Participatory Research

Art-based Case Study

“Placing fear and hope among young people: a local geopolitics of risk”

  • Young people (asylum seeking, refugee, Muslim, white British heritage) recruited through organisations, clubs, support groups in north east England:
  • 70+ so far (aged 4-21) involved in discussion groups + analysis, then projects chosen and led by young people – drama, art, creative writing, peer story collection, website, reports for policymakers, awareness-raising workshop

image 1

Art project with African Community Advice North East

2 year research relationship with Gaby Kitoko’s African-run project in Byker that supports African refugees and (on the basis of integration as a way forward) is open to the whole community

20+/- young people of African and white British heritage aged 5 – 15

Method (stage 1)

Discussion groups to brainstorm issues around hope/fear most relevant to young people. Several follow ups – iterative analysis - to narrow focus.

Iterative development of research questions and analysis

From a range of local/global concerns, to analysis of racist bullying, to identification of negative stereotypes about place, to a focus on hope and aspiration embedded in local places (Newcastle and African countries of origin)

Development and analysis took us well away from original interests / aims

Method (stage 2)

Chose art as a means of exploring and expressing emotions and the final research focus.

First 6 week project to produce display. Sketches to develop ideas - final pieces in acrylics.

Second 6 week project involved a ‘real’ artist (Fiona Gray), digital photography and public artwork: difference, identity and place


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Method (stage 3)

Follow up report, role plays, website (with stories and advice for other young people) – jointly produced with young people.


On this project, some of the action outcomes are:

more tangible outcomes:

  • Art displays
  • Reports and websites for young people, voluntary organisations and policy-makers.

less tangible outcomes:

  • Integration of African and white British young people (transformative moments?)

“Integration is a process. I’m happy because they can now even meet, because it used to be that black and white kids were not mixing very much. We start to have those activities where they can come together and let the community know about the things that are important to them - to try to break this ice between those communities”

Gaby Kitoko, ACANE


Integration was not an aim initially in the research; but it emerged as one.
BUT, some African and white young people did not choose this as something the research should be enabling, for a whole variety of reasons: social discomfort, political, lack of interest.

So significant ethical dilemmas remain.


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