Community Engagement

In 2014, I co-founded CityLife Stories, a community engagement and research project in London that gathers life narratives from older urban community members by pairing creative writers with them for conversational sessions, from which they produce biographical stories. CityLife immortalises the history, vibrancy, diversity and ever-changing landscape of the urban environment, and platforms unheard voices for a new way of storytelling and holding meaningful exchanges.

I have contributed to research design, methodology and field work in the project over its four different phases; project development, writer training and the ethical framework; participant safeguarding and effective collaboration with our community partner organisations; field research including sourcing information on marginalised groups and their support services and networks; and establishing a network of partners for the project that includes centres and establishments such as Age UK, Toynbee Hall, Aging Well Dagenham, Pepper Pot Day Centre, Cody Dock and Stones End Day Centre. I have coordinated and been involved in the editing and production of over 80 stories from the communities we work in, and I am a co-editor of our first publication, EastLife. I coordinate all contact between writers and community elders including the storytelling sessions, train writers in ethics, voice and representation, and manage the relationships with our community partners.

Our latest phase COVID: Lockdown Stories, funded by the British Academy, took place remotely for the first time in out history due to restrictions, creating connections and conversations between younger and older people, while we all found our way through the 2020/2021 lockdowns. I am currently working on the coding of keywords that will lead to our analysis of the stories in this phase, which will form the basis of an academic article.

Publications

Masserano, E., Dodd, S., Maddison, S. & McWatt, T. (2021) ‘Stories of COVID-19: Social Pasts & Futures in the CityLife Project,’ The Sociological Observer, 3(1). Available at: https://www.sociology.ie/publications.html (Issue 3)

McWatt, T., Dodd, S. and Maddison, S. (2015) (eds.) EastLife: An Anthology of Life Writing. London: University of East London (PDF format, .epub format, .mobi format)



In 2014, I also project managed the Bethnal Green Memorial Project, a collaboration between the University of East London, the Bishopsgate Institute, and the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust. It recorded and preserved the history of the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster. I collated and curated information collected on the event and its aftermath, organising it into several different outputs. We organised various events, managed a travelling exhibition, and developed a website, guidebook, education pack for schools, and a walking tour including a recorded guide available for loan on CD player from Bethnal Green Library.