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Cultural tools - impact in the public arena

New Speakers has commissioned Deirdre MacKenna, Director of 'Cultural Documents' to produce a series of cultural 'tools' which mediate New Speakers' work in public situations.

Deirdre and I first met at one of the regular GRAMNet collaboration development meetings in Glasgow in November 2016 and our fluent dialogues began to map out ways which could bring valuable academic research to the attention and use of people in related contexts and situations, such as multi-cultural communities… 

In order to facilitate feedback about the work of the COST New Speakers group, and make good use of what we produce, Deirdre produces new cultural works (films, photographs, contextualising texts, events and documentation) and situates these within the wider New Speakers community.

Deirdre MacKenna

Deirdre MacKenna © Cultural Documents

The ‘Mediation programme’ includes Deirdre recently leading a workshop at the Budapest Writing Retreat in April, producing and presenting a project as part of the Refugee Festival Scotland in Glasgow in June, and presenting her work at the final COST Conference at Coimbra in Portugal in September 2017.

Entitled 'The New Speakers' Studio', the aim of the project during The Refugee Festival Scotland 2017 is to meet new people with whom to share and exchange language stories in an open public arena. In doing so, Deirdre hopes to generate a sense of endorsement and validation of language journeys and an emphasis on what is shared rather than different between neighbours and community members. 

The project takes place between 20 June and 02 July 2017 at The Milk Café and The Maryhill Integration Network, both of which lead long term programmes in their situations where language-learning is a common denominator amongst all people as they become New Speakers of the English language in Scotland.

Deirdre created The New Speakers' Studio by working with cinematographer Gordon James to film a series of semi-structured interviews with people who have chosen to learn and use a language other than their mother-tongue. In order to avoid the audience being distracted by images of the interviewees (their age, gender, cultural styling etc) Deirdre asked the interviewees to bring an object which could act as a visual-substitute.

new speaker house

‘New Speaker House’ still image from film © Cultural Documents

Images of the objects have been used to create the film and still photographs, along with animated text and audio, the interviewees' narratives and language journeys are brought to life. Deirdre and I will present this collaboration, called ‘The New Speakers' Guide’, which is the first booklet published to explain the New Speakers concept and provide useful info on where to find out more.

A programme of events will bring people together to explore and exchange ideas, knowledge and skills and these will be announced over the next few weeks. 

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