Titles for Work: Beware !!!

This is a retrospective post as I’m still waxing lyrical about the Reading Room event in the summer because I learnt such a lot- Things I have learnt before but re- learnt again….

One of these was checking any title for work I have made by  doing an internet search before I print labels etc…

For the Interim Show  I wanted to call the work something  which was ‘catchy’, descriptive sad appropriate    ‘ Read All About It’ seemed appropriate as it alluded to news papers and a time when they were advertised verbally by men wearing Sandwich Boards. Fitting with the age of the Reading Room… and what I wanted an audience to do.

My search led me to this…by Pro. Green and Emilie Sande. I was aware of the song but hadn’t taken much notice of it.

Then I watch this vid by Pro.G and actually found it very moving and powerful (and changed my opinion of Emilie Sand who I hadn’t really given much time to….)

More to the point, it meant that I no longer wanted to call the work ‘Read All About It’.

It seems inappropriate  for a younger audience because of this reference.

[Reflecting on this so long after the event, I actually think I should have stuck with my original decision as it would have lead to the audience taking some action…which was the reason for wanting it in the first place… and many of the audience would not associate this newer reference…and I  was aware of it anyway.. so that would have made it OK.Stick to my original thoughts, I think in future… and OWN THEM FOR MYSELF!   Lesson Learnt]


The Reading Room Event :even Further reflections’Community Participative Action Research Project’

At the risk of boring everyone even myself, I must post this further analysis and reflection on the Reading Room Event.

When I exhibited the leaflets, flyers and posters at the Interim Show I had to describe the medium for the work….I struggled with this and then  composed this phrase

‘Community Participative Action Research Project’ ( sic ) as I felt it described what I had done to some extent.

  •  I had worked with a community
  • The community were involved through participation
  • The project involved me performing ‘actions’, witnessing and analysing the actions of others and provoking actions within the community
  • I has employed this method of researching this part of my MA
  • I was also researching and analysing this methodology for researching for the MA
  •  It was a medium- term project (something I was doing before doing something else) – though ‘finishing’ with a single event

However, I decide to ‘Google’ this description before I asked for it to be printed on the exhibition labels….. just to see if the description had been used before…..

This is what I found…….There was a Wiki description of PAR,( below) which apparently already existed before I coined the phrase….always best to check!

If I’m honest , although I think my work fits the general description of PAR when it comes to the tenets it falls short.

In the end I did this work for me , so there was a high degree of Artistic Autonomy rather than agency  in the community involvement and to some extent, although I was interested in their comments and their thoughts I was to some extent ‘using them’ for my own work.

They had not invited me there and although I contributed by paying rent on the Reading Room I may not have given them anything back.

I cannot assume that what I did was ‘good ‘for the community.

After all it was my research for my project. So questions of authenticity arise.

I was authentic, I hope ,in the conversations I had with the community about why I was there and why I was interested i.e the contrast between the Reading Room and RAF Croughton and the comparisons of the technologies ’embodied with them’.

But I did not highlight my concerns over fro e.g. drone strikes.

What is interesting is how MY thoughts came to change during the time that I was working there…

How I saw the people at RAF Croughton was individuals rather than as a ‘group’.

Some of this was due to the individuals I met there and also through other independent freelance tuition work which I’d been                                                                                            doing in the area with a family who had connections with the base.

I’ve underlined the tenets that do apply, to a greater or lesser extent but actually as far as community participation in the true sense of the word, they did participate by coming to the event…. ( a few of them) and by allowing me to film etc but this is not real participation and certainly not true .collaboration

 It was more me that participated in their world.

Anyway, this below may be useful and also this link to FORUM: Qualitative Social Research, a Journal article which describes more about Participatory Research as a methodology.

It is very interesting and I’ll have to consider it in detail if I decide to continue with this methodology, so I really know what it is that I am doing…...

I guess what’s also interesting for me is the fact that this research as my practice actually became part of my research for the Research Paper.

For me they are one and the same…almost indistinguishable….except that the written paper is in a textual and ‘formal medium…whereas any work I have produced and may produce in the future is just in a different medium.


Forum for Qualitative Social Research

Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection. PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. Within a PAR process, “communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers”.[1] PAR contrasts with many research methods, which emphasize disinterested researchers and reproducibility of findings.

PAR practitioners make a concerted effort to integrate three basic aspects of their work: participation (life in society and democracy), action (engagement with experience and history), and research (soundness in thought and the growth of knowledge).[2] “Action unites, organically, with research” and collective processes of self-investigation.[3]

The way each component is actually understood and the relative emphasis it receives varies nonetheless from one PAR theory and practice to another. This means that PAR is not a monolithic body of ideas and methods but rather a pluralistic orientation to knowledge making and social change.[4][5][6]16 Tenets of Participatory Action Research

Robin McTaggart (1989)

The 16 tenets of Participatory Action Research outlined in this short note were presented to the 3er Encuentro Mundial Investigacion Participatva (The Third World Encounter on Participatory Research), Managua, Nicaragua, September 3 – 9, 1989. They represent an important reflection and distillation of the praxis of participatory action research, by one of its leading practitioners, during the 1980s. The Caledonia Centre for Social Development, as part of its on-going work in the field of participatory development, wishes to make these tenets accessible to a new generation of social activists and to re-stimulate older practitioners.
See Also:

Participatory Action Research

is an approach to improving social practice by changing it
is contingent on authentic participation
is collaborative
establishes self-critical communities
is a systematic learning process
involves people in theorising about their practices
requires that people put their practices, ideas and assumptions about institutions to the test
involves keeping records
requires participants to objectify their own experiences
is a political process
involves making critical analyses
starts small
starts with small cycles
starts with small groups
allows and requires participants to build records
allows and requires participants to give a reasoned justification of their social (educational) work to others
Source and Further Information

These participatory action research tenets are published on page 79 of Everyday Evaluation on the Run, Yoland Wadsworth, (2nd Edition), Allen and Unwin, Australia, 1997

For a fuller description and elaboration of Robin McTaggart’s approach to Participatory Action Research readers are advised to consult The Action Research Planner, Stephen Kemmis and Robin McTaggart (Eds), 3rd Edition, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, 1988.

Robin McTaggart, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia,

Fax (61) 52 442 777.

1. a b c Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (2008) (eds) The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage, CA. ISBN 978-1412920292.
2. a b c d e f g h i Chevalier, J.M. and Buckles, D.J. (2013) Participatory Action Research: Theory and Methods for Engaged Inquiry, Routledge UK. ISBN 978-0415540315.
3.a b Rahman, Md. A. (2008) “Some Trends in the Praxis of Participatory Action Research”, in P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Action Research. Sage, London, pp. 49–62.
4. Chambers, R. (2008) “PRA, PLA and Pluralism: Practice and Theory”, in The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. Reason, P. and H. Bradbury (eds). Sage, pp. 297–318.
5. Allen, W.J. (2001) Working Together for Environmental Management: The Role of Information Sharing and Collaborative Learning. PhD Thesis, Massey University, Auckland, NZ.
6.Camic, C. and Joas, H. (2003) The Dialogical Turn: New Roles for Sociology in the Postdisciplinary Age. Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland. ISBN 978-0742527102.
7. Lewin, K. (1946) “Action Research and Minority Problems”, Journal of Social Issues, vol 2, no 4, pp. 34–46.

The Reading Room: Retrospective description 3 : Activities and Reflections continued


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Film :

Reception and analysis-

I’d been working on this whilst visiting the Reading Room and planning the participative event.

It started as a few short bits of layered shot footage and searches relating to the location.

Here are some stills.

The finished piece is about 25 minutes long and very, very slow and, so some viewers say, mesmerising.

Others have said that it makes then ‘tingle’ from time to time….

My difficulty was making the film with relevant to the location and the audience in Croughton and maintaining a political link with the lack of/ intervention of digital comms tech in the area and the effect this may be having in a global context.

So the film may have sat on the fence and maybe I was trying to ‘ serve two masters’.

Certainly the film went down well with the Reading Room audience who interpreted  my message BUT  possibly the local emphasis took over from the effects of the comms at RAF Croughton?

I am not sure how this would be received elsewhere.

One comment from a friend said the political footage was not strong enough technically and therefore was lost, however I’m not sure. I didn’t want to make it blatant and lose the obscurity I’d created by the layering of sound and image..

I almost feel as if I need several versions depending on where they are to be shown.

Really I need to get this out there and see what others think.

I am not good at doing this.

I am still really bad at showing work….but this does need to be seen more widely to get appropriate feedback I think.

From the POV of this event it was fine.

The audience stayed and watched from beginning to end…..unusual for video, and possibly because it was ‘about them”

It was shown in the rather gloomy bar area but people gathered and watched together, though I did see the vicar dozing off for a moment!



It highlights the contrast between the lack of connection in the village and the comms  outside at RAF Croughton and also, I hope, the ‘psycho – geography’ of the Reading Room……

Making it was fascinating.

I’ve never worked on a piece this long before and looking on line for footage, I found myself moving into areas I’ve never investigated before.

Certainly I was in a different geograpical area on the internet. I found myself looking at footage of terrorist attacks caught on CCTV and broadcast on some Arab News Sites.

It was chilling to watch people ( doctors)  being gunned down in a hospital by terrorists wearing masks and people running  after bombs exploded.

This is the footage we don’t normally see.

I was in unknown territory and I could not put it into context properly as, of course, the voice over was in Arabic.

I felt uncomfortable and frightened. This was not a feature film.

In Summary, I need to think about whether I can make different ‘editions’ of the film for different locations and audiences.

I need to show it to more people.

