Welcome to the University of Liverpool’s Geography Blog

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Welcome to the blog for Geography at the University of Liverpool. Follow this blog for regular updates on our work including our research activities, comments on news stories and updates on what our staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students and alumni are doing. We hope this will help give an insight into the dynamic world of geography at the University of Liverpool and that the blog will become a space for conversation about what we do. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment or email us.

‘Community to me is’…Young People’s Musings on Community

Post by Catherine Wilkinson, ESRC NWDTC PhD student

KCC Live is a community youth-led radio station situated in Knowsley, just outside of Liverpool. The station targets listeners between the ages of 10-24 and has a cohort of volunteers aged 16 and upwards, assisting with roles such as presenting, programming and fundraising. The overarching aim of my doctoral research is to explore how KCC Live creates social capital among these young people in the current time of political, social and economic uncertainty. Within my project I draw on a range of creative qualitative methods, namely: participant observation; interviews and focus groups with young volunteers; interviews with key stakeholders; a listener survey and follow-up interviews; and listener diaries and follow-up interviews. Within my research I adopt a participatory approach.

As part of my research, I am particularly interested in understanding what ‘community’ means to the young people, and the different meanings they attach to the word. To this end, as part of my participatory methodology, the young people and I co-created an audio documentary. The documentary was participatory to the extent that: the young people highlighted key topics relating to community which they would like to discuss; the young people and I recorded discussions about community to be used as content; the young people provided me with advice as to how to edit the documentary; they chose the music and sound effects to be included; after a ‘first draft’ was complete, the young people were involved in snoops (listening sessions where critique and feedback is provided), which instructed me on how to improve the documentary.

In accordance with the desires of the young people, the documentary explores: what community means to them; the different community groups they are involved in; different scales of community, from geographic to virtual; the role of social media in the construction of community; whether they perceive community as positive or negative; the Scouse sense of community; and the community of KCC Live. The audio documentary is around 30 minutes in length and was played out on KCC Live during a show that I present. It is now available as a resource for young people to use as broadcasting content on the station whenever they desire. To listen to the documentary, please follow this link: https://soundcloud.com/catherinewilkinson

Beyond Greenspace in Merseyside

By Ben Wheeler, Becca Lovell and  Dr Karyn Morrissey

Originally posted on Beyond Greenspace

We recently had a great opportunity to spend a morning together with a wide range of people and organisations, mostly from the Merseyside area, at a workshop organised by the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice Fresh Thinking Series. At the event “Beyond Greenspace: How can nature create healthier and wealthier places” we collectively covered a lot of ground on the research, policy and practice angles in Liverpool city region and beyond.

We had the opportunity to discuss the Beyond Greenspace project, and related research at the European Centre, and then to consider issues such as the pioneering links between local NHS organisations and the fantastic Mersey Forest. There has clearly been a huge amount of innovative work in the area, such as the Natural Choices project and Mindfulness in Forests. It was encouraging to see excellent collaboration going on between organisations such as the Liverpool LNP (Nature Connected), the regional Academic Health Science Network and CLAHRC, and the Local Economic Partnership.

Much of the conversation flowed around to economics, with some passionate debate on how a region can protect its natural heritage and public green/blue space, improve public health and wellbeing, and generate jobs and economic opportunity within a highly restrictive financial climate (HLF’s ‘State of UK Parks‘ provides some useful information on some of the challenges facing UK greenspace managers).

Dr Karyn Morrissey of the University of Liverpool, Department of Geography and Planning was on hand to give an excellent perspective on the economics of natural resources. Karyn spoke about the economic valuation of our natural resources as a means of incorporating green and blue assets within the public and private agenda. Whilst, undoubtedly rudimentary (and perhaps crass), the manner in which economists monetise our environment is important to the maintenance of our greenspaces; “what gets measured gets managed”.

