“These Things”: An example of using creative methods in critical health research

by David Carless and Kitrina Douglas

abstract aspens“These Things” was written following an ethnographic research project, commissioned by the Addiction Recovery Agency and St Monica Trust, that sought to understand the experiences of residents and support staff of an urban local authority “elderly preferred” housing scheme. The scheme contained twenty-five self-contained flats, grouped under one roof, sharing an entrance, corridors, washing and communal room. The residents, aged 50 and over, comprised a diverse range of nationalities who had come to the housing scheme through varied and often complex life events. The support staff, a small group of female carers and mobile wardens, were charged with the responsibility of meeting residents care and support needs and maintaining the building. The research took place in the wake of a major recession and unprecedented cuts to services with the future of the housing scheme – along with the homes of the residents and livelihoods of the support staff – hanging in the balance.

The purpose of the overall project was: (i) to provide insights into how residents had come to be living at this housing scheme; (ii) to better understand the support needs of the residents and the problems they faced; and (iii) to generate ideas regarding how these needs could be better met. Through a period of fieldwork, all the residents agreed to take part in interviews and/or focus groups, generously sharing stories of their experiences. On the basis of these accounts, we wrote a full report for the funders and developed a full-length audio CD “Under One Roof” which contains a series of stories, poems and songs we created to communicate our findings in an accessible and engaging manner. “Under One Roof” adds to and extends the research report by communicating an emotionally rich portrayal of insights gained through the research. The song and film “These Things” closes the CD, offering a further distillation of the key insights we gained through the research.

The Blue Funnel Line”  is a further song from the project.

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