This week, Active Schools Coordinators Tammy Johnston and David Rose reflect on the ways in which the COVID 19 pandemic has impacted on their work and, on the experiences of the young people they work with. Active Schools is a government initative funded by sportscotland and managed by Local Authorities.
Our Renfrewshire School of Sport Education (RSSE) programme is Renfrewshire Leisure’s Active Schools coaching programme. 75 pupils from across all of the local high schools are selected annually to complete this 25 week programme across three different centres. Upon completion of the course we host a grand graduation whereby we showcase the hard work and dedication of these young people. This formal event is one of the highlights of the working calendar for all the coordinators. It’s a chance to show our 75 young people how much we appreciate them, how proud we are of them and show them off to our chief executives, local MPs and SportScotland representatives. Everyone gets dressed up to the nines to come together in celebration of our young and future stars. Last years event was beautiful, hosted in the architectural, historical phenomenon that is Paisley Abbey. This motivated us to make the graduation for our 2019/20 students even better. Then along came coronavirus.
One thing we always teach our RSSE students is to have the ability to adapt to any circumstance. I must commend the youth of 2020. This uncertainty and fear are not something you should have to experience, but from the bottom of my heart I want to express my gratitude and pride for how each and every one of you have taken this in your stride. You adapted.
All the students in the course inspire the coordinators in different ways and it is the sense of loyalty to them that hurt us coordinators to not be able to give them all the send-off they deserve. A quick powwow and it was decided we weren’t going to let COVID19 take anything more from them. It’s taken their exams, leavers days, proms etc but it wasn’t taking their RSSE graduation. So again, we got ourselves scrubbed up and instead of making our way to a prestigious event, I walked the two steps from the sofa to the desk, opened my laptop and video called my centre. The same was replicated across the other two centres with all our students getting the graduation they were promised and deserved. We pulled together video montages of their journeys on the course, spoke of fond memories and celebrated them. The RSSE Graduates of 2019/20.
The circumstances and situation have changed, but my message to the graduates remains the same. There are three types of people in this world, the people that make something happen, the people that watch something happen, and the people that have no clue it happened. Which person will you be?
In Renfrewshire we work with over 55 clubs in our 5 Community Sports Hubs. The hubs are; Johnstone Linwood & Gryffe, Renfrew & Gallowhill, Paisley West, Paisley East, and Park Mains Community Sports Hub. The objective of our Hubs is to provide opportunities to the community by bring clubs together from a variety of sports to promote the positive impact sport has on a person’s life. This is done through working with Sports Services, National Governing Bodies, Schools and the community to identify the needs and provide taster sessions to pupils in school time.
As like everyone our CSH are facing difficult times and having to adapt to the service they provide. The clubs need to continue to support their members and keep engaging with their communities to provide opportunities. This has led to clubs being creative and inventive with their ideas to keep in touch with their communities.
A lot of the clubs have come forward with support to the local community such as Bishopton Rugby Club that are offering a door to door service to vulnerable people in their community. Also, Erskine badminton club took to social media to share their stay safe video and at home workouts. Other clubs in the hubs have taken to using various online platforms to keep engaged with their members such as e-sailing by Castle Semple sailing club, online quizzes based on Judo holds by Genki Judo club, Zoom sessions delivered to members by the UKTC and also Renfrewshire Trampoling Club. The Paisley Barbell Club has allowed members to take club equipment home so they can continue to train at home, also offering check in sessions via Zoom and coaches posting workouts online.
As part of our partnership working with Sports Services and the CSH we have created various opportunities through Twitter and Facebook to challenge the local community. There have been clubs such as St Peter’s Netball Club and Basketball Paisley taking part in these challenges. Furthermore there is now a number of clubs supporting the Active Schools programme through online coaching sessions. These are able to be accessed by all Renfrewshire schools pupils and through working with Active Schools have created opportunities to learn new skills such as football, karate, tae kwon do and basketball.
As the situation continues to develop it is great that our clubs maintain their involvement in the community. Everything they are doing is offering support and it is great to see our Community Sports Hubs working hard to bring opportunities and also provide different types of support in these challenging times.
Tammy Johnston is the Active Schools and Community Club Development Officer for Park Mains High School and Bargarran, Barsail and Rashielea Primary, her work ensures that there are sporting opportunities – through participation, competion or volunteering – for all.
David Rose is the Active Schools and Community Club Development Officer for the St Andrew’s Cluster with St Andrew’s Academy, St Fergus, St Paul’s and St Peters Primary school. He also works with the Paisley West Community Sport Hub.
