Mr Seel’s Garden

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Aim: To work with local people in Liverpool to develop a creative way to share stories around food heritage as part of a community celebration in culmination of a wider research project.

Date: January and February 2013

Client: Dr Michelle Bastian, University of Manchester

Status: Completed

Principles: Holmgren

Framework: SADIMET

Tools: Client Interview, Project Survey, Resource Audit, Project Observation, Links b/w wants and needs, Outputs flow chart, Input / Output Analysis, Project Outline, Workshop Plans, Timeline, Risk Assessment, Budget, Various Evaluation Tools.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture Ethics?

Earth CareBy using stories of food and heritage to support wider discussion around climate change.
People CareBy valuing individuals and the importance of sharing personal stories
Fair ShareFocus upon sharing knowledge and ideas in ways that are inclusive and open to all.

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do– Using Permaculture methods to design a project that has been commissioned within my professional practice.

– Application of Permaculture design within a real context in my professional practice.

– Structured application within the context and timeline of a wider project.
Build links to the Permaculture community– Working in partnership with Dr Michelle Bastian who has wider aspirations to develop her academic research around Permaculture.

– Links to wider Permaculture research through collaboration with Dr Michelle Bastian, Manchester University and Transition Liverpool.

– Share on my blog.

– Share with diploma guild.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma– Application of familiar design tools to an unfamiliar context thus developing Permaculture learning further.

– Increased knowledge / confidence through application of Permaculture Design in the context of a live design brief.

Resources / Support

  • Permaculture Design – A Step By Step Tool Aranya
  • Food and the City Jennifer Cockrall-King
  • Wider project research notes for Mr Seel’s Garden by Dr Michelle Bastian
  • Food Heritage Stories as told by Project Participants.
  • Permaculture Guild
  • http://www.mrseelsgarden.org/
  • http://www.wordsift.com/site/

Context

I was invited by Dr Michelle Bastian to develop a piece of performance to support a showcasing event for a wider research project “Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden”. This was a research project which used historic stories about food to explore wider cultural issues of food, community engagement and time, particularly in relation to climate change. You can read more about the project here. The main aim of the project was to explore how engaging local communities with the changing patterns of urban food production might contribute to current grassroots efforts within Liverpool to raise awareness around current food issues.

Survey

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Wall panel to mark the site of Mr Seel’s Garden in Liverpool

Mr Seel’s Garden Supporting Documentation SURVEY

I used four main tools to undertake the survey for this project:

  • Client Interview
  • Project Survey
  • Resource Audit
  • Project Observation.

Client Interview – This was the first survey that was undertaken and it was done with Dr Michelle Bastian as the main partner on this project. It made use of a template developed as part of my action-learning pathway to capture the information that is essential to the design process. This survey was straightforward to carry out and I got a clear impression of a positive and established project, with a clear idea of what they would like to obtain through my engagement. Namely, a creative performance to share stories that had been collected as part of the wider research project that this was part of. Michelle also had clear ideas of the potential challenges and limitations of the project and these are clearly outlined in the client survey. Another key finding was that this project I was involved in was the culmination of a wider year long research project that it would be important to acquaint myself with as part of the process of observation.

Project Survey  – As this was not a land-based project it was not possible to use a standard land-survey to explore the wider context. However, I was keen to be able to do go through a similar observational process for this kind of project. In order to do this I developed a project survey form, which follows a similar template to a survey that may be used to do a land survey. This began to touch upon wider context, possible resources, marginal aspects of the project and the detail of the people and organizations involved. I completed this survey on my own following my initial meeting with Michelle, and in response to research I had done around the project at http://www.mrseelsgarden.org/ and on the AHRC website (the main funders for the project as a whole). Where there were gaps that I was not able to fill on my own but which I felt were important I returned to Michelle and asked her additional questions.

Resource Audit  – Following the Client Interview and Project survey I used this data to undertake my own resource audit. I order to do this I used a resource template to consider the resources that were available to support the project. Again, for any information that I needed, I returned to Michelle with additional questions to fill in the gaps. It soon became clear from this that the project was well supported in all aspects that it could need.

Project Observation  – The final part of my survey was a brief project observation, which I undertook myself using the rest of the information gathered from the survey. This was a reflection on initial reactions to everything that I had learned about the project in anticipation of analyzing this data in more detail in the next stage of the design process.

Analysis

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Archive image of an urban dairyman in Liverpool

Mr Seel’s Garden Supporting Documentation ANALYSIS

In this instanced I used four tools to explore the survey and observation data in more detail:

  • Wordsift
  • Links Between Wants and Needs
  • Outputs Flow Chart
  • Inputs / Outputs Analysis

Wordsift  – This is a tool which calculates the frequency of word use within a document that I have not used before and which I accessed via Stamford University’s website. I felt it would be an interesting starting point to observe themes and areas of focus emerging as a result of the Survey I had. Using the results from the Wordsift I then categorized the words into four areas to identify common themes: people, place, activity, themes. From this I observed the following areas of focus emerging:

  • PEOPLE – Community and participation
  • PLACE – Liverpool, Manchester and University
  • ACTIVITY – Sharing, research and engagement
  • THEMES – Accessible, engaged, story and support.

Links Between Wants and Needs– Using the aspirations that had been expressed as part of the client survey and wider survey process I analysed the links and commonalities that existed in order to find the key aspirations for the project. From this two main objectives became clear:

  • to create a performance working with non-professional performers
  • to ensure local community engagement.

Close behind this were two sub-objectives:

  • to increase access to wider project research
  • to develop an inclusive process with roles for everyone.

Outputs Flow Chart  – Now that I had a clearer idea of the project outputs I developed a flow chart to explore the relationships between the different primary, secondary and additional objectives to ensure that they were all reflected in the final design. And also as I felt this was a particularly effective way to demonstrate the objectives to the client.

Inputs / Outputs Analysis  – Next I began to think about the inputs and resources that were available. I indentified links to ensure that inputs were and multi-functional and beneficial as possible, and to ensure that the project was appropriately resourced to achieve the required outcomes.

Permaculture Principles – I thought about the way that the Holmgren principles applied to the design that I was creating.

Observe and interactWorking with a group to observe their aspirations and support them to share their stories
Catch and store energyHarness the energy of enthusiasm within workshops and use this as a driver to propel an intensive project and a performance.
Obtain a yieldWork towards a specific project yield as indentified by the client – in this case a sharing of stories. Additional yield of strengthened personal relationships and friendships
Apply self-regulation and use feedback Develop a collaborative process that is realistic within the limited timescale available for the project but that still reflects the input of all participants.
Use and value renewable resources and services Placing value upon personal stories as an important community resource.
Produce no waste Find ways for all stories to be shared in a form that reflects their value to individuals.
Design from patterns to detailsBegin with a large number of stories and work to focus down to a more manageable quantity reflecting the wider research aspirations of the project.
Integrate rather than segregate Bring together a group of people from wide and varied backgrounds and life experiences.
Use small and slow solutions Move the group in small, manageable steps towards the final project sharing.
Use and value diversity Feflect and celebrate the diversity of participants in the group and find ways for the final sharing to reflect this diversity.
Use edges and value the marginal Support the group to share stories that do not initially spring to mind, or find an immediate place in the project.
Creatively use and respond to changeSupport participant responses that are unexpected and find ways to make the unexpected valued within the whole.

Design

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Project workshop at The Bluecoat in Liverpool

Mr Seel’s Garden Supporting Documentation DESIGN

In order to create a design for this project I developed a number of different documents for my own use and also to present to the key stakeholder (Dr Michelle Bastian). These were:

  • Project Outline
  • Workshop Plans
  • Timeline
  • Risk Assessment
  • Budget

Project Outline – looking at the available resources and aspirations I developed a project outline that was workable but which also delivered the desired outcomes. I supported this with more detailed workshop plans that gave an idea of what would happen during each workshop (appendix 10). In addition to this I provided a project timeline which clearly outlined what would happen when (appendix 11).

