Stories of Change: The past, present and future of energy

Ryan Bramley Story 4 items 28 Jul 2017

Behind the Story: The Workshop

Cover picture caption

Photo Credit: Ryan Bramley

Over the course of the project, the Stories of Change team have adopted a wide variety of methods to capture the voices of people across the UK and beyond.

What is a workshop? Perhaps there isn't an easy answer to that. But the loosely-defined workshop format, adopted several times by Stories of Change, has provided many answers (and many more questions) that have guided our research in a number of unforeseeable ways. This instalment of 'Behind the Story' takes a closer look at just how well the workshop format has worked out for our project.

Starting in with 'Future Works' in Sheffield, a group of local pupils and students were put to task with a card game and a laser-cut atlas map stretching from Yorkshire to Derbyshire. I had the pleasure of photographing the event, and what I saw that day was a room full of vibrant young people, engaging thoughtfully with climate change and energy issues that the rest of us had never considered before. Their responses were inspirational to us all.

One Great Workshop: Scenario-Making with UTC Sheffield

Photo Credit: Ryan Bramley
"Why should someone work hard for energy just for someone else to waste it so easily?" - Year 12 UTC student, Joe. Julia Udall's 'Future Works' blog post focuses on the Scenario Workshop, hosted by Bloc Projects in June 2015. Several students from the University Technical College (UTC) Sheffield, along with two work placement pupils from King Edward VII School (Sheffield), developed a series of interesting and provocative questions - such as the one above - around the themes of energy, urbanisation, and climate change. ONE GREAT WORKSHOP AT BLOC PROJECTS: SCENARIOS AND CLOUD QUESTIONS WITH THE UTC Stories of Change convened a conversation with students from Sheffield's University Technica... Read More ›

Meanwhile, in the Rhondda Valley, the 'Everyday Lives' strand of the project were treated to a 'Ketso' workshop, courtesy of Alister Forman, a doctoral student from the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. This "interactive participant workshop" drew on Alister's own research, involving the people of Treherbert through a hands-on exploration of the links between energy and the local community. Alister's feedback was very positive, praising the group for their recounting of "the immense depth of community spirit and abundance of natural resources in the area", as well as highlighting a potential "lack of community voice" with regards to stimulating positive local change.

Exploring Perceptions of Community Benefit

This guest post by Alister Forman featured on the Everyday Lives blog on August 11, 2015. A doctoral candidate within the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University, Alister hosted 'Ketso', an interactive participant workshop, for the Stories of Change team in Treherbert, Wales. This post reflects on that experience. **GUEST POST: ALISTER ON HIS KETSO WORKSHOP AT TREHERBERT POP UP STUDIO** On the second Wednesday of the pop-up studio in Treherbert, the Stories of Change team very kindly allowed me to piggy-back on their success; making the journey from Cardiff to host an interactive participant workshop exploring perceptions of ‘community benefit’ in relation to local models of energy production. The session builds on my own work at the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, in conjunction with the Welsh Government, exploring the role of community energy as a vehicle for achieving social justice objectives – particularly in the context of fuel poverty – and for mapping and examining local perceptions of community benefit as a way of exploring the diversity of ways in which community energy contributes towards the mediation of local and social objectives beyond the environmental. With the emphasis on envisioning more just social and ecological energy futures, the workshop has some neat crossovers with themes explored through the pop-up studio, and was a great opportunity to involve the community in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way (whilst still being a bit fun!). Using ‘Ketso’ – a hands-on, visual approach to group working based on the three key principles of hearing everyone’s voice, building mutual understanding and commitment, and promoting collective and creative thinking – the session explored, from the standpoint of the participants, the assets in Treherbert, objectives for the future, key challenges and creative solutions; alongside co-producing a common understanding of how any local model of energy production ought primarily to benefit the community. There was a really nice mix of stakeholders involved, reflecting a diversity of members of the Treherbert community, and it was especially fantastic to have a couple of visitors to the studio on the morning decide to take part; emphasising the depth of interest in the co-constitution of energy and equity and how this can be practically achieved at a local scale. What was especially nice for me as a visitor was to see a story of Treherbert emerge as the workshop progressed. The group recounted the immense depth of community spirit and abundance of natural resources in the area and how these ought to be combined to drive local ownership with respect to energy production; before building that model of ownership outwards to create a resilient, sustainable, confident and empowered local community and local economy. Interesting associations emerged from the themes under discussion, such as the intersection between driving ‘green tourism’ to Treherbert as a pathway towards dealing with issues around poverty and disenfranchisement where, despite having that strong community fabric, there remained a perception that perhaps there was a ‘lack of community voice’. What was really clear was the strong desire for Treherbert to be an exemplar community to the rest of the country to show how both ‘community’ and ‘community energy’ can be done right. Thank you to everyone who got involved and to the team at Stories of Change. I hope it was useful and that the experience can go some way towards helping Treherbert to realise something beautiful.

