This year’s History group projects in HM5000 are being conducted in conjunction with The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum. On 5 March, The Wilson will open two exhibitions: Hidden Agenda: Socially Conscious Craft and Crafting Change: Community, Protest and Utopia. The HM5000(HS) students have been tasked with developing materials to support, and even possibly add to, the exhibits by exploring ‘The Arts of Social Protest’ and ‘Minority Cheltenham’. Here are their preliminary reports on progress:
Social Protest in and around Cheltenham
Our HM5000(HS) group work project examines rioting, unrest and social protest. The main geographic focal point is Gloucestershire, but we also look outwards to the whole of Great Britain. Our research is broken down by centuries (18th, 19th, 20th and 21st) and has been divided between sub-groups focusing on specific time periods. The final artefact is planned as a timeline with an interactive element. The timeline will illustrate overlying themes across the centuries and will include an explanatory key.
At our scheduled group meetings, we have planned how to tackle the project and how to present our research findings. We are now moving towards drafting our timeline. We already have information on various local riots and protests for our individual centuries and have started to identify overarching themes across the overall timeframe, such as unrest and enfranchisement in Gloucestershire as seen in the swing riots and women’s suffrage campaigns.
We will soon start the production of our artefact. Now that we have completed the preliminary research for the project, we will move on to consider contemporary and subsequent artistic and creative responses to social protest. Our aim is to link the forms of the protests and the various ways they are responded to as time progresses. The research findings and visual images will provide the basis for creating our timeline. We hope to be able to add an interactive element to our artefact and to find ways to make it as engaging to the exhibition visitors as we can.
Our HM5000(HS) group work focuses on Cheltenham Minorities. We are exploring the Chinese community, the youth community, LGBT and religious minorities in Cheltenham. The main focus of our project is to report and present how well these communities feel represented in the Cheltenham area and how well they have been treated in recent local history. Our final goal is to produce an artefact in the form of a blog, with the information we have accumulated from oral interviews and taking part in specific communities’ celebrations and ceremonies.
For the religious minorities, we realised we could not appropriately represent them all in our artefact. To solve this, our group looked at the most recent Cheltenham census data and chose religious minorities we felt we could represent to the best of our abilities. For the Hindu and Buddhist communities we decided to focus on the main centres of their religious practice in Cheltenham. We organised oral interviews with them and visits to events and ceremonies, for example meditation, to glean an insight into their world and better understand their expressions and experiences. This has helped to give our section of the blog and interviews a more in-depth feel.
February 2016 was Cheltenham’s first ever LGBT month, with some events hosted at the University. Alongside this community-wide event, the University also has its own LGBT society. We have been in contact with the society and set up meetings to help us understand what the society stands for and what sorts of campaigns they get involved in. By using interviews, we hope to gain knowledge of whether they feel like they have a substantial enough support network, and how well this represents their rights.
The Chinese New Year was also a deciding factor when it came to choosing a minority group. The New Year was on Monday 8th February, and we attended the local community’s celebration. This helped us get to know the members and enabled us to chat with them in order to find out what they felt about their role in the local community. This section of the blog also focuses on the history of the local Chinese community, and when they started to integrate into Cheltenham’s wider society.