Risk Assessment I used the same template that I use for each project in order to present the risks associated to the project and to identify that there are no insurmountable risks attached to this project. In addition to outlining risk we outlined the project budget including cash and in-kind support to give a clear picture of how the project is resourced.

Implementation

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Mr Seel’s Garden Supporting Documentation IMPLEMENTATION

The project was implemented in early 2013 as detailed in the project timeline and completed by the end of February 2013.

Elements of the project were documented on the project blog

I also documented elements of the project on my own blog.

One of the key elements of the project had been to consider a way to document the “script” that was developed as a result of the project. However, it became clear during the project that this was not the best way to document this type of work. Instead we decided to film the final performance as we felt that this was a more accurate representation of the project as a whole.

This film can be watched here:

Maintenance

Mr Seel’s Garden Supporting Documentation MAINTENANCE

As it was always intended that this project was working towards a specific deadline, maintenance was not such a significant of consideration however it was still considered in a number of different ways:

  • Participants completed feedback forms to express how they felt about participation and how participation could be made more accessible on future projects.
  • Attendees of the final project were asked to respond to the performance.
  • Online documentation of the project as a whole became a catalyst for the development of wider and more diverse audiences.

Support was offered to help participants who were keen to develop their heritage and / or performance skills further once the project finished. This took the form of supporting them to access groups where they could continue to participate in a similar vein.

An outline of how and where wider outputs were achieved is included in appendix 14.

Evaluation

I used the PMI tool to evaluate the design.

Plus:

  • Brilliant group who were VERY enthusiastic and engaged.
  • Excellent source material.
  • Well supported by the project team.
  • Lovely space to work in at The Bluecoat.
  • Project team with clear idea what they wanted to achieve.
  • Framework worked well within this context.

Minus:

  • Limited time for the project – couldn’t explore source material as much as would have liked to.
  • Rigid structure of timetable limited who could take part due to availability.
  • Very basic set up for the final performance.
  • Only one day of performance – that never feels enough!

Interesting:

  • Really good to be part of a wider project – this certainly increased the audience for the final piece that we created.
  • So nice to work in a different city – surprised by how different that actually felt!
  • The tech for perfomance was very basis but in some ways that simplicity meant that the stories that were being told really took the limelight.

Reflection

I used PMI to reflect upon this design from a personal perspective.

Plus:

I really enjoyed this design and felt that the framework that I had chosen served the project well. It was also really nice to apply Permaculture Design within a “real” project. The structure that was created worked well and helped people engage in the project. It also meant that I was able to fulfill the objectives as defined within the original client interviews.

I loved the close links to the local community that the project team had already cultivated – it was a great strength and pleasure to be a small part of this and to meet such lovely people! I also really enjoyed working with the amazing stories that had been gathered by researchers as part of the wider project. This felt like a great pleasure as well as a privilege.

The project as a whole was a great project to be a part of and it was really fascinating to be able to explore how to use Permaculture Design within this context. It was also lovely to work over in Liverpool with such strong partners.

Minus:

There was a huge amount of material associated with the project and there was a limit how much could be used within the design. This felt a shame. There was also a limited time to implement the design which brought challenges. The timescale also meant that there was limit to the number of people who were able to participate – there was no flexibility in the schedule to accomodate different people’s needs in terms of availability.

Interesting:

I really felt that Permaculture Design gave a good sturcture to the project. This was particularly true because there were really strong links between the subject of the project and the Permaculture Ethics – there felt like there was a good connection from the outset which was nice. I also felt that the design framework helped to give focus within a tight / limited timescale. And it was a good way the clarify the detail of a project in which many of the steps are things that I would do almost without thinking – I like the clarity that using a design framework gives to my work.