Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from February 2010

“BBC Radio Nofolk, this is Amanda”

February 20th, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Wednesday morning I got up bright and early to ensure that I would beat all of the rush hour traffic because I needed to be at the BBC station in the Forum by 9am. Departing the UEA campus a little before 8am I made it to Norwich City Centre in record time, I was getting off the bus around 8:15 (shocker there wasn’t any traffic in Norwich on a typical workday morning..) So I sat in Starbucks reading and enjoying a chai tea latte before my “workday” started.

I arrived at BBC and waited for David Webster, the producer of the afternoon radio programme who I would be shadowing, to arrive. Eventually Stephen Bumfrey, the presenter of the programme came down and got me settled in at the desk and introduced me to some of the other BBC staff members. Dave arrived a few minutes later and brought me on another brief tour of the staion, this time to show me two of the most important rooms (the kitchen and the toilets).

After talking with Dave and Stephen about my research, my interest in radio, and what the program they work on entails, Dave decided that it would be valuable for me to sit in on some of Nick Conrad’s programme because it deals directly with community/station interaction. Nick presents a topic and the public calls in to discuss it. For the majority of the show I sat in with the producers of the show who take the calls and decided which callers will be allowed to talk on air with Nick. It was interesting to hear some of the calls, and to hear both on and off air reactions to them. One thing that I noticed was that even when Nick was disagreeing with a caller his responses were not that out of place. Speaking with the assistant producer he informed me that unlike in the US, UK disc jockeys never fall into the shock-jock category. The Brits uphold their typically mild-mannered behavior even when producing radio intended to get a rise out of people.

While I was sitting with the producers Nick invited me into the studio to show me how all the ‘button pushing’ worked. The topics of discussion while I was sitting in on the show were: jurors in the UK, overweight pets, and pension changes; a variety of topics, but all were clearly of interest to the general public because the phone was off the hook the entire time I was there. There were also two guests in the studio to discuss some of the topics with Nick from a more professional level rather than the opinion based level that the majority of the program was on.

As the programme was coming to an end, I met back up with Dave and Stephen to discuss what was on schedule for their afternoon programme, before heading to the daily 11am meeting. At the meeting Dave and Stephen filled everyone else in on the schedule of the show and then left to get back to finalizing song playlists, etc. They left me with the news editors who talked about the important issues of the day locally/regionally that should be included in the afternoon broadcasts as well as for the following morning’s Breakfast Show. When the meeting was over I sat with Rita, one of the News Editors and talked about all aspects of radio, both in the US and in the UK, comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences to commercial radio, and the advantages and disadvantages to the different formats. Rita was also immensely helpful in suggesting other people whom I may be intrerested in talking with/interviewing.

After a brief break for lunch I moved into the stdio with Dave for Stephen’s show. The first hour of the show revolved around a contest called War of the Workforce, followed by interviews and other topics of entertainment. I spent the three hours of the programme answering calls from listeners, talking on-air about Reader’s Digest (and blimps..), and speaking with the guest on Wednesday’s show, 14-year-old Josh Worley. Josh started his own radio station South Norfolk Youth Action (SYNA Radio) about a year and a half ago and just recently won a local youth achievement award.

Overall another productive and informative day at BBC Radio Norfolk. All of the staffers are so friendly and helpful and told me I was welcome back for a shadow-day anytime, or for anything else I may need for my research. I still need to connect with someone at Future Radio, and I’m hoping I will be as lucky with talking with them as I have been working with BBC Radio Norfolk.

Hours: 7 hours

Total: 8 hours

Tags: Amanda

Scouting in the U.K. Part 3: Volunteering at Morrisons and “The Peg Game”

February 19th, 2010 · 2 Comments

This week I completed four more hours of the experiential component of my Humanities 310 project.

If you happened to be shopping at Morrison’s between the hours of 11.00 and 13.00 on Wednesday than you may have seen me in my scout uniform bagging groceries with the Explorer scout group I volunteer with… Yes that’s right, bagging groceries.  In the U.S. helping out at the local supermarket would never be considered community service since almost every store employs grocery baggers. In England however bagging groceries as community service makes a lot of sense.

Because you can take the 25 or 35 bus directly to and from Morrisons a lot of older people tend to shop there since there is less walking involved.  Often times these older people have difficulties bagging their own groceries. That’s where the scouts come in.  Although I found it a bit awkward at first asking people if they wanted their groceries bagged for them most people were quite happy to not have to do it themselves. Even many of the younger shoppers complied.  One young customer’s face lit up in a similar fashion to mine every time I go to a gas station in New Jersey.  Overall it was a good experience doing some community service in Norwich.  All of the scouts seemed to really enjoy themselves and Morrisons really appreciated our help. Ever since I stopped bagging groceries in high school I never thought I would have to do it again but this time it felt as though I was doing something worthwhile.

Tonight I attended another Explorer Scout meeting.  Lucky for me there was no twenty minute walk involved as we met in Earlham Park for a “Scoutwide Game Night”.  This meant that both the Cub Scouts (Ages 10-13) and Explorer Scouts (ages 14-18) were present. After distributing glow sticks to everyone we headed down towards the center of Earlham Park where we played two hours of “The Peg Game”.  I had never heard of this game before but it was actually pretty fun.  We were divided up into two teams.  One team was made up of “attackers” and the other team was “defenders”.  There was a clothesline strung between two trees about 4 feet off the ground.  The glow sticks were put in a circle surrounding the clothesline.  The “attackers” were given clothespins or “pegs” and the goal was to attach them to the clothesline without being tagged.  The “defenders” goal was to tag the “attackers” before they got inside the glow stick circle. If tagged the attacker would have to forfeit his/her peg to the defender.  Whichever team had more pegs at the end would win the round.

During the first round I was an attacker.  I managed to get a few pins on the line before the round was over and my team emerged victorious! Being a defender was not as fun. You had to be more stationary and it was difficult to spot the attackers running full speed through the woods.  We switched sides two more times and before I knew it it was almost 9:30.  My legs were quite tired from all the running by the end.  It had been awhile since I played a game like that but I really enjoyed it.  I even got told I was a fast runner by a ten year old.  Although I would beg to differ if that’s not a good compliment than I don’t know what is.

One thing i’ve begun to notice about scouting here compared to the U.S. is that it’s geared more towards the social aspects than the rank advancements. Although I have helped the Explorer Scouts work on their cooking badge, the other meeting I attended we made troop t-shirts and last week when I was in Denmark they went bowling.  Originally I thought it was odd that a scout meeting was scheduled on a Friday night from 7:30-9:30 but because of how social a group it is for these kids it now makes perfect sense.  All the scouts present really seem to enjoy themselves at meetings and everyone seems genuinely excited to be part of the group.  This is more than I can say about many scouts that I have encountered in the U.S.

Volunteer Hours: 4

Total: 9.5

Tags: Henry

“Wait, you get to go to pubs… for class?”

February 19th, 2010 · 2 Comments

A word of warning to all of those people who wish to do experiential learning whilst in Norwich – start early.  Like many of the other people in Dickinson Humanities 310, I have been having an issue with organizations responding to me, let along promptly responding.  So, with the clock ticking ominously in my ears, it was time to get a little bit creative.  Instead of volunteering my time and free labor to the local festivals of Norwich and Norfolk like I was counting on (honestly, who doesn’t like fifteen-plus hours of free paper pushing, stuffing envelopes, and filing?), I had to think a bit further outside of the box.  So far outside that it has pushed me into pubs… darn.

One of the festivals I am looking at for the research portion of the paper is the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Norwich Beer Festival.  According to their website, this organization and festival promote “good-quality cask conditioned beers (commonly referred to as ‘real ale’), allied to traditional Brisith breweries and pubs.”   However, what really caught my eye was their goal to support local pubs that serve not only real ale, but also invoke a sense of community. 

Last night, I ventured out of my cosy flat and wandered the wet streets of Norwich.  I had four main questions that I wanted to answer; 1) Does this pub serve real ales, as defined by CAMRA?  2) What imported beers/ales does this pub serve?  3) How traditional is the pub in decor?  4) What atmosphere does this pub give off?  The three pubs I visited last night answered these questions very differently.

My first stop yesterday evening was to the Mischief Tavern.  Of the three pubs I went to, this one was the most traditional.  There were lit open fireplaces, a well-worn hard wooden floor, crooked staircases, and even a beautiful pressed tin roof with exposed roof timber beams running through it.  It was spacious, yet cozy, with both large and small tables that added to the comfortable sense of community.  Although there were a number of loud Americans running and dancing around the place, locals of all ages were enjoying a nice drink.

 This pub served real ales, and even had a couple of signs promoting it, but you had to look carefully in order to see them.  Much more obvious were the colorful and flashy logos of Budweiser, Heineken, and Tiger. 

The second pub I went to was Delaney’s Irish Pub.  Now, I know it seems slightly odd that in my quest for a traditional English pub serving traditional English ales, I went to an Irish pub.  However, in my defense, other than a couple of Irish proverbs on the walls and the fact that they sold Guinness and Jameson, there was nothing remotely Irish about it.  (In fact, I might even go so far as to say it was one of the least-Irish Irish pubs I have ever been to.  I am slightly confused as to what exactly “Irish Tapas” is…)  They did not sell any real ales and focused mainly on imports of Guinness, Fosters, and the like. 

 The pub did, however, have an odd sense of community about it.  They had pictures of people who had been there previously taped to the underside of the staircase and giant games of Connect-Four and Jenga for patrons to play with.  There were seperate high tables that could fit four or five chairs around them at most scattered just far enough away from each other to give the illusion of privacy, but still with the ability to draw another table into conversation.

The third and final pub from last night was the Belgian Monk.  The Monk is more high-end, with imported fruity beers and a wonderful sit-down restaurant.  The decor in the Monk includes posters in German, a library, and small tables with which to sip a frothy concoction of your choice.  A large portion of the indoor tables are taken up by the restaurant, as opposed to the pub, and tend to attract a clientele that has a bit more money than your average college student.

  The Belgian Monk is most certainly not a traditional English pub.  Much like with the Irish pub, it might seem slightly odd that I am including it at all in my blog post.  My reasoning is simple – all of the pubs I visited fill a niche in Norwich. The Belgian Monk is a restaurant, Delaney’s is an Irish pub, and the Mischief is a more traditional English pub.  I know that from three pubs, I can’t conclude anything about CAMRA’s presence in Norwich.  However, my next time out, I hope to come across more of the traditional English pubs in Norwich that CAMRA rightfully brags about.

Total time – 4 hours

Tags: Kelley · Pubs

How do YOU fit into your education?

February 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment

“Education is the transmission of civilization,” (Will Durant) therefore, factors such as what we teach, how we teach, and who we teach in our education system should send a message about your society. Afterall, Durant states it is indeed a direct representation of our civilization. As I have been volunteering with an organization, BUILD, for the past three months I have been observing how the English education system, as well as the society, regards individuals with learning disabilities. Furthermore, without the ability to control it, I have been analyzing the American education system as well. Does our society and the English society have full acceptance of individuals with learning disabilities, or are they still viewed as burdens? What kind of support is provided to individuals with learning disabilities? Is that support enough?

Rarely do we think of what teenagers and adults with learning disabilities have to deal with when they enter educational and social settings. BUILD, which is a Norwich based organization, uses a range of services to reach out to individuals with learning disabilities in the Norfolk area. These services include socials where individuals get to interact with mentors/volunteers and other participants of the program, one-on-one mentoring, educational programs and etc. Through this organization, individuals get to expand not only their social skills, but also gain comfort and confidence. Organizations like BUILD provide individuals with learning disabilities services and needed advice that the education and the government system does not. From the success of the organization, it is safe to say that the volunteers and the participants are doing something right. But it is also unfortunate to say that organizations such as BUILD is non-profit and relies on the donations of individuals. It is important to further question what kind of support the government and the education system in U.K. provide to individuals who might need further help, and whether that further reflects our society’s view on individuals with learning disabilities. Some of these questions I hope to further answer in my research paper.

One workshop that BUILD is hoping to hold within next few weeks with which I’ve been helping to organize is regarding educating participants of BUILD in government, policies, and voting system. When I heard the plan that the director of the organization is organizing, I was impressed and excited, because even I still need help with learning about UK political system. However, the demographics of voting are not positive. Although 80% of people with learning disabilities are registered to vote, only 1 in 6 participated in their local election and 1 in 8 in the last general election. Upon further research and discussion, it seems that the complexity of the system, and a shortage of accessible information keeps individuals from actually voting. Therefore, BUILD’s workshop would encourage individuals to get involved and educate in areas where the society and the education system fails to do so. The first goal is to have more accessible information about candidates and the actual voting system. I wonder for why the running candidates do not reach out to individuals who have learning disabilities. The possibility is that our society still does not view all individuals as equals, equals in learning, achieving the same level of success, or picking their next leader.

As I  continue to volunteer with BUILD, I learn that such organizations pick up the slack of where the actual system fails. We should all further question what does our education system represent, is it a mirror image of our society?

I plan on exploring this further.

Tags: Jeyla

Hometown Glory Part 2: the Interview & the Show

February 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Interview with John Osborne, member of Aisle 16**

On Monday night, at the Norwich Arts Centre, I got to play member of the press. Showing up for my interview with Aisle 16, I bought my ticket for the show and asked at the front desk where I could find the poetry group for their interview. They sent my name back, and I got escorted into the performance area not only for my interview, but o see a little tech setup behind the scenes action (pretty cool). There, I spent some time talking with John Osborne, of Aisle 16.

Since my arrival in Norwich I have noticed that there is a very accessible and large poetry scene here. Osborne gave several reasons he thought that Norwich was unique. The first is UEA, which brings a lot of good caliber writers to Norwich. The second is the Bird Cadge which opened in 2006 when Osborne was a student at UEA. While Osborne admitted, “I can’t really say how it’s different since I don’t know a lot of other areas,” he was willing to say, “it’s better than other areas and when people come to t he area they are impressed with it.”

In the history of Norwich and East Anglian poetry there is a long line of rural and agricultural poetry. But Aisle 16’s poetry, and the contemporary poetry in Norwich has moved significantly away from that. Osborne suggested that this is because poets write about what they know, what touches and influences them on a daily basis. For those poets, farming was central to their lives, but today that average person in East Anglia may never visit a farm.

I asked Osborne how Norwich and UEA influenced his experience with poetry. He admitted, “I really didn’t have any knowledge of poetry. I liked song lyrics but I had never heard of performance poetry until my time at UEA. I learned about performance poetry from my friends and people I met at UEA.” This is just another way that the contemporary Norwich poetry has changed from the time of Bloomfield and other historic East Anglian Poets. With the university there begins a learning process and collective exploration that was not there before.

In my studies of East Anglian poetry, and poetry in general, I have always been more familiar with the published and printed poetry rather than the spoken word poetry. When asked to comment on this Osborne suggested that performance poetry is a cross between stand-up comedy and poetry. There are some live poems he would never publish because they just don’t look good on paper. But when you hear them, they are brilliant. Others don’t sound as good, they might be really depressing and people just don’t want to hear that. You always have to keep in mind your audience. But hopefully a poet’s persona as a published poet and a performance poet is not too different. He offered an analogy to a vendiagram to explain this. One circle is you when you perform, the other is you when you write. The center overlap is your identity as poet. The bigger the center the better more successful poet you will be.

Osborne's vendiagram of poetry

When asked the classic chicken-egg question: what came first, the poetry or the theme of the show? Osborne explained that in this case the theme of ‘going home’ came first, and the poetry was written around that, but that that is not always the case. With the publication of Aisle 16 book, Live from the Hellfire Club, Osborne noted that they would still consider themselves a performance poetry over a written poetry group.

Finally, for all you aspiring poets out there, Osborne’s big piece of advice is to write everything down. Keep a notebook by your bed and write down all your ideas, even if they are just words or sentences. Because, as Osborne explains, the blank page can be hard to conquer and it is much easier to start with some old ideas.

**Please note that despite the use of quotations this post is a paraphrase of what was said during the interview with John Osborne

The Show: Local Boys Done Good

The show itself was fantastic. It combined both the spoken word of the poets and various videos and music which flashed and played on a large projector screen behind them. It opened with a piece on the awkward teenage years, by Tim Clare, which he performed at the UEA Grad Bar the week before. Then, Aisle 16 members Ross Sutherland, Joe Dunthorne, and Chris Hicks performed an interactive poem called, “Raise Your Status,” which, as the title suggests, offered various comical ways to raise your status. But both these acts served simply as an introduction to the real show.

After the break, Sutherland introduced the theme of the show by defining ‘home.’ He touched on Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and used a circular diagram to describe the progression of the hero after he’staken away from home as he seeks to return home. However, Sutherland asked what would happen if suddenly the diagram was flipped, and home was on the dark uncertain side of the circle, and we were trying to escape home rather than return to it? I found this very moving, especially when he said, “Home is the place that knows us better than anywhere.”

The cycle of leaving and returning home

After this introduction each member of the group discussed their experiences performing in their hometowns, while a video clip played behind them. Each member also performed the piece they wrote for their hometown.

John Osborne, first performed his piece “Local Boys Done Good” in the town hall of his hometown in Brigg. Ross Sutherland wrote “When Paper Boys Roam The Earth” about his hometown Coggeshall Essex and performed it in the Chapel Pub there. Joe Dunthorne read his poem about the rough nature of the city Swansea in Wales where he grew up entitled, “Wild Wild West.” Chris Hicks grew up in Quarley, Hampshire. Unlike the performers before him, Hicks had a terrible time doing the show for his hometown and called it one of the “worst experiences of his life.” He performed two poems, “Monkstone Demands 20” about the neighboring town, and “Yesterday Reenactment Society.” And last but not least, the show closed with Tim Clare who explained his experience going home where he realized, “My hometown had done better than I had.” Because the town had done so well, the only venue he could book for him hometown show was the playhouse. And to close the show, Clare performed a touching song (which unfortunately I cannot find a video of) on a ukulele called, “Think of England.”

The show offered something for everyone: comedy, drinking, frustration, and a poignancy that forced us all to consider how our hometowns have shaped us, how as children we dreamt of getting far away, and how as adults we must eventually return and confront a place central to who we are.

Hours: 3

Total Hours: 3

Tags: Megan

That’s What it’s All About?

February 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments


Jackson Pollock, No. 5 (1948)


Have you ever found yourself in a moment where you question everything? Where you reconsider everything you thought you knew? Well that happened to me today as I was reading one of the books I’m using for my research paper, Talking Prices. This book is an examination into the world of pricing contemporary art. As I read, I began to think about how much the art world is concerned with money… and how much I am not. Now, I know money is important and that it’s involved in almost every aspect of our lives, but I’m not interested in art for a profit. I love art, plain and simple. I love the feeling I when I discover a new artist, or when I see a work in a museum that I have studied in an art history course (ask Kelley about our visit to the National Gallery in London). I’m sure most people who are established gallery owners, dealers or curators thought the same thing, that they would never let their artistic priorities be compromised by commercial objectives or let financial matters interfere with the way they establish relationships with artists, but I’m sure that has changed. In a discipline where one is constantly bombarded with words like ‘provenance’, ‘price’ and ‘worth’ how could you not let it affect the way you see art? I am still leaning how art is priced, and I am still amazed that one painting can sell for one hundred and forty million dollars (Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948). While selling prices at auction houses like Sotheby’s are fascinating, I don’t think it’s the only way to determine worth. One of my big questions is, how does the price of a work relate to its aesthetic quality? Call me naive, but I don’t want to turn into another person who just sees a big price tag instead of a work of art. But the end of my interview session with Norwich gallery owners I hope to have a few of my fears confirmed or laid to rest. In these interviews I have been trying to determine what kind of contemporary art market Norwich has. So far it seems to be a mix of so-called ‘traditional’ and ‘avant-garde’ spaces, quite like the inhabitants of this ‘fine city’. While some gallery owners have said there is a decent market in town, others are less than optimistic. I received an email from one of my contacts yesterday that stated, in fact, there is NO market for contemporary art in Norwich.

“As well as owning the gallery, I am an architect and it is this profession that has kept the gallery going. I’ve been working in Jersey (Channel Islands) for the last year, which is why the gallery has only had 2 shows in the last year…so the simple answer to your question is that contemporary art does not sell in a place like Norwich!”

But I still have hope! We’ll see if my constant optimism proves to be my demise. 

Another realization: (and this is one that seems to be true across the boards) the more I learn about life, that more it seems that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know. Even with a Dickinson education, networking is essential. The whole art business is a giant web of relationships between artists, dealers and collectors. Lucky for me, I’ve inherited my father’s schmoozing skills and the ability to make friends easily. Now it’s time to put them to good use. People always tell you that best job is one that doesn’t feel like work, and I hope I can achieve this someday. But for now I’m going to have to work my way up the ladder. The art world is no place for introverts and if you want to stand out, you need to start networking early. Sound cutthroat? That’s because it is.

Tags: Grace

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: If you give a child a box…

February 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Today was the re-opening of Strangers’ Hall to the public, thus meaning it would be busy today. I got placed in the Undercroft, which is where they hold all the children’s activities. Once again I was instructed to make a robot/invention sort of thing for the children to look at. That fell way to the many little visitors that soon took up all the table space.

After learning about Victorian cleaning tools and techniques, the children were instructed to make some sort of cleaning invention or robot. Now with children there from ages 2-10 you can imagine the variation in things being created. I saw a total of 3 castles being made, 2 homes, 4 rubbish cleaning bins, a beauty bin and a video camera. I thought it was incredible watching the children who were given a box and a table of various papers and bits and see their imaginations at work. And I was also surprised that the children took to the craft. I must admit I was a bit skeptical about the idea of the craft, but the children had a great time and really used their imaginations.

Before the children came down to make crafts, a woman from the press was at the Hall to take pictures of the conservation that was happening. Today there was no conservation happening of course because it was just re-opened to the public. So we had to put together a sort of “scene” that made it look like the museum was still conserving something. One of the volunteers was used in the pictures to demonstrate how the equipment was used. He kept nicely arguing with the photographer about how he is supposed to be properly using the equipment compared with what she wanted to make a good picture. In the end, it is always what makes a better picture than wins, not the accuracy of the scene. And I know that is how most things are with the press and the media, but it still frustrates me as a historian…I’m all about accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! I guess we’ll see what the museum has in store for me later this week!

Hours logged: 3
Total hours: 9

Tags: Alli · Museums

Together- From one mentor to the other.

February 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments

(New Routes logo)

“Life is an exam.”

My mentee refers to life as an exam which we must prepare for in order to pass; these are the words he leaves me with as we walk away from one another after our weekly meeting. Bekre, is a young inspiring individual, a refugee from Ethiopia and an aspiring intellectual.

Since last term, Bekre and I have been meeting up at the Forum once a week, our usual routine includes a cappuccino, four sugars and an hour and a half of ‘life-talk.’ We start of by summing up the week, that usually gives us enough to ramble about for quite some time. As he speaks of his adventures, I take mental notes and ask away in regards to particular details. During my mentor training at New Routes Mentoring Center, I learned about the different ways in which we can ask questions in order to expand/sustain a conversation, so I put my skills to practice with him. The first time we met, I remember being way too conscious of the questions I was taught, robotically, in fear of awkwardness or unnecessary moments of silence, I kept asking him questions. I wanted him to find a friend in my voice and comfort in my words. After our first meeting, comfort was the least of my concerns, I’m sure he would agree that ‘we were off to a great start!’

New Routes’ motto states: “Finding ways to achieve together,” and as my relationship with Bekre has progressed, this is exactly what my weekly meetings have been about. Every week we think of a new goal, something he would like to accomplish by the next time we meet; sometimes he makes me tell him my own goals for the week. We later converse about our goals, what took to achieve it and how we overcame any challenges. Even though, we have been learning from each other, sometimes I find myself contemplating the things I want him to learn, since week after week he seems to be the teacher of me (as opposed to vise versa). He has made me aware of the personal struggles he has endured as an Ethiopian refugee in the UK, opening my eyes to a subject I had no previous knowledge of before coming here. He faces obstacles common to refuges and asylum seekers in Norwich, and also problems affecting thousands around the world.

According to our Mentoring Project Training Manual, which seeks “To challenge some common myths through giving some facts, and encouraging participants to reflect on the reality of being an asylum seeker/refugee,” the U.K. receives numerous annual applications for asylum seeker/refugee status. As defined by the manual, an asylum seeker is someone who has left his/her country, is asking for another country’s protection and wants to await refugee status recognition in the country of application. With this said, a refugee is not the same as a “migrant worker” (someone who fleeds to another country in search of work), which is one of the myths associated with asylum seekers. However, a refugee can seek work, unlike asylum seekers who receive a weekly stipend of roughly £35.18 (single adult, over 18) (National Asylum Support Service; 2009). During the long training process we were told many statistics, watched a video and had long discussions on the current economic, social and political status of refugees in Norwich, yet this only touched the surface.

This semester, I am choosing to write my term research paper on the challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in the city of Norwich. I am eager to learn, so that I can share with Bekre the history of people, who like him, came to the UK in search of shelter. He has taught me so much already and I want to teach him something he will always remember— in this world, we are never alone, and if we are then, we are together in that too.

