Past Events

Introduction to Participatory Geographies Research Group

Tuesday 24th February 2015, 12 to 4 pm

Sheffield University

Poster about the event

This event is an introduction to the participatory geographies research group (of the Royal Geographical Society), with a keynote talk by Kye Askins (Glasgow University). We will also discuss what the group does, who we are and discussion about our weekend away in May 2015. This is an informal event to encourage people to come and meet us and find out what the group is about, to ask us questions and to discuss participatory geographies. We welcome anyone interested, from any discipline and from any stage of your career. Our group seeks to provide an open, supportive and constructive space in which we can explore all issues around participatory geographies.

The Participatory Geographies Research Group is a collective whose members aim to raise the profile and perceived value, and further the understanding and use of participatory approaches, methods, tools and principles within academic geography and beyond:

  1. The participatory geographies research group is a broad and inclusive collective of academics and non-academics who value and practice participatory approaches, principles and methods.
  2. These participatory methods include a broad variety of tools alongside critical analysis of their utility, limitations and development.
  3. A participatory approach in academic geography includes collaborating with others as partners in improving equality, justice, and other progressive social change causes.
  4. We aim to work across all spaces and places, alongside attempts to widen participation in higher education geography.
  5. We support work that results in social change outside the academy and thus seek to widen the range of what are considered to be legitimate geographical knowledge and research activities.
  6. We aim to provide a space for mutual support orientated towards those engaging in participatory approaches, especially for those working within the increasingly pressured and competitive higher education context.

Event timetable

11.30 Register and introduction
12.00 to 13.00 Keynote talk by Kye Askins (Glasgow University) on ‘Some of what we hope for’, followed by discussion
13.00 to 13.30 Introduction to the participatory geographies group and what we do
13.30 to 14.00 Tea and coffee
14.00 to 15.00 Group getting to know each other and our research activities
15.00 to 16.00 Discussion about the group away weekend in May, what we do and what people would like to do.
16.00 onwards Informal drinks at a local café or pub.

Location: Ron Johnson Research Room, Geography and Planning Building, Winter Street, University of Sheffield.
We will be running a complimentary event in London.

To register: Please email Jenny Pickerill ( by 10th February 2015.

The event is free to attend. Please bring your own lunch.


Doing Participatory Research – An evening with the Participatory Geographies Research Group and Michael Edwards (Bartlett School of Planning, UCL)

Thursday 26th February, 2015, 5-7pm, UCL, London

Room G07, Pearson Building, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

This event will provide an introduction to doing participatory research, and an overview of the current activities of the Participatory Geographies Research Group (of the Royal Geographic Society). It is open to anyone interested in finding out more about this ever-popular methodology, and is opportunity to get involved in the Research Group. All welcome.

Timetable for evening:

5-5.30pm: Arrivals and welcome.

5.30-6.30pm: Keynote talk by Michael Edwards on “Reflecting on a Participatory Career”, followed by discussion.

6.30-7pm: Introduction to Participatory Geographies Research Group: what we do and how to get involved.

7pm: relocate to bar to continue informal discussion.

In order to help with numbers, please could you register by emailing Sam Halvorsen ( by February 12th, 2015. The event is free to attend and all are welcome. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Michael Edwards has spent much of his career challenging the dominance in London planning of capital and landownership. This has involved bringing together different groups across London – from students and academics, to community groups, social movements, urban planners and policy makers – making participation an integral part of his work. He has published widely on issues such as property markets and planning, regeneration and (recently) the role of community groups in urban planning. He’s active in JustSpacePNUK and


Participatory Geographies weekend away, 22nd to 24th May 2015

Hathersage, Derbyshire

The annual weekend away is an informal meeting of anyone interested in participatory geographies – methods, tools and principles. It is a mixture of focused discussion around particular issues, mutual support and getting to know others interested in participatory geographies.

The aim is to create a space to share ideas, knowledge, contacts and problems. To aid this process, to make it both more welcoming and to help us as organisers to know what people want to focus on we have organised two introductory events in Sheffield (24th Feb) and London (26th Feb). You can come and meet us, decide if you want to come to the weekend and also discuss what issues are most important for you.

We will be staying at Thorpe Farm Bunkhouse, in the Hope Valley (S32 1BQ). Hathersage is easily accessible by train and we will arrange transport upto the bunkhouse. Accommodation will be shared rooms (there are some smaller rooms that families can share). Food will be provided for breakfast and lunch, and we tend to cook it together. We will go out for evening meals to a local pub.