I do not want to upload it to Vimeo or Youtube. I want to maintain ‘possession’ of it……..

Communication with Camberwell MA Show:

Analysis –

Basically this didn’t happen.

As I think I’ve already mentioned on a previous post relating to Audience, no-one got in touch by text, call, Snapchat… nowt!

Not during the Show but when I wasn’t at the Reading Room or during the event at the Reading Room.

Not friends, colleagues, tutors… no-one… not even people at the Reading Room called as a joke….

no signal when I was there but no texts or Voicemail picked up later…..

I could have handed out the leaflets away from the Camberwell Show and also Tweeted/ Facebooked/ SnapChatted etc about

this element of the event and so encouraged other input but I guess I was concentrating, as I mentioned on these two audiences…poles apart …….with no interim….

Possibly, because of the amount of effort I put into the organisation and execution of the event it feels as if `i ‘should have done more’ with it and let others see it or at least let them know it existed…. A-N and other areas amy have been appropriate.

I guess I didn’t want an ‘arty crowd’ to descend on the place physically but I could have put more effort in to have a ‘virtual crowd’ and not rely on the Camberwell audience….I’ve discussed some of the reasons why hey didn’t engage in the previous post.

Another lesson learnt. There are ways to widen participation without’ interference’ using digital and social media.

I should have used them better and not been so purist/ about this area.

Watching a Live-Feed of the event from the event –

Well, this just didn’t happen as I’ve described. No Broadband connection in or out of the Reading Room, though a tempting ‘theoretical’ link to BT Open Zone was possible.

Apparently this is visible all the time but you can never log-in.

Still, I did mange to work out how to set up a Live-Feed and did that, with the help of YouTube tutorials and my sons and the eldest’s Chromebook. See below:


Home-made cakes and Conversation:

Analysis –

Participation here was strong with all participants fully engaged during their visit to the event.

No-one just breezed in and out with a cursory look around.

The cakes helped, as did the presence of Jane and Richard who are Caretakers and Booking agents for the Reading Room  and who featured in the flyer.

The local people came in to spend time and chat and see what it was all about. So did the other visitors.

We had conversations about the ubiquity of the digital especially comms, the intrusion and usefulness, reliance or not upon digital technology, the expansion of RAF Croughton and unknown impact, surveillance of a different kind in the Cold War;

and we talked of other more ancient things…the nearby Iron Age Rainsborough camp, the stone that makes the building, the fires that were lit in the winter.

Things of ancient ritual and dwelling deep in the collective memory of this community

One visitor said that maybe to live in a place where there is No Broadband or phone signal will be a selling point in the future with these ‘islands’ of silence valued highly… with just face- to face real time conversations… Maybe.


The Reading Room: Retrospective description 2: Activities and Reflection

It is proving interesting  and useful, thinking about this so long after it happened.

There’s a different sort of clarity to the reflection, maybe only remembering those things in shadow or relief the way we squint when looking at an object when drawing.

So this section will discuss the activities I set up for the Reading room event, the levels of participation and the intention behind them.

  • Newspapers: local and international
  • Linocut
  • Home-spun ‘letterpress’ printing
  • ‘Global News’ whist
  • Cut-ups
  • Film
  • Communication with participants from Camberwell MA show
  • Watching a live – feed of the event from the event
  • Eating and drinking – Home-made cakes (not by me!) , tea and coffee
  • Conversation


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I’d started to collect newspapers from around the time started visiting the Reading Room but had widened the collection by asking friends who were visiting foreign parts or lived abroad to select a paper and bring them/ post them to me.

In itself this was interesting as i often then had to provide return gift as exchange…. in this case… Banbury Cakes, a local speciality.

This exchange made me think of Marcel Mauss and the meaning of exchange, particularly pertinent as we were approaching the General Election.

All the British newspapers were full of it … and not much else.

You could have been forgiven for thinking than Britain existed as an island, in isolation from the rest of the world…..

Oh jolly gosh! We do!

Anyway, with the help of friends I collected  about 100 newspapers from

Global Australia Northern Territory:Japan:Canada:Bahrain:Mexico:Spain:US:Sicily:Tunisia:Turkey:Austria:Ukraine:Poland, France:Germany:Spain:Several Arabic newspapers: China today: several British editions of each). Local papers from Wales: Cumbria:Lancashire: ScottishIsles:Leicestershire:Northamptonshire with some very local town editions and others county-based and national British newspapers including the Metro.

There were also newspapers from my personal archive of Significant days… the birthdays of my sons, the attacks on the Twin Towers, January 1st 2000, 50 years since V-J day ( my father’s freedom from POW Camp): and also some from the 1950’s left in my present house when we moved in.

Some I bought from news stands around the country when I was out and about…I stopped collecting on the day of the event, so had papers from April to mid- July.

There was lots of ‘news’ as the movement of refugees was building, as well as events in Kuwait and Tunisia.I will write more about my observations of  the newspapers in another post.

So the idea behind this collection was to fill the Reading Room with newspapers and ‘ bring it back to life’ but with a global perspective and in the present.

Bringing the world to The Reading Room in a similar way to the way Broadband and the web can do. But bringing it visibly in.

I wanted to present to the villagers their position within a global context as the proximity to RAF Croughton across the road from the Reading Room demonstrates so well.

The ‘isolation’ of the village through slow Broadband, poor mobile phone signal, whatever the network, very restricted bus service ( one every 2 hours till 6ish and none on Sundays), no Post-Office, means it, in common with a lot of rural villages, has a feeling of ‘separateness’ from the world.

RAF Croughton meanwhile has super-fast communications network connections globally.

I wanted the newspapers to act as ‘links’ to the urban and global as they would have done in the early 20th century when the Reading Room was built. For the community there to be aware of the communities ‘ outside’, with whom they are already ‘linked’, albeit invisibly.

Newspapers, according to Sir George Grey’s editorial in Liverpool Mercury (1858) were essential to working men as they:

Deal with Events, discussions and living interests …

It is …a daily or weekly universal history

The newspaper teaches political science by discussing the principles of legislation and government in their practical applications

The intelligence with which it constantly presents him from all parts of the world, renders it a textbook on geography


as quoted in Aled Gruffydd’s Jones lecture on Reading Rooms at the British Library

Over a century later digital news has partially replaced print but print provides something ‘other’.

The haptic experience and communication involved in reading communally with ‘ hard copies’ is different from reading communally on-line, although the use of tablets rather than desk-tops and even lap-tops has some similar characteristics in terms of simultaneous social engagement with both the geography of the reading location and the geography of the ‘read- about’ location.

 What actually happened and analysis –

Because the number of visitors was low and spread over a few hours there was never a large number of people reading at the same time.

Because the number of papers was so large, maybe, most of the people who did read them tended to stand and flick through rather than sit down and really read together.

Though thinking back maybe that isn’t true… I just didn’t document the sitting!!!

Maybe this is because there was no central focus to focus round and the seating wasn’t ‘comfy’.

Possibly it needs a critical mass of people to ‘set the trend’.

People did stay and chatted over the newspapers and possibly there conversation was influenced by the content ( at least the front pages) and presence of the papers.

The papers certainly became part of the room.

This contrasted with the bar where the film was being shown ( see next post).

All these things play a part.

I considered how to place the newspapers for some time but possibly by adding the activities to the event it distracted from the newspapers.

Because I had been working with workshops I added these to the event.

Originally I was just going to have newspapers and newspaper-based performative activities.

Somehow I got distracted by ‘wearing two hats’

The printing would have been good to have if there had been another space to do it in….or maybe a simple change of arrangement of the tables would have made a difference.

As it was… it was what it was… an experiment.

People came, read the papers and made conversation………



I included this activity as an introduction to participants to printing  and making  their own printed mark, maybe for the first time.

Most people have made potato prints at school but this was a way of directly demonstrating how print could be created as an image or text.

I’d been working with children with emotional and behavioural problems on a small project and also with some adults and found that linocut is a good  means  to encourage creative engagement, as well as making the link between ‘print’ and communication for participants in the event.




A few people engaged with this activity and spent a while making both text and images.

They really enjoyed it and were very excited by the process.

This is where it becomes ‘fuzzy’ from my point of view…….were they truly engaged in and participating in an art-work or was this just a free community workshop…….

 Ooh, the dangers and difficulties of working in the community……

When I’m working with people, as with places, I get caught up in them and find it had to remain detached and objective….. I am drawn to the people and the community…… I need to stand back when doing my own work, just as I would with a drawing… to re-assess rather than get caught up in the process…

It’s difficult morally though as I do not want to

  • use people from a community
  • treat them as part of an anthropological study

and, though I’d paid  rent for the Reading Room, Jane and Richard had been so helpful that I felt I needed to give something back….. Possibly….

Anyway, In Future i need to keep professional boundaries and stand ‘outside’ more.

Home spun ‘letter-press’ printing:

I had hoped to use the Letter Press workshop at Camberwell to make some posters to advertise the event in the village.

Jonathan explained that this would be very difficult as the Final year students had priority and I couldn’t just ‘pop-in’ to use it when convenient.

So I decided to make my own ‘type’ with Lino-cut.

The letters need to be quite large as I wanted the posters to be A1 and also to use the same  type on a ‘group text’ on a large roll of Fabriano paper during the event.


I made the type and printed posters to ‘advertise’ that `I was present in the Reading Room of anyone who wanted to visit when I  to used it as studio space in the run up to the event…

( part of the publicity for the event)… and a way of making contact with people.

 If you look closely you will see my BIG MISTAKE!!

I was linocutting the alphabet type for relief printing as with letterpress.

