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.

First publications

In advance of the publication of the With Our Ears to the Ground book, which will go to selected  libraries in Hertfordshire, we have published the main chapters of the as Diffusion eBooks –  books to download print and make up published using Bookleteer.  The With Our Ears to the Ground book, will go to selected libraries in Hertfordshire, 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.

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.

You can download the books here:

Transport
Download
A4 US Letter 2.1MB

Movement
Download A4 US Letter 2.6MB

Listening
Download A4 US Letter 2.3MB

Community
Download A4 US Letter 2.9MB

Getting Involved
Download A4 US Letter 3.5MB

Perceptions
Download A4 US Letter 3.1MB

In mid 2009 we (arts organisation Proboscis) travelled around Hertfordshire meeting over 280 people from Watford, Stevenage, North Hertfordshire and Broxbourne. We set out on an autumn day to drive up through Cheshunt, Broxbourne and Hoddesdon, over to Ware and Stevenage then Letchworth, up to Ashwell, down to Pirton, Hitchin across to Watford and back to London. It was a journey through old and new; market towns, new towns, agricultural land and urban centres. In the weeks that followed we put our ears to the ground and got to know Hertfordshire and its communities through the stories of its people. We researched urban centres, towns and villages and travelled through the county in cars, trains, by cycle and on foot, on narrow lanes and motorways.

We talked to people in groups, individually, inside, outside, in pubs, cafes, community centres, libraries, at home and at work. We gathered their opinions and experiences of their communities, what it’s like living in their neighbourhoods and what gives them a sense of belonging. These experiences, whilst locally specific, are relevant to Hertfordshire as a whole. We met people between the ages of 5 and 94, from many cultures and backgrounds, from small organisations, schools, community groups, urban centres and rural villages. We captured their views through informal conversations on the street, hosting a stall at the local market and visiting community groups. We ran a creative workshop with a youth group and collected stories through other activities and events. From this research emerged the six themes of Transport, Movement, Listening, Community, Getting Involved and Perceptions, which now form the basis for the project publications.

Chicken and Daal with Watford Muslim Womens Group

Arriving at the Watford Multi Cultural Community Centre, I was amazed at the large number of Muslim ladies taking part in the exercise class. There were at least 20 ladies there. The playfulness and the camaraderie were immediately apparent. This was a place which felt friendly, safe and fun. It was apparent that it was a place where people came to meet and chat freely and easily with each other. Everyone who popped in was welcome to join the group.
After the session, they sat down to eat and generously invited me to join the group for food. We had chicken, daal and salad – it was delicious. I watched carefully how the others behaved and ate before I dared eat – not wanting to appear like the outsider.
After lunch, the ladies all helped to clear up and Sharifa, the chair, invited those that were interested in the project to join me at another table. I was so pleased to see that nearly all the ladies came to join me. We talked about their community, why they enjoy the Muslim Women’s Group, how funding has helped them, their sense of belonging, how they are perceived by others. Their willingness and openness to share and talk to me was amazing. These were educated, articulate ladies, who are not always perceived that way in the outside world. They talked about how if a muslim does something wrong, they tend to all be clumped together as ‘muslims’,  when really there are good and bad in all societies. They mentioned the various inter-faith activities they take part in, their fundraising activities and their wish to continue with the group and how it helps the whole community. It was a real privelege to have met these strong, passionate and articulate ladies who continue to do good in the community not only for themselves but for others too.

Herts Memories

Thought people might be interested in seeing information on this website- a community archive. There’s lots of information from all over Hertfordshire, from a wide range of people. It’s another dimension to the info which we are capturing through With Our Ears to the Ground. http://www.hertsmemories.org.uk

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.

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.