This research project investigated how people who had moved to the UK from abroad experienced outdoor places. We were interested in different perceptions and uses of neighbourhood spaces among culturally diverse communities.
How important is the public realm in helping newcomers feel settled, and supporting their participation in the local community?
How do experiences of migration relate to individual and community values for public space, and how might understanding these inform priorities for urban neighbourhoods?
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The participants were loaned mini-disk recorders for a three month period spanning late summer to early winter 2006, and given training on making recordings by BBC Radio Sheffield. Their brief was to regularly record live commentaries during walks or journeys, talking about their movements and thoughts prompted by the changing experience of their neighbourhood. We also interviewed a broad range of individuals, groups and community organisations about their wider experiences of the neighbourhood, outdoor activities and patterns of movement.
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The project worked with eleven participants who were born in
a range of countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean, and were
male and female of different ages. They differed in aspects of employment,
level of community and religious involvement, and whether they were settled
long term or planning to return to their home country. They all lived
in or near Burngreave (one up the hill in Firth Park, one used to live
in Burngreave but now lives in Hillsborough). Lola, Ali, Shireen, Zara
and John are pseudonyms.
Summary of findings
Our research showed evidence of open space used as meeting and observation points, and activities defined by gender, age and social roles as well as cultural background. People adapt and occupy space according to their own preferences; the use of space can be overlapping and concurrent between different communities. The ethnic diversity of the area was generally conceived positively by participants, but they were concerned about the lack of facilities compared to more affluent areas of the city. The ability to make choices and withdraw temporarily from the immediate neighbourhood was important.
more on findings: download pdf
transcript of all clips: download pdf
Extracts from the on-site recordings and interviews with some of the participants were broadcast by BBC Radio Sheffield (May - August 2007).
A brochure about the project, including key findings and implications for practice has been published. These can be requested from the Department of Landscape, or downloaded as a pdf from the above link.
Two academic papers are in the process of being submitted for publication.
Conference presentations: American Association of Geographers (2007, San Francisco), Environmental Design and Research Association (2007, Sacramento), Black Environmental Network (2007, London).
This website aims to showcase some of the diversity of the recordings and experiences of the research.
Details of future publications will be given on this website.
Clare Rishbeth is a lecturer in Landscape Architecture in the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on experience of place by first generation migrants, and how this is informed by memories of the 'home country' and aspirations for the future. She also addresses issues regarding the role of landscape design in supporting socially sustainable urban neighbourhoods in an increasingly culturally diverse society.
Mark Powell has a Phd in Anthropology, and has previously undertaken fieldwork in the Caribbean and India.
Research funding and support.
The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant ref: RES-000-22-1797) and supported by training given by BBC Radio Sheffield.
We would like to extend our thanks to:
- All our participants and their families
- BBC Radio Sheffield, in particular Helen Bailey
- Green City Action
- Pakistani Community Association
- Yemini Men's Lunch Club
- Burngreave Voices
- Omer Mosque
- Pakistani Advice Centre
- Firth Park Healthy Walks
- Grimesthorpe Road Allotments
- Pakistani Women's chair aerobics club
- Pakistani Men's lunch club
- Northern Refugee Centre
- Arab Training and Information Centre
- Firth Park Community Arts College
- Active Brightsite
- Worker's Education Association
- Black Environment Network
Melanie Downes (and Clare Rishbeth).