Learning City: A Self-Portrait Exhibition

In September, we curated a public exhibition as part of the project. An interactive display brought together photographs, film, drawing, personal stories, craft objects and cultural artefacts to capture the ethnographic work of researchers at the University of Bristol, supported by community researchers. The focus was on how people learn outside of the structured education system, whether it’s through community centres, walking groups, protests or charities.

As part of the show, on 2 September, we organised a day of talks exploring how we learn in the city through everyday practices, public pedagogy and social and community engagement. The morning session was structured as a “behind the scenes” gallery talk on how the exhibition was put together, from research to making the artworks. The talk included Professor Keri Facer (research team), Gideon Thomas (community researcher and Cathy Wilson (poetry group) The afternoon session, hosted by Keri Facer, focused on the role of universities in the city, and invited experts presenting their unique perspectives on the learning city. Dr Cassie Earl from University of Bristol discussed critical approaches to public pedagogy and Professor Robin Hambleton (UWE) focused on inclusive cities. The final closing event on 7. September included Tommy Jarvis (Bristol Learning City) and Professor Judith Squires (University of Bristol), followed by a poetry evening celebrating the learning city. Many thanks to all contributors and visitors for their feedback.

CaptureHamilton House poetry evening low res (1 of 72)Hamilton House poetry evening low res (7 of 72)Hamilton House poetry evening low res (65 of 72)Hamilton House poetry evening low res (55 of 72)Learning City exhibition low res (31 of 82)Learning City exhibition low res (82 of 82)Learning City exhibition low res (61 of 82)Learning City exhibition low res (12 of 82)Learning City exhibition low res (35 of 82)Learning City exhibition low res (25 of 82)


Capturing past and present learning

In July, as part of our Unlocking Creative Learning Cities funding, awarded by the Brigstow Institute, we organised a story-telling workshop with a group of senior citizens from Dhek Bhal.

The session focused on eliciting stories of past and present learning, and how those link to wider context of life history and sense of place. The discussion was very illuminating, and the group shared a range of inspiring and touching memories. As part of our creative collaboration with Tom Stubbs (film-maker, Biggerhouse Film) and Joff Winterhart (illustrator), the participants’ narratives were captured through film and drawings. We hope to show this fascinating material to a wider public during the August exhibition.

2 pounds and a houseIMG_1847IMG_1887

Paper accepted

We are pleased to announce that our research note, Exploring Lifelong Learning in the Everyday City, was accepted by the Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning. The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.

The article by Buchczyk and Facer draws on an ongoing study in Bristol involving multi sited ethnography including participant observation, interviews and ethnographic encounters. In this research note, we argue that that using anthropological methods affords valuable insights into the relatively neglected aspects of urban learning within the international discourse surrounding Learning Cities. It can help to reveal the everyday practices through which the city affords learning and to explore how learners improvise and navigate the city.

Key words everyday; learning city; ethnography; improvisation

Notes from the Community Researcher workshop

On 9th November 2016 Reinventing Learning Cities held a community researcher workshop. The session, set up as a “research masterclass”, was held at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.

The workshop was a chance for participants to introduce themselves to Keri and Magda, to describe their interest in the Reinventing Learning Cities project and capture their research ideas. In the first part of the session, Magda did a presentation on the importance of considering different types of data and research methods when developing an individual project, thinking about the project in terms of broader ideas of learning encompassing experiences, behaviour, spaces and material cultures. Drawing on her extensive work on learning and social futures, Keri introduced the project as part of the AHRC Connected Communities programme and discussed with the group ideas of the city as an environment that mediates learning through encounters, injunctions and invitations. The last part of the afternoon was devoted to developing research projects and to report back to the rest of the group towards the end of the day. At the end of a very intense session, the participants’ ideas for their engagement had begun to take real shape.

The co-researchers’ team comprises of around 15 people, from a range of backgrounds including journalism, engineering, education, charity work and the public sector. In the next months, all researchers will design and undertake their individual projects to explore the different aspects of the learning city. They will collect stories, objects and images across Bristol, working with a range of residents, newcomers and people visiting the city. The proposed projects will encompass a wide range of ideas including investigations of family learning, explorations of skills acquisition, urban learning inequalities, learning and heritage, to self-reflection on own learning processes and learning geographies.


