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Olivia Durand and Paula Larsson (Founding directors of Uncomfortable Oxford)

Oxford’s Uncomfortable Past

transcript s.2 ep.4

SPEAKERS

Olivia Durand, Paula Larsson, Alina Boyko, James Harrod

Alina Boyko

Hello, this is For Arts’ Sake, a podcast that gives voice to museum people. Here we pull the curtain to hear their untold stories, for arts sake.

00:05

James Harrod

And for your sake. This week Alina we're joined by the two founders of Uncomfortable Oxford, Olivia Durand and Paula Lawson. They are two doctoral candidates at Oxford. They've created a tour experience, which is not just your bog standard walking tour.

00:11

Alina Boyko

Uncomfortable Oxford is all about confronting the hidden and lesser known. There I say the uncomfortable history that lies beneath Oxford's culture and heritage. The tours have been a massive success, and we are really looking forward to speaking with the two pioneering women today.

00:27

James Harrod

Olivia, Paula, thanks for joining us.

00:45

Olivia Durand

Thanks for inviting us. Hi, I'm Olivia.

00:48

Paula Larsson

Hi, I am Paula.

00:49

James Harrod

So first things first, what is Uncomfortable Oxford? What sets it apart from other tour experiences?

00:51

Paula Larsson

Well, we are two, of course, history majors, and what we really found was when you are in Oxford, you can walk down the street and hear a specific type of history. It was very celebratory, it was very romantic, and it was very much this glorified traditional narrative of Oxford. Uncomfortable Oxford is trying to problematise that history. So we do it through stories, where we take the traditional narrative, and we turn it a little bit upside down. So for instance, in the case of the glorious story of Alice in Wonderland, which comes from Oxford for instance, Lewis Carroll, being the author there, the story is that on one golden afternoon, the Professor Charles Dodgson, who's the author of Alice in Wonderland, was out rowing with Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of his college, and she saw white rabbits. And he used to tell her the story of Alice, who chases the White Rabbit down the hole into Wonderland. So that's the traditional kind of narrative of this beautiful story. But there's an uncomfortable aspect to that too, because, of course, the relationship between Alice and Charles Dodgson, the professor has been called into question because of his own writings, and his diary entries as well, which were actually removed from the pages by his own niece, who said that they offended her senses. The fact that he had this idealised version of young girls, which he would write about later, that a girl of 12 is my ideal form of beauty is a quote from later on in his life. So for instance, yes, that's one of our uncomfortable stories.

00:59

Olivia Durand

This is an example of one of the stories you tell on an uncomfortable literature tour. But we are historians to start with, so we started what we know best, which is history. Initially, we both felt a little bit frustrated about how we could take research a little bit outside of the academic bubble. We started projects very much as a public engagement research endeavor, and we came up with this itinerary, to try to highlight different aspects of uncomfortable history, not sort of linked to legacies of imperialism, colonialism, but also wealth inequality, gender and race prejudice, and violence in general. We didn't really know who would come on this tour. And the first day we had about 15 people show up, that's quite good. Then 20 people, then 25 people. At the end of the festival, we had over 80 people who came on the tour. You can imagine that was kind of an interesting thing to navigate the streets of Oxford with such a crowd. That got us thinking that there is truly an appetite for those kinds of stories. People want to not have just celebratory stories of victories, and very positive narratives, they also want to know what is underneath, what has been overlooked, and they want to engage with the stories because that's all relevant to how they understand the present.

02:17

James Harrod

Fantastic.

03:35

Alina Boyko

So the tourists, they prove a big success, as we just heard. On your website, you say that your key audience, the people you are most hoping to engage with for these tours are academics, local Oxfordians, tourists and institutes. So could you give us a quick rundown of why you are hoping to engage with each of these groups?

03:38

Olivia Durand

We really want to facilitate the discussion among different types of publics, not just students with each other, or academics with each other. At this point, the audiences we have for our tours are - during term time, there's still a majority of students, about 50%. But outside of the Oxford University term, it will be about 30% students or academics, 30% local and 30% tourists. It creates very unique opportunities for those individuals coming on these tours, not knowing each other, to actually have conversations about uncomfortable stories and uncomfortable narratives. And for this, we have developed specific methods.

