Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Compound 13 Lab

Here's a kind of manifesto/outline of the thinking behind the project Ben Parry, Tushar Joag, Vinod Shetty and I have been working on in Mumbai, which we are launching in April.

Compound 13 Lab is an experimental design and development 'anti-lab', situated very close to Mumbai's recycling district, an industrial centre within Dharavi. The project is a partnership between ACORN Foundation India, three UK-based researchers at the University of the West of Scotland, Bath Spa University, Coventry University, and in India, Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. IIT Mumbai, Imaginarium and Makers Asylum are also involved with the initiative. It has been developed as part of a follow-on project for international impact and engagement, Resources of Hope, by AHRC within the Global Challenges Research Fund.

Since the 1950s, more than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced worldwide. Many plastic items are used once and thrown away. As most plastics do not naturally degrade, they remain with us, usually buried in landfill or in the ocean. India generates around 3.4 million tons of plastic per year, of which 60 - 80% is recycled. India therefore boasts one of the highest rates of plastic recycling in the world, although in general the working conditions and practices of the informally organised recycling industry are challenging and dangerous for those that work in it.


Every day, the city of Mumbai produces over 10,000 tons of waste. More than 80% is collected, sorted, recycled and reclaimed, with upwards of 300,000 rag-pickers supplying grassroots, small scale recycling enterprises as part of the city's waste management chain. Around 4000 tons of plastic and other recyclables find their way to Dharavi to be processed and treated each day. In Dharavi at least 50,000 people are directly employed in the waste management/recycling industry. Most industries in Dharavi are labour-intensive, producing high levels of pollution, even though they contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the city.

Led by ACORN Foundation, we are launching an experimental design and innovation lab within Dharavi's 13th Compound (workers' colony and home of Mumbai's central recycling district). The 'anti-lab' will explore the problems of waste, work and survival in the 21st Century. The plan is to put state-of-the-art technology and tools for design, manufacturing, music and digital media into the hands of Dharavi's young people.



Compound 13 Lab, inspired by the makerspace movement, utilises the materials and resources of the recycling industry as the starting point for learning and teaching about ecological design and living solutions. Through a programme of workshops and residencies by artists, scientists, engineers and designers, the lab will share emerging tools and technologies of the circular economy with those who would not normally have access to them. The project proposes a different paradigm of 'smart city' where the technologically advanced city emerges from below rather than being centrally planned and implemented. In particular, members will be able to test and innovate with various technologies, exploring the ways in which plastics can be recycled, remanufactured and remade safely, reliably and creatively.

Through exploring issues of waste management and recycling we want to explore the essential interdependence between the formal/informal, the 'socially included' and 'socially excluded' which are uncovered in representations of the material and imaginary city.



Since no municipal waste management policy or programme of recycling exists, the circular economy and supply chain in cities like Mumbai rely on informal processes and self-organisation, from rag-pickers, sorters, industrial processors to scrap dealers and re-sellers. The thinking, research and practical applications of the lab will approach this complex set of relationships through the 'story of waste', exploring narratives that challenge recieved notions of disposable products and materials, reflecting on the reproduction of labour and the 'biopolitics of disposability'.



The experimental maker- and learning space will help to change public perception of 'waste as a problem' to 'waste as resource' and engage with ecological thinking in one of Mumbai's most contested and challenged neighbourhoods, working collaboratively with residents and young people to develop new paradigms of waste management and sustainable urban living. At the heart of the lab is creative, participatory learning, which directly links innovation and experimentation with design, knowledge exchange and arts-based research. Just as the city is upgrading its infrastructure, we want to upgrade the tools and technologies available to the people of Dharavi so they can equip themselves for the jobs and skills of the future.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Pitching, interviewing & proposal presenting: some things to consider

I was asked to give a quick talk to some MA students yesterday about presentation skills/interviews, etc. I came up with this list. It's added to the blog for future reference and in case anyone else might find it useful!


1.  Read the funding call/brief and look at the criteria – VERY IMPORTANT. Show you understand the purpose and intent of the call. There is no harm getting in touch with the funder/commissioner in advance to ask questions or clarify points – it shows that you are taking the work seriously and are preparing (but – don’t ask stupid questions where the answers are already in the brief/call).

2. Do your homework – who is on the panel, what are they interested in, what is their work about, what do you think they will be interested in discussing?  And how is the organisation/institution that you are applying to organised? Make sure you have some idea about who you are likely to be talking to.

3. But – equally, don’t make too many assumptions and be careful about stereotyping/making suppositions!

4. Some situations can be deceptively informal (equally, there may be much more going on in formal interview than is immediately apparent).  

5. Give a bad candidate a rope long enough and s/he will hang herself’. Whilst not attractive, what might this metaphor say about an interviewing process?

