‘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

‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field

HELLO exhibit 3

Post by Natalie Robinson – 2nd year ESRC NWDTC PhD student in Sociology and Geography

In February this year, I moved from Liverpool to Chicago to start my PhD fieldwork, exploring homeless experiences in the city. Six months later and somehow it’s almost time for me to leave the United States and return to England to complete my thesis! Supervised across sociology and human geography and funded by the ESRC NWDTC, my doctoral research focuses specifically on homeless young people’s inclusion in and exclusion from public urban spaces in Chicago, and uses ‘photovoice’ methods to include participants’ points of view. Photovoice involves the use of participatory photography to discuss community issues and aspirations, with an oft cited aim of enabling community ownership of representations. With prior experience working in homeless services in the UK, I had spent the first year of my PhD preparing for my overseas work – reading up on relevant literature, attending seminars, workshops and PhotoVoice’s facilitator training in London. I arrived in Chicago with a research plan in theory, but nevertheless endeavoured to remain flexible – entirely open to exactly how this would be realised in practice.

My aim was to work with a small group of homeless individuals who were interested and would hopefully enjoy taking part in the project. After a productive meeting, Julie Dworkin, Policy Director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), connected me with CCH Youth Attorney Beth Cunningham, who, along with her colleague, Policy Specialist Jennifer Cushman, runs the H.E.L.L.O group. H.E.L.L.O stands for ‘Homeless Experts Living Life’s Obstacles’ and is an activism-focused group for homeless and formerly homeless youth, meeting Tuesday evenings at the Broadway Youth Center (BYC) in Chicago’s Lakeview neighbourhood. Food and transit are provided for all who attend, and any young person between the ages of 12-24 is welcome. Along with CCH and the youth centre, H.E.L.L.O is also supported by Chicago-based organisations One Northside and The Night Ministry. Each week, the group participate in activities, ranging from arts, crafts, spoken word poetry, and yoga, to discussions around ‘rights’ when dealing with police, community safety and relations. During my time with the group, we also took day trips down to Springfield – Illinois’ state capital – to lobby for youth homeless services funding, as well as to the McDonalds headquarters in Oak Brook, IL to ‘Fight for 15’, demanding a raise in the minimum wage. Needless to say, there was never a dull moment!

HELLO exhibit 7

My own project involved the distribution of disposable cameras to a number of young people attending H.E.L.L.O, along with an invitation to picture places in Chicago that are meaningful to them. Once developed, the photographs formed the basis for group discussions, with a focus on perceptions of inclusion in and exclusion from city spaces. This is particularly relevant in Illinois, where since 2013 the Homeless Bill of Rights has formally legislated that homeless individuals cannot be denied access to public spaces solely because of their housing status. Five young people over the age of eighteen volunteered to participate, and chose a select number of photographs to be included in a community exhibition, which they entitled ‘This is My Story’. The exhibition took place in the BYC in July. The pictures were given titles and captions by the photographers and their peers, and these were displayed alongside the images, explaining the significance of each. The event was well attended by homeless and formerly homeless young people, community members, local and national organisations, CCH staff and Executive Director Ed Shurna as well as IL State Representative Greg Harris – a strong advocate for homeless services in Chicago. To see the full selection of participant images, and to read more about the project, please visit www.hellophotoproject.com.

HELLO exhibit 5

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with H.E.L.L.O and look forward to continuing a relationship with this group, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and partner organisations. It is my hope that my doctoral thesis and related work around this project will contribute to qualitative social research, specifically relating to youth homeless experiences of Chicago, in a way that will be valuable for all involved.

HELLO exhibit

*All photographs courtesy of Shruti Sharma, Photographer for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Weekly radio show

Cat Wilkinson at KCC LIVE

Cat Wilkinson at KCC LIVE

Post by Cat Wilkinson – 1st year PhD student
 
On Wednesday (22nd May) I start a weekly radio show on local station KCC LIVE. I will join Rob Tobin to present a three hour show every Wednesday from 10am – 1pm. I’m doing this as part of my PhD in Geographyat the University of Liverpool, researching how a community youth-led radio station can connect communities and create social capital in times of social, economic and political uncertainty.

My PhD is funded by the ESRC NWDTC and is a collaborative (CASE) studentship with KCC LIVE as my case partner and supervision in Geography at University of Liverpool and Manchester University. As part of the PhD I will spend a minimum of 12 months at the station. Getting involved in everything that they do – including broadcasting!

Myself and Rob covered KCC LIVE’s drive show in April, and we both really enjoyed it. The show was a great success and after receiving lots of positive feedback, we decided that we wanted to work together more often as co-presenters, and it just happened that the Wednesday morning slot became available at the right time.

