About Rachel-Ann D. Charles

Rachel-Ann is a PhD candidate at the Birmingham City University. She is currently examining community media projects that focus on in at-risk youth in Trinidad and Tobago. Her other research interests include creative and cultural industries, T&T music and issues of identity and racism.

Updating my blog!

Hello, I’m in the process on updating my blogsite. Look out for updated blogs and some new posts as I am in the final crucial stages of my PhD. Watch this space!

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Rethinking the term ‘community’

Community is a key component of my PhD thesis, which essentially looks at the impact of a community media project based in Trinidad and Tobago. In my own research I make references to various ideas of communities such as “imagined communities” (See the works of Burns (1994) Anderson (1983), Carey (1989), Cohen (1985). I also refer to Rennie’s (2011), Possi’s (2003) and Downing’s (2001) contribution to the discussions in my literature review, where they talk in one way or the other about various facets of community such as a localism, politics, professional, nostalgic, provision of homogeneity for minority groups, subordinated social classes. While some theorists perceive community as a value characteristic, others approach community as one that describes a place, interest or form of communion (Fraser and Estrada, 2000, p.76; Wilmott, 1986; Lee and Newby, 1983; and Crow and Allan, 1995).

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All of these views are important because they allow for me think of community more broadly, i.e. within and outside the context of community media. However, based on the literature I reviewed debates on the term community have not necessarily painted a clearer picture of community media. Some concerns emerge regarding one’s awareness of the community’s shared characteristics, and the failure to consider the transient nature of said cohesive factors in some ideas on community. In my view, there remains a lack of a clarity on the concept of community. However, Patel (1998) claims that this search for a clear definition of community attaches unconstructive labels within societies and people should not be restricted to these labels or identity as people are exposed to countless influencing factors. Although I can understand Patel’s point this lack of clarity in the conceptualisation of “community” contributes to the blurred nature associated with terms such as community media

For my own impact case study on the Shoot to Live project in Trinidad and Tobago it is interesting to use some of the concepts proposed by scholars in analysing the theme community. These views would make for a stimulating about the Shoot to Live findings in exploring what kind of communities exist and whether or not communities take one shape or if they are an amalgamation of various discussions. The more significant outcome of this study would be to discover whether or not new ideas on community will be grounded in the data collected.

After analysing my data for my qualitative research the term community is illustrated as a geographical location, with shared attributes and the ability to connect individuals through cultural and social values remains relevant even in a technologically-driven era. In examining the practice of community in this study I also discovered that the formation of a community is not always intentional; diversity still exists within communities; and that numerous community fractions exist. The community media project I assessed established a newly-formed, temporary, and positive community. Despite the short-term nature of this project the contributions made by this temporary type community appears to be significant and impactful to some extent. Though there is a concern about temporary-type projects, I learnt that the focus should be on maximising the contributions of these transitory communities. Meanwhile, collaboration among existing communities can aid in the post project activities.

However, I would like to explore this notion of community a bit further and I believe that attending the #MeCCSA2016 conference next year is critical to rethinking the term community within this context because the MeCCSA conference theme this year is “community.” I will keep you posted on the progression of my thoughts on this subject matter.

Here are some related blogs and links: Reflecting on the MeCCSA Conference 2016| Sustaining Community Journalism ActivitiesBirmingham Center for Media and Cultural StudiesBirmingham City University| Arts Design & Media PGRStudio

An examination of amateurism within the Trinidad and Tobago steelpan industry

Last month, I submitted a call for papers for an Amateur Hour event on Creativity and Cultural Ecologies to be held at the Woodman Public House on December 9, 2015, 12-2pm. At first, I thought I’d submit an abstract talking about amateurism as it pertains to my main research interest (community media). But then I said to myself, hang on, there are so many a few other areas that I can experiment with… Considering the nature of the topic, I can articulate amateurism and the steelpan effectively because of my relationship with pan (i.e. I belong to a pan/music family). So in this blog I share my abstract and presentation from this event.

