Accessible Document

To complement the With Our Ears the the Ground publication we’ve added a large print text document in .pdf format of the text from the book which we hope will be useful for people who wish to use a text to speech screen reader or read onscreen.

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Final Publication

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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.

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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.

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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.

Young Mums

I was lucky to meet a group of very inspiring young mums at the Bowes Lyon Centre who were working hard to be make good lives for their youngsters. They had keen insight and offered glimpses of Stevenage that I’d not seen before.  I think that some of them found peoples attitudes towards them difficult, and it struck me that 50 years ago it wouldn’t have been considered that odd to be a mum at 19 – perhaps unmarried but most of these ladies have partners. How many people in their 30s are single mums and they are not singled out for criticism.

I’m nineteen, its not as if I’m walking home in my school uniform pushing my son.  They dont even know his dad works and looks after him, yet they obviously assume “teenage mum, got to come from rough background,” they just assume (and don’t) want to take the time to get to know us.

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.

Language and Migration

In Stevenage the next morning we met with Michal Siewniak, Strategic Development Officer, Hertfordshire, MENTER the Regional network for Black / Minority Ethnic (BME) voluntary organisations and communities. He is Polish and talked to us about both his experience of living in Hertfordshire and more broadly about the experience of Polish immigrants. We also talked about the issues that are arising in both their communities and the communities and a whole with the current influx of migrants.

He teaches English so we had an interesting discussion about how language teaching can help people connect or it can separate groups, depending on how the language is taught and the mix of students.

Skates, bikes and boards

Off to Watford’s Derby Road Skate Park to chat informally with some of the skaters. Most of them were in the 17 – 20 age group, It was very relaxed and friendly. I spoke to several who said it was so important to them to have a place  that was open all the time, was free and unregulated where they could come to skate, learn new skills, exercise, chat to mates when not at college or work. Many said it was a saving grace in their lives to have the park and that the skate community was a strong one. It was so friendly in the park but it was interesting to note the sometimes suspicious looks on the faces of passers by.  The park is in what i thought might otherwise be an unused bit of brownfield land jutting out into a junction of major roads, these skaters really brought life to the area.

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