“Only a Scouser can get the Tube talking” Life after Liverpool and some reflections

danwilberforce

By Dan Wilberforce

BSc Geography (Class of 2013)

So I’m sitting on the London Underground listening to a more-than-slightly-tipsy-Londoner complaining about minicab companies, the pitfalls of the new Hackney Carriage and the reason why he never uses the Tube anyway. It never runs on time, it’s too cramped, the seats smell…”Northern Line this, Northern Line that….”The people of this particular cramped Tube car, on this particular Thursday in January react in the typical London way to the guy’s blusters; awkward shuffles of annoyance, sideways dagger glances and sighs galore…but undoubtedly and perhaps predictably an overwhelmingly apathetic tone triumphs amongst the victims of London’s evening rat-race.

Things weren’t looking like they were going to improve much, when from the corner of the carriage a familiar and welcome accent makes a lively appearance in the form of a small stocky Scouser, resplendent in merchandise from Liverpool FCs official store.

‘Hey mate!’ hollered the Red, catching our evening in-car entertainment’s attention. ‘Shut up will ya, … you’re really doing me nut in. I’m sure we’ve all had a long day and listening to you is seriously down the list of ideal commute options.’

From the eyes wide, slightly panicky astonishment gripping the face of the perpetrator, this sudden outburst of heart-on-sleeve honesty shocked and certainly thwarted any continuation of that specific evening lecture; and the reaction of the crowd was no less brilliant. Visible displays of relief started spreading across the faces of the other car passengers, then that relief turned to joy… and then energy. Soon the carriage was buzzing and people actually started talking to each other. It was great to see, and it all started with a Scouse bloke lightening the mood with a bit of ‘everyone else was thinking it, I just said it’ attitude.

This got me thinking about my time in Liverpool and the energy the city has, the days of Bold Street Coffee, Leaf and Heebies; reasonable rent, ‘8 Days a Week’ all day breakfasts, News from Nowhere, cheap gigs, quad vods, BBQs in the Park, and of course the fact that you knew what you were going to do for at least three years. When you’re in the moment, enjoying (or not) the security of a commitment to something that takes time, it’s easy to overlook the peace of mind that it provides, and consequently not take advantage of that security in a more proactive way. So when Pete North asked me to write a bit about my experiences post Liverpool, and buzzing with nostalgia after the ‘Scouser on the Tube’ episode, I thought I might try and offer some insights and reflections that I and some of my friends have had as a postgrad.

I have recently completed an MSc in Human Rights at the LSE, which is granted a bit more than a hop skip and a jump (subject wise) from the BSc in Geography that I took at Liverpool. Though Geography does have this knack of being very good at providing rounded skill sets. Nonetheless, the masters was challenging; a year of intensive study, meeting people, a new city (that is considerably more expensive than Liverpool), starting to think more in sociological terms than paleoclimatological ones, all whilst trying to find a niche that would suit my new found, slightly abstract collection of qualifications. However, to finish a masters degree and then find myself unable to get anything other than an unpaid internship in any of the related fields was an obstacle that I had not predicted, and actually turned out to be the hardest period of my academic/work related life to date. But it was my fault, and it could have mostly been avoided. See, I was under the impression that I would be able to walk out of the those graduation doors, slam the degrees down on the CV and let the job offers role in, or at least get some interest from something interesting.

I got a linkedIn email from a small recruitment firm in Wandsworth.

I didn’t understand. So I started sending off application after application, CV after CV, cover letter after cover letter….. 20 applications, 30, 40 , 50….

What I became increasingly aware of was the fact that I hadn’t used my time, my exposure to academics, my access to career services or peers as effectively as I might have. Lots of people around me were getting good roles, paid ones, loads of responsibility, challenging positions…what did they have that I didn’t? In reality it was what they had done, as well as what they had. They had spent time developing relationships with various different professionals, as well as people their own age that were interested in roughly similar trajectories. Also something that became apparent was that people had multiple potential routes and aspirations, there was and still is little need to nail one’s flag to the mast so early on, though it does help to work within some relatively refined parameters. This takes me back to the time available to one when studying for a bachelors degree. You have long holidays and plenty of time during term to explore different potential routes for after you graduate. You can use the holidays to do a few short internships, get to know some people in the industries or sectors that interest you, because it is these relationships that open the doors later on. It doesn’t have to take up the whole holiday, just a week or three. Any work put in early on will certainly pay off later on. If finding these connections is a bit daunting, try the professors, try the careers service, the more you put in to finding and developing these early networks…the easier it will be to actually get a fulfilling role. This also applies just as much to any masters level preparation or participation, although I found it harder to find the time during a masters degree.

I am saying this from personal experience and observation… You can work very hard, get a very good degree, but the guy/girl who has made the extra effort to show interest and demonstrate ability to potential employers will be ahead by a decent margin; and it’s very competitive out there right now….don’t be fooled by the zero hour contract revised stats, jobs are hard to find. Also this sort of planning is what you will start doing when starting to work full time. People may start bandying around words like nepotism, brown-nosing and favouritism. But this isn’t what building a network is. Building a network is about finding likeminded people within all age brackets that you can help and that can help you, it is about co-operation and mutual benefit, it is essential in the modern work environment and something you do anyway, though probably in a more social capacity. However, avoid at all costs being way too keen, it just annoys people.

Another thing to try is exploring more people within societies or different social groups at uni. I know most of my extended group of mates focused around groups formed in Halls, but there are so many people around. If you want to find people with big ideas, unless you’re lucky, they probably won’t just appear.

And lastly, do talk to your professors and lecturers. They really do have a tonne of experience in a huge range of areas. I know so many people who went through their entire undergraduate degree (and even masters) without really having a proper chat to the academics at their institution. Don’t do that. You’ll find most of them drink beer, and picking their brains (if they have the time) over a pint is always a good way to find out more about opportunities that interest you.

So all these things, are all undertakings that I’ve been trying to do with more frequency towards the end of my masters and upon completion. I have been interning for various Human rights NGOs, writing some articles for small newspapers, taking testimonies from Darfuri genocide victims, helping to organise attendees for the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, attempting to recruit SMEs into custom Corporate Social Responsibility schemes (especially payroll giving), and trying to play a bit of music on the side. I’m also trying to start a social enterprise that provides legal assistance and safe-housing for sex trafficking victims in the UK, but funding seems to be the big next question (guess it’s a watch this space type thing).

I hope that some of these little insights prove helpful for anyone who reads this. I hope it wasn’t too prescriptive, but reading a little chronology about what I’ve been doing might have been a little bland. Liverpool is still without a doubt my favourite city in the UK. I come back as often as I can, and I’m sure that will be the case for years to come. If you’re there, soak up the atmosphere and energy, its good for the soul!

Postdoctoral Research Associate job opportunity

Come join the team at Liverpool Geography! We are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on a recently awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Secondary Data Analysis Initiative Phase 2 project ‘Population Change and Geographic Inequalities in the UK, 1971-2011′. You will join the project team (Principal Investigator Dr Chris Lloyd; Co-Investigators Drs Gemma CatneyAlex Singleton and Paul Williamson) to explore geographic inequalities in the UK and how these have changed over the last 40 years. The project will involve the development of a set of population surfaces for a wide array of socio-economic and demographic variables for the UK Censuses of 1971-2011. These population surfaces enable the assessment of changes over small geographical areas. The production of surfaces will allow detailed analysis of, for example, the persistence of social deprivation at the neighbourhood scale or the ways in which housing tenures have changed across the regions of the UK.

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You should have a PhD in Population Geography, Geographic Information Science, or the broader Social Sciences (with a quantitative focus). Experience in manipulating large datasets and some programming experience would also be desirable.

The post is available until 31st July 2016. Deadline for applications: 23rd January 2015. For more information and to apply see http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AKG036/postdoctoral-research-associate/

Why Geography? Why Liverpool? A Personal Perspective for my Choice of Subject & University

Tom Lord, 1st Year BA Geography Student

By Tom Lord, 1st Year BA Geography Student

Going to university may be the next big step in your life and is a decision that requires a lot of serious consideration and investigation, but it’s really exciting too. In this blog I hope to provide you with a few simple tips to finding the right degree and the right university for you. However, I really like geography and feel that choosing Liverpool was definitely the right decision for me!

Why I picked Geography!

Deciding what subject you would like to study at university can be quite a daunting task, especially when you are prompted to think how it might lead to future career prospects. This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly but neither should it be stressful or overwhelming. Take some time to think… ‘What do I enjoy learning about, what interests me and what am I good at?’ Ultimately it’s got to be your choice, but take all the advice you can get whether that be from parents, teachers or friends. There is no point choosing a subject just because it looks good on a CV, after all you are the one who has to spend the next 3 years at university.

Hopefully in reading this blog you are at least considering Geography as a degree option. Literally defined as “earth study,” for me Geography is a subject that poses questions about why our world is changing and how we influence and are impacted by these transformations. By exploring the changing world, geography opens up a wide array of research areas and interacts with many other disciplines. Therefore it is far from limited in terms of moulding a degree program suited to your own interests. This broad spectrum of exploration, is for me what makes Geography exciting, allowing interaction with the physical and social sciences to gain a rounded understanding of the world. Investigating and influencing the future of our world through research into climate change, global development, ethnic inequality, political dimensions, growing populations and much more is a hugely exciting prospect. As Michael Palin put it, “Geography is a subject which holds the key to our future.

By developing analytical understanding and various research skills Geography is a highly favoured degree by many employers. The diversity of research areas opens up a vast spectrum of career paths which is particularly relevant to those like myself who don’t have a set career in mind. In choosing Geography I wasn’t only selecting a subject I enjoy but one which allows me to keep my options broad following graduation.

Why I picked Liverpool!

Choosing a university can be heavily influenced by entrance grade requirements, but there’s loads of other stuff to consider when making your final decision. It’s important to consider how far from home you would like to go and whether you want a city-based or self-contained campus. Researching the university is key here, look at websites and prospectuses to see what the uni offers in terms of course type, module flexibility, facilities, opportunities for travel and see which most appeal to you. Booking onto open days at the earliest opportunity is really very important; getting to look around a uni and interacting with staff and students on open days is the best way to get a feel for a place. Don’t just look at one place though, see as many as you can (I looked at 6), this will help you to refine your choice and can give you a good overview of what you want from a university. Look at city-based and self-contained campuses to get a feel for which you prefer. Many universities offer a guided tour around the city in which they are located, I found this really useful; after all you will have to live there as well as study.

So why Liverpool? It’s a truly amazing city with a really vibrant atmosphere! Liverpool was the first university I visited during my search, a cold and rainy day in June 2013! Despite the weather the atmosphere was still buzzing and I had a feeling that this was the place for me within a very short time. The fantastic facilities and staff gave a really positive impression that lasted throughout my search. Every time I went to another uni I compared all the options and Liverpool continued to come out on top for me. Speaking to the students and their openly positive responses about living in the city were another great indicator of how good the university is. Their comments about the approachability of the staff, the fantastic facilities and the endless number of activities going on in the city really added to the attraction of Liverpool and at the end of semester one I can confirm they were not wrong!

Aside from the scheduled open day, together with a group of friends, I visited Liverpool for an informal day out to get a feel for the city and have a more relaxed look around. Doing this helped to confirm my feeling that Liverpool was going to be my first choice, visiting with friends from home enabled me to see the city from a different perspective.

EPQ helped me!

As part of my A-level study I completed an Extended Project Qualification. An EPQ involves researching a topic that really interests you or has strong links to the subject you hope to study at university and composing a report based on your findings.

Knowing that I wanted to study Geography and with the issue of energy security being a prominent topic in current debate, I choose to research Hydraulic Fracturing. At the start of Year 13 I began to research ‘fracking,’ keeping a constant eye on the news whilst regularly discovering relevant academic papers online. Aside from using the web for research, I also attended a Manchester Geographical Association lecture at Manchester University, which was presented by a representative of Cuadrilla Resources (a large energy firm). This was another great chance to get a feel for life as a uni student! I later managed to contact the Cuadrilla representative and the opportunity to discuss my project with him not only allowed me to get an expert opinion, but also provided a contact for future projects and possibly work experience. Having compiled a very detailed ‘research summary,’ including an array of references, and developed a strong opinion of my own, I was now ready to write my report. Regular discussions with my project supervisor helped me to develop a well-structured, methodical & evaluative research paper.

By completing this project I feel I gained an advantage when starting to produce reports and essays at uni, particularly having experience in researching and looking for relevant information. The project also helped me to develop my appraisal and evaluation skills which has already been useful, but will be invaluable throughout my time at uni.

My First Semester @ Liverpool!

Starting with a super fresher’s week in September filled with exciting activities and the chance to meet a great bunch of new friends, my first semester at Liverpool has been incredible and seems to have flown by! Everybody is in the same boat when they arrive and that makes it a lot easier to get to know people.

Flat mates at the Guild of Students, Welcome Week

Flat mates at the Guild of Students, Welcome Week

The first week of lectures is focused on introducing modules and departmental operating procedures but is as much about getting to know people and making friends. This continues on the Wales field trip to Trawsfynydd which is a great chance to mix with others on the course, working in groups to produce a presentation and to interact on a more relaxed level with the lecturers.

Energy Group, Trawsfynydd field trip 2014

Energy Group, Trawsfynydd field trip 2014

Lectures and seminars aren’t as scary as they may first appear and you soon realise that the staff are very approachable. Key to making sure you are on top of the work is reading around the topic, which is assisted by recommended reading lists and a highly accessible library. Lab work is another opportunity to meet new people but also to get stuck into physical geography research, which is really interesting even for the more human-inclined geographers like me. With two modules assessed purely on exams in January, the volume of work during the first semester is far from overwhelming. Preparation and a methodical approach to your research are key and making yourself a plan helps a lot too!

Aside from the academic life of uni, the social side and going out with friends is really important. Liverpool has so much to offer in terms of night life, music, sport and entertainment. Concert square is home to many amazing bars and nightclubs and has played host to many a memorable night! It is easy walking distance for those who live on campus and only a short bus ride for those out at Carnatic. Liverpool One and the Albert Docks are great for a little retail therapy and good for eating out too (maybe not often on a student budget though). Events at the Guild of Students (and the burrito lunches) have been fantastic and the Christmas Ball was a great way to round off a super first term.

A little bit of crazyness…

A little bit of crazyness…

Gentleman Geographers @ the Christmas Ball, 13th December 2014

Gentleman Geographers @ the Christmas Ball, 13th December 2014

Decision Time

This blog has hopefully given you an outline why I feel Geography is such as great subject and why Liverpool is a fantastic city to study in. However it is based purely on my own experience and I highly recommend you have a look at all the available information about going to university before you make a final decision. Deciding what and where I wanted to study now seems like a distant memory but if I could give one piece of advice then it would be to go with your instinct and choose the place you have got the best feeling about. But you can only know if Liverpool or any other university for that matter is for you by getting out there and having a good look around. I wish you the best of luck in your search and for the future!

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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As we enter 2015 we look back at the top 10 most viewed blog posts of 2015. These include posts by current and past undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff and give a good idea of some of the things that we do here in Geography at University of Liverpool. We look forward to more posts in 2015 and wish you all a happy new year.

