By Nick Gray, 8th November 2023
In this blog post, CTC Researcher, Nick Gray, invites the CTC community to reflect on our project showcase: a whole day event at the Watershed, in which we told the story of our research and our six prototype teams presented their work to the world.
On 17 October we held our Connecting Through Culture As We Age Showcase at the Watershed. In the morning session we heard from lots of different people involved in our project, including academic researchers, our older adult co-researchers/co-designers, our project partners and our creative partners. After lunch, it was all about the six prototype teams, who unveiled their creations to a large and enthusiastic audience.
The corridor connecting the two rooms housing the prototypes also became an exhibition space where we were able to show the co-researchers’ films and display their poems and our wall hanging, consisting of fabric squares embellished by CTC researchers and co-researchers and assembled by Fanny Eaton-Hall. In this post, I have attempted a similar process by requesting that various people involved in the showcase record their reflections of the event, which I have stitched (hopefully as seamlessly as Fanny!) together into a narrative that captures the experience from a range of different perspectives. We have been, and continue to be, on such an incredible journey, so it seems fitting to frame each response as a series of tales that unfold as we travel together.
The Co-facilitator’s Tale by Fanny Eaton-Hill
The Showcase was such an exciting event – so much to see and do! Recycle City were encouraging people to be creative with reclaimed `trash’; my team at Expressive Pockets were helping people make a pocket; Murmurations’ blanket was a joy of stories. Tabletop Travels’ beautifully designed boxes of flavoursome Asian sweets were tempting, but not for me. The projected book from Retirement Reloaded was fascinating with glorious illustrations. Anyone Remember the Washhouse? brought back memories from my childhood and was a poignant history lesson.
Personally, I was delighted to be in conversation with Alice Willet and Jess Linnington, talking about the early workshops at KWMC Factory, and I particularly enjoyed talking with Paul Clarke and collaborative designer Becca Rose about Expressive Pockets, the prototype where I was co-designer and co-facilitator, often needling the team on possible participant reactions to our ideas.
The Principal Investigator’s Tale by Helen Manchester
This day had been long in the planning. I was really delighted with the morning session where we told the story of the project, adopting a narrative approach, and including a lot of our co-researchers and partners, which really seemed to work for the audience. I liked that the process of discussing the showcase with partners had led to some fascinating reflections and discussion which will help us to move forward. Having so many co-researchers, partners and friends in the audience, I felt the warmth, and sheer joy and knew we’d all achieved something special.
I spent the day having conversations with practitioners, policy makers, other academics and partners about what the project had helped them to see or understand. They commented on the long term, slow co-design approach, on the prototype projects that challenged ageist approaches to technological design and on the sheer scale of what we had achieved together. I felt full of pride for the whole project community and what we have made happen.
The Newbie’s Tale by Nick Gray
As the newest member of the CTC university research team, I could not have asked for a better introduction to the work of our talented co-designers and creative partners than them telling the story of the project in the morning session. What struck me most in the afternoon was the sheer range of the projects on display at the showcase: some intimate, some celebratory, some multisensory, some immersive, some reflective, but all thought-provoking and challenging commonly held (mis)conceptions of ageing.
Being a film teacher, I loved the co-researcher movies, particularly the poetic ones and the animations. Just as the prototypes were a wonderful celebration of the work that can emerge from creative group dynamics, the films of individual co-researchers offered fascinating and engaging insights into their personal interests, concerns and stories.
The Filmmaker’s Tale by Tot Foster
I loved the positivity and warmth from a huge range of people. It felt like a community around the project. One of my old friends who came commented that the listening to the story of our work made her think about her own practice and validated her ‘slow design’ approach. It was interesting to really see, for the first time, everything in one place. I thought, “Wow! Haven’t we all done so much together and had so much fun. So many people have been involved.” It struck me how there was such a strong narrative around the project; in research terms but also a narrative that is based on care, and on respect and value for all participants. I guess it was that that really instilled pride and emotion for me. Long live the CTC community!
The Early Career Researcher’s Tale by Alice Willatt
It was the first time we have told the full story of the project from start to finish, which was exciting. It was also fantastic to see all the people invovled in different elements of the project in one space and having the chance to interact with the protypes for the first time. It was the first time I had seen some of the prototypes, and having them all in one space with the chance to move around the room and interact with each one was really magical! I also particularly enjoyed watching the prototype project teams share their protypes with such diverse audiences, in some cases for the first time. There was a real buzz and celebratory atmosphere across both the showcase rooms, which collectively offered such diverse sensory cultural and connective experiences. There were also pockets of quiet reflective spaces, such as with people interacting with the Murmurations blanket and audio stories, or pausing to look through the collection of co-researchers albums. One of the highlights for me was seeing the response to the co-researchers wall hanging, which hung in the centre of the corridor. It felt like a real centrepiece of the project, the way it came together with each co-researcher contributing a uniquely designed square, with Ruby’s fabric scraps connecting everything together, and the skill, dedication and care that Fanny took in bringing it all together.
The Co-researcher’s Tale by Carmeletta Groves
I enjoyed the day. It’s so nice just talking to everybody when people come up to me and say, “ooh I like your movie” and just to say hello. I really liked listening to the book [Retirement Reloaded prototype] that they wrote my poem into. I liked that, that sounded good. It’s everything else too, it was good watching the movie, watching the clip from everything. It was very interesting, and I learned a lot and it let me feel good that there are various things that I can do.
The Evaluator’s Tale by Karen Gray
The morning session felt like a genuine and useful account of the co-design process in the really engaging and accessible form of a narrative. There were so many sides of the research presented by a range of different people, which, I thought, really captured the involvement of all the stakeholders in this project. It was both celebratory and really useful for fellow practitioners, who could take away a host of new approaches to working with older adults as co-designers.
In the afternoon, I was involved in developing our evaluative tools with two groups of enthusiastic volunteers. It was wonderful to work with people whose responses were so insightful and thoughtful. Their input will most certainly be incorporated in future iterations of our evaluative process.