Accommodation will cost: £25 for the 2 nights
A total of 20 places are available.

Bursaries are available for post-graduates, unwaged and those without institutional support. To apply for one please email Sophie Wynne-Jones ( outlining why you would like to attend and your eligibility for support.

Children (though no childcare can be formally provided) and partners welcome. You do not need to be a member of the Royal Geographical Society to attend this event.

If you would like to attend please email: Sophie Wynne-Jones
( by March 20th 2015.

Participatory Training Day, London, 2014

PyGyRG Away Weekend, Talybont-on-Usk 2014

PyGyRG Away Weekend, Liverpool 2013

PyGyRG Training Day, London 2013

PyGyRG Training Day, Edinburgh 2012

PyGyRG Away Weekend, York 2012


The 2014 Participatory Geographies Research Group away week end

Booking is now open for the 2014 Participatory Geographies Research Group away week end Friday 23rd to 25th May 2014 at YHA Danywenallt National Park Study Centre/ Hostel Leuenctid Danywenallt Canolfan Astudio’r Parc Cenedlaethol, Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7YS

“Surrounded by wooded slopes, high peaks, waterfalls and trails, this lovely converted farmhouse makes an ideal rural retreat for activity break in Wales. Secluded? Yes, but with all the opportunities for walking, sailing, boating, cycling and horse riding you’ll always have plenty to do. Most rooms have private facilities, there’s a comfortable lounge and a fully-licensed catering service specialising in local produce and flavours.”

This is not a traditional conference with presentations: it’s self-organised and free flowing. What will happen is what people make happen, with the skills, questions and enthusiasm people bring. Saturday morning we meet up after breakfast and plan the weekend’s activities: we will discuss options by email in the weeks up to the week end, but can be on any issue in relation to the Piggy mission: participation, activism, knowledge production, knowledge exchange, social justice.

Please let Kelvin know what you would like to discuss, or sessions you would like to offer. Someone might want to suggest a specific theme: past themes have been activism and impact/engagement. Depending on the weather, we will be outdoors when we can. We generally do a walk on the Sunday.

The cost of accommodation in a shared dorm is £17.00 per person per night (£34) payable in advance. Accommodation is available in in 6 x 4 bed dorms, 1 x 2 beds, 1 x 5 beds, 1 1 x 3 beds and 1 double bed with single bunk above. We will need to fill each dorm or pay for the spare beds, which we would rather not do.

The centre has very limited self-catering facilities – just a fridge, small microwave and a kettle so you will need to budget for food, payable on the day. A full cooked breakfast is available for £4.99 per person and evening meals at £9.95 for 2-courses, or £11.95 for 3-courses. There will also be a café available between 12 and 5 on Saturday and Sunday, or we can make lunch together.

So if you have two meals the cost is £63.80 per person

Food is also available in the evening at four local hostelries in Tal y Bont: The White Hart, The Travellers Rest and the Usk Hotel. The Star has the best real ale.

If travelling by public transport, you would need to get a train to Abergavenny, then get a taxi from Abergavenny station to Danywenallt. It would not be too expensive if the taxi were shared and there are minibus taxis available. We plan to book them in advance.

Courtesy of the RGS/IBG six bursaries are available for unfunded postgrads, people between jobs and early career folks for accommodation and food of £64. Please note that if you apply for a bursary for the away week end you will NOT be eligible for one for the training day in August.

Plan to come? What do I need to do now?

1. Book a place: Email Kelvin Mason and Jayne (email details below) to tell us you are coming, and if you have any preferences for dorm mates (if there are a few of you coming and want to share, for example, or if you want a room to yourself and are prepared to pay £34 a night). If you are coming as a family, let us know.

2. Pay for the weekend by bank transfer (preferred – details below) or by a cheque. Send a cheque to Jayne asap and by 1st March at the latest as we need to confirm bookings by the end of March. Please confirm to Kelvin and Jayne that you have paid.

3. If you want to apply for a bursary, please do so at the time of booking with Kelvin – i.e. by first March at the latest – with an indication of your status. Bursaries will be distributed on the basis of relevance and need. Applicants are asked to provide a page-long summary of their research interests and what they feel they will gain from the away weekend. Applications will be selected which most closely reflect the goals and orientation of the Research Group, and those with bursaries will be notified by the 10th March. We cannot guarantee that applications received after that date will be considered unless the bursary allocation has not been spent.

