On Monday, October 10, the group met Heidi James-Dunbar in Brixton. When we gathered outside the tube station, Heidi told us a little about her years living in Brixton and outlined her plan: we would walk together through streets and markets, and we would stop and intervals and talk about our observations. After we parted, Heidi would go home and write a short fictional sketch that incorporated our observations.
We first threaded our way through a street market offering Caribbean food, backpacks and satchels, fish, bedding, kitchenware, fresh produce, and much more. When we paused, students described moments and interactions they'd noticed: the wary eye of a shopkeeper, the artful display of cleaning supplies in a market stall, the street art, the juxtaposition of chain stores on the high street with the small shops in the market area. Heidi took notes, commenting on details that she might use in the piece she planned to write. We made our way down residential streets, past blocks of council flats, and into a nearby park. The students spoke up more readily, offering more detailed observations. Again Heidi took notes and remarked on details that suggested possibilities for developing a character moving about a day in Brixton. Heidi moved from specific observations to larger questions about stories: Whose stories get told? Why do stories matter? How do stories shape our understanding of experience-our own experiences and those of others?
"I really liked when Heidi talked about observing people and creating stories from those observations. It made me think about how difference and complex each individual's life is."
"I . . . loved the glimpse into her creative process, a lot of what she said about finding characters out in the world and imagining their lives struck a chord with me. . . . I also liked what she said about going about her day, only slower in order to reflect more about what is happening in a time and place and the people there without being so much of a foreign element/tourist who doesn't fit in and disrupts what they are trying to observe." --Dana Svensson
"It was important to me to understand more fully an author's perspective and inspiration for characters. The best part with Heidi was when she said 'there will never be enough stories' because there are countless perspectives and countless thoughts. I also loved how she asked us to share moments that I myself had not noticed. It was a much needed reminder that everyone sees everything in countless different ways when looking at the same thing or area. I think it really sheds light on how we adapt and change as individuals because of what we see and what we notice differently than others. And I think that kind of insight can be the defining point between writing/creating a character that is alive and a character that hasn't quite reached its potential." --Nina Ricci
"As a writer, I found the experience in Brixton invaluable. I love writers. I relish peering into others' process of writing-what they notice and how they interpret it. Today caused me to reflect on the old writing adage, 'Write what you know." I find strengths and weaknesses in this advice. Obviously, our own lives/experiences/thoughts influence our work, and even in fiction we see reflections of ourselves. However, can we write what we don't know?" --Kyle Munshower
"I felt that the tour was an extremely valuable insight into the mind of a writer. Brixton was full of inspiration and it was very interesting/important to see how Heidi observes the area and how she can write off of minute details she witnesses. Details include things like how someone walks, how they look at her, what they are doing, etc." --Jordan Narloch
"[Because Heidi is a Londoner and writer] it was lovely to hear what her take is on this part of town and share her abundance of knowledge of the area. . . . It is refreshing to hear first hand and learn from the locals. You do not get that by sitting in a London classroom, reading, or even hearing from a local in a classroom. There is a whole new experience when you are living [or] seeing what they are talking [about] and explaining to you." --Maggie Ogren
"[Heidi] was an example of how to look beyond what's on the surface of a place and stressed the importance of looking deeper into it. Every place has a story and every person has a story. She showed the importance of getting to know both stories and [emphasized that] there are never enough stories." --Michael Frye
"I thought it was really interesting to hear what [Heidi] was saying about gaining inspiration. As an artists, I am more inspired visually, while she was inspired by the behavior of people. It was cool that she was so inspired by small things and experiences that I would have easily forgotten about or shrugged off. Being creative has something to do with being observant." --Bridge Davis
Dr. Kevin Dixon is a nationally recognised sports sociologist with particular interests in the sociology and history of sport, physical activity and health. Dixon attained his PhD from Staffordshire University in 2011 when he examined the practice of football fandom as a form of consumption in an age of liquid modernity. Since then he has published widely on a range of subjects including: celebrity; consumption; qualitative research methods; social theory; hooliganism, gender, ethnicity, surveillance, and disability relative to sport.
Dixon became a Senior Lecturer of Sports Studies at Teesside University in 2005 and is an active member of the Social Futures Institute (SoFI). In 2014 Kevin was entered (as part of a group of researchers at Teesside University) into the 'Research Exercise Framework', (a national assessment of the quality of UK research) under unit 22, 'Social Work and Social Policy'. This Teesside University submission was ranked joint 5th in the country from 62 submissions on this quality measure.
Dr. Dixon continues to teach on all Sport and Exercise degree programmes and some Sociology programmes. Currently, Dr Dixon has PhD students studying aspects of cycling and football fandom cultures and would welcome applications from potential PhD candidates that are interested in studying any aspects of the history and sociology of sport, leisure or health cultures.
In the spring of 2016, Dr. Kevin Dixon visited the CSBSJU students studying abroad in London at the Foundation for International Education (FIE).
"Dr. Dixon's presentation on the relationship between pubs and football was very interesting. His presentation focused primarily on the article that we were required to read for class, covering his case study and research findings on the correlation between football and pubs. He was interesting to listen to because his case study was not focused on traditional research. I liked learning about his different research methods and conclusions about the structure of our society. Overall, I enjoyed listening to Dr. Dixon and the evidence that he found regarding the relationship between pubs and football."
"First of all, it was so cool to have the actual author of what we had been reading and studying for the week, there in person to walk us all through it, and it definitely helped for me to hear him present it as he understood it because there may have been a few things I was confused about myself. It was also really neat to hear him tie in his own thoughts and to see how he made the connections between his findings and previous works and all the ways that they came together to really cohesively work together and make sense."
"Overall I thought the article was unique in the fact that he actual interviewed just genuine people who cared enough about this topic to want to speak with him. He didn't have to go out looking for individual interviewees, rather, they wanted to come and talk with him, in the pub! If that doesn't speak to the true camaraderie that can be found in the pubs, I'm not sure what would. Thanks for bringing him in, gave me some great insights and things to think about."
"Dr. Dixon's presentation was very interesting and informational as it pointed out the way Football and Pubs are connected. He touched on the community aspect of the two and how pub culture and watching games really brings people together whether they know each other or not. He was very passionate about what he spoke about and clearly knew a lot from his research. Many students from our class asked many questions about different controversies and changing of the culture with technology, in which he was open to talking about and shared his personal opinions. I think he was a great resource to have for our class and having someone open our eyes to the way communities come together and are connected all by watching a game."