Bob Bailey

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9th May 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education – Race – Task 3: The Room of Silence. A Short Film by Eloise Sherrid

An interesting short film that gave a brief but worrying view of minority students’ reactions to class experience of racism and ignorance and their own crits. regarded as less critically constructive or simply denied a hearing / listening during their Studies at Rhode Island School of Design.

Most Fine Art subjects are subjective and the onus is on the lecturer to question the student’s work in such a way that the student can reflect and develop their work – if a Student feels that the Crit has no depth, no reflection, no gravitas, no coherent argument then surely this needs to be said during the class rather than discuss it away from all the students ? This allows the entire class to reflect, to ask questions, to agree or disagree with viewpoints whichever side of a debate they are – without the openness of the debate will the issue highlighted in the short film ever be conquered.

I do not dispute the views and experiences of the interviewees but I raise the question how did most of the other students find their Crits at Rhode Island School of Design? – the ‘elephant on the room’ is the bullet through the halo; how many other images done by the rest of the class were as provocative? How many other students were brushed off with superficial comments like “I like the colour” regardless of race. Part of this short film deals with recognising and flagging up the racist viewpoint (“she was more racist today”) of a lecturer but it also flags up to me that racial elements require blatant questions, blatant observations, blatant reviews, fired up discussions in classrooms when the subject is proffered but in a healthy and safe environment. I feel that these students were not in a safe environment, in the main, due to the Lecturer’s White ‘privilege’? Can a Lecturer truly answer to their lack of understanding, their ignorance of the subject that they see in front of them? Are they embarrassed to discuss racial issues? Surely a Professional working in an Arts Educational  environment needs to be challenged directly either by their Peers or their Students; we do not know everything but we can open debates rather than censor them. If a Lecturer is frightened of expressing their ignorance of a subject or they lack interest in various cultures, colours, creeds, faiths then perhaps they need to ask themselves if they should remain in the Profession. The act of Constructive Criticism needs to be looked at – superficial criticism is pointless, ineffective, has no outcome and no-one learns form it. My Foundation Students are desperate for Constructive Criticism… I tell them I do not know everything but I use my years of experience, my maturity, my willingness to learn and listen to help form an opinion and advice and help and support.

My fear for the Students interviewed in the film was that they would become unwilling to show their reactions, to share their work openly and safely, to be unwilling to work on subjects that would not be accepted or discussed by their Tutors. This would not help the students to explore all subjects (none should be off limits for Artists) with the depth and emotional weight and sensitivity that is needed.

I am also very aware of how racism has hit politics (again) with Brexit and also, widely reviewed as Intersectionality, Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party (again). How can this constant subject be wiped out? Not by one Lecturer, not by 2, not by one University – yes it all helps, it all adds up, but how Society acts and reacts is a very strong conduit. How Primary school children are treated and educates is vital, how secondary schools educate and enlighten their Students is more vital, by the time Students reach into the realms of further education their viewpoints have, in the great part, formed along with their ignorances, their insecurities, their loves and interests – we, as Lecturers in HE, can (and should) draw their attention as to how Society isn’t fair, isn’t black and white, isn’t (in any stretch of the imagination) perfect… it’s how we can advise and help the students question their perceived viewpoints that might be contra to their neighbours.

9th March 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Inclusive Teaching & Learning – Faith – Task 3: A reflection on Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Reith Lecture on Creed

How beautiful to hear such an erudite and easy to listen to presentation on Identity in terms of Creed. I was dragged up as a Roman Catholic (an inheritance rather than a choice) and decided, after turning 14 years old, to never go to Church again and to subsequently call myself an Atheist. This Reith lecture made perfect sense to this non-believer but, more importantly, it intrigued me to understand why people hold a religious view over and above other views, where the point of fact plays no role in their belief that “the history of Faith is the History of Doubt”. Rather than learning by rote one is allowed to question, to grapple, to challenge Faith in order to understand ones own position within that chosen faith.

There is great inequality of gender and sexuality in all religions due, in part, to our cultural interpretations that had probably never been known or thought about at the time of writing Scriptures or Religious Writings. This may be a reason why most Western Cultures consider Religion is not seen as important factors to the make up of the individual. Professor Appiah suggests that many non-western cultures would dispute that Religion is not a defining aspect of who they are.

Fundamentalism – truth fallacy to doubt. Injured by the rhetoric of faith; can this be challenged? Only by conversation in difference amongst consensual adults; without this it would be a one sided lecture rather than a debate or coming together of understanding in opposition.

To underplay the concept of Religion and to change this to Community and sharing within this community or similar minded people…

A stimulating Lecture with some very interesting questions that challenged Professor Appiah’s viewpoints. I had never thought that Theology could be so interesting.

16th February 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Inclusive Teaching & Learning – Gender – Task 2: Bell Hooks – Understanding Patriarchy

Never having heard of Bell Hooks I read this with huge interest and mild frustration. Huge interest in that it first appeared to be a piece that seemed to hark back to the 1950’s and suggesting that nothing had changed till it’s writing in 2013. Huge interest in discovering my own ignorance of enforced Patriarchy within the family – no violence committed against me or my older brother but perhaps we formed traditional roles within our family; my older brother being sports minded and therefore one to take over the baton from my Dad – I was more happy to wash up and bake cakes… (maybe this has something to do with not recognising the gay signs during my youth). For both male and female Parents to unknowingly reinforce the role of men in society being above that of women seems quite alien to me but as a male perhaps this is ‘normal’.

