Group: Art Methods
Description of Method:
Writing is often overlooked as an engagement technique and yet the written word features in a wide range of engagement activities. Post-it notes are commonplace in public engagement and they are clearly useful to gather short comments, keywords and prompts. However, the written word can be more consciously present in the Urban Room as a creative technique that can reveal deeper insight. Written accounts of individual stories of place can be very powerful testimonies of the importance of place in people’s lives - stories of family, work, childhood, migration, social events and upheaval, all play out in the context of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods. Collective writing, whether poetry or prose, can help to formulate and express shared values and visions for the future of a place - capturing the mood in the room, whether it be hope, anxiety, anger or optimism.
Purpose of Method:
Focusing on writing within the Urban Room adds another layer of insights, experiences and qualities to those revealed by other activities such as drawing, model making, conversation etc. Both the process and the outputs of writing activities are valuable within engagement. The act of writing individually can prompt reflection and tap into the detail of personal experience. The act of writing collectively prompts discussion and the sharing of ideas. An Urban Room can act as a community archive of these stories and ideas, valuing and displaying them, to build a sense of identity and communality.
Most people will be happy to engage with writing in some way, according to their confidence and availability. However, some people may be nervous about writing in public or cannot write - in these cases they may be happy to tell you their thoughts and stories while you write for them. Including writing in different languages in the Urban Room can celebrate the diversity of a local area. Make these writing activities as enjoyable and engaging as possible - big sheets of paper, colourful pens, playful prompts and intriguing questions all help. Consider working with storytellers, poets and writers to help facilitate these exercises.
Folkestone Urban Room
Alongside its ‘Urban Analysis’ permanent exhibition, UR Folkestone invited visitors to write their recollections, stories and ideas on an accumulating wall display.