Through an uncomfortable series of emails with the same institutions that I had earlier had difficulties with, I ended up interviewing the Leicester Council of Faiths in a meeting room in the New Walk Museum.
My reasoning for this was two-fold: I wanted to show the LCoF that I was serious enough about the project to rent out an important space within the city, and one that was relevant to the project; and I hoped to have positive dealings with the New Walk, so I wouldn't continue feel like a leper when I came to visit in the future.
To my relieved the focus group went very well indeed. There was a great range of comments and observations that came from individuals and in group discussion. Each representative expressed comments that they thought I would want from them, and I appreciated their desire to be helpful. I didn't want to lead the responses, but I was always going to be present during the process, so the question "what would you like me to say?" came up quite frequently. But it was after the formal responses had finished that interesting things started to appear. Individuals would be excited by some aspect of the imagery or of the their own frame of reference.
(Sikh representative) …(Palimpsest 1) a seahorse, isn’t it? and here is a…(Palimpsest 2) deer.
(Christian representative) …I don’t know what that one is at all (Palimpsest 11) I mean it looks like it should be a face or something, but maybe its not.
(Sikh representative) …no it is something you know with the seas. You can see some sort of insect which is floating on the water.
(Christian representative)…What about the rabbit here, or hare, is it a hare or a rabbit?
(Hindu representative)… (Palimpsest 2) Oh and it looks like a camel’s face as well.
(Christian representative) …(Palimpsest 1) It’s gotta be a fish hasn’t it? It’s an underwater deep fish thing, because these are the scales, and this is, this a funny head that it’s got. A mythological fish out of the deep, so it’s a lot to do with time, apparently not a lot of these things are representational. It’ll stand for some deep see creature that’s…part of the underworld. Could be threatening looks like it could be missing a bit.
(Muslim representative) …No matter what we say, this is an impression of our own upbringing within our own culture. So we are bringing it from that point of view and not certainly from the civilisation that came with this idea.
(Christian representative)Yes fairly indistinct isn’t it…
It was also the first time I had interviewed a group before. I was nervous and I had wanted to give them all of my attention during the recording, expecting that the desire would be for everyone to talk at once. To help this I hired a photographer for the morning, and this took a lot of pressure off of my documenting the event and hosting it simultaneously.