X Close

UCL Public Engagement Blog



Archive for July, 2019

Humans Make Plastic…and then what?!

Briony Fleming25 July 2019

This Blog has been written by Camilla Brendon, a London based artist. Currently in residency at Chisenhale Studios in Tower Hamlets. Camilla worked with the Community Engagement team on a project, looking at plastics and sustainability in 2018. She tells us about what has happened since.

I started working with UCL in 2018 when I answered an open call from Bow Arts Trust, looking for artists working with plastics, activism and the Lower Lea valley to lead a series of workshops for residents local to the Lea, scientists, artists and other interested parties. I responded with a proposal to make mobiles out of plastics found in and around the Lea along with other plastics and sculptural materials.

UCL researchers and east London artists create plastic scultpure as part of a workshop at Bow Arts Trust

UCL researchers and east London artists create plastic sculpture as part of a workshop at Bow Arts Trust.

I lead the workshop, later named by participants  as ‘Humans Make Plastic’ (HMP), at Bow Arts, Here East and the Bloomsbury Festival. The workshops were good because they were very relaxed and for mixed interests, ages and abilities. I like to use found and recycled objects and an open approach to making as a tool for wider dialogue into our consumption patterns and use of materials as a whole. Whilst working on the HMP project I had spent several days in my studio, combining individual works into a single sculpture. I chose to weave in large sections of bright plastics to make the work more unified and aesthetically pleasing. Working with UCL researchers lead me to learn a lot about how plastic decays and how much about its make up is still unknown. I now realise how much science and art can help each other and am looking for further collaborations with scientists in the fields of plastic research and marine biology.

Bloomsbury Festival workshop participant holds brightly coloured plastic

Workshop participant holds brightly coloured plastic.

The final workshop for Humans Make Plastic took place at the Bloomsbury Festival in October 2018. HMP was exhibited at Kindred Studios, Queens Park and also at the Lexi, Kensal Rise in a solo show of Coast that finished in January this year. Since I first worked with UCL I’ve become increasingly involved with art that highlights waterway and ocean issues. Inspired by this, I have completed a ‘Leading a Waterway Clean Up’ course with Thames 21 and have begun to incorporate canal cleans with art workshops that I lead.

Workshop participants show the mobiles they made from plastic pollution.

Two workshop participants show the mobiles they made.


Workshop participants creating mobiles made from plastic pollution

Workshop participants creating mobiles made from plastic pollution.

The next one planned is on July 25th at Chisenhale Studios, where I am currently the artist in residence, making work for my project ‘Coast’ (which explores coastlines, rivers, canal systems and wetlands and looks at how the natural and man-made exist together) around the Hertford Union Canal. My residency finishes in mid August and I have a talk on the 1st August from 6.30-8pm and a show opening on the 8th from 6-9pm and then on the 9th and 10th from 12-8pm. All events are free and you can secure your place on my website.

framed paper created using plastic found in east London waterways

Paper created using plastic found in east London waterways is framed as part of the exhibition.

I am also preparing for the opening of Regents Canal – unnatural river, which opened The Barge House, on the 23rd July, it’s part of London National Park City week and I gave a free talk on HMP and my wider artistic practice for the opening. The show runs during cafe opening hours until the 28th of July.

Camilla Brendon hangs plastic scultpures in her studio

Camilla Brendon hangs plastic scultpures in an exhibition space.

Later on in the year I’m going sailing with a marine biologist who now works in ocean publishing to research plastics and ocean acidification. We then will collaborate to put our findings into words and fine art. We are currently looking for practicing marine biologists to join in our collaboration.

Working with UCL has taught me the scope that artists have and how there are many ways to make art outside the traditional white wall setting. I’ve also become more confident with trying new concepts and leading workshops. I’d recommend that researchers meet artists to check that their ideas and personalities are compatible before beginning a collaboration. Having an informal workshop like HMP facilitated by UCL and an arts foundation like Bow Arts is ideal for networking.

Find out more about Camilla and her work on her website: https://www.camillabrendon.com/.

Book your free place at the next workshop or artists talks: https://www.camillabrendon.com/new-events .


Tales from the Memory Safe

e.edem-jordjie16 July 2019

This blog has been written by Edinam Edem-Jordjie, a STEP Intern with the UCL East Community Engagement Team.

