So How Did Our Project Get Started?

Our project ‘Communicating Wisdom: A Study of the Uses of Fishing in Youth Work’ was developed in partnership between youth workers Marcus Hurcombe and Jean Simmons from Rotherham Youth Service and the Rotherham-based Phoenix and Parkgate Junior Angling Club, together with a group of academics.[1] Through co-produced research the team tried to better understand how the reflective space of fishing provided a place for valuing the know-how that is situated within communities and that challenges established ideas of wisdom, skill and knowledge. We worked with young people and older anglers in order to reposition knowledge and understanding of the people who went fishing. We wanted to find out about the kinds of learning, communication and reflection that take place in the angling space.

The project engaged young people and older people in intergenerational learning and explored the idea of how knowledge and skills are shared. Rather than seeing young people as without skills, in this project, young people were able to reposition themselves as skilled fisher people with the support of older, more experienced anglers. Young people came to a quiet, reflective space where they could forget about difficulties at home or at school but were able to sit still and watch the water. The project was part of the youth service’s anti-bullying work, and, in particular reflected the work of youth worker Jean Simmons, who was keen to support young people who felt vulnerable at school and ran an anti-bullying scheme. Fishing, she felt, was the ideal activity for such young people.

We think fishing is important in creating contemplative spaces for young people. These spaces create opportunities for young people both to reposition themselves as able and skilled, and also to become calm. Fishing offers a possible space for positive mental well-being. It is where young people who might be experiencing bullying, problems at home or some mental distress can experience wellness. Recent research has shown that while bullying is often identified, ‘how to’ strategies for supporting young people through bullying are less often described.1 Fishing can provide an alternative space for young people going through troubles at home or at school.

  • [1] Johan Siebers, Philosophy, University of Middlesex, Richard Steadman-Jones at the School ofEnglish and Kate Pahl and Hugh Escott at the School of Education at the University of Sheffield.The team included a poet, Andrew McMillan, and a visual artist, Steve Pool. The project wasfunded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communitiesprogramme.
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