The second Connected Communities Programme showcase event took place on 4th July 2013 at Edinburgh Conference Centre at Heriot Watt University. Through a mix of presentations, workshops, interactive and participatory break-outs, posters, exhibitions and performances, the event highlighted the rich and exciting research being undertaken through the Connected Communities Programme across the UK.
Rather than being aimed at an academic audience, the Showcase was focused on providing opportunities to further extend and deepen the Programme’s engagement with organisations, communities and individuals from outside the higher education sector.
CO-PRODUCING CARE: COMMUNITY ASSET-BASED RESEARCH & ENTERPRISE: Edinburgh Showcase: Making Value & the Value of Making: building community assets through collaborative creative-making.
Attendance at the Showcase, and related opportunities to produce materials, enabled research to be shared more widely with stakeholders, partners and community groups to better understand how we can capture the value, benefits and (dis-benefits) of creativity and ‘cultural connectivity’. The CARE research project is interdisciplinary and brings arts and humanities approaches to engaging communities in alternative/informal learning and creative-making networks, public health, and small-business initiatives.
Our participation involved a publication and a project stand to display materials from the CARE (Community Asset-based Research & Enterprise) project. Materials included films, photographs, descriptive and interpretive text, quotes from partners and participants. The printed material and project stand showed how the themes and issues informing CARE developed from previous projects, emphasising a common thread of concern with the particular qualities of creative-making as a means to engage and connect groups and individuals, promoting and enabling a range of agencies in complex ways. Examples of craft objects created and exchanged during the CARE project were shown alongside the commissioned project publication, promotional cards, and materials from the London Showcase.
Project Team present at Showcase:
Dr Fiona Hackney, Associate Professor Design Cultures & Community Engagement, Falmouth University: Principal Investigator for CARE and the related CDA about crafting and health (featured at the London Showcase), and Co-I on the other two projects featured under Making Value & the Value of Making, Fiona spoke about the research as it has developed over the past few years, and discussed plans for future projects and directions.
Deirdre Figueiredo, Director Craftspace, CARE Community Co-Researcher
Hannah Maughan, Textile Artist & Researcher (Falmouth University), embroiderer and practice-based researcher working on CARE. Hannah participated in CARE phase 1 creatively responding in a ‘buddy partnership’ with a community participant from an embroidery group, and features in the CARE films. Hannah spoke about her experience of the process of collaborative making and creative response, and showed her fascinating working notes, sketches and samples.
Bryony Stokes: Film & Photography, is a film-maker and researcher whose work focuses on environmental issues. She made all the films for CARE in Cornwall working collaboratively with the academic team and community participants. Bryony discussed the film aspects of the project.
The team aimed to foreground an understanding of creative-making and participatory practice that moves beyond ‘making-as-therapy’ and pays attention to the deeper-rooted issues that marginalize groups and individuals in the first place; craft as a political position and mode of agency that addresses issues of equality.
The recent Crafts Council Report ‘Craft in an Age of Change’ identifies a new landscape for crafts with increasing levels of redundancy and the effects of shifts in higher education as crafts courses close or diversify. In this context, the value of amateur, community-based skills, knowledge and capacities takes on new importance. In partnership with the Craftspace Collective, Voluntary Arts and Bealtaine Festival (age and creativity), CARE works with knitting, crochet, embroidery, quilting, patchwork and lace-making groups to test and develop a methodology for co-produced community learning through creative practice that builds dialogue, promotes self-reflection and reflexivity. The development of a digital platform, alongside support for for face-to-face contact, will build on informal networks where learning is achieved through collective sharing and making. Potential benefits include increased resilience and wellbeing as people turn to craft for more meaningful community engagement through increased connection and creativity.
CARE in the wider research framework
CARE aims to test and develop a methodology for co-produced community learning through creative practice that builds dialogue, promotes self-reflection and reflexivity. The research focuses on hobby craft groups, which include activities such as knitting, crochet, embroidery, dressmaking, paper-folding and cutting, pottery and ceramic work, quilting, lace-making, that are undertaken voluntarily for pleasure and involve high levels of ingenuity, competence and creativity. These activities represent an important area of community assets and strengths; skills, knowledge, expertise and capabilities that are often devalued or dismissed but which, if recognised, might be developed and applied more widely through volunteering, training, community activism, small business or social enterprise. The initial pilot project (Phase 1) was undertaken with community participants in Birmingham and Cornwall, resulting in a series of short films and interactions that tested the CARE method for community co-production through creative practice, sharing, making and reflecting. Phase 2 builds on the learning from Phase 1 to explore different interfaces and modes of engaging, learning and reflecting through making. This activity will be structured through a network of individuals and groups connecting and interacting, online and face-to-face, through a series of intergenerational/cross-cultural/cross-generational ‘buddy’ relationships using the ‘material consequences’ method; an on-going iteration of playful ‘call and response’ exchanges through creative-making. CARE develops and builds on outcomes from the CARM research project (Community-appropriated research model), which worked collaboratively with community groups to explore the possibilities of community radio for sharing insights into community activism.
CARE, CARM and the CDA with Arts for Health explore issues arising from the AHRC Connecting Craft and Communities network (which ran three workshops from April to September 2011) and its related partnerships, outcomes and subsequent on going collaborative research projects with Arts for Health Cornwall, the Craftspace Collective, Birmingham, Voluntary Arts, England, the Bealtaine Trust, Ireland, Crafts Council, Heritage Crafts Association, for example. The network brought people together to consider the changing cultures, politics, practices and skills of craft in the 21st century. Professional and amateur makers, activists, creative organisations, policy makers, researcher-practitioners and academics reflected on the role of craft in strengthening social capital through creative capital to enable self-reliance, enhanced health and well-being, making sustainable economic futures. The proposed book ‘Making Value & the Value of Making’ will showcase all the AHRC-funded projects in an accessible way, drawing out research themes and outcomes.
The Crafts Council is a CARE collaborator and the research findings will feed into future reports by CC and other partner organisations such as Voluntary Arts, ConFab, and the Heritage Crafts Association, as a wider conception of crafts practice, education, and community engagement emerges. The Craftspace Collective – community co-research partner – has a successful record of establishing small craft businesses and social enterprises. Voluntary Arts’ Hand on Crafts project (funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation) ran intergenerational skills exchange workshops and events throughout the country in 2012-13. The project, which enabled the older generation’s crafting skills to be passed on to younger people, who in turn offered support in digital literacy, parallels CARE’s concern with intergenerational sharing and collaborative practice and CARE provides a testing ground for VA to explore and extend this learning. CARE additionally responds to partner organisation Bealtaine Festival’s important work with age and creativity, and the recent European Social Survey 2008 finding that older people continue to add value to the economy, underscoring imperatives to keep active as we live longer lives. As a result of a partnership forged through CARE, Bealtaine and VA have recently teamed up on the Art-Age project (Copenhagen) and opportunities are currently being explored for CARE to work with VA partners and parallel organisations in Europe and Scandinavia.
The initial aim of the Connecting Craft and Community network was to create a consortium where policy makers, agencies and institutions that focus on crafts and design, come together with academics and practitioner-researchers to engage with questions around craft and its broader relationships to community and society. The longer term aim of subsequent projects such as CARM and CARE is to develop a new research agenda responding to the Connected Communities call for the co-production of knowledge, knowledge exchange and working collaboratively with community groups and organisations.