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Conversations with Dr Deborah Robinson

by Oenone Thomas

Deborah[i] is an artist who makes audio-visual installation artwork based on interdisciplinary collaboration. This has included working with biologists, ecologists, biomedical experts, technologists, and specialists in mental health. We initially met on the train as I travelled to Tate Modern in London for the AYCH Tate Exchange Creative Jam and we immediatley realised that the conversation should continue.

Our discussion today was thoughtful, sometimes fast and at other times slow as we considered a diverse range of topics which do not necessarily fit neatly in to a linear piece of writing. It was refreshing to let the conversation take its natural path. This meandering led to:

Young People’s expectations about their lives. Their integration of work and life, their stronger bonds with environmental and global values, their desire for experiences, change and challenge which is at odds with clearly delineated models of work and leisure.

We turned to the magic of the 3.5% behavioural change threshold[ii]. Whether AYCH should think about, debate and perhaps demonstrate through its work how to make behavioural change happen. Thinking here about Florent’s comment about AYCH changing his practice, AYCH Ocean’s impact on the Cíes Islands and some of the campaigns which Young People have presented at our local and transnational Creative Jams. Sometimes the issues we deal with – Climate Change, loss of habitat, mental health etc are overwhelming. How do we overcome being overwhelmed? There is something about scale “think globally, act locally” which has somehow been lost.

Discussions turned to those everyday straplines the permeate our lives. What do they mean and are their messages too human-centric? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has ‘giving nature a home’. Do we give nature a home? Is it ours to give? Perhaps with our focus on circular economies and sustainable practice AYCH and our Young People could examine our messaging to ‘de-throne the human’ and in doing so enhance behavioural change.

We work in a world of constructs which are not-fit-for-purpose. Where academics work in collaboration across borders but where universities are ranked by research publication which they want to ‘own’ and where products/services/campaigns are co-designed by AYCH transnational teams where Intellectual Property rights and State Aid are complex.  Recognition is due, but are their things that are beyond ownership? AYCH believes there is, and our Wiki demonstrates this but in other ways we are bound by out-dated constructs. Reporting for ACYH is heavily text based, divided and sub-divided until the essence of what we do is lost whereas we could use the Key Enabling Technologies, multimedia and immersive experience to show so much more.

Our conversation briefly turned to the benefit of ‘gaze aversion’[iii] and how our fixation on eye contact might sometimes be misplaced but we had to an end before we could really start. But I hope that we might learn something from one another. For the moment I have promised to send some videos of AYCH, think about opportunities for collaboration and to allow more time for slow meandering conversation.

[i] http://deborah-robinson.net/

[ii] http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190513-it-only-takes-35-of-people-to-change-the-world

[iii] https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/npb/people/kbp3/pdf/MarksonPaterson08.pdf



Today we are talking with Richard Hayman (Second one from Right to Left in the picture) Lead Partner of the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs Project, representing the Devon City Council. Who answers clearly to our three questions of today:

Do you represent an British county in this project, how did you decide to create a project like Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs?

My role within Devon County Council is to optimise the drawdown of all funds including European to deliver the Counties Strategic objectives, amongst which is the provision of opportunities and employment for the youth of Devon. This together with both my and Oli Rauds experience in European funding through various Interreg programmes led us to the idea to create the AYCH model  (probably over a beer) to give creative youngsters the opportunities AYCH is delivering.

Do you think Transnational events or trainings are an important aspect in the formation of young Europeans?

Absolutely it is vitally important that as wide a range of experience both culturally and technologically is available to young people across the EU including the UK!!

We are in a process between the EU and the UK complicated with the arrival of Brexit; How could this situation affect this Aych project and Interreg projects in general?

Firstly our Government have guaranteed funding over the life of any existing Interreg or UK Structural funds currently approved by the EU, so in that sense nothing changes for AYCH and all the other prprojects/programmes which DCC is involved with.  However the political situation is extremely fluid at the moment to say the least!!) and if we leave there are obviously various scenarios

AYCH Coordinator French Visit Odyssey


Every day we work interactively and collaboratively as an AYCH partnership, its vital to our mission. Our partners and their hubs are in four countries and stretch from Belfast in the north to Santo Tirso, near Porto in the south. We use interactive technologies regularly to reduce distance and keep us all working together. But sometimes nothing is better than meeting face-to-face to discuss things in depth, to experience the local environment and culture, and to build strong enduring relationships. We are careful to use this precious time wisely. This week I have visited our AYCH Partners in France.

