Considering Public Engagement, Audiences and Ethics
The Soho Create proposal has unfortunately not been accepted, but I am sstill strongly considering undertaking a similar idea; an Artist (myself) in Residence, creating further Pre-Production work inside the Gypsy Caravan Theatre.
The subject – or starting point – of my work (the model Gypsy caravan) will be publically represented through the full-scale caravan itself. Such an imposing artifice should, I hope, attract the public to at least see it close-up, and hopefully they will be encouraged to enter it. I would not only have the caravan in situ, but would also have signs outside, outlining my project and what’s happening inside. It might just be subtle hints at the project, thereby evoking a sense of mystery and suspense.
As far as public engagement goes, I am closely following the guidelines and advice on the website, www.publicengagement.ac.uk, where they describe it as the following:
"Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.”
Ensuring I am involving the public will result in a significant impact on the university, the public and myself. It’s a fantastic chance to bring everyone together, from all cultures and all backgrounds.
I want to showcase an area that I believe the majority of the public, from all ethnic backgrounds, would benefit from: nostalgia. Practically everybody has a nostalgia of some kind; through my research so far it is evident that it is, to some level, ingrained in all of us, whether it be positive or negative. We all have a past. We can all look back on things and remember them. We might not want to remember them, but those memories are there. They exist.
I want to put a positive spin on such memories and, rather than evoke any sadness or pessimistic sentiment, my aim is to create a positive atmosphere, highlighted through work that celebrates nostalgia and memories in a way that can, I hope, bring people together. It is something we all have in common, and my aim is to create an animated piece of work that identifies with the public as a whole.
I’m not trying to identify with a particular age group, although people of my generation are likely to remember the TV film/series of The Wind in the Willows. The story is now well over a hundred years old, and so it, for me, is a good starting point for that reason. It’s a story – a world – that’s ingrained in so many people’s conscience, and particularly those that are British. For those not aware of the story, I hope to raise more awareness of its qualities, depicting a glorified English landscape, highlighted through this caravan, and then embarking off, whisking the audience on a journey. That journey is a voyage of discovery that I am now about to embark on, through the summer, further pre-production, and on to the major project.
Concerning ethical and legal requirements, I will have to speak to Clemmie James (owner of the Gypsy Caravan Theatre) about Romani culture, and specifically the following…
Gypsy caravans, their decoration and meaning (interior and exterior) – an extension of the books I’ve been studying.
Symbolic meanings behind anything Romani that I’m bringing in to the project.
Ensuring I won’t offend anyone by doling this project; I’m slightly concerned about transforming my model caravan into a theatre and want to make sure such a group of people approve of that, though I’m not sure why they wouldn’t.
I have also read and understood the ‘London Metropolitan University Research Ethics Policy and Procedures’ document, which I can refer to if need be at: