A few days back Rachel and I had a fabulous and triumphant day bodystorming with the lovely ladies from Marchmont Community Centre.
Unfortunately no kids turned up - so we are going to rethink that one and my suggestion to them was to wait until January and then do a project using the technology or mocks up of it and find a group of kids or school who'd like to do a project that involves the older people.
We made some funky pop ups for the map and Rach collected props to spark memories - like a ration book. There were some amazing threads and discussions created and it was a really enriching experience. Some of the participants were born here and have lived here for more than 80 years, others have come from as far away as Jamaica, they had the most incredible life stories, wisdom, knowledge and knew all kinds of unusual things about the city.
They are a really sharp bunch and talk about their lives and how politics and attitudes and meanings have changed - so it becomes more about revealing the social history and ideas of people that are linked to a place and a discussion is inspired by the memories linked to a place - rather than a story about a location. For example one of the discussions began about life during the war in a specific street in Bloomsbury and around St Clements Danes Church and then developed into the impact different governments have had on peoples lives. Another discussion about the hospitals, then the erradication of TB and how that altered society and then the whole issues of changes in medicine.
And lastly another discussion came up when we were looking at Soho, about the changes in sexual attitudes and ideas of what sexual freedom really is. Some of them were so frank and open - it was very generous.. It has made me think about a few ways to present how UT might be used - new scenarios.
I want to take this a step further and to also make something tangible for the community centre to keep. So I am proposing:- making a smaller map just of the area most of them lived in, mounted on a noticeboard that we hang in the centre, and over the next 4 weeks people annotate it - this means they can add photos and images as well - they agreed to that idea.
Then we will do a final event in November with the large map looking at all the histories and stories that have been collected and I thought I'd make those stories visible - like with pop ups and the advent calendar idea. I'll make diffusion ebooks of all of them and I also would like to compile everything into one handmade album of all their stories for the community center.
I also met someone there who is the Mission Worker for the local United Reform Church and is trying to set up an oral history intergenerational project. She thought UT was excellent and seemed keen to work with us she also had a suggestion of a school teacher we should approach to do some work with school kids.
The most important part of our day however is that Rachel won a giant bag of bite sized mars bars in the centre raffle. It was interesting because she spied them earlier in the day and said she wouldn't mind having those. The with it became clear they are in the raffle we bought tickets and she won them - so she much have great powers of attraction. Also we get tea and shortbread and italian biscuits after the event - how many focus groups do you do where you get fresh tea and shortbread brought to you, a raffle and some excellent ladies to chat with.
Back in August we invited a small group of people who are involved or interested in the Bloomsbury area to contribute content to the UT project. They include a taxi driver and poet, light and sound artists, a writer, a historian, a visual artist and more. They were encouraged to produce content in any form - be it a fictional story, factual information, audio, pictures, drawings, linked favourite cafes or bars, personal anecdotes, a map of shortcuts or quiet places – it was up to them. I sent out a Content Contributors notebook with a map of the trial area and pages to add their content. Contributors have been submitting materials electronically and hard copy. All input will be used in the public trial and it is being uploaded to the system now.
France Telecom R&D has joined Urban Tapestries as a project collaborator. They are working with us and Orange to build the client application for the SonyEricsson P800 mobile for the December Trial.
They join Ordnance Survey and Locustworld as project collaborators, whilst the main partners remain Proboscis, London School of Economics, Hewlett Packard Research Labs and Orange.
FT R&D website
This is the first entry for the Urban Tapestries blog. It will be used to share information and activities by all members of the UT team and invite commentary and feedback about the project, its processes, meetings, bodystorms, films and animations, imagery and the public trial in December.