Sunday 16 December – Exeter, UK to Brest, France

A day of travelling, thinking about the week ahead, chance encounters and practicing my school girl French.

  • Paris was fog-bound, every passenger had to switch-off their electronic devices, the pilots relaxed and the plane landed itself. Where would we have landed without this technology?
  • On the flight to next flight to Brest made a new friend from Germany, who like me has a role working for young people and loves German Christmas biscuits. Like a magician she produced a packet of Gewũrz-Spekulatious from her bag and gave them to me. Perhaps we will work together in the future?
  • Jumped in to a taxi, practiced my French and the driver practiced his English whilst we somehow managed to talk about the France v Russia handball match. Wondered if the taxi driver enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
  • Later that evening ate on my own, ‘watched people’ at the Christmas Market and thought ahead to the business of the next day.

Monday 17 December – Brest to Rennes, France

A day of meetings, exploration and travel.

  • Met with the project partner from Brest Metropole and discussed in depth deliverables, commissioning, reporting, budgeting, working, problem solving, translation, meeting protocols and more. Agreed the steps we need to take.
  • We were joined by another Brest team member for lunch. We shared and reflected on the mornings discussion and talked about our different cultural approaches to lunch! Reminded myself that I need to think about what the working day looks like across AYCH.
  • Explored Brest and visited some of the facilities available to AYCH. Peered down on the ‘traditional’ industries around the shipyard and looked in to the future from the state-of-the-art cable car.
  • Settled on to the TGV to Rennes and typed my notes from earlier in the day.
  • Arrived in the hotel in Rennes but discovered my laptop did not like the insecure WiFi on offer. Read my paper notes and prepared for the next day.

Tuesday 18 December – Rennes to Nantes, France

Another day of meetings, exploration and travel.

  • Met the new project partner from Atlantic Cities for the first time and travelled by metro from the city centre to the University area of the town.
  • Enjoyed presentations from the talented team members, discussed AYCH values and plans for future delivery and was surprised that Papa Noel had included me in his deliveries to Atlantic Cities.
  • Ate in a busy local restaurant whilst we discussed AYCH, the locality, tomorrow’s meeting in Nantes and our different Christmas customs.
  • Explored Rennes, talked about the juxta-positioning of old and new architectural styles, employment and skills, cemented our relationship and got very wet.
  • Took the train to Nantes, returning to this city after only three months, arrived in torrential rain and took the tram for a few stops before using Google maps to find the hotel. How the city seems to have been changed by dark short days and Christmas activities.
  • Noticed the moon which looks as if it were suspended from a crane in the night sky.
  • Logged my phones and laptop to the hotel’s WiFi and caught up on the messages I had not been able to receive that day or the evening before. Checked AYCH progress on reporting. Thanked colleagues in Brest and Rennes for their warm welcome and their work.
  • Read John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’ in a quiet corner of a nearby restaurant whilst eating something simple and tried to ‘switch off’.

Wednesday 19 December – Nantes, France

Another day of meetings but no travel and an enjoyable stroll across the Loire for work.

  • Set off early to meet our partner at L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique and arrived at the door with students and felt immediately welcomed in to a creative space.
  • Enjoyed presentations from students of two tools developed for AYCH – QUEST puzzle for facilitating discussion and planning participant journeys through AYCH options and Bright Mirror an ice-breaker ‘plus’ activity. So stimulating to work with creative, agile and enthusiastic young people.
  • Discussed L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique’s AYCH experiences and their discoveries about how AYCH has become embedded in the approach.
  • We were joined by the Chef de póle from the Pays de la Loire, and the Directors from L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique’s Care and Nouvelles Practiques Alimentaires Design labs, and colleagues from Atlantic Cities in time for diverse, informative and stimulating discussions over lunch.
  • Resumed the afternoon with discussions about Work Package 3 which focuses on the Capitalization of AYCH. Discussed how we could maximise the particular expertise and connections of the three key partners and the best way to utilise opportunities for all partners.
  • Travel arrangements for the following day were reworked in response to an unavoidable change of plans.
  • Said farewell to guests and partners before working with our host to complete our follow-up our Work Package 3 activities and briefly discuss workshop options for the second transnational Creative jam in Gijon next April.
  • Enjoyed the walk across the Loire back to the hotel reflecting on the day and thinking ahead to Thursday’s visit to Angouleme.
  • Worked through emails/messages and thanked colleagues and students in Nantes for their warm welcome and their work.

