Our 'meet the team' blog series concludes this week with Cassie Kill. We talk to Cassie about youth engagement, graffiti, and her ongoing ethnographic work.
Hi Cassie, would you mind briefly introducing yourself for our readers?
After working with artists and communities for 15 years, I did my PhD, about a youth collective at a contemporary art gallery. I am particularly interested in the ways that arts and cultural participation can both enable and constrain young people’s voices.
Thank you! As a Research Associate, what will be your focus on the project?
Effective communication skills can offer young people huge social advantages. By contrast, many vulnerable young people are further disadvantaged by their struggles to by heard by adults such as police, teachers or social workers. We are engaging with young people across this spectrum, exploring the everyday challenges and opportunities they encounter in expressing themselves. I am spending time with graffiti writers and a youth offending project to learn about these real-world communication practices. We hope that these insights will enrich speech education policy and practice.
Interesting! So, is it right to say that your definition of 'oracy' goes beyond 'oral skills'?
To me, oracy is about understanding the rich range of communicative strategies that young people use in everyday life and activating these in tackling communicative inequality. I have a strong social justice motivation underlying my research practice and I am fascinated by the role of communication in power structures. Given my background in youth arts, I am also interested in how we might support youth communication through resourcing and valuing diverse creative activities, whether that be a debating club, a graffiti wall or a punk band.
What methods will you use to explore these topics?
Our strand of the research uses ethnographic methods which involve ongoing “hanging out” in the groups we’re learning about. This involves really getting to know people and building up trust over time. This approach offers deep insights into people’s practices, meanings and beliefs, which will allow us to really understand the significance of their communication practices as citizens.
So far, I have been working with graffiti writers and a youth offending service. This has involved meeting up with young graffiti artists, visiting studios, spots and walls they use to see the work in context, and hanging out at a big street art jam. I am also interested in how they use social media to share their work and communicate both support and conflict across their networks. The youth offending group I am working with are working towards a summer arts festival, so I am following the project planning and development, and will be attending workshops and performances.
Finally, one last question: What impact(s) do you hope the project will have?
I hope our research will inform contemporary oracy policy and practice, by infusing it with deeper insights about young people’s communicative obstacles and the creative strategies they employ to tackle these. I am keen for the everyday communication practices of young people to be taken more seriously and valued for the creativity they employ, across intersections of class, race and gender oppression which constrain their lives.