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New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University

Caroline Francis8 July 2020

This post is the sixth in a series about the Printmaking Project, which is part of a programme for secondary schools in east London. It is written by Nia Fekri, a final year BA student at the Slade School of Fine Art. (more…)

A workshop surrounded by bones: Inspiring the next generation

Caroline Francis1 July 2020

This post is the second in a series on the Bio-robotics and Animal Movement Project, which is part of an outreach programme for secondary schools and colleges in east London.

Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London, 28th, June. 2018.

“What is a baculum? And which animals have one?” Carolyn Thompson gives the answer and shares her experience of leading the Animal Movement Workshop in her blog.

“Wow!” exclaim a huddle of school students looking around in awe as they bundle into University College London’s (UCL) Grant Museum of Zoology.

The Grant Museum houses more than 68,000 zoological specimens covering every wall. There are bones of the flightless dodo, jars filled with preserved moles, and an intact quagga skeleton (an extinct sub-species of zebra).

The Animal Movement workshop, part of the cross-curricular Bio-robotics project, is delivered by an interdisciplinary team. My name is Carolyn Thompson and I am a PhD student in the School of Life and Medical Science in The Faculty of Life Sciences studying the world’s rarest apes in Asia and I lead the workshop.

Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London, 28th, June. 2018.

As Maisha says in her blog, the students learn the biology and physics behind animal locomotion before building and programming a bio-inspired robot back at their schools. As well as exploring how different animals, such as the Japanese spider crab, a Portuguese man of war and seal move, the workshop enriches the school curriculum, gives a taste of life at university and, most importantly, is fun!

I was in my first year of my PhD when I was saw this inspiring position advertised. Passionate about learning and education, as well as working across departments, I jumped at the opportunity. My main role is delivering the workshop, ensuring everything runs smoothly and the learning goals are met.

I have experience working with young people, so I knew roughly what to expect: energy, excitement and enthusiasm. Luckily, I also harbour all three of these in abundance. I tailor my delivery based on the size, age and knowledge of the group; younger and larger groups require more structure and energy to ensure the 2-hour session flows smoothly and efficiently. Smaller and older groups appear to have more questions requiring detailed answers.

I always love the unexpected questions to keep me on my toes, requiring me to rack the far corners of my brain to dig up material I have not earthed in years.

“What is a baculum? And which animals have one?” A Year 9 student once asked me quizzically.

The baculum, also referred to as the ‘penis bone’, is found in certain mammals. Answering this question was a fun challenge and had all the students giggling by the end.

Other questions such as, “is a chicken a mammal?”, are much easier to answer and gives the group the opportunity to discuss what constitutes a mammal and remind themselves of previous biology lessons.

Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London.

I am a huge advocate of object-based learning. There are no shortages of objects in the GMZ for the students to feast their eyes upon. The workshop is made up of two discussion sessions, a treasure hunt, and four activity sessions involving real specimens.

Who does not love a treasure hunt? Even the teachers join in! The museum fills with the bustling energy of 20-30 students as they bound around the museum to find all the clues before their time limit is up.

One clue states, “brachiation means arm swinging and is a type of locomotion used by some primates for travelling between trees” and asks the students to find the primate. As a primatologist (a scientist who studies apes and monkeys), I am obviously biased when I say this is my favourite clue.

Skeleton of a gibbon, UCL Grant Museum.

The students eventually stumble across the correct specimen, a gibbon and the smallest of the apes. I adopted one of the gibbon skeletons in the Grant Museum and called it Buddy, so named as it always assists me with my teaching whether that be for school or university groups. In return, my financial contribution goes towards the maintenance and preservation of the museums specimens.

I love seeing the students’ eyes widen as I tell them that gibbons are the fastest of all the apes, able to build up speeds of 55 km/h (34 mph) and clear distances of 12 m with one swing!

After the workshop, the students are taken on a guided tour of UCL. Overhearing them say, “I want to come to university!” feels like a pat on the back. The whole experience is supposed to present them with options, showing them what can be achieved with hard work, determination and passion.

