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Dr Jennifer McGarrigle organised an excellent conference in Lisbon on 26th and 27th June, which I was fortunate enough to be part of. The conference theme Diversity in the City: Shifting realities and ways forward brought together international researchers looking at issues of migration, integretation, segregation and spatial encounter in the context of plurality. I gave a paper in the session on Migrants and the Arts which came out of the current cultural intermediation workpackage underway in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. Taking a community-centred approach, the paper proposed that research needs to capture creativity in marginalised and peripheral spaces in the creative economy, including ESOL classes, places of workship and the domestic scene, to effectively insert diverse migrant experiences of culture and arts into funding and governance structures. Unexpectedly and fortuituously, one of the keynote speakers, Dr Richard Gale (University of Cardiff) delivered a fascinating paper using social-spatial network analysis in the very same area to investigate neighbourhood interaction and friendship. In the context of negative UK public discourse on segregation and conservative Islam, both papers and the wider conference attended to various sites where connectivity across ethic-religious groups takes place.

Lisbon isn’t a bad spot to spend a couple of days either…1977225_10152206244397747_1800544418922695315_n