Design, material culture and popular creativity in suburban faith communities

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project seeks both to analyse the dynamic cultural aesthetics of faith in one specific locality in suburban West London and to work with faith communities to support their creative engagements with this suburban location and the wider community. The project is founded on an ongoing theoretical engagement with the relationship between religion and suburban space, which combines historical and comparative research. It is also shaped by a sustained relationship with artistic and design practioners with whom critical approaches to both understanding the material cultures of faith and shaping new suburban faith spaces have been developed.

The project has four main aims:

- To investigate how the aesthetics of faith, and particularly migrant faiths are materialised and negotiated?
- To analyse the material cultures, practices and performances of faith in suburbia and to map these through community, public and domestic spaces
- To analyse how suburban faith communities engage creatively and meaningfully with their suburban locations and to seek to enhance these capacities.
- To explore how design and creative practice might be used to create new forms of community belonging for suburban faith communities

The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on eight different faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These cases studies also represent different aesthetic and material cultures in their faith traditions and practices and in their buildings and community spaces. The project involves four main research strands: Survey and ethnographic work in all eight case study sites; ethnographic work with community members to explore home-based faith cultures and practices; ethnographic work on religious music and performance; three artistic projects which involve members from across the different faith communities. The artistic projects include an architectural design workshop focusing on creating a new space for faith in suburbia; a photography project exploring domestic faith practices; a creative making project focused on sharing the creative skills and practices undertaken in diverse religious communities.

Outputs from the project will include exhibitions in the locality and in central London venues as well as a traveling exhibition which will visit all of the eight places of workshop; academic papers and a co-edited book; project workshops aimed at academics, policy makers, cultural actors, the project participants and the wider public; public events including a performance; online resources and a permanent local museum exhibit.

Planned Impact

Impact Summary

This research will be of significance to:

i) practitioners such as architects and planners and third sector organisations concerned with religious architecture, church history and urban heritage. These include: English Heritage, 19 Princelet Street Heritage Centre, Sikh Heritage Centre, British Muslim Heritage Centre, Westminster Diocese Archivist (RC), London Diocesan Advisory Committee on Architure (Anglican), Jewish Heritage UK, MakeSpace Architects, Joe Kerr (RIBA), Twentieth Century Society. This research brings together a theoretical framework and methodology for engaging diverse faith communities in architectural innovation and preservation.

ii) religious and interfaith groups concerned with interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism, including the Interfaith Network, the Church Urban Fund, Roman Catholic Archbishops Conference, The Dialogue Society, Council of Mosques, Board of Jewish Deputies, Institute of Jewish Policy Research, Centre for Faith in Society, Centre for Christianity and Inter-religious Dialogue (Southall), Three Faiths Foundation. This research will benefit from the insights of interfaith organisations but also hopes to offer a positive model of inter-faith dialogue at a local level which is centred on shared creative activities and shared engagement within a suburban locality.

iii) national and local cultural institutions including the Museum of London, Jewish Museum, St Mungo Museum of Religion, Gunnersbury Museum, Pitzhanger Gallery and Ealing Libraries. The project offers direct research material for Ealing's local museums but also seeks to build resources which may be shared with national cultural institutions focused on London and religion.


iv) national and local policy makers and other third sector bodies concerned with integration, community cohesion and interfaith dialogue including the Faith Communities Consultative Council, Ealing Integration and Cohesion Delivery Committee, West London Alliance, GLA, the Faith Based Regeneration Network, Runnymede Trust, West London Citizens. The inter-faith model developed in this research is of particular value to national and local users concerned with community cohesion and integration. The pilot photography project established links with West London citizens which will be further developed in this project as well as building partnerships with other relevant groups. The project offers a model for citizen participation and interaction which is innovative and creative.

v) Local history and civic societies including the Ealing Civic Society. The project develops understandings of suburban history and architecture.

vi) The national media particularly religious affairs correspondents of national newspapers and specialist religious publications including The Jewish Chronicle, The Tablet, The Church Times, Muslim News, The Sikh Times and local media.

vii) Members of suburban faith communities particularly those participating in the project

viii) The wider public.

Engagement with the user groups identified above will be undertaken through the following activities (See Impact Plan):

Participatory Creative Projects by commissioned artist practioners and the case study suburban faith communities.

Project Exhibitions at both local and central London venues, as well as online, will connect the concerns of the project with a wider public.

Project Events will bring together academics and key user groups, including architect practitioners, policy makers, religious organisations, planners and participating faith communities.

