New Project: Developing community-led media in Wester Hailes

Pre-amble-y bit that follows on from that blog post:

Last week I wrote about how I had been recruited as a community media development worker at WHALE Arts Agency in Wester Hailes until January. I’ve taken the decision to pursuit this as a freelance project, rather than incorporate it into my existing role at UWS. This means that I can focus on the task at hand as my own work, a very exciting and interesting project that I already stoked about being involved in, but also the project work that allows to develop myself as a community media practitioner. I don’t want to get too bogged down in my PhD decision within this post, but I guess what could be a possibility for the future is that if I am academically reflexive about such practice (journal articles, guest lectures etc) that it means I can keep one finger in the higher education pie whilst developing my own practice in an area which doesn’t really have too much formal education processes associated with it. This is the bit in my life (the day before my 28th birthday-how bloody symbolic, Jones) where I flip my career from “PhD student who does loads of wee jobs & has to plug the gaps in the academic labour market to fund her PhD” to somebody who is looking to gain more confidence in those wee jobs, build a portfolio and reputation in this area (the success of #citizenrelay has helped me loads, but you are only as good as your last gig and you can tour on the same setlist forever) develop these processes properly and POSSIBLY think about a PhD by publication, or by practice – with no obligation of a traditional academic career at the end of it.

There is always that fear that by giving up something, you are throwing away the baby with the bathwater – but come on, I doubt universities can get rid of me that easily, unless you truly believe there is such a thing as an inside/outside of such things such as institutions (My good friend Richard Hall writes loads about this, read his blog – he is better at it than me.) then I don’t see myself ditching the university (or the apparatus of ‘formal education’) for a purely feral approach to learning. Although, I do like teaching 2nd year undergraduate level stuff to random folk that don’t identify as ‘students’ – and I like being able to drive a bus as far as I can without getting caught – but hey, we aren’t robots – we don’t ‘level up’ when you get a degree, you don’t automatically qualify for the job/life/salary/things you think you deserve and if you do, good for you. I’m done with rubbish chat – from me, others, each other. Anyway, enough pre-amble…

Introduction: Wester Hailes, Our Place in Time and The Digital Sentinel

I have been commissioned as a Community Media Development Worker to develop, establish, support and pilot a range of activities that will support the launch of a new online community-ran newspaper for Wester Hailes and is embedded in a wider project around collecting the social history of the community using social media (it involves a digital totem-pole, but that’s another story.) Here is the official blurb:

The community demand for the projects collectively known as Our Place in Time came about following the disinvestment by the City of Edinburgh Council in community newspapers in 2008 which led to the closure of The West Edinburgh Times, previously the Sentinel. There was a concern that the social history archive that the newspaper represented would be lost to the community. And the lack of a local newspaper left a huge gap, identified by many local community-led organisations left without a communication tool. Local activity began to emerge to address these concerns, and in 2011, specific UK University Research Council funding allowed university partners, led by Edinburgh College of Art, to bring capital resources and expertise, to the emerging projects. In total around £15,000 will have been spent. At this time the projects delivered are: From There to Here Facebook Page (http://on.fb.me/FromThere) and blog which post photos and stories from the newspaper archives, with content linked to RCAHMS; a book of social history walks incorporating QR codes that link to web based content; a community designed totem pole and wall plaques with QR codes to be sited around the locality that also access online social history resources; and a back-end for a new online community newspaper, The Digital Sentinel.”

A subtle critique (with a nice filter)

So my job, essentially is to find a way to make this happen – if it can happen at all. It’s less about writing development documents or strategies at my desk that I wouldn’t actually get to undertake- it’s actually about me getting in and about the community and establishing who, if anybody would a)read a community newspaper, would b)participate in managing, writing, developing a community newspaper & if they do, support that in a way that is suits the community so that it can be taken on by them and ask c) whose ‘social history’ are we actually capturing here, because that has its politics attached to it as well.

Right now I am in Wester Hailes, I’m probably going to get a Greggs and I’m probably going to get a pint – and I might buy some fags and I might just jake about it the Plazza – or go read my book in the library. In all traditional senses of ‘being at work’, that looks like me skiving. It is what I do most days, to be fair – especially when I am skint. But, it is a way of getting to know the community. I am desperately trying to shed the obligation that to work is to feel like I have to be in an office, I have to log-in and clock off at particular times, I need to demonstrate deliverables and tick the boxes on my timesheets. Yes, I definitely had my lunch between 12.30-1pm m’am. This is where things have started to go wrong for me in most jobs I’ve had. The way this is going to work is to essentially get in and aboot the community, wander about, work out what works what doesn’t work and where the chat is. It’s that chat that forms the basis of the story telling that is going to populate the website, that is going to give people a reason or an interest to even get involved and set the basis and reasoning for the project to exist in the first place.

I’m also going to use a calendar of local community events to gather information about what works, what doesn’t work in terms of ‘recruiting’ interest – I don’t think for one moment if I pap a poster up on a notice board in the library, or post on the facebook page that people are going to get involved in my wee citizen journalism project because it is me that is doing it and obviously it is going to be brilliant. It’s going to be empty, it is going to be shite. Who cares what Jennifer Jones or indeed what community media is and why it is important or it should be important. It might work in Glasgow – especially if you are cultural tourist or wanting to gain experience in something relating to your degree or chosen career path – this is not about becoming/challenging/bringing down the established media. For instance, STV local are heading this way on the 23rd of November- their brand of hyper-local journalism will serve a purpose – and this, I hope will serve another. It is being able to distinguish the differences and the motivations/purposes of both that will be the most important priority at this stage. It’s not a competition by any means, but it is also about forming trusted relationships but also (hopefully) empowering those in the community who are listening to know when they are being talked about, having things ‘done to’ them or indeed reclaiming their own narratives. Yas!