Language as Talisman

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Education

Abstract

The concept of 'Language as Talisman' is rooted in the belief that language is, in some sense extent, protective and operates as a way of averting risk and creating resilience. Members of communities believe that the way they speak to each other and the language and literacy practices they draw on, will in themselves, guarantee and shore up identity, safety and agency. The ways in which a community uses oral and written language include aspects such as dialect, accent, vocabulary, preferred genres and practices.
In this study, we focus on one community, Rawmarsh in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Rawmarsh is a community that has a strong history of coal mining and steel industries. It encapsulates the concept of the 'post industrial' working class community described by Hoggart (1957) Williams (1961) and Charlesworth (2000). Rawmarsh is a rich site for literacy and language practices. This project aims to jointly understand the role of language and literacy in constructing and making sense of communities such as Rawmarsh. Partners include the Children and Young People's Service, Rotherham schools and Inspire Rotherham.
We propose to produce a research review spanning a number of related fields, separate but adjacent, all of which deal with everyday language and literacy use. In parallel, and, interacting with the review, we shall develop a cross-disciplinary project on language in use with a local community in Rawmarsh. Our central focus will be the concept of language as 'talisman', an image that speaks to all the disciplines represented in the project. The perspectives represented include New Literacy Studies, Sociolinguistics, the investigation of dialect in literature and also in more popular cultural forms, as well as the intellectual history of language study itself. The New Literacy Studies uses ethnographic approaches to gain insights into everyday language and literacy practices in homes and communities (Barton & Hamilton 1998). Sociolinguistics offers tools for the fine-grained analysis of language use along with ways of conceptualizing the place of language within the social world. Looking at dialect in literature and popular culture involves examining the roles played by meta-language, 'folk-linguistic' beliefs, and perceptual phenomena such as enregisterment and indexicality in the way people orient themselves both to language and to the world through language. And bringing the tools of intellectual history to bear on language study allows for a rigorous and wide-ranging consideration of the relationships among different ways of thinking about and investigating language.
Alongside, we propose to create a community study on the voices heard in the park, that reflects on the role of language and literacy as a source of resilience in everyday life, as well as develop a learning resource on language as talisman, for use in local schools. Our outputs include a Literature Review, a two page summary that draws each adjacent discipline together, a set of resources to be used with year 6 students in local schools, as well as a co-curated set of arts events in Victoria Park, Rawmarsh.
Our community team includes a youth worker, the director of a community literacy initiative and an arts practitioner. Our academic team includes a researcher in the field of New Literacy Studies and ethnographic studies of community literacy practices (Dr Kate Pahl), a socio-linguist (Dr David Hyatt) an expert in the field of dialect and meta-language from English Literature (Dr Jane Hodson) and an academic interested in ideas about language (Dr Richard Steadman-Jones). In addition, an advisory group will guide the process. We have strong support from the Youth Service in Rotherham, as well as Cape UK and local schools for this project.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
1. Youth Service. The youth service in Rotherham will directly benefit from a project which focuses on language as a source of resilience. This will then feed into the wider world of resilience studies including Angie Hart's resilience website: http://www.boingboing.org.uk/ also funded through ESRC. There is strong interest in Rotherham as to how support for storytelling and interaction in public and community sites can avert such behaviours that led to the riots in the summer. Youth workers would like to develop a language and communication focused way forward with young people at risk of anti social behaviour. However, there is less focus on what kinds of language and literacy practices lie within communities and what are the ways these can be described. The proposed project on voices in the park will involve young people and families in the co-curation of a soundscape exhibition in the park leading to a number of language related arts based activities and outcomes.
2. Academics interested in ways in which disciplines such as the Arts and Humanities can create knowledge exchange in communities such as Rawmarsh. There is an urgent need for Arts and Humanities departments to create civic engagement opportunities outside the University spaces. This project will tie into a Faculty programme of developing ways of working with communities.
3. Schools. The project team will produce a resource for local schools which focuses on the uses of language and literacy, with a particular focus on different approaches such as discourse analysis and the study of dialect as well as stories and voices in the park. This could involve Year 6 children telling the team about their language, as experts, and then asking the young people to think creatively about how to use what is distinctive about their local voices.
4. A series of events which will be developed within Victoria Park, Rawmarsh, with a focus on local voices and 'Language as Talisman'. This will be in collaboration with the Cultural Services team at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, together with the Youth Service. Some parts of this project, including the soundscapes and art images could also be showcased in the University of Sheffield as part of an exhibition based on the developing 'Sheffield Voices' archive in the exhibition space in Western Bank Library.
Beneficiaries of the project include both the youth service in Rotherham, and nationally. Cultural services in Rotherham and nationally, would benefit. The project also benefits those interested in language as a source of resilience, those interested in the study of naturalistic language and literacy practices in both historical and contemporary contexts and those interested in the practice of collaboration between Universities and Communities. The project will enhance research on how to foster resilience in young people.
The impact will continue on in the form of the following: 1) The resources for local schools will contribute to the work developed by the RSA on an Area Based Curriculum in Peterborough and 2) The Literature Review, Summary and Discussion paper will help draw adjacent fields together in the area of literacy and language and English Literature, to focus on the protective power of language in community contexts, as well as a on scholarly review that can be used by other academics.
It will push forward the AHRC Connected Communities' agenda in the field of considering how the Arts and Humanities can support and listen to the voices of young people and families in situated community contexts. It also offers a methodology for knitting together a University, through two departments (Education and English) and communities through arts practice, youth work and policy work in the area of literacy and language. The project also contributes to the employment skills for the researcher, Hugh Escott, and the Youth Service staff who will be working with us.
 
