Co-production rule #3

Remember the 5 Ps

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

When I was growing up in rural Leicestershire, my best friend’s father had a garage, where they fixed Audis and VWs. There was a huge sign on the wall, with these words. There was another P which I’ll leave to your imagination.

Before you launch into the interviews, site visits, endless kilometres on roads with which you will become too familiar, you must consider the stuff you’ll need to make all of it happen. What follows may seem a prosaic and dull list, but in my experience, these are the most important investments you’ll make.

Comfortable, waterproof walking shoes and a waterproof coat

This might once have been a seasonal requirement, but given the increasing unpredictability of our climate, you’re probably better having them on hand. During our work with the community of Inch, we went from bright, warm January days, through three named storms in February, and snow in March.

The Old Road from Binalt to Grange, Inch

A comfortable rucksack

You will be carrying a lot of stuff, better to have something you can throw over your shoulders.

A notebook, pens, pencils

We live in digital age, and you may keep everything on your phone, but there will be times when a scribbled note is needed.

Business cards

Nothing fancy, just your name and contact details.

Contact sheet

I’m sure you have all the important contacts on your phone, or in an Excel spreadsheet, but make sure you have a hard copy too, because batteries, as good as they are, run out.


Your organisation’s ID card, national ID Card or a driving licence. Something that tells people who you are. My Donegal Council ID card came in very handy on one occasion in particular.

Mobile phone

Obviously, you’ll take your mobile phone, but I include it for a couple of very specific reasons. When you visit the community, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whatever time it is, it’s selfie time. Yep, sounds a little silly, but there is a very good reason for the selfies. Your phone is tracking everything you do and everywhere you go. Take a selfie, ensure your location services are switched on, and then when you come to fill out travel claims, you can attach the selfie.

That’s me at Inch Pier. EXIF data tells me: Date and Time (Original) – 2020:01:08 11:42:55

In the Meta/EXIF data of that photo, will be time, date and location. Your line manager will be delighted, the SE-PS will be satisfied you were where you said you were, and you’ll know what you were doing and when for the final report. The second thing you’ll need your mobile for is…

A Twitter or Instagram account

Whichever you use, and even if you have no followers, these accounts are free, simple to use, and once again show where you were, what you were doing and when. Have look at our Twitter account @CINE_Donegal

CINE Donegal Twitter Account

It won’t have been updated recently, but it’ll show how I tracked the work on the project. Treat these accounts as a diary. You don’t need to post everything all the time. Be specific, be interesting and be informative. And don’t forget the hashtags… For Inch, we used #digital #heritage #CineProject #community #coproduction #Inch #Donegal #history Be inventive with them, make up something that will identify your posts. And don’t forget to add those SE-PS logos!

A camera, and a mini tripod

This doesn’t have to be the latest Canon EOS, in fact it’s better if it’s cheap and easy to slip into a pocket. ‘”Oh, but my mobile phone has a brilliant camera and…’ I hear you say. Great, I’m impressed, but keep it for telephone calls, WhatsApps and the Twitter/Instagram posts. Batteries, as good as they are, run out.

A Flickr account

You’re going to take a lot of photos, so open a free Flickr and upload them there. Memory cards get misplaced or disappear. Our Flickr account, CINE Donegal, holds all the archive images and photos I took on my travels.

A laptop and portable flatbed scanner

If you’re intention is to collect photos and archive documents, you’ll need something to scan them with and something to run the scanner.

A digital audio recorder

Again, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive version. I use Zoom recorders, the HI and H2, but there are plenty of other inexpensive alternatives. These are battery powered but will last a good few hours. Make sure you get the largest capacity memory card you can find. With a 64GB card, at MP3 quality, you’ll get a week of recording time, at WAV quality, days.

A Soundcloud account

If you’re recording oral history, then open a free Soundcloud, and upload your recordings there. Memory cards get misplaced or disappear. Our Soundcloud holds all the archive recordings I made on my travels.

Chargers, powerbanks, batteries, extension leads

That includes, car-chargers, cables, solar-chargers, more cables, spare cables, spare chargers. You will be living in your car. Be prepared. There might not be any mains electricity for kilometres. Batteries, as good as they are, run out. I’ll talk more about Technology later on.

A water bottle

There might not be any mains water for kilometres either.

Dog treats

You will meet dogs, small ones, large ones, yapping ones, barking ones. If you don’t like dogs, you’ll have to put those feelings aside. A few dog treats in your pocket will generally win over even the surliest of canine community residents.

Perspectives III

The image at the top of this page is one of the many roads I travelled when working with the community of Inch. I drove part of the way, but walked the rest. I came upon a cottage…

Sweeney’s Cottage, Binalt, Inch.

The cottage, built between 1842 and 1913, is now in ruins, but the memory of the family who lived there is preserved in the local lore, and marked on the map of Inch field names.

Detail of Inch field names map. From the work of Peter Gurrie and the islanders.

On another journey, I found myself walking to the Fairy Fort at Dunfinn, and then wandering off down another boreen (from the Irish: bóithrín – little road). I came across a dry-stone wall, not unusual in some parts of west Donegal, but uncommon further east.

I wondered why this odd feature was there at all, and it was only a chance remark to a local farmer, that uncovered a tale of famine, landlords and dry-stone walls.

I could mention another half a dozen discoveries on Inch, and all of them would have one thing in common: I walked… across damp fields, dodging puddles and the mud along boreens, ducking under trees to dodge the hail showers, but always walking. You will discover more about a community and place by walking around it, than any other method of research. Just make sure you have good boots, a waterproof coat, a camera to capture the oddities, and a sense of adventure. But mostly the boots.

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