Whatever path they choose, I hope they will remember the unique experience they had in the Grant Museum delivered by me and my teaching Buddy.

Delivering this workshop to a diverse mix of students has made me a better deliverer, communicator and organiser; skills which I now take on to my next role as Animal Conservation lecturer at a well-known zoological institution.

Schools, students and UCL East: Bio-Robotics Project

Caroline Francis26 June 2020

Photo of Maisha and student examining specimen at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London, 28th, June. 2018.

Hi everyone, my name is Maisha and I am currently a final year student at UCL, studying BASc Arts and Sciences. I have been a part of the Bio-Robotics project for nearly 3 years now and I have really enjoyed being involved, particularly as I have got to be part of the evolution of the project and also because I have seen the real benefit the project has been to school children across London.

The Bio-Robotics project is a collaborative widening participation project between UCL Culture and the UCL Computer Science department. Its main aim is to inspire school children to transform their understanding of what Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects look like at university level. The project has two parts. First, the students attend a workshop at the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology and second, they are provided with kits to build a robotic caterpillar at school. Putting both parts together, school children should come away from the project having an interdisciplinary understanding of what can be done when we merge different STEM subjects together such as computer science and biology.

Photo of Maisha helping student locate specimens around the museum during the Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London, 28th, June. 2018.

The workshop at the Grant Museum is my favourite part of the project as it is what I help run and teach. Around 30 children come to the Grant Museum in each session and as soon as they enter, they are amazed and intrigued by all the wonderful specimens on display all around the museum. The museum was founded by Robert Grant in 1829 and is home to 68,000 specimens, preserved and exhibited in the museum. The workshop we lead allows children to think about how different animals move and how these movements might be useful to consider when building their own bio-inspired robots. We also challenge their conventional ideas of what a robot is, and also who can be a scientist.

One of the first activities is a museum trail in which the children are given clues and have to locate specimens all around the museum, such as a jar of moles, a Japanese spider crab and a gibbon. The next activities in the museum are designed to help children understand how different aspects of biology and anatomy help individuals move, such as bone strength, skeleton anatomy, pentadactyl limbs and vertebrae. I have found that most students are really engaged with the discussions and inspired by the quirky and intriguing nature of the museum. All the activities are very practical and there is limited time spent just listening to a presentation, which I find is the reason for high levels of engagement. The students are really interested and involved with the activities because they are the right balance of fun and stimulating. Our most common questions about the specimens are “Are they real?” and they definitely are!

Photo of Maisha helping student with an activity during the Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, London, 28th, June. 2018.

My interests for being involved in this project are primarily because of my degree, Arts and Sciences, which is all about the intersection of academic disciplines to create solutions to global issues and this project uses multiple disciplines to explore robots and animals. I love that the students get to see this unconventional side of university and how a lot of research is based on the culmination of different subjects coming together. I also really enjoy working with school-aged children and promoting university to students who may have the wrong image of what university is actually like. I love that the project has allowed me to develop my skills and step out of my comfort zone, as I initially started as someone who was supporting the workshop and then developed the confidence to co-teach the workshop. The experience has made me consider a career in public engagement in museums. Last summer, I was also given the chance to co-organise a Science Festival at Petchey Academy, a school that took part in the project and wanted to do more to promote STEM at their school in collaboration with our project. This was an amazing and valuable experience to be given the responsibility to organise and it was great for my own personal development.

In my opinion, it is incredibly important to create projects that challenge students’ conventional ideas about what studying science looks like, especially within a museum and university setting. It is important to promote university as a potential future option for all, especially children from disadvantaged areas that may not have the confidence or support networks to consider attending university in the future. It is important for a child to interact with a university student like myself, a female and a person of colour, and understand that university is accessible for all and an enriching experience. This is the most valuable part of the project for me and I am very proud and pleased to be a part of such a wonderful project.

The Bio-Robotics Project is part of the UCL East School’s programme run by UCL Culture and supported by the Access and Widening Participation programme.




New Ways of Seeing: Printmaking as an Introduction to University Part 3

Mohammed Rahman27 May 2020

This post is the third in a series on the Printmaking Project, which is part of an outreach programme for secondary schools and colleges in east London. It is written by Taylor Jack Smith, Slade School of Fine Art graduate 2018.

Taylor providing students feedback on a test print during an outreach workshop.

Hello, I’m Taylor and I’ve been co-delivering Day 2 of the UCL East Printmaking Project for two consecutive years now, along with fellow Slade graduate Isobel Napier. I feel strongly that art is an essential component of a good holistic education. It often opens up opportunities for students that may have struggled with other subjects through exploring their creative intelligence. I myself struggled with dyslexia throughout school, art opened up opportunities for me to articulate my thoughts and ideas in a direct way.

Our printmaking programme encourages school students to develop confidence and creative potential. Within the workshops, technical drawing or printmaking ability are secondary to the ways in which students feel they personally challenge themselves and develop their skills. This approach is delivered through a mix of demonstrations and one-to-one feedback, prompting the students to actively make creative decisions about the outcomes they want to achieve, as well as a process of trial and error.

Isobel Napier, Slade graduate 2018, using a press with a pupil.

Dry point etching is often a new medium for many of the students, and we encourage them to experiment with it. We expand their ideas about what a successful print can be, look to loosen up drawing styles and engage with the material process of printing. Throughout the day you can often see a real progression with student’s approaches. Maybe at first they can be slightly apprehensive or too precious over their original drawing. By learning to adapt to the materiality of the process and thinking instead more about mark making and the application of the ink they create different, sometimes more experimental results.

Pupils ink their drypoint plates made with  guidance from the Slade graduates.

The overwhelming majority of students we work with are highly motivated, with many wanting to pursue art further, and we aim to facilitate this the best we can. However, arts education and specifically these kinds of programmes also encourage confidence and creative decision-making in all participating students.

The workshops typically start with a brief introduction, followed by brief group demonstrations of the process. Once the students have a good gauge of the process we’re in a position to give more one-to-one advice, and engage in conversations around each student’s ideas and work.

Pupils are given lots of artistic freedom to expand their skills and styles.

Depending on the class dynamic, the workshops can be quite free rein, the students pursuing their own ideas with Isobel and I guiding and encouraging them throughout the course of the workshop.

The Printmaking Project is part of the UCL East School’s programme run by UCL Culture and supported by the Access and Widening Participation programme.

Read the first and second blog posts in this series.

The Co-pro Pilots are back! UCL Centre for Co-production funding is available for you!

ucjunhu30 April 2019

This blog is brought to you by Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal with “help” from Guide Dog in training Viking!

It’s only been a few months since the last round of Pilot projects came to an end but we learnt a lot and so are keen to forge ahead and develop the Centre still further in time for the official launch in mid-2020. As such, the BIG news is that… we are excited to announce that applications are now open for the Co-pro Pilots Phase 2! The Pilots are brought to you by the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research, currently being developed with funding from Wellcome Trust.

For those that we involved in the Pilots last time around we hope you notice the changes made as a result of the input from you and all Centre collaborators to date. By the way, please don’t think that you can’t apply a second time, those that were involved in the first round of Pilots are also very welcome to apply!

Before we embark on the next series of Pilots though, we thought a recap was in order!

So, what have we achieved to date?

It’s been a really busy time! So much so that I have drafted in extra help from Guide Dog in training Viking! To be honest though I think he is more interested in distracting me!

Guide dog Viking is peering around the edge of a computer screen to see what is going on

Luckily, more dedicated help is on the way in the form of our second Centre employee, exciting times! If you are interested in applying for the post of Project Coordinator, there is still time, please do! Although… be aware the deadline is 1 May, you can find out more in our blog about the post.

So, what else have we achieved since we started out co-producing the Centre development in October 2017? Well, thanks to everyone who has collaborated and co-produced with us to date, masses! We now have a draft evaluation strategy and framework, the outline for an initial co-production training course, a map of resources available around the country to support co-production (ready to become an online resource bank) and… we completed our first phase of Pilot projects in 2018. To find about more about the Centre, what we are all about and our development work please have a read of our recent blogs.