Mild frustration comes from my own professional experiences that show little comparison to Bell Hooks’ view – mostly working with women as my Director (me as Designer), Female bosses at the University where I teach where the standards of Patriarchy do not ‘seem’ to appear. Where Females are comfortable in their roles of authority, with no patronising, no gender biasing, no radical feminism… people may read this and suggest that this viewpoint is patronising in the extreme but it is one where I have no feelings of superiority but only of collaboration or joy to be advised what I’m doing well, what can be improved…

I can say that I faced no forcing of Patriarchy on me, I went to a mixed gender Primary School where we were all taught equally, all treated as equals, could play with toys of both gender bias… (though I’m sure that this might have changed for some children when they went home). The girls were not taught to be weak or free from the burden of thinking (as Bell Hook states she was taught by her Parents to be).

Perhaps it is not the violence to reinforce our indoctrination and acceptance of patriarchy but the refusal to acknowledge it’s existence.

Considering that out of 67 students in my class there is only 1 male student (possibly gay). Out of 4 staff there are 2 female (both Straight), 2 male (1 Straight, 1 gay); perhaps I can ask all the students how their Parents see them i.e: studying to make a difference, studying a subject as it seems a nice past-time, maybe see if there is a difference between Home and International students attitudes to Male domination in Society (Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern compared to most other countries).

Patriarchy seems to have few mentions in todays society. It seems that a more vocal and interesting point of view is about increasing female roles in authority. Our own Parliament has some way to go to reducing the bullying, overtly masculine atmosphere; this is about power, though, as the House of Lords has 587 Men and only 206 women but the atmosphere seems more equal maybe due to the maturity / age of the members and the lessened draw of Power hungry Members.

http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/composition-of-the-lords/

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2017/sdg5-government-response-17-19/

Nicky Morgan is pressurising more City firms to sign up to the Gender Equality Charter. It is a shame that City firms need this pressure; though most of these City Firms are run by Men and have a predominance of Males on their Board. I seem to be living in a bit of a feminist bubble now that there are a huge amount of women Designers and Directors and all Female Companies treading these boards.

16th February 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Inclusive Teaching & Learning – Gender – Task 1: Gender diversity at UAL

Most Universities in the UK like to state in their manifestos that they are all for equal rights, that they are a University of shared and equal beliefs; ‘We want you, you belong here, we’re ready for you’…

They have supporting departments, as does UAL, that publicise policies to better support trans students that includes non-discrimination of gender identity and gender expression, 207 have gender-inclusive housing, and 156 allow students to use a chosen first name on campus records and documents. The question is, what’s driving these positive changes?

But how many Halls of residence at UAL have gender neutral toilet facilities? How many colleges have gender neutral toilets (Foundation Centre at Wilson Road has only 1 gender neutral toilet that was previously a toilet for the disabled)?

It is quite difficult to quantify the success of these policies as we enrol students who may not have had much trans-gender support from their previous place of Education, they may not feel like they wish to disclose, perhaps Colleges don’t give the students the ability to self-identify. There haven’t been many trailblazers for the next generation to say ‘That College supported ‘X’ so amazingly that I feel it would be a great place for me to consider studying at’; perhaps the nature of our University of The Arts enables a more diverse range of students to apply but is this truly enough? Who, indeed, wants to be considered a minority within a minority within a minority ?

What can we do to alter this?  Perhaps mentioning this in all UAL interviews, all enrolment brochures and pamphlets… discuss these issues with the students early in their enrolment.

The Foundation Centre at Wilson Road had an incident with a student last year. Graffiti was found in the girls toilet that stated that student ‘A’ was thinking of committing suicide as her Lecturer kept using the wrong pronoun when talking to her. The graffiti was followed by a mixture of supportive AND abusive feedback written on the wall which made the situation far worse as the student could see the only negative comments and was blinded by the supportive ones. The toilets are used by Students and staff alike so the graffiti was actioned on as quickly as possible, the student identified and asked if she would like some support from Bethan Williams, Equality and Diversity Officer. All staff were made aware of the situation and it shocked me as to how things can spiral so quickly through ignorance or lack of memory… perhaps registers could be adapted to help this? My memory is poor, I teach fly students only 4 hours per week, I have 65 students in my class… it’s not always easy to use pronouns or too remember ISA’s.

But we do have Bethan’s contact details always to hand in the weekly bulletin that our Head of Foundation sends to each Sunday that gets printed and placed in each class’s register. The premise would be more open if it were a subject that we can include in a brief that all students could learn from.

The simple act of sharing the Gender Diversity at UAL website information with the students might start the communication off.

