Feast.
References Sharon Hooper is a filmmaker and senior lecturer at Leeds College of Art. She has worked on documentary films for broadcast, community, third and voluntary sectors. Key themes for Sharon’s work are feminist issues, representation, social justice and equality. She has worked widely across Leeds and West Yorkshire making films with and for communities for over 15 years. Sharon is Level Four Leader on the BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme at Leeds College of Art. Her current research interests are: the notion of participatory documentary filmmaking with digital technology; feminist strategies for documentary filmmaking. Marianne Springham is a Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme at Leeds College of Art. Previous to this she ran the community department at the college and taught in adult education for 18 years. Her work has included running participatory projects and informal learning across Leeds, developing innovative methods of engaging with people facing barriers to education. Marianne managed the ACLF funded project Messages Across Leeds in 2011 and has since developed further links and ways of developing student involvement through socially responsible education.
Armitage, A., Bryant, R., Dunhill, R., Hayes, D., Hudson, A., Kent, J., Lawes, S. and Renwick, S. (2003). Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education, Second Edition, Maidenhead, Open University Press. Bishop, C. (2012) Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London, Verso. Caruna, V., Spurling, N. (2007) The Internationalisation of UK Higher Education: a review of selected material (online), UK Higher Education Academy. Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/the_ internationalisation_of_uk_he (Accessed 19 June 2014) Chaplain, J. Student Evaluation, 19 March 2014, (written questionnaire in possession of authors). Leeds, England. Derrick, J. (2010) ‘The Messiness of Real Teaching and Learning’ in Remaking Adult Learning. Derrick, J., Howard, U., Field, J., Lavender, P., Meyer, S., Nuissl von Rein,E. and Schuller, T. (eds.) London, Open University and IOL. pp. 148–152. Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education, New York, Kappa Delta Pi. Fathers, J. (2003) Peripheral Vision: An Interview with Gui Bonsiepe charting a lifetime of commitment to design empowerment in Design Issues: Volume 19, No. 4, Autumn 2003 pp. 44-56. Garthwaite, A. Feedback questionnaire (by email) 17 March 2014 (digital questionnaire in possession of authors). Leeds, England Harland, P. & Pickering, N. (2011) Values in Higher Education Teaching, Abingdon, Routledge.
Nelson, H. and Stolterman, E. (2012) The Design Way, second edition: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World, Cambridge, The MIT Press. Iqbal, A. Feedback Interview, 9 May 2014 (written document in possession of authors). Leeds, England. Jones, F. Feedback interview, 15 May 2014 (digital recording in possession of authors). Leeds, England.
Smith, M. K. (2004) ‘Carl Rogers and informal education’, in The Encyclopedia of Informal Education (online). Availlable at: www.infed.org/thinkers/et-rogers.htm (Accessed 16 June 2014) Smith, M. K. (1999 & 2011). ‘What is praxis?’ in The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education (online). Availlable at: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-praxis.htm (Accessed 16 June 2014)
Ketser, G. (2004) Conversation Pieces, Community & Communication in Modern Art, London, University of California Press.
Smith, M. K. (2009) ‘Communities of practice’, The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education (online). Available at: www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_ practice.htm (Accessed 17 January 2012)
Leeds College of Art (LCA), (Sa). BA (Hons.) Visual Communication (online) Leeds College of Art, UK. Available at: http://www.leeds-art.ac.uk/study/ undergraduate-programmes/ba-%28hons%29-visualcommunication/ (Accessed 18 June 2014)
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press
McGeever, P. Feedback Interview, 16 May 2014 (digital recording in possession of authors). Leeds, England. Milne, E., Mitchell, C. and De Lange, N. (2012) Handbook of Participatory Video, Plymouth, Altamira Press. Quality Improvement Agency (2012) Inclusive Learning and Teaching (online) Excellence Gateway UK. Available at: http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/page. aspx?o=ferl.aclearn.page.id1591 (Accessed 6 May 2014) Rogers, C. R. (1967) On Becoming a Person. A therapist’s view of psychotherapy, London, Constable. Schon, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, London, Maurice Temple Smith.
Wenger, E. (2006) Communities of Practice: A Brief Introduction (online) Wenger-Trayner. Available at: http:// www.ewenger.com/theory/ (Accessed 16 June 2014)
Social Design, Who Benefits? A conversation about the relevance, challenges and questions posed by The Tetley Feast
Bianca Elzenbaumer in conversation with student partcipants: Chris Filby, Kate Green, Rees Newnes, Rob Scargill, David Taylor, Loren Turton. Bianca: To start with, could you remind me which projects you each worked on. Loren: I worked for the SLATE café and we made them a chalkboard menu for the wall. I’m not in touch with them now but I do see on their Facebook that they still have the menu and I think they are confident adding to it. David: I was at The Hunslet Youth Club. Our group had a two hour session every Wednesday evening and we held creative workshops such as tie-dying fabric, marbling paper and modeling with cake icing. Chris: Our group worked on a video with Kushi Dil (Happy Heart), which was set up for Bangladeshi women in South Leeds. Kate: I was part of the group working with Polish mothers and Asian elders and we ended up creating leaflets and a film which were for publicity. Reece: We worked with a group called HALO. It’s a group for adults with severe learning difficulties and we worked with them five days a week for about six weeks and did numerous activities like photography workshops and sports days. Rob: I was also with HALO and we were told from the start that our film would be used as a sort of tool to raise
money to expand the work HALO do and get more people to know the group within the community. So basically our job was to be flies on the wall and document what they do naturally, basically trying to make a really honest documentary saying this is what they do, this is great work. We basically produced an advertisement saying ‘we are a centre that cares and we are here as a resource’. Bianca: Was there a sense that through the process of documenting and interacting you were also building a bridge between different classes or social groups? Loren: Beeston is a very different area to where I am originally from and also different to the student areas of Leeds. I think the people at SLATE felt there was a divide they couldn’t cross. Although I think they felt when we’d left that at least there was somewhere they could come if they needed someone to help them. They definitely felt more comfortable about being able to approach different places that would be able to help. Reece: When we first went in they were sort of a bit, not so much wary of us, but you know, they weren’t a hundred per cent comfortable but by the last day of filming they were all going up and jumping to the camera and coming and saying hello. So seeing the difference from when we first got there to when we were actually finishing the film was really nice.
Rob: Students typically come from richer families than those who live in Beeston but by the end there was literally no divide. I went on my own to a sports day and everyone was shouting “Oh Rob get involved with this” and really everyone was smiling and happy. We were just basically, by the end of it, a group of friends. Reece: Yeah. Fully and completely pals totally. Bianca: Yes, we are often called in as designers to do the ‘publicity thing’ and then once we are there we realise we have the skills to engage with the participants on very different levels and so I was wondering could you elaborate further on that engagement? Reece: Rob and myself just threw ourselves in at the deep end. I found myself really looking forward to going. Rob: I arranged a five a side match and that’s one of the reasons we were playing football. Reece: We had a sports day where we were playing healthy shoot-outs and we were playing tennis. It was great fun. Really, really good. Bianca: And did you have a sense that this kind of engagement changed the outcome as well? Rob: Yeah definitely, because I think the project could have gone one of two ways. There could have been a few students with cameras and everyone being really awkward but the only way that the film would have worked was if everyone was natural. By having two, three, four students coming in who were part of the group it was as if the camera was already in there and it was just as if everyone was getting on with their own thing and that’s what’s been documented as opposed to this being the one day that students are in, once a week for an hour. Reece: We spent about two weeks there before we properly started filming. We wanted them to get used to us before they got used to the cameras so that if they saw us with the cameras they would feel more at ease.
Rob: It’s like; Reece has got a camera as opposed to that student… Loren: Yeah, that idea of engaging before designing was definitely the case with the menu we did. It was a huge menu across the whole wall. We spent quite a few weeks going in first and meeting all the different staff and seeing what they wanted from the menu rather than just them giving us a written one. We also helped them to write it so that lots of people could understand and I think that really helped us make a better menu for them and design it properly as well as them really getting what they wanted. And they weren’t then afraid to say “we don’t actually like how you have done that, can you change it”. They were really open with us about how we could improve it. Bianca: What do you mean when you say you designed the menu so that everyone could understand? Loren: A lot of people with learning disabilities go into that café and we researched a lot into things like dyslexia, and how to make things easy to read and what signs were needed and I think that really helped them to understand why a wall sized menu would be a good idea. And now they’ve said people that wouldn’t normally read a menu like reading it and are enjoying it, so that’s really good. Chris: Our group weren’t happy with any sort of filming at all. They didn’t want any faces shown, no names. Half of the group were the first generation to England so they didn’t really have much English and it took us a long time to break down barriers and that sort of thing. Obviously when a load of white teenagers turn up into their normally Bangladeshi class it will take a bit of time for them to adapt to us and it was important for us to do it slowly. It’s not just a case of us going in there and trying to get used to how they work. It should also work both ways. They should hopefully try and engage with us a little bit as well. You need to find some way round it for both of you. Bianca: Did you manage to find some kind of method to do that?