The project will provide an exciting opportunity for the community researchers to develop their research skills and ‘translate’ their research into a collaborative exhibition that seeks to engage scholarly and community research with a wider and more diverse audience. Following the research phase, community researchers and the project team will think creatively about how to communicate their research to non-specialised audiences in the form of a public exhibition held in Bristol. We anticipate that the exhibition will take place in August 2017, on display in a community space (TBC)

The exhibition and the overall project are led and curated by Prof Keri Facer, University of Bristol (keri.facer@bristol.ac.uk), and Dr Magda Buchczyk (magda.buchczyk@bristol.ac.uk).

Forthcoming publication: (Re)-learning the city for intergenerational exchange


How do we understand better how the city might (re) learn to become intergenerational?  

A forthcoming research article by Helen Manchester and Keri Facer explores the complex intergenerational facets of urban learning.

According to Manchester and Facer, two major international agendas are currently working to realign social, material and representational elements of the city in ways that are helpful for both children and older adults. The Age Friendly City movement (AFC) (led by the World Health Organisation) and the Child Friendly Cities (CFC) movement (led by UNICEF) aim to ensure that planners, policy makers and developers design cities that take account of the interests of age groups who are too often marginalised in current policy and design processes. These movements are valuable and important in themselves, however they also have significant implications for the future of a learning city in which intergenerational exchange is valued.

Manchester and Facer explore different intergenerational assemblages, looking at what is being aligned, and connected in the AFC and CFC movements. They describe a performative, experimental project that sought to enable different alignments between these movements. A key element of this involved building new imaginative ideas about what might be possible in order to realign these generational assemblages for intergenerational, civic learning. Finally they explore what worked and didn’t work, what resisted enrolment, what was easily aligned and what routines were disrupted.

Manchester, H., & Facer, K. (2017). (Re)-Learning the City for Intergenerational Exchange. In Learning the City: Cultural approaches to civic learning in urban spaces (pp. 83-98). Springer International Publishing.


This research builds on previous work by Manchester and Facer in collaboration with Future Cities Catapult. The resulting “Manifesto for All-Age Friendly Cities”, published earlier this year, presented possible ideas for improving cities, from digital aids, to sentiment mapping and modular housing fostering intergenerational relationships.

Read the manifesto: http://research-information.bristol.ac.uk/files/66862845/AAF_Cities_report_2015_AW.pdf

Learn more about other projects:

Dr Helen Manchester: www.bristol.ac.uk/education/people/helen-manchester/

Prof Keri Facer: www.bristol.ac.uk/education/people/keri-l-facer/

Volunteer Learning Researcher opportunity

This autumn, our team initiated a programme for Bristol-based volunteer researchers in partnership with Bristol Learning City.  The aim of this project is to understand citizen experiences of learning in the city. It will help us gain understanding of different perspectives on the residents’ learning, their skills and progression. This volunteer role is an excellent opportunity to delve in the world of research.

The programme is for everyone who:

  • Wants to learn new skills, meet interesting people and go on an adventure
  • Wants to learn about a range of research methods and data collection techniques
  • Wants to push him/herself outside of the comfort zone
  • Wants to get to know the community from a different perspective
  • Wants to work with professional researchers in understanding the experiences of people who live in the city
  • Wants to receive a University of Bristol certificate at the end of the programme

What we need from the researchers

Anyone can become a community researcher and this scheme does not require any previous experience. Learning Researchers will receive training that will teach them everything they need to know. They just need to be enthusiastic, want to learn and to enjoy talking to people.

They will dedicate between two to five hours for the project per week and take part in two workshops at the University of Bristol. They will need to complete the key tasks on time and participate in training, field research and an analysis session. Their work will be dependent on your skills and could involve interviewing, note taking, photography, mapping and drawing.

Join us

  • You are over 18 years old
  • You have interest in research
  • You are curious, diligent and sociable
  • You have good analytical and note-taking skills
  • You have a Smartphone to share your fieldwork materials with the research team

To join the team email Magda: magda.buchczyk@bristol.ac.uk

In your application, please tell us a bit about yourself and: Why are you interested in taking part? What skills can you bring? What are your recent learning experiences?

Deadline for applications: 30 September 2016