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Last week my tablet and I were invited to a lunch time social at the Knowle West Media Centre as part of Bristol’s Celebrating Age Festival. For fifteen years the media arts charity has functioned as a true hub of community technology, with the goals of developing and supporting cultural, social and economic regeneration in Knowle West. They provide access to various technologies including photography, videography, computers, iPhones and tablet devices. As well, the centre has an active community centric art program and provides training on how to build and maintain neighbourhood partnership websites.

The event was stunning, drawing attendance from Knowle West and the surrounding area. People were invited to enjoy a light lunch followed by tea and biscuits, partake in any number of the various activities on site or simply relax and enjoy a friendly conversation. Among the various activities, there was a Thai Chi demonstration, seated exercise, bread making (complementary of the Knowle West Health Park Café), water painting, dance displays, a local walk and, of course, the Social Mirror.

One of the stand outs of the day was a film screening, which told the life stories of several Knowle West elders. Comprised primarily of interviewee narrations and picture animations, the stories told resonated quite deeply with many of the audience members, which was evident in the occasional roar of infectious laughter that took hold of the room following the comical depiction of some quite fond and familiar past times.

While in attendance I enjoyed many friendly encounters whilst experimenting with the Social Mirror in such a vibrant and highly social environment. Currently the project is primarily issued in GP surgeries, as our research suggests that such a setting is one of the premier contexts in which to reach people who are experiencing higher levels of social isolation. In comparison, the centre on this day was boasting with social activity. As such, many of the attendees were highly social individuals who had come along simply to enjoy themselves in good company and conversation.

This poses a unique and exciting opportunity for the Mirror, as highly social contexts like these allow for a greater focus on some of the project’s more central missions. Most notable is the stressed importance in reflecting on one’s own social connections, while providing a better understanding of how we, as individuals and organisations, are all integral parts of our larger communities.

There is something special unfolding in Knowle West, and I feel that I can speak on behalf of the RSA’s Connected Communities team in stating that we feel incredibly privileged to take part. To keep up on the inspiring happenings at the Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), please do tune into their Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as their Twitter feed.

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