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Manual Labours

‘Manual Labours’ is a practice-based research project exploring people’s physical relationships to work, initiated by Jenny Richards (independent curator/artist/writer) and Sophie Hope (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck). This project reconsiders current time-based structures of work (when does work start and end?) and reasserts the significance of the physical (manual) aspect of immaterial, affective and emotional labour.

The outputs so far have been:

  • A 35 hour ‘working week’-long investigation in April 2013 in the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, into the embodied, sensory, emotional affects of work which included meetings with our co-workers, a 9 mile walk to work, hosting a film screening and eating together during a Public Lunch Hour.
  • Publication of a manual documenting our findings from this event (published by Cultural Democracy Editions, printed by AND, and launched  on 30 October at X Marks the Bökship).
  • Three public site-specific reading groups ('The body and clocking-off' with artist/researcher Broderick Chow in an artists' studio at Cubitt on 16 October; 'The body and working environment' with artist/researcher Claudia Firth and psychologist Amy Harrison in the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre on 6 November and 'The body and bad management' with researcher/philosopher Josefine Wikström and performing arts researcher Claire Warden on 27 November at HSBC Canary Wharf.
  • Conference papers in Warwick (BSA Work, Employment and Society conference), Loughborough (Making Something for Nothing symposium, RADAR) and London (Generative Constraints, Royal Holloway).
  • A workshop in Melbourne with cultural workers about 'loving work'

Sophie and Jenny are currently preparing a series of workshops with staff at Southwalk Council and University College London Hospital, with further financial support from the widening participation team at Birkbeck.

The project is predominantly self-funded at present, but has received some valuable support (£450 in total) from the Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice for the first stages of the project which has gone towards the food for the public lunch hour in April 2013, payment of reading group discussants and the publication of the first manual labours manual.

You can find out more on the project website: