Since moving to the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in September 2015 I have begun to develop three new research projects. I will post more details about each of these projects as they develop….
‘God in the Gutter’ (2016 onwards)
A long term exploring faith-based engagement with poverty and inequality in the UK: Are faith groups called to ‘care’ or to ‘campaign’? What are the values that drive them? How much impact does their activism have?
‘Spray Cans and Social Cohesion’ (2016 >)
A project based in two of the most diverse and socially excluded communities in Coventry. Working alongside socially excluded youth and using Hip-Hop culture to explore the impact that social exclusion has on ideas about identity, meaning, belonging and spirituality and as a vehicle for building bridges between youth from different communities, religions and ethnicities.
The Faith and Peaceful Relations Forum (2016>)
Starting in May 2016 – A community education initiative intended to develop a liberative model of grassroots theological reflection and a space within which practitioners can critically reflect on their own work alongside socially excluded communities and explore together with people from other faith traditions and academics who are committed to developing research for progressive social change the key challenges facing people in the city as they seek to build just and inclusive communities. The Forum will meet 3 times a year.
N.E.E.T Believers & Graffiti Spiritualities – 2010-2012
From 2010-2012 A large part of my work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Urban Theology at the Universaity of Birmingham revolved around a long-term ethnographic project working alongside unemployed young men on a large urban housing estate in east Birmingham. As I worked with the young men and the youth project Worth Unlimited I learned more about the impact that social exclusion has on the ways in which young men with no connection at all with any formal faith group think and talk about meaning, identity and spirituality. These are not secularised young men but they have no time for organised religion – ‘God doesn’t live round here…’ I was told. And yet whilst the symbols of faith have no resonance the visual carries deep power to express a fluid and unsystematic but empowering spirituality that I have begun to think of as a ‘NEET Spirituality’ marked by solidarity, openness, resistance to marginalisation and stereotyping and often sprayed onto electricity boxes like the one above, the underside of the M6 flyover that borders the state and the Birmingham-London rail-line or recorded in passionate grime raps then uploaded on to You Tube.
It was with this in mind that I ran a week long ‘Graffiti-Spiritualities’ project in the early Spring of 2012….Facilitated by my friend the Birmingham Muslim graffiti artist Mohammed ‘aerosol’ Ali the week included workshops, visits to see murals across the West Midlands, a trip to Mohammed’s gallery in Muslim majority Sparkbrook (just 5 or 6 miles away but a world most of the white and dual heritage young men in Bromford barely know exists, the planning of two murals and then painting their story, their truth, their spirituality onto a huge ‘Bromford Dreams’ Cube….
Here’s a link to the project web site – BROMFORD DREAMS
A link to a key journal article ‘NEET Believers?’ that arose from the project can be found by clicking here