Monday, December 07, 2009

Woolwich Workshops

A couple of weeks ago we went down to London again to run some workshops at Woolwich Poly and continue our research for the game.

We are working with a really inspiring art teacher at the Poly called David Fischer who has alot of interest and excitement in citzenship, community and also gaming. A perfect match for us.

The first session was run by Matt with BTEC students. The aim of this workshop was to introduce our work and the game and begin to look at developing art games, based on location. The idea was to introduce the concept of locative art games to the students, begin to get them thinking playfully about where they live and who they are, and to work with them on some game ideas.

For us it supports our understanding of the area, build and test some ideas and as we develop our ideas hopefully the students will develop their own, eventually they will test the game for us.

The second session was with Key Stage 3 students, this concentrated on location and identity. Using maps of the area we slowly worked with the students to create maps of the area based on their perspectives, the locations that were important to them, their journeys, their territories. Places they liked or avoided. Eventually we ended up with a set of maps of the area around Woolwich for each individual student and a shared map built up in Google Earth in the interactive screen, that showed the key areas for the whole group and the connections between the locations.

The final session went back to the BTEC students to begin to build 2 board games based on Woolwich. Looking at games like Ludo and Monopoly to create a playful set of rules, scoring points and the board design. This brought up alot of issues of territory and the ongoing issues of gangs in the area. They are now developing two games that are looking really great, telling interesting stories about the area that we would have never discovered from just wandering about and reading research.

As a final session for this stage we met with Said from the Somalia Parents Network to talk about involving this group in the project and to find out a bit more about some of the current issues facing the biggest immigrant community that now lives in Woolwich. It was a very interesting chat and we very much appreciated him taking time out from dealing with the pressing issues that face the community on a daily basis. We hope that the young people he works with and the families take part in the development of the game, and play when the game is finally built.

The Woolwich Game

In the summer we were commissioned to develop a new mobile phone art game for a Greenwich based arts organisation Stream Arts

A couple of weeks ago we went down to London to start work in Woolwich and work with Woolwich Poly art department, working with Key Stage 3 and BTEC students.

One of the reasons we are excited about this project is that I have my own personal connection to Woolwich. It has always been part of my family's story that once upon a time my family lived over the river (I was brought up in North London). The myth was that my great grandfather lived in the Woolwich Arsenal and was rich enough to buy shares in the original Arsenal football team.

Some years ago, these Arsenal shares revealed themselves, my great Aunt Pearl was found to be in possesion of the shares and finally they were indeed shared out amongst my family members. Triggering family reunions (and some debate) and a growing interest for my father in the family tree.

Since then my father has followed many of his generation in their retirement years, to explore the family tree. A connection to the Grodzinskis family, who own a famous Jewish Bakery chain in London, revealed more about the family history, chased back to the days in Woolwich.

Between my Dad and his fellow investigator they discovered a large family that lived in Woolwich from 1895. The family owned a fruit and vegetable shop on Thomas Street, one of the main high streets in the centre. A beautiful old photograph we have shows a wedding party in the back yard of a Victorian building. The wedding is of my Dad's great uncle Velvel. My grandfather is probably the moving child on the left hand side, his many sisters are sitting crossed legged on the floor and my great grandparents are at the end of the second row to the right.

Our first step to begin the research involved my Father and I taking a trip to the Heritage Centre to follow up these leads. With our Arsenal shares documents, this photograph and the Census research with details of the roads, dates and where in Poland my family had come from, clasped in our hands we met with with the wonderful Francis at the Heritage Centre.

After trawling through documents, books and the small folder about the Jewish community of Woolwich we found some amazing things. Firstly, we found records of my great grandfather's tailor business. Maximillian Jacobvitch was a master tailor for the Arsenal. We think we have discovered why the family came to this small area on the edge of London rather than the East End, where the rest of the family and the majority of other Jews went to when they arrived from the East.

The small file Francis had been building up contained a gem that began to set the ball rolling... a newspaper clipping from 1905 described the first Jewish wedding to take place in Woolwich, it was the wedding from our photograph with the names of my family, describing the ceremony and party afterwards at the fruit and veg shop on Thomas Street, where the photograph was taken. The myth was beginning to come alive!

...and so begins the story.


Active Ingredient goes to Brazil, this time Rio too...

Rachel and Matt Davenport went to Brazil in November as part of the Dark Forest Project. Another amazing trip, involving the first exhibition of the Dark Forest which is an ongoing collaboration between Active Ingredient, Mobilefest, the Mixed Reality Lab and the collaboration has now extended to working with the artist Silvia Leal and the botanist Bruno . It has been written up on the Dark Forest website: