Columbine Mum, trauma researcher, oral historian, doting grandmother and PETT Fellow Dr. Carolyn Mears paid PETT a visit from the morning of April 25th to the evening of May 10th. Back home in Colorado, she emailed:
"I've been reflecting on the past few weeks and find a certain amazement at all that transpired...
...It was a busy, intensely rewarding experience to be able to meet so many like-minded people working for the benefit of others."
So, what transpired during the visit of this PETT Fellow?
Carolyn's talk at "Starting a conversation"
"In reflecting on the overall experience, I've realized that we are not only working with oral history but with cultural anthropology. We are investigating not only life events, causes and effects, and personal impacts, but also the culture and tools of experience and how societies (i.e., communities) function. Truly an exciting prospect, especially as I look at it aligned with community development initiatives in the Criminal Justice Network and RSA academies."
"The records housed in the PETT archives combined with the meetings and sessions fostered among groups of associated residential schools contribute to the growth of a powerful understanding of the nature of communities and a chance to learn from and share with others."
"I especially appreciate the recordings that you are doing for the formative meetings of the Special Interest Group and others. Of value similar to Wennington's treasured record books, these are helping to document the inception, growth, and development of the individual projects as well as the gestalt of reclaiming the communities of experience."
"As time moves forward, it would be exciting to see this compiled and made available for dissemination..."
'Charting the links between community therapies, psychiatric diagnosis and Mental Health policy: A Study of the archives of Hawkspur Camp (1936-1940) and Mulberry Bush School (1948-2000)
The British Academy has awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant to co-applicants Dr. David Jones, for the University of East London, and Dr. Craig Fees, for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust.
The two-year "Charting the Links" project will allow a team of researchers to explore the unique archive collections in the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, and engage former children and staff, service users, child care and mental health professionals, researchers and other stakeholders in a ground-breaking project linking the history of therapeutic care and understanding, with its future theory and practice.
The project will focus on two inter-linked collections of case files. Hawkspur Camp began life in 1936, and directly involved therapeutic community pioneer David Wills, as well as paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, and, formatively, Chris Beedell, who later developed Bristol University's seminal Advanced Child Care Course, one of two Home Office sponsored courses in the country. The roots of the Mulberry Bush School go back into World War II, but the School itself began formally in 1948 under the direction of Barbara Dockar-Drysdale, with influences throughout its early history from Donald Winnicott and David Wills, and with Chris Beedell a significant member of its later Management body.
Drawing on this significant continuity in documentation, theory and influence, the research team will sample case files throughout the two collections to trace the development of diagnostic language, practice and the shifting conceptualisations of troubled young people over time. This, in turn, will shed light on the development of concepts that were to have a substantial impact on the relationship between child care practice and government policy through the second half of the 20th century. This work will draw on and contribute to a parallel project between the University of East London and the Mulberry Bush School to explore and better understand the impact of the school's practice in the lives of successive generations of students.
The project will sample case files from key periods in order to trace the development of diagnostic categories and shifts in how young people’s disturbed and troubled behaviour has been conceptualised. It will explore how the language used to both describe and understand the underlying causes of disturbance changes, and how that change connects with explicit theoretical models and less obvious currents and values concerning the relationships between motive, individual responsibility and group dynamics. The project will also track changing ideas about what constitutes effective measures of social control, and treatment interventions.
In addition to the immediate study of changing diagnostic practice and shifting conceptualisations of children and young people’s difficulties, and responses to those difficulties, key outcomes will include the creation of a database at PETT and the formation of a wider research group than can used as a platform for further study and exploration.
Forum and Symposium
Among the goals of the project is to create a Forum, bringing together former children and staff with current researchers, academics and practitioners, with at least one residential symposium to enable the various perspectives and experiences to meet and learn with one another.
This is clearly an area where cross-disciplinary work is particularly important, as the topic will benefit from an understanding brought by those with historical, sociological, child and group psychological perspectives, and where the records, and the professionals' understandings of them, will benefit from the insights and lived experiences of those who are the subject of such records. The study also has potential implications for a range of disciplines and perspectives – from the academic study of the history of medicine to contemporary institutional childcare policy and practice.
How can a relatively small British-based charity, adapting to economically turbulent times and their austerities, and increasingly dependent on gifts, donations and grants to be able to extend and develop its work - how can this relatively small charity continue to shine a light on extraordinary work and the individuals at the centre of it?
One way is through PETT Fellows. Established in 2013, the Fellows Programme is a tool devised by Trustees to extend and develop the Trust's working relationships, and to provide a home base to creative Fellows for their research and thinking, and for the development of work and projects together.
Our first Fellow was Carolyn Mears, the Colorado resident whose personal experience of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 has led her into an ongoing intensive study of trauma and traumatic events - how to prevent, communicate, survive, and transform the devastating and debilitating consequences of trauma into resilience and growth. In a visit to the Mulberry Bush School several years ago she saw the therapeutic community response to early childhood traumatic experience in action; and we realised how much her work, and the work pioneered and established over many years by therapeutic communities, converge.
She is now joining us again for a very busy fortnight, a working guest of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust who will be using her base at PETT in Toddington to share her skills and insights with groups and audiences here and abroad:
- On April 27th she takes part in the inaugural day conference of the Oral History Society's new 'Psycho-Social Therapies and Care Environments' Special Interest Group, giving a reflective presentation based in the conference theme of "Where I'm Coming From/What I'm Doing".
- She will then turn her attention to recorded interviews around the traumatic closure of New Barns School, using and teaching the Gateway Approach to oral history through concrete examples.
- On May 3rd she joins students, public and staff at Nottingham University, launching the University's newly-formed Criminal Justice Network with her presentation "Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma", workshops and seminars.
- A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she then spends a day with Stephen Steinhaus, and students and staff of Ipsley and Arrow Vale RSA Academies, on another exploration of the issues around traumatic experience, prevention, preparation, amelioration...
- Before applying herself to interviews recorded with former students and staff of Wennington School, again teaching and demonstrating the Gateway Approach, in preparation for
- Taking part in the start of the Wennington Old Scholars Archive Week, and then
- Taking part in the Common Roots Event on May 10th, "Re-Creation and Community", with another presentation designed to stimulate discussion. Before flying home.
A very busy time! Join us if you can.
Read the blog Carolyn has written for her presentation at the University of Nottingham: "After Columbine: Learning to rebuild our lives".
Members of the Caldecott Association planted daffodils on the field during their Winter Archive Weekend.
Now the flowers are filling the field with joy.
Join us for another "Common Roots" intercalation event* -
hosted jointly by Wennington Old Scholars and the Planned Environment Therapy Trust.
Date: Tuesday, May 10th
Time: 10:30-16:30 (but you won't be chased away at the end)
Cost: £15 suggested minimum donation, to include lunch and refreshments during the day
Place: P.E.T.T., Church Lane, Toddington, Gloucestershire GL54 5DQ
RSVP to ensure we can meet your dietary requirements (Contact Craig)
"Re-Creation and Community": A Day Conference/opportunity for Conversation
With inspiration from, among others,
Dr. Carolyn Mears
Carolyn is a Research Fellow in the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education; Vice President of the Board of Directors of the I Love U Guys Foundation; a Fellow of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust;a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and an alliance member of the National Centre for Therapeutic Residential and Foster Care here in the UK.
Author of award-winning research into the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings and other tragedies, Carolyn is internationally known for her work in support of communities, schools, and families affected by traumatic events. Mears is also a founder of the Sandy Hook-Columbine Cooperative.
In the aftermath of the Columbine High School Shootings, in which her son was a survivor, Carolyn pursued doctoral work to conduct rigorous research into what happens to families and communities after a school shooting, during which she put together an oral history project with other parents and teachers from which an understanding and approach to traumatic experience and the process of working through trauma emerged. This research resulted in the award winning book: "Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach". She then went on to conduct wider research into the effects of community-wide tragedy. She wanted to share the advice and insights of those who had faced crisis and the challenge of reclaiming educational institutions after rampage violence or natural disaster. This research resulted in the award-winning book: "Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience".
Dr. Annebella Pollen
Annebella is Principal Lecturer and an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) Research Fellow in the History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton; where she is actively exploring the role of art, craft, design and dress as forms of resistance, radical educational strategies and utopian ideals in progressive interwar reform organisations including The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, The Woodcraft Folk and The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. From this Inter-War mix and and their related milieux emerged other organisations, such as Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research in Oxfordshire, Grith Fyrd, and - from Grith Fyrd - the Q Camps Committee and ultimately, the post-war Planned Environment Therapy Trust.
Annebella's research interests include mass photography and popular image culture, histories of craft, design and dress, museology and public history. Her PhD allowed her to explore in depth the 55,000 photographs added to the Mass Observation Archive by 1987's 'One Day for Life' project - called "the biggest photographic event the world had ever seen" at the time - in which thousands of photographers submitted images of British everyday life to raise funds for cancer research and to compete for a place in the book "One Day for Life: Photographs by the people of Britain, taken on a single day". Out of Annebella's research came her own book, "Mass Photography: Collective Histories of Everyday Life", which examined "the particular cultural role that amateur photography offers, demonstrating how it has come to be embraced as a privileged authentic form, capable of communicating identity, capturing history and touching places that other images cannot reach."
Her 2015 book on Kibbo Kift - "The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians" - recently won the prestigious "Most Beautiful Book in Switzerland" Award. Have a look at Annebella's thoughts on that Here).
(*a special extra event inserted into the Wenningtonian's regular Archive Week)
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