What have we learnt so far?

Well, we have learnt lots since we started but it is important to say that we are only a small way down the road in terms of developing the Centre and definitely don’t have all the answers, as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to co-producing research. We are always learning though and want to continue to do so whilst collaborating with you!

Group of people co-producing the Centre development. They are sat around a table covered with colourful post-its and drawings

Some of the things that we learnt last time around may come in useful when planning your application. The info shared here barely skims the surface but I don’t want to send you all to sleep by making you read pages and pages of my typing! We will share much more at the Pilots Kick-off Meeting in July.

Some useful learning to date includes:

• Be aware that a significant amount of time is needed for relationship building when co-producing – some teams felt that they didn’t factor in enough
• Constraints of those working full time need to be considered carefully when writing a proposal – some felt that they didn’t take enough time to think this through
• You need lots of time for thinking when co-producing
• Be aware that decision-making is different in co-production. Not everyone has to be involved in every decision but people need to know that they can influence direction if they choose to and can raise objections if needed
• Make sure you have regular clear and concise communication, this is key
• Be open to always challenging yourselves as a group to think differently and not do things in the standard way

In addition, reflecting after their Phase 1 Pilot project had finished one co-producer shared these thoughts:

“We developed new aspects of our programme and co-production helped us to build the evidence base for our interventions. We expect this to be key in helping us raise funding to extend the impact we have on local people. We have built a strong relationship with UCL directly, but also improved the relationship with the community, as they are aware of the positive impact of the work and of the pilot”.

Debbie from Engage Visually working on the Centre graphic illustration of progress to date

Where to next?

With the help of our new project coordinator (yet to be recruited) who will hopefully be in place sometime in May and Centre collaborators we will be focusing on support the Pilot projects, co-creating a brand and logo, a website for the Centre and an online version of the resource bank. At the same time, we will also focus on further developing the evaluation strategy and framework started in line with the first set of Pilots. In addition, we have some sessions with UCL senior management coming up where we plan to impress them with our progress, show them the benefits of co-production and discuss the importance of the long-term sustainability of the Centre; as a result, we will also be getting into the thick of business model development and planning for the Centre. Exciting times!

And, of course as I already mentioned the Pilots projects Phase 2 are NOW OPEN for applications! We’re looking forward to receiving yours very soon!

Still interested? Great!

How can you get involved in Phase 2 of the Pilot projects?

It is hopefully a relatively simple process to apply for funding for a Pilot project…

Do you have a passion for authentic co-production and or collaboration? Great! Tick!

Are you prepared to apply for funding as part of a team? Great! Tick!

Illustration of the different roles in a co-production team

By the way should you require support with potential collaborators or with a place to meet up please contact Niccola for help.

Next, you need to:
1. Have a read of the Key Documents outlined below and find out what the Pilots are all about
2. Form your co-production team
3. Work out if and how you meet the criteria for the Pilot projects
4. Develop an application in collaboration/as a team
5. And importantly… submit your application prior to the deadline of midnight on Friday 14 June – job done!

A Review Panel (a mixed group of Centre co-producers will then meet and assess all applications against a set of criteria (see Document 1: Pilot FAQs for further information).

Key documents required to apply for Pilot project funding

• Document 1: Pilot FAQs – as a pdfas a Word docx
• Document 2: Pilot Application Form – as a pdfas a Word docx
• A downloadable version of this blog

If you have any questions at all or would like documents in a different format please feel free to contact Niccola.

Not interested in working on a Pilot project but still want to help or just be kept up to date?

This is no problem at all! Please contact me (Niccola) – we would love to involve you or your organisation in any of the above-mentioned development plans or in whatever way works for you!

East Engagement Network: exploring collaboration and knowledge exchange in east London

Briony Fleming5 March 2019

Last week (27th February) we had the latest instalment of the East Engagement Network meetings (EEN). The East Engagement Network is growing forum for staff and students involved in the UCL East project, and those who are under-taking or interested in engagement work in east London. The network meetings are designed to create a space to share successes and learning from those undertaking engagement work, as well as share information about the wealth of projects that are happening. They are designed to start creating a forum for people to share and learn about best practice as well as meet others working in the same area. They are a key component of the work of the Community Engagement Team( East) and are something that we are looking to grow and develop over the coming years.