Title Language as Talisman 
Description Film about the project 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film was shown at the Connected Communities Festival in Cardiff in July 2014. 
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370AS_VLBNU&feature=youtu.be
 
Title Podcast about 'Materialising Literacies in Communities 
Description Podcast describing the research from the book 'Materialising Literacies in Communities' (Bloomsbury Academic 2014) which was put together by Dr Dave O'Brien, Goldsmiths College, London 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This was well publicised on Twitter. Kate Pahl has 1571 followers and Dave O'Brien has 5308 followers. Various academics emailed Kate Pahl in response to hearing the podcast. 
URL http://newbooksincriticaltheory.com/2015/10/06/kate-pahl-materializing-literacies-in-communities-the...
 
Title Reunion 
Description A book co-authored by three thirteen year old girls, Chloe, Ella and Georgia It was transcribed by Sam Rae. Steve Pool published it using an internet publishing company. It was placed in the school library and launch at an event in the youth cent, A book co-authored by three thirteen year old girls, Chloe, Ella and Georgia It was transcribed by Sam Rae. Steve Pool published it using an internet publishing company. It was placed in the school library and launch at an event in the youth centre. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The book was launched in October 2013 in Rawmarsh Community Library. Parents and local librarians, community workers, friends and youth workers attended. Ray Hearne provided poetry. 
 
Description Language as Talisman involved young people from youth centres and schools together with academics from English and Education departments. The project was site specific, based in a community context, in this case, a park, in Rawmarsh, Rotherham, UK with a focus on language as a source of protection and resilience for young people. The project team explored the way in which contemporary dialect was understood and then semiotically and materially realised. The project used a collaborative ethnographic approach with a focus on linguistic ethnography (Lassiter 2005). Young people created a 'soundscape' of voices in the park, and co-curated events over a period of nine months where they materialised language in use in different ways, working with artists, poets and musicians. The project team explored ways in which young people could articulate different language choices in their lives, worked with teachers in schools to deliver art and poetry workshops, developed shared research projects with community partners to look at everyday sayings in Rawmarsh and worked with young people to co-produce a book, 'Reunion' and an outdoor film projection which was shown in Victoria Rosehill Park, Rawmarsh. The findings revealed a powerful link between language, place and identity in education and community contexts, that could be connected to family histories, as well as literary texts, poetry and music.
Since the award, we have identified the need to develop poetry work within Rotherham schools, and focus on artistic methodologies. We have done this through the AHRC Utopia Festival 'Threads of Time' project together with the AHRC Follow on Funding, 'Taking Yourselves Seriously' in which we worked with poets, including Andrew McMillan and Helen Mort, to develop activities and workshops with young people in Rotherham schools. We contributed to a BAAL funded seminar exploring non-standard English which was co-developed with academics who were themselves linked to professional speech and language therapists.
Exploitation Route This project has been used by teachers, youth workers and community workers interested in working with young people to explore resilience, and linguistic identities.
We have drawn on the project findings in schools to support schools to articulate the way in which young people's own linguistic competences, and dialects, are rich resources for literacy and language. We then took this to a school in Cardiff and worked with the school on these findings.
Teachers within Rotherham schools are now engaging with our poetry work. Speech and language therapists use our work to challenge deficit assumptions about children's linguistic abilities in predominately Northern or working class areas where non-standard English is used.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://languageastalisman.group.shef.ac.uk
 