Friday 21 December – Paris to Exeter, UK

Flight to UK

  • Arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport with thousands of other passengers, some travelling for Christmas holidays and others diverting because of the closure of Gatwick, UK airport. Eventually arrived at the departure gate two and half hours later and ten minutes before boarding.
  • Continued reading John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’ with occasional views through the clouds to the English Channel/Le Manche below and eventually the rural landscape around Exeter.
  • Sent emails to thank colleagues in Angouleme for the meeting and to send promised follow-up information and took a quick look at AYCH Basecamp to check if anything needed urgent attention.
  • Completed the post-trip administration.
  • Unpacked the Gewũrz-Spekulatious and began to feel a bit more Christmassy!



Today a person with a long career in the configuration of European projects answers our questions. Enrique Rodríguez is the Head of the Department of International Initiatives and European Affairs of the City of Gijón, one of the two partners of Aych in Spain.

The City Council of Gijón already has extensive experience in European projects, what makes Aych different from the rest of the projects?

The AYCH Project has an aspect that makes it different and attractive and is that it works directly with people, with young people in our environment. This element makes AYCH a project that is close, direct and much easier to transmit. Sometimes European projects are abstract or excessively technical, but with AYCH we find a project close to the citizen. The beneficiaries of the project will participate in transnational meetings, training projects, and they will have the opportunity to meet other young people, as well as trainers from other European countries. At a time when the European project is being questioned, this closeness is, without a doubt, the most outstanding element.

Tell us briefly how you think Aych may be important for young Asturians.

One of the data that appears in the project is the high rate of unemployment among young people in the European Atlantic region, especially in Spain. Well, from Gijón we believe that AYCH can be a piece that contributes to the development of activities among young people that encourage the start-up of projects of a business nature. The interaction between the activities that are launched in the project with other local initiatives are very important for the consolidation of ideas that may arise in the Creative Transnational Jams. In addition, these projects could also have the European added value that any of the proposals resulting from all the exchanges and training that may occur during the life of the project may have.

The Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project is aimed at young people from 14 to 30 years old. Is there a concrete profile of participation in the project and could you advance what is the closest thing you are going to do from the City Council of Gijón for these young people?

In our case we have decided to bet on the development of the project in the field of industries and services 4.0 in order to seek synergies and meetings both with other projects that are being developed in Gijon, and with local partners with whom we have been collaborating in multiple initiatives . Specifically, the collaboration with the University through two Chairs, Gijón Smart and Gijón Media Lab, is fundamental. The young people who participate in the AYCH project, in their Creative Jams, come essentially from this collaboration with the University. Throughout the project there will be more activities that will allow us to collaborate with other social entities and other profiles of young people. This is one of the strong points of the project. The diversity of young people who can participate in it.



Today Richard Doak visits us to talk about his work at Aych and with young people from Devon County. Space works in several centres directly with the young people and Richard makes a personalized accompaniment that motivates them in their futures.

Can you tell us what is your work in Space and how do you work with young people?

My role is AYCH Project lead worker. I am a qualified Senior youth support worker with a specialism in music technology,  I am also a sports coach, archery teacher and climbing instructor. I have been working with young people for over 8 years,  running various successful Youth projects mainly around music delivery in the wider community. The way I work with young people is to allow them the opportunity to make their own decisions and mistakes on the way the projects they are part of go. My role is to facilitate, Inspire and support their ideas and decisions, helping them to reflect and evaluate their learning.

How do you think that Aych can change the life of the young people you work with?

Here in Devon, we are part of a large rural community. We took the decision at space to take this project away from the cities and out into the wider community giving young people in smaller towns, A chance to have their voices heard. We have created 3 hubs in which the AYCH  project will work from trying to spread them out across the county of Devon. One in the North, One in the south and one in the middle of the County. All of these areas face rural deprivation, poor transport networks, high youth unemployment and a disconnect from the wider UK. With this international Project, we hope to encourage young people to see a bigger picture and connect them with a wider community using are skills as youth workers and utilising modern communications technologies.

What do yo think that can ben the advantages for young people when forming part of a transnational project?

For young people in our county, the opportunity to gain real skills relevant to today’s job market is key.  The opportunity to work across countries is a concept unfamiliar to the young people I am working with. For example, as we prepare to take our group of young entrepreneurs to the next creative jam in Spain 3 out of the 5 young people do not have a passport or access to the internet in their home.  Through the AYCH Project, I can support them through the first ever trip abroad opening new horizons to their outlook. The chance for them to meet other young entrepreneurs from across Europe is an exciting one and for them to gain experiences with professionals from all walks of life is an opportunity not to be missed.

Exeter MBA Alumni Conference

University of Exeter: Business School, MBA Alumni Conference, 23 November 2018
A fabulous and immersive day at University of Exeter Business School, thinking about the New Economy:
  • How emerging business models challenge established ways of working
  • The need for sustainable business practices that respect and conserve limited resources
  • The challenges of new technology and its effect on the way we work and live
For me this day resonated with some of the raison d’etre of Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs. I have made short notes to share on topics and I have made some interesting and promising connections which I will help develop and share over the next few days.
Welcome: Professor David Bruce Allen
Keynote: Ed Mayo, Secretary general of Co-operatives UK
Talk : Professor of Leadership and Head of Management, Alex Gerbasi PhD
Talk: Sandra Norval, MD, Catalicity Ltd
Talk : Dr Stuart Robinson, Director of Exeter MBA
Panel debate
First Topic:
Make developing relationships part of your job
Alex Gerbasi PhD who is Professor of Leadership and Head of Management at the University of Exeter Business School talked about her research and experience of relationships and networking. She urged everyone to invest in their own development by consciously making developing relationships part of your job, and to think “who do you know, who knows you and how do they know one another?”
Many of us have networks which are frequently characterised by:
 Immediacy – where you are right now
Proximity – contacts you often see
Similarity – contacts who are like yourself
Relational Inertia – its easy to stay the same and not to change
But we can all thrive, grow and deliver by improving our networks by:

 Diversity – Including people beyond your area of immediate interest and expertise. This is important for inter-disciplinary working and for more mobile working opportunities.

Depth – Including people who are more experienced/senior and less experienced/senior as well as equivalent, in short up, down and sideways

I want to apply this to AYCH:

How can our Young People use AYCH for developing relationships which help them thrive, grow and deliver in the New Economy:
Always think about your security and safety. Over 18 years old? Perhaps use professional networking sites to develop relationships which will help with career mobility. When they are participating in AYCH events use the opportunity to have conversations with new people. Aim to think about:

Diversity – Include other young people from thier own and other nations they meet at the Creative Jams, as Interns etc. Connect with young people with the similar and different skills and interests.

Depth– Include people who are more experienced/senior and less experienced/senior as well as equivalent to themselves. Connect with experts, and AYCH team members.ap


As part of the incubation program in Brest, participants visited the ZAAT gallery. The gallery is tackling the issue of empty of vacant units in Brest, by organizing temporary exhibitions of local artists.

Participants had the opportunity to exchange with the artists and about their path towards professionalisation, talking about status, economy, activity and how to turn your passion into an activity.

This visit was organized in partnerhip with CitésLab, an agency supporting entrepreneurs in urban deprived areas.


The Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project begins its work with the youngest of the house.

Through AychKids this European project has several main objectives:

– Disseminate the values of aych to children throughout Europe.
– Create activities for the youngest that have relation with the new technologies.
– Contribute to the dissemination of the aychocean program among children to continue the struggle of a world without plastic.

Our project believes that education has to reach the whole society but that children have to find tools outside the academic environment, and even through European projects; It is important that the shared work of educating comes from different areas of our societies.

Soon we can enjoy the adventures of Drop and Friends. !!!

AYCH Kids Drawing Contest 2019

“The Atlantic Ocean, a sustainable environment for all!”


Atlantic Cities organises a drawing contest for children of
the following Atlantic countries:
Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal.
Theme: “The Atlantic Ocean, a sustainable environment for all!”
Imagine the future of the Atlantic Seaside and express your creativity!
This contest is open to all children between 8 and 11 years old of public
and private schools. Participate and get a chance to win a sustainable gift
We believe youth has the power to change the world and inspire others.
Through this contest, our main goal is to raise awareness on sustainability
and environmental protection by giving a voice to children and allowing
them to showcase their creativity.



Pablo Castro: Aych en Lugo

Hoy hablamos con Pablo Castro, encargado de la oficina de Asuntos Europeos de Vida Láctea y Coordinador de Actividades en el proyecto Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs.

¿Cual puede ser la importancia de Aych para la juventud de Lugo?

Proyectos como el Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs AYCH tienen un impacto vital en la juventud de una ciudad como Lugo, donde el paro juvenil puede llegar a ser una preocupación.

Por ello toda la ayuda de la Unión Europea es crucial, y el proyecto AYCH casa a la perfección al tratarse de un proyecto orientado no sólo a la formación, sino también a fomentar el emprendimiento juvenil, la trasnacionalidad y la búsqueda de nuevas formas de desarrollo de proyectos e ideas; AYCH contribuye de manera sustancial a dotar a los jóvenes de las herramientas necesarias tanto para hacer realidad sus proyectos como para abrirse camino en el mundo laboral.

Lugo ha especializado su incubadora en lo audiovisual, cual es el motivo principal de haberlo hecho y que puede ofrecer a los jóvenes de Lugo?

Lugo tiene en su entorno una casuística especial: la escasez de desarrollo tecnológico relacionado con el prototipaje de producto, debido a que Lugo es una provincia con un trasfondo rural que poco a poco va adaptando su estilo de vida a las nuevas tecnologías. Los jóvenes hoy en día se encuentran inmersos en el uso de aparatos de última generación, uso de redes sociales e internet; y por esa razón se optó por fomentar las herramientas audiovisuales, las cuales a parte de brindar un camino diferente al ya existente, pueden ser empleadas para fomentar y expandir sus líneas de negocio.

Accediendo a nuestra incubadora los jóvenes de Lugo serán asesorados por nuestro equipo de expertos, recibirán formación de distinto tipo, tendrán acceso a lo último en tecnología y formarán parte de un proyecto transnacional. El Proyecto AYCH cuenta entre sus acciones la de realizar procesos de incubación de manera transnacional entre los distintos socios del proyecto, establecidos en cuatro países del Arco Atlántico (España, Francia, Portugal y Reino Unido). Por lo que de ser interesante para el incubado cabría la posibilidad de realizar un corto período de formación en una de las incubadoras de nuestros socios en el extranjero, de manera gratuita.

Nuestro sistema de incubación sigue las líneas formativas del Proyecto AYCH, por lo que persigue el formar al joven para que sea capaz de pensar por sí mismo, planteándose el tipo de ayuda que necesita, cómo podría mejorar su idea o incluso si sería necesario un intercambio con uno de nuestros socios en otro país. Este tipo de formación tiene también un importante impacto económico-social ya que de nuestra incubadora audiovisual podrían surgir novedosas formas de fomentar líneas de negocio muy tradicionales; como por ejemplo una explotación ganadera.

Pero no sólo nuestra incubadora está especializada en lo audiovisual, también tenemos otras opciones dirigidas al prototipaje y desarrollo de producto a través de nuevas tecnologías.

Para este año 2019-2020, cuales son los objetivos de Vida Lactea para Aych? Que quieren hacer?

En Septiembre de 2018 el partenariado del proyecto depositó en nosotros su confianza al ceder la gestión de la Comunicación del proyecto a Vida Láctea. Durante estos meses hemos abierto nuevas redes sociales y reforzado de forma notoria los medios de comunicación que existían previamente. El objetivo que nos marcamos para el 201-2020  no se basa tanto en darle un impulso aún mayor al apartado de Comunicación como en utilizar los medios disponibles para hacer llegar toda la información posible a los jóvenes.