This meeting was themed around the topic of ‘Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange’ and was particularly looking at work with partners who do not typically engage with the institution.

First up, we heard from Dr. Anne Laybourne. Anne has a split role at UCL she works part time as the Study Manager for the UCL Psychiatry MARQUE project, which aims to increase knowledge about dementia, agitation and person-hood. She has also taken on a new role with UCL Student’s Union Volunteering Service as the Project Manager for the Community Research Initiative for Students (CRIS) which looks to connect Postgraduate Taught Students with community partners around their dissertation projects. Anne, a recent Beacon Bursary project lead, spoke briefly about her history with public engagement and her recent Beacon Bursary and then moved on to talk about CRIS, which she introduced as ‘tinder for dissertations’. CRIS connects not-for-profit organisations that work with the Union’s Volunteering Service with academic staff and Masters Students who are keen to research a community need in the capital. Anne is looking for course leaders who are keen to connect with her around this project, particularly those who are at the point of course design. In her exploratory conversations about the project she highlighted some of the challenges around embedding knowledge exchange. She commented on the fact that many of the students she discussed the project with were keen on the idea, but struggled with the concept of ‘exchange’ and found it hard to envisage what might ‘come back’ from a community partner. She highlighted the challenges in negotiating the cultures in both academia and the Voluntary Community Sector which are very different, and that this relationship making takes time which needs to be created and accounted for.  One way in which this can manifest is that often the community partners have a ‘shared identity’ or feel part of a wider sector, whereas the academics are often very individualised. Anne acknowledged the need to tell students it is ok not to have all the answers from the outset and that the ‘certainties of academia’ aren’t always helpful in working collaboratively. Anne ended by talking about how enriching the experience of working with community partners is both personally and academically, and that the time taken to explore this process is something that is necessary and worthwhile.

Anne shared her hopes that the CRIS programme would act as important spoke of the engagement work in east London. If any students or academics are interested in partnering or participating in the CRIS programme they should email Anne for more information.

Following on from this Lizzy Baddeley, Community Engagement Project Manager for the Trellis programme, gave an update on the progress of the project. Lizzy, part of the Community Engagement Team, is delivering a programme of work exploring how knowledge exchange activity between universities and communities can maximise impact for both partners, and how these partnerships can be best supported to flourish. Lizzy gave a brief introduction to the funding for the programme (from the EPSRC Innovation Acceleration Account) and how typically this is used to explore relationships in the business sector, whereas we are taking the approach to use this to work with community partners, particularly those who are less often heard at UCL. She spoke of the three prongs of the programme:

Trellis Art:  a range of activities to connect UCL researchers with local east London artists. She announced the news that we have funded 9 initial researcher-artist partnerships of which 4 will secure ongoing funding to display their collaborative output in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in October 2019. She showed the short film below to explain the process trialled as part of this activity:

Community University Partnership Building Events: funding has been made available as part of the project for EPSRC funded researchers to apply to deliver themed events which start of develop relationships with east London communities, individuals or local organisation. The event funding, which is currently open with a rolling deadline is looking for events which will explore areas of mutual interest and build towards ideas for future collaborative work. Lizzy asked that network members sign-post those who are interested to her and asked them to email for more information.

Training in knowledge exchange and community engagement: Lizzy talked about the intention to develop a programme of online training which would underpin the activity of her programme, and which would leave a legacy beyond it.  In order to build capacity at UCL for researchers to participate in community engagement and knowledge exchange, this will work to expand and digitise the training offer which currently exists as part of the UCL Engagement Team. This work is still in development but it is expected that the themes for the training will be:

  • Introduction to public and community engagement and knowledge exchange
  • Public engagement as part of your research grant
  • Practical skills for community and public engagement
  • Evaluating the impact of engagement and knowledge exchange

So far, she detailed her key challenge when talking to potential partners has been asking them to think about the ‘exchange’ part of the activity. Whilst each partner knew what they wanted, whether internal or external to UCL they both struggled to ‘work out what the other side want’ and so Lizzy’s work has been to try and help facilitate opportunities for people to come together and explore this.

Last, but certainly not least, we heard from Dr. Edwina Prayogo an UCL alumnus now Impact Manager for Newham homeless charity Caritas Anchor House. Edwina introduced her session by giving a whistle-stop tour of her engagement work whilst at university which saw her work with Food Bank organisation Trussel Trust to feed into research which was looking into why people ended up using foodbanks. Edwina outlined some of the key points she felt were fundamental to successful collaborative projects. At university she was supported by funding from Grand Challenges and recognised the importance of this as it created space for her to work more deeply with partner organisations, in what is often an unpopular cause. It was also here that she developed her understanding of the importance of involving external communities in the co-design of research studies and which for her resulted in greater cooperation and better recruitment to her study. She highlighted the sense of ownership and buy-in that this generates as people feel it is theirs. The results of her study led to certain types of food being removed from the food parcels used.

She spoke of the ‘paywall of research’ and how often what comes out of projects feels hidden and not transparent to project partners. Thinking through methods of dissemination which are equally accessible is vital, she wrote blogs and shared reports with partner contacts. This more open method of dissemination often means much more reach for your work and ‘not the usual suspects’ engaging with your work. Edwina candidly outlined her changing perspective in student placements, moving from a student herself trying to find a community partner ‘at the last minute’ to understanding the burden that this can put on an organisation, she put out a plea for those wanting to work with a community partner to think through the timeline and contact them as early as possible, so they are best able to manage their limited resources. She had never thought about needing a DBS check before working with community partners herself. She advised creating time for both partners to be clear on their expectations, what they can commit to any partnership and what they are looking to get out of it. Finally, and perhaps fittingly as an Impact Manager, she asked network members to think about their evaluation, building this in at the beginning and reflecting upon their work and their partnership.

After questions attendees broke into groups to have a round-table discussions about the challenges and opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration with community partners. There were several exciting suggestions within the ‘opportunities’ side including encouraging opportunities to celebrate the collaborative work that has been undertaken, using Microsoft Teams to better improve internal communication, and questions around exploring how to recognise the time spent undertaking engagement work. Food for thought for the community engagement team, so watch this space. You can read the thoughts by downloading the session notes below.

Round Table Discussion Notes (WORD)

If you would like to joing the East Engagement Network, or hear about upcoming events email mailto:engagement-east@ucl.ac.uk

Dr. Anne Laybourne: a.laybourne@ucl.ac.uk / @GBC_Anne

Lizzy Baddeley: e.baddeley@ucl.ac.uk / @UCLEngage

Dr. Edwina Prayogo: E.Prayogo@caritasanchorhouse.org.uk / @Dr_prayogo

When two become one: ways to ‘spice up’ creating collaborations

Briony Fleming and Lizzy Baddeley14 January 2019

This Blog has been written by Lizzy Baddeley: Project Manager (EPSRC Community Engagement), who is leading the Trellis project. Trellis is exploring methods for knowledge exchange between university and community partners.

So, what’s the best way to bring together a group of artists and a group of researchers who have never met before to help them build connections, identify shared interests and think about working together? and one that doesn’t involve too many post it notes or presentations about everyone’s work? This was the challenge facing the Community Engagement team in December 2018, when we were trying to kick off our Trellis: Public Art project – a nine month project which will result in four co-created artworks being exhibited in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in October 2019.

In UCL Culture we are always looking for new ways to spark collaborations between our staff and students and people outside the university, especially those who are not traditional partners in research or learning. This was an opportunity to do just that.

We worked with Rosie Murdoch, an independent arts consultant and curator, based in Tower Hamlets, to identify a group of artists based in, or closely tied to, the area around the future UCL East campus. And I had managed to convince a varied group of UCL staff and research students that it might be a nice idea to work on a project with an artist, but then we had to bring them together and find out whether they had any shared interests or interest in working together. A date was identified for an initial matchmaking event, 10th December 2018, and everyone was invited, and we tossed around some ideas of a format.

