All systems go!
Back on track this week…
I had two really helpful tutorials with Teresa & Frauke followed by a critique with Stuart.
I had a really insightful chat with Frauke who after I explained my directory idea gave me some guidance on the substance I need to have behind this idea:
- read critically and think critically
- I need to show how I position myself and show that I understand my own context in relation to my idea.
- Make sure my research goes into as much detail as possible
- map your area!
- map the area without intention of creating anything
- Forensic architecture
- consider failure! What if there isn’t a network out there.
- Write about the future
- Explore hope and care. Both very contemporary research themes..
So all of this got me thinking!
I hadn’t yet mapped my area and it kind of snapped me back into the brain of someone studying a masters. I hadn’t been thinking in this way I’d been responding to this brief as if I was at school.
So I started having a little look.
The project that caught my eye was that of the oil and gas pollution in vaca muerta.
The project uses 3D Modelling Geolocation Image Complex Remote Sensing and being funded by The Guardian.
Neuquén’s indigenous Mapuche people claim Vaca Muerta has brought them not wealth, but discrimination, dispossession and health problems...
They say the denial of their cultural identity is being used by the Neuquén authorities to refuse the Campo Maripe community legal rights over the Loma Campana plateau, where they say they have grazed their cattle and goats for nearly a century. Pockmarked with close to 500 fracking wells that have sprung up in the past seven years, the plateau is the centre of the fracking boom.
What did stick out to me in relation to what I had been speaking about with Frauke and the reasoning behind my project was that the companies fracking for oil in this region are changing the landscape for the people that live their. They are doing this visually, culturally and economically.
Some context and history about Wales, it’s governance and complicated history with second homes
It’s no where near as dramatic but across Wales the landscape and culture is being changed by second homes. The image on the left is from 2020, a village in North Wales, vandals sprayed empty houses in anger at the way their presence is killing villages.
This however is nothing new, the frustrations of second home owners in Welsh towns has been rife for many years. Between 1979 and the early 1990’s a group known as Meibion Glyndwr burnt down more than 295 English owned second homes.
The first of those homes to be burnt were in Pembrokeshire, where I live and where second homes are still changing the landscape of the county.
To give this more historical context of what was happening at the time Wales did not yet have a devolved government. All decisions made about Wales would be made in England.
The referendum was held on March 1, 1979 to decide whether there was sufficient support for a Welsh Assembly among the Welsh electorate. But the overwhelming majority that did turn up to vote, voted against the provisions of the Wales Act 1978. On top of this, in their 1979 General Election manifesto, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party had promised to provide a Welsh-language TV service. However, shortly after the Conservatives won a majority in the election, Thatcher withdrew her promise.
For even more context Welsh Labour and its forebears have won a plurality of the Welsh vote at every UK general election since 1922.
I didn’t actually know these stats before looking into it.
What I was basing my idea on was a feeling of isolation and loneliness in a community that empties out in the winter months. Craving creative hubs, craving spaces that are thriving, no wonder that feeling exists in the place that I live given all of that historical context that is not that long ago.
I was born in 1993
Wales become a devolved nation in 1997, this is the year after I moved to Wales with my family.
As an English family moving to a small village in West Wales my father was warned by people at his work to be careful ‘people might throw rocks at you’
This was in 1999… only a few years after the last of the arson attacks had stopped.
I find it quite interesting how I have seemingly inherited this skewed anger, it has seeped into me from growing up in this county, from trying to make a living here and struggling to do so. This project is not about anger, or second homes, it’s actually the complete opposite.
This project is about space. About making the most of the spaces that appear during winter months and taking advantage of the diverse mixture of people that appear in the summer months. That is a perfect combination for a creative community, in what other space in the world do we get the luxury of forced reflection time?
What does the landscape of where I live look like now?
Starting with the maps provided by Pembrokeshire County Council I wanted to find out what data sets they provide and what they might tell me about the county. I started with the housing data, it is unclear from the description quite what they are showing but I am making the assumption that they are showing what council houses are in each area of the county. If I look specifically at the data shown for St Davids I can see the following:
One Bed Rent : 0
Two Bed Rent : 23
Three Bed Rent : 9
Four Bed Rent : 6
Five Bed Rent : 0
Six Bed Rent : 0
So 38 houses available for a population of 1,348 [2021 census].
I was interested to delve further and find out if this feeling of isolation I’m feeling is purely a narrative of the community or is it real?
According to the ONS the median average age in Pembrokeshire in 2021 was 48.8
To put this into context the median age of Cardiff is 35.1, Bristol 34.3 and the UK as a whole 40.6. It’s not to say that Pembrokeshire has the highest median age.
North Norfolk has a median age of 54.9, the average salary in North Norfolk as of 2022 is £33,426. Interestingly the fastest-growing industry in North Norfolk is Arts, Entertainment, Recreation & Other Services, with jobs in the sector increasing 29% between 2020 and 2021 from 1,750 to 2,250.
If we compare this to Pembrokeshire the average salary in Pembrokeshire as of 2022 is £35,436, better than Norfolk. Business data published by the ONS in 2021 show the most common job group in Pembrokeshire is Caring Personal Service Occupations, accounting for 10% of all roles in the area. Again it was interesting to see that the fastest-growing type of job in Pembrokeshire is Textiles, Printing And Other Skilled Trades, with roles increasing 69% between July 2021 and July 2022. This is an industry I as a creative feel relatively unaware of in Pembrokeshire yet it must be out there.
Ok…. So where’s the issue?
Where does the feeling of isolation come from?
THIS is why.
A simple search of rental properties in Pembrokeshire on Zoopla brings up 46 results [20th July 2023]. If I run the same search, rental properties in Pembrokeshire on Airbnb I get over 1000 results. THAT is where the sense that there is a lack of community comes from. It’s kind of an issue that gets missed in these big surveys. So far I haven’t been able to find anything that shows me how many houses there are in Pembrokeshire in comparison to how many are lived in full time.
Another search tells me the population of Pembrokeshire is 125,005 people with an estimated 7 million people visiting the county every year.
These numbers show a modern version of the frustrations held by the communities in 1980’s Wales. However the differences between now and then are that Wales does now have a devolved Government, the Welsh language is visible, championed and conserved. The nation is being listened too.
So what the bloody hell does this all have to do with my project about creating a collaborative aid?
Well, I had to get to the route of why I felt there was no community in the area I live in.
How can I foster collaboration in a space that has seemingly no creative community?
But then I reached out to my social network about creating a directory of creatives… the people that got back to be were photographers, seemstresses, project managers, circus performers, musicians and music producers.
They all live in Pembrokeshire.
So there ARE people…
A really really diverse and interesting mix.
So then I had a critique with Stuart
It was great actually because it was only me and one other person so we got to chat in detail about where we were at with our projects..
I’d made a start on the PDF which you can see here ADD IT IN HERE and I spoke about how my thoughts were potentially changing a little to focus on the space in which creatives collaborate rather than a directory.
Stuart spoke about how design directories were quite a popular thing back in the day however in todays world how they could be seen as a luxary item.
Print is expensive, hard to keep updated and can just get stuck on a shelf somewhere. The added notion of there not being many central spaces that people work in anymore also played into me thinking I needed to change route a little. With everyone working from home would you then need to print copies for every employee of a business rather than just one for the office.
Logistically perhaps this idea isn’t so up to scratch.
I also have tersa’s words ringing in the back of my head about making sure the idea is a collaboration not a collective.
Not all was lost though…
In my market research only one person said they wouldn’t find an in person meet up of creatives useful. This summer / winter imbalance was buzzing around in my head…
What does that imbalance provide that could be seen as a good thing?
Chance to collaborate!
My aid to collaboration is the space provided. It’s a nudge towards collaborating with other creatives.
Make hay while the rain pours.
A play on the old saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’…
It’s said a lot in the community I live in and not because there are lots of farmers making hay, more because every business makes all its money in the summer months.
My idea revolves around the empty spaces that appear in Pembrokeshire in the ‘off’ season.
They provide great potential for creatives to collaborate.
The winter months are harsh, stormy, dark and pretty lonely.
There are many spaces in St Davids that close or drastically reduce their hours in the winter months due to a big reduction in tourists.The idea behind the scheme is that creatives would come to these spaces and work for the day. There would be wifi and heating and the most important part is scheduled lunch and coffee breaks. This scheme would allow cafes / pubs / restaurants to open on a seasonably quiet day and creatives could work in a productive environment while having the opportunity to build connections naturally that would lead to collaboration.
In the article Community-Led Coworking Spaces: From Co-location to Collaboration and Collectivization, they talk of ‘Third Places’.
In sociology, the third place refers to the social surroundings that are separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). Examples of third places include churches, cafes, clubs, public libraries, gyms, bookstores, stoops and parks.
I find this quite interesting…
Those third spaces are the spaces that shut down in the wintertime in the community I live in due to a lack of people.
Workers in third places share office space, technology, information, and also they can socialize, form social bonds and professional relationships, as coworking spaces facilitate encounters and interaction through the spatial proximity of the co-workers.
Virani & Salem 
Another really interesting paper was one looking at the:
Socio-economic profile and working conditions of freelancers in co-working spaces and workcollectives: evidence from the design sector in Greece
In part of the paper they had gathered research from online surveys about how Greek designers worked they found the following:
Older designers (aged above 51 years) exclusively use conventional spaces (home or a formal workplace), while
respondents from the youngest age group (18–30) clearly favour CSs. According to the deskmag.com Global Coworking survey of 2011, ‘most coworkers are in their mid-twenties to late thirties, with an average age of 34’.
In turn, WCLs tend to become the preferred
We have found that third places deal with some of the facets of precarity. Specifically, third places help
freelance designers become more embedded in business networks (in terms of collaborations or customers), both
local and foreign, compared with working in isolation, as lone eagles. By allowing the sharing of projects, business intelligence, resources and social time, third places appear to successfully counterbalance the pervasive immaterialisation of labour. This is also reflected in the relatively higher level of job satisfaction reported by those working in third places.
Avdikos and Kalogeresis 2016
This research is really interesting and relevant to how my idea does aid collaboration. I can see many similarities in the issues facing designers in Greece in comparison to the issues facing designers in West Wales. Most prominent being the instability of a traditional working structure. What I’ve also noticed is that although this is about collaboration the thread that is tying this all together for me is space.
The emotions surrounding space
Feeling of belonging in a space
The space between everybody in a rural place
How you can use the empty spaces that appear to create collaboration and a sense of community.