The Agency: How to be ‘socially buff’

This Saturday (4th October) our super awesome Agent squadron were back in Providence House exploring inventories, map-making and the process and power dynamics of cartography. We were joined by 2 new Agents, Charlene and Reene who were unable to come the first week but who’s bristling excitement and character-prowess were immediately noticeable in their participation and positive impact.

The Agents started off by making 5 personal inventories: (1. Your Favourite Foods, 2. Your Favourite Films, 3. Your Favourite Places To Go, 4. Things That You Think Are Unfair, 5. Things You Can Do!). Each Agent had a single piece of A2 coloured sugar paper to order and fill as they saw fit. Kayon and Teddy in particular were getting a lot of love for their beautiful presentation of words and transcription of ideas. After sharing some of these with the group we moved on to small group inventories (1. Where Do You Meet People? 2. What Opportunities Are There For You In Battersea? 3. What Disadvantages Are Young People Facing Today?). These inventories catalysed loads of interesting discussions about networking, stereotypes, self-promotion and presentation and how we could make ourselves ‘attractive’ and ‘friendly’ online in a manner we coined ‘socially buff’; approachable and attractive. This itself came out of the laughter precipitated, and subsequent inquiry, caused by one of the items on the ‘Where Do You Meet People?’ question being simply ‘being buff’! This in turn led into an analysis of what makes people seem friendly or hostile, body language, inadvertent screw-faces and the contexts in which we interact with people, network and feel confident or guarded.

From here we made a map in the shape of a body. The Agents made the shape of a body (on a table about as big as a pool table) using small scraps of coloured paper that were coded. The first colour delineated the shape of the body.  The second colour was emotions (where in your body did you feel courage, or butterflies, or sadness or joy). The last colour was people and where they might reside in the personal or societal corpus (there were a few mums in the heart and a couple of dads underfoot) plus some ear-mums and neck-teachers. 

After a short break we were up in the top room of Providence making a map of the territory out of masking tape and orange string. It was fascinating hearing the Agents discussing where The Square was in relation to Winstanley Road and how much confusion abounded from people’s differing perspectives on the alignment of the buildings and lay-out based on which direction they saw a building from and which entrance they used. Elliot was mainly up the road (the other side of the hall in masking tape-Vauxhall) while most people were dotted round string-Winstanley Estate itself.

After lunch (the space being transformed into a multi-room diner with Roisin and J-dog working the toasty machine and people piling back in from various food outlets into the room where Homeboy Sandman and Fatima tracks bounced off the walls) we eased back into the session with a pass-the-dance-move call and response game, which was comical at the very least and saw some 70s classic moves next to some inimitable footwork from Charlene and Elliot who evidently are more co-ordinated than some of us! Following this we had a super-empowering go-round about what people are passionate about. These were a few:

“I am passionate about awareness” – Sydney, “I am passionate about helping people realise they can Do something” – Reene, “I am passionate about exploring the mind and view of society” – Stefani. 

These iterations then transformed into ideas at the centre of a sense mind-map. For each of the 5 sense the Agents had to make an inventory of actions to pursue or information to gather. Hearing – Who To Listen To. Sight – How To Make Their Project Visible. Taste – What ‘Flavours’, What Topics You Want To Explore. Smell – Ideas To Sniff Out, Organisations To Research. Touch – What Form Will Your Idea Take. 

Deanna and I were going round helping the Agents map their ideas and in the process learning a lot about what they wanted to do and what sometimes stopped them feeling like they could. Tawana was on incredible form having dignified indignant rants about the world, the city, inequality, and education saying, “You need more people to support you and stop putting you down” and “Our teachers all they care about is our homework. They don’t know anything about us. How d’you know we’ve got somewhere to do homework.” 

As that drew to our close and (responding to earlier conversations about when was a good time to talk to people about what you do) we put the music back on and had an informal networking and skill exchange where all the Agents started chatting to each other about the skills they had, drawing from their ‘I Can’ lists from earlier, which we amalgamated into one mega-list as they did so so they could refer to it and get an impression of their cumulative skills which were varied and plentiful. That took us very near to end, spawning a couple potential collaborations which no doubt I will be talking about more very soon!

After that we did our 5 cards, wrapped up with a little go-round about how we were feeling about it all and parted ways until Wednesday when…

Fantastical heroes of the territory – Battersea Man and Battersea WO!Man were born…..!

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