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Doing Food Research: Creative Approaches

A one-day workshop hosted by the Food Study Group

21 June 2021 (10.30–16:00)

About the Event

Are you interested in doing food research, but would like to discover what is happening right now in social scientific food research from leading academic researchers? Learn more about different methodological approaches and novel methods? Understand better how to tailor your food research for different funders? Meet others who are conducting social scientific research about food? Take away ‘top tips’ to apply in your own studies?

Following the success of previous methods workshops (2014, 2016, 2018), we are holding another one-day workshop ahead of the 7th BSA Food Studies Group Conference, Food and Food Systems in a Time of Insecurity.

Outline Programme

09:45-10:00 Welcome and introduction
10:00-11:30 Session 1 – Creative writing workshop, Gayle Letherby
11.30-11:45 Break and networking opportunities
11:45-13:00 Session 2 – Creative collaborations, Clare Pettinger and Lisa Howard
13:00-13:30 Lunchtime break and networking opportunities
13:30-15:00 Session 3 – Creative ways with data, Julie Parsons
15.00-16.00 Discussion and reflection on key issues

Session Details

Session 1: Creative Writing Workshop - Gayle Letherby University of Plymouth and University of Greenwich

That there are truths to be found in stories is inarguable. Similarly, there is always an element of interpretation in research, and every written text is a product or particular social, political, technical, economic and personal events. (Katherine Frank (2000) “The Management of Hunger”: Using Fiction in Writing Anthropology’ Qualitative Inquiry 6(4): 474-488 (484-485))

Whatever our chosen palette, the practice of understanding the importance of our own creative engagement is a source of potential change on its own, and a space where valuable insight can be found through reflection and sharing.
(Annette Blum (2016) ‘Art and Politics: The Power of Creativity and Activism Across the Globe’ Huffpost)

The focus of this workshop will be the exploration of ‘fictional’ representations of ‘food stories’ including from research data, pedagogic reflections, theoretical and P/political concerns. In addition to writing some short pieces of prose and/or poetry we will also engage in some creative editing. All you need for this workshop is a paper and pen/tablet/computer and your imagination.

Gayle Letherby:  I am Honorary Professor of Sociology at the University of Plymouth and Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich. Alongside substantive interests in reproductive and non/parental identities; gender, health and wellbeing; loss and bereavement; travel and transport mobility and gender and identity within institutions I have always been fascinated by research methodology, including auto/biographical, feminist and creative practices. In recent years I have become interested in writing sociologically for non-academic audiences and creative writing within academic work. For some examples of different sorts of writing see http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.co.uk/ and https://www.abctales.com/user/gletherby

Session 2: Visioning a more equitable food system for ‘marginal’ groups – a creative workshop to share ideas - Dr Clare Pettinger, University of Plymouth and Lisa Howard

This will be a virtual interactive creative workshop – where all attendees will have the opportunity to collaborate and share their vision for a fairer and more equitable food system to improve wellbeing outcomes for marginal communities.

We will use simple digital ‘collage’ methods (using found images and text) as a way of generating dynamic ideas and recording your views. (Please note we will record the zoom session to enable us to produce digital outputs from the session to be shared during the conference).

Attendees will learn about the utility of creative methods and how they can engage a diverse range of audiences inclusively to share their food experiences. This can lead to more democratic food justice action, thus supporting the co-production of sustainable systemic solutions to food insecurity.

Dr Clare Pettinger (University of Plymouth) is actively engaged in community research around food systems, poverty and social justice. She is a creative methods innovator, having used photo elicitation, collage and song-writing as methods of expression.

Lisa Howard leads the Plymouth Food Equality project, championing grass roots creative workshops with communities to capture their food stories to improve experiences (See an example of her recent ‘covid conversations’ workshop output here)

Session 3: Creative ways with data - Julie Parsons, University of Plymouth

This workshop will explore ways in which it is possible to ‘play’ with our data in order to aid analysis and give voice to research participants. Working with your own transcripts (or other sources to be supplied on the day), those attending the workshop will have the opportunity to create ‘word clouds’ and i-poems. How do these practices aid our understanding of our research data? What additional insights do they reveal? How do they help to give voice to the people we work with?

Julie is an Associate Professor in Sociology and co-convenor of the BSA Food Studies Group. For information about her work with i-poems and the i-poem giving voice to stigmatised storytellers.

These events are aimed at Postgraduate Research Students and Early Career Researchers but may also be useful for those working outside academia, including practitioners. The day includes plenty of time for networking and a group discussion on critical issues arising from the workshops.


This is a virtual workshop and a link to join the workshop will be send nearer the date of the event.

  • BSA Concessionary and Full Members: £15
  • Food Study Group Members: £15
  • All other delegates and non BSA/Study Group members: £20

Please direct any academic enquiries to the workshop organiser, Julie Parsons. For administrative issues please contact the BSA Events Team.

Funded Places

We are offering 5 funded places to our first ever virtual Food Studies Group Methods Workshop taking place on 21 June 2021.  To submit your application please complete the form with a short description explaining your request for a funded place.  To be eligible for a funded place you must either be a BSA paid up member or a Study Group member.  Deadline for applications is Monday, 5 April 2021. A member of the conference committee will review the applications and the BSA Events Team will communicate their decision.

If you are not already a member of the BSA you can become a member now!  If you would like to become a member of the Food Studies Group please email Julie Parsons, co-convenor of the Study Group.