6. Seek advice from someone who has been through a similar process before. What can they tell you about the type of event/expectations of the funder/commissioner/employer/conference audience?

7. “Professionalism”. What does that mean? (*hint – not necessarily Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice). Credibility, capability, competence. 

8. Keep to time. How long do you have to talk? Under no circumstances go over your allotted time. It’s really annoying.

9. Introduce yourselves clearly but don’t take too long – focus on the project/work/roles, not personalities/biographies. The panel can always ask questions and/or look at your CV later.

10. Slides. How many? How long for each? Interesting images? The curse of powerpoint….

11.  IF using powerpoint, keep your typography/layout clean, simple, easy to navigate. And don't just read out the slides. 

12. IF using powerpoint, make sure you’ve emailed a copy of the presentation in advance (which means that you can’t change it on the train). And bring a backup copy on a USB drive. Another really annoying (and occasionally revealing) thing is watching someone fiddle around loading up a presentation for five minutes after it’s due to start.

13. Can you summarise your idea in 30 seconds or less? Try to create a snappy title/’elevator pitch’ that will clearly encapsulate your proposition and make people want to know more.

14. REHEARSE. Plan who will say what, when. Be clear about how you will deal with questions if presenting as a group. Who is responsible for what?  You are a team – behave like one (think about what the characteristics of a good team are…)

15.  Avoid gimmicks and tricks. Humour is fine up to a point, but treat the opportunity with the seriousness it deserves.

16. Even if you don’t get the commission, the pitch is still an opportunity. Networks/relationship building – being ‘in the room’ matters. You build a reputation and get to know people that way.

17.  The fact that you are there means that your work is under consideration/has value. Don’t forget that amidst all the flash people/show offs.

18.  Never underestimate the quiet people. Equally, the noisiest/most visible people may also not be entirely what they seem. In fact, nothing is entirely as it seems, under any circumstances. Perhaps the best approach is to stay aware, observant and reflective.

19. Be careful about giving away your best ideas for free. Who do you trust, and why do you trust them? But – don’t hide your light under a bushel – if you have a contribution to make, make it!

20. “90% of success is turning up on time” (Woody Allen). Have you ever tried interviewing someone who has arrived late (or nearly late)? It rarely goes well. One of the most important characteristics in any job is reliability. Erratic geniuses do well in films but can be a pain in the neck to work with in real life. Reliability matters. The panel will want to find out that you can do what you say you can, and will want to be assured that you can execute the project on time/on budget. 

21. If you don't know the answer, say so. If you don’t understand the question, say so.  But at least attempt to answer, and show that you are reflective and flexible enough to think through an issue on the spot.

22. Your digital/online profile matters. It is highly likely that the people interviewing you will be using the internet to find out more about your work/who you are.

23.  How to cope with nerves? Well, it helps if you are well organised and know your material – and you know that you are well organised/prepared and know your material.

24. Sleep/rest matters. It would be a good idea not to be up until 3 in the morning over the previous night. 

25.   …..? What would you add to this list?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In Conversation with Henry Giroux - June 2017

Here's the film of the event organised with my School of Education colleagues Diarmuid McAuliffe and Shirley Steinberg, in which Diarmuid, a large audience and I had a very interesting and stimulating dialogue with the excellent Henry Giroux.



In Conversation with Henry Giroux from UWS Artist Teacher Programme on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Kingdom of God is like a Yoghurt Plant



One of the things we've managed to do over the last year is to pull together a small volume of my father's writings - we gave it out to friends at his Memorial Service in June 2017. There are still a number of copies sitting in my garage looking for a new owner. If anyone would like to buy one, (a potential Christmas present?) they are available to order here.

The description on the back of the book reads as follows:

"This is a collection of sermons, lectures and writings by Bob Jeffery, selected by his children from his considerable archive. We have chosen pieces that particularly caught our attention and that seem to retain relevance and resonance in the 21st Century."

I'm hoping to put together an e-book version as well that we can distribute; maybe a job for some downtime around the midwinter break!

There are a number of very kind and thoughtful tributes and obituaries for my dad out on the web - for example, Michael Sadgrove's sermon from the Memorial Service; and an extract from the book - the opening parable about the yoghurt plant - transcribed by someone who stumbled across it at a friend's house can be found here.

All of the papers relating to his theological research, a large number of sermons, and his work in the  ecumenical movement have been lodged with Gladstone's Library, so that researchers interested in the history and politics of the Church of England in the second half of the 20th century can access them - it will be interesting to see if any projects emerge that make reference to his work.

In the meantime, we are also thinking about what might be a suitable physical memorial for him and my mother - it's likely to be something embedded into the fabric of Tong Church, like a restored window, but we're not sure yet. Bob's grave is still unmarked (according to his wishes) and as he fades into the ground and into memory we'd like to ensure that there is still something left apart from all the words - the conversations, the encounters, the relationships (which perhaps, as Michael said, are possibly their biggest legacy) to mark their time with us.





Saturday, December 24, 2016

A few words about my father

My father, Robert Jeffery, died on the morning of 21st December. It wasn't unexpected; he had spent the year in a slow deterioration, with lymphoma coursing through his body. In the end, it felt like a kind of deliverance; the last couple of weeks were really painful and hard to witness. But typically his mind was whirring almost until the last few days, working things out, dredging up hymns, poems, limericks and jokes from his huge reserves of knowledge and language. He entertained visitors and medical staff, joked about doing conjuring tricks with pills and cups, and we had to keep telling him to slow down, to rest, to conserve what little energy he had left. I'm not sure he quite realised how very ill he was until the final couple of weeks, and then there was something of a psychic battle in his mind as he faced the abyss and the great unknown of death. A few weeks ago he wrote a piece about dying which expressed equanimity and acceptance; but in the end that relinquishing of life is a tough thing to accede to, especially a life lived so full of people, meetings, conversations, writings, histories and places as my dad's.

Growing up in an ecclesiastical family, you're always aware of the wider community of churchgoers, parishioners and just endless people of all sorts coming through your life and in and out of your home. I leaned much about networks, power and hierarchies more generally by observing ministers and priests and bishops and all their apparatus of symbolism, ceremony and tradition which surrounded us, and the way in which Bob dealt with them. Bob had a huge respect for all those traditions but never gave into forms of saccharine piety, oversimplified doctrine, easy answers or smug pomposity which has so alienated so many people (myself included) from the church's work. And the end of his life is taking us on a tour of our childhood; the hospice where he died is in the parish of Headington, where he was the vicar from 1971-1978 ; the funeral will be in the rather more grandiose surroundings of Christ Church in Oxford, where he ended his career as the Sub-Dean; there will be a burial at Tong, where we lived while he was Archdeacon of Salop in the 1980s, and there will be a memorial service later in 2017 in Worcester Cathedral, where he was the Dean from 1987 -1996.  He was part of a post-war generation of radical, liberal clerics who focused more on making an almost secular, humanist, outward facing Christianity - of the idea of God's work, service and care for others in this world - than on any idea of the next. When we asked him "what happens after you die?", he would say "nothing". But there's something very profound about a deep, eternal, total 'nothing' - which also points to the sanctity of everyday life and the importance of deeply valuing and caring for other people.

As well as having all these titles, publications, services and sermons to his name he was also our dad. Everything changed for the family when my mother died very suddenly in 1995, followed by the swift passing of Bob's sister Clare - and in the middle of all this my son was born. We are now at the end of another 21 year cycle. Over the next few months as my brothers and sister sort out his belongings and affairs we will have to sift through all the remnants and fragments of our own lives, and all the artefacts of the generations before accumulated in his little flat in Cowley. We owe everything, in a way, to our parents. There is still much to do, plenty more to say and lots to celebrate.

Once we have all the details of the funeral arrangements I'll share them. In the meantime we are trying to have what will hopefully be a quiet and peaceful Christmas. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Pollinator or parasite?

- notes from some adventures in intervention, participation & place based performance

I'm doing a talk at Glasgow University on Thursday 6th Oct - details below.

Over the last few years my research has focused on documenting, supporting, analyzing and sometimes producing a number of live, experimental, artist-led initiatives in a diverse range of places, many associated with aspects of the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme. All of this work claims to foreground knowledge that is ‘co-produced’ as part of university–community partnerships, drawing on different traditions and histories of participatory and public art-making practice. It makes use of ‘live methods’ which aim to encourage participation and engagement in the research process.

I will share some examples from a number of projects designed or produced as part of Remaking Society (AHRC 2012 – 2014), the Govan-Gdansk knowledge exchange project (Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2014 – 2016) and Challenging Elites (AHRC 2014 – 2015), reflecting on the obstacles and opportunities encountered through this way of working.

All depend, crucially, on sustained collaboration with an ever-changing roster of artists, activists, designers, researchers and citizens. This approach raises important questions of responsibility, authorship and agency, as well as academic practice.  To what extent has my role in these projects been fundamentally to act as a ‘parasite’? And might this, paradoxically, be a useful role to play? The interfaces between art, design, performance and the city are a rich source of material for speculative and opportunistic projects which might point to alternative futures for people and places – but in whose interests are they being carried out?  I will share some dilemmas and emerging thinking around these issues.

Thurs 6th Oct, 5.30pm, University of Glasgow, Gilmorehill (Room 408). 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Changing the conversation?

Here's a shortish video of me, looking rather tired, that I recently unearthed, talking about training in community/participatory arts and my own routes through the field. This is from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's Artworks conference at Lancaster University in April 2013.


Graham Jeffrey - Changing the Conversation from Erin Maguire on Vimeo.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Troubling the Academic Thesis

You are invited to engage in a public seminar with 
Dr Chris Dooks (UK) and Dr Nick Sousanis (USA), who along with others will trouble the notion of the academic thesis and consider its alternative.
The primacy of words over images and sounds has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the three are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Chris and Nick and others will trouble this question in relation to the doctoral thesis. 
Chris just completed his PhD at the University of the West of Scotland using a mixture of audio-visual materials, music and found sound, encoded into vinyl records with accompanying text, (www.idioholism.com) and Nick completed a comics-based doctoral thesis at Teachers College, Columbia University, as an 'experiment in visual thinking’ (http://spinweaveandcut.com)
They will be in conversation this Saturday 6 February from 11.30 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. 
Convenors The School of Education (Diarmuid McAuliffe) and School of Media, Culture and Society (Graham Jeffery) at University of the West of Scotland in collaboration with the CCA and Glasgow Museums.
WHEN
Saturday, February 6, 2016 from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM (GMT) WHERE
Centre for Contemporary Arts - 350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3JD GB 
To BOOK: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/troubling-the-academic-thesis-an-artist-teacher-public-seminar-tickets-21081008865

Last year's presentations.. (2015)

Put here just to keep track of them:

  • Performing Methodologies, CCA Glasgow, 26th November 2015
  • Making Theatre in the Age of Austerity, University of Manchester, November 4th 2015
  • Ways of Knowing in Neighbourhood Planning, University of Sheffield, 1st October 2015
  • Labour in Transition and Urban Transformations, University of Bath, 9th September 2015
  • Community Development Journal 50th Anniversary Conference, 1 - 3 July 2015, University of Edinburgh
  • IPSS Ayr, 23rd June 2015
  • The Image Event: What Happens When You Become the Story? CCA Glasgow, 19 - 20 June
  • AHRC Symposium on Utopias, Futures and Social Change, University of Bristol, 19th - 20th May 2015
  • Generation Media Startup 2015, 17 April 2015, Stuttgart City Hall
  • Lateral Thinking: the value of collaboration between the arts, health and environment, Glasgow, 9 April 2015
  • MECCSA 2015, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, 7 - 9 January 2015
  • Thursday, September 17, 2015

    Performances of Hope

    Kerrie Schaefer and I will be talking about this at the "Poor Theatres" symposium at the University of Manchester on the 4th of November: 

    Performances of Hope: minor acts of cultural re-imagining within austerity's 'extreme economy'

    Remaking Society set out to ethnographically document and critically analyse four community-based arts and participatory media practices in contrasting contexts of socio-economic deprivation in the UK. No longer viewed as a grassroots movement of counter-cultural activism (Kelly 1984), but as publically subsidised cultural provision, community-based cultural practices have been criticised (from within and without) for facilitating (unwittingly or not) neo-conservative government policies of ‘social inclusion’ (Merli 2004; Belfiore 2006) or the ‘Big Society’. Writing on the broad ‘turn to community’ in the arts, Wyatt, Macdowall and Mulligan (2013) posit a close link between the recent ‘instrumentalisation of the arts’, wherein the arts are geared to the production of government determined ‘social impacts’, and Nikolas Rose’s theory of ‘governing through community’ in which “governance in a post-welfare state shifts from the ‘disciplinary’ governing of society to a more collaborative and consensual” (p.83), or community-based, mode. Whereas Kelly bemoaned the increasing ‘mini-welfare-stateism’ (Kershaw 1992: 181) of community arts in the 1980s, the shift noted by Wyatt et. al. (2013) appears to tie community-based cultural practices to a mode of governance that aims to economically rationalise the welfare state itself. Community is at its most ideologically slippery in this genuflection to the forces of market capitalism, offering the chimera of ‘solidarity’, or at least a loose (post-modern) sense of ‘togetherness’, while actually instituting precarious social conditions through the decimation of the welfare state and associated public services and infrastructure. 

    This paper proposes an active, critical and dialogical engagement with the politics of intersecting community–based practices – cultural and governmental – in relation to discourses of ‘austerity urbanism’ (Peck 2012). Community-based cultural practices are situated, contextualized and activated through partnerships across social divides, agencies and categories. This fundamental interdependence produces messy, contingent and unpredictable outcomes. Our account aims to acknowledge these ambiguities, and the critical problems and social possibilities they generate, while teasing out frameworks of meaning and value.