On 12th January, the ‘Making Suburban Faith: Design, material culture and popular creativity’ project team presented our research in the Landscape Surgery Seminar Series.
This project is a current research project funded by the AHRC as a part of its Connected Communities programme, and is a collaboration between the Geography Departments of UCL and Royal Holloway. The research team is Claire Dwyer (PI UCL), David Gilbert (CI RH), Nazneen Ahmed (PDR UCL), Natalie Hyacinth (PhD RH), Laura Cuch (PhD UCL) and Christian Sayer (Admin, UCL).
The project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on eight different faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These case studies also represent different aesthetic and material cultures in their faith traditions and practices and in their buildings and community spaces.
The project involves four main research strands: survey and ethnographic work in all eight case study sites; ethnographic work with community members to explore home-based faith cultures and practices; ethnographic work on religious music and performance; three artistic projects which involve people from across different faith communities. In his introduction to the session, David Gilbert discussed the relationship between religion and creative practices, arguing that recent work on the geographies of creativity has marginalized religion, and indicting the hidden creativities of everyday religion – in its music, dance and performance, its craft and material culture, and in its architectures. Central to the methodology of Making Suburban Faith is active participatory research, involving faith communities and other publics from Ealing, and professional arts practitioners. The first of these involved sixth-formers from Brentside School in Ealing working with the international architecture firm Mangera Yvars in imagining and developing a multi-faith space for the suburbs. This creative participatory methodology is the focus of a session at this year’s AAG in San Francisco.
A feature of the project is that it includes two PhD projects – while these contribute to the overall research of the project team, they are also independent pieces of work, developing their own ideas and perspectives on issues related to issues of faith, creativity and place. These PhD projects, by Natalie Hyacinth (RH) and Laura Cuch (UCL) were the focus of the session, and they have both posted separately, reflecting on these presentations.