Announcing Our First Group of Sessions for the Everyday Creativity Conference….

Event Programme

Our confirmed sessions include:

The Role of Everyday Creativity in Enriching Creative Research Methods

Collaborative auto-ethnography around decolonising the curriculum: COMICS! SONGS! POEMS!

Muna Al-Jawad, Gaurish Chawla, Neil Singh, Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Abstract: We are 3 members of faculty from BSMS, researching our way through decolonising the medical curriculum via collaborative auto-ethnography (after Chang, Ngunjiri and Hernandez). We use creative methods including walking, comic-making, prose poetry and song-writing as our ways of understanding ourselves, our practice and each other. In this session we will show comics (as per the example below), perform a song and read prose poetry as part of our work in progress. We will discuss some analysis of this work, linking to relevant theory. If we have time in the session, we will invite audience participation around the use of creative methods and the experience of collaborative auto-ethnography.

 

Grieving Aromanian Heritage: Counter-Poetry of Wit(h)ness 

Afrodita Nikolova, University of Cambridge

Abstract: In this session, I will present the creative research potential of cross-cultural and mundane creative encounters. I draw on my Aromanian heritage to exemplify how everyday poetic encounters act as a form of bearing witness to cultural loss and being together with others as a form of creative method I term ‘counter-poetry of wit(h)ness’. As a researcher, poet, and educator from Aromanian ethnic minority, a Latinised ethnic group in the Balkans, creative encounters have opened avenues to make sense of my experience of social stigma compounded by a lack of meaningful cultural and linguistic representation in Aromanian language, an endangered language spoken by less than 300 000 people worldwide. I argue that movement across borders and cross-cultural poetic circles have forged a relational togetherness as a critical sphere to re-examine and grieve cultural loss. I will show how creative encounters support grieving heritage with power and practicing cross-cultural solidarity through a series of counter-poems. To do this, I bridge poet Carolyn Forche’s influential concept poetry of witness from literary studies and peace activism to the creative research turn such as Apol’s notion of withness, a kind of ethical connectedness. The creative inquiry centres on a poem produced as part of the Thresholds project, at the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The poem departed from the community’s engagement with museum artefacts and presents my response to a skeleton of a Roman woman that inspired Sylvia Plath’s poem “All the Dead Dears”. In my inquiry, I weave fragments of Aromanian language to imagine healing possibilities and evoke its oral and aural power as non-hegemonic celebration of Aromanian heritage outside of master-narratives. Poetry therefore weaves a web around the absence of ancestral witness and withness of Aromanian culture. I conclude that the cross-cultural social practice of poetry as testimony can tap into the pre-personal ontology of heritage as a precursor of a critical creativity indispensable to be at peace with loss in the here and now.

Chantal Spencer, University of Brighton

Making a mind up

 

Abstract: This activity is intended as a space for academic researchers to discuss and create their own miniature “actors” or physical rendering of their own perception of a topic. The session will focus on the tensions between our preconceptions and empathy. Understanding what we know or think we know about a subject before we embark on the journey to researching it and/or as a reflective tool of previous work. This sculptural making exercise allows us to slow down time, to give features to the abstract thoughts that we have, and clarity to the fleeting preconceptions that exist in us all. The activity parameters can be interpreted as loosely or as tightly as needed, I acknowledge and encourage a diverse reaction from the group , in that some people might thrive in the open space to create without instruction and others would like a more structured approach.

Women and domesticity – What’s our Perspective?

Vanessa Marr, University of Brighton

Abstract: Over the past ten years I have transformed the duster, a humble yellow cleaning cloth, into an object that embodies every day, domestic experience through the crafting of embroidered statements, stitch-drawings, and manipulations that research life in the home. Inspired by craftivist practices (Greer, 2014) and autoethnography as a method that uses ‘research, writing, story and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political’ (Ellis, 2004), this research with the duster is part of my long-standing collaborative arts project ‘Women and domesticity – What’s our Perspective?’ (fig.1), the focus of several publications (Marr, 2021), personal artworks (fig.2), numerous exhibitions, and the context of my current PhD. Underpinned by Barthes seminal work Mythologies (1957) as a theoretical code by which we read the social meaning of things and act out accordingly, the duster provides a lens for the investigation of everyday domesticity through our innate knowledge of its purpose. Both myself and my project participants interact with it phenomenologically; consciously and unconsciously knowing it as both a cleaning cloth and as a narrative device. As evident within Bennet’s idea of vital materiality and ‘thing power’ (2004) within which our humanness and their innateness can appear to overlap, it has become an extension of my domestic experience and an ever-present conduit to my creative research in this area.

Everyday Creativity, the Home and Placemaking, Including Pandemic Responses

Singing for Life: Accidentally Taking Singing from Sheltered Accommodation to the Manchester Midlands Hotel

Frances Turnbull, Think Cre8tive Group CIC

Abstract: This group singing project used familiar songs (vanWeelden & Cevasco, 2007) over 10 weeks funded through a local Bolton/Manchester community initiative for older people, Ambition for Ageing. Activities were loosely based on the “care home choir” initiative started by the Sidney de Haan research centre (Canterbury Christchurch University) (Moss et al., 2021). Participants were self-selected with varying degrees of experience in singing and/or performing. Repertoire was chosen by participants. This project identified a number of factors that led to the success of this project including supportive management with a vested interest in singing specifically, supportive funders that allowed the project to develop, accessible environment, non-judgemental participants, and Baileys and ice-cream! This presentation also includes a follow-up post-covid/lockdown, which included the effects of lockdown, a change in participants and a change in management. A few interesting results indicated that everyday creativity, specifically singing, had increased individually, group interactions between former-strangers had improved to the point of forming a committee to manage events for the building, and bonding over these creative endeavours had endured.

 

Home & Hand-knitting: Exploring intimacy as everyday practice

Pragya Sharma

Abstract: As an everyday activity, hand-knitting is a fairly common domestic craft practice, especially in Northern India. With the first cool breeze of the winter, one can see women across all age groups sitting cross-legged with needles in hand and a ball of yarn in lap, and in the silent cold air, the smooth click-clack of needles becomes even more pronounced. Even though hand-knitting as a creative pursuit is often taken for granted and usually assumed that every woman should know the craft, this subtly obfuscates the appreciation of the craftsmanship or the aesthetics that might be involved in the making of the artefact. Maybe it has got to do with the domestic spaces the women inhabit when they engage themselves in the practice, or maybe it is more than just that.

With the onset of pandemic-induced lockdown, these domestic spaces were enforced upon us and so there emerges a new kind of self-made place-making—those women who earlier used to practice knitting beyond the confines of their own homes, in the train, at workplaces in-between work hours or in cafes & parks. But during the pandemic, these domestic spaces became the default spaces within which knitting came to be embraced.

My mother is a homemaker and has largely knitted at home and so does my grandmother. I, on the other hand, have knitted in all kinds of spaces – airport lounges, under the restaurant table, basically wherever my needles could find some space to dance. Drawing on an auto-ethnographic account as well as having discussions with fellow knitters about where they knit, the research will be supported by a literature review and explore interrelationships between the domestic and home as fostered by the pandemic. For instance, my mother most often sits at the threshold of inside and outside of our house – her folded bed propped in-between to get the best of sunlight and warmth of home. The research will form an archive of recording such customised niches, where women can be found knitting in the domestic space.

Everyday Creativity, Health and Wellbeing

A Public Health Perspective on Everyday Creativity

Julia Roberts & Catherine Orbach, Culture Shift

Abstract: This session will share the findings of a major activity programme, commissioned by the East Sussex Public Health team in January 2021. The Everyday Creativity aimed to explore the impact of creative activity on people’s health and wellbeing. This programme was the first systematic attempt within the Public Health team at East Sussex County Council to explore the potential health benefits of creativity.  Arts charity Culture Shift led a team of creative organisations and individuals in the community, delivering activity in 2021. The activity streams were co-designed and developed with 5 distinct groups of people who were determined by the Public Health team to be at high risk of adverse outcomes either before or during the pandemic; Personal Assistants, furloughed and unemployed people, former rough sleepers, care home residents and young people (aged 14-19). This session will seek to outline the nature of the ambition and challenge inherent in this programme and share the learning gained from the multi-levels of collaboration. It will also offer a platform to explore co-design process in reality – what does authenticity look like?  how can we evaluate impact robustly and meaningfully? how do we engage with participants who benefit most?

 

How to Starve an Artist: A spoken word show

Rose Condo

Abstract: ‘How to Starve an Artist’ responds to the theme of health and wellbeing in Everyday Creativity by exploring ideas around feeding our inner artists with compassionate creativity. The show is a series of poems that include a funny yet dystopian plan for a world without artists, an imagined origin story of water on earth, a look at how bodies are a collection of ingredients to cook with, and a call to connect with those in our midst who may be in need of nourishment. As a literal act of nourishment, I prepare and serve sandwiches whilst I perform. Additionally, each person receives a ‘Starving Artist Kit’ to inspire individual creative activity at different moments in the show. For example, during one poem I encourage audience members to grab the pot of bubbles from their kits and share in the collective calming joy of blowing bubbles into the space.

