A community research project has launched this month aiming to tell the stories embedded in the culture of Southampton’s streets and neighbourhoods through films made from residents’ perspectives.
We Make Southampton (WMS) CIC is launching its ‘Is this street made for me?’ initiative with the Future Cities Community Hub at the University of Southampton Public Engagement with Research unit.
Claudia Murg, Founder and Executive Director of WMS (pictured), says: “Our project, which is the first community collaboration supported by the University of Southampton, aims to capture and map the health of our streets within the SO14-19 postcodes.
“We’re calling on Southampton residents of all ages and walks of life to get in touch to share what they like or dislike about their streets, their experience of the roads they use on a regular basis to go to shops, work, school and their favourite places. From these submissions, we will select ten individuals to feature in short films. These and the findings will then be unveiled at a special cinema showing in the city in December.
“We want to explore how the environment created by street design, facilities and the behaviour of fellow road users, impacts on our physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. Even though screens and the internet dominate so much of our lives, especially since the pandemic, streets are still an essential part of how we connect or disconnect from each other.
“We’d like to understand what residents would like to improve or change: from street closures around school drop off and pick up time to organising a street party to having a new zebra crossing or traffic calming measures installed. Or if they have been involved in any successful action to change something on their streets.
“During the project, we hope to facilitate practical and impartial discussions between residents, experts and decision makers, who could explain what it would take to make those changes happen. To make our streets healthy and inclusive environments for all; to understand the options to restore the balance between time spent indoors and outdoors.”
The project is being run in collaboration with and supported by University of Southampton experts Dr Alan Wong, Research Scientist and Principal Associate of the Public Engagement with Research unit, Dr Tony Curran, Senior Public Engagement Fellow, who runs the Future Cities Community Hub and Dr Ronda Gowland-Pryde, Civic University Lead/Senior Public Engagement Fellow and Vice Chair of the Staff Disability Network.
Dr Wong says: “When Claudia told me about this project, I was very excited to hear what she is planning to do and how we can engage the wider community here in Southampton to understand the importance of our streets, and the extent to which they reflect and satisfy our daily needs and activities, as well as our ‘sense of place’ or belonging. Streets and neighbourhoods are the backbone of our communities, and her work will no doubt help to inform how we can make our city even more vibrant, inclusive and accessible to everyone in the future.
“I think this important ‘citizen science’ project will also build on the previous knowledge we have gained through the ‘Metamorphosis’ project, which showcased a number of innovative child-friendly and ‘liveable streets’ trials lead by the City Council and six continental European cities. As well as the ‘Metamorphosis Global’ project, which focused on one in Bangladesh. I therefore hope her work will translate into similar change and real impact for the people living here in Southampton, and I would urge you to get involved and support the project.”
This is the first community-university project supported by the University of Southampton as part of a new development funding strand that aims to foster longer-term collaborative partnerships led by the Public Engagement with Research unit.
Dr Gowland-Pryde explains: “Based on local knowledge and experience working with the Future Cities Community Hub, the project will help to inform what is needed in any future changes to Southampton’s streets.”
The project is well timed, as Southampton is going through an exciting period given the major transport changes being implemented as part of the ‘Connected Southampton 2040’ plan and its bid to become the UK City of Culture 2025.
Dr Curran adds: “‘Is this street made for me?’ promises to give a fascinating grassroots insight into the various perspectives of Southampton residents on the place they live, and the modern-day function of local roads. The Future Cities Community Hub and the Public Engagement with Research team at the University of Southampton are happy to be supporting this project. It embodies the kind of quality engagement we look to promote co-production of a project addressing local needs, with and for the benefit of all involved.”
Anyone would like to find out more or to get involved with the films and be part of the project, should visit www.wemakesouthampton.co.uk where full details on submissions via email, post and social media can be found. The closing date is January 30.
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