Chris: We did some interviews and things like that but we had to just use the voice-over really with lots of pictures of just people working with hands and feet and people moving. We were only there for one and a half hours a week for six weeks. The first two weeks there was no camera and then it was only two or three weeks with two or three hours where we could actually get footage.
Loren: We worked at SLATE and our group got split into two. My half worked with the café and found it really easy as they were really enlightened as to what we could offer but the other half worked with the furniture shop and they just could not understand what we as a course did and they just couldn’t understand what we could bring to them and that didn’t work anything like as easily.
Bianca: And also, like you were saying, building up trust just takes time.
Reece: Sort of got lost in translation.
Chris: Yes, you come back a week later and it might take you about 20 minutes to get back to where you left off the time before. Reece: We were really lucky, we could go in pretty much as often as we wanted. Rob: And we even got the opportunity to use nontraditional filming methods, like in the final footage there is a three second clip of this guy just going across on this bike. Someone with severe autism just laughing his head off. And that’s great. Reece: We even got an opportunity to go to the Mosque with two of them, me and Rob, and that sort of showed us just how much they trusted us. We didn’t ask, they just said “We’re taking two of the members to the Mosque and would you like to come with us?” And we were quite taken aback actually, for them to sort of ask, that’s a really personal thing. It’s not often you get that sort of opportunity. Bianca: To me it seems also important that in setting up such social design projects it’s quite important to negotiate the terms with the association you will work with in order for them to understand that you bring your visual skills but that you also need to inhabit the place. You need to be with the people, you need to have conversations and if it’s just one and a half hours a week it will get very difficult to build up that kind of trusting rapport needed for creating meaningful design outcomes.
Loren: Yeah. There needs to be that communication and trust before any project starts to make it successful. Kate: I think our project got a little bit lost in translation because there was an umbrella organisation that we initially had meetings with and they then communicated with the project managers of the three groups with whom we would work. Those managers then told the group members so when we actually turned up the message had become, ‘Oh it’s some photography students, they’re going to do something with you’. The Polish group had already done a 10 week arts course, which they apparently hadn’t enjoyed, so they had very negative preconceptions, but the Asian elders hadn’t had anybody in from outside before so they were quite curious and interested. Bianca: I think it’s interesting to think about what kind of skills you need as a student and as a practitioner when you set up this kind of social engagement. How you communicate what you do? How do you expand upon the kind of stereotypes people have when you say you are doing design (or illustration or films), to really have the capacity to actually say okay this is about experimentation and we will need time because ideas come when you are exposed to people, spaces, interactions. Because I could imagine that if you meet a group for two hours a week, there is just no time for the kind of serendipity that allows ideas to arise and for you to just try them out. Reece: You have to just take each side’s ideas of what you want to happen, that’s all.
David: At our first session at the Hunslet Youth Club we went in, played a few games of football and then we just sat them all in a classroom and we went in with really high energy and there was a huge white board in front of the whole class and we said “Right, what do you want to do?”. Then to kick start it we started with weird creative ideas like making snowmen out of blu tack or something like that and I think we ended up with tie-dyeing classes and origami, things like that. It was weird because I have never even done tie-dyeing before and there I was, having to teach a whole class to do it, so it was quite interesting. That’s how we went about it. We asked them what they wanted to do. Bianca: So do you have a sense that having been involved in this project opened new ideas of what your practice could be and of how you could interact with different social contexts? Loren: My practice completely changed. I do socially engaged arts now and before I wasn’t interested. I did not want to do it, I was like no. But it really did change what I wanted to do and now I do loads of community arts work so I work with disabled people and older people and for my dissertation I curated an exhibition for a group of older people who attend a community-based art class. I think that’s really important and I think The Tetley Feast has really showed me how much of a difference art can make to a community that doesn’t normally have it. Kate: I had always thought that going into the community and maybe offering workshops or having a practice like that would form part of my work but after this project I thought it wouldn’t at all. Previously I had quite positive experiences but it’s really changed my mind. I think it takes a very skilled and particular person to offer workshops to a hard to reach or difficult group and this project made me realise I’m not that person. I can’t turn people round from disengaged to engaged. What I can do is take slightly engaged people a bit further. David: I was the complete opposite because first of all I wasn’t really that interested in working with community groups and when I first heard about this project my eyes
were rolling and I thought it’s my worst nightmare basically. Anyway, we went in and I was the complete opposite. I loved it. I really didn’t want it to end and I found it quite interesting and opening. Bianca: Could you pick some more examples of how it changed your practice or maybe you know of people in the group who now are sure that they don’t want to develop such a kind of practice? Rob: For me particularly it made me think about what socially engaged art is. I was of the opinion last year that I didn’t actually want to do socially engaged work whereas this project made me think my art could make a positive impact on the world, it could solve some societal problems but it doesn’t have to be as direct as that, if you know what I mean. I am specialising in graphic design, so I could simply design something that’s easier to read. That could be a sign in a hospital or something like that and somebody could see it and it could be clearer to them than the previous sign would have been and they could go to their destination quicker and that would solve a problem, a small problem, but an important problem. It made me think, when I’m doing work in the future, basically I’ve got to rely on my own opinion about whether or not the work I am doing is right and it’s this project that made me realise that conclusion. David: I think for me personally, before the Hunslet Youth Group, I was more concentrating on working just by myself, you know lone wolf style, but it has opened my eyes to networking and to getting to know new people. They toss that phrase about, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and it kind of showed the importance of that. You can get to know loads of people who are really helpful and really interesting people. Bianca: One of the big questions that often comes up for me in relation to socially engaged design is that as designers we don’t get enough training in facilitation and mediation skills. Kate: Definitely. We didn’t have a lot of that. Reece: You tend to make it up as you go along.
Loren: Yeah that was definitely a negative of the project, that there weren’t any workshops in how to approach different people or how to plan your groups. Kate: I’ve always learned through watching other people as well and you can’t really watch your tutor working with students and use that to get an impression of how to work with a non-English speaking group of people who don’t even want to be there. So if we could have at least shadowed or seen someone in action first it would have really helped. Bianca: I also found it really interesting that some of the feedback from the organisation leaders was that they were really happy that you were there and learning. So they very much saw the learning process taking place the other way round: that the educational project was coming from their side and that you were exposed to life stories and situations that you wouldn’t usually be exposed to. Chris: They were teaching us as much as we were teaching them really. Loren: Yeah, I think that’s really important in my work in socially engaged arts because the artist should be getting something from it as well. I learnt a lot about that particular community in Beeston. I’d never ever been there before. I’m from a really, really different area to Beeston and now I really know a lot more about it. I wasn’t taught anything directly about Beeston but I definitely learnt a lot. Bianca: With these kinds of projects there’s also a sense that you go into them and you come out transformed. This certainly is something that I experience a lot: I go into a context and when I come out of it my world view is changed. This kind of work opens me up and I start to question so many of my own assumptions of what I think life is like and what my work will be doing in the world. You are listening to people, you are making things with them, you are collaborating and you co-produce outcomes. The skill we have as designers and artists to go from talking and imagining to making something tangible is really empowering.
