DIY Curriculum Making

DIY is an initiative from Live Art Development Agency which supports professional development projects BY artists FOR artists. The Free University of Liverpool was one of the projects which received DIY funding (£1000) and used this opportunity to develop, over two weekends in September 2011, curriculum for Foundation Degree in Culture and Performance. 29 people were involved in the making of the curriculum.

Summary of DIY 8 – weekend 1, 16-18 Sep

Friday 7pm – 9pm

We open the weekend asking questions we don’t know the answers to about the Free University of Liverpool. They related to issues of commitment, community, freedom, free work, higher education, desires, practicalities, energies, ownership, fears…
Everyone introduced themselves. Then pub.

Saturday 11am – 5pm

Morning workshop/discussion about imagining an ideal library and how to use our resources to build it.
Walk to the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home whilst sharing stories about books that changed you.
Choosing a book amongst all the books which have been donated to the Free University of Liverpool.
Walking back to the Social Centre and carrying the books (circa 500 of them).
Reading from our chosen book.
Placing the books on the Staircase to Nowhere.
Check in – check out.

Sunday 11am – 5pm

Introductory workshop by Neal, Gabriel and Sid.
Workshop about our teaching/learning desires. Answer to the questions:
What would you like to teach? What would you like to learn?

Creation of 3 groups which were engaged in discussing three possible strands:

Philosophy/Thinking – meta-course which would address the methodologies and working thinking processes of the Free University of Liverpool, a reflexive thinking space for the actions, practical
philosophy, ways of thinking and learning, philosophy and everyday life.

Satisfying Politics – a series of events/courses made up of fun.
Something which allows us to learn/teach not just with our words but also with our skills (whether we have them yet or not).

Alternative Economies – a collaborative project which would address the needs of the city of Liverpool and get involved hands-on in campaigns and/or community building projects, especially within housing and employment spheres.

We all agreed that The Free University of Liverpool is ‘project’ rather than ‘discipline’ led.
The three strands, arrived at organically, almost by magic, with groups in different rooms trying to define what for them was the most important expression of a Free University of Liverpool curriculum.

We decided that the next week of workshops should include a focus on practicalities, such as when/how often the sessions would take place.

Post weekend reflection has left The Committee with a number of burning questions/issues/ideas:

What’s the difference between DIY workshop weekends and the Free University of Liverpool?
Who are the students: is it (just) us?
Could the first collaborative project for the Free University of Liverpool be about finding a space/venue/building a house… part of the Foundation Degree, part of the Alternative Economies strand?
Should the Free University of Liverpool formulate some principles such as: only propose ideas/projects that you really desire to do yourself and are prepared to instigate/see through into action; autonomy is the guiding principle and practice…

Summary of DIY 8 – weekend 2

Saturday 24th 11.00-17.00

We introduced each other and our desires, why we were there and what we really wanted.
We introduced three strands F (filosofia/reflexive) U (you/practical) L (locus/local)

We went to hear Jennifer Verson reading children books at News from Nowhere (the upstairs radical bookshop). While being in the bookshop each person bought a different book to add to the library. It was paid with DIY8 money.

Lunch at Next to Nowhere

We gathered and ended up divided in two groups.

First group had general discussions about curriculum and practical issues such as child care.
They agreed to divide the curriculum in three strands:

a thinking/meta narrative strand
a project base one
one focusing on issues of belonging, location and housing of the Free University of Liverpool

Second group, after sliding down the books on the Stairs to Nowhere and destroying the existing book order, catalogued the library by photographing the books and then putting the books in one of those categories:

Most important books
Very Important Books
Not so important books
Who cares books

People interrupted each others’ labour by reading a fragment of a text that struck them while cataloguing the books.
Books were reordered back on the Stairs to Nowhere.

Sunday 25th 11.00-17.00

We spent £20 buying second hand books on News from Nowhere’s street stall for Hope St Festival. We danced to the banging drums as we chose more books, books, books despite the feeling that we’d done books already. It did seem silly to ignore what was going on around us, above us, on street level, where thousands of people were milling around on this fine Sunday morning. Then,
perhaps a little uncannily, somebody found Accordion Crimes for £1, a book raved about the week before, a book that seemed to spark a number of fascinating combinations and lines of possible connection.

Each of the previous day groups told the other group what they did. We debated about power, who is the committee and how to build the curriculum.

We went out for lunch

As a preparation for the time scheduling and labour division of the Foundation Course each of us ranted on their chosen step from the Stairs to Nowhere all the activities they had to do on a day chosen at random from the diary. This ranged from frenetic activity through a list of carried out obligations to lazing around with a third coffee of the morning wondering whether to leave the house or not. It was a useful lead-in to talk about people’s availability and realistic levels of ‘location-commitment’ (who can come to weekly meetings?)

After, each of us listed their availability depending on time and location being either

Weekends
Weekly
Virtual
Intensive Bursts

We decided that:

F strand (the meta thinking strand) will happen every week, Thursday evenings from 8-10pm.
U strand (mini practical strands) Time/place scheduling will be decided by the person taking on each project.
L strand (the Location/belonging/housing one) will happen Saturday mornings so we can walk around the city and visit spaces.

We formulated some questions:

If things are instigated by individuals, what makes them part of the University?
Is it about belonging?
How much of an open door is the FUL?
How do people get involved or find out about it?
In what way is this a University?
How does this link to other events/ courses in other places?
Does framing this as a protest make it a protest?
Who is the University for?
Does physical presence mean more decision making power?
Is it ethical to link yourself with the FUL if you don’t live in Liverpool?
What about administration and/ or shit jobs?
What is the ongoing role of the committee?
Who is the committee?
What (and who) holds this entity together?
When do we go to the pub?
When is the accordion lesson?
What is the difference between FUL and the DIY weekends?

For an alternative summary see:
http://blog.platformlondon.org/2011/09/23/free-university-of-liverpool-full-of-love/