Inclusive. Interactive. Imaginative
Creating Hackney as Home
Hackney Youngsters Become University Researchers
A lucky group of Hackney Young People will have the opportunity to act as researchers for a unique and innovative research project being led by The Open University. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK, the two year project will explore the idea of “Creating Hackney as Home” as seen through the eyes of young people.
The project is a collaboration between the Department of Geography at the Open University, and two youth oriented Hackney arts groups - the estate-based youth theatre company, Immediate Theatre, and the film production company Mouth That Roars.
The project aims to understand young people’s experience of place and space use in Hackney, the creation of 'home' and belonging, and how they respond to change and difference. Young people recruited from Immediate Theatre will form the core of the participatory research team, and will explore these themes through film production, the use of video diaries and online broadcast media.
Through their films, made in conjunction with Mouth That Roars, the young people have decided to focus on:
- What does Hackney mean to me?
- What makes Hackney Hackney? How does the history of an area affects young people’s experience?
- Who is Hackney changing for and why?
- Does how you dress restrict where you can go and how people judge you?
- How does being a single mother or from a single parent family affect your experience of Hackney?
- What happens when we’re kicked out of the playground? How does our relationship to space change as we grow older?
According to project leader, Dr Melissa Butcher, ”Hackney is marked by high levels of mobility, urban regeneration, cultural diversity and social inequalities. Demands from competing stakeholders have led to different expectations of how public space is used and this has the potential to create tension and conflict .Young people, as one of the most substantial users of public space, have become immersed in debates about social inclusion, crime and media representations of Hackney but we don’t really know how they feel about the area.area This is why we wanted to create this project and work with young people to conduct the research themselves.”
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The community arts collaborations embedded in the project will provide skills development in film production, research and project management for the young people involved. The project will also enable an evaluation of the use of participatory video and online media and social networks in producing research data and enhancing youth participation.
Six young people aged 16-18 have been selected to work as research assistants supported by Immediate Theatre staff.
Jo Carter, founder and Artistic Director of Immediate Theatre said “This unique project enables the work we do with young people to be shared with a national and international audience. For more than 16 years we have been working on housing estates in Hackney to engage young people creatively in the world around them. This project is a natural development of our work – giving a powerful voice to young people and their views on the world in which they are growing up.”
One of the young researchers, eighteen-year-old Monet Morgan, was raised in Hackney and is excited about the project and her new role. She said, “It is really relaxing working with other young people I know. From a personal point of view, this is my opportunity to express my opinion, to compare my opinion with other people’s, and to see other communities – which is a real eye-opener. In the end, I hope the work we do will also be an eye-opener for people and what they think about Hackney.” She also commented on the personal benefits of the project to her: “This project makes me feel liberated. I am proving people wrong who thought that the most I could do would be to work at MacDonald’s. A few years ago I dropped out of college – now I have my foot in the door of University. I feel appreciated – I am really doing something worthwhile.”
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The “Creating Hackney as Home” research team in a training session with Dr Butcher and Jo Carter. (PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BARALDI)
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