Abstract

There are various arguments that paint amateurs in both a negative and positive light (see the works of Deren 1965, Fox 2004, Leadbeater & Miller, 2004). However, based on my observations of the practice of Trinidad and Tobago steelpan music industry there is an overlap between amateurism and professionalism as it relates to motivations and a few other aspects. Despite these associations there are numerous characteristics that differentiate these concepts such as education, expertise, professionalism, skills, and reputation. However, from my observations I can see that amateurs and professionals have an interdependent relationship and I believe that this dependency contributes to the blurred nature of the concept.

Presentation

One of the important discussions to have in light of the dialogues on amateurism is the overlap and interdependent relationship that exists between “amateurs and professionals.” Today I want to share some thoughts using my observations of the steelpan music industry in Trinidad and Tobago over the years… The steelpan is a national cultural symbol and it is the most established traditional musical instrument in Trinidad and Tobago, primarily used for entertainment purposes… In the search for recognition as the ‘national instrument,’ the trajectory of the steelpan development witnessed the adoption of performers, conductors, composers, arrangers, tuners and so forth. So the development of the instrument – the steelpan – in the early stages demonstrates the first layer of mirroring an established music industry.

What I mean by this is that the development and existence of other music professions/industries benchmarked the aspirations for Pannists. There were moves/attempts to:

  • Steer the standardisation process and patent issues surrounding the steel pan
  • Improve the efficiency of music education programmes in schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago
  • Encourage the composition of music specifically for the steelpan
  • Increase the number of local steel pan innovators and fabricators
  • Explore new frontiers in marketing for the national instrument

UTT Pan Institute

I also observed the identity of the pannist a bit further, and I noticed that there are different levels of amateurism. On the very first level pannists play for the love of the instrument and local culture etc. On another level I also noticed that some pannists compete for financial rewards while retaining their love for pan and culture… I also noticed that some amateur pannists would typically play during ‘pan season’ primarily for economic gains… From my observations, the overlapping of both the amateur and professional pannist becomes a bit unclear as both their roles seem to fuse or merge… As I reviewed this industry it was evident that both the amateur and professional pannists play critical yet separate roles, they support each other’s existence and development… For example, in a steelpan orchestra, the novice pannists support the compositions and accompaniment of accomplished musicians. There is a common ground between both categories of panmen. What this means is that… the amateur and professional panman cannot survive without each other.

While an amateur pannist may have initially started out for the love of pan… they are sometimes influenced by the achievements or the appearance of a professional pannist. What I noticed is that the culture of the professionals often dominate and curtails the lifespan of an amateur. How so? Suddenly everyone competes to become professional pannists… working on improving technical aspects such as left hand/right fluency of notes; pitch accuracy, which ensures that all the notes are executed perfectly and heard clearly and precisely; focus is now on the tone quality coming out of the instrument; now panmen focus on Deportment/Communication/PR… However, never necessarily losing sight for their love of pan… I believe it is this overlapping or transition that causes a tension between the purposes and the role of both the established panman versus the novice panman.

I question whether or not this interdependency is healthy or is this just one of the cycles of an amateur pannist? For without this interdependency, both types of panmen cannot exist… Based on my reflections I think that both the amateur and professional panman should be respected and celebrated in their own right.

How to write 10,000 words a day

The Thesis Whisperer

One of the most popular posts on the Thesis Whisperer is How to write 1000 words a day and not go bat shit crazy. Last year a Twitter follower brought to my attention a post called How I went from writing 2000 words to 10,000 words a day by the fiction writer Rachel Aaron.

I did a double take.

Can you really write 10,000 words a day? Well, Rachel says she can, with three conditions:

1) Know what you are going to write before you write it
2) Set aside a protected time to write, and
3) Feel enthusiastic about what you are writing

I read the post with interest. Much of what Rachel did conformed with what I suggest in my earlier post, but I couldn’t bring myself to really believe Rachel’s productivity claims. To regularly write 10,000 words: It’s the dream, right? Imagine if you could reliably…

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The Will to …

The Invisible F

Photo by me Photo by me

In early December I will self publish my first novel. 

I’m still quite busy preparing for that, though it’s a pretty small affair.

I’ve been thinking about it. The whole thing. First, I didn’t think it would actually happen with all the health and life challenges. I mean, I was writing things and then forgetting what I’d written thanks to fibrofog. I know people say ‘sure that happens to everyone’ but this is different. I couldn’t remember words I used often, I got confused and then I found it hard to concentrate on top of all the pain and exhaustion.

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TAH Youth tours the Caribbean

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group

TAH Youth Group set sail on November 16th to six Caribbean islands. They include Jamaica, Barbados, Turks and Caicos, Aruba, Bermuda and Curacao. The final repertoire included 6 songs and 3 plays. Likes of Bob Marley and Bunji Garlin were first on the agenda since their songs were mot popular. Some of the skits were culturally based giving an insight of the Caribbean history while the others were related to general public information on crime and HIV/AIDS.

The young people took to the stage night after night, clad in red, black and white to promote the national colors of Trinidad and Tobago and to give a spectacular performance. Most of the islanders, thoroughly enjoyed the show. The spectators generally had positive feedback for the youths as they encouraged them throughout their concert. The members of staff were impressed with the youths behavior on and off the stage. In the end, the youths were proud of themselves…

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Are you stopping yourself from finishing your PhD?

The Thesis Whisperer

The other day I had a lovely lunch on the balcony next to my office with two late stage ANU PhD students. We enjoyed the late winter sun and the view of Black mountain Tower while the ANU Quidditch team frolicked on the oval in front of us. It was one of those moments where academia feels just like paradise. Where else do you get to work in the middle of an enormous park, surrounded by smart people doing interesting things – and where people can run around with broomsticks between their legs without ridicule?

I remarked that the lovely ANU campus must surely be one of the perks of being a PhD student here and my lunch companions agreed. One admitted that it was pretty tempting to draw the process out as long as possible because, all too soon, adult responsibilities will come crashing back in.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 11.44.37 amIf you…

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TAH youth gone but not forgotten

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group

It is a sad day for the Sober’s family and the youth group. Trevon “Chibby” Sobers, a member of the group died on Thursday. He succumbed to bullet wounds after an altercation went awry. Trevon was one of the most talented members of the youth group. He was known for his superb skill and energetic performance on the tenor pan.

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Everyone who knew him would remember his constant vibrant mood. He would uplift any sad person that was around him. The entire community were shocked and devastated after hearing the horrendous news. Members of the TAH group are still grieving over his sudden death. It is hope that some solace can be found.

http://tntwarning.com/coredet?cid=q8vDunpm

(Video attached to bottom of the link)

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How can you treat your PhD like a project?

The Thesis Whisperer

Fiona Saunders is a Senior Lecturer in the Management of Engineering Projects at The University of Manchester and a part-time PhD student. Her research interests are in the management of projects in safety-critical industries. Prior to academia, Fiona enjoyed a successful 15 year industry career in project management. Fiona blogs at www.fionasaunders.co.uk where the original version of the post was published, along with a follow up post.

Long before I threw caution to the wind and (as a mum with 2 small children) began my part-time PhD my Professor (@AndrewWGale) gave me a very wise piece of advice Don’t be afraid of a PhD, it’s really just a project”. Now that I am entering the 3rd year of my part-time PhD I want to reflect on the similarities between a PhD and a project and offer some tips on how to use the tools and techniques of project…

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Fundraising for the Caribbean Tour

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group

Tropical Angel Harps Youth Group began fundraising for an upcoming tour. The first task was putting together a concert,  which was successful. They played music for a crowd and did very well to entertain them. They raised almost $5000 at the end of the event. There would be another concert and a few sales in the upcoming weeks.

The youths need to attain $25,000 on a tour of the Caribbean. On this tour, they will showcase their talent. This would be a great experience for the youths and can open up opportunities. TAH is getting some funding from the government but it is insufficient for all the youths. It is not a good idea to carry some of the youths and leave others because it may cause controversy. For this reason, we are now targeting private organizations to assist in this endeavor.

(Link shows a stint of the concert)

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