Yesterday the Bristol project team - Iain Biggs, Michael Buser, Peter Coates, Katherine Jones, Owain Jones, Antony Lyons and Lindsey McEwen (in alphabetical order) - met at the history department at Bristol University, kindly hosted by Peter.
One goal of the meeting was to make progress on agreeing the geography of the project, at least where it starts (but perhaps not where it ends). In this vein, Antony on behalf of NOVA presented a proposal that involved a dual-core of the project, focused on the floating harbour area, and the 'New Cut' of the River Avon, and moving South from there, the Greater Bedminster area, including Southville.
The selection of these areas has to do with connections with existing projects and partners, and other scoping activities (or as Antony put it 'experience, a year of discussions, finances, enthusiasms, personalities, possibilities'). Metaphors of a water wheel (a central structure with many spokes) and an amoeba (a shape-shifting organism that moves and feeds by extending temporary structures) were used to describe Greater Bedminster and the Harbour area respectively. Though geographically contiguous, the areas contain many contrasts of character and myriad different ways in which the waterways are significant to people. As such these central foci provide a great deal of diverse material for research and creative intervention. Moreover, the possibility of enhancing flow between the areas and the diverse communities that live, work, and otherwise interact within them is a potential positive outcome of our involvement.
Though the selected areas provide a central focus, there is still a sense of exploring water relationships throughout Bristol in a variety of interconnected ways, such as through one of the partner projects working with school children from all over Bristol; and through the potential use of historic and other types of mapping and representations, e.g. maps that show where tap water in Bristol comes from, both historically and in the present, and maps of sewerage systems - contributing to a greater understanding of the flows of water through the city.
Being at the stage of starting to engage more extensively with our project partners, we also briefly discussed strategies of engagement and Participatory Action Research. We all recognised the importance of being sensitive about our interactions, respecting other people's time, and seeking to develop relationships that are mutually beneficial. In this respect, Michael usefully pointed out that in our interactions we should take care from the start to be aware of differential power in relationships, and to be both conscientious and reflective in our practice. We agreed to all read the PAR toolkit again and consider this in light of what we are doing.
The discussion about engagement led on to a consideration of the role and function of our 'local advisory board'. Suggestions of individuals to be invited to this were put forward, and a draft text about their involvement presented by Lindsey was agreed by all. We discussed briefly how best to organise a first meeting with this group, including whether it was better to start with a more familiar meeting format to introduce the project and move into more creative engagement strategies in future meetings, which may themselves form part of the project's outcomes.
Another item on the agenda was the project name. The general feeling was that there needed to be a name that would be catchy, descriptive enough, but not off-puttingly academic or loaded. Some of the suggestions tabled included:
- Water Matters
- Living Water
- Bristol Living Water
- We are Water
- Making a Splash
We didn't reach a decision on this so suggestions are welcome. Post in the comments below.
We also talked briefly about our communications strategy, both internally and with a wider audience and decided that we would soon set up a Bristol team website to link from the main site and to represent news of what we are up to in our area. More soon on this, probably after we've decided a project name! We also considered how to communicate with those who are not comfortable with online media, and decided that we should remember this when producing other materials around the project.
It was a very productive and positive meeting, so thanks to everyone for contributing, and especially to Peter for hosting and arranging a lovely lunch at the Folk House. Looking forward to our next gathering, hopefully on a boat or a walk!