Loren: I think, yeah, that’s really important and I think when the community sees how empowering you find that, I think that really encourages them. So I think that’s really important. Chris: It doesn’t take long either does it? You might turn up with some reservations or not really trusting yourself to be able to do a good job but then you learn a lot about yourself, don’t you? And how quickly and how much you can just wade in there and get on with it. Some people might be able to turn up and just go ‘right here we are’. Somebody else might sit out for a couple of hours before they figure it out in their own head. It’s the ability to communicate, isn’t it really? It’s not the actual doing, it’s not the skill, and it’s not the end result that’s the important bit. It’s being able to go into a group of people you didn’t know before, who are completely different to you and to be able to engage with them. How quickly can you do that? I suppose it’s what this project was about. How quickly can you get people on your side and working together and then all push towards one outcome. David: You know it was pretty much instant with me because we were all waiting in a classroom and they brought all the kids in and then the leader of the youth group just said, “Right, who is leading this class then?” and everyone in my group stared at me and I was like ‘Oh right okay’. I stood up at the front and my brain just clicked into gear and I was just like really high energy, “Hiya everyone!” You know, I had to be high energy to get everyone interested because if you just talk to people of that age like I do normally they are probably going to doze off so you really have to put a lot of effort into it. It just kind of clicked because I cast my mind back to the days when I was in their place and I was thinking what would I feel like if some dude from an art college came to me and just told me what to do, and I’d be sleeping, you know. Bianca: This situation is bringing up an interesting aspect, because there you could connect to something from your past experience, whereas in your group Chris, you
couldn’t really. You are not a first generation immigrant; you don’t have problems with English. It’s more difficult to connect to that. Loren: I think that’s one of the hardest things with socially engaged arts. You need to be able to be really empathetic. Bianca: This also brings up what we could call ‘the charity trap’: how to co-produce without being patronising? How can you set up an engagement process that also allows you to question yourself, your own position? It’s important to also question ourselves and not be afraid of deconstructing who we are and what we think of the people we co-produce with so that we can construct different imaginaries together. Loren: I think it does make you realise who you are and how your life experience has affected you and how you could use that. It is really hard to get that balance right. Chris: I think you’ve got to know why you are doing the projects, haven’t you? Are you doing the project because you want to work with people, want them to learn a new skill or to have some fun? That’s one approach. But if you are doing a project because you want to make a nice slick film or a nice piece of work then you are probably going to be disappointed. It’s not so much the final piece that’s the important thing with this kind of work, it’s the process. If everyone’s had a bit of fun along the way and talked to somebody they might not otherwise have spoken to, that’s where your work is. It doesn’t really matter if you get the final piece. It might not even be seen by anyone. It might be like, ‘Okay we’ve all finished now, right, see you later’ and your work just goes in the drawer never to be seen again. It probably doesn’t make that much difference; it’s the six weeks before that’s the important bit. Bianca: Now that we have talked for about an hour, is there anything else that you think is important and that you would want to share? Loren: Just that it was a good experiment into how socially engaged art can work with an undergraduate programme like ours. I think everyone learnt something from it. Whoever you speak to, whether or not they carried on in 66
socially engaged practice, they all learnt something from the project which I think was good. Chris: I think it was definitely a success. As students you learn and get the opportunity to learn but I think, like you say, rather than learning the skill of painting or drawing, it’s just as important to know how to deal with clients. To know that you can engage with anybody no matter what they look like or where they are from, that is pretty much a skill that will set you up in life to achieve anything really.
Bianca Elzenbaumer works as a Junior Research Fellow at Leeds College of Art. Since 2005, as part of the design collective Brave New Alps, she has been producing design projects that engage people in discussing and rethinking the politics of social and environmental issues. In their work, Brave New Alps combine design research methods with radical pedagogy, conflict mediation techniques and DIY making to generate processes and outputs that combine pedagogical spaces, publications, websites, photographs, videos, guided walks, urban interventions and other public events. A core question of their practice is how to expand the relevance of design for causes of progressive social change. Asking this question while doing design implies working across difference with a variety of constituencies, always in accordance with the context in which a project is developed. By working across difference, the conventional roles of the designer, the client and the user are substantially transformed and shifted through the generation of collectives of co-producers where everyone contributes as an expert. While experimenting with the relevance of contemporary design practice, for Brave New Alps it is important to keep asking “cui bono?” – who wins and who loses out through such design practice, who is included and who excluded, but also what spaces of possibility are created and what new ways of relating to each other become possible?
A Feast Pointing at Itself: looking at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event to identify some similarities, differences and productive synergies between social design and socially-engaged art David Collins Introduction In this paper I will examine The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event as both a stand-alone event and as the culmination of the far larger project, The Tetley Feast. I will consider the relationship between the two methodological drivers which informed the work: social design and sociallyengaged art practice. In particular I will look at ways in which recent ideas from the field of social art practice are creating opportunities for socially-engaged artists to work in areas including design, activism and social provision, whilst still maintaining a clear identity as artists. I will be using a combination of theoretical tools including notions of dialogic art, community art and social practice. The Tetley Feast as a combination of Social Design and Socially-Engaged Art From the outset there were two elements to the project which became The Tetley Feast: firstly a series of collaborative design projects in which small groups of students worked with members of community based organisations in South Leeds; secondly a final public event showcasing the work produced to which all the participants would be invited. The former drew upon the extensive professional experience of project leaders Sharon Hooper and Marianne Springham, and a methodology of social design which underpins several modules within the
BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme at Leeds College of Art. The latter was a VisCom staff team effort, heavily influenced by ideas and methods drawn from the field of socially-engaged art practice. The community based collaborative projects were driven by the social design principles of taking a “human centered, experiential, creative, and optimistic approach to understanding and addressing the challenges facing society” (MICA). Students were encouraged to enter into an extended dialogue with their client group and, where possible, use methods of co-design and co-production to address the design problems they encountered. The concluding event of The Tetley Feast was conceived as both a showcase for the work created and also as a socially-engaged artwork, combining both dialogic and visual aesthetics. At its core was an open question about how the potential for further relationships between The Tetley contemporary art gallery and its neighbouring communities in South Leeds might be developed in the future. This idea was embraced by Kathryn Welford, then Head of Participation at The Tetley, who said she “was really enthusiastic about the project and saw it as an ideal opportunity to engage with communities in South Leeds (who were relatively unknown to us)” (2015).
Interrelations between Social Design and SociallyEngaged Art Both methodologies have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s as reactions against the profit driven agendas of corporations and the commercial art market. In 1964 Ken Garland published his First Things First Manifesto, challenging the graphic design profession to utilise their skills for social good rather than corporate profit. In the art world Joseph Beuys developed his idea for social sculpture, where the sculptor aims to create new structures in society, asserting that “only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline” (Tisdall, 1973). A decade later Victor Papanek’s seminal book Design for the Real World challenged the product design profession to use their “social and moral judgement” to select the briefs they worked on (1974, p.58). In addition it presented a host of radical design ideas, many already tested or in production, which demonstrated design’s potential to transform individual lives and address societal issues. A similar desire to have a direct effect on the world, rather than merely offer reflections upon it, was a key motivator for the UK community arts movement, which “advocated participation and co-authorship of works of art; it aimed to give shape to the creativity of all sectors of society, but especially to people living in areas of social, cultural and political change” (Bishop, 2012, p.177). In her brief history of the movement, Sally Morgan writes that although it contained many factions “all community artists shared a dislike of cultural hierarchies, believed in coauthorship of work, and believed in the creative potential of all sections of society. Some went further and believed that community arts provided a powerful medium for social and political change” (1995, p.18). Since the 1970s artists motivated to respond directly to what they perceive as social need have developed the ideas of community arts under a host of labels including: “new genre public art,” “socially-engaged practice,” and “participatory art”. In his 2012 book Living As Form, curator and critic Nato Thompson writes of:
“artists choosing to engage with timely issues by expanding their practice beyond the safe confines of the studio and right into the complexity of the public sphere. The work has many names: “relational aesthetics,” “social justice art,” “social practice,” and “community art,” among others. These artists engage in a process which includes careful listening, thoughtful conversations, and community organising” (2012, p.7-8). As a practitioner who began their working life as a community artist in the early 1980s, edited Community Arts Newsletter (CAN) from 1994-1997, and was consistently commissioned as a “collaborative public artist” from 1994-2005, I am no great fan of new labels. I do however welcome the new analysis which accompanies them. In the case of The Tetley Feast the ideas of Bishop, Kester and Thompson were of significant value in the planning and briefing stages. As were critic Maria Lind’s pithy and concise definitions of social practice art: “using art as a means for creating and recreating new relations between people.” (in Bishop, 2004, p.21) “art that involves more people than objects, whose horizon is social and political change…” (2012, p.49) The term social practice is often now used without attaching the word ‘art’. This offers a provocation to consider where the line between art and other forms of practice lies, to which I will return shortly. It also focuses attention on the way this work relies on ‘social’ interaction in an attempt to achieve societal benefits. The importance of working in partnership with communities to develop creative responses to their concerns and needs was a guiding principle for many community artists and has also become an important part of social design practice where the definition of designer now goes “beyond trained designers to include end users and social participants” (Drenttel, 2012, p.6). The term co-production is commonly used in both fields and is a
key point of linkage. Practitioners in both fields show a willingness to be guided by those they work with rather than imposing their own values. They must demonstrate empathy and a capacity for active listening (Kester, 2004, Leeson 2015). Kester’s notion of dialogic art was developed as a way of critiquing work which places this discursive process centre-stage. He borrows the term from Bakhtin to refer to artworks which are founded upon conversations, and which “unfold through a process of performative interaction” (2004, p.10). As described elsewhere in this publication (Hooper and Springham, 2015), dialogic processes were seen as central to the overall process of negotiating the collaborations between LCA and the host community organisations, and also to the way students engaged in the task of coproduction. They were utilised as tools within the social design process. They were also seen as an essential part of the Celebratory Event, where they would form an important part of the way it functioned as a piece of social practice art. Yet another point of cross-fertilisation is evident in the way Thompson uses terms common in design practice to question whether a socially-engaged art project is “working” or not: What are its intentions? What is the audience? This form of instrumental language is commonplace in the design-process where measuring impact is the norm. Here it has been borrowed to critique artworks which also aspire to achieving concrete measurable social outcomes (2012, p.32). I would contend that the histories and methodologies of social design and social practice art are fundamentally interconnected. They arise from the same historical moment, both are concerned to improve the lives of marginalised and disenfranchised people, they share a common belief in the importance of developing creative solutions and statements through dialogue and coproduction. They manifest their work through different forms of production and this can obscure their similarities,
