Lost Spaces

Lead Research Organisation: York St John University
Department Name: Fac of Business and Communication


Since the Con-Dem coalition government arrived in power in the UK in 2010, the UK has faced swingeing cuts in the provision of funding for public services. As has been widely reported, people suffering from disabilities and other social disadvantages have been the disproportionate victims of these cuts (Goodley, Lawthom and Brunswick-Cole, 2014; Garthwaite, 2011). The Deaf community are no exception, having the double burden of not only being considered a 'disability' group, but also being in the position of a minority language group, with all the exclusions and repressions that brings (Ladd, 2003).
In Bristol, the situation for the Deaf community is, arguably, particularly bad. The Bristol Centre for Deaf People has recently closed due to cuts in funding, resulting in the Deaf community having to put the Centre building for sale, bringing to an end a 130 year history and heritage (Swinbourne, 2011). Furthermore, the University of Bristol (UoB) recently moved to close the Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS). The University of Bristol has, for over 30 years, been the host institution for the CDS, the first research centre in Europe founded expressly for the study of the Deaf community, British Sign Language (BSL) and Deaf culture. It was the birth-place of Dr Paddy Ladd's Deafhood theory, a theory which has gone on to empower and invigorate Deaf communities around the globe. In 2013, however, the UoB completed the process of closing the CDS down, leaving many of the Deaf professionals previously employed as researchers and lecturers, most of whom lived in Bristol and had longstanding involvement with the local Deaf community, without work.
These closures, along with the pressures on individual Deaf people due to cuts in funding for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Access to Work (AtW) (Cross, 2013), have resulted in the Deaf community feeling increasingly under pressure and homeless. Without the Deaf spaces that they know and rely on in the city, there is an escalating feeling that the future of the Deaf community might be under threat.
One of the foundations of the Deaf community in the UK, the Deaf Club, seems to be also fading from influence in the Deaf community (O'Brien, 2012). Closures, while opposed and mourned when they do occur, seem increasingly to be accepted, with social events moving to mainstream venues such as pubs and nightclubs, or one-off events like Sign Circle, an annual weekend-long festival. Many young Deaf people report feeling that they are part of the Deaf community, but not involved or members of Deaf clubs. However, there is still a strong feeling of loss in the community. Loss of the community spaces that these places offered, loss of the history and heritage embodied in these locations and loss of community togetherness. This is particularly felt by older members of the community and those with young families, who cannot attend the pub-based events, or who are prevented from travelling to other community events due to financial reasons or ill-health.
This proposal will explore the effects of lost community spaces on the Deaf community. Not only in terms of the negative sense of loss and the memory of places, but also exploring the alternatives, the replacements that Deaf people have found to these traditional cornerstones of Deaf culture and community. These effects will be explored by hosting a series of events with the Deaf community which will focus around different creative arts methods, such as BSL poetry, filming and arts and crafts, to explore the impact of the loss of these spaces and the opening up of new spaces. We will also make use of archive material donated by community partners and participants and found by the research team in Bristol Record Office to explore the history of Deaf spaces in Bristol, and the memories and identities that are tied to these spaces.

Planned Impact

All I's in the project will benefit from this opportunity to explore different aspects of their work. All investigators will gain experience of co-producing research with community partners, which will be useful for future research projects. The Deaf-hearing nature of this collaboration will also enrich the individual researcher's experience of the project, allowing for deeper cross-cultural exploration and insights both on the research project itself and individual ways of working. This will not only benefit the individuals involved, but also the project as a whole.

This project will develop the recently established field of Deaf Geographies by contributing to the understanding of the spatial experiences of Deaf people. Novel methods of mapping online spaces will be explored, alongside ways of mapping Deaf spaces that overlap with hearing spaces. These will impact on the fields of Deaf studies, cartography and Human Geography. Impact will be achieved through publication of articles, presentations at conferences and through individual teaching.

The project will also contribute to new interdisciplinary approaches to film history and archival study, interconnecting Deaf Studies with media historiography through archival research and screenings and the production of new community created media materials. We will be able to contribute to the development of community engagement through artistic methods, methods which have not been tried before with the Deaf community. We will also be able to contribute to the developing ideas about co-production of research with communities and universities, which feeds into the aims of the Connected Communities programme. Ideas on co-production with Deaf communities will be disseminated through journal articles and conference presentations, but also through direct contact with other academics and community organisations with similar interests. These ideas will also impact directly on third sector groups who work with Deaf communities or other minority groups.

We will regularly report back to our community partners, the BDA and DST, so that our findings can feed into their own knowledge and experience. The arts-based methods which we develop, if successful, can feed into their own community engagement methods. This will enable them to utilise these methods in their own work with the community in the future. Our other findings could also inform their policies and practices in other aspects of their work, including how to work with communities which have lost their own Deaf clubs and how to support the Deaf community in the future. Developments in mapping Deaf spaces will benefit the community partners by helping them to better target their resources where they are most needed or in most demand. Community members will benefit from increased skills, confidence and knowledge by taking part in the workshops and activities we provide. Members of the Deaf community will benefit from the research through greater understanding of the importance of community spaces, helping to avoid isolation and the mental and emotional health problems associated with isolation. This will have a direct impact on the health of the community and its members. This impact will be achieved by dissemination of results and information to community partners, the Bristol Deaf community and other interested parties through research meetings and written and signed reports towards the end of the project.


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Title BSL poems 
Description Three BSL poems were filmed for Lost Spaces, inspired by Deaf spaces and places in Bristol. One by Paul Scott, two by Donna Williams. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact None as yet 
Title Final edit of Lost Spaces documentary released by BSLZone 
Description A documentary film explaining the background and context of the project. It is intended to be used to disseminate the research among the deaf community 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Screenings of this film were arranged in Bristol as part of a film festival. It has been shared widely online. 
URL http://www.bslzone.co.uk/watch/lost-spaces/
Title Lost Spaces 
Description This is a short film about our research project. It includes footage of the different events organised, people's reactions to the events, and interviews with the researchers. It also includes original BSL poetry inspired by the subjects of the research project. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This will be disseminated amongst the Deaf community and the project partners early in 2016. To view the video at the URL given below, use the following password - lostspace2016 
URL https://vimeo.com/153074810
Description This research has generated new knowledge on the current situation of the Deaf community in the city of Bristol. It has generated knowledge on the opinions and feelings of Deaf people about what has happened since the closure of the Centre for Deaf People, and the Deaf community's own feelings and fears for the future. The closure of the CfDP has resulted in a fragmented and disconnected community. While individual interest groups have continued and some are still enjoying high attendance and engagement, others are not. All are facing an increasingly transitory existence - without a central, permanent meeting place like the CfDP, connections between groups are failing and Deaf people visiting or moving to Bristol are finding it difficult to meet with other Deaf people.
The historical information collected about different spaces and places linked to the Deaf community around Bristol is not new in the sense that this information already existed in different publications and archives, but the presentation of this data is novel. By plotting this information on the Map Your Bristol interactive website, this information is available in both English and BSL for the first time, presented in a uniquely visual way. Data from the 1851 census was also uncovered in collaboration with another research project, showing the name, residence and employment of all Deaf people in central Bristol at that time. While we did not have time to explore this data in this project, it is a valuable research resource which can open new research questions about the spaces and places of the Bristol Deaf community in the past.
The success of the arts-based research methods utilised in this project was mixed. The attempt to use poetry to engage with the local Deaf community did not work. There was significant interest nationally in attending the poetry workshops, but not locally. This is a valuable lesson in working with small, localised communities like the Deaf community in Bristol; there may not be sufficient interest, skill or confidence in a particular art form at a local level to make arts-based methods appropriate tools. Instead, local poets with involvement in different parts of the community were asked to create poems for the project, to provide their own views on the situation of the Deaf community in Bristol in creative ways. In contrast, the use of archive film footage in the Bristol Deaf Past event proved a very useful tool in engaging Deaf people from different demographics with the project, eliciting a wide range of views and memories from participants in the event.
We hope to have a journal publication soon discussing the use of archival film footage in our research, and also to discuss the Deleuze-Guattarian theoretical framework of smooth and striated space, and rhizomes, which we use to explore the current structure of the deaf community in Bristol. This article has been accepted, but is undergoing revisions.
In summary, the combination of community engagement events for collaborative investigation of Deaf spaces and places in Bristol; exploration of arts-based methods; engagement with theories around space, place, loss and memory; and the ongoing analysis of data, which will result in at least one published journal article has resulted in several lessons and findings which will be very useful and productive for further research in this and other fields.
Exploitation Route The findings of the project, in particular the findings connected to the feelings of Deaf people over the fragmentation of the community could be taken forward in a number of ways by non-academic bodies. Already, the board of the Deaf Club in Bristol has met with Bristol City Council to discuss what can be done to resolve the issues of lack of access to the spaces of the city highlighted by this research. The situation of the Deaf community in Bristol (loss of premises, fragmentation and lack of access to mainstream services) is mirrored all over the UK. The findings of this research could be useful to other Deaf organisations for planning for the future.
The findings of the relative success and failure of the arts-based methods will potentially stimulate more academics in the field of Deaf Studies to experiment with these methods. These methods could also be used productively by non-academic bodies looking for ways in which to encourage engagement in participatory events. Forthcoming publication exploring spatial theory in light of the research performed in this project will suggest ways for the development of the field of Deaf Geographies in the future.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

Description Our findings about the increased fragmentation and isolation of parts of the Deaf community in Bristol has had impact in two immediate ways during the life of the project. Firstly, as a result of our community engagement events Bristol City Council are now much more aware of the needs and feelings of the Bristol Deaf community, resulting in meetings to discuss the new Bristol Charter for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. Subsequent meetings within Bristol between Bristol City Council, the Deaf Studies Trust and members of the deaf community have revealed that the Charter is no longer fit for purpose. Findings from the Lost Spaces project have inspired the Deaf Studies Trust to propose a new Accord, rather than Charter, the contents of which are currently in negotiation with the Council. Secondly, the local and national media (Points West and See Hear) have reported on the situation of the Deaf community in Bristol, using footage taken from the community engagement events organised for this project (in particular the Deaf Bristol march). This impact raises awareness of the difficulties facing the community. The documentary film funded by this project, Lost Spaces, was screened at the British Association of Applied Linguistics conference in 2018. As a result of viewing this film, academics working in Swansea University are actively looking to encourage BSL tuition in their institution and are working with local deaf people to set this up.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Bristol Accord for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Title Bristol Centre for Deaf People artefact archive 
Description An archive catalogue of artefacts from Bristol's Centre for Deaf People collection (including photographs, trophies, memorabilia etc.) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None as yet. 
Title Interview transcripts from Lost Spaces project 
Description Transcripts of interviews held with stakeholders and participants in the Lost Spaces project. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Extracts from these interviews will be used in academic publications emerging from this project - potential significant academic impact, and impact on policy and practice. 
Title Map Your Bristol Deaf Community 
Description This contains information about historical sites linked to the Deaf community in the city of Bristol. Most of the entries on this map have been translated into British Sign Language, the first time that this sort of information has been made available to Deaf people whose first or preferred language is BSL. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None as yet, but some Deaf organisations in Bristol intend to use this as an engagement tool with the community to further develop awareness and knowledge about Bristol's Deaf history in the near future. 
URL https://www.mapyourbristol.org.uk/community/deaf-community
Description Bristol Deaf Memories - an evening of video, pictures and memories, Clifton Hill House, Bristol, June 18 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of archive film data tied together with local Deaf history by a drama group and MC resulted in rich and vigorous discussion among attendees afterwards. Attendees reported greater awareness of local Deaf history as a result of this event.

After this event, more people became interested in the Lost Spaces project, and one person helped with further archive research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://lostspacesdeaf.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/bristol-deaf-memories-our-first-event/
Description Deaf Bristol event 7 November 
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 The aim of the activity was to share knowledge and information about Deaf groups, organisations, places and spaces across Bristol. There was lots of discussion about the future of the Deaf community during and after this event. Many people reported that they had formed new connections within the community as a result of this event.

After the event, there was much more engagement with the project from local Deaf people, and much more active participation in groups and political engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Deaf Bristol march - a march and demonstration in Bristol city centre, recreating the BSL recognition marches from 2000 and 2003. 
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 The march and demonstration provoked engagement between the Deaf community, community partner (Deaf Studies Trust), Board of the Centre for Deaf People and Councillors from Bristol City Council and local Bristol MPs. Several representatives of the Council and MPs either sent messages of support to be read at the march, or appeared in person to speak to the crowd.
Impacts included ongoing discussion with the local council, and appearances on the local news (Points West), and the national BBC program See Hear, which raised awareness of the situation of the Bristol Deaf community both locally and nationally.

Political engagement at local (Bristol City Council) and national (MP) level with the Bristol Deaf community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://lostspacesdeaf.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/21-november-bristol-march/
Description Filming and editing 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 Local Deaf people were invited to participate in a workshop to learn how to film and edit videos about their experiences of local Deaf spaces. They were invited to submit their videos to the project to be entered into a BBC run short film competition. Participants reported that they had learned new skills in video editing and recording, and reported greater confidence in the use of recording technology as a result of this workshop.

No videos were received in the end, but participants reported improved confidence in the use of technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://lostspacesdeaf.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/new-events-for-august/
Description Presentation at Association of American Geographers conference, 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation inspired lots of questions and discussion afterwards, with potential for development into a published book chapter or article.

We have been invited to write a chapter for a book based on this presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.academia.edu/12289298/Lost_Spaces