There were a few things that I was set on making sure happened:
1. The artists and UCL staff/students came into the project on an equal footing
2. Input from both sides would be equally valued
3. Everyone would get the chance to talk about themselves and their own work
4. Everyone would get the chance to meet as many other people at the event as possible
5. The event would be fun, informal and enjoyable, even if some people decided not to participant in the project going forward.

So what did we do?

1) A facilitated walk of the Olympic Park

Project participants walk around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Trellis Art Project participants walk around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The venue for the event was Stour Space, a community arts venue just over the river from the Olympic Park, in Hackney Wick. This meant it was easy to take everyone off for a walk around the park as the first activity. We wanted the walk to act as an icebreaker and a chance for people to start talking informally. I had prepared an activity – collaborating to fill in a map of the park in small groups – but we ended up not doing this, and just naturally chatting. It was a great way to share peoples past experiences of the location with each other, and the situate the event in the place where the art would end up being displayed, but it was very loosely facilitated and I think some people found it hard to start up or maintain conversations for the whole duration.

2) A ‘speed dating’ style networking session

Artists and researchers undertaking a speed dating activity

‘Speed-dating’ activity at Stour Space

After returning to Stour Space, we warmed up, and then got everyone settled into a speed dating style networking activity. We had set up two rows of chairs facing each others, with the UCL staff/student in one row, and the artists in the other. Every 4 minutes, the UCL staff/students had to stand up and move along. It was absolute chaos! But somehow it worked. There were loads of things I would change another time, like how close each pairing was sat(which meant it ended up being far too loud) and the fact there were more UCL people than artists, which skewed the experience – and made it take a little longer than anticipated. However, overall it did a great job of getting all the artists to meet all the researchers and focussed people around what they were interested in. They all reported finding it very tiring, but luckily, the next part of the day was the most relaxing! Even though it was tiring I do think, overall, the activity added an important structured element to the event.

3) A shared meal

Networking at Stour Space

Participants drinking and networking at Stour Space

The final ‘activity’ we did, if it can be called that, was simply sharing a meal with each other. The idea was that those who had found some connections in the matchmaking would naturally sit with each other and continue to talk. We had provided some prompt questions, in the guise of a menu, to aid anyone who was not sure what to talk about. This felt like a nice way to end the event, the feedback we got didn’t focus all that much on the eating, possibly because to the participants it didn’t feel like an ‘activity’. However, the amount of conversation in the room was high, and we even found it hard to get some people to stop talking when the day was over!

people eating dinner and getting to know each other

Participants networking over dinner at Stour Space

So did it all work? Well, the real proof will be at the end of January, when those who wish to begin working together on potential art collaborations need to submit their ideas. But for now, I think we can say it worked well enough. While the feedback we received on the day, and later, was constructive, it was also positive. The event was probably better suited to those who were confident taking the initiative to start conversations, and there were a few people who suggested moving the walk until after a more formal ice breaking activity, so that it was not the first thing people did.

You can watch all about the event, and what we’re trying to do in this short film, made for us by east London filmmaker ‘i say RAAR’

So we will learn, and continue to develop tools for bringing potential partners together. What we have learnt from this day will be applicable not only to artists/researchers collaborations, but also more widely in kicking off collaborations. This learning will be fed into our wider project and help inform the Trellis: Community Partnership Building Event funding!

You can find out more about the Trellis: Public Art on the UCL Culture site, along with other activity in the wider Trellis: Growing Community University Partnership programme.

A very engaging summer: public engagement in east London

Briony Fleming31 July 2018

We have had a hugely busy summer in east London.