but in a project like The Tetley Feast the overlaps and connections become far more visible. The Boundaries of Social Practice [Art] Having established connections between social design and social practice art I will now address the question of how one defines the boundaries of the latter. This has been a concern since the early days of community arts in the UK where the Art Council was required to draw up new definitions and criteria for funding work which was “chiefly concerned with a process rather than a finished product” and in which “the ‘artistic’ element is variable and often not clearly distinguishable from the rest” (Bishop, 2004, p.179). The greatest difficulties seem to arise when the resulting work shares many characteristics with other forms of practice. As Kester puts it “In some cases the critic may question the very status of this work as ‘art’ in the first place, arguing that it is both practically and theoretically indistinguishable from political or social activism” (2004, p.11). Notably, these concerns are seldom raised by artists themselves, possibly because artists arrive at the point of creating such potentially ambiguous products by a creative process which they themselves recognise as art. There are however exceptions, such as when the Artist Placement Group [APG] negotiated a placement for Stuart Brisley in Peterlee New Town in 1976. He created History Within Living Memory, an archival oral history project, in which he collaborated with residents and exminers. He remains adamant that it is not a work of art although he continues to list it in his exhibition catalogues as a ‘project’, giving himself the status as the author of the work whilst maintaining that rather than creating art he was “testing out techniques from performance in a social context” (Bishop, 2012, p.174). A more representative response from an artist would be Jeremy Deller’s assertion that when he exhibited his work “It Is What It Is”, a bomb mangled car from Iraq on a plinth in the Imperial War Museum London, its presentation as art was “problematic” as viewers were likely to drift into
an aesthetic appreciation of the rusty patina rather than confront it for what it is (2014). He preferred the way it had been open to individual interpretation when he toured it around North America on a trailer, inviting dialogue and interaction without recourse to a predetermined frame of reference. This notion of work functioning better when it is not perceived as art is also familiar within the realm of public art. Here there is a common maxim that one of the measures of success for public artworks is the extent to which the viewing public “grant them legitimacy without invoking the notion of art” (Mavidorakis, 1996, p.57). In other words, the successful work speaks directly to the viewer through associations and channels that are familiar, with no need for additional contextualisation to render them legible. The target audience for these works generally have no issue with whether they are, or are not, art, being content to engage with them through frames of reference with which they are more familiar and comfortable. In his recent survey of socially engaged art of the previous 20 years Nato Thompson writes about the difficulty of deciding what to include and what to exclude and what definition of art should be used when doing so. He states that artists use a whole range of bureaucratic, managerial and political methods when making complex social projects, as do those not identifying as artists. His conclusion is to include them all, “as opposed to assuming there is an inherent difference between artistinitiated projects and non-artist initiated, I have opted to simply include them all” (2012, p.27). This bold move allows him to present creative examples of activism created by non-artists and also events with no identifiable author, including the spontaneous public celebrations on the streets of Harlem NY in response to the election of President Obama in 2009. I believe we can benefit from an open-minded approach to what forms and processes are most beneficial to sociallyengaged art practice. This work is fundamentally, and increasingly, interdisciplinary “driven by a common desire 70
to establish new relationships between artistic practice and other fields of knowledge production, from urbanism to environmentalism, from experimental education to participatory design” (Kester, on FIELD website). I would however contend there are formal distinctions between work positioned as art and that which is not, I will return to these shortly. An examination of The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event The event took place on Wednesday 12 February 2014 at The Tetley contemporary art gallery, Leeds. This fourstorey art deco building, previously the headquarters of the Tetley Brewery has recently been transformed into a gallery and artspace, with the usual fancy café attached. Originally the Celebratory Event was scheduled to take place on the ground floor, based around a single large function space. This was changed at the last minute to make room for another private event. The space subsequently provided was smaller than initially planned and more fragmented: four medium sized rooms joined by an open sided corridor. The various exhibits, screenings, activities and workshops now needed to be divided up amongst the various rooms. This involved a more site-responsive approach with each space taking on a particular character in the process. The resulting arrangement comprised: a video screening room; a workshop space in which all work made with young people was also displayed; an ‘L’ shaped central space with tables and dining chairs one end, sofas and coffee tables the other, and the buffet and celebratory cake in the middle. Those attending included 200 members and staff from the community-based groups our students had worked with, plus most of the 70 students who had been involved. Most visitors attended during the afternoon, so for about three hours the space was crowded and busy with only just enough space for the events and people involved. As previously stated, the event was conceived as a socially-engaged artwork, which would utilise a combination of dialogic and visual aesthetics. To analyse the result I will use tools suggested by critics and curators working in the field.
Firstly I will turn to Kester’s ideas about how one might form a useful critique of an example of dialogical practice. He suggests analysing “as closely as possible, the interrelated moments of discursive interaction within a given project” (2004, p.189-190). Echoing Mavidorakis’ writing about public art, he goes on to say, those collaborating and participating in a dialogical work “do not require the services of a critic to help them understand the significance of their involvement” (2004, p.189-190). This underlines the distinction between how the work is understood by its intended audience and by one attempting to draw conclusions about its validity and success as an artwork. There is evidence that visitors and students enjoyed the event on its own terms, including references to the pleasures of meeting new people and seeing themselves represented in the exhibited work. The task here is to look from a different perspective, to identify and consider the significance of these dialogical encounters and their aesthetic value. The largest, and possibly most significant, encounter was that between all the groups and individuals who were brought together in close physical proximity due the reduced size of the exhibition space. The result was a busy, engaged crowd of people made up of: Indian elders (mainly women); people with learning difficulties of all ages (around half of whom were of Asian origin); Bangladeshi women of wide age ranges; junior school children; youth club members; furniture restorers; single fathers with their children; youth workers; project managers; several people whose first language is BSL; mothers and babies; several recent immigrants to the UK from countries including China; students from all across the UK; three international students from France, Slovenia and Lithuania; academic staff from LCA. The community participants were in a clear majority, filling the space, giving an impression of bustling activity and of participation in something successful and popular. Interactions between members of the various groups were unavoidable in this environment and even where these were as simple and functional as allowing someone else to get past or asking if a chair was in use, they provided interchanges which would otherwise be rare or entirely absent.
A central physical site for dialogue and exchange was the refreshment area which combined a small buffet, a tea and coffee serving area and a table with the Celebratory Cake. This area was a hub of activity and exchange particularly between students and visitors, the power relation between students as serving staff and visitors as guests added validity to the presence of the visitors within the gallery. As did the huge and beautifully decorated cake depicting South Leeds. This had visual echoes of the way a wedding cake is placed at the centre of the wedding feast, in this case symbolically positioning the South Leeds residents as the guests of honour at the event. The formal cutting of the cake was done by representatives from each of the community groups and this produced further verbal and visual dialogue as the activity was photographed and the cake shared and discussed. Beyond these central dialogical processes there were also innumerable encounters, discussions and conversations constantly on-going. All of which produced a dialogic aesthetic the nature of which I have not encountered in 30 years of working in socially-engaged art practice. My sense of identity was without doubt “enriched and expanded through collaborative interaction” as I would hope, as was that of many of the others present. Moving on from the dialogical aspect, I want to return to the question of what distinguishes social practice art works from similar projects created outside the frame of art. Here I will use an idea developed by Thompson in response to artist Tania Bruguera’s statement that “I don’t want an art that points at a thing, I want an art that is the thing” (in Thompson, 2012, p.21), in which she suggested that rather than make work which raised awareness about an issue of importance or concern, she advocated making work which directly addressed that issue, that tried to change the world in some direct way. An example of this approach discussed by Thompson (2012, p.26) is Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses in which he founded a housing project in Texas, describing it as ‘social sculpture’, after Joseph Beuys’ ideas of an art which concerned itself with transforming the nature of society. A couple of years later Critical Reflections
in a public discussion with Rowe, Thompson developed Bruguera’s concept further saying “The thing points at the thing but at the same time is the thing. Project Row Houses is the thing but it is also a thing that points at itself” (2014). This possibly intentionally clumsy sentence offers another way to look at The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event: the event is the ‘thing’ i.e. it is an actual manifestation of bringing the diverse communities of South Leeds together to meet and learn from one another; it is also a ‘thing’ that points at itself, it is a representation of the idea of bringing communities together and as such is also a gesture advocating the desirability of such a thing. In addition if it is read, as it was by me, as an extremely unusual occurrence, it also points toward another ‘thing’: the general absence of most of the inner-city population from art institutions and their activities. Hence a multilayered gesture is embedded within a work. This idea of social practice art inherently positioning itself as a gesture is, I find, a very persuasive and useful one. It speaks to that part of the artistic imperative which is concerned to point, physically or metaphorically, toward something, suggesting the thing pointed at is worthy of consideration and appreciation by a potential viewer. Within social practice, an artist may well choose to ‘point’ by attempting to make a direct change in some aspect of society. The result may well function perfectly well as a non-art ‘thing’ but it will always also be a gesture pointing at itself, and that gesture is a result of its position as art. Conclusion The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event was always intended as both a celebration and a provocation. In practice it fulfilled these twin aims successfully. It demonstrated the incredible creative energy of South Leeds, the diversity of its population and the quality of the organisations working there. It also offered a direct provocation to The Tetley, and by extension the cultural and educational institutions of the city. Reminding them how many of the city’s population aren’t engaged or welcomed by what they have to offer. In addition it made an unambiguous
statement about the extent to which the city’s culture would be enriched if they were made more welcome.
David Collins is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds College of Art. He leads Year Three of the BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme and heads the Context of Practice modules across all three years. He has 30 years professional experience as an artist, graphic designer and educator with a focus on social design and gender issues. His current research interests are: the construction of gender identities within Afro-Latin social dance; the intersection between social design and social practice art.
References Bishop, C. (2012), Artificial Hells, London, Verso Books. Tisdall, C. (1974) Art into Society, Society into Art, ICA, London, p.48. Deller, J. (2014) ‘In Conversation with Nato Thompson’, Creative Time Summit: Stockholm [video] Available at: http://creativetime.org/summit/2014/11/14/jeremydeller-conversation-nato-thompson/ (Accessed 5 March 2015) Drenttel, W. (2012) Foreword, in Shea, A. Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design, New York, Princeton Architectural Press, pp.6. Garland, K. (1964) First Things First Manifesto (Online), London, Goodwin Press. Available at: http://kengarland. co.uk/KG-published-writing/first-things-first/ (Accessed 15 March 2015) Hooper, S. and Springham, M. (2015) ‘The importance and benefits of co-developing and connecting with communities’, in Collins, D. (ed.) (2015) The Tetley Feast, Leeds, Leeds College of Art. Kester, G. (2004) Conversation Pieces, Berkeley, University of California Press. Kester, G. (date unknown) About FIELD: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism (Online) FIELD: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism, University of California, San Diego. Available at http://field-journal.com/samplepage (Accessed 31 March 2015)
Lind, M. (2004) Actualisation of Space: The Case of Oda Projesi, in Doherty. C (ed.) (2004) Contemporary Art from Studio to Situation, London, Black Dog, pp109-121. Maryland Institute Collage of Art Social Design (MA) Overview, Maryland Institute Collage of Art. Available at: http://www.mica.edu/Programs_of_Study/Graduate_ Programs/Social_Design_(MA)/Overview.html (Accessed 31.03.2015) Mavidorikas. V (2006) ‘Specific Experiences’, Art & Design Magazine – Art & Design Profile, no. 46, pp.57-65. Morgan, S. (1995) ‘Looking back over 25 years’, in Dickson, M. (1995) Art With People, Sunderland, AN Publications. Papanek, V. (1978) Design for the Real World, London, Granada. Thompson, N. (ed.) (2012) Living as Form, Creative Time Books, New York. Thompson, N. (2014) ‘Rick Lowe and Nate Thompson in conversation’, Creative Time Summit: Stockholm [video] Available at: http://creativetime.org/summit/2013/10/25/ rick-lowe-and-nato-thompson/ (Accessed 5 March 2015) Tisdall, C. (1974) Art into Society, Society into Art, ICA, London.
Leeson, L. (2015) ‘Giving More Than You Take: a conversation about the ethics, responsibilities and practicalities of facilitating student participation in community-based projects’, in Collins. D (ed.) (2015) The Tetley Feast, Leeds, Leeds College of Art.
What Makes a Successful Collaboration?
Loren Turton This essay will discuss and compare the experiences of two groups of students involved in The Tetley Feast. Namely those Year One students asked to make short films with the community groups Kushi Dil (Bangladeshi women) and Halo (adults with learning difficulties). These groups of students were chosen for this comparison because of their very different experiences of the overall project including different levels of success from the perspective of both the groups they worked with and the students themselves. I will be referencing the ideas of Claire Bishop and Grant Kester, both of whom have written extensively around the area of socially engaged arts. Their critical opinions offer a thought provoking perspective on many different projects and artists. They both address the question of what makes a successful socially engaged artwork, approaching this from the perspective of both the community group and the artist. The success of the two group projects discussed in the essay will be measured on the experiences and opinions of the students involved and those of the community groups. One student who worked with each of the community groups has been interviewed for the purpose of this essay. The students working with the Kushi Dil group have suggested they found it difficult to interact and work with the group, in particularly the women of the Asian elder 74
group. Although they successfully made a film for the group they feel the overall project may have been more of a success in terms of learning new technical video skills than, from their perspective, a successful socially engaged art project. It is evident there was a significant language barrier with most members of Kushi Dil speaking only Bangladeshi or having very little English and this may be a possible reason for the struggle in collaboration. Kester (2004, p.19-23) has suggested that in the case of socially engaged work, communication between artist and community is a key aspect of success. He suggests that although an aesthetically pleasing artwork may be produced without communication between artist and community, a good representation of that community cannot be made without good communication between artist and community. He sites Rachel Whitereadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s House (1993), where the artist did not communicate her intentions clearly to the community where the work was sited, as an example of an artwork which suffered a poor local reception due to a lack of communication whilst at the same time being championed by the art world as a powerful piece in its own terms. Kester doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t specifically say that it is impossible to make a piece of meaningful work about or for a community without a direct collaboration with its members but as Bishop has said, his tone strongly implies this in the way he makes clear distinctions between collaborative and studio-
based practice (2012, p.23-26). Looking at the experience of the students working with Kushi Dil it was the case that they maintained a strong intention to work collaboratively throughout. Although, in practice, this wasn’t possible to any significant degree, they continued working at the community centre, filming and wherever possible, talking with members of the group. This ultimately resulted in a film which the community group were very pleased with and which they have subsequently made use of. Given this example I would suggest it is possible to produce a successful piece of work, about and for, a community without an active and dynamic collaboration if the intentions of the artists are truly collaborative and they use these to inform the work they produce. When we look at some well known successful pieces of socially engaged arts there seems to be a period of relationship building before the artwork or collaboration begins. For example, Loraine Leeson, when working on the project East Meets West spent a number of months leading up to the project, researching and understanding the community group she would be working with (Kester, 2004, p.19-23). This was the same with Jeremy Deller and his work The Battle of Orgreave where he spent up to a year meeting with the community of Orgreave (Bishop, 2012, p.30-37). The students working with the Halo group were effective in building a relationship and creating a successful collaboration as well as a film. The students have suggested they were able to build this good relationship with the community group right from day one of the project, as all members accepted them into the group. The students have said they really enjoyed their time with the group, to whom they had access all day for up to five days a week. As The Tetley Feast project lasted for six weeks, this gave the students plenty of time to interact and get to know the members of HALO before filming started, ensuring that a trust was built up and that there were no barriers between artists and participants. This is a point, which Bishop (2012, p.30-37) raises when discussing Jeremy Deller’s, The Battle of Orgreave. She suggests Deller knocked down barriers of class throughout the project by
building close relationships with the working class miners which lead to the miners being represented in a fair and objective way. Whereas the students working with HALO were given plenty of opportunities to interact with their group, this was not the case with the Kushi Dil project where there was a much clearer separation between the group members and the students. This was in large part due to the fact the group was made up of competent independent women who were able to get on with their activities without any need of input from either the students or other facilitators. The students were initially introduced to the group as art students who have come to ask questions and ‘do a bit of filming’, which suggested they were there to provide a service rather than collaborate. In some ways this caused a significant problem for the relatively inexperienced students whose primary intention was to work collaboratively. The two groups, students and participants, were also from very different cultures with each likely to have preconceptions of what the other would be like. Although this caused something of a divide between students and participants it didn’t stop them working well enough in relation to one another to create a successful end product. Bishop (2012, p.25) suggests there is a need for ‘empathetic identification’ for a project of this kind to be successful. Kester (2004, p.150) adds ‘this allows us to think outside of our own lived experience and establish a more compassionate relationship with others’. They both believe that an understanding of culture and identification and empathy towards the groups worked with is key to successful collaboration. This notion of empathy is possibly even more important where, as in the case of The Tetley Feast, the artists have little or no prior knowledge of the culture and circumstances of the people with whom they are working. The students with the Halo group had done no research, however, they still built an extremely good and trusting relationship. Can this be put down in part to the nature of group they were working with? Comparing an older Critical Reflections
Asian women’s group, who’s first language is not English to a group of adults with learning disabilities, it would seem the latter group are perhaps more likely to be more accepting of strangers. The members of Halo have worked with outsiders before and are generally very accepting, particularly as the students were enthusiastic and seemed excited about the project. This does not mean to say the Asian elders group did not want the project to go ahead; rather, the Kushi Dil students have suggested that as well as the language barrier the group possibly did not fully understand the context of The Tetley Feast project. This is an example of where a longer period of time to build up understanding and trust would have been useful. This is not to suggest that the students working with Kushi Dil did not have an understanding, rather that they did not have much time to build relationships and were also very much thrown in at the deep end. Apart from one student in each group, none had prior experience of working on community projects. This meant that as well as learning new video skills, the students also had to learn the skills of communicating with other cultures. Returning to Bishop, it would seem that ‘empathetic identification’ is key here, whether the artist has experience of the group or not. Both sets of students had completely different experiences. It cannot be said that one group was successful and one was unsuccessful, rather that they had completely different outcomes. The groups both created films which the community groups were extremely happy with and this suggests that the projects as a whole were a success. The communities were represented positively and feedback from community groups is very complimentary. Subsequently one student who worked with the Kushi Dil group has been offered a job working with the group which certainly suggests they had a positive experience of working with the students. So although maybe not all targets or objectives of the project were met from the view of the students, it seems the project was a success from the perspective of the participants.