4. Book your travel, and if you are coming by train let Kelvin know your travel plans Abergavenny station and he can sort out taxis for Friday and Sunday.

5. Have a think about what you would like to do on the week end, your questions, and the skills you would like to share: Tell Kelvin what they are.

6. Send Kelvin an introductory paragraph about yourself

7. Relax, and look forward to the week end!

Contact details –

Kelvin Mason kelvin.john.mason@GMAIL.COM for bookings
Jayne Sellick for payments
Alan Terry Alan.Terry@UWE.AC.UK for questions about local issues
Pete North for anything else or if you get stuck



The PyGyRG Away Weekend Liverpool 2013


Whilst some of us may have approached this weekend with some trepidation, fearful that it could be another stress-inducing, work-orientated weekend, when all we really wanted to do was to escape assignment marking, REF preparation, and the seemingly endless task of PhD writing and research… there was a clear sense that we all went away feeling inspired and reinvigorated, if still a little tired.

The weekend was the usual fare of discussions in a free flowing, self-managed way, but the difference this year was that we were in a city, and a party city at that: Liverpool. So our discussions took place alongside many hen parties, drinking teams and Alicia Keys fans and included (for the hardy last two standing), a trip to the Cavern to see Nils from Norway and his mates fulfilling their dreams – standing where John Lennon did – except that it’s a simulacrum; the original Cavern was next door, and knocked down 40 years ago. Others enjoyed tasty vegan fare at the Liverpool Social Centre, Next to Nowhere.

This weekend confirmed that PyGyRG is an important space of mutual aid and solidarity that is underpinned by listening, reflection and sharing with others. This may sometimes be a difficult process, perhaps even more so now in our fraught era of pernicious insecurities and increasing socio-economic vulnerability; and we may often disagree and struggle to resolve contentions. But we can definitely bring concerns to the table with a sense of trust in the openness of this space we have created for dialogue and exchange.

One of the major concerns aired this weekend was the way in which the current context of doing scholarship and the terms of our employment within the university promotes the individualisation and internalisation of problems. Whilst this is a widespread malaise which we have discussed in our communifesto, it was seen to be particularly challenging for the participatory researcher and activist-scholars.

One of the key things from our discussion was the importance of appreciating that our own insecurity and neuroses are not simply personal individual problems, but part of the ‘usual’ pain of the creative process because through our research we learn more, and then what we have done before can seem increasingly inadequate. Dealing with this on our own, without recognising what is happening, can be very destructive. It is also connected to wider contradictions and the emotional ‘violence’ of our socio-political-economic context. This is why we need to develop tools for mutual support and engagement both formalised (mentoring programmes) and informal (away weekends, coffee with colleagues etc…). That’s why events like piggy weekends matter, so we can support each other through the process no matter where we are in our careers: it’s not an issue that ever goes away. It is integral to the creative process and to the place of Universities in the current structural crisis of capitalism.

In other conversations we reflected on how to work through these contradictions. Can we write stuff that those who matter to us will read, no matter who they are, and write what we need to write to get the REFable papers that will keep us employed? Is there necessarily a contradiction? How do we handle insensitive, even bullying management that tries to tell us what to publish, even though they are killing the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’, our creativity and the communities that we work with, in that process? How can we make it clear that research is a social, not individualistic process in the age of metrics?

In discussion it became clearer that within the RGS/IBG participatory methods are valued. We do not struggle to get our ethos onto the agenda: we are facilitated, for example, in running the Fuller Geographies sessions (no one tells us we can’t do it even though we may feel that we are taking forward a radical agenda); and suggesting new ways to run conference sessions that are more engaging and participatory. In REF terms, the Impact Agenda can be good for us.

Where we can struggle perhaps is within science faculties or in departments dominated by environmental scientists or quantitative geographers who can be dismissive of what we do (although many quantitative people interested in citizen science and participatory GIS are completely part of our community, and many scientists understand the need to work with communities to understand what their science means). One key point to come from the discussions was to set up an online mentoring network, where more established ‘piggies’ can talk to ‘up and coming’ members about how to do what they want to do within the limits of what is possible, without selling out.

Our substantive discussions were wide ranging, including knowledge exchange processes, working with larger organisations (including those with political perspectives that conflict with our own), photography, working with activists, working on participatory methods when you are not a geographer, and making participation methodologically sound.


Things we hope to take forward:

  • An R&R weekend in North Wales, staying at Liverpool University’s mountaineering club hut, for some walking, climbing and general outdoor loveliness – probably at the end of August, but no firm date set yet – get in touch if you want to come! [sxw@aber.a.cuk]
  • More collaborative events with other research groups – particularly DARG, the Children’s Geographies Group and Geographies of Justice Group – suggested themes around doing participatory research of varying forms, and post-graduate / earlier career research support.
  • A more formal methods based event providing training in participatory methods. Jenny Pickerill is exploring this at Leicester, but we will need experienced Piggy members to commit to leading the training, especially in more formal methodologies.
  • Space on for post-graduate / early career advice and support – on grant funding opportunities [Jenny P.] and other ‘survival’ tips and ideas; potential for blog comments / posts to share experiences… put together ‘survival handbook’? [See eg. Nelly Alis blog]
  • A guide for the use of participatory methods for undergraduate teaching and undergraduate dissertations: Pete North to explore with the RGS.
  • More work with groups outside of the academy –writing them into research grants so both they and we benefit both in terms of resources and from the research process.
  • Taking fuller geographies forward – suggestions to hold sessions / interventions at RGS; invite other research groups to respond to the communifesto and how it is relevant to them / their members – inviting critical engagement. Sam Halvorsen is organising a Fuller Geographies event at UCL at the same time as the RGS/IBG conference
  • Special Issue on Participatory Geographies for Area – in progress – Rationale [will be] posted on
  • Next Away Weekend: Alan is exploring Welsh opportunities, Svenja is looking at a return to the bonny, bonny banks of Lock Lomond, and Barbara is looking at a Belgian event, perhaps for 2015. Sam is also looking at a camp with some of the radical research co-ops he is involved with, who share the Piggy ethos.
  • Finally – and very importantly we need to manage the transition from the existing committee (Pete – Chair, Sophie – Secretary, Jayne – Treasurer, and Svenja and Grace (pg reps). We will have one year to serve from the RGS conference. We would like to identify the new officers at the RGS and have them shadow the current committee for a year so they know the ropes. These posts are open to any piggy members: don’t feel you need to have ‘time served’. All you need is energy and dreams :0)


PyGyRG Training Day, London 2013

‘Participatory Geographies and Militant Research at UCL’

Read about it here.


PyGyRG Training Day, Edinburgh 2012

‘Changing Our World Beyond the Ivory Tower’

Programme and leaflet:

2012 Training Day Poster

2012 Training Day info pack

PyGyRG Away Weekend 2012 York – Jayne Sellick

The sixth annual PyGyRG away weekend took place in the city of York from the 18-21st May (2012) and was championed by those attending for its central location between different parts of the UK and easy access by public transport. The weekend was organised by Rachel Pain who chose the venue (York YHA) for its access to the city and the countryside. As in previous years the weekend attracted a good mix of postgraduate, postdoctoral, academic, non-academic practitioners from within and beyond the UK, with a wide range of participatory interests and practices to share. Six bursaries were provided to cover the cost of accommodation and food.

On the Friday evening, Friederike Ziegler, a member of Group organised a welcome barbeque at her home in York, allowing participants to catch-up or meet one another for the first time in a relaxed environment. However, the rest of the weekend flowed around the same style, taking a participatory approach to discussions, making lunches and firming up the agenda for the weekend. The first morning kicked off with some ice-breaker games, allowing everyone to get to know each other and feel more comfortable about the weekend ahead, as there were a large number [15] of new first-time attendees, families and partners joined in too.

The topics were organised in parallel sessions, allowing people to swap between sessions based on, theories and methods; emotions; validating knowledge; questioning hierarchy; working with young people; materials and materiality. The availability of indoor and outdoor space allowed small and large group discussion, as well as, more informal activities to take place like walking (allowing for further discussion), visiting York, playing games, chilling out in the garden or staying at the Hostel with other members of the group. On the Sunday morning more sessions were carried out before lunch and members of the group/note takers agreed to write up and circulate the key points via the pygyrg list server. There were suggestions to incorporate a theoretical/philosophical reading list on the new blog for future reference.

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