Stories of Change convened a conversation with students from Sheffield University Technical College (UTC) to talk about energy and manufacturing in the region, past present and future. Accompanied by their tutor, Sam Booth, nine Year 12 UTC students, took part in an afternoon of events hosted by Bloc Projects, a gallery in the centre of Sheffield in a former scalpel factory. Year 10 students Niamh and Alex from King Edward VII School who were on their work experience at Bloc Projects also joined the group to share their insights and experiences. We also invited Sara Hill, one of the editors of Now Then Magazine to take part in the events, as she is writing an article for the August issue about what we are up to.
The event was funded as part of the AHRC Connected Communities Festival, which seeks to provide an opportunity to explore creative ways to widen and deepen community engagement with the research, that is being carried out under the programme. One Great Workshop exhibition and events programme is also part of Sheffield Design Week, and so Monocle Magazine interviewed Charlotte, Renata and I about the project. This was featured as part of their radio show on Sheffield Design Week along with David Mellor and Designers Republic. Minutes after the interview finished the students poured in and we shared lunch and introduced ourselves to one another.
Students gathered around a central table that held an laser cut engraving of our Atlas map stretching from Derby to Sheffield, were invited to develop scenarios for the region. Manufactured by Future Works MArch and Town and Regional Planning Student Alex Farr, it mapped towns, cities, rivers, factory sites and ranges of hills.
On this occasion the scenario was played as a card game. Each participant took a card with a role- from robot to manager to research and design development manager, to maintenance manager, apprentice or tutor. When it was their turn they took an ‘event card’ that set out a provocation, to which they must respond to in their character. This was then drawn and written onto the map to develop a story.
The first group told complex and intertwined stories that included speculation about mass-automation and an emerging ‘Robotopia’ in Chesterfield leading to the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Robots. The second group predicted a proliferation of University Technical Colleges, each with a different specialism to up-skill the population to respond to future challenges. They were each powered by an array of renewable energy sources powering the emerging University Technical Land. Robots Moles and 3-D printed landscapes investigated and supported new energy forms. The students’ imagination and local knowledge enabled fantastical speculation that was also situated and nuanced.
In parallel, Photographer Tim Mitchell opened his Question Cloud Photo booth, to provoke thoughtful conversation about energy and making using visual tools. The animated and varied exchanges led to some really though provoking questions and explorations of the surrounding urban context.
Year 12 student Joe asked:
“Why should someone work hard for energy just for someone else to waste it so easily?”
Another group of students initiated a photograph where they asked:
“Have we evolved to depend on power?” against the backdrop of a graffiti portrait of Charles Darwin.
Encountered on their walk to site the image provoked a particular line of thought and the openness of the format of the booth enabled the students to be responsive and draw this into their photographs.
Read more about the day in the fabulous Now Then Magasine
The small groups taking part in each of the activities enabled really thoughtful conversation to emerge. With thanks to UTC contributors Rueben Clarke, Ben Twigg, Peter Fletcher, Ruby Woodhouse, Jack Mitson, Alex Parry, Joe Seymour, Jacob Shaw, Matt Cattell, and Sam Booth for their enthusiasm and creativity.
Read more about the workshop and other events held as part of One Great Workshop Connected Communities Festival on http://onegreatworkshop.co.uk/