Tags: Flow

To Greener Pastures

February 15th, 2010 · 3 Comments

You wouldn’t think it’d be so hard to volunteer your time to people. And yet, I was surprisingly difficult to sell my labor to people.  I only begin this post, which will eventually be about what I am doing for the HUM 310, with what didn’t work because it made me really step back and think. We’re all humanities at a liberal arts college, which means we aren’t preparing for a specific job, not really. We’re preparing how to think and know how to adapt at a specific job. That is a liberal arts education’s strength and weakness. I started out as an IR major and then switched over to Anthropology because I wanted to work more on a humanistic level. Then I found Biological Anthropology and forensics and that whole world, and I was certain that was what I wanted to do. But several failed internship opportunities later, I’m studying Art History at a university in England with barely any experience beyond various odd jobs I’ve picked up to pay expenses. And it freaks me out a little bit. Senior year is rapidly approaching and with it the “real world.”

Recently Adrian Ramsay spoke to my British Politics class, and I really connected with what he was saying — be it out of desperation or genuine interest, I am still not sure. Adrian Ramsay is the leader of Norwich South’s Green Party Councilors, and he is currently running for an MP position. The idea of a third party getting a national seat is a bit baffling for us State-siders in our two party dominated world. In the States, a third party is nothing more than an annoyance that reminds democrats that they’ll lose votes if they don’t at least make shout-outs. But when I contacted the Norwich Green Party and got a chance to talk with its members, it seemed like there was actually a chance to make a difference. I talked to them about my research paper. They were eager to help and even a bit curious.  After spending two years studying foreign policy and macro-systems, I was surprisingly relieving to find myself amongst a grass roots party system. Even in the rain and the sleet, these were people that were passionate about this and as we huddled around the kitchen eating vegan stew, everyone talked about how far they had travelled just to support an ideal and a man. I have no intention of soap boxing green politics. Rather, I have been given an opportunity to combine ethnographic work and my lost love of politics. If only there were some bones to study right? It was just so amazing to see politics on a personal level: no tv, no radio, just the man running for politics serving sandwiches and stew in his kitchen. Further, after all the work was done, the group all went out to eat Indian food in Norwich like a big, happy green family. I sadly didn’t bring any green, so I had to head home on the bus. I feel as though seeing them interact outside of the political work area is a critical aspect of how they interact with the community as a whole, and I hope to observe this next chance I get.

I was asked to go out with two other volunteers and go door to door and discuss green politics with people, test the waters as to a general base of support.  The two guys I went out with were more interested in the political realm than the environmental one, which I thought was interesting, and they did not live in the Norwich area. My Watching the English sense was tingling. The thought of intruding in on these people and asking them such personal questions seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, yet it wasn’t. I even spoke with a woman about Green Politics with moderate success. People were eager to speak with us and talk about how they wanted local politics to change. It was only when we switched over to the national elections that people became uneasy. There is a large percentage of civil servants in Norwich, and they are scared. Scared of losing their jobs to a Tory government. I don’t blame them but at the same time, one cannot wallow a self-induced lack of efficacy. Don’t say you want to vote green, but vote Labor instead of green simply based on a fear. 

The Green Party also brings up an interesting question: is it really an anti-party anymore? Many of the people I have spoken with have mentioned that it is an anti-party. Yet the Green Party operates within the set political system, in an attempt to change it from the inside. The Green Party has become significantly more efficient since its days in the early seventies, when it was nothing more than an interest group.

The majority of people I spoke with weren’t actually from the Norwich South area and would not be able to vote for Adrian. This seemed like an initial flaw in my research, yet it speaks to what Norwich represents to the greater Norfolk area. Norwich was once the second largest city in England, and it still commands immense cultural respect from the areas around it. Were the green party to win a seat here, it would most likely help to ignite a chain reaction. Each person counts, each person matters. But at the end of the day, I was also left with questions.

The Greens did not even have a leader up until recently, and yet it is a rapidly growing party. Does this speak to a shifting trend in politics, one that vears away from party hierarchy and arms-length membership? Why is the green party replacing labor seats? What does this say about the state of the local and national political structure and the potential cultural changes that are occurring within Norwich?