As an award-winning Canadian poet (and food lover!) living in Salford, I created the show to address how easily and insidiously creativity can get starved out of day to day activities. Described as ‘an awakening, soul-resuscitating experience’ by Kent Suss from Canada’s Manitoba Theatre for Young People, it was Runner Up Best Spoken Word Show at the 2017 Saboteur Awards. An audience review called it ‘without doubt the most accessible, life affirming and heart-warming poetry show I have seen in many years.’ As I explored in ‘I thought I was just coming to watch: Audience Participation in Spoken Word Performance’ (Spoken Word in the UK, eds. Lucy English and Jack McGowan), ‘How to Starve an Artist’ offers fun and tactile activities for everyone while encouraging responsive engagement throughout the show. It further challenges me as a performer to keep attuned to the audience through our shared moments of creativity and connection.

 

KnitWell: The role of creativity when recording emotions in knitting

Emily Joy Rickard, Nottingham Trent University

Abstract: KnitWell, a practice-based project, uses a ‘free knitting’ approach – exploring choices of yarn, colour, gauge and stitch in an open-ended and creative way – to capture the knitter’s emotional state as a form of daily journaling. This doctoral research investigates the KnitWell methodology with ten participants who undertake three month-long phases of activity, creating a daily knitted journal in each phase. The research is further complemented by autoethnographic enquiry by the researcher.

This paper investigates the role of creativity within a KnitWell journal, and the importance creativity holds in the practice of recording emotions. It draws on qualitative visual analysis of data generated within three autoethnographic activities: ‘knitted journal’ artefacts, photographs of the knitted journals and excerpts from the researcher’s reflective journal. Initial findings indicate that being flexible with creativity is important. For example, yarn choice may be the creative output one day but the next may be stitch choice and another may be both. There are multiple facets to creativity within a Daily Knit Journal and one of the roles of creativity here is to give the knitter time and opportunity to privately focus on their emotions.

Join this ‘free knitting’ session which focusses on working without a pattern to create a freeform piece and discover how you can utilise ‘free knitting’ to express your emotions. Come along with a pair of knitting needles, some yarn and an open mind! You don’t have to be an expert knitter. However, you should be able to cast on and off, knit and purl.

 

Arts, Science and Technology Interfaces in Everyday Creativity

Everyday / Everynight Creativity 

Julia Lockheart, Swansea College of Art, University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Goldsmiths, University of London, and Mark Blagrove, Swansea University

Abstract:

Recently I’ve had the weirdest dreams, as if I must tell myself something I won’t listen to when I am awake.                                                

Professor Isak Borg, in Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957)

We wake up every day with a story that we have created during our sleep. We hold it on the precipice of our waking mind. Sometimes we can move that collection of colours, sensations, sounds, smells, relationships and digressive narrative plot to our memory before the day begins. This workshop aims to help a dreamer to connect the dream to their recent waking life. We ask them to tell the dream to the workshop members so as to socialise it, and unpick relationships with waking life, such as metaphors and puzzles, that the dream may hold.  

In the session the dream sharer will be asked to discuss with us a recent or important or intriguing dream they have had. We will ask participants to come along with a dream written down. We request that it is not too long, as we need to be able to hear the dream spoken out loud by the dreamer at least three times. Doing this can take 10-15 minutes. The dreamer, my collaborator Mark Blagrove, and the audience, then discuss the dream over the next 60 minutes.

During the hour that the dream is discussed, Julia Lockheart depicts the dream narrative in a work of art drawn and painted onto pages taken from the first English translation of Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams. Julia chooses the page or pages having regard to the shapes of the typed text on the page. Particular relevant words on the page can then be incorporated into the artwork, often serendipitously. After the event the dreamer will receive a high quality mounted Giclée print of the artwork to display at home and discuss with family and friends.

Everyday creative STEM?

Lewis Hou, Science Ceilidh

Abstract: What’s the role and benefits of supporting everyday STEM which embeds creativity? Can this be distinguished from other expressions of everyday creativity, and does it have any unique attributes? This session with Lewis Hou (Science Ceilidh) will start with a few case-studies including his involvement with the action research programme on cultural democracy with Fun Palaces as well as the three-year Curiosity programme exploring the role of creative STEM to support wider youth work outcomes from young people’s wellbeing to resilience. This will lead to a facilitated wider discussion on the learning and provocations drawn with the session participants.

 

More sessions will be announced closer to the date.

This conference is supported by the University of Brighton’s Centre for Arts and Wellbeing and by Nick Ewbank Associates.