I hadn’t realised how much I’d internalised the logic of the university system – its bureaucracies, the need for outcomes, and paper-trailed short, medium and long-term planning – until I began to organise a residency at The Margate School (TMS).
The Margate School is a fine arts postgraduate school, partnered with the École Supérieure d’Art et Design Le Havre-Rouen (ESADHaR). This summer I began developing a partnership that would allow some of our own Kent undergraduates on the Cultural Studies, Media and Sociology programmes to use art school facilities to make creative and public-facing sociological work from 2023 onwards. During this process, discussions led to the idea of TMS hosting a sociological residency (a kind of reverse Artist in Residence programme), and so here I am helping to flesh out the ‘society’ elements of their motto: Art, Society, Nature.
As the resident sociologist, my pitch to the school included helping add sociological/cultural studies-focused events to the existing public lecture series they run through inviting speakers; providing sessions myself; setting up prompts and provocations around the building (a huge old Woolworths store) for students and residents to respond to; and developing collaborations with the artists where I could. My research recently has been focused on the changing social, cultural and economic landscapes of the Isle of Thanet, as well as an ongoing project on deindustrialisation in Kent. So this was also an opportunity to have a base to work on these. I’m not being paid or funded to be at TMS, so was coming up with ways to not just use the time and space I might get, but justify it – this felt important.
Justification however, wasn’t really needed. “Do there have to be any actual outcomes?” I was asked when we met to discuss plans, and at this point I knew things would work very differently to the systems I am used to working in. My job here will involve all the things I approached TMS with, but also includes just being here – chatting with people, being around, using the facilities. I was asked what I might want out of the experience on a much personal level as well as an academic one. It is an experiment in what a collaboration could achieve; a sort of free association exercise and I can’t believe my luck.
The residency runs from September 2022 – August 2023.