The health in the community immersive workshop

Date: June 25, 2015, 10.30-15.30, Venues: Darwin Building Room DW029/30 & KAVE

More than forty participants from academia and the community took part in an interactive immersive workshop organised by the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC), on June 25th, 2015, as part of the Connected Communities Festival sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Participants worked collaboratively to explore what health meant for their communities and created models of ideal communities using artifacts and theatrical props provided by the New Vic Theatre. 

Sue Moffat and her team of theatre practitioners from the New Vic Borderlines ran a number of activities prior to the event capturing stories of health in various community venues such as schools, community centres and food banks. Parallel cultural animation activities took place on the day in Darwin Building, on the Keele grounds where a health tent was erected and in the KAVE (School of Pharmacy) where Luke Bracegirdle designed a virtual health environment. The latter incorporated findings co-produced with communities in previous research projects carried out by Mihaela Kelemen (KMS), Rajmil Fischman (Music) and Emma Surman (KMS).

The workshop stimulated community-academia debate as well as personal and collective reflection on the meanings health in the diverse communities of Stoke on Trent, providing also a fertile ground for enhancing community assets and connections with academia.


A Cultural Animation Interactive Journey developed by New Vic Borderlines for Keele University’s AHRC Connected Communities Health Festival

The ambition of ‘Health Re-Imagined’ is to provide an opportunity for disparate groups of people to come together to explore the ‘meaning of health’ in a range of different contexts. The activity involves re-defining what ‘health’ means and through doing so ‘rescuing’ it from institutional definitions related to illness rather than well-being; exploring health through the idea of the well-being of the planet including individual and collective responsibility for a balance between consumption and protection; re-designing the ‘picture’ of health from an individual to a global perspective.

The activities took place in three different environments; Urban Perspectives and the Impact on Health; Forced Journeys through Crisis; Imagined Futures from the ‘Here and Now to the World Beyond’

The Urban Perspectives and the Impact on Health workshop, provided the opportunity for people to explore their own ideas of how the urban environment could be redesigned to embrace new definitions of health to include the physical environment such as; landsite, housing, lighting, industry, opportunity for work and leisure, a balance between green-space and brown-sites and individual and collective jurisdiction over baseline needs such as sustainable food, good quality air, access to water and warmth. The activity included a miniature landscape with some features such as a canal and original buildings from another era already apparent. The group explored the notion of health through the urban environment, identifying the issues faced by people living there, bringing their own direct experience as a source of knowledge and shared understanding. The opportunity to utitlise the physical environment differently brought about innovative ideas and potential solutions to knotty problems, which could engage the community directly in creating a ‘healthy city’. Roads and pathways were laid, houses placed, jobs created, assets were defined and made accessible to the community. Accompanying the opportunity to innovate and build together was the chance to create an individual journey through making a ‘boat’ to sit upon the canal, which contained the ideas and desires for an on-going journey towards ‘health and well-being’.

The Forced Journeys through Crisis workshop took place outside in the ‘natural word’ and explored the various reasons behind the need to journey. Participants draw upon their own direct experiences of needing to ‘move for work purposes’ because of ‘unhealthy’ neighbourhood relations, leading to exploring broader themes of migration, economic conditions war and natural disaster. The group literally embarked upon a journey to rescue what they could form the world as it is in order to create a new world. Gathering, walking and talking as they went this workshop was an opportunity to reflect on the idea of living with necessity not with excess and creating a collaborative charter for a way of living. Participants identified essential means for a sustainable a life, including means to water light warmth and safety. Clay vessels to carry water were made identifying what the vessel and the water represents in terms of ways of living. Community charters were written and people identified what they could take from the workshop into their real worlds, things that they could action, including being more aware of their own impact on the environment and an enhanced empathy for people around them and the journeys they may have made.

The Imagined Futures from the ‘Here and Now to the World Beyond’ workshop engaged in three activities. An imagined future creating a ‘new world order’ through ‘The Button Game’; Here and Now to the World Beyond using empty frames and objects to develop progressive pictures from the status quo, through actions for change, into a picture of the future. From the collaborative and negotiated activities of The Button Game and In the Frame, which explored global issues around the idea of health,  participants finished with an exercise ‘An Appetite for Health’ which involved writing a personal cinquain* and drawing/painting on a plate their own reflection’s on what health means to them personally. When the plates were competed they placed their plates into the ‘pictures of health’ contained in the frames, bringing together the personal and the global in a mini installation. The exercises created opportunities to move between personal and individualised perspectives on health to global considerations and back again. This both broadened and deepened participants understanding of what health means to them, and provided the opportunity for them to consider how individual actions or inaction can have an impact beyond themselves and their immediate community.

The HEALTH RE-IMAGINED workshops ran throughout the day allowing for participants to journey through each workshop. Although each workshop was designed as a ‘stand alone’ exercise they worked as a collection of experiences which challenged a fresh previously held ideas of health, and encouraged innovative and creative responses to acknowledged ‘wicked problems’ such as lack of space, dwindling resources, perpetual war and poverty.

Further information regarding the event is available at

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