 I had been showing lots of children and adults basic printing technique and emphasised the fact that text is REVERSED when it is printed.


HOWEVER, I got so carried away and was doing so many things at the same time… including editing video for the event….that I FORGOT! and I had got to about  ‘R’ before I realised……….

It had taken hours, actually a couple of days at least to make the ‘type’ as the letters were quite large………..

 Lesson here in having too many ideas and trying to do too many things at the same time….

I got little cross from a while….

Then I decided to cut the letters out completely and so have some free letters that could be used ( albeit rather fiddly) to print in relief and the background lino cut to print as a positive with the ‘space’ showing the type.

In the end it looked OK and I printed up these rather rough posters.

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I also had both sets of type available for participants to use for printing and they got the experience of relief printing and positive/ negative images.. so it worked out really well in the end.….STILL what a bozo mistake to make!


I couldn’t use the big Fabriano roll as

  • there wasn’t space in the room to unroll it
  • I hadn’t got a table large enough and putting it on the floor as I’d first thought was impractical because of the age of the likely visitors
  • the long pasting table we were going to use wasn’t strong enough to allow printing.

Shame though, I still like the idea of a communal group piece of printing as a symbolic piece of work with democratic decisions being made as part of the process….for another project, maybe….

I also laid out a ‘John Bull’ miniature printing set and people did mess about with this.

Occasionally combining  it with the the cut-ups, below, to link the text…………….

People did use the lino cut  ‘type’ and again engaged well.

P1030363 P1030367


Did they see the link between the newspapers and the printing activity… and the wider link between digital comms…. the past and the present.

I like to think so but it would have been more tangible link if I could have had a digital comms connection and the live feed etc..

But thats sort of what it was about too.

A non- sequitur, a paradox.

Global news Whist:

I’d played around with the Sports Direct deck of cards that was used in the Reading Room for the Whist Drives and made a deck with each suit covered with images from:

El Universale – Mexico (28.05.15)   Hearts

Wall Street Journal – USA ( 14.05.15)  Spades

Independent – UK ( 09.04.15)  Diamonds

Al – Hayat – UK edition 26.04.15) Clubs

with the suits visible and the Sports Direct logo covered.

Making these was a good opportunity to study the imagery used in the different newspapers from the point of view of

Content ( depending on the breaking news in the locations most interesting to the various audiences- personal, financial, commodity, conflict, violence), humour, geography ) – US: mainly commodity, UK: some humour, Mexico: images of personal attacks and British news, Arabic: images of destruction and post-aggression .

Colour ( the lack of colour in the Arabic newspaper is immediately obvious and the emphasis on colour likewise in the `meican)

Gender – overall male bias. Few images of women at all

Layout and size ( Arab newspaper images tended to be portrait and smaller, US and UK larger and landscape)

China Today- UK edition ( not included here) has a graphic illustratration on the front every day and drawings throughout… not cartoons…

Practically speaking they were not really good to use as playing cards as they didn’t slide easily over one another and there were tiny differences between them.

A keen Whist Player would be able to notice these differences and remember what cards had been played from which hand…..and win!

also they were a bit crinkly in places as the PVA was hard to apply with some thin newsprint.

It would have been good to have had some printed especially with the images on, a proper deck,

Maybe worth looking in to for an extension of this……..


There weren’t sufficient people who wanted to play whist present at the event at the same time….

so they were there as an exhibit but not used interactively.

Whist was advertised on the posters.

Maybe I should take them to one of the existing whist drives and see what happens when they are used.

The trouble is Whist is a Very Serious business…. and not for messing about with…..Watch this space…


This idea came form looking at the Dada artists, their anti- war stance and their politics wrt  contemporary issues, the proximity of RAF Croughton and the activities that reputedly are carried out there. It is 100 years since the beginning of the movement and WW1.

I was also interested in using ideas of Chance which seem pertinent.

I had looked at some of  Gustav Mezger’s work with newspapers as below

I was really drawn to the Cut-up method of creating text as below

This particular methiod came from the Dadaist, Tristan Tzara

‘The poem will be like you’ -Tristan Tzara

To make a Dadaist poem:

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.

Tristan Tzara

I adapted the idea though and cut words out of several newspapers written in English.

Local and national, UK broadsheets, China Today, USA Today, I think.

I cut words and very short phrases from these papers and then put the text in a box.

Participants were invited to take text randomly from the box one by one and stick the words on to a sheet of paper.

They could also choose an image from another box to create their own ‘page’



Analysis –

As this had a stronger conceptual link with the location and my overarching ( hate that word) concerns, I feel happier about this as an activity.

It was placed closer to the refreshments in a ‘safe’ corner so about half of the visitors participated in this.

Maybe that’s also because it was quick, not too messy, didn’t involve using tools they hadn’t used before and there was no fear of ‘failure’……

 It was not as strong as the original poem piece and i think I should have made this link more obvious by showing the poem and possibly asking people to repeat the same action  as Tzara’s rather than adapt it.

