Yasmin Thomas has just finished as a Junior Digital Producer at Knowle West Media Centre. Here she looks back at her time working on the Who Decides What’s in my Fridge? project.
I have lived in Knowle West since the age of four, but I didn’t know that my first role in the media and arts sector would flourish here.
I was one of eight Junior Digital Producers recently working at Knowle West Media Centre on ‘the Who Decides What’s in my Fridge’ project. Being a JDP was a paid position for six months up until the end of April 2016. Our role was to collect data from the community to explore the barriers that communities face accessing food locally.
From October 2015 we received a series of intense training sessions to provide us with the skills we would need to work on the project, including workshops on understanding key themes of data ethics and data visualisations. We also developed our multi-media skills such as photography, filming and coding.
Our first steps in terms of data collection was to research the priorities of local residents when they shop. We put together a simple activity using mason jars labelled as ‘cost’, ‘nutrition’, ‘taste’ and ‘appearance’ for participants to choose from. We worked hard to make the data collection process fun and also ensured that community participants had a say in guiding the project.
Over time we progressed our data collection methods into building an interactive survey in the form of a life size fridge filled with models of food and questions. This successfully aroused curiosity in the community to get involved in the project The Fridge was taken on “tour” around Knowle West to collect the data. We went to many of the different clubs and community groups to try and reach a full cross section of the community. You can see a video that one of my fellow Junior Digital Producer’s made about the ‘Fridge Tour’ here
After we had collected the survey data we analysed the results and visualised them as part of a new website that we created for people to explore what we have found.
We launched the website and displayed the data collected from the Fridge by holding a pop-up interactive exhibition in an old, unused shop. This used to be an old fruit and veg shop on Filwood Broadway but had closed down in recent years, along with many of the other nearby shops. We promoted the exhibition by inviting other community organisations and local growers to take part, organising an Eat and Greet Food Market for a day. We had a successful turn out and had an additional 40 participants take part in the Fridge survey on the day.
What I have learnt is that community participation is successful when part of the project’s aim is to improve the quality of living, whatever that might be. Knowle West is in the process of a regeneration plan, but the 20 year long wait is vastly aggravating the locals, which I found out during my experience of community engagement. The community has campaigned for a supermarket in Knowle West for more than 20 years, and are fed up of community consultations and viability studies that ultimately come to nothing.
With that in mind we started to look at alternatives to supermarkets that could improve food accessibility, for example a local food market. We don’t have a supermarket but we do have lots of nearby green space for growers and events!
The experience of this project has developed my understanding of this community that I live in and how the locals do their utmost to keep it alive, whether through clubs or classes. While my time as a Junior Digital Producer has now come to an end, after living in Knowle West for 22 years I’m now playing the role as an activist for this project. It is a project that’s close to home – literally! – and I’m going to stay involved.
To find out more about the work that the Junior Digital Producers did on the project take a look at the website we built, with a live survey and interactive data visualisations.