Through Covid Realities and now Changing Realities we have developed new ways of researching and working together. Today, we launch a series of films sharing different takes and reflections on what we do and why. To accompany the launch of these films we are also sharing this reflection on researching together from Jean McEwan, Zine Artist.
When I think about what participatory projects should be like, I think of Covid Realities. For me, and my involvement as an artist, the project has been a beacon of good practice - in its ways of working, values and ethos.
Although I have been facilitating zine making with groups and communities for years, when I joined Covid Realities I hadn’t made a collective zine with people online before. I was asked to support a collective zine with participants to explore their experiences of life through the pandemic and what needed to change. I had to find new ways of working - from providing the right zine making materials through the post, to figuring out how to hold space online for people to be creative together, and make decisions together democratically and inclusively about how they wanted the zine to be.
Could this be done? How would it all work?
I had a lot of questions and uncertainty, but I quickly discovered that I wouldn’t be figuring it out alone.
I worked in close collaboration with the research team to figure out the best processes. Katie Pybus, in particular, helped so much with supporting the facilitation of the online workshops, as well as dealing with the logistics of getting zine packs to people, and organising communications.
I also worked with Tom, a graphic and web designer working with the project, who brought his magic design eye to give the zine its really cohesive visual identity.
At the heart of Covid Realities there was a feeling and attitude that we are all learning and doing together. Embedded into everything was an active commitment to centering the voices of participants - checking in with people time and time again - with an attitude of care, honesty, compassion, and often humour.
Whether this is about making a change, large or small, to a way of doing something, asking ourselves questions, or stopping to reflect - it was woven throughout.
I am really grateful for the experience of working with Covid Realities. I have learned so much, particularly from participants, who were so open in sharing their creativity in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances, and also in giving me feedback about what could work better in the future.
I take all this invaluable learning and experience from making our collaborative zines together forward into my work with other research and community projects.
Read our zines here https://changingrealities.org/zines/