Project Working Papers and briefings sent to relevant user groups and media contacts.

Social media including twitter and a dedicated Facebook page will provide an interactive forum for a range of user groups.

Local Archives will benefit through the deposition of relevant archival and oral history materials, and through tailored local interest talks.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Making Suburban Faith: Architectures of Shared Space 
Description An exhibition designed by professional architects Mangera Yvars to showcase the outcomes of collaboration between the researchers, Mangera Yvars and participating pupils from Brentside School, Ealing during a series of architecture workshops held between October-December 2015. The exhibition will be shown at UCL, Royal Holloway, Ealing Library, Brentside School, Somerset House during 2016. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Exhibition will inform the general public about the challenges of designing spaces for faith in suburban and urban locations and contribute to faith community knowledge about planning for religous worship. After the exhibition at Ealing Library we were invited to present at the Ealing SACRE (Standing Committee on Religious Education) in December 2016 and interest was expressed by its members in us producing resources from the project which might be used in schools in Ealing. 
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org
 
Title My Life is but a weaving: Arts Installation 
Description 'My life is but a weaving' is an arts installation created by artist Katy Beinart in collaboration with a group of women from Ealing and Hanwell, including parishoners from St Thomas', who participated in an inter-faith embroidery project in the summer of 2016. The embroidery project brought together local women of diverse faith backgrounds (Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish) who met at St Thomas' Church hall on Thursday afternoons in June and July 2016. Katy asked participants to contribute to a shared textile 'map' of Ealing producing individual pieces which drew on their own faith traditions in language and images. The sewing workshops were a wonderful space of inspiration and collaboration in which embroidery skills were shared alongside stories about family, home and migration. The arts installation showcases the beautiful individual pieces of embroidery within a wider work which weaves together individual narratives into a collective story of place, faith and home. The installation will be exhibited at St Thomas' Church in Ealing in April 2017, at the Phonenix Studio in Brighton in May 2017 and at UCL's Festival of Culture in June 2017. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The artistic work has resulted in an empowering collaboration between women from different backgrounds who did not know each other and came to work together for the art project. It will form the basis for a symposium in September 2016 on creative arts practice, gender and textiles. 
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description Preliminary findings for the first year of the project 2015-6 include:

An understanding of the challenges of establishing places of worship for suburban faith communities, particularly those from migrant backgrounds.
An analysis of the processes by which faith community buildings are established, planned and built by communities.
Development of a conceptual understanding of how creativity and faith might be theorised and investigated further.
Collection of a rich range of artistic activities in case study locations which will inform the next stage of research

Further findings from the second and third years of the project 2017-18 include:
Data collection about the range of creative activities undertaken by the diverse faith communities particularly in relation to material culture, music and textiles.
Through our co-produced artistic project the development of new creative methodologies for engaging communities in research projects.
We have developed creative ways to develop and explore the meaning of home and faith particularly through film.
We have developed an understanding of the diverse role of music, textiles and food in different faith traditions
We have been able to showcase our research to a wide range of local audiences as well as diverse interdisciplinary academic audiences.
Exploitation Route Early findings have been disseminated to the participating case studies to assist them better work with local authorities for planning new facilities.
Conceptual and theoretical ideas have been and continue to be shared with academic colleagues through workshops and publications
We have been able to share the findings of our work about creativity and faith through our public exhibitions, through the showing of our film and arts installations and through our participatory music and textiles workshops.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org
 
Description Secondary School Architecture Workshop: Making Suburban Faith: Architectures of Shared Space held at Brentside School in Ealing from October-December 2015 in partnership with Mangera Yvars Architects.Workshop outcomes showcased at an Exhibition to be held at UCL from 11-18th March, Ealing 9th May-10th June and at Somerset House, 24-26 June 2016, and at an exhibition at Royal Holloway, University of London. Findings were also communicated to SACRE in Ealing in December 2016 and will influence local debates about Religious Education. We also presented our findings at the House of Commons in December 2017 at an event hosted by local MP, Rupa Huq. Our findings have also informed a new exhibit on Religion and the Home opening at Gunnersbury Park Museum in Spring 2018. We have contributed material culture objects from our case studies and also the introduction to our film 'Spiritual Flavours' will be shown in the gallery. Our Fabric of Faith workshops and exhibitions (2016 and 2017) will be developed into a publication to. be launched at Tate Modern in May 2018.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Presentation to Ealing Standing Committee on Religious Education (SACRE)
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Invited to present to Ealing Council Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE). Will now apply for funds to develop resources to be shared by borough schools in religious education.
 
