Karma Gardens

From the pop-up photography studio at Caldmore Community Gardens
Caroline at work on the pop-up photography studio at Caldmore Community Gardens open day.
I was excited to be awarded one of the living memory development bursaries, based on my proposal to work with Dinner Ladies. The proposal is based on wanting to raise the visibility of women's roles, in the community.
I was given the location of the Caldmore Community Gardens to work within Walsall. The challenge in this location is there are no specific links to any local schools, community groups or archival material to commence research around these interests.
Caroline at work on the pop-up photography studio at Caldmore Community Gardens open day.
In the meantime, in discussion with the Caldmore Community Centre, (locally referred to as "Karma") I agreed to set up a pop-up photography studio (Karma Studios) as part of the Cultures of Walsall festival at the end of September, as a way of showing my presence in the community. I was slightly anxious the day before the festival when torrential rain threatened to postpone the event! However, we were lucky with the weather on the day. Assisted by two of my students from Coventry University, we photographed 43 families during the festival. This evidenced a diverse living archive of the local participants who attended the event on the day. We gave the participants the option of us sharing their image on social media and sent a selection of images to each participant.
I am now starting to contact local community groups to find a group to work with develop my research contacts in the area.

Update 9th February 2020

The challenge with this placement is I am not local to the area and could not find a strategic way to develop my proposed project to work with Dinner Ladies. This meant, a serious rethink.  I interrogated what I was really trying to do, which is to raise the visibility of women in Walsall and rethought how I could go about this. To do this I proposed accessing a diversity of communities across the city and creating a visual archive of Women of Walsall.  The aim is to demonstrate the diversity of women that create the community of Women of Walsall.

The project has involved working with Walsall for All - a subsidiary of Walsall council to access community groups across the city. In the community spaces, I set up a pop-up photography studio, and in exchange for a family portrait the women agreed that their portrait can be used in the WoW project. The participant's faces, along with archival photographs, sourced from Walsall Archive, which include photographs of women and labour, machine girls (to use the archival reverence name), women stitching leather in the leather factory, glove makers, the local swimming team and historical figures such as Sister Dora (their version of Florence Nightingale) Miss Beatle Stone who ran a school in Walsall, Ada Newman who was the first female councillor, Edna Hughes an Olympic swimmer, Gertrude Creswell the first female Mayor, will be presented in a public space in Walsall, to celebrate with International Women's day 2020.

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