Case Study Four

Project of Glorious Failure: CHORA SCHOLARSHIP

Portsmouth College, Hampshire

Darren Bray, CHORA Co-Director, was approached informally by the Deputy Principal of Portsmouth College, a local Further Education provider, to discuss opportunities for an innovative programme that exposed the realities of the workplace to students. It immediately became a CHORA project: the initial phase of programme design and funding delivered on a pro-bona basis.

The course was designed in collaboration with staff at Portsmouth College, but the concept resides with CHORA. In our roles as teachers in Schools of Architecture we had become increasingly aware of a seeming lack of resilience in many young people, who consistently appear to react negatively to relative small or expected challenges. We discussed words such as risk, and failure, concentrating upon the cultural significance of these words in contemporary world and the impact that has upon young people.

Reflecting upon his first-year experience in a School of Architecture, Roger Tyrrell remembered a grade that was then offered: ‘Glorious Failure’ that recognised a strong ambition for the design project but simultaneously acknowledged that the student may not at that early stage in the Education, have the tools to deliver it.

The ‘Place of Glorious Failure’ was born.

The objective was to design and eight-week programmes of study that through creative practice, exposed students to the failure that is constant and implicit within all creative acts. We would encourage them to embrace risk, fear and failure as they moved out of their comfort zones.

The programme was from the outset designed as a collaboration with members of CHORA’s network. It was imperative to challenge preconceptions and the course had to be innovative in structure and content.

To provide a focus for the course we adopted the challenges provided by homelessness: an exponentially increasing phenomenon in Portsmouth and across the UK.

From the outset is was obvious that whilst there was a great appetite for such a programme, little funding was available due to the strictures of the Further Education system. In collaboration with Portsmouth College, CHORA undertook to deliver support and funding from our own networks and beyond. From these meetings, the City Council contributed a significant tranche of funding, as did the Broadway Malyan Architects, Grey Matter Concrete, Pompey in the Community, and we drew-upon some funding from the College. We also gained the support of the then Leader of Portsmouth City Council, the Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth and Portsmouth Football Club.

The design and delivery of the programme was subsequently pitched to the College Strategic Leadership team who approved both structure, content and budget.

CHORA subsequently pitched the programme to students as an extra-curricula event and a cohort of 24 enrolled for the pilot. The programme was delivered between March and May 2018 involving a diverse range of collaborators.

We began by hearing the voices of failure; stories of failure from successful creative practitioners, we built teams, we heard the voices of the homeless, we made big art with Will Alsop, we were inspired by a world champion free skier, we made concrete pillows and lightbulbs with Jonathan Reid of Greymatter concrete. Students made personal manifestos, talked about big issues and got their hands dirty. There was lots of laughter.

The CHORA team and all collaborators came away from each session inspired by these young people who consistently articulated a desire for collective betterment in the world.

The event concluded with a ‘public broadcast’ to an invited audience where students effective, and modestly presented their ‘Manifestos of Homelessness’. All students were subsequently presented certificates and appointed as ‘Ambassadors of Risk and Failure’ and will go on to tell others of their experience.

Student Feedback suggests that the Place of Glorious Failure was a success:

“I enjoyed the Course. It
 enhanced my self-confidence,
 my creativity, and 
enhanced awareness of social issues The Course empowered me.”

“I found the Course engaging and inspiring.”

"There is an increasing demand on young people to become social mobility champions and colleges play a pivotal role in helping their students to understand how they fit into and can support the wider society. CHORA supported Portsmouth College to do this by designing, developing, and delivering an innovative eight-week pilot program of creative activity and social action, that encouraged students to redefine words such as failure, risk, and fear, enhancing their individual resilience and self-confidence as part of the process. Student feedback is testament to the value of the ‘Place of Glorious Failure’, they left course feeling equipped with the mind-set and employability skills they need to succeed as young people in contemporary culture. 

This is a pedagogic model that deserves a wide constituency."

TOM  LLOYD – VICE PRINCIPAL PORTSMOUTH COLLEGE

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