 It diluted the meaning and made it ‘fun’ which is fine… but not so strong as a ‘serious’ interactive piece……..

 Here are some of the results so you can decide…including the one with added printed text… ‘lemurs’…….

P1030358  .P1030353P1030348


See next post for Film etc……..

The Reading Room in 2015 : no helpful visuals…… only words and your ‘mind’s eye’….

Here is something I wrote which may, somehow, find it’s way into my Research Paper….. ( What!?)

In case it doesn’t, or it is unrecognisable by the time it gets there,  here it is in its sort of, almost full form- written from memory, though I did check the Sanitary Disposal bags the last time I visited in case they were a figment of my imagination.

I didn’t check anything else for accuracy.

Reading Room has long rectangular windows topped with stained glass that produce refracted patterns of colour on the unpolished wooden herringbone floor when the sun shines.

Clingfilm covers inside the windows, loosened a little at the bottom to let out the trapped flies. Occasional dead flies lie on the window- sills.

Pink heat retaining’ Sanderson’ -print curtains furnish the windows following recent fundraising.

High dark-wood curved beams are exposed in ceiling after the controversial removal of a modern replacement. A central vent which allowed for the escape of smoke has been replaced by a fan.

A wooden mantelpiece above a red brick fireplace, now houses an electric ‘stove’. Watercolour paintings of the village by local artists are balanced above with vintage photographs on the opposite wall, where a larger boarded-up fireplace is home to a white electric convector.

Dominating the Reading Room is a fabric Union Jack flag, fastened to the large notice board. ‘WELCOME” cut out in multi-coloured paper lettering sits above it in a curve.

Original wooden wall panelling was removed. In the controversial modernisation

Wooden shelves along a narrow, quarry tiled corridor offer books for free exchange; above them, photographs of local sports historic successes and a large print portrait of the Queen. The pink tiled ‘Ladies’ toilet provides ‘Crinoline lady’ sanitary disposal bags and has an electric hand drier marked ‘Out of Order’. Local myth tells of a ghost who moves one of the many mirrors in the dark bar area.

Dark-varnished ‘cottage’ tables and chairs seating four are covered with pastel yellow seersucker fitted tablecloths and  decorated with Foster’s lager glasses containing pink fabric flowers weekly coffee mornings.

For the bi-monthly whist- drives these are replaced with a pack of Sports Direct playing cards and a score sheet.

Coffee and tea are made using a cylindrical water boiler and served with home-baked cakes over the 1970’s wooden counter as the sun descends slowly in the window behind.

On fine evenings, as the villagers gather for the Whist Drive, the sounds of rooks calling and Aunt Sally game next door at ‘The Blackbird” are echoes of the past.

Mobile signal is poor in the whole  village and both this and Broadband are unavailable in the Reading Room which also has  no telephone landline. An analogue transitor radio will tune into local station ‘ Banbury Sound’ if the aerial is extended in the appropriate direction.

The Reading Room: Retrospective description and analysis 1: Audience(s)

It’s been nearly 2 months since this event and almost as long since my last post.

I’ve realised the reason for my tiredness…shingles… only diagnosed retrospectively a couple of weeks ago but its still left me feeling below par…

Sometimes its hard to recognise the difficulty between exacerbation of MS symptoms and something different… but on top of the shingles aftermath I had vertigo ( caused by excess heat during a week in Austria – It was worth it though…met Sarah in Innsbruck too so that was fab. Hi Sarah!) then a further infection…..and more time with cognitive insufficiency…..hence the delay.

Well that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it!

However, I decided just after the event that I would write up the analysis’ from a distance’ anyway… as a link to personal memory…I just hadn’t expected it to be from such a distance…..

It does mean that I will miss out some details, inevitably, but writing from this time perspective will be interesting as an exercise in remembering ‘ accurately’.

I’ll try to make some order out of my thoughts but within that I suspect there will be some randomness within the order…


Potentially there were two primary audiences for the event.

Those at the Reading Room and taking part directly and also those who went to the MA Show and had the opportunity of picking up a leaflet and following the instructions to call my mobile phone number and find the location.

I struggle with ‘audience’.

I am never sure who my audience is.

this isn’t good… how can I make work which addresses an audience if I don’t know who they are.

Previous work has addressed a contingent passing audience rather than a real ‘art’ audience and this is where I feel more ‘at home’, with an audience that is local and happens upon work which may or mayn’t be ‘art’

It’s hard to do this justice in an exhibition, even through documentation and I have restled with this and the concept and reality of documentation for some time.

some of my work has been about documentation itself which is how I got HERE

So this work attempted to address two audiences at the same time…..as part of the work itself.


The local audience were the people of Croughton and surrounding villages.

I purposely did not advertise he event outside the village as I wanted it to be a local event with participants having some connection to the site.

The only’ outsiders’ who came were Jon Shapley who I had asked to document the afternoon and two visitors from  nearby village who had seen poster when I was working in the building and ‘popped in’ to see what was happening. They came back for the event.

I used posters with a ‘vintage’ look… downloaded font ( OldNewspaperType ) and layout taking a copy of the Daily Mirror as an example.


 The first edition of this newspaper was published in 1903, the year the Reading Room was built.

Here is a quote from Information Britain

Launched by Alfred Harmsworth (the future Lord Northcliffe – British newspaper ownership so often coincides with elevation to the peerage for some reason) to capture a market under represented on Fleet Street at that time, i.e. women, The Daily Mirror was innovatively staffed mainly by women, including for the first edition Mary Howarth as editor.

I put posters up in the usual village places, there is no Post Office….. so… the Co-op and Jane put one in the bus shelter and the pub next door and the Reading Room itself.

There were lots of flyers also in the pub, Co-op and at Reading Room coffee mornings and whist drives for a few weeks prior to the event.

Whilst I’d been filming I’d been to lots of the social events and so they knew `i was going to be ‘doing something’.

I emailed an American couple from the RAF Base who had been at a dog training evening and also  the  couple who lived close and were passing by.

One was an artist who had worked previously in animation  at the local Animation Station and now, interestingly, worked for the Landmark Trust, a charity that renovate old buildings for use as holiday homes.

I also contacted the village website to get the event put on  but it didn’t appear after two ‘leaving of details’.

I got an email from the webmaster the evening after the event, as below.

Sorry – I only caught up with my backlog this week end – so I missed this.
Please try to give me a months notice to be sure.
All the best.

Jane apparently gave the details to the village newsletter which is distributed to every household in the village.

So everybody in the village should have known about it.

What I didn’t do was use social media as I wanted it to be available to a specific audience.


By showing the poster for the event ( but without location printed), flyers to provide a level of information and maybe intrigue as well as my contact details, and a larger pictorial flyer ‘illustrating’  elements of the event I had hoped to engage an audience at the MA Show.

The idea was that people would take a flyer and a leaflet , look at them in association with the poster and maybe follow the instructions, as below;

The Reading Room was built in 1903 by local landowner and benefactor, Edward Ramsay.

Jane (from Middlesex) and Richard (from Cleveland) now care for The Reading Room.

They met in 2009 on ‘Farmland’, keep bees and enjoy GEOCACHING.


Call : 07956 159954

The font I used was Helvetica Neue as this is the one used on iPhones.

Originally I’d used a different font for each line… referencing the text so for instance Farmland was in the Facebook font and Geocache

The Reading Room was built in 1903 by local landowner and benefactor, Edward Ramsay. Old Newspaper Types download

Jane (from Middlesex) and Richard (from Cleveland), now care for the Reading Room . Times

They met in 2009 on Farmland, keep bees and enjoy GEOCACHING. Lucida Grande Facebook And Arial Narrow Geocache website??? Farmland Verdana from website

FIND THIS LOCATION Arial but sharp outline therefore Bold on Google Earth

Call : 07956 159954 Helvetica Neue I Phone 4

Lots of work and very interesting but actually FAR too complicated and a waste of time….Would anybody have noticed and understand… also it meant that the message on the flyer was complicated not made easier to read by the font…

so it defeated the object really.

Anyhow, the idea was that on the day ( or possibly before as the MA Show Preview was on the Thursday and the event on the Saturday afternoon, people may pick up the flyers and call or text me.

Then I could send them the location by text or email with a pin for the Reading Room.

I hoped for conversations by call, Face time or Skype about the project and The Reading Room itself and its proximity to RAF Croughton and the contrasts in methods of communication  technology in the two different places.

I had hoped for any callers to then call again during the Reading Room event and then conversations could occur between people in the Reading Room and people in London… or wherever… a sort of ‘Old meets New’ if that’s not too naff…

The plan was also to try and stream a Live Event from the Reading Room.

I planned to send participants a link so that they could see the context and the action.

I also displayed posters of the following QR codes for links to a Soundcloud account  ( lots of soundless made from the Reading Room and interviews with local woman about her memories of the Reading Room)


and a Youtube channel ( a link to the ‘Live Stream’)


so that participants could look at other material ‘ after the event’.

The Result !


As you can see from the documentation there was a very small and selective response and engagement form the village.

To some extent this represents the difficulties that the Reading Room itself has in attracting an audience for any of its activities.

Other factors were

  • Charlton Village Fete ( a big event in the next village) was on the same afternoon as were other local ‘happenings’.
  • The fact that I am not from the village and maybe seen to be doing something ‘ I knew nothing about’? I had not contacted other village groups such as the local History Society or Reading Group as I had originally thought.Mainly because of lack of time.The more integration with the community the better the response. Obviously…
  • Suspicion of an ‘art activity’. There is an art group on the village and I had not approached them.
  •  Several people were on holiday as it was just at the beginning of the school holidays.