Description The findings were used within a school setting to produce a concept called 'Learner voice'. The school had been told by Ofsted that the children and staff did not model language properly. Working with dialect specialists, the school were able to articulate that rather than not use language properly, the school were using local dialect, which linguists could show was as 'valid' as Southern English. They then developed a way of working in the school which acknowledged these different ways of speaking. When Ofsted came back into the school, they acknowledged this, and the school got a 'good'. We took this project to Cardiff where it was trialled in another school. Our work has since been disseminated to teachers at a Twilight session in May 2015 called 'Resisting the Standard'. We have also drawn on the research for this award to develop understandings of literacy that are going into teacher training within Rotherham Schools. More recently, we developed a symposium in collaboration with a group of speech and language therapists to explore our work with them at a BAAL funded seminar on non-standard English in 2017 hosted by Sheffield Hallam University. We have continued to publish from the project and disseminate our findings at conferences. We recently presented our paper 'Being in the Bin' at the American Educational Research Association conference in New York, and also at a smaller seminar for teacher trainers at Manchester Metropolitan University. One of the teachers in the project has since decided to do a doctorate as a result of this project.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Learner Voice project
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact In January 2012 the school we were working with was told by Ofsted that pupils had poor language and language was being badly modelled by the teaching team. Our project was about the importance of valuing local and regional dialect and valuing everyday language. We worked with the school to develop an understanding of this. Pupils participated in a series of workshops, and we ran a workshop for teachers at the end of the project. When Ofsted came back in, they recognised that the school had hugely improved. This was partly down to the success of our project. We challenged Ofsted to re-think a deficit view of language and to recognise the way the school and the children were working on this. We took this project to a school in Cardiff, where we filmed our activities.
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370AS_VLBNU&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Questioning the form: Re-imagining identities through zine-making in Kampala, Uganda
Amount £39,967 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 12/2020
 
Description Collaboration with Grimm and Company 
Organisation Grimm And Co. Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The RA on the Language as Talisman research team worked with Grimm and Co in a voluntary capacity doing evaluation and research. The Language as Talisman work has been central to this in a few ways: A more collaborative approach was taken to using cameras in workshops; creating and discussing talismans has been taken on as an engaging and fun artifactual approach in the 'unthinking' workshops; The RA was essentially trained to do ethnographic, multimodal and collaborative research on Language as Talisman and this has all been central to the engagement with Grimm and Co.
Collaborator Contribution Grimm and Company as the Collaborating Partner supported the RA to do this work and provided the opportunity to run the workshops, develop the methodologies and conduct an evaluation and research project.
Impact Delivery of workshops to school children via Grimm and Company.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Language as Talisman: School projects 
Organisation High Greave Junior School
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team worked with the school to support the 'Learner Voice' work and to develop a lens for looking at everyday language and dialect.
Collaborator Contribution The school were welcoming and supportive.
Impact A film was made about language in school, plus the team managed to support the school to successfully defend drawing on children's local dialect and create new thinking about Learner Voice and Friend Voice in Schools.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Language as Talisman: youth projects 
Organisation Rotherham Youth Services
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution the research team worked with the youth service to deliver a project with young people around what language meant to them. An event was pt on in the park which involved young people making stories and orally re-telling them through sound systems.
Collaborator Contribution The youth service recruited and supported the young people.
Impact Outputs included a film, projected against the side of the Youth centre, also a book 'Reunion' mentioned in the outputs. Disciplines included English literature, literacy studies, art, ethnography, youth and community, co-production.
Start Year 2012
 
Description 'Reunion' book launch 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was the book launch for the young people who wrote a book called 'Reunion' about the second world war in Rawmarsh. The event was funded by the ESRC's Festival of Social Science. The parents and extended family of the young people came and the young people talked about the project.

The young people talked about the impact of the project on their confidence and self esteem.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Film showing and poster exhibition for the AHRC Connected Communities Showcase, Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The project team had a stall with posters, leaflets and flyers. Our leaflets were about the project and included information on the Poetry Workshops that we ran. We also showed a film about the project and gave a short presentation.

We were able to showcase the work to colleagues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJmUS9Vp2V8
 
Description Keynote: What do we do when we don't agree: Making divergent ways of knowing come alive in Connected Communities projects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This was a Keynote at the Connected Communities funded conference, 'Soundings and Findings', held at UEA in Norwich in July 2015. While the audience included academics, there were also present musicians, artists, third sector organisations and practitioners. The event sparked debate and interest around co-production as a methodology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://connected-communities.org/index.php/news/soundings-findings-a-connected-communities-research...
 
Description Language as Talisman - Film and presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This was a Connected Communities Showcase event in London in March 2013. The Language as Talisman team had a stall, participated in a filmed interview and showed a film. They engaged, through leaflets on the stall and through discussion, with members of the public as well as fellow colleagues and academics.

