During my PhD, I involve or participate quite actively in several communities. I’m volunteering at October Books (a few remaining local and independent bookshops in Southampton, specializing in radical books), I’m also helping PhDs of Southampton a number of times (and have been their model too), and finally, I’m also a member of Mu Collective, a not-for-profit social enterprise. One of my little ambition was having all of them in one place and have a collaborative event together. To my surprise (well, I saw it coming, to be honest), few weeks ago, Mutrend Lab has granted me my wish.
Portland Street Exchange!
A street festival for local communities to engage and to celebrate the memory of a very historic Portland Street in the middle of the city centre crowd. This is a bit of my thought about the event, which is also published in Mutrend Lab website.
What can I say about Portland Street Exchange?
Blessed by the sunshine and also the cold breeze of the autumn, I would say Portland Street Exchange was a success. Not to exaggerate, but Portland Street Exchange was a breath of fresh air for Southampton, only for 6 hours though. It was a community effort, forcing us to see something hidden beneath the surface of the city crowd. Enticing people to appreciate more, learn more, and live much more.
I was standing there for 6 hours, I can’t tell you how many happy faces I saw that day because believe me, there were a lot. We have set up some activities, we asked people to play some games and don’t forget that we put colours on the street and the windows. All of them were united under the same umbrella. “Past-present-future”, the message that we tried to deliver. A full retrospect of the past, observing the present, and plan for a better future.
Well, what we actually had that day?
From where I stood, we had a guided tour for the historic Portland Street, fun and enlightening. We also had a stall full of history books just about Southampton and they let you have a ‘blind-date’ with a book. I was glad that a bunch of people were up for the challenge. We had Panda harmonium duo entertaining us all day and let us enjoy the life that we had that day. We have the ‘PhDs of Southampton’, the Southampton version of ‘Humans of New York’ (but just for PhDs), putting a beautiful display of diverse PhD students living in Southampton and wide-range of emotions that they have experienced in Southampton.
We also had a Poetry showcase and workshop because what else can we use to describe our lovely city other than using the most sophisticated use of words? The Southampton Clothes Swap were there too because we could actually start from a little thing to tackle the issue caused by fast fashion and the waste they produce. In addition, don’t forget how so many beautiful drawings were created that day in front of our shop display. It’s a proof that magical thing can be created in a brief time. Next, a huge appreciation for the artist that came up with the time-traveling Post Office. Personally, I’ll send a letter to my future self, a gentle reminder when I’m feeling down and low. Finally, the amazing video showcase in the basement. Although, it was in the basement, believe me, it did not fail to live up the expectation. I was also very happy, that not only children were kept busy with the games we put on the street, adults too. Seeing their faces just enjoying the game is priceless.
Portland Street Exchange was probably motivated or fueled by the nostalgia, but the aim here is not to be intoxicated by it. Instead, we want the memory served as a tool or a medium. A medium to reignite the energy that we have within ourselves for living the life that we have to the fullest and for planning a better future for ourselves and for the next generation.