Loren Turton is a Level 6 student on the BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme at Leeds College of Art. For the past two years she has worked consistently as a volunteer with community arts projects in Leeds and Cumbria, and curated the exhibition “Tea Stirred AntiClockwise” at the Union 105 gallery, Leeds in 2014. She is actively involved in the Leeds Art Party, an initiative to focus attention on the value of arts education in the UK. Her dissertation research asked the question ‘What is the value of socially engaged arts?’ References Bishop, C. (2012), Artificial Hells, London, Verso Books. Kester, G, (2004) Conversation Pieces, Berkeley, University of California Press.
Practicing Socially Engaged Design Within Education: an analysis of The Tetley Feast
Isabel Drake In his seminal work, Design for the Real World, Victor Papanek, stated that ‘design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environment (and, by extension, society and himself)’ (1984, p.IX). Several decades later Katherine McCoy, another highly regarded designer and educator, suggested there is a need for graphic designers to ‘become more involved in community, environmental and political issues at a local level’ (2001, p.148). This is an admirable idea but it seems that, in this age where capitalism rules, it is arguably impossible to make a living as a designer who only creates socially engaged work. Even Papanek only suggested we give ‘10% of our crops of ideas and talents to 75% of mankind in need’ (1984, p.68). What if there was a way, as designers or practitioners, in which we could focus all our energy and talent on socially engaged design? Rick Poynor claims socially engaged design is often proposed by students who have yet to try it or by educators who probably never will, with few managing to pull it off in the real world (2001, p.148-9). If this is true why not encourage more social design within education where the commercial pressures are not so apparent? There are now some design schools and programmes such as the Greenside Design Centre and Leeds College of Art’s BA (Hons) Visual Communication which are trying to incorporate this way of working into their curricula. This essay will examine The Tetley Feast in an attempt
to discover the opportunities and limitations of such a student-led socially engaged project. Before examining the project itself, it is necessary to clarify exactly what is meant by socially engaged design. It is generally seen to be work that has a positive effect on society and which potentially provokes change. Richard Buchanan states ‘design offers a way of thinking about the world that is significant for addressing many of the problems that human beings face in contemporary culture’(2001, p.35). It also means thinking much more about your audience’s needs, incorporating ‘other interest as well as self interest’ into your practice (Robertson, 2006, p.189). Some feel socially engaged practitioners would focus more on the content than the form of the work. Rick Poynor believes most designers are ‘obsessed with how cool a piece of work looks rather than with what it is actually saying’ (2001, p.139), in other words designing for designers rather than their audience or client’s needs. By contrast, socially engaged design aims to address the urgent need to ‘put people first’ meeting their ‘real and physical needs’ (Seymour, 2001, p.11). These points of view all contribute to a consensus view that socially engaged design is a way of using our practice to better the world in some way. The aim of The Tetley Feast was to create a positive impact on the communities that participated in the project. The Critical Reflections
project was based on the hope of ‘designing for the other 99%’ (Juul-Sørensen, 2014) as it set out to create work that was inclusive and which would in some way improve the lives of people living in one of the most deprived areas of Leeds. These community groups who took part would not usually have the funds or the networks to work with designers, film makers or photographers. The project allowed them the opportunity to communicate their work and ideas in the way many commercial organisations are able to do. Many of the students had no prior knowledge or awareness of South Leeds or of its need for regeneration. By introducing them to an area of the city they may never have visited before, students may well be encouraged to return to do more work of this kind, or at least take into account the ‘moral responsibility’ (Papanek, 1984, pIX) they have as designers and practitioners. One of the key aspects of introducing practitioners to the notion of social design is encouraging them to consider the impact of their work and the potential they have to provoke change. The project also created a strong bridge between South Leeds and the programme as a whole, which lead to a second large participatory project involving BA (Hons) Visual Communication and similar community groups during the spring of 2015. There are many clear benefits to such a student led project compared with using professional designers. Most obviously, there was no requirement to provide wages for the practitioners, which had the additional effect of allowing the students to schedule their time as they felt appropriate, thinking more about their audience’s needs rather than their own. This was also the only project the students were working on at the time, allowing them to put all their time and energy into the project unlike many practitioners who would most likely be working on several different projects and would also have time constraints due to budgets. Considering the short length of the project the students and participants produced outcomes that were very meaningful to the communities they were representing. It is questionable whether the same 78
result would have occurred if professional practitioners, who would have other projects on their plate, had been employed to do this project. There are other reasons why this project created such meaningful outcomes. The students were not introduced as professionals, which seemed to make the meetings with the community groups less formal. Both parties were quite inexperienced in negotiating a design brief, so there was considerable sympathy on both sides. This meant that the communication between the two groups flowed more easily, especially for the community groups, who in some cases included a lot of people with learning difficulties. The students also got to know the community groups very quickly. This was useful as they could then create work that would really represent the characters and atmosphere of each group which might not have happened in such an organic way had a professional been employed. According to Micheal Beirut ‘almost all design schools today stress form over content’ (2006, p235). By contrast, BA (Hons) Visual Communication makes the point throughout all its modules that content is equally important. This unique ethos encouraged students to focus on the meaning of the work more than many professional designers might have done. The students were also generally younger than most designers which may also have brought a much fresher, more youthful approach to The Tetley Feast. There were, of course also negative aspects to the project. The students, especially the first years were not fully prepared to go straight into a project like this. For many of the first years this was only the second time they had created a film, and the first time they had worked on a documentary. It could be argued they were not given enough preparation in the necessary technical skills, such as using the video cameras, audio recording and editing. They also would have benefitted from more preparation for interviewing as this is central to the documentary making process.
I was in the first year during The Tetley Feast and our group experienced many difficulties with sound recording because we were not taught how and when to use the right recording devices during the filming. This meant the finished film looked unprofessional even though the content was really good as some of the interviews were hard to hear. If the message isn’t clear then it won’t have very much impact. This suggests that form is also very important and any designer needs to focus equally on form and content within their work. Kali Nikitas, a well respected graphic designer, feels that ‘form is an integral part of our work and to deny that is ridiculous and shortsighted’ (2006, p222). The briefs for the second years were incredibly open. It was pretty much up to the students and the community groups to come up with a brief on their own for the project. Again the students were not particularly prepared for such an open brief and many found it hard to negotiate with the community groups and come up with a project that suited both parties. This led to many of the groups taking on much more than they could handle during the time of the project. As a result, the aesthetic quality of the work was not quite as good as it could have been if the students had had a more focused approach. The above issues suggest that the students were perhaps a little too inexperienced to work in this way and needed to learn more technical and professional skills before embarking on a project such as The Tetley Feast. This is perhaps why there are more MA design courses, rather than BA courses, that focus on sustainable and socially engaged design, as students need to learn formal and technical skills before focusing so directly on content. There were also some problems with the organisation of the final celebratory event. Unfortunately The Tetley made the decision at the last minute to move the event space from the bottom to the top floor of their building in order to make room for a more commercially attractive booking. This made our event less easily accessible for some of the more elderly members of the South Leeds community and had the effect of suggesting The Tetley did not
place significant value on The Tetley Feast Celebratory Event. As a result many of the students were left feeling underappreciated and uncomfortable during the event. Despite these issues I believe The Tetley Feast was, overall, a brilliant project. It raised the students’ awareness of the communities of inner city South Leeds, a very deprived area of the city which most students never visit. It also created a very strong link between Leeds College of Art and a host of dynamic community organisations. As a result of the success of The Tetley Feast, BA (Hons) Visual Communication has created another socially engaged project for 2014-15, once again including the South Leeds communities but without collaboration with The Tetley. This time it is called the ‘WITH project’ and the approach is a lot more focused. Each group knows exactly what they are going to create in terms of the finished product, so there is a lot less complex negotiation between the students and the community groups. The first years are doing documentaries again but have had more tutorials and inductions on technical and interview skills. The programme is learning from the experience of The Tetley Feast, developing a way of introducing the principals of socially engaged design into an undergraduate programme, with clear benefits to both the students and the community groups with whom they work.