I am very excited about having a show on KCC LIVE. My research involves participant observation at the station, and I believe there is no better way to achieve this than to fully immerse myself in the research setting. I have completed work experience at local newspapers before, so I have knowledge of the importance of community in such media settings and am looking forward to bringing my former knowledge to the field site of study.

Rob and I work really well together on and off air, and we have put a lot of effort into preparing a strong show. The station targets 10-24 year olds in Knowsley, so our show has to be suitable to the young listeners. We have plenty of ideas to work with, one thing you’ll be able to catch if you have a listen is “The Adventures of Catman and Robin”, Knowsley’s favourite superheroes! We’re not going to reveal too much though, you’ll have to tune in to find out more!

Rob, who is Assistant Programme Director at KCC LIVE, and also works at Radio City as a producer, says “I’m really looking forward to working with Cat on a weekly show. I do loads of radio stuff at KCC LIVE and elsewhere, but in the past I’ve only worked as a solo presenter, so working with a co-presenter is an exciting new prospect for me too. Cat’s on air ability when we covered drive was really impressive, especially considering she didn’t have any radio experience elsewhere. She’s great to work with as a co-presenter and I’m very optimistic about what we can achieve together as a duo. It will also be great first hand experience to help with her research!”

You can listen to Rob and Cat on KCC LIVE on 99.8FM in Knowsley and Liverpool or online at kcclive.com every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm starting 22nd May.

Participatory research with KCC LIVE

Post written by Dr Bethan Evans

Last week Dr Joanna Long, Dr Matt Benwell and I had a tour of the studios at KCC LIVE, a youth-led community radio station based in Knowsley, which is on the outskirts of Liverpool. KCC LIVE was originally founded in 2003 (9 years ago) as a college radio station for Knowsley Community College and following great success was granted a 5 year FM community license in 2009 and now broadcasts across Knowsley on 99.8FM (you can also pick up the station in some parts of Liverpool and listen online). In 2010, the station was awarded ‘Best Station in the North West’ by the radio academy, and in 2011 was nominated for ‘station of the year’ (with <300,000 listeners) at the national Sony Awards.

I have followed the station since it was founded as a small college station. When I first visited KCC LIVE it had one studio on the edge of a kitchen/social area. The transformation I saw on the tour last week was fantastic – it now has three high-tech studios, is run by three full-time members of staff and 90 volunteers, young people aged between 10 and 25, some of whom are college students but a lot are just members of the local community.

The station is doing fantastic work – not just broadcasting high quality youth-led radio 24 hours a day (as the tagline says, ‘Boss music, no ads’), but also provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to produce media content, to learn vital broadcast skills and to develop a host of transferrable skills important during the current period when youth unemployment is at an all time high. The station also does important work producing content that is inclusive and has anti-bullying and anti-racism messages at its core.

So why were we, as geographers, visiting KCC LIVE?  Our visit was part of a growing relationship between the station and Geography at the University of Liverpool. Human Geographers in the Power, Space and Cultural Change research group at Liverpool are involved in a whole host of ways in what is called ‘participatory research’. In fact one of our colleagues, Dr Pete North, is the chair of the Participatory Geographies research group at the Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geography.

Participatory research is research that involves communities in all stages of the research rather than having a hierarchical relationship between researcher – who collects data – and research participants – who are studied. Instead, participatory research involves working with community groups and involving participants as researchers. This helps make sure that the research is of interest to the communities involved and that the research relationship has benefits for everyone – not just the researchers.

The radio station is of interest to us as geographers in relation to how it works with young people (Children’s Geographies is an important area in the discipline) and the ways in which radio can facilitate different forms of community connections between groups of people who might or might not share physical space.

Our visit to KCC LIVE was to discuss two research projects that we have been fortunate to get funding for that will start in the next couple of months and will involve volunteers from KCC LIVE as participatory researchers. Both of these projects will also involve the production of a radio documentary to communicate the results of the research so that this is accessible to the public.

Project one is funded by the British Academy and is a project which will involve youth volunteers making a radio documentary about their opinions of the riots that happened in Liverpool in 1981 and 2011. The researchers involved in this project are the three of us who went on the tour, along with Dr Andy Davies and Prof. Richard Phillips.

Project two is a PhD CASE studentship funded by the ESRC North West Doctoral Training Centre which will look at how the station benefits and connects communities of young people within Knowsley. This will be a longer (3 year) collaboration with the station.

As these projects unfold we will post updates on this blog. We are very much looking forward to working with KCC LIVE and the fantastic staff and volunteers at the station.