‘Can you see what is hidden?’ Our stall at the Festival of Communities 2023

By Rebecca Muir and Stephen Hibbs

On June 10, 2023, the APOLLO team hosted a stall at QMUL Festival of Communities called ‘Can you see what is hidden?’.  The yearly festival brings together Queen Mary researchers and local community groups to celebrate Tower Hamlets.

Our stall strongly linked to the work of APOLLO, as one of our shared aims is to make hidden aspects of health and healthcare visible. This includes the hidden pain experienced by patients and the work they need to do to manage this, hidden work done behind the scenes by doctors to keep things moving, hidden struggles faced by people excluded from healthcare funding, the hidden cognitive work that goes into managing multiple medicines and conditions, and more. 

Although it was 30-degrees outside and the stall had a constant flow of interested families, the day ran surprisingly smoothly, and we didn’t get too overheated. Thankfully, the APOLLO team was supported by volunteer PhD students from the Health Data in Practice Doctoral Programme, who were brilliant at engaging kids with the stall and at keeping energy levels up. We all enjoyed chatting with so many different visitors and it helped us realise how important public engagement is for spreading and developing our research ideas.

Our first activity centred around Hidden signs and symbols.

Three cardboard boxes were decorated with paint, hanging tinsel, glowing stars and stickers. Three  hidden pictures were drawn inside each box in invisible ink. Both normal and UV torches were attached within each box and children were tasked using the torches to search for the three hidden pictures. When they found out what the three pictures were, they received a special optical illusion prize.

Our second activity was all about creating a Co-created collective artwork of hidden dreams.

On one of the tables, rainbow scratch paper was laid out with the prompt “What is your dream?”. Children scratched pictures and words in answer to this. These individual scratch art cards are then attached to a life size cardboard person. Children were given the freedom to interpret the question how they saw fit, and they were so creative with both their dreams and accompanying drawings. 

Some children etched their career aspirations, and plenty wanted to become footballers, influencers, doctors and astronauts (sadly, ‘future critical social scientist’ didn’t make an appearance on the cardboard person). Other children focussed more on their dreams in the here-and-now and wrote about how they dreamt of owning a house, getting a pet, and about becoming a big brother or sister. 

The last activity was our Hidden understandings exhibition. 

This portion of the stand showcased the research of several group members. On the table there were laminated flaps – the surface level flap had a clue about a particular APOLLO research project and beneath was more information about the project. This part appealed to older children and adults the most and we hope to use this aspect of the stall in future public outreach for this group. 

Overall, we felt that the stall helped children understand how health systems work in practice, and as social science researchers we hope that attendees came away with a different perspective on health and medicine. It also highlighted how important it is to listen to children as what they say can reveal so much about the world we live in, and it was lovely that they thoughtfully shared their ideas, dreams, and aspirations with us. 

Thank you to everyone who came along on the day, and to everyone who helped create such an imaginative stall! 

Activity 3: Hidden understandings

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