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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Learning Locality: Inter-generational narratives of place and belonging in a Scottish local education project

Gary J. West.

Identity is a hotly debated issue in post-devolutionary Scotland, yet the prevailing discourses relate almost exclusively to the level of 'national' rather than 'local'. As Hague has recently shown ('Nationality and children's drawings: pictures "about Scotland" by primary school children in Edinburgh, Scotland and Syracuse, New York State', Scottish Geographical Journal, Vol 117, Part 2, 2001), children's perceptions of 'Scotland' continue to be dominated by a narrow selection of 'tartanry' images, such as kilts, bagpipes and castles. In this paper I argue for a re-assertion of 'locality' within the formal learning environment and in doing so examine the methodology and potential pedagogical impact of a multi-partnership local community education project that took place in East Lothian, Scotland, during 2001. This initiative used oral history, storytelling, visual art and creative writing to bring together local schoolchildren (aged 10-11 years) and clients of a day care centre for the elderly (aged 75-98) in a series of closely structured sessions aimed at fostering creative writing skills, and encouraging improved inter-generational respect and understanding. I argue that initiatives of this kind have the potential to help children to construct a grounding centred upon a sense of locality and locatedness which can serve as a foundation for the ongoing shaping of their personal world view. The mutual exchange of life story narratives between the children and the elderly encourages an inter-generational bonding as each individual becomes both teacher and learner, speaker and listener, respectively


Gary J. West  (United Kingdom)
Lecturer in Scottish Ethnology
Celtic and Scottish Studies School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
University of Edinburgh

Gary J West lectures in Scottish Ethnology at the University of Edinburgh. His teaching and research interests include oral history and tradition, cultural revivalism, traditional music, and constructions of identity. His doctoral thesis, 'Farm, Family and Neighbourhood in Post-Improvement Perthshire: An Historical Ethnography was awarded the Michaelis Jena Ratcliff Prize for Folklife in 2000-01. Dr West is also highly active as a performer of Scottish traditional music, and currently presents Pipeline, a specialist piping programme on BBC Radio Scotland

  • Identity
  • Locality
  • Belonging
  • Oral narratives
  • Creative writing

(Virtual Presentation, English)