The Ketso Workshop - Exploring Community Benefit Priorities in Treherbert
Ketso: Key Messages
Ketso: Ideas by Branch
Alister is a doctoral candidate within the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. His study is an ESRC and Welsh Government funded collaboration exploring links between community energy, fuel poverty and the distribution of equity within energy projects. Drawing on notions of entitlement and justice, the study examines how community energy mediates the social and environmental conflicts and contradictions propagated by large-scale, centralised models of energy distribution and consumption characteristic of modern societies.  Prior to moving to Cardiff, Alister conducted research on Scottish climate change policy at the University of Glasgow; with a specific interest in local and community solutions to climate change manifest through the land reform movement in Scotland.

And in Ynysybwl (South Wales), a three-day 'Energy Festival' was held in May 2016, featuring a workshop on future energy by Hamish Fyfe from the University of South Wales: an "intriguing session" that challenged participants "to envisage future energy scenarios through visual representations using everyday objects".

The Ynysybwl Energy Festival 2016 - A Photostory

The culmination of our work with the community in Ynysybwl was a three-day Creative Energy Festival held in May 2016. These images capture some of that. Saturday 14th May, 2016 As the last rays of the evening sun slowly set over the Glog, and the firepit flames died down, so came to an end of three wonderful days in Ynysybwl and the last acts of our community activity in the Everyday Lives strand of the Stories of Change project. Supported additionally through the AHRC Community Futures and Utopia Festival and the Arts Council of Wales, Louise Osborn’s wonderfully evocative and provocative Play for Voices, based on the stories from three of the communities we worked with – Tairgwaith, Treherbert, and Ynysybwl – proved a very fitting finale indeed. An expectant crowd gathered around the newly-forged firepit on the site of the former Lady Windsor Colliery to watch and hear actors Anwen Carlisle, Simon Howells and Jams Thomas sympathetically and dynamically echo the words and emotions of ordinary people on an energy journey from the past to the present before playfully conjuring up people’s hopes and ideas of what the future might hold. As their last words faded away, animated discussions broke out, as intended, amongst the locals continuing into the late evening. Thursday 12th May, 2016 Two days earlier, the festival events kicked off in style with a superb Village Voices concert organised by the Ynysybwl Enterprise Programme. Challenged by the theme of energy, the artists and performers rose magnificently to the task. A glorious choral opening by More Than a Song Community Choir was followed by local wordsmith Tom Cadwallader’s brilliant poems juxtaposing contrasting views of windfarms before a riotously rollicking set of zany songs on the merits of miscellany such as wires, networks and flatulent cows by Jeff Japers, and then poet Mike Church’s cutting verse. After the break the evening continued with Bella Collins & Gareth Evans, a duo whose jazz-inflected blues showcased their superb vocal and guitar talents. Fêted author Rachel Trezise then treated the audience to a wonderful reading of Chickens from her award-winning short story collection, Fresh Apples. Finally, the evening closed with Christopher Rees, who spiritedly used the evening’s theme to take us on a journey through some of his impressive repertoire of heartfelt alt country-tinged songs. All in all a magnificent evening’s entertainment which set the bar high for the days ahead and much to muse over. Friday 13th May, 2016 Last year’s Story Studio at Treherbert proved to be a great success both for us as the Story 3 team and the local community. So for the Connected Communities Festival, we decided on a reprise, but a much shorter timescale and, in keeping with the theme, an enhanced focus on the future of energy in communities such as Ynysybwl. Having radically transformed the Community Centre in rapid time with Lisa and Iain from Storyworks UK, people entering took part in a journey from the Ynysybwl of the past to an imagined future helped by archive footage, images, and audio and digital stories from the communities to date. Soon, as conversations commenced and connected, the Future Wall became increasingly populated with people’s ideas, hopes, and indeed fears of what the future of energy might hold for them and the community. Saturday 14th May, 2016 After Friday’s hectic studio session, Saturday saw another busy start with a future energy workshop facilitated by Hamish Fyfe from the Stories of Change project at USW. The intriguing session challenged us to envisage future energy scenarios through visual representations using everyday objects. So with the help of chairs, handkerchiefs, and other odd and sods plus the occasional bit of cable that just happened to lying around, the groups enjoyed working out how imagined futures could happen or might not. All in all, a thought-provoking morning. After a little lunchtime lull, activity picked up again at the Studio in the afternoon with a new stream of visitors including Louise, Anwen, Simon and Jams popping in prior to rehearsal. And with that, the studio came to an end with the ‘Back to The Future’ energy landscape walk and the evening’s performance ahead. The walk organised by Daerwynno Outdoor Centre in Llanwonno Forest just to the northwest of the ‘Bwl took in the history of energy in the area going past relics and sights of past and possibly future energy. As they wended their way eventually back to the Firepit, a good crowd had gathered ready for the evening event. But where were the actors and Louise? Crawling out the back window of the local premises they had gathered in earlier for their final run-through having been locked in inadvertently! Neither shaken nor stirred, they too made their way up the hill to the plateau where the Lady Windsor Colliery once stood and dispensed her miners deep into the bowels of the earth to toil for black gold. And as the crowd’s voices hushed, pierced by the birds’ evensong, and the flames settled and crackled, it began. “We’re here to tell you a story… ” Supported by AHRC Community Futures and Utopia Festival and the Arts Council of Wales with thanks to our festival partners: Storyworks UK, Visiting Arts, Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership, Ynysybwl Enterprise Programme, Ynysybwl Community Centre, Ynysybwl Constitutional Club, Daerwynno Outdoor Centre, Glyncoch Community Regeneration Ltd, James Exton, Blue Sky Monster, and BBC Cymru Wales (for archive).

Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Story Studio, Ynysybwl, 13-14th May 2016
Energy workshop, Ynysybwl, 14th May 2016
Energy Walkers gather, Ynysybwl, 14th May 2016
Afternoon Rehearsal at the Story Firepit, Ynysybwl, 14th May 2016
The crowd begins to gather at the Story Firepit, Ynysybwl, 14th May 2016
Jeff Japers at Village Voices - energy night. Ynysybwl Constitutional Club, 12th May 2016

And finally, back in South Yorkshire, the University of Sheffield's 'Studio Future Works' team, comprising of MArch (Master of Architecture) students and their tutors, conducted a mapping workshop to visually represent energy and climate change in the city, with Gripple's 'Load Hog' Factory as the focal point.

Gripple Energy Lab

This drawing is an adaptation of a collaborative piece of work produced by Studio Future Works at the Sheffield School of Architecture. Following a tour of Gripple’s factories the studio had a workshop mapping energy and climate change in and around Gripple’s Load Hog factory building. The drawing highlights key machinery, potential energy production and ideas discussed at the workshop. It is evident from this that mitigation, adaptation, resilience and emergency response cannot address climate change in isolation. A dynamic response offering an assortment of ideas at a range of scales is required. People Involved Niki Sole, Daniel Stern, Gordon Macrae, Renata Tyszczuk, Julia Udall, Si... Read More ›

Our definition of a 'workshop' is indisputably broad; the format itself, widely applicable. The coming together of students, pupils, academics, and members of local communities - both in North England and in South Wales - has facilitated several re-imaginings of place and space, stimulating a new public discourse around prominent energetic issues that are not only of interest to our project members alone, but to numerous people outside of the Stories of Change team as well.

Story created by Ryan Bramley, 28 Jul 2017