Final Publication


We have just received the first bound copy of our publication for With Our Ears to the Ground; a project by Proboscis commissioned by Green Heart Partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to explore peoples ideas about community. The project focused on four very different types of community in order to get a broad range of opinions across the county.


I’m really excited to see the final version and especially happy with the middle tracing paper insert of scenes and people Orlagh and I encountered during the project. The book draws together the multiple layers of ideas and experiences we found across the different communities we met in Watford, Stevenage, North Herts and  Broxbourne and it is designed to reflect the many ideas and voices we encountered. It is organised in the six themes of Transport, Movement, Listening, Community, Getting Involved and Perceptions the emerged during the project. The book contains drawings, photographs, quotes and writings. It can be read in any direction and you can interweave the pages of the three sections  as you read, to find new perspectives.


The With Our Ears to the Ground book, will go to selected libraries in Hertfordshire. The publication draws together the multiple layers of ideas and experiences we found across different communities and it is designed to reflect those ideas and voices.

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We have a small number of copies please contact us if you would like to acquire one.

We have also published the main chapters as Diffusion eBooks –  books to download print and make up published using Bookleteer.  Booklets to make, carry in your pocket, browse in your own time, rather than read on screen. You can download them here.

Drawing along the way

In between conversations I’ve been trying to draw a bit of Hertfordshire and its people, here are two I drew with the Brushes application on the iphone; – inspired by David Hockney who has mastered this simple digital paintbox with his customary brilliance. Its nice to use because people don’t see you drawing there is a bit of privacy which I like  – and its fast.

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School and community

Our session on the Priory School, Hitchin was with the School Voice a group of representatives from all school years. They had many perspectives on community, what is means and how to make better places and neighbourhoods to live in.

Is School a community? I think people don’t really consider school as a community despite it being a community, because its drummed into your head that community is the word around you – its like where you live, its not focused in on your actually a community at school and you’re actually a community where you hang out , people dont see it as that.

What is a community do you have to have similar interests? No because you can have completley different people all linked in with one thing… it depends on whether your community is focused on a subject and that’s the only thing you share or if its a friend community where you have some things in common but you are also your own person at the same time.

Markets, Jobs, new Housing

Back in Stevenage this week and Orlagh and Nicola set up outside the Job Centre with a large map of Stevenage to stop passers by and chat about their communities. It was a great morning with around 30 interviews from many many walks of life. At the same time I went to the InTown Training Centre and chatted to the workers and one of the new clients about the needs for the service in the current recession and how it is a key link between various communities in Stevenage.

Over to Great Ashby where I met with three residents to discuss the new community that has developed in this large newly built area.  We talked about how communities grow and develop,  how simple things like availability of parking facilities can cause tension between neighbours, the availability and routes of public transport can isolate people, the proximity to the countryside and wildlife and what it is like to live somewhere that seems to constantly be expanding with more houses being built.

The next day we set up for a morning in Watford Market stopping around 30 market goers to discuss the people and places they live in as well as the market and its role in the community. Voices and opinions were wide and diverse though peoples love of the indoor market and its huge importance to old people shone through.

Finally we arrived at North Herts college for a wonderful session with a supported learners Launch To Work Scheme. This group of young people with learning difficulties,  and their workers were  full of fun and laughter and we mapped the many groups they belong to discussing what is important about the groups, exploring what constitutes communities.

A diversity of voices, ages and cultures

Today we went back to a warm welcome at the Douglas Drive Senior Citizens Centre in Stevenage, the North Herts Multi Ethnic Forum in Hitchin and back to Stevenage for Chells Manor Community Centre youth group.

At the Douglas Day Centre we spent time with the Wednesday group to find out more about their communities – how they are now, what they used to be like and what makes their communities work or not.  For many people the pick up bus service is vital to their ability to get to the centre, withought this service there were many people who would not get to meet other people for days at a time. It raised all kinds of issues about how older people are valued in our society, and that many old people are forgotten but we were delighted to learn so much about peoples lives and their skills, one lady with frail, painful hands is still a great draftswoman and drew for us whilst we were there. It was a good reminder that all old people are more than just old people, that they had long rich lives and have much still to give and share that we can learn from.

We went on over to the North Herts Multi Ethnic Forum where we chatted to the staf and to the Italian ladies, men and a group of Sikh men. Many had lived in hitchen for a long time and were able to talk about the changes in the town how the community had grown and what connected it. They spoke about how the town is not what it used to be but how one strenght is the way diverse population get on.

The Forum stems back to 1975 when local Black and Minority Ethnic groups first began collectively campaigning for a Multi-Ethnic Community Resource Centre to serve their needs.  Member organisations include representation from African Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Polish, Pakistani, Sri-Lankan and people from other EU nations.

In the evening we headed back to Stevenage to the Chells Manor Community Centre  to run an evening activity with the fantastic and energetic youth group aged from 5 – 16.  Youth worker Mark Lee made a huge effort and got there despite a broken down car so that we could run the session.  We set out around the neighbouthood with the young people photographing their places, the spaces they use, placced they got to with friends. Using this walk as inspiration we made a large drawing of their area and discussed the community. It was interesting to think about what they see in their community – as compared with what an external perception of Chells Manor might be. The things they saw included:

i saw a fox

i saw the pub, shops, chip shop

i saw, a cat , a man smoking

i saw a tree and a road and an aeroplane

i saw a red flower, a broken glass

i saw myself

i saw a load of people at the youth club,

i saw my house

apparently we saw a train going up a tree

i never saw two men shooting each other

i saw darren

i saw houses, dogs,

i saw the green, football, cricket, cycling down fairlands

nothing else

This week, on the road again

This week at the end of September and start of October we are heading out to talk to, play with and investigate the thoughts of:

Chells Manor Youth Group, Hoddeston Walton Road Youth Club, Stevenage INTOWN training shop, Leavesden Green Residents Association, the Skate Park in Watford and teh Wednesday group at Douglas Drive Day Centre.

Ears to the Ground

So far we have held a number of meetings with local residents  to discuss what the word ‘community’ means to them, discuss personal experiences and perceptions and discover how best to overcome problems within the community. We’ve conducted interviews in a wide range of settings with people between the ages of 20 and 90, including (neighbourhood residents, local government officers and community groups). we have captured peoples thoughts through one-to-one and group discussions. We have also been travelling in ans observing the geography and human activity of the areas, visiting various public spaces and markets, malls, car parks, and taking many photographs.  Some of the things we have noticed so far include:

– The impact of transport routes, industrial estates and other architecture- the way this can physically divide communities and prevent people from associating with each other.  It has become apparent that transport defines the community boundaries and defines how people have to travel to get in and out of a community.

–  The cultures of sharing in different communities, sharing of resources, goods, ideas, spaces, time.

– The cultures of listening and being able to talk that are so important in helping people feel they belong.

–  The impact of working lives and commuting that fragment traditional communities.

– People are made to feel welcome, and welcome each other into the community by simply talking and listening. Unsurprisingly friendliness has emerged as a key contributing factor in a strong sense of community

–  Questions have emerged about the definition of working class.  Working class is no longer as defined as it used to be what does working class mean now?