An Anthropology of Ourselves: Exploring Mass Observation for Creative Projects

Strike a Light attended this course some time ago and found it a really rich and creative experience utilising archives in a new and accessible way.

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An Anthropology of Ourselves: Exploring Mass Observation for Creative Projects

Tutor: Dr Sam Carroll

Venue: The Keep

Dates: 7th March, 14th March, 21st March and 28th March 2015

Four day schools on Saturdays, 10am to 3:30pm

Cost £101.35/ £48.35 unwaged or Student

Discover the unique Mass Observation (MO) Archive and its inspirational value both for creative arts and community projects, in the beautiful bespoke setting of The Keep archive. This course will suit writers, photographers, dramatists and anyone with an interest in setting up a creative community enterprise that engages with life history. Throughout this four week course you will be supported in and encouraged to nurture your own ideas for a project.

The course will consist of four day schools each lasting five hours. The first, ‘Introduction to Mass Observation’ uncovers the unique history of the archive with a particular focus on the diaries within the project. As a group we will spend the morning exploring MO’s fascinating origins in the 1930s documentary movement, its revival in the 1980s and issues such as ethics, representation and historical value. The afternoon will be spent working with archive material, where you will explore and discuss original MO materials and reflect on the issues raised in the morning in practice.

The second day school ‘Using MO for Creative Writing’ will introduce you to how writers have made use of MO material as a source of creative inspiration for their work such as novels, theatrical performances and films. The group will then return to work with original archive material in order to start creating their own pieces of work and formulating ideas for potential projects.

Day school three ‘Observing the Masses’ will involve an overview of the role of photography and observation in the early MO project. We will collaboratively explore Humphrey Spender’s Worktown Collection as part of his extraordinary record of working class life in Britain. You will then engage in your own observations in the local area before regrouping, ready to discuss the related issues. By now you will have decided upon a project of your own you might wish to develop further. For the following week you will be asked to prepare a short presentation or poster to share your ideas with the group for constructive discussion.

The final day school ‘Using MO for Developing Community Projects’ will explore how MO techniques can be used within communities to record the history of everyday lives and to utilise the collected resources creatively. We will look at potential ways of funding creative and community projects. You will have the opportunity to share your early ideas and as a group we will consider what might be the most appropriate way forward for each project. Overall the course will provide the students with the opportunity to learn about MO and to use it as a source for inspiration and techniques to work creatively with resources that record everyday lives.

Dr Sam Carroll is a life historian with a range of experience in both the academic and

community arenas across many diverse research projects as tutor, project manager and oral history consultant. She is a community heritage researcher (University of Kent), a steering group member of the Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative and Histories (University of Brighton), a working group member of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing (University of Sussex), on the management committee of QueenSpark Books and a member of the Oral History Society.

Refreshments will be provided but please bring your own lunch

The Keep is an accessible venue

If you wish to enquire further please contact moa@sussex.ac.uk

To register for the course www.massobs.org/events

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