£100m secured for UCL East as part of East Bank

On the 5th June the Mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, hosted an event to launch of East Bank (formally the Cultural Education District) where we received final confirmation of the commitment of £100m capital funding towards our new east London campus. Speaking at the event Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, said: “As one of the world’s leading universities, we address many of the most pressing global challenges of our time. UCL East will take this one step further…Our new campus will bring together seven UCL faculties to generate radical and innovative research and teaching programmes. These will range from robotics, artificial intelligence and media, to innovative finance, global health leadership, advanced propulsion and sustainable cities.”  You can read more about the launch on the UCL East website.

Great Get Together

Children make Kaleidoscopes with Engineers from UCL in east London

On the 24th June, under the blazing sun in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a dazzling array of kaleidoscopes were about to be made. This all came about as part of our work with UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering, where we have been thinking about ways in which we can open up the word leading research in the department to people outside of the university, creating a culture of two-way engagement between researchers and the public.

Engineer explains to child about his research by making Kaleidoscopes

First on our agenda was thinking about how we can create opportunities for researchers to try out engagement and have meaningful conversations about their work with different public audiences. The Great Get Together presented the perfect opportunity.  We joined forces with artist Emilie Giles to come up with a making activity which researchers from the department could use to start conversations about their research (much of which has a link to light). After consultations with the Public Engagement Unit and researchers from Electronic and Electrical Engineering, a kaleidoscope making activity was finalised, and our team of amazing researchers (Dan, Sherif and Zahra), along with the East Engagement team, headed to the Olympic Park where hundreds of families and young people were congregating. Local families made and decorated kaleidoscopes, using coloured beads and material to diffract the light, while having conversations around research within Electronic and Electrical Engineering. The activity proved extremely popular, and an estimated 450 kids and parents alike participated over the course of the day. So, it was a really busy afternoon, expertly delivered by Dan, Sherif, Zahra and our East Engagement team. Well done to all!


Visual Notetaking

Artist TemJam takes graphic notes of a workshop at Bow Arts Trust

Humans Make Plastic

Ahead of Open Doors: Vote 100 (a partnership showcase event between East Bank organisations) UCL’s Engagement Team, together with Bow Arts Trust, brought together UCL researchers, local artists and zero waste activists in an event to discuss plastics,

UCL researchers and east London artists make collaborative scuplture from plastic pollution

sustainability and women-led activism. The 20th June event, later named Humans Make Plastics by participants, was led and designed by London artist Camilla Brendon. It used plastic pollution (much of it sourced from the River Lea with the support of the Canal and River Trust) to design and build a collaborative sculpture which acted as a tool to talk about the research being undertaken into plastics at UCL. Catherine Conway of Unpackaged also gave a talk about her role in trying to remove plastic from the food and retail supply chain. The final sculpture from the workshop, will also be shown at the Bloomsbury Festival in October.


Open Doors: Vote 100

Open Doors: Vote 100 was the first time all East Bank partners (Sadler’s Wells, Smithsonian Institute, London College of Fashion, UCL and V&A) came together to deliver a collaborative event. The event, on the 22nd July, included dance, music and poetry, displays, debates, workshops and screenings, and was suitable for all ages. Highlights included excerpts from Suffraggedon, an in-production hip-hop feminist musical written by Guilty Feminist contributors, an exhibition showing the works of 20 artists inspired by an image embroidered by incarcerated suffragettes in 1912, and dance performances & workshops from Company Wayne Macgregor and Myself UK Company.

In addition to re-delivering both its Textile 100 and Humans Make Plastics workshops, UCL was also represented by a number of academics who took part in an item called the long conversation. This format brought together artists, film makers, scientists and activist to discuss the question ‘What makes you optimistic about the future’. The conversation acted as a relay with each person being first interviewed and then becoming the interviewer. You can read the full programme on the Olympic Park website.

Sculpture making at Open Doors: Vote100

It has been a great summer so far and we are looking ahead to our autumn term activities. First up is Harvest Stomp, an event on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with live music, dancing, food stalls, arts and craft stalls as well as a programme of workshops, demonstrations and entertainment. We will be hosting a stall in partnership with Biochemical Engineering and their micro-brewery (yes, UCL has a micro brewery!). If you are interested in taking part in this event or finding out what more UCL is doing in east London please send us an email at: engagement-east@ucl.ac.uk