Hope and Making Sense Together

In our work, we focused on ideas of hope, wisdom and fishing. Johan Siebers worked with the concepts of Ernst Bloch, a philosopher.2 Bloch’s major work, ‘The Principle of Hope’, written over a period of years between the 1930s and the 1950s, was concerned with a philosophy based on hope. In our project, the aim was to translate Bloch’s text ‘On the Concept of Wisdom’ with a focus on the relationship between fishing and wisdom. Bloch’s conception of wisdom, which tries to activate the motivating kernel of hope in our lives, is particularly well suited to understand the healing effect of ‘contemplative’ activities such as fishing in a contemporary context. Blochian wisdom is always a communal wisdom; it points towards a shared agency, shared in our case especially between young and old, and empowers everyone equally to act for a better life and a better world. We could apply these ideas to the gentle learning that took place between the anglers (often the same age as the young people’s grandparents) and the young people.

The young people, the ethnographers, the artist and writers together with the youth service and anglers, made sense of fishing together. The concept of making sense together comes from the work of Somerville3 in thinking about sense making through place and learning through landscapes. We considered the experiential aspects of fishing, and drawing on visual ethnographic methodologies from Sarah Pink’s work,4 the project team were able to immerse themselves in the experience.

Learning by inhabiting the landscape, and thinking through this process, became the way ideas were generated.5 Rather than see the research as external to the project, the experience of doing the project generated the research. This perspective comes from arts-based methodologies, for example, the idea of practice as research.6 Knowledge created in this site was informed by the material properties of the site, of the embodied knowledge created there. This idea of ‘material thinking’ comes from a different place of practice, where the meanings and experience generated inform theory.7

Skills and experience resided within the anglers, the young people, their families, and in the community. We considered the community ‘funds of knowledge’8 as important when setting up the project, and saw the skills, knowledge and experience encoded into the fishing process as important resources for hope and sites of possibility. We recognised that the young people were in the process of becoming adults9 and drew on the work of James in seeing young people as agentive and skilled in their everyday lives.10 We do not position young people solely as being in distress, but consider, from their perspective, how fishing can support well-being and resilience to withstand difficult life experiences such as bullying and problems at home or at school. Fishing as an experience offers a safe space away from the dangers of the street as well as difficult home situations.

Here, we talk about aspects of fishing that we think are particularly important when working with young people. We begin by talking about fishing as knowledge exchange. The young people we worked with brought their store of knowledge to the fishing project and exchanged these ideas with the angling coaches as equals in the process. The angling coaches respected and supported their knowledge. We then talk about fishing as a calming and contemplative activity. It can be seen as a mode of being. Finally, we think about fishing and beauty. We argue that aesthetic and embodied experiences of beauty are important in mental health recovery. Our writing is constructed between field notes written by Kate Pahl and Hugh Escott, conversations with young people, writing by young people and by youth workers, and includes our thoughts and ideas generated through sitting on the bank of the pond fishing.

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