BAARS seminar presentation

We are pleased to announce that Dr Magda Buchczyk has been invited to give a presentation during the 2018 Bristol Anthropology and Archaeology Research Seminars. The talk on the 21 March 2018, entitled “The city as a learning container? Ethnographic investigations into everyday informal learning practices in Bristol”, will focus on the primary findings of the Reinventing Learning Cities project.

More details here:

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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.

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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

Creative workshop summary

The ‘Unlocking the creative learning city’ workshop presented a unique opportunity to bring together a group of South Asian women from the Dhek Bhal community with our research team and a local community artist.  The workshop took place on 7th June 2017, with  participants drawn from a broad range of backgrounds, from Pakistan and India. Many of the participants work within and across multiple sectors and roles. It was this diversity of background and experience that led to really fruitful discussion about the participants’ individual learning experiences.
In the opening session, Magda Buchczyk (University of Bristol), Eleanor Shipman (Something Good Something Useful) and Zehra Haq (Dhek Bhal) set the scene for the day, placing the workshop in the context of the Reinventing Learning Cities Project. In the afternoon, the group embarked on a design of a collaborative textile project. Drawing on the conversations about personal learning,  the participants were encouraged to experiment with a selection of materials to create a large embroidered patchwork which will be presented during a public exhibition, Learning City: A Self Portrait, taking place from 25 August in Hamilton House, Bristol.

This workshop, funded by the Brigstow Institute, was a one of the two events, exploring the creative possibilities of some of the research themes.

A short description of the activities and the piece by Eleonor Shipman can be found here:


Presentation during the 12th International Annual Ethnography Symposium

We are pleased to announce that Keri and Magda will be giving a presentation to the International Annual Ethnography Symposium in Manchester in August 2017.

In 2017 the ethnography symposium takes as its theme the question of politics and ethnography in “an age of uncertainty”. The paper “Materialising urban learning infrastructures” will be part of the “Infrastructures of education” panel.

Keri and Magda will argue that by paying attention to the materiality of the learning city, we can grasp the channelling structures and ways in which different modalities of learning are made visible and embedded in the urban fabric and the social life of the city.


Conference website:





Learning encounters with a toddler

‘Bristol is the first city in England to become part of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities’

‘A Learning City is defined as a place which uses its resources to promote inclusive, lifelong learning in education, families, communities and the workplace’

As a young family raising a toddler in this culturally opulent city, this accolade prompted a desire to discover and document the myriad of learning opportunities that Bristol boasts as a recognised UNESCO ‘Learning City’.

Over a period of three months, we have used photography to ethnographically document our family learning encounters as a research resource for the ‘Reinventing Learning Cities’ project.

As we embarked upon this exciting project as a family, we had resplendent plans to further connect with the city in which we live; a chance to explore learning opportunities in areas of the city less well known to us, to engage with the plethora of cultural projects, opportunities and visual stimuli that Bristol extends. As parents, we are desperate to capitalise on this tender age and developmental stage of our toddler, his unreserved enthusiasm for learning and his capacity to absorb and engage with information in such a starry – eyed and impartial way.

As we have progressed through our research journey, it has become overwhelmingly clear to us however that we have been enamoured and enraptured by the wealth of learning opportunities on our doorstep and in surrounding communities.


Our research and ethnographic documentation from a toddler’s learning perspective, parallel our initial aim to connect and discover new areas and opportunities across the city and instead proffer a love affair with our local and surrounding communities as an area to live and learn in as a young family.  Whilst this brings about some feelings of failure on our part to meet the research brief that we prescribed for ourselves, as we strive to be globally and culturally attuned parents, I can’t help but refer back to the UNESCO definition of a Learning City – ‘a place which uses its resources to promote inclusive, lifelong learning in education, families and communities’. I feel that that our research findings unreservedly champion the idea of community learning and celebrate the local opportunities accessible to us.

Rather than showcasing a cross – cutting breadth of learning encounters across the ‘Learning City’ of Bristol, our photographs instead capture the subject of community love and living in Bristol from our toddler’s perspective and illustrate learning outcomes from our everyday mundane activities, connecting with people and places in our local community and trips and visits all within walking distance from our family home. Furthermore, it was important to us that we only documented learning encounters that were free or that were part of general living costs such as food shopping for example, to ensure that what we recorded would be accessible for everyone.

It is our aspiration that this research project serves as only the foundation and mere beginning of our family learning journey in this vibrant Learning City. If I refer to the quote by Mother Theresa ‘Love Begins at Home’, in the context of our ambition for our son to have a lifelong love for learning, I certainly do hope that our infant learning narrative is testament to that.

Jessica Tomico – Community Researcher