I find it rather corny to end with questions that I have not found the answers for yet, so I’m going to end with something else I observed in Norwich: doorways.  Doorways in Norwich are fascinating. No one will contest that Norwich Cathedrals are stylistically beautiful. Even the buildings in the town vary from Edwardian, and what they call Victorian (do not get me started on that one). I am not saying every house is like that, there were definitely exceptions, but for the most part the houses were remarkably practical: single face, hints of neoclassical, maybe even a little bit of Elizabethan. From my understanding this has to do with bombings during WWII and population explosions, but I’ll have to do more research. My point is, they aren’t the prettiest of houses. The doors, however, have had an immense amount of time put into them. You can find columns, pilasters, intricate ivy workings and arches practically stolen from Gothic cathedrals. They were beautiful. As we have discussed, this is more than likely an expression of “castle-envy” and an attempt at blurring the lines between country house and house. There is a similar symptom in America, although we normally project this insecurity onto our modes of transportation or a TV, rather than a housing fixture. The English see land as the most important symbol of wealth, dating back to the vassal system. I’m not going on a communist rant, but why do we pick a much more nomadic, tangible and less subtle means of showing our cultural capital? And I end on a question anyway.


Tags: Andrew R

Looking for English Identity and Nationalism in England v.Wales Rugby

February 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment



For my paper assessing the perceived recent revival of specifically English identity, my experiential component will hopefully be a patchwork of interviews, participant observation, and attending of events related to political organizations and causes connected to English identity, such as the Campaign for an English Parliament. Last Saturday, I decided to start my experiential off in sort of the shallow end with some participant observation of an England v. Wales Six Nations Rugby Match at the Murderers Pub in the City Centre.

While my paper is likely to focus more on the political and social implications of a rise in English Identity, cultural institutions and particularly sports teams are some of the most visible institutions which divide the UK. Rugby, like football and cricket, is one of the sports in which England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately in international competitions, and I’d hoped watching the behaviour of English Rugby supporters (especially interaction with Welsh supporters and the ways in which they showed support for their team) would give some indication of where investment in national sports teams fits into this rise in English identity.

The crowd in the Murderers Pub was substantial on this Saturday afternoon, large especially given the fact that the rugby was live on BBC One, so it was hard for me to find a perch from which I could best observe things. The majority of the crowd were white men between about thirty and sixty, about ten of whom were wearing England rugby apparel and watching on the large projector screen. The rest of the patrons, however, seemed just as likely casual fans of rugby than England die hards. I was glad to see that there were a decent number of Wales supporters as well, and they made a decent roar when the Welsh scored. These ex-pats seemed much more likely, percentage-wise, to be wearing Wales apparel than their English counterparts did English apparel, and one older woman was even wearing a Welsh flag sort as a sort of cape. One interesting thing about England v. Wales is that essentially the English are taking their opponents on at their “national” sport. Although I could not record every interaction between the English and Welsh supporters, things generally seemed very cordial, without too much interaction at all between supporters.

Also, I was looking to see what symbols are associated with support of the English national team, and was a bit surprised. I saw very little of the Cross of St. George (which is likely to be a focus of the paper, and actually flies above the door at the Murderers). While the St. George flag has become identified more and more with England Football, the rugby team uses another symbol of Englishness, a red rose, on their jerseys. This underlined my most significant observation of the day: support of this national team does not seem to be conflated with any sort of political nationalism in the least, at least for Rugby supporters. For example, when England made the decisive score towards the end, the core group of England supporters did not belt out God Save the Queen, as England football fans sometimes do at such a moment (even, presumably, when playing another British team). Rather, they sang the American spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, which became associated with the English national team about twenty years ago. This may have to do with the English rugby still feeling like almost a niche sport and community compared especially to football in England, and so rugby fans have developed their own unique rituals to distinguish themselves. After all, when the English football team wins a big match, it generally is a moment of unusual English national unity deserving of God Save the Queen, whereas interest in English rugby still doesn’t seem to cut across the whole of society in that way.


I hope to apply these very preliminary findings to my research and experiences in the coming months on the cultural side of English identity. Oh, and England won by a final score of 30-17, and I pretty much have the rules of the sport down now.  Give rugby a shot if you haven’t yet, it’s actually very watchable. And I can’t recommend the Murderers highly enough either.

Tags: Aidan