The Come To Your Senses project aims to facilitate the making of meaningful cartographies to help make sense of our relationship with place. The project enables people to increase self-awareness and become more socially engaged by mapping experiences, emotions and stories. To date we have visualised this kind of data in physical workshops in South London and Cardiff. We work with community projects and groups/organisations interested in localism, regeneration, sustainability and community engagement. Come to Your Senses is about real life value for people, encouraging them to share their experience and be part of the bigger picture.
Why Come To Your Senses? Disconnection from a sense of place contributes to a myriad of issues. Come To Your Senses responds to issues such as social isolation, poor mental health, lack of authentic neighbourhood identity, unused space and empty shops.
Today, we are more isolated in the communities where we live, which can lead to problems such as loneliness and poor mental health and one in four of us experiences mental health issues. The reasons behind this are complex and wide-ranging, and sense of place can be a lens to look at all the factors involved from well-being, social inclusion, public services and local opportunities.
Relocation of town centre activities to privately owned developments is a recent trend in the UK, in which increased consumerism and security measures are seen. Development can dominate the economy, ecology and culture of neighbourhoods, which leads to the loss of independent business, green spaces and community identity. The question is, as Richard Sennett puts it, “how to turn crowded streets into places of self-knowledge, not fear?”
There are towns in the UK where one in three shops are empty. In times of recession it is depressing for communities to see these unused spaces and the loss of independent business. Mary Portas has admitted that a return to the high street may not be the answer, and that communities will have to find new uses for their shopping centres. If the voices of citizens are not heard in this process, and collective action taken there is a danger of privatisation, social fragmentation and homogeneity as outlined above.
Feeling connected to where we live gives us better personal, social and environmental health. Increased sense of place builds social capital and in times of uncertainty (recession, climate change etc), sense of place empowers individuals and enhances neighbourhood resilience. The project shares a connection with bio-urbanism in the aim to “deepen the organic interaction between cultural and physical factors in urban reality” (http://www.biourbanism.org/biourbanism/)
Come To Your Senses is a creative community-focused hands-on project rather than an academic one, but is loosely influenced by the fields of Psychogeography and Situationism. Research into these areas and collaboration with experts will help define and shape the project as it grows. Currently the project is shaped by the visual practices of it’s co-founders. Emily Wilkinson and Laura Sorvala both work in the emerging field of visual facilitation, and with their shared interests in healing and wellbeing are joining forces. Under the artful engagement of Come To Your Senses, they hope to collect a variety of projects related to place, mapping and sensory engagement. Future projects include a collaboration with an eco-festival to map sense of place in a wild community, and potentially a project in rural Scotland later this year.