Isabel Drake is a Level 5 student on the BA (Hons) Visual Communication programme at Leeds College of Art. She has a strong interest in social design, particularly in the field of graphic communication. She is actively involved in the Leeds Art Party, an initiative to focus attention on the value of arts education in the UK.
References Beirut, M. Drentell, W. and Heller, S. (eds) (2006) Looking Closer 5: Critical Writings on Graphic Design, New York, Allworth Press Buchanan, R. (2001) Human dignity and Human Rights: Thoughts on the Principles of Human-Centered Design, Design Issues, 17 (3), p.35-39. Collins, D. (2014) Tetley Feast Feb 2014, Viscom Projects (online). Available at: http://viscomprojects.co.uk/tetleyfeast-feb-2014/ (Accessed 18 February 2015) Greenside Design Center (2015) Greenside Design Center College of Design Website (online). Available from: http://designcenter.co.za/ (Accessed 10 Jan 2015) McCoy, K. and Poynor, R. (2001) ‘First Things Next’, in Poynor, R. (2001) Obey The Giant: Life In The Image World, London, August Media Ltd. Nikitas, K. and VanderLans, R. (2006) ‘Visitations Revisited’, in Beirut, M. Drentell, W. and Heller, S. (eds) (2006) Looking Closer 5: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. New York, Allworth Press, p.221-224. Papenek, V. (1984) Design For the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (Second Edition), London, Thames and Hudson Poynor, R. (2001) Obey The Giant: Life In The Image World, London, August Media Ltd The Guardian (2014) ‘Designers Design For The 1% “ It’s Time To Start Designing For The 99%’ (online). Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainablebusiness/designers-design-one-percent-sustainablefuture (Accessed 19 March 2015)
YouTube (2015) Tetley Feast (online). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UC2fcdjvnX6KoQvAvSWWSGWg (Accessed 18 February 2015)
Giving More Than You Take: a conversation about the ethics, responsibilities and practicalities of facilitating student participation in community-based projects
Dr Loraine Leeson in conversation with Marianne Springham The following is an edited transcript of a Skype conversation between Marianne Springham, The Tetley Feast project manager and artist Loraine Leeson who delivered the keynote lecture to students and staff at the beginning of The Tetley Feast. Here she is speaking from her experience of leading undergraduate modules in Art Practice and the Community as part of the BA Fine Art at Middlesex University. Marianne: Thanks very much for agreeing to have a chat with me today. I’d like to take this opportunity to explore some of the broader aspects of working on community projects within a higher education framework. Could I start out by asking, what sort of things do your students do when they finish? What do they go into? Loraine: Some of last year’s graduates formed a collective called The Common and have continued to do community based projects while finding various ways to earn their living. Another student who was doing interactive work around writing is still running these workshops. It is fantastic to see how these students are finding ways to continue their work as it can’t be underestimated how hard that is. Second years sometimes come into the module thinking they will find a future in art therapy or similar, though that’s as difficult to get into as any other art job and they would also need re-training. Others see it as a good introduction to teaching. This year some of
the second years running projects at Great Ormond Street Hospital School have made a great impression there and would like to carry on doing hospital based creative work. Marianne: I think your students are more focused towards that area than ours since ours is more of a multi-discipline design course. This community project is only a twenty credit module. Although the projects are relatively small in relation to the wider course they make a huge impact on the students. They all get something completely different from it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The first question I have is, who benefits? One of our students at the moment is writing about the films made last year to work out whether they’ve been used by the community groups and whether they’ve actually gained from it rather than it being ‘just a student project’. If you are putting on projects with students to work with groups in the real world, who does it benefit? Can it be mutually beneficial and if so, how do you make that happen? Loraine: That’s the difficulty, isn’t it? Before I talk about community impact however I’d like to mention the benefits to students. John Cockram who has run placement modules at the University of East London for some time, studied the effects of community placement on students’ own art practice as part of his PhD research. He discovered that those who had done placements also did better in their studio practice. It seemed that working Critical Reflections
in the ‘real world’ encouraged them to put together skills and knowledge that they had developed elsewhere and combine these with their art practice, which may not otherwise have happened and helped to mature them as people, as students and as artists. However, on the other side of things, I am always concerned that what is done with community groups is needed and useful to them. Students, like the rest of us, need to learn to give more than they take. It should never be the student just going and getting something from a community. It seems to work best if we support students to develop their own placement or collaborative project, building on their experience and interests. Some don’t do placements as such. One student this year is doing a roving swap shop. Others who choose to work in an institution or with an existing group will go and help out first in order to gain some understanding of the context. Then they have to develop an idea for a creative project that will bring their own artistic skills into play while offering something of benefit. It can be tricky because their role can be perceived by their hosts as work experience and this sometimes requires students to be quite assertive. We are there to help them with that and they also take a letter with them that explains that they will eventually be developing a creative project based on participant needs and through negotiation with the institution. This is generally welcomed, though it can take a while to get there. It helps that these are yearlong modules since the negotiation and preliminary work can take half of the time but that side of it is also highly educational. Marianne: What do you think the value is of these being real and not manufactured projects? Do students actually collaborate with groups sometimes or are they working for the groups? Loraine: It depends on the situation. Sometimes students collaborate with each other. One is currently collaborating with a fashion student and another last year worked with a European human rights institute in the university. The students can choose to work in either a collaborative or participatory way - projects can be both or either. 82
Marianne: We have small student groups collaborating together and working in participation with the group or organisation. We set up the basic structure of the project and organise the group they will be working with. One problem that arises is that although we put students together based on their interests and practices, some groups don’t get on. You then get difficulties within the group itself. Loraine: Collaboration as an approach has been popular over recent decades, particularly with commissioners of public art where artists and architects have frequently been put together without consultation. That can be very hit and miss since that relationship has to support the project. People don’t always get on and it can undermine everything to work with the wrong person. Marianne: How do you decide who to work with? Maybe you can talk in terms of your own practice as well, and also how things cross over with your teaching and cSPACE. You kind of have these two hats. Do they merge? Loraine: They overlap frequently and I am wearing three hats currently with two different academic roles. Nevertheless, in my experience, projects tend to emerge rather than being dreamed up out of the blue. Ailbhe Murphy, an artist based in Ireland once said that the quality of a project is as good as the invitation that initiates it. I thought that was a very good way of putting it. If there is a need, there’s energy to make change and a chance to engage in work that might make a difference. Sometimes that can be a direct invitation. For example the Docklands Community Poster Project in the 80s commenced with a request by the East London trades councils for a poster about the redevelopment about to take place, and evolved into 10 years of work as the cultural arm of a campaigning community. Projects can also start with the germ of an idea that comes about through familiarity with a situation which is why we ask students on placement to help out first before coming up with their creative idea. The VOLCO project for instance came out of my experience as a parent, school governor and working in schools as an artist. At that time in the late 1990s creativity
was disappearing from the curriculum yet new technology was coming in. I began to feel that a creative approach was called for that would address both and the project gradually took shape through ongoing dialogue with others involved in education and the delivery of art and technology in the curriculum. Other projects have started as commissions and developed from there. Active Energy was a six-week project commissioned by cSPACE in 2008 and is still going. Marianne: When starting the projects we talk to students about the specialised knowledge that people have within the community, that, as academics, we don’t have and how they can learn so much from working with them. I also think about how community practice, community art is valued and how students value these different experiences. If the project works really well, then that maybe changes the way they value their own practice and the way they view success. Do you find that as well? Do you think about how it’s valued? Loraine: It has been different over the years. I was around when community arts were very much valued in the 1970s and 1980s. Then in the 1990s, after 10 years of Thatcherism there was a swing to the right and nobody wanted to know. I’d get invited elsewhere in the world to talk about community arts and would say ‘we don’t mention the ‘c-word’ in the UK any more’, since community art as a term had come to have such negative connotations in the art world. These names are nevertheless all just labels, useful at the time, but things move on. I believe that what matters is the intention of the work, whatever it is called. Now social practice and socially engaged art have rather become buzz words. It can be useful to ride on that wave but you’ve got to be careful of the undertow. Nicholas Bourriaud coined the phrase ‘relational aesthetics’ in the late 1990s. He saw work with people as a new form, akin to using paint. He was very influential for a while when there wasn’t much written about this field. However in the last ten years there’s been a plethora of publications and more understanding and knowledge about this kind of work in the public domain so it should be easier for emerging artists to carve out a route that is about supporting social change if that is what they want to do.
Marianne: How do you assess these kinds of projects? When you have students working outside of the studio and outside the university how do you get them to capture their experience and what they’re doing? Loraine: What we’ve done with our second year module is to change the means of assessment to presentation. It’s a much better way to do it and I’d do that in the third year as well if that were possible. It is after all how this sort of work is generally disseminated. You don’t often find out about community-based practice in a gallery but rather by going to conferences, events, presentations or through networking. However this does mean that students have to learn how to document their work well. I am struggling a bit with that. Some students do great projects, but their documentation does not do it justice. Marianne: Once in the thick of a project you are not really thinking about documentation. The students experience new things and it’s hard to be engaged in a situation and think at the same time, I need to take a photo or I need to remember what this person said to me. It’s just completely different isn’t it? Loraine: Absolutely. Another issue is that photography is becoming commonplace with the use of phones and consideration of the quality of the image can easily get lost. These images really matter however, since they might be all you see of a project and I feel a need to address this more with the students. When working with teenagers in the making of The Young Person’s Guide to East London I was able in a couple of hours to enable young people to take a good enough set of photographs to be featured on a web site that was also a public resource - not by teaching photography as such, more using a camera to see with. They took some fantastic photos, much better than I’ve seen by a lot of undergraduates. It’s not a difficult task but needs addressing. It’s also important to come up with creative ways of showing documentation. There are many other means of demonstrating process than through documentary photos or video.
Marianne: How do you think we should equip students to work in a community and what kind of practical skills are going to help them and visually represent what they’ve been doing? What do you do in terms of preparing students to work with people? Loraine: One workshop I do is on listening skills. I trained as a mediator many years ago and some of those approaches are very useful here. Active listening helps you to draw out what people think and listen for what’s underneath the answer to identify what somebody might really want out of a project. If you are doing any sort of collaborative or participative project you need to be able to gain this understanding and negotiate sometimes apparently conflicting ideas. Every party in a project should get what they need out of it and projects can be structured to allow that to happen. Sometimes however I think students need to start a project in order to gain a sense of what they’re doing before they learn more skills so that they can understand what they’re for. I also feel that students need some historical background for this area of practice. Grant Kester has outlined a very useful historical trajectory in his publication Conversation Pieces and I often start the year with a presentation on artists who have used their work for change though what I am offering is really just a smattering. It’s still popularly assumed that artists work as individuals in studios producing work that is sold on the art market. However that has been the case for less than five hundred years in the west and is tied in with economics and the development of capitalism. Even in the Renaissance artists used to work in teams. Across the world and throughout history, artists have worked in different ways that relate much more directly with the people around them. I would like students to be able to understand that, though have not yet found out a way to integrate that knowledge into an undergraduate course except in the sketchiest way. It would be good to tie this in more closely with the theoretical part of the curriculum. Marianne: Do you think academic institutions are able to appreciate and fully support community engaged projects? For our project I’ve had to find external funding which has made it really hard.
Loraine: Integrating it into the regular degree programme is probably the best approach. In that way extra costs are only required for special activities. One thing we have begun doing that has required funding is a virtual symposium, in collaboration with University of Highlands and Islands. It links up students around the country who are doing community-based practice. There were five partners this year and keynotes from the UK and US. More institutions both here and internationally want to join and I’d like to see it become an annual event as part of an expanding forum for debate and sharing of practice amongst students, staff and practitioners. The costs involved are really only to pay speakers. I am thinking that one way to address the finances would be for a different institution to host it each year since the relatively small amount of money required may not be too difficult for each to raise as a one-off. Marianne: I was also wondering how you see the difference between working on community-engaged projects as an academic compared to a practitioner. Loraine: As an academic you have to be very aware of the power of the institution behind you. It’s no use pretending not to have money or plundering the assets of groups which already have next to nothing. You may know that your own institution is strapped for cash but I see it as important to get the resources from the institution out. These don’t have to be financial but can also be knowledge, ideas and/ or facilities that can support social need. I’ve witnessed too many instances where universities have taken from communities rather than the other way round and salaried academics regularly ask people in the community to do things for nothing to support their own research. It seems important to find a way to make sure that the university is giving and not taking. Most universities like to see themselves as part of a wider community and this should also be how they conduct themselves in practice. This is a reciprocal process since the institution gets what it needs in terms of research, profile and support for teaching but as the more powerful partner it should ensure that the benefits are also flowing the other way.
Coming back to your question about different roles, one way that I’ve managed to run projects across both communities and institutions is through employing parallel narratives. For example, finding funds to continue work with the Geezers on the Active Energy project by doing the next phase in the Lea Valley where Middlesex University is running a project is a win/win situation. The project is still as devised with the Geezers and combining this with the research enables continuation of the work. At the same time it brings the benefits of a project developed over a long term into a research project of much shorter duration. It also does not detract from the project to describe it in different ways. There is the discussion within the group itself centred on the Geezers’ concerns. It is also frequently presented as an art project, sometimes in terms of its replicable technology and also with sociological framing in terms of citizen-led innovation. For the geographers it is as a dynamic relationship between people and water. I’ve also just written a chapter for the Oxford Textbook of Creativity Health and Wellbeing describing the project as a model for empowering and stimulating older people’s active creativity. At the centre of it all however is the respectful relationship I share with this group, the precious core that supports everything else.
Dr. Loraine Leeson is a visual artist specialising in the social practice of art and runs modules in Art Practice and the Community in the Department of Fine Art at Middlesex University. She is also Senior Research Fellow at University of Westminster and director of the arts charity cSPACE. In 2011 she was Fulbright scholar in residence at University of Washington Tacoma, invited to help develop the outreach aspects of their creative courses. Her current research focuses on the role of art in bringing community-based knowledge into the public domain. Recent projects with young people have been recognized with a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award and Olympic Inspire Mark.
Marianne: How important do you think it is that this kind of practice continues with students? Can you see a future to it? Loraine: I do indeed. It’s important to be offering young artists the option of working in a socially engaged way. The alternative is to have them graduate with little experience beyond their specialist area of production and then finding that they want to work with people at a later date. The least we can do is to equip them to do that as part of their education.
David Collins Editor This aim of this book was to create a hybrid document, one which serves as both a catalogue of The Tetley Feast project and also as an opportunity for critical reflection on the overall process. We aim was to give a clear impression of the work itself, whilst also including academic papers and dialogues which examine it with a critical eye and draw comparisons with the broader fields of social design and social practice. The Tetley Feast was an incredible project to be involved with and putting this publication together has given myself and the rest of the programme team an opportunity to revisit it with the benefit of a little distance and hindsight. The project taught us all a lot about the ways students and community groups can learn from one another though a dynamic two-way design process. Reading the student feedback at the end of the project we were amazed by the overwhelming desire of students to work in similar ways in the future. Given this, and building directly on the foundations laid with The Tetley Feast we went on to organise and run another project the following academic year: 2014-15. This time we worked in partnership with Health for All, who paired our student groups with nine of their member organisations. Once again Year One
students made videos, and Year Two students worked on a range of design briefs including a small community newspaper and a puppet show. The process was even more dialogic the second time around with a clear emphasis placed on co-producing work through direct interaction wherever possible. We have now given these annual projects an umbrella title ‘The WITH Project’. This will now be an annual initiative facilitating our students and staff to work in collaboration ‘with’ local people across the city. We aim to reinterpret the idea each year whilst maintaining the central concept of collaboration and co-production. If you would like to learn more about any of our WITH Projects please look at: http://thewithproject.ning.com
We would like to thank all the groups and individuals with whom we collaborated on The Tetley Feast project. Without their time and commitment the project would not have been possible. In particular we thank the contributors to this publication who maintained their connection into the evaluative phase of the project. All contributors have been given the opportunity to read and make changes to the edited versions of their texts as included here. Managers of the community organisations with whom we worked have read, and where necessary corrected, the texts written about their groups.
Staff academic papers were reviewed by Dr Kate Hatton of University of the Arts London. Essays by Isabel Drake and Loren Turton were supervised and edited by David Collins. Cover images are taken from videos made during the project, other than the second from the top which is a photograph by Vicky Kortekaas. Graphic Design: Kate Green Proof Reading: Jill Tindall
Published by Leeds College of Art 2015 ISBN: 978-0-9561970-3-0
The Tetley Feast