04:02

Paula Larsson

Yeah, so we do invite discussion on our tours, and that's really key and important part of what we do. The idea is that, as academics, there is this concept that we seem to know everything, that we should just give the art knowledge to the world, in a very special, kind of condescending way. We don't believe that, we want actually everybody who comes on a tour has their own knowledge as well, and has their own perspective that is very valuable and worth listening to. So we encourage discussion throughout the tour. So we will ask lots of questions, and what we end up doing in our system is to tell a story, so one of the historical stories we've researched with our own research, and then we ask people how it makes them feel, how can they relate to it? What stories do they have that show something similar in the modern? How does that work? And then you actually get this really great moment where strangers from various different backgrounds are able to share the perspective of say, decolonizing in Portugal, or Canada and statues or personal stories of oppression, or, you know, the research that they also do across in a different university. So you have this really great moment of mutual learning and mutual respect and mutual discussion, which allows for us to explore all the different possibilities within very controversial subjects.

04:38

James Harrod

So obviously, that's really different from the commentary experience, which tends to be a tour guide talking and people listening and nodding politely. Do you ever find that people aren't willing to engage? And if so, how do you deal with that response to active participation?

05:47

Paula Larsson

If we have people who don't feel like they want to engage, what our goal is really to feel the space out. We see who's on as a guide, all of our guides too, they are trained really well to kind of get a feel for the group. So we always start with the easy question, like where are you from, you know, like what's your name, what's your background. People kind of get more familiar with each other, which helps with the opening of the space. And also, there's a few techniques as tour guides you can really utilise. So for instance, if you have one person who's quite loud, who's very, very, very vocal, you can position yourself across the circle from them. So that way, they are always including everybody, between all discussions between you and that individual, for instance. Or you can look at certain people and say, I know you're from this country, what's the experience there? If people don't feel comfortable, maybe in an actual group discussion, they don't have to participate in the vocal group discussion each stop. But between stops, is actually where most of the productive discussion happens, because the 10 minutes of walking from space to space is a really good time for people to reflect on what we've just talked about.

06:00

Alina Boyko

Interesting. The discussions around uncomfortable legacies of inequality and colonial histories are widespread in the academic circles. It's a great platform to engage wider public and wider audiences from outside this privileged academic circle. How are you involving this wider audience in the debates?

06:56

Paula Larsson

One of our goals is, of course being a walking tour, is to engage with anybody who can just walk up to that tour. That's actually why we chose that route itself. I think what's very common in Oxford especially, is there is this is really big divide between members of the university, and the people who just walk the streets, and Oxford gets 9 million tourists a year, and not many of those tourists will actually have to talk to an academic from Oxford, despite the fact they've traveled to Oxford for a reason, and that's academic engagement, and that's intellectual stimulation. So what we really want to do to engage diverse audiences is try and reach those audiences. So that means we've advertised through tourist information centers, in different ways then academics, but we also get the academics through Twitter and through Facebook, as well. But then we also work with local community groups as well, to try and bring in a diverse local community so that they can also feel that space is theirs to talk about and engage with, and they bring some of the most amazing perspectives because they live in the space of Oxford and they have for many, many years.

07:16

Olivia Durand

So we are always kind of thinking, how can we reach a wider audience? What are we missing? What are other ways to come up, you know, reach out to the local communities, to tourists, to school groups, to anyone who'd be interested in participating in those discussions. So we try as much as possible to participate in festivals that will also have a very different network, in terms of publicity. And also, I guess, even when we think about the diversity of audiences, in the way that we give the tours and the way we try to facilitate the conversation, we think that this might be a good way for people to very much make those stories or those information personal, because it's very different to go on a tour, or go to a lecture and just listen to someone talking. I mean, myself, I would, after two minutes, or even a minute, I would just start looking away. I will switch off basically. But the things to remember are the things you've discussed with someone. You'll say, oh, yeah, I remember talking with someone about this or that. We hope that kind of method brings as many people as possible in those conversations, because they can very much make them their own.

08:06

James Harrod

So in addition to your tours obviously, which are very, you know, conversational and involved, you offer a series of free events, currently. One of them that I'm sort of really interested in are the public lectures, which we'll put out in just a second. But first of all, why is it so important to put on free events?

09:21

Paula Larsson

We found that of course, our tours are paid, the lowest in the city, but they still are a paid event, and that creates a barrier to accessibility for individuals who can't afford to do it. Our goal is to engage as many people as possible in these conversations, and that