8th September – they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that is how we commenced our first workshop with the DropZone lads in Barrow in Furnace – armed with a well prepared power-point brimming with interesting content, our minds primed with burning environmental and economic issues. From a navigational perspective we were way off our mark – the power-point acted like a sleeping draft and our questions probing the local environmental and economic situation ricocheted around the room, in short we had seriously misread the local context.
We struggled, we floundered and at three pm all the lads abruptly stood up and announced they were off – end of story! Maybe, we suggest to the youth workers, the lads could think about our topics and collect some oral histories and photos (please!).
We stay overnight in Tapio’s Manchester apartment and on the morning of the 15th September Andreas and I drive up to Barrow for our second session, not really knowing what to expect. This time the session is in the DropZone centre and the crew are feeling more at home, playing pool and armed with laptops. Karen, one of the youth workers, had taken them on a Barrow-wide excursion and produced a good range of images but still no audio recordings. Again we tried in a very casual manner to encourage the crew to talk about their experiences and perceptions of growing up in Barrow, with its single industry economy, the Nuclear Submarine business, but again we encountered a mix of reluctance and resistance.
One of the lads had written a rap especially for the workshop and I began to nudge him gently to perform it but again no dice. Looking around the chill-out space we realised that it was equipped with a DJ rig so we try again with the rap business and suddenly the penny dropped – we were saying it was cool to turn the decks on in the middle of the day. The youth workers flinched a bit but the surge of enthusiasm was overwhelming, the guys exchanged their reticence and truculence for high-octane activity – and so the afternoon continued, high volume, high energy and total immersion in the medium. We end the day with a series of high-fives and dude handshakes – think we survived the experience!
The moral of the story – The Medium is the Message.