The Commercial value of Culture… I have seen the light!

If you’re a ‘take things in your stride’, ‘cross that bridge when you come to it’ kind of person, then I have to admire you. Unfortunately (for my sanity), I am a Mystic Meg type whose brain never fails to leave me a little anxious after conjuring up yet another future life plan out of nowhere- some realistic and some not so much…hopefully lonely cat lady is one of the latter. Maybe I just need to take a chill pill. I prefer to think of it as ‘organised’ and ‘forward thinking’. Whatever the case, with an imminently approaching final year, the little crystal ball in my head has been hard at work turning my mind to post- graduation possibilities.

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Truth: Reflections

Today was the penultimate day of my dissertation placement at Truth Consulting and I have mixed emotions. I won’t miss the 6:30am trains and I sure won’t miss the rush hour fight for a space on the tube, but I’m definitely going to miss the incredibly hilarious and talented people I’ve been working with for the last two weeks. Ultimately I’ve learnt so, so much over such a short period of time and this is my attempt to summarise it. Enjoy!079ea69

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Optimising social media’s increasing popularity

Particularly amongst the younger generations, but increasingly within older generations, social media is becoming a more and more relevant part 0f our day to day lives. We tweet news stories, like other people’s activity, and follow the accounts of the ones we love. Social media is a way of communication, a way of being in the now no matter where you are in the world or what time it may be.

Academics within the field of Geography and Sociology speak of a shrinking world, whereby technological advancements, namely social media, result in larger or imagined communities, whereby relationships can span over a wider, seemingly unlimited space. It’s not uncommon for people to meet each other online, communicate with loved ones from thousands of miles away and even share pictures and videos in real-time; social media can no longer be thought of as a ‘new’ touchpoint. It enables powerful and compelling content to be engaged with by a diverse base of people, and brands need to take advantage of this.

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224,000 hours of stitching, 3 days of photographing

It’s coming to the end of my time here at Guildford Cathedral. Well, it’s not really – I’m just going on holiday to Mallorca and will be busy doing other things until the end of August (rather than looking at kneelers). I will almost definitely be back in September and it wouldn’t be surprising if I’m still around way after my dissertation is handed in.

Anyway, today was the day that I was set to finish photographing and documenting all 1460 of the cathedral’s kneelers. Or it should’ve been. Turns out there were actually 1600. I still finished, just the final remnants of novelty wore off as the count exceeded the expected.

Kneelers

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BREAKING NEWS: Geography doesn’t have to be about rivers

I’ve had a lot of interest in my project subsequent to my last blog post which has been great – unless you are all just being nice. I’ll take it as the former. With all this attention I was hoping to find a kneeler devoted to Europe for a chance to spontaneously pontificate my political views on the EU referendum. Fortunately for you no such kneeler has been found so instead of economics, bureaucracy and immigration, you will be lectured on culture, geography, and textiles.

On a serious note, don’t mess this up Britain (I’ll refrain from expressing my opinion to prevent this becoming a political debate). Continue reading

The end of my placement

I finished my placement at Wildwood Trust about a month ago now, and I am still, more than ever, so grateful for this opportunity. I’ve loved it. Although I guess you’ve got to enjoy something a lot if you’re willing to take tubs of defrosting poo on two trains with commuters and school kids…

Throughout this experience, there have been high points and low points, but there’s always something to counteract the low points. The caramel hot chocolate has regularly been my cure and pick-me-up after two hours of sitting on a picnic blanket in the cold and sheltering under a large umbrella with all my research notes to protect them from the rain.

People (and animals) seem to have found my research interesting: when I’m preparing the hessian sacks, the yard cat is often very inquisitive; on some days people (both visitors and keepers) have come up and asked me what I’m doing – and have genuinely wanted to know about my dissertation, which has been lovely, everyone has a story or piece of information to share. On the cold, rainy weekdays however, sometimes the main company I have are the slugs (not a high point!). Those are the days that even Cara and Shria want to hide in their sleeping quarters.

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My company for my research.

This placement has taught me so much about these amazing creatures, and how much the public are fascinated by them. It’s wonderful to think that despite all the technology we have nowadays, and everything that can entertain us, we can all relate well to nature, regardless of age or background.

It’s no surprise we find the lynx so endearing. They are strong, and people are aware of this enough to know that they need to be respected as animals, which is so clear at certain times, such as when they’re feeding or leaping. But they are also cats, and sometimes their behaviour isn’t so unlike that of our pets.

This video shows one of the last repeats I carried out for my research, and I don’t know why they reacted in this way, maybe they were just in a playful mood, but whatever it was, it shows how similar all cats really are (this does not mean I recommend having a pet lynx).

One of the leading questions posed in the debate over rewilding is “can we cope with a wilder Britain?” and I’m starting to think that given enough time, yes, yes we could. We have lived amongst nature before, and, whilst there are exceptions, most people have respect for animals such as lynx, which surely is able to grow and improve over time.

“I love all cats” – The perks of asking the public for their opinion.

I’ve been down to Wildwood a number of times now, and been able to hand out questionnaires as well as do my experiment. There’s two parts to my questionnaires, one side is to be answered before the lynx keepers’ talk and feed begins, and the other side afterwards. Whilst the plan worked in theory, in reality, it’s not so good. People don’t always to think on their day off.  I admit, this is a sweeping statement, and plenty of the people I have asked have answered the questionnaires as hoped. Even when they haven’t followed the instructions exactly, they’ve still taken the time to help me, and I definitely appreciate it!