Raised the profile of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJmUS9Vp2V8
 
Description Language as Talisman - visit to Cardiff 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Workshop in a school which was filmed and made publicly accessible about the Language as Talisman project.

The school continue to work with the Language as Talisman team on 'Learner voice' and an article is planned to come out of this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370AS_VLBNU&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Language in School - Film and event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was an assembly in school where we showed the "Language as Talisman" film and findings, presented by the children, to parents. The event was funded by the ESRC Festival of Social Science. University Students also attended.

The school's Ofsted inspection report was much more positive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYWWnh7OgqE
 
Description Making a difference in research - bridging the gap between research and practice Filmed seminar for the Monash University Education Research Group, Melbourne 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk led to a lively discussion on impact in educational research.

Further discussion about research plans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Materialising literacies seminar Department of Education, University of Monash, Melbourne, Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk was filmed and there was a lively discussion afterward

Further discussions about joint projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Paper for a conference on Urban Multilingualism and Education. University of Ghent 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk generated discussion about the 'Language as Talisman' project.

Plans for an article in the Journal of Sociolinguistics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.ecml.at/News3/TabId/643/ArtMID/2666/ArticleID/49/International-Conference-on-Urban-Multil...
 
Description Paper on Multimodal Storytelling by 12-13 Year Old Girls in Community Contexts for the AERA conference in San Francisco, US 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

International interest in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Presentation at a Conference on Literature and Communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact 2017 - 'The Gloves of Democracy: Co-Constructing Stories with Children and Young People' Litcom 1: A Conference on Literature and Communities - Norwich Writer's Centre, Dragon Hall, Norwich, with Sarah Christie from Grimm and Co.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Teaching session on Language as Talisman for Monash University, Melbourne. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The audience were teacher educators. The talk prompted discussion.

The impact was on the teacher educators in terms of their practice - the film had a strong impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370AS_VLBNU&feature=youtu.be
 
Description The 'Learner Voices' leaflet 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The 'Learner Voice' leaflet was produced for parents and children at the school to illustrate the idea of having a 'Learner Voice' and a 'Playground Voice'. It was accompanied by a workshop which was held for teachers.

Ofsted came into the school and found it much improved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013
 
Description Twilight seminar: Resisting the Standard 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a twilight seminar organised for teachers to disseminate the findings of the 'Language as Talisman' project. David Hyatt and Robin Bone presented a talk on: 'Valuing Children's Variational Repertoires - a case study
of one school's response to deficit labelling' Dr David Hyatt (School
of Education) & Robin Bone (Ecclesfield School). This drew directly on the 'Language as Talisman' research. It aimed to show teachers how by valuing everyday language it was possible to encourage children to articulate and describe the different ways they spoke to different audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://languageastalisman.group.shef.ac.uk
 
Description Workshop for Educators in South Africa on 'Not Just an Object': Making Meaning of and from everyday objects in educational research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a workshop funded by the South African National research foundation aimed at educators and post graduate students. It aimed to encourage sharing of funds of knowledge to look at the potential of the 'Every Object Tells a Story' methodology in educational research. Drawing on ideas developed in the "Imagine' project on co-production, as well as findings from the 'Artists' Legacy' project, it showcased ways in which co-production of knowledge can contribute to equity and valuing diversity in the post Apartheid context of South Africa. This sparked discussion about ways of knowing and a plan to develop further activities involving re-positioning knowledge and expertise to re-do a Truth and Reconciliation programme but using these methodologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://coh.ukzn.ac.za/Files/Media/Documents/Announcement%20Documents/International%20Research%20Symp...
 
Description Workshop: Perspectives on Artefacts 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was an international workshop organised by academics from Stockholm University, Sweden, and the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, with a focus on post graduate students. This was part of the Swedish-South African research initiation programme 'Recycling and remixing practices of artefacts and texts' (REPRACT) financed by The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). The programme was aimed at post graduate students.
Kate Pahl gave a talk on objects and identity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Yorkshire Voices exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The 'Yorkshire Voices' work was part of a teaching pack we put together, which was distributed at 'Yorkshire Voices' events and also to teachers at teacher updating sessions run by the University.

The Language as Talisman work fed into the 'Yorkshire Voices' exhibition held at the University of Sheffield.


Interest by teachers in the ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/exhibition/yorkshirevoices
 
Description language as Talisman website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This website was put together to gather together the findings of the Language as Talisman project. It has been shown at seminars at Monash University, Australia, and with teachers in Sheffield. The film has been shown several times to teachers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://languageastalisman.group.shef.ac.uk
 
Description • The aesthetics of everyday literacies. keynote for the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk concerned recent projects including the 'Language as Talisman' project. There was discussion afterwards.

Links with colleagues at UBC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012