I will always remember Rivers and People 2015 as a small digital story. (Though frankly when I read other blogs, and see the extent of people’s digital challenges I feel like a Reception class student, but that’s another story).
We had done Rivers and People in 2012, as a performance event designed to celebrate the regeneration of Ladywell Fields and the River Ravensbourne. Three years on, the same team from Lewisham Council approached us to create another event, with some of the same elements – local artists, local stories, local theatre company, local audiences and for people of all ages.
Thanks to my readiness for digital experiments, I decided to approach Rivers and People with a digital experiment. The project would tell the story of the Ladywell Naiad and other tales woven from sightings of the species and creatures of Lewisham, and what better way than involving Lewisham residents in gathering those stories/ images. So very quickly some questions were framed, put out to our audience through a range of channels and we waited. Nobody had told me how difficult this wait could be. And how hard a small experiment can be, in terms of demanding time and energy. Surely everyone visits their local parks or encounters a living creature in or around where they live… surely they can tweet a picture of the same and hashtag it #whatlivesinlewisham. Surely people would ‘want’ to be part of this. It should be simple. But NO.
The storify link, will hopefully share a mini success story. Considering that it was a 4 week ‘digital’ project from the first conversation to event day, we managed reasonably well. Our funders played along, some of the staff enjoyed the ‘fun’ element and audiences were encouraged right upto the event day. But we did not have enough time to test the motivations of participation or apply any agile learning to it. However I learnt a lesson about the amount of time you need to build in to do this properly… to really make this a conversation where you hope people might also contribute via an action, but not to expect that as a given or mandatory. It is so tempting to fall into the messy hole of only looking at RT’s/counting hashtags/instagram submissions (and I admit, I did too) and getting disheartened.
Alongside the learning, I also found something asking another question. As the person who probably starts the conversation, on behalf of the organisation, what should be my extent of information and interest in the subject area. Luckily I live in Lewisham, so could genuinely contribute to the Rivers and People experiment, but if I didn’t live in the borough or if I lacked any interest in flora and fauna, how would I personally engage with the conversation when I expect many others to do so. Would I sound convincing/true/genuine at all? Does anyone else recognise that?