This weekend I had the privilege of attending a conference at Lancaster University with the rather long title “Participatory Research: Working and communicating with communities: Good Culture and Precariousness”. Now, because life has been rather busy the last few months (hence the lack of blog posts), I hadn’t found much time to think about what to expect from it. Day one focused mainly on a participatory project run by Matthew Johnson of Lancaster University which explored what culture means with two groups of people, one from Ashington in Northumbria, and the other from Brisbane, Australia. You can read about the project here. I found the whole weekend to be very stimulating and refreshingly different from any conference I’ve ever been to. One of the things that really struck me (again, see previous post on this) was how important telling stories can be in breaking down barriers between people and establishing shared understanding, and it is so much more interesting to start a conversation, as is traditional within Australian Aboriginal communities, about your family and where you have come from, than the more common opener at conferences: “So, what do you do?”!
Although we tend to work across disciplines here at SEI, this conference really brought home to me the power of bringing people with diverse interests into one room. The conference was small, about 20 people, a mixture of ‘academics’ and people who had participated in the project, and we discussed family, culture, mining, japanese drumming, ethics, citizen science, perfume, personas, jewellery, film-making, power relations, sacred places…..and so much more. And that was just in the sessions themselves!
Thanks to all involved, a great weekend which will stay with me for a long time.