Bristol Mayor Watch – citizen journalism project

Bristol Mayor Watch citizen journalism team reporting on one of the Mayoral Hustings in Bristol

The most recent manifestation of the Watershed citizen journalism strand (and the final one under the RELAYS project – my 4 year contract with Watershed on this project is unfortunately nearly over) has been ‘News from Elsewhere’ – a workshop programme focused on covering Bristol’s Mayoral election in conjunction with Ujima Radio and with support from Bristol University. David Goldblatt – the man responsible for initiating this strand of work at Watershed and my long-term collaborator on the RELAYS project – felt the Mayoral election provided good ground for gathering opinion from young people in Bristol about their perceptions of how the city worked – good, bad or indifferent. This theme drew attention from Bristol University’s widening participation team, and Ujima Radio who often help young people work on promoting local issues.

It’s difficult, and slightly pointless, to try to nail down a formula for Citizen Journalism projects as each one has different circumstances and participants with varying interests and skills-levels so every time adaptations are needed but the model we’ve evolved seems to work well in terms of enthusing participants and intriguing audiences. News from Elsewhere was therefore another experiment in the evolutionary process. We did repeat the same process that’s based around a blog to which the participants contribute photos, audio tracks, video and text-based posts, usually using a smart-phone for immediacy. The variant this time was the inclusion of the live broadcast of a radio programme, devised and presented by the participants as the final session of the 6 week project. Leading up to this, workshop sessions included a wide range of visits and interviews – see the participants work on their blog and more detail about the project on my Watershed Citizen Journalism blog.

At the time of writing I’m working with colleagues and partners to apply for funding to continue and develop this work, the underlying theme of which is to shift perceptions of the University in the city to a point where it’s seen as  being a place that has so much of interest to offer as an accessible resource for the people who live here, and hopefully, in the long term, increase university applications from parts of Bristol currently under-represented. Helping to open up this rich world to people across the city through innovative projects devised in collaboration with these partners would be a great way to build on with what we’ve created so far.