‘Step into your new home, packed with objects that were rather recently, someone else’s entirely. What did they leave for you? What story will it tell? What will you leave for them? And will you leave it well?’ – The Memory Safe, June 2019

On the 23rd June, 13,000 people descended onto Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) for the third annual Great Get Together – a celebration of our different communities, inspired by the life and values of MP Jo Cox. As part of the preparations to open the new UCL East campus, UCL is committed to establishing an active role in the local community through a variety of activities including the delivery of a high quality public events programme and being involved in the flagship London Great Get Together, which takes place just a few minutes from where the new campus will be located, is part of that commitment.

Through our participation in the Great Get Together we aimed to raise awareness about UCL East, as well as creating an activity that allows us to talk about or showcase the academic research at UCL. This year, we teamed up with Dash Arts, an east London based cultural arts organisation and The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL to deliver ‘The Memory Safe’.

We have been in discussions about our participation in The Great Together since January and we knew that wanted our event to reflect the broad theme of ‘migration, memory and place’ to tie in with the ‘Moving Objects: Stories of Displacement’ exhibition that’s currently showing in the Octagon gallery . You can find out more about ‘Moving Objects’ on the UCL Culture website.

After sending a call for expressions of interest to researchers and artists, Dash Arts and two researchers: Leah Lovett and Valerio Signorelli signed on board to help us develop our activity.

Dash Arts and the researchers were brought together (in a very short amount of time) to have a number of informal conversations, sharing their research and artistic practices, as well as their interests and experiences in other projects. The team at Dash were particularly inspired by Valerio and Leah’s work on other projects ( including Playing the Archive, and The Listening Wood) where they sought to use technology to allow visitors to interact with objects and archives (and trees!) in a new and exciting way.

The team were pressured for time, but soon came up with an activity which was inspired by the work on both these projects. The idea was to capture the stories of certain objects and allow people to listen to and respond to these in an immersive environment.

Ahead of the event a number of small workshops were held with local community groups and residents to record stories of local people.

Hosted in a Marquee that was decorated to resemble a ‘home’ with windows, curtains, lamps and sofa chairs serving as decorations, The Memory safe served as a safe and comfortable space to explore themes of memory, migration and place.

The Memory Safe

View of The Memory Safe from Main Entrance

View of The Memory Safe from entrance

As visitors entered The Memory Safe, they were greeted by a Dash Arts Facilitator who welcomed them to their new home. The facilitator explained that there are things to look at and listen to, which have been left behind for them, and that they are invited to leave something behind before they leave. It could be a written story, a drawing, a clay sculpture, or a recording.

Large table full of various household objects

Table full of various objects

In the centre of The Memory Safe, there was a large table full of objects. Each object had a red luggage tag with a NFC sticker attached to it. Around the perimeter of The Memory Safe, there were several small enclaves with chairs, headphones and tables with red circles in the centre. When placing the red luggage tag with the NFC sticker to the red circle on the table, visitors could hear the spoken story that corresponds to the object, through the headphones. These stories had been gathered through a series of workshops in June with members from local communities.  On the walls there were shelves of objects and postcards containing sculptures and stories that have been completed at the workshops and during the afternoon of The Great Get Together. Around the large table of objects ¸ there were a series of smaller tables. Here visitors could make objects out of clay, leave their own tokens behind and tell their own stories / memories of objects on postcards or through audio recordings. Dash Arts Facilitators and the UCL Team were on hand to support this process with the young people and their families.

A woman and a child listen to the memory attached to a steering wheel.

Two visitors listening to a memory attached to the steering wheel

Throughout the day, visitors could hear stories by a professional storyteller inspired by the theme and performances by a small ensemble of musicians, some of whom performed using the objects on display.

Professional Storyteller Norman Bailey and musician Zoot Lynam perform

Storyteller Norman Bailey and musician Zoot Lynam perform

The Research

As mentioned about The Memory Safe was inspired by Valerio and Leah’s work on a number of other projects as a part of their research with UCL CASA, which you can read more about below:

Playing the Archive

‘Playing the Archive’ is a research and cultural production programme that addresses some of the challenges we face when it comes to supporting play in the modern world. It does so through the exploration of play by bringing together archives, spaces and technologies of play, along with people who play, both old and young. The project aims to complete three tasks; digitising the Opie manuscript, a record of games recorded by children in the 1950’s and 60’s; creating a virtual reality play environment based on the archive; and build experimental smart playgrounds that respond to the cultural needs of children in inner-city, multi-ethnic communities. It is hoped that the completion of this project will show how play can be used to unite groups across language, communities and social divides.

The Listening Wood

‘The Listening Wood’ is a digital poetry walk around Hampstead Heath which intends to encourage the public to slow down and discover fourteen of London’s veteran urban trees using the Internet of Things.  The Listening Wood takes stories gathered through ethnographic and archival research around the selected trees as the basis for a mode of digital poetics. As you walk and encounter the trees, you receive texts that detail lines from famous pieces of poetry associated with the Heath. The Heath is one of the key sites that has shaped the popular image of the British landscape through the work of Romantic poets such as John Keats. The Listening Wood revisits this cultural and poetic past and draws it into the digital age, using mobile communication and IoT technologies to encourage people to slow down, look up and appreciate our urban veteran trees.

The elements of these research projects that explore the memories and stories that are embedded in the objects around us and the value that they have/or should have in our society today is what inspired the activity at the Great Get Together. They show how these stories and memories, although different through location, age, or time can relate to people and be used to unite people or inspire a new appreciation/connection. The Memory Safe explored this through its central activity: the attachment of spoken memories and stories to everyday objects such as stuffed toys, teapots, shells etc.

The Memory Safe and the two pieces of research aim to make us show a new appreciation or connection to things as everyday as trees, games and household objects, through revisiting the cultural past of these things, showcasing them in new and exciting ways and using them to inspire and forge new connections across time and place. Among the feedback gotten from visitors on the day, one comment made in a conversation stood out to me. This visitor remarked that it was interesting how the most basic objects, (basic in that they’re very common and ordinary) often had the most fascinating memories and stories attached to them. I think she was right. For me, listening to the stories made me realise how what may seem mundane to someone may mean the world to another and it was nice to hear different perspectives.

Display of postcards with memories on them, written by visitors

Memories left behind by visitors

It made me appreciate the things that I have in my life and made me think of all the simple objects I have that have really formative memories and stories attached to them. These objects can tell us a lot about people, society, eras and cultures and this knowledge can be used to build solidarity and empathy between us, which is why they’re valuable and should be kept safe. The Great Get Together is an event that brings people together and it’s nice to see that The Memory Safe and what it represents was at an event like it.

That’s all from me for now! Thank you for reading.

It’s National Co-production Week! Just another ‘named’ day of the year or something bigger?

ucjunhu3 July 2019

As the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research we believe it’s something much MUCH bigger!

We feel that #CoProWeek, (this year from 1-5 July 2019) is a chance for us all to shout about how great co-production is and to promote the benefits! This annual initiative is brought to us by Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), this year with a focus on sharing power.

Therefore, as part of Co-production Week 2019 we are very pleased to announce…

Our UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research Phase 2 Pilot projects!

The idea of the Pilot projects is to help the Centre to learn what works and what doesn’t when co-producing and to further co-produce the development of the UCL Centre for Co-production and what it becomes – you can read more about the Centre development work to date in our collection of blogs.

So back to that pilot project announcement! Last week a mixed Review Team made up of members of the local community, patients, carers, researchers, healthcare practitioners and students read and scored the applications we received for the Centre Phase 2 Pilot projects (we had 24 in total, more than doubling our 10 from Phase 1) and then we met up as a group of 11 (with 2 other people reviewing remotely) at LIFT, a community centre in Islington to discuss each application in depth. Ultimately, and after a VERY busy session we came to a collective decision (as a team!) as to which ones scored most highly against the criteria outlined in the application form and FAQs documents.

