It’s been a busy time here at WCAIR, as we ran 2 sessions at the Engage Conference in Edinburgh. Run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, this is its first time travelling beyond Bristol. Set in the stunning Assembly Rooms and Balmoral Hotel, it brings together public engagement professionals from the UK and beyond – 350 of them!
What did we do? Well, first we explored our community engagement work, which we’ve run with Dundee Science Centre and Stobswell Forum. Universities face an interesting challenge in working with communities. We’re all keen to make a difference, but too often people can be left feeling like they’ve been a research project. We spent quite a lot of time discussing how to treat community groups like real people and not one of our petri dishes. We all agreed that honesty, openness and cake are great places to start.
Our second session was more based on playing than discussing. Inspired by our project with the Dundee Rep, we decided to see if we could make a play in an hour. Not any play, of course, but a piece of site-specific theatre inspired by our shared engagement work. 8 brave souls joined us. Through a mix of games, activities, and conversation, we pulled together a piece. It was rough, and perhaps the drama was a little absurd, but it told a tale. Everyone in the group seemed to leave a little more inspired about the idea, and happy they had worked together. This was in marked contrast to our play, where death seemed to be the recurring dramatic twist!
We also went to sessions run by others, of course. Simply having so many friends and colleagues in one place at one time is a rare treat, and we’re already looking forward to next year.