One of the nice things about working on this project is learning new skills and experimenting with new ideas.  At the start of July quite a lot of the academic team (including myself, Beth, Saskia, Jess, Dave, Antonia) went down to Cardiff to take part in the AHRC’s Connected Communities Festival.

Of course a sentence like that brushes over the large amount of prep that that goes into an event like this.  Indeed, this was one of the biggest events the AHRC have run, so there was a lot of stress on their side.  We were just one of forty teams who were exhibiting, across a large number of venues, running break out sessions and arts events/interventions as part of this two day Festival.  Indeed, with meetings either side, the whole thing took up much of a week, so respect to the AHRC team for putting on such a slick event and thanks for their support in putting on our part of it.  As videos from the event have just been released, this seemed like a good opportunity to make a note about Cultural Intermediation’s presence in Cardiff.

Our contribution was threefold, we had a stand in the main conference centre, a break out session on the limits to co-construction and made an experimental short film with poet Chris Jam.  We started work earlier this year although we only got confirmation of funding in early May so it was then a bit of a mad scramble to get everything together in time.  The idea of the breakout session on the Limits of Co-Construction was to draw on the expertise of a group of ‘cultural intermediaries’ – people who, among other things, are the ‘how’ of cultural engagement – to highlight the key issues they faced in co-constructing projects.  Beth took the lead on organising this along with Andy Miles from the Understanding Everyday Participation project and we had some excellent invited participants (Stella Duffy, Gaily Skelly, Sandra Hall, Kevin O’Neil, Matt Daniels, Alison Surtees).  I’m not going to say too much about this as Beth is compiling some reflections about the session which we’ll hopefully have online soon, but a big thanks to everyone who took part in a really interesting set of discussions.  If you’d like to watch the video of the whole session, it’s available here:

We also had an exhibition stand – from my point of view this was quite a steep learning curve.  At last year’s Edinburgh Showcase I was mightily intimidated by the quality of stands from other people’s projects and so I was determined to put something more impressive together for Cultural Intermediation this year.  This of course means learning about graphic design and display printing as well as organising to put some of our research findings into a more user-friendly format for public-facing brochures and leaflets – links to all of these (in English and Welsh) can be found on the Outputs page.  It’s fascinating seeing your words transferred into a properly laid out brochure and even more interesting to see them translated into Welsh.  We also had the prototype of our touchtable app on show, which caused some sleepless nights – more thanks go to our programmer Aba-Sah for pulling out all the stops to deliver a prototype for us to take to Cardiff.  The AHRC’s multimedia team were buzzing around the different venues and recorded a short interview with myself and Beth at our stand, which you can watch here:

Last but not least Chris Jam spent the first day of the Festival wandering the streets of Cardiff persuading people to give him snatches of poetry and stories to make an artistic transect of the city.  This was one of those ideas that you have when in a playful mood and it’s great that the AHRC give us licence to try out different things.  Can poetry help you see the city differently?  We made a short film, editing overnight to show on the second day of the Festival.  Chris is, even as we speak, working on a slightly longer version from the miles of footage that he recorded with the help of Colin Lorne and Arshad Isakjee.  We’ll probably post a more considered reflection on this material at a later date, but in the meantime, here’s the recording of the session in which we presented the freshly minted film:

(Note that the AHRC’s team have unexpectedly promoted me to Professor!)

Overall, the Festival was quite a fun event and gave some space to take a step back from some of the things we’ve been working on over the last couple of years and to think a little more broadly about what we’ve achieved and where some of these debates are going.  So a big thanks to the AHRC for giving us the opportunity to reflect, debate and play.