As I write we’re entering our fifth week of lockdown and I am currently reorienting the ‘who with’ and ‘how with’ part of my PhD. In the meantime, the feedback between theory and practice will have to be through applying a conceptual perspective to my own life. This perspective comes from the concept of communities of practice1 and its descriptions of how meaning, identity and belonging are formed. This view is applied to analysing how the process of participating in arts and culture can create and maintain health. During this lockdown there has been a proliferation of examples, from the sourdough craze to the rise of crochet and neighbourhood singing. Maybe this is the opportunity for me to make kimchi, explore my many neglected cookbooks and finally knit stylish, cosy jumpers for my dogs. I can bring my conceptual framework to life through the practice of conceptualising participation as learning with others, such as online forums to share experiences or blogs to learn techniques. I can reflect on whether this participation can both maintain my mental and physical health and write my research equivalent of King Lear.
None of these things have happened. My focus and productivity are sporadic. I haven’t even binged a TV show, let alone been actively creative. There are plenty of resources that say this is to be expected and, help to soothe the debilitating feeling that now is the time for productivity and creativity whether personally or professionally. Some are aimed at PhD students and shared through communities.2 My conceptual perspective identifies non-productivity itself as a practice, through this mutual engagement, shared repertoire and joint enterprise of staying well through the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we will take each day as it comes, celebrate the small wins, and learn how to walk through The Valley of Deep (COVID) Shit3. There’s the repeated line ‘you are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.’ A reminder that you’re juggling responsibilities, new roles, ways of working and worries.
Since I don’t have any distractions at home, no juggling act, care work or adjustment to online working, I don’t feel I belong to the community of non-productivity. My conceptual framework states that the concepts of practice and identity are profoundly connected and relate to meaning and belonging. Without either a productive or non-productive practice, it is predictable that my identity as a PhD student is evaporating, as are my other practices and identities, which are all now curtailed by lockdown. How do I start to take the suggested small steps back into the practice of being a PhD student or even being a participant in everyday life and recover a sense of self?
At this point, my application of my conceptual perspective falters. However, it does provide an emphasis on an individual’s knowledge and experience. I’m familiar with the ongoing process of acknowledging the validity of your own challenges and not minimising your feelings. I have learnt to not compare my experiences to a pregnant woman, crossing the pirate-filled Gulf of Thailand in a wee boat to a future of either being trapped with a new born in a refugee camp or an as yet unknown life in a uncontemplated country. I can apply this knowledge in order to try not to compare myself to those who seem to be negotiating productivity and non-productivity. I’ve been working on the task of leaving my feelings out there, to not dismiss them as trivial compared to what other people must being going through. I find it helps to let emotions breathe and take form, in order to provide the shape of something to acknowledge, to help voice ‘I’m not fine’ to something and, hopefully, someone. I’ve found honesty with yourself helps meaningful connections grow, and if you’re lucky, one of those productive people might leave baked goods on your doorstep and help you find a practice.4 This process has taken me to a place where I can start to act on the advice of setting achievable goals,5 enjoy moments rather than activities6 and so create the conditions for taking those small steps back into PhD practice and myself.
Resulting Sketch of Dog
1Etienne Wenger (1998), Communities of Practice – Learning, Meaning and Identity
4 Pistachio and rosewater cookies. Unexpectedly my practice seems to be organising fitness workouts based around mathematical sequences. There is even a process of reification, where form is given to experience and objects articulating the experience are created, as I have been given a logo. Reification and participation are a duality that constitute the concept of negotiating meaning that is the basis of practice and identity. Maybe my conceptual framework is coming to life, as I seem to be forming an identity as an unqualified fitness organiser.
5 I might not have made kimchi but I have finally made the most basic form of pickles. I’m now making up for all the years of missing the flavour and texture combination of the world’s finest sandwich, Bánh mì.
6 It’s not a stylish dog jumper, it’s a moment. I haven’t used these pencils since I purchased them last year. I’m finally acting on the celebrating small wins!
When I started my PhD just a little over a year ago, I made a mental list of all of the things that might happen over the next three years, and all of the challenges I might face. That life happens around and throughout your PhD journey is something that all researchers must confront at some point during their studies, and doing a doctorate requires an intricate management of the world beyond the PhD. However, having a slightly pessimistic disposition, it felt reassuring to consider what challenges might arise and to think about how best to mitigate whatever comes my way from the beginning. One thing that did not make my list, however, was the outbreak of a global pandemic.
And yet, that is precisely the situation in which my colleagues and I now find ourselves. The coronavirus has spread on an unprecedented scale and has brought much of the world to a grinding halt. Our university campuses have closed, and we are, at the time of writing, in partial lockdown. That this pandemic will affect our research is, at this stage, inevitable. So, it is only natural that we ask ourselves what might be done to mitigate its impact.
There are a number of practical limitations that arise from a state of lockdown. To start, conducting fieldwork appears to be out of the question in the coming months. For me, this has sent me back to the drawing board. Prior to the pandemic, I was in the process of designing my fieldwork and planning the next few months of my research. In a sense, this has forced a period of much needed introspection; by obliging me to ask difficult questions about the decisions I am making and allow myself some important time to reflect and regroup before proceeding. In any case, as universities move increasingly (now entirely) online, it has never been more feasible to remain productive and research active remotely. From staying in touch with supervisors to completing interviews and focus groups, platforms like Zoom and Skype mean that research need not simply cease in these uncertain times.
Perhaps less easy to mitigate, however, are the missed opportunities that will arise as a consequence of cancelled events and conferences. As a doctoral research student, time is precious and your position is precarious. In the competitive world of academia, the opportunities to teach, publish and present can be just as important as the successful completion of a thesis in terms of securing employment post-PhD. From this perspective, cancelled classes and conferences could potentially have a significant impact on professional development, not simply in terms of bolstering your CV. Conferences, for example, provide networking opportunities that are difficult to replicate in the current climate of social distancing.
There are, then, a myriad of concerns for PhD students beyond the immediate threat to progression. It is without a doubt an uncertain and anxious time for everyone and for many, particularly those more closely affected by COVID-19, staying productive will be the least of their concerns. In these strange and uncertain times, the PhD and the world beyond it seem to be at odds. Despite the levity of some sections of academia, who insist that lockdown is concomitant with something of a productivity boom, it is important be mindful of your own mental health and recognise your own limitations in the coming weeks and months.
The PhD and pandemic, it seems, reveals a struggle between productivity and priority that we all must address. Coronavirus will continue to have an impact that reaches far beyond our research journey. It will, it seems, remain possible to continue to research. However, it would be a little naive to suggest that this constitutes anything resembling a ‘business as usual’ approach. In these anxious times, it is important to take the time to rest, reflect and regroup.
Call for Abstracts IUAES 2020 Coming of Age on Earth: Legacies and Next Generation Anthropology Conference 07-11 October 2020, Sibenik, Croatia Deadline: 23 March 2020
We are seeking abstracts from speakers from a range of disciplines to present 15 minute papers for two panel sessions about feminist-inspired activism that will run consecutively at the conference: Weaving Cross-Generational Theory: Alternative Futures for Feminist Activism-Inspired Methodologies and Making Change: Social Making and the Material Imaginaries of Everyday Activism (see details below)
All those interested, please submit your abstract direct to the conference website and email the conveners by 23 March 2020 deadline: https://iuaes2020.conventuscredo.hr/ For more information, and to register interest in the panel, please contact the conveners:
Weaving Cross-Generational Theory: Alternative Futures for Feminist Activism-Inspired Methodologies Professor Katarzyna Kosmala (University of the West of Scotland, UK): email@example.com and Dr Ana Vivoda (University of Zadar, Croatia): firstname.lastname@example.org
Making Change: Social Making and the Material Imaginaries of Everyday Activism
Professor Fiona Hackney (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK): F.Hackney@mmu.ac.uk, Jana Milovanović, (Director Terra Vera, Slovenia): email@example.com
Panel abstracts: Weaving Cross-Generational Theory: Alternative Futures for Feminist Activism-Inspired Methodologies Alison Dahl Crossley proposes a notion of ‘waveless’ in feminist paradigms to point out “the persistence of feminism over time, the variations in feminism, and the interaction between feminism and other movements.” This panel addresses some of the challenges in today’s research realities, including positionality of the researcher, coalitional politics of the feminist-inspired activisms and intra-generational dialogue, intersectionality as well as geographical and other forms of distancing.
Researchers today are in a world that is different from what it was a generation ago, creating ways of coping with new challenges, some of which persist from previous generations. What kind of feminisms can permeate our worldview to face alterative futures for an interdisciplinary researcher, including interactions, alliances and relationships in everyday lives?
Rosalind Gill suggests a category of post-feminism in the context of recent resurgence of interest in feminism among younger generations, used as an analytical frame to capture a connection with neoliberalism. We invite theoretical papers, exploring the ways of approaching alternative futures of feminist methodologies as well as empirical studies that draw on research paradigms underpinned by plurality, continuity and difference within feminist-inspired research and activism.
We welcome interdisciplinary enquiries, artistic interventions, creative works and case studies examining the ways power dynamics operate in the field, addressing contextual issues for mobilising researchers to act for gender equality, or representing the multiple routes through which power marginalizes and rewards. We invite contributions from the multiplicity of geographies, disciplinary fields and specificities of grassroots struggles.
Making Change: Social Making and the Material Imaginaries of Everyday Activism: The current situation of worldwide instability combined with political popularism and climate emergency results in a state of unprecedented worldwide risk. At the same time, this offers opportunities as new imaginative spaces open-up in a lived response to crisis. Faced with such global challenges we are forced to rethink our relationship with the world: the way we live, our needs, desires, values, aspirations and priorities, and the ‘arts’, broadly understood, play an important part in this. Thinking around ‘cosmopolitan localism’, moreover, helps us understand the global as a series of networked interconnected locals in the form of small, everyday life solutions that people can understand and control.
This panel explores examples of what we term ‘social making’: community arts, collaborative crafting, social architecture and design, for instance, and how they function as a mode of embedded, everyday activism to re-imagine the world from the ground up and bring about change. This might include, but is not limited to, explorations of community arts’ agencies, the added value of design networks, the benefits and challenges of hyper localism, how caring for things helps us care for each other, the health and well-being benefits of creative making processes, upcycling and repurposing clothing, neo-artisanal producers and the potential for more democratic circuits of community-based production and consumption, localised ‘ecologies of making’ and regeneration.
As such, the panel focuses on the agencies, knowledges and capacities of ordinary people as they reimagine processes of living as embodied activism by forging interactions between people, places and things.
‘Articulate is a niche and specialist charity that has equality, diversity and inclusion at its core and co-designs services that benefit Scotland’s most vulnerable young people, especially those who are care experienced, at risk, seeking asylum or living in poverty in our most challenged communities.’
Creativity across the global education landscape is considered a fundamental skill that will help future generations thrive. It can support young people to be more engaged in learning by fostering imagination and curiosity. Potentially more impactful, it can ensure that they find learning meaningful by connecting learning with the world around them as well as things they care about. After formal education ends, creativity is valued as the most desirable ability from employers, even above mathematical and logical reasoning (World Economic Forum).
Access to high-quality creative education is critical for all our young people. Access to creative education is particularly important for children from low-income backgrounds who may only have opportunities to engage with arts and culture through their schools. Studies show that children who do not have access to arts and culture are at a disadvantage both economically and educationally in comparison with those that do. A system which means that only more privileged young people are able to access arts and culture does a disservice both to those young people who suffer as a result, and to a society that believes in the importance of social mobility and equality of opportunity.
The creative industries deliver economic, social and reputational value. They add over £100bn to the UK’s economy and are growing at twice the rate of the general economy. The sector employs more than two million people and expects to create one million more jobs by 2030.
Beyond these economic benefits, the creative industries continue to tackle regional inequalities, build communities, and enable individuals to lead lives that are happier, healthier, more sociable, and enriched through access to the arts, culture and creativity.
There is enormous potential to go further. Despite their great successes, our creative industries are often under-capitalised, suffer from skills shortages that impede growth, and are hampered by a lack of diversity and unequal access to the opportunities that organisations and individuals need to reach their full potential.
While talent and creativity can be found everywhere, access to the money and networks needed to succeed cannot. The result is lost opportunities for individuals and communities as well as a cost to the national economy.
Creativity and the Arts
A Social Mobility Commission study reported that children aged 10 to 15 from low-income families are three times less likely than wealthier peers to engage in out-of-school creative activities.
So Articulate’s work focuses on creative habits of mind. We use the arts as a stepping-stone to creativity, a high value commodity in the workplace of the future, not just in the cultural landscape or the creative industries.
We have worked hard in the last three years to understand what we can do to help and now focus on these key themes:
• 16 industry- and art-forms are employed to benefit marginalised young Scots
• arts education, creative learning and cultural practices, including digital, are prioritised
• all ages and stages of child development are supported
• an asset-based, person-centred and relational values approach is core
• Social Pedagogy and creative learning pedagogies combine
• practice is rooted in robust evidence and research, including around the arts and neuro-science
• the teaching artists are of the highest calibre and their approach is trauma-informed
• creative voice is nurtured for social, educational and economic improvement (artivism)
• programmes are built upon the UNCRC, specifically articles 12, 29 and 31
• high value is placed on quality, authentic co-design and creativity with partners and participants.
At Articulate, we see creativity as crucial to solving problems both small and large. Whether personal challenges or those that impact billions, creative solutions are in high demand.
Creativity is also a mindset that helps children (and adults) adapt, no matter what happens. We believe that every child is creative, and that ability can be improved as they, and we, all grow.