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Hidden Figures, 2024

The Hidden Figures project was instigated by Nottingham-based education charity Ignite! and funded by the Boots Charitable Trust, following a pilot project in 2023. The Hidden Figures Project aims to create space for women, and people who identify as women and/non-binary to have conversations, develop confidence and share knowledge around their own interests and connections to scientific research. Themes explored throughout the project have been identified by two pairings of artists and scientists, in relation to their own expertise, and in turn through the participation of and in collaboration with two community groups. Each group has focused on topics that affect its members personally, and have used their own discussions, insights, creative activities and scientific research for further exploration.

The first iteration of the Hidden Figures Project, 2024 saw a collaboration between artist Chiara Dellerba, researcher and lecturer in Exercise, Nutrition and Health at NTU Emma Sweeney and Heya - a non-profit organisation, based in Nottingham, that provides support to empower, improve integrity and build a stronger community among Arab women. 

 ‘The way I see it, myself, Emma and all of the Heya group where all collaborating and we were all on the same page, so this was quite a unique experience’ - Chaira Dellerba 

‘Working with an artist has given me more ideas around how I can do workshops and communicate my research to more members of the community, as scientists we are not typically good at doing things like that or being so imaginative, it's usually quite black and white. Chiara's input helped to bridge the gap between the science and putting it into practice’ - Emma Sweeney

"We were interested in the project because of the themes of Food and sleep. When you come to a new country food is your main problem, and when you get older you are deprived of sleep, so this aspect of learning how food and nutrition can improve our sleep was really important to us" Marwa Soliman, Heya

The group gathered over the course of two months to reflect, share, collect knowledge and develop mutual support around the topic of sleep. Throughout six sessions taking place at Nottingham Women’s Centre the group investigated; ingredients, scientific research, shared personal stories, practiced meditation techniques and discussed routines and recipes that help to manage healthy sleeping patterns and promote relaxation. These sessions included: recipe sharing, chocolate meditation (Led by volunteer and previous Hidden Figures participant, Debs) poetry writing, energy ball making, no bake oat bar making and flat bread baking at Green’s Windmill and Science Centre. 

Photos from Hidden Figures sessions at Nottingham Women's Center.

Messy Kitchen for Better Sleep was the final outcome and event of the first groups project culminating in February 2024, with a public programme led by Heya at Green’s Windmill and Science Centre. The event took nutrition and food as primary objects to investigate how sleep and sleep disorders affect women’s health. Starting with the question: “What does good sleep mean to you?”. 

Messy Kitchen for Better Sleep encircled the themes of food making, conviviality and knowledge sharing. In this final event Heya opened an invitation to the public to join them for a playful mini series of workshops, skills, recipe and cross-cultural sharing all around a communal table, again at Green’s Windmill and Science Centre, findings and collective solutions were shared. Scientific facts mixed with folk medicine and traditional recipes from different countries. Alongside these discussions; cooking, rearranging, dismantling, rebuilding, rethinking, reimagining, eating and provoking, became the main ingredients which create the multilayered nature of Messy Kitchen for Better Sleep. 

Photos by Emma Ford, From the Hidden Figures event at Greens Windmill and Science Center

Alongside the event Chiara designed and produced a scientific guide to the ingredients used throughout the project, with input from Emma who shared details of ingredient powers and properties. Chiara will also be producing a publication bringing together texts, drawings, findings and documentation gathered through out the project. Messy Kitchen for Better Sleep hoped to shed light on the power that a holistic approach, cross-cultural collaboration and collective reflection, have in supporting women’s health and developing long term tactics to gain a better quality of sleep.

Designs by Chiara Dellerba, printed by Dizzy Ink

‘I think it is really important for Heya to shine and be recognised externally, projects like this are a real opportunity for this’  - Chiara Dellerba

‘This has helped the group to improve their habits, improve their sleep and nutrition, it has been full of facts and information about our health and sleep and how we can use food as a tool to have good sleep. It was the first time we have done a project like this, we have never done a project with science, food or sleep. - Marwa Soliman, Heya

‘It was nice to see the group grow an awareness of the research, and see them understand misinformation that they had read elsewhere, learning that there is no quick fix for sleep and nutrition. I saw their confidence grow when discussing it and hope that they are able to communicate what they have learned with their friends and families outside of the project’ - Emma Sweeney 

The second part of the project began with an ideation session in December and continued with weekly sessions from February through to March. This group was led in collaboration between artist Rebecca Beinhart, Soil Physics PHD researcher at the University of Nottingham Kits Fairclough and The Pamoja Women's Group, taking place  at the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum. 

In these sessions Rebecca and Kits have worked with the Pamoja group to investigate and learn together about soil, land use and care, cross-cultural knowledge, connection to land, and scientific research. After five sessions at the NNRF the group visited the University of Nottingham Sutton Bonington Campus for a full tour of the facilities and garden led by Kits. Here the group learned about identifying properties of different soils, technologies used for imagining and printing detailed scans of soil and different aspects of soil science, including testing on the campus allotment site. 

Photos from the group visit to University of Nottingham's Sutton Bonnington Campus

A final event is being planned with the group to take place as a part of a public event during Refugee Week of 17th June 2024 in the community garden at the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum. Along with a publication to document the group's work, experiences and findings throughout. The event will be a celebration of the creativity and knowledge exchange created and shared in the project. More details to follow soon...


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