So, on another occasion I think I would make more effort to do these things and realise just how much time it takes in a community where you don’t live and they have not commissioned the work.

I was really pleased though by the quality of engagement if not the numbers.

The local vicar and curate came and were interested in the concepts behind the work.

The local people who did come stayed for some time, around an hour or more on average, and engaged fully with the activities I’d set up and watched the film for its full length.

The film was well received. More about this later.

One gentleman who came made a special effort as he didn’t usually attend Reading Room events although his wife does.

He lived  and worked on the farm where the stone used to build the Reading Room was quarried, was a member of the Reading Room from the age of 14 when he started work and held both his Wedding Reception and Golden Wedding Reception in the Reading Room.

He brought a photograph, which he keeps in his wallet.

IMG_1973 IMG_1975

The conversations ranged from memories and myths of the Reading Room and the village to stories of working in Russia during and after the Cold War.

So the link between local and global was alive in the conversation. ( if not in the technology as you can read below!)

I met this man again to glean more information and discovered that he was not only a member of the Reading Room, paid subscription and had a Membership Card until it was lent to someone else and not returned, but he also worked at RAF Croughton!


Despite the label to the work asking people to call me and FIND THIS LOCATION

No-one contacted me at all.

Not my friends who visited the show, or any of my cohort or my tutors………

Even a friend who I specifically asked if the extra label I send to be put on the plinth BY the flyers was actually there… saying PLEASE TAKE A FLYER AND LEAFLET… she didn’t call me..

There are several possible reasons for this…

  •  Mistrust of just calling a number from your phone….maybe….
  • Disinterest… the work was not engaging… maybe i  should have shown the film as well, but I did’t want to. I wanted the film to be shown in the community first and anyway there will have to be at least 2 versions… more on this in another post.
  • Lots of people took a leaflet and flier whilst I watched at the preview and then…put them back! Hence me sending and extra label instructing them to TAKE AWAY!!!
  • There is just too much work at a show for things with little immediate impact to be seen at all.
  • People generally don’t like to participate…. ( I haven’t previously, believed this and have not found it to be true wit other work I’ve done but this time it seems to be true)

However, it didn’t really matter as on the day of the event there, as expected, was no phone signal or Broadband available at all at any time in the Reading Room

or even outside although BT Open Reach shows as available… it ain’t.

Maybe some people did try to call then but didn’t leave a message

I like to think so but I don’t really imagine this was the case.

So a live stream was set up to start… But it didn’t happen.

Worth trying though for the sake of it. I might even remember how I did it and try again sometime.

I had to borrow my son’s Chromebook as my laptop is very old and didn’t support Chrome.

I had to pay him too…


Not a huge take-up . but I often think my work has a sort of ripple effect.

A small audience but hopefully one that is affected deeply and remembers for a long time… that the experience has some impact on future action

In retrospect, I should have invited colleagues and friends to the Event but at a later time, maybe in the evening following on from the local community so that the event could be intimate and personal and about the community…as it was…. but also other people got to see it and there was an interaction between the two…. a much better idea. I could have advertised the other event on social media but with the later start time.

I did think others would have found some elements more engaging than the Croughton Community and vice versa so it was a big missed opportunity. Although now I have all the materials etc I can set it up another time more easily.

I may even do it as a fundraiser  some time next year.

From a research point of view it was an invaluable experience as an experimental participative method.

I’ll discuss this in another post.

The Reading Room Event: Set up and Preparation – a few days to go……

12th and 16th July:

In between getting things ready to install at Camberwell for the Interim Show, I’d solve the problem of the wrongly cut lino and turned it into a benefit! see below by having both Positive and Negative lettering.

Fiddly to use but much more versatile.

I’d printed some posters to go with the cut-out newspaper ones used when I was using the Reading Room as a studio.

Took ages and very messy.

Making the posters seemed an important part of the process but I’m not sure it added to the Event in the end. It was important for me but did it work..?

After installing at Camberwell on the Tuesday I went on the Thursday  and set up the slide projector in case anyone brought any slides and tested out the new media player and film with the digital.

I’d been working on the final film to show at the event and it is about 30 minutes long.

I’ll have to reflect on this separately.

Richard is anxious about how many people will turn out for the event

Jane is baking cakes.

I’ll take biscuits and coffee.

Jon Shapley will come and document with photographs.

All the newspapers are brought in and placed so that Richard can position the tables. The workshop areas are set up.

Cut-up newspapers will be printed on newsprint. I’ve bought a small printing set to supplement the linocut but got rid of the large paper communal printing idea for this event as there is no table big enough.

I’ve asked my son to print out some QR codes for the links to Vimeo and Soundcloud for sound file archive and videos and I’m going to borrow my other son’s Chrome book for the Google hang-outs live feed to Youtube if I can get a signal on the day.