Monday, June 23, 2008

urban wordplay

Sarah Butler is a writer and literature development worker whose consultancy company UrbanWords specialises in projects which use creative writing as a way to explore and question our relationship to place. She interviewed Hattie and Chris about public projects involving text and you can read her full report, A Place for Words at

Here's an extract:

"Ask children what they want in their new playground and they might say, oh, some swings over there in the corner, maybe a slide, and a sandpit. Now get a writer to guide them through the process of creating a group poem that asks them what they think play is; what makes them feel safe; and how their dream playground would make them feel, like the organisation Snug and Outdoor do when they start to design new play spaces for children, and you get a totally different picture. A group of children with physical and learning disabilities in Southampton, working with the poet Chris Meade, told Snug and Outdoor that their dream playground is the place that makes you go ahhhhh setting up a real challenge and opportunity for the designers and architects to respond to. By engaging creatively with space and their emotional responses to space, the children were able to get past the play spaces they already had or had already experienced and re-imagine the possibilities of a new space.

Snug and Outdoor used a similar process in a public art project, Hackney Hotlinks, that explored the relationship people living, working or visiting Mare Street in Hackney had with that place and what their aspirations and hopes might be for a regenerated Mare Street. Using writing workshops, spontaneous conversations and a temporary installation of visual and sound projection, the artists were able to get past the negative and the everyday and start really exploring the relationship between people and place. Hattie Coppard, Director of Snug and Outdoor is adamant about the benefits of creative consultation. It’s about exploring imagination, not gripes, she says. It’s about getting people to express something they haven’t imagined yet."

Sarah is now doing further research, funded by Arts Council England, looking at ways of:
* Effectively consulting with communities – helping to give voice to groups of residents who might find conventional consultation techniques hard to handle
* Helping developers, architects and communities think creatively about the spaces they inhabit/want to create
* Finding ways of expressing Heritage and natural ecologies in the creation of new spaces that have a distinctive sense of place using writing techniques to help communities to appreciate/understand local heritage and using this to help engage with new developments during and after their planning and construction

South Bank graffiti

No comments: