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  • Writer's pictureSibeal Riordan

Project Research and development - reflection

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

This whole project has been a HUGE learning experience for me. Its my first ever socially engaged art project and also my first time planning a group/working on a project with participants. Because of this I do feel theres certain things I have only learnt through trial and error and I wanted to take some time today to discuss them, to help give me clarity on how I want to develop the project further, and for those who may be interested in learning about more about the research and development of the project (and what has worked and not worked)

I started my research for the project very broadly, looking at womens bodily autonomy, it led me on a journey of a months long research project. I tracked womens bodily autonomy from ancient Ireland to present. It was here where I started to learn so much new information and really found a niche of what I was interested in. I began looking at ancient Ireland, their progressive laws and the feminist nature of their society. I had this idea in my head that history was a very linear thing, things always improved throughout time and that is that way it was. This made me realise that we can look back at the past for inspiration for the future. Which is what I have been hoping to achieve over the past few months through the creation of my book club. To start conversations to insight change. To help people become more connected to their history and culture. Most importantly, to encourage people to question social norms and hegemonies and to speculate about the future.

As you've seen in previous blog posts I put out an open call on social media for participants to join the láidreacht project. I think upon reflecting it would have been ideal to utilise instagram algorithims more to attract more people to my post. I relied mostly on people I knew to share the post, which many people did and it was fantastic, but I would like to work towards drawing a larger crowd to the project and also expand it to more people I do not know (so far there is around 4 participants I didn't know previous to the project)

I started off with a small group of around 11 participants, its gone down to 7 now at most meetings. Its been difficult to find times that suit everyone but I have settled on doing the meetings once every month, the second sunday of each month. The books we have read so far are: The left hand of darkness by Ursula k Le Guin, Wild Irish women by Marian Broderick, Republic of shame by Caeilinn Hogan and we are currently reading No ordinary woman: Irish female activists in the revoluntionary world. So far people seem to have enjoyed the books and I have gotten mostly positive feedback.

I've encouraged people to use audiobooks if they don't have the time to sit down and read a book as its a bit more accessible for people with busy schedules which I think has encouraged alot of people to stay in the group. I've realized I need to consider how accessible books are also. With the left hand of darkness many felt the book was too difficult to read, most didnt finish it either as it was quite long. This made me realize I need to pick books that are straight forward to read, and not incredibly long. After this reflection I spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide what book to pick next. I went with wild Irish women and everyone loved it which I was so happy about.

Having general rules for each zoom meeting has also been a good choice, I've said from the start it is a feminist lgbtq+ friendly space which is something that is extremely important. It also ensures that nearly everyone gets a chance to speak at each meeting if they wish to. (some people have been quiet throughout the meetings but that's okay too, I don't want to force anyone to speak if they are not comfortable.

If I get funding I would love to include a sign language translator at each meeting to make them more accessible. My brother has cerebral palsy so I understand how often disabled individuals are left out. I want everyone to feel accommodated and accepted.

After our third meeting I asked everyone for feedback on how they felt the group was going. Everyone seemed really positive and is enjoying being a participant which is fantastic. I may also set up an anonymous poll in case people want to submit feedback anonymously.

I've certainly had ups and downs with the project but I'm really proud of how its developing so far and Im hopeful and excited for the future to see how it will progress!

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