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Philosophy on a beermat

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

I've just completed my micro-commission with Age Friendly Sheffield. It was a great opportunity - based on the Philosophy in Pubs group that I started three years ago: all are welcome, no experience required.

An unexpected outcome of this project was is the use of beer mats as a communication tool and note-taking device. Genius! Those pictured with the programme logo are blank on the other side for writing on.

Age Friendly Sheffield seeks to ensure that there are postive, healthy, social opportunities for people in Sheffield to join in with. Activities that are inclusive of people of all ages - we're all ageing after all! Philosophy in Pubs was a great fit for this as it's a monthly, open group available to anyone over the age of eighteen. We have interesting and fun discussions.

For the micro-commission, I delivered extra Philosophy in Pubs or Philosophy for Communities sessions in pubs, with local grassroots community groups and in the Graves Gallery (where Sheffield's city art collection lives). I also worked in partnership with Think Together Sheffield to deliver a city-wide community philosophy event as part of #PhiloFest, bringing people together from different settings. We were hosted by the National Fairground and Circus Archive at the University of Sheffield.

In the Bay Horse Inn on Pitsmoor Road, 10 people joined in with a philosophical enquiry session: Philosophy & Snacks! There was both a high quality of snacks and of thinking and discussion. Most people had found out about the meet up through Facebook or word of mouth.

We took the Seven Wonders of the World as a starting point and I invited them to say what their wonders of the world would be now: chocolate hob-nobs, human voices singing together, integrated public transport, the internet and their own children were among the things mentioned.

The question chosen for discussion was ‘To what extent do we need non-wondrous things to appreciate the wondrous?

During the discussion, a man in the pub came to join us by listening for a long time in the background. At the end he spoke up, to say he’d enjoyed listening but was going for a cigarette now. It was great to be bringing the opportunity to participate in philosophical discussion into the local community and a venue where people could join in with an experience they might not access otherwise at their own comfort level. There was interest in another similar session - hopefully I'll be getting back there in the new year.

The sessions in the Graves Gallery - Sharing the View: philosophy in the gallery use the artworks as starting points for enquiry. Grayson Perry's Comfort Blanket is picture, which led to discussions about the fabric of society. I'm delighted to say that Sheffield Museums have commissioned a further series – a great legacy of the micro-commission to bring the opportunity for open philosophical discussion and a different way in for people to engage with the city's art collection. Excitingly, the gallery sessions were also picked up by Radio 4 for an upcoming piece on Front Row - watch this space for further news about that.

If you would like to join in with a community philosophy session, you are welcome! More information is available through the links on this page or get in touch via the website contact form.

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