Writing that says – Yay! Exciting times ahead. (Image credit: https://cuando.ie/)

The pilots that the group chose to fund (each receiving £10,000-15,000), are…. drum roll please! In the words of each of the co-production teams themselves…

Autism Access

“Our project aims to improve mental health provision for autistic people via co-production. Our team comprises autistic and non-autistic people with diverse experience in psychology, neuroscience, media and mental health. One of our key aims is to work together to produce and disseminate our reflections and guidance on how to do co-production in a way that empowers autistic team members. We will also work together to think about how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be adapted for autistic adults, and co-produce a design for a pilot study. Autistic people and their families have highlighted that their number one priority for research is to know which interventions improve mental health for autistic people, and how these should best be adapted (Cusack & Sterry, 2016). The government’s Think Autism strategy has also set a priority that autistic people experiencing mental health difficulties should have support adapted to their needs. Despite the fact that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is recommended in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for depression and anxiety, there is little evidence currently available regarding how best to adapt CBT to help autistic people. We aim to redress this balance by co-producing a document on adapting CBT, co-producing a design for a pilot study for an adapted CBT protocol, and developing a set of reflective guidelines that we hope will help to guide, provoke and encourage future co-production initiatives with autistic and non-autistic team members.”

The collaborators are: Dorota Ali, Annalise Ayre, Nick Holmes, Richard Pender, Naomi Schneider and Eloise Stark.

BAME Voices

“We are really excited to be awarded the UCL Co-production Pilot project funding and will be co-creating a participatory research project into black and ethnic minority women’s experience of maternity care. Exploring how best to ensure their voices are heard and what impact this approach can have on all involved.

This follows on from the North Central London Better Births project in which a diverse group of maternity service users were trained in Participatory Appraisal; a peer-led approach to qualitative action research which actively engages communities to identify, explore and find solutions to issues that affect them.”

The BAME Voices team have produced a video that shares more info about the project – please have a watch!

The collaborators are: Emily Ahmed, Aygul Ozdemir, Aynur Ozdemir, and Yana Richens.

Hearing Birdsong

“Our project will develop Hearing Birdsong, a co-produced installation using birdsong and brightly coloured bird boxes to raise awareness of hearing loss. Originally based on a patient story and developed by people with hearing loss, designers, clinicians and researchers, the team will continue to work in a co-produced way with various community members, particularly using a method called action learning sets (a group technique using open-ended questions) to deliver it’s aims. The key aims will focus on co-producing installations for less-often-heard voices, improving the experience of the installation and co-producing a novel approach to capture feedback from the public, which can be used to further develop the concept. Ultimately, the team are hoping to encourage those with potential hearing loss to seek help, where appropriate, and in-turn to diagnose people with unaddressed hearing loss. Throughout the project, the team will reflect on their experiences of co-production and will develop a toolkit or workshop to share their learnings. This project came about as the result of the Phase 1 pilot projects, please feel free to have a read of our blog – ‘Our co-production journey: from sandpits to bird boxes’ to find out more.”

The collaborators are: Tom Woods, Pip Batey, Owen Bray, Ara Darzi, Adrian Davis OBE, Lisa Freise, Rai Khalid, Anna Lawrence-Jones, Angela Quilley, Lorenzo Picinali, Jessica Tingle, Annie Rickard Straus, Jean Straus, Taran Tatla, and Ruth Thomsen.

Image of the Helix Design Centre with the Hearing Birdsong yellow bird boxes displayed in the room (Image credit: James Retief @jretief11)

Bridging Gaps

“Bridging Gaps is a peer-led group of 13 women from Bristol aiming to improve access to primary healthcare services for women with complex needs. We are a group of researchers, support staff and experts by experience. We plan to co-produce a video to be used in healthcare settings and train a peer advocacy group to reach into healthcare settings to develop better pathways for women with complex needs. Our team and plan has been developed from the foundation of 8 exploratory co-production meetings. We are excited to get started!”

The collaborators are: Lucy Potter and a collection of Bristol Women.

Please do spread the word about these Pilot projects and of course the fact that it is National Co-production Week! By the way if you are interested in our Phase 1 Pilots you can read more about them in our blog – ‘Collaboration is key!’.

If you would prefer there is a downloadable version of this blog, which is also available in other formats from Niccola if PDF doesnt work for you.

And don’t forget if you are interested in working with the Centre there is currently a Maternity Cover role available.

This is all for now, thank you! Niccola


The header image shows: a collection of arms holding up letters that spell ‘Sharing’. (Photo credit: drawingninja.com)