Blog photoPhoto: Front cover of Changing Realities Zine
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"Doing participatory research – reflecting back and looking forward"

27 Feb, 2024

On February 22nd, we launched our newest zine entitled "Doing Participatory Research – Reflecting Back and Looking Forward". Changing Realities participants Mahabuba, Joe, and Victoria discussed their experiences and viewpoints on the process of creating this zine as part of participatory research during the launch event. In this blog, we present their insights and reflections.

Mahabuba's Reflections:

Being a participant in the "Changing Realities" project, I engage in conversations about current and relevant issues within our community, which includes over 100 parents and carers from across the UK. We come from low-income families and face the same kind of issues. This project serves as a platform for discussing and exploring various topics that impact our community, including social issues like benefit migration, employment support and the cost of living crisis. Through collaborative discussions and a participatory research approach, the project aims to capture diverse perspectives and experiences related to these Changing Realities.

Additionally, the creative aspect of the project involves the production of zines, offering a unique way for participants to express their views and contribute to a collective representation of our community's evolving dynamics. This activity is something I found particularly fun, as I viewed it as a creative platform and a nice way to express my emotions through the means of different forms of media.

In my process of creating zines, I have collected lots of pics, logos, word or letters of different colours and variations. After that I cut and paste those pieces to shape my ideas, thinking and dreams. My art piece or zine then reflects of my emotions which helps me to free from stress, anxiety etc for the time being. It also helps to identify some social, moral, economical or political issues that reflect my viewpoint.

Firstly, I was very confused what to made in zine. But slowly learned from my mentor. It will also help me to chat informally with other participants to learn how they portrayed their feelings on zine. I did my zine like my emotions, thoughts, stress etc are painting on the piece of paper. I was bit free then from my bad emotions, harmful thoughts or depressive stress for that time that I involved with zine. I liked the different colours of materials and enjoyed most as like was doing at my childhood.

Joe's Reflections:

I have to be honest and say when I first heard about doing zines with Covid Realities and then Changing Realities, I was worried I said to everyone that doing arts and crafts is my biggest nightmare. I do not enjoy anything art-related as I feel I am no artist and think most things I do with regard arts and crafts are very simple and childlike and for this reason I do not like producing pieces for anyone to use or have as I tend to feel I am not good enough.

The funny thing is that due to Jean and her wonderful demeanour and her

explanation of how to create zines and pages for zines, I was willing to give it a try, Jean sent us amazing samples to use in the zine and then we were able to put our ideas down on paper using the samples sent.

The equipment she sent included items such as pens, different paper and scissors, stencils to use with letters, and numbers and small social media signs that could be incorporated into our work. I also liked using pages from a dictionary which gave a different type of use of words. Also

sent were template pictures to allow you to start your idea within the

template. Also, we were sent different cards using shape colour etc graph

paper, a wide array of different types of paper such as tracing paper, pictures, words and phrases.

I have to say if it were not for Jean and her enthusiasm, I am unsure I would have continued, but due to her I made 2 to 3 pages for each zine produced and was able to send them to her for use in a final finished zine. I have had the privilege to be part of 2 zines and now this toolkit zine and I look forward to seeing the finished article.

To me, Jean is the queen of Zine and she is an inspiration to people like myself who may not be willing to try something new but she made it fun.

Victoria's Reflections:

I’m Victoria and so grateful for this opportunity to support our zine launch and share my perspective, specifically I’d like to talk about the creative methods used and how they can, and did, positively affect participants' mental health.

One of the many perks of these zines were how creative we could be. For some of us, we cut the provided resources and collaged them into paper, some of us used words more, some favour images. Some people wrote on theirs and some drew their own art and images. All of these different creative approaches to making the zine you’ll see were welcomed, encouraged and celebrated.

It felt good making these zines.

Not just because we were doing art to raise awareness and bring attention to the plights of low income families. But also because this creative process, of making zines, has quantifiable benefits for mental health. Many professional bodies including Psychology Today and the American Medical Association have shared articles expressing the benefits of art and creativity for well-being.

I struggle with crippling mental illness that prevents me from gaining employment and impacts all aspects of daily living in our family. And it has taken years of trial and error to find ways to better manage my symptoms while I wait for therapy that feels more mythical than assured. The biggest weapon in my mental health toolkit is grounding activities.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, ‘grounding techniques’ are activities that a person uses to self-soothe, ease stress and anxiety, and/or help a person reconnect with themselves, their loved ones or their environment. Grounding techniques can be as simple as deep breaths or as complicated as going on a holiday or a day out. One of the more, and well documented, forms of grounding is doing art.

For me, creative or artistic grounding is what benefits me most. It helps me to express feelings, thoughts, ideas I’d otherwise struggle to express. It gives me a physical and mental diversion to help focus my mind and body (such as needing to focus when zine making so I don’t accidentally cut my fingers - it’s happened too many times in the past!) And it gives me a sense of achievement I don’t get anywhere else.

Most of the time I’m alone when grounding but these zine workshops Changing Realities and Jean Mcewan put together added an extra layer of awesomeness to the task; a sense of community and togetherness.

It was truly wonderful to be part of making these zines. I get to express my views on specific questions or subjects, relax and reconnect with a lovely group of people AND be part of a loving and warm community that supported each other and celebrated each others achievements. And now I’m provided this opportunity to help launch these zines, thank everyone who made this possible share with you all why I believe the zine making workshops and the zines we made for you all are so important. Thank you.

Thank you for reading - do check out "Doing Participatory Research – Reflecting Back and Looking Forward"

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