On Tuesday I was at the Connected Communities Showcase event down in London. This was an opportunity for people involved in the exceedingly varied Connected Communities projects to talk to people about their work. The event was keynoted (if that is a word) by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, who said some generally enthusiastic things and then was whisked away leaving us mere mortals to it.
I spent a bit of time on a stand with one of my postgrads, Colin Lorne, talking to people about my MapLocal project. Colin took a break from his PhD to be the research assistant on this project that we undertook with Chris Speed from Edinburgh and Cultural Intermediation’s own Antonia Layard. MapLocal excited a fair bit of interest and gave me a chance to talk to a lot of people interested in mapping as a tool for representing/tapping into the creativity of communities. This included some really exciting work by Peter Insole from Bristol City Council with the Know Your Place project
It was really intriguing day out and was also the launch platform for five major new AHRC/ESRC-funded Connected Communities projects:
- Dementia and Imagination: connecting communities and developing well-being through socially engaged visual arts practice, led by Dr Gillian Windle at Bangor University £1.2m.
- Representing Communities: developing the creative power of people to improve health and well-being, led by Professor Gareth Williams at Cardiff University, £1.2m.
- Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery: connecting communities for mental health and well-being led by Professor Paul Crawford at Nottingham University, £1.2m.
- The social, historical, cultural and democratic context of civic engagement: Imagining different communities and making them happen led by PI Professor Graham Crow at the University of Edinburgh, £1.9m.
- Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement led by Dr Morag McDermont, Bristol University, £1.9m.
(See the AHRC press release for more details)
Keri Facer and George McKay, the Connected Communities fellows organised a meeting between the Principal Investigators of these and the other large projects – including the creative economy call of which we are a part. In what turned out to be a refreshingly honest meeting, we had a really good chat about the pressures and problems of managing very large projects and the potentials for collaboration between them.
One potential element for collaboration is the fact that we are planning on creating an interface that connects our project database (which we are creating in a piece of analysis software called NVivo) to our website (and touchtable). This idea produced some excited interest among other PIs – all we have to do now is figure out a way to do it – over to Russel Beale on that one! One of the most important recent events from that point of view is that, after many (many) delays, our project server has finally arrived. I was expecting this would be a small black box that would sit in a cupboard somewhere but it turns out to be a huge tower taller than me (and I’m 6’4″!). Apparently our University IT team needed spare rack capacity and so used our project as an excuse to buy a new rack cabinet. I’m hoping that when plugged in it will have a large glowing red eye a la HAL. Boys toys.