However, as always, there have been mixed responses, clearly showing how some people don’t tend to listen to the information provided. My favourite of these has to be “If re-introduced to the wild, would they not attack people?”, which is a genuine concern amongst the public, although, with improved education and awareness of the species, this could be corrected. A number of respondents were also clearly concerned with the Scottish independence referendum, and wanted lynx to be in England, not Scotland despite a lack of suitable habitat.

So far, all I’ve talked about are the less helpful responses. It cannot be forgotten that I have had many wonderful answers, from all age groups. It has to be said, that in my opinion, children give the best answers though, as demonstrated by this young boy:

"I love all cats so woul[d] love to see them"“I love all cats so woul[d] love to see them”

The questionnaires are only part of my research though, and I have the fantastic opportunity to do an enrichment-based experiment on the two lynx as well. In my last blog post, (available at: https://rhulgeogplacements.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/starting-my-placement-at-wildwood/), I spoke about what my experiments entailed, but at that time, had not had the chance to start them. By the end of my placement, I will have done 10 repeats of the experiment, and it will hopefully show that the lynx have a preference for either deer or sheep to prey on. The video below shows part of my experiment (despite the poor quality and my lack of editing skills!). The hessian sack furthest from the fence contains a mix of sheep dung and straw, whilst the closest is the roe deer dung and straw mix.

Here is a far better quality video of the lynx at Wildwood from an episode of BBC’s Countryfile in 2011.

To finish of this post, I just want to thank Wildwood for their continued support of my project. Please go to their website (www.wildwoodtrust.org) and look at the recent work they’re doing, including fundraising £50,000 to rescue two brown bears that are currently being kept in awful conditions.

Is Trade, Not Aid the Answer?

Lectures have properly started now, so it’s officially autumn and I thought I’d better write a final post reflecting on my placement.

I want to start by saying I’m really glad I did this placement and I recommend everyone currently at university – first or second year, studying Geography or otherwise – look into getting an internship or placement or something to find out what a realistic graduate work place might be like. It was useful from a careers perspective in both getting experience and finding out more about the ethical trade industry.

What has been playing on my mind throughout the placement and especially now lectures have started back, are the arguments about using trade as development. Fair trade began post-WWII with handicrafts from Eastern Europe, sold in Oxfam to try to help them recover economically. Since then it has blossomed and the phrase ‘trade not aid’ was used in the 1980s (and is still used today) to show the benefits of trading fairly with people from the Global South rather than just throwing money at the problem of poverty.

While this does make some sense, I was quite sceptical ever since I heard the phrase as I think aid is a necessity in some parts of the world for some people, and this phrase seems completely against aid. When I first heard that The Body Shop’s ‘community fair trade’ value was originally called ‘Trade not Aid’, it shocked me. But listening to the people I met, it was clear they all thoroughly believed that the work they did genuinely helped people – as one person said it’s all well and good giving water and food, but people have a right to earn a living as well. 

This is an on-going debate in the literature I’m currently reading for my Fair Trade and Ethical Consumption module, but what do you think? Vote in the poll to have your say. 

Family Open Day at The Body Shop: A different side of the business

This is how my day started: catching the 5.30am train and the moon was still out!

Not the best start to the day!

Fortunately I made the journey without falling asleep and missing any of my stops! I arrived at Littlehampton at 10am, in time to meet the Community Fairtrade Team and briefly discuss my work with them before we had to prepare for the annual family open day.

I was told numerous times that this was not a normal day, but it was so much fun! From midday we had numerous activities for families and friends to partake in, including matching the community fairtrade supplier to the country they were from, this was about fund raising but also raising awareness about the ethical trading programme of The Body Shop:

The activity I helped run

I helped out with this for most of the afternoon as well as investigating other parts of the offices and talking to some of the people who worked there.

It was a great relaxing start to the few days I’m here for, and all the money we raised goes to The Body Shop Foundation. But tomorrow the real work starts with meeting more people officially and discussing ways to help me with my research.

Stay tuned for updates over the next few days!

Sun, Soil and Sid

For the past 5 days I have been digging big holes, recording the vegetation and collecting soil and I can’t believe I am already half way through my placement! The broad aim for this placement is to carry out vegetation surveys and collect soil samples which I can then analyse back in the labs to look at chemical levels and compaction. To collect the soil samples I am digging 0.8m deep soil pits. This has turned out to be slightly more difficult than I had anticipated but, having dug four out of the eight pits, I am getting the hang of it.

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Digging hole number 3, located in the old boar enclosure

As well as doing my research, I have also taken the opportunity to meet a few of the animals at the Wildwood Trust. Whilst working today I had the company of the Konik horses in the enclosure opposite and, of course, a wild boar in the enclosure next to me. Yesterday I was working just the other side of the fence to the red deer who were very curious as to what I was doing and kept coming over to check on me. I have also got to know the smaller animals, working opposite the bees in the first couple of days. But for me, the most important creatures in this park are Prue and Sid, the pair of wild boar. For the next two days I will be sharing their enclosures, gathering samples and, hopefully, not getting too covered in mud and other lovely things.

Fast asleep, well it was Sunday!

Fast asleep, well it was Sunday!

Time is flying and I’m already half way through. So far I have made two vital discoveries:

  1. My calculator hates me. The location for my vegetation surveys are being selected by using a calculator to randomly generate two number which become the coordinates for these sites. My calculator, however, decided that I would really like to carry out these surveys, not in the nice clear areas, but in the bramble bushes and head height nettles.
  2. My calculator may hate me but the mosquitoes love me! I have, however, found the miracle cure to this; Maximum strength Jungle Formula. Armed with this, nothing will stop this determined geographer!