16th February 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Inclusive Teaching & Learning – Gender – Task 3: Pay it No Mind – The life and times of Marsha P. Johnson

I watched this very emotive video a weekend a half ago (unfortunately I don’t know how to blog yet so I lost the huge passage of text i had typed… but I’ll try again here…

 

The Documentary struck my on so many levels; Marsha’s amazing patience with others, her self respect, her kindness and generosity to others, her almost nonchalant attitude to what others made of her, her heartbreaking history of early rape, her mother’s attitude to homosexuality, seeing herself more as a drag queen than transgender…

I had not known anything about Marsha’s story and was so moved to hear some many of her friends pay such homage, love and appreciation to her. The Documentary was a beautiful mix of ‘sit down in front of the camera questions and answers’, of footage from Pride Marches of the 1970’s and 80’s, of interviews with Marsha’s friends and fellow activists, Stonewall Members and of the Gay and Drag community of New York and of views of 70’s / 80’s views of beaten up, graffiti smothered, pre-Aids, pre-Republican Wall Street clean it-up-sterility that happened to Downtown Manhattan.

The attitude of America to difference / minorities / homosexuality in 1969 when Marsha moved to New York was, in no way, as open as it is now or even when Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson River in 1993… having gone through the very rough times of segregation and abuse seen as normal for the period, prostitution and drug pushing/taking seen as normal practices to those not fortunate enough to be able to support themselves living in an expensive City with a decent or regular job. But through all of this Marsha’s soft, caring, quiet confidence and self belief made it relatively easy to make friends within the tight group of activists and fellow members of the LG (GT came much later).

I was struck as to how, originally, the LG community found it difficult to accept Marsha as part of their minority. Being Black and Gay was, to some, fine but to be a transvestite / drag was pushing things too far from the minority ‘norm’.

The amount of personal courage that Marsha had seems to be something that was unspoken and perhaps taken for granted.

In our modern time of social media minorities and individuals can face unfathomable levels of bullying from face to face to anonymous online trolling.  Personal levels of courage are still very important but have we lost sight of the feeling of community, of support mechanisms, acceptance, uniqueness ? Perhaps within the Arts we are more accepting, more inquisitive, more questioning; we automatically assume that our students have been brought up in a much more open and accepting society but are they truly? Perhaps today’s society is less open, more guarded, more insidious?

 

So how would I apply the above observations and thoughts into my own teaching practice? As a Gay man I find it easy to sit and discuss these issues with students, whether they are Straight, Gay, Bi., Trans or confused… it is with empathy, caring, support and an ability to engage in the subject that all students will benefit. Marsha’s death is a mystery but it lead to the bringing together of a minority group with support from the predominantly bigoted NYPD. The Metropolitan Police Force has a code of conduct as does UAL to enable support for Students. Having role models, no matter how far in the past, can truly help explain the notion of confidence in difference.

One brief that has been given to Theatre and Screen Design students in Foundation is entitled “Young Blood”. This fairly open brief that focuses the students to think about protest and rebellion / revolution. Getting the Students to think about Historic events where young people have stood up to the Authorities, risking everything to try and make a positive change to their world. They are asked to consider Freedom of Speech, Marches, Banners, strikes and rebellions. They are promoted to choose their own issue or choose from Animal Farm, Her Naked Skin or Kammilitonen. I believe that suggesting to the group that some may want to take up Marsha’s banner of equality, recognition and acceptance would be a very positive idea to enhance the sense of Community within the (very large) class and to ensure the Students aren’t wrapped up in their own issues too much but can see other issues that need support too. There is a lack of political awareness or interest in the class. They are asked to produce anything from a banner, a poster, a set design, an installation work, a costume design or garment or make a film or animation…  Advising them of the YouTube film on Marsha P. Johnson will illuminate them in gender politics and also in the changing face of New York and it’s attitudes to Minorities.

 

I read this article and found it quite illuminating in view of the amount of time it has taken modern society to catch up with Marsha’s world.

https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/river-island-labels-are-for-clothes-gender-neutral-campaign-richard-burbridge-lacey-fashion-060218?utm_source=dailyemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=intemail

16th February 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
1 Comment

blogging

I’m struggling with how to blog… this is a thing I have never done and it’s taking me some head burn to understand what to do…

And then I’ve not realised I’ve saved several entries as drafts.

And then I need to authorise comments made by my peers…

11th January 2018
by Michael Robert Bailey
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Hello to my readers

I have been freelance Theatre Designer since graduating from Central Saint Martin’s in 1993 continuously working in Opera, Period and Modern drama and contemporary and classic dance Design; designing both Sets and Costumes.

I was asked to join the Associate Lecture cohort on the Foundation Diploma in Design Course at Wilson Road, Camberwell in 2014 where I teach Theatre and Screen Design. I am involved in Academic Support at Wimbledon College with the Theatre Design and Production Arts Courses and also withe the Insights Programmes throughout the academic year.

I hope to gain more self-confidence in my current ‘zero trained’ teaching practice, to support and encourage the students in the their Artistic Education as much as I can. I can honestly say that I never thought I would be a teacher / lecturer so an Academic Career is proving to be a very steep learning curve; I feel I am not a natural ‘learner’ but trust my instincts and empathy.

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