Alternative Guide for Brownsea Island / Young People’s Alternative Guide – proposal from Geoff Jones of Cinnabar eco creative
The project will be led by young people and the artist will take on a facilitative role, providing structure and rigour into the process and acting as a ‘critical friend.’ The group will need to decide whether the project is a learning experience (i.e. about an aspect(s) of Brownsea) or is more about creating a memorable recreational / experiential scenario for the visitor, or a very personal journey, which could, in theory, take place anywhere. Person x could therefore, remember Brownsea five years later not for the red squirrels but for experience they had there, and what they found out about themselves, as much as the environment.
Who, why, what and how -refining information and ideas
What should the theme or subject be? What are young people potentially interested in on Brownsea, if anything? What do we want our audience to know, feel and do as a result of the project? What impact will it have on other visitors and the island environment? Does the resulting action or impact of the project need to be limited the island? And we cannot get away from Health and Safety!!
Identifying the audience – young people 14 – 25 years
Are we trying to attract young people who wouldn’t think of visiting Brownsea or catering for those that visit already, or both? Do most young people visiting currently come under their free will or as part of family (bored with mum and dad) or educational groups? Can we reach out to a 14 year old (who may still be making plastic kits) and a 25 year old (who may have 2+ children) with the same approach and idea? Are we appealing to young creatives or encouraging non – creatives to get creative? Do we use everyday language? Can we test our ideas on friends i.e. ‘front end evaluation,’ and assess whether the project could inspire them sufficiently to visit Brownsea?
Deciding on appropriate media
There is a huge choice in interpretative media and decisions will need to be made on, for example, the pros and cons of paper v IT (downloading to mobile phone, USB or an iPod) v site based formats etc. Consideration will need to be given to how the project links in with The Big Finish and other existing interpretation.
What is the anticipated life of the project? Who is going to ‘maintain’ it? Will it need to stand alone or can we rely on National Trust and Devon Wildlife Trust staff to help deliver it? How will we know whether we have achieved what we wanted to do? Will there be a charge to the visitor?
1. Late May - Spend day on island with student group starting with a two hour art walk to prompt and provoke additional ideas and experiences and to generate further discussion.
2. Recap presentation from members of the group on the story so far; what has been mooted and agreed by the group? What’s special about Brownsea? What’s special about Brownsea to young people?
3. Facilitate ‘World Cafe’ style workshop in afternoon to;
a. identify and agree objectives
b. set realistic targets, priorities and timescale
c. develop further creative thinking
d. provisionally agree concept, interpretive themes, content, methods and media
e. refine and ‘rehearse’ ideas
f. agree roles and responsibilities and the way ahead
4. Q+A with ranger staff who have educational role and discussion with Big Finish artist. Consider how concepts and ideas for all individual parts of Unlocked can interrelate, including signage.
5. Early June - Facilitator develops and communicates options to project group electronically providing an interactive document platform to enable online discussion and for ideas to evolve and be refined.
6. Gain consensus for concept and key ideas. Develop draft or dummy materials and circulate via IT
7. Each member of the group follows up with 10x vox pop surveys with own peer group.
8. Late June - Meet Brownsea Island. Group work testing ideas and materials on the ground. Test on Brownsea rangers and NT staff and gain feedback.
9. Circulate draft to funders and key staff i.e. gain formal approval
10. July - Make any necessary amendments and send to graphic designer to complete graphics or to IT designer to produce and design downloadable material.
11. September - Production, delivery, launch.
A radical alternative
A good source of ideas and inspiration is the work of the Wrights and Sites team (www.mis-guide.com) who have published a number of ‘mis-guides’ encouraging individuals to participate in ‘experimental, site-specific work across a range of media.’ The mis – guides provide a number of radically alternative ways of walking and exploring places many of which, it has to be noted, may cause concern to health and safety practitioners. Much is tongue in cheek however, and it is unlikely that many of the walks are actually done. This raises a point that needs to be discussed i.e. will a self conscious teenager willingly participate in what may be viewed by onlookers as a crazy ‘ slightly subversive’ act? If the resource produced is too mad or ‘too much hassle’ then it may well be left on the shelf.
The key I feel, to engaging with the audience is to get them doing something memorable, creative and fun. Creativity can be expressed, develop and learnt through the behaviour, actions or thought processes of the individual .. often all three working in combination. Arguably, leaflets are a tad old world and passé, on the other hand many may be glad to get away from IT, and that may be part of the purpose of their visit. The following proposal is a journey about self and time.
The journey would involve and be guided by a deck of cards complemented by written and visual clues. You have to play all the cards. You have to commit and try to carry out all the actions. Some obscure and at first hand, strange, some funny, some so simple they need no answer, some cerebral and reflective. This journey is a mirror. Play the game. You have to talk to people. You need to respond creatively. If you like, you are an avatar or your doppelganger; a puzzled figure on a computer screen; a figure travelling through an ever changing space not aware of what is going to happen next, if anything. You are a sensory being .. you’re alive. Don’t just walk, walk through your thoughts too.
You need to fix things, add to things, colour things. You need witnesses and allies. You can control your environment... shut your eyes, take a deep, really deep breath and quietly exhale....do you feel alive, resilient, confident, powerful? You make a place by the way you move through it. Each card presents a new challenge or experience on your journey. You chose the path to follow but will you complete your journey? You have no destination. Follow your instincts .. where are they going? You’ll need to give some of your cards away to other people, some young some old. They may want to give you cards back but they may not. You may be able to journey together for a while. You will need to prove to someone who works on the island that you are taking the journey to collect the full set of cards and so complete your mission.
If you have a mobile, text a contact on the mainland. Tell them you need help and ask them to make a decision for you. Or ask someone you don’t know. Find the familiar in the unfamiliar. Look for and see things that others don’t. Capture snatches of conversation and observe behaviour from a distance closely. Absorb changing atmospheres. Add your personal associations. Be spiritual in a place you find spiritual.
Walk a shape. Walk slowly, observing the fine detail that everyone passes by; walk quickly, rhythmically; with music in your head (are you dancing?), walk backwards then forwards, pace the floor like a big pissed off caged cat. Leave part of you behind, with one card, at the nature posts; your message in bottle.
Take the cards away. Back across the water. They are your souvenir, a memento of a short journey, a fragment of your life. Use the cards in some way. Create something new from them. Something you haven’t tried before ... tear them up, incorporate them into a photo essay or an artwork, bury them and dig them up 10 years later. Hand them out at a party (or use them as party invitations) .. and in so doing share your journey, your experience, your holiday.
The above is a cross section of ideas. It will be up to the group to judge what will work, and within the parameters of health and safety, how rigourous, unusual and demanding the journey will be. There are an infinite number of variations, and sustainability wise, it should be straightforward to refresh the idea x years in the future. Usually interpretation is about place, giving new insights, providing knowledge – ‘the essence of interpretation is to capture the essence of place.’ The above proposal is more about the effect of place on self and has associations with the positive effects of the outdoors / green spaces on mental and physical health. A walk in a wood, or whereever, for many is a cleansing experience and the benefits of ecotheraphy, so called, is something that medical practitioners are taking increasingly seriously (see University of Essex www.greenexercise.org).
So the participant, after completing the journey, possibly won’t be able to take away that many facts or anecdotes about Brownsea, but their visit will have been personal, enjoyable, memorable and formative; they will have been challenged, become more creative beings and found out new things about themselves. Thus the journey on Brownsea will have been, in a small way, a lesson about life and one which can evolve in the individual, be repeated, re-experienced and carried to other future special places.