Description AHRC Connected Communities Festival Award
Amount £19,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Scheme
Amount £14,975 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description AHRC Utopia Fair 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I participated in the AHRC Connected Communities Utopia Fair where I presented my research in one of the stalls. Here, I also presented the project and film Spiritual Flavours as part of both the Making Suburban Faith stall and talk.
The purpose was to disseminate the project aims and outcomes to the general public alongside other outcomes from the 'Design, material culture and popular creativity in suburban faith communities' in order to inform the public and open a public discussion around the key research questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/utopia-2016
 
Description Community History workshop 
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 Community history workshop held at a case study Catholic Church to build up knowledge of the project and increase capacity of local faith community in building their own community archive
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org
 
Description Festival Stall at Community Carnival 
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 Interactive stall at Hanwell Carnival to promote the research project with local communities. Activities for children and adult visitors. Purpose was to raise awareness of the researach project and gather local stories about public, outdoor religious processions and celebrations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description London Festival of Culture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Public debate organised by project partner, architects Mangera Yvars and academics from Making Suburban Faith 'Architectures of Faith: Hybrid and shared religious spaces I the work of Mangera Yvars' held at Department of Geography, UCL, 27th June, 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org
 
Description My Life is but a Weaving Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition of Textiles participatory project 'My Life is but a Weaving' and events linked to the exhibition for participants and wider project. Exhibitions held at St Thomas Church, Ealing (April 2017), Phoenix Gallery, Brighton (May 2017) and UCL Festival of Culture (June 2017).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://makingsuburbanfaith.wordpress.com/projects/fabric-of-faith-project/
 
Description Participatory music workshop: Come and Sing, May 2016 
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 Come and Sing was a participatory choral music workshop organised to bring diverse groups concerned with singing and religion together to work on sharing their experiences and creating a collective performance together.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description Participatory textiles workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This was a series of 6 workshops which engaged groups of women from different faith communities to work together on a participatory arts project. The embroidery produced will be curated as part of a collaborative art installation to be shown in Ealing in April 2017, Brighton (Phoenx Gallery) in May 2017 and UCL in June 2017. The participants were interviewed and the co-produced art work and the interviews will be the basis for forthcoming academic papers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description Photography Exhibition, Shri Kanaga Thukkai Amman Hindu Temple, August 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Exhibition of photographs taken by project photographer at one of the case study sites, Shri Kanag Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple during their popular chariot festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://makingsuburbanfaith.wordpress.com/spiritual-flavours/
 
Description Public Engagement Event at West London Islamic Centre 
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 Screening of project film 'Spiritual Flavours' and discussion with visitors to the West London Islamic Centre at a public open day. Development of website materials after the day which were shared with and disseminated by the mosque and its members. Event held to celebrate the achievements of the mosque before its demolition to make way for a new building.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://makingsuburbanfaith.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/the-west-london-islamic-centre-tracing-the-maki...
 
Description Radio Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Radio interview of faith and migration in London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/lsd-la-serie-documentaire/la-france-et-langleterre-au-bord-de...
 
Description School Architecture Workshop 
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 Series of Architecture Workshops with pupils in years 12 and 13 engaging with the research project and with professional architects over 10 weeks. The workshops required students to design a new multi-faith space for the locality. The outcomes of the workshop are to be exhibited in the University, community spaces in Ealing Library, the participating school and central London public space (Somerset House).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description Screening of Spiritual Flavours at STOA, Helsinki and exhibition of photographs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The film Spiritual Flavours, produced by the project PhD student Laura Cuch was shown at an international political phtoography festival in Helsinki in February-April 2017. The film and series of photograph from Laura's work on the project are on view at the STOA gallery in Helsinki until the end of April.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.spiritualflavours.com/
 
Description Series of Public Events to showcase our Architectures of Shared Space Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Architectures of Shared Space project was exhibited at Ealing Public Library (April-June 2016), Somerset House (June 2016), Brentside School (July 2016) and Royal Holloway (September 2016). The exhibition was seen by a variety of local audiences at Ealing Library, by a cross section of the public at Somerset House and by students from local schools at Brentside School in July 2016. It was seen by a range of students attending an Opea Day at Royal Holloway in September.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.makingsuburbanfaith.org/
 
Description The Story Continues: Home in Ealing, W3 Gallery, Ealing 
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 Exhibition for photographs and film from Spiritual Flavours and sound installation from 'Come and Sing'. Discussion with public and participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.artrabbit.com/events/the-story-continues-home-ealing