 

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10. In Tenth place, a post from February 2014 by PhD student Madeleine Gustavsson on her first publication: First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

 

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9. In Ninth place, a post from June 2014 by James Wilford who graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography in July this year on the Singapore Field Class 2014

 

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8. In Eighth place, a post from June 2014 by Dr. Paul Williamson on the winners of the Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

 

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7. In Seventh place, a post from May 2014 by Samantha Brannan who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year on Geographers on Tour: Santa Cruz Field Class 2014

 

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6. In sixth place, a post from January 2014 about Lisa Reilly who graduated in July this year about her success as National Student Award Winner

 

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5. In Fifth place, a post from December 2014 by Dr Bethan Evans on a Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

 

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4. In Fourth place, a post from October 2014 by Sean Dunn who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year and is now studying for an MSc. His post is about the final year Santa Cruz field class on California Field Class and Travel

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3. In Third place, a post from August 2014 by Alexandra Guy, currently a second year BA Geography student on A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

 

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2. In Second Place, a post from August 2014 by PhD student Natalie Robinson on her research with homeless people in Chicago ‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field.

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1. And in First place, our most viewed blog of 2014 is a post from February 2014 by Jonny Clark who graduated in July with a BSc (Hons) Geography on How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

Bluecoat Gallery. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

Bluecoat Gallery. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

Post by Dr. Bethan Evans

On Friday 21st November, Ciara Kierans and I organised a workshop on Disability, Arts and Wellbeing on behalf of the University’s Centre for Health, Arts and Science (CHARTS). This was the second in a series of workshops funded by The Wellcome Trust on behalf of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research.  We were delighted that we could hold the Liverpool workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, an innovative Disability and Deaf Arts organisation based in Liverpool which works across the North West, Nationally and Internationally.

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DaDaFest 2014 programme. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

The Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary field that brings perspectives from the arts, humanities and social sciences to questions about medicine, health and well-being. It is a field which often involves a diverse range of perspectives, including researchers, practitioners, patients and artists. Recently there has been a move to develop a more Critical Medical Humanities through engaging with activists and critical theory to question the politics and power of medicine and ideas of health, illness, disability and embodiment.

As a Critical Geographer who works on questions of embodiment and health, I see many parallels between the medical humanities and geography: both involve questioning the relationships between nature and culture (and what we see as ‘natural’) and challenging unequal power relations between different bodies. Importantly, the move to more Critical Medical Humanities has also involved questioning the power and positions from which medical humanities knowledge is produced (who is involved in the production of this knowledge and who might be excluded). This is reflected more broadly in the social sciences and humanities in moves to more participatory models of research (e.g. participatory geographies) and the growth of the para-academic movement.

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It is in light of all of these things that we were keen to host the workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, to involve people from lots of different disciplines, to hold it in a non-academic space (the workshop took place at The Bluecoat Gallery) and to involve artists. The day involved presentations from people working in different fields researching diverse topics which relate to disability, art, wellbeing and medical power. For example, there were presentations on racism and the historical use of slaves in American medical research, on ideas about ethnicity in organ donation, on dis/ability and sexuality, on the representation of PTSD in romantic novels, on arts practices for wellbeing, on bioart, on cinema and memory and much more. The full workshop programme is available here.

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All of these presentations were fascinating, and were followed by what was the highlight of the day for me, the final session when we were lucky enough to have the Artistic Director of DaDaFest, Ruth Gould speak to us about the history of DaDaFest and give us a guided tour of one of the current exhibitions ‘The Art of the Lived Experiment’ and artist Rachel Gadsden talk to us about her work with disabled artists in the Middle East (there is a video about this work available here) and give us a tour of the exhibition which comes from this work ‘Al Noor- Fragile Vision’.  This was an excellent way to end the workshop and really made clear the value of breaking down boundaries between academics, artists and activists. These exhibitions are excellent and I highly recommend that you take time to visit them and see them for yourself.

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DaDaFest hold a bi-annual festival which showcases the best in Disability and Deaf Arts. The current festival is running 8th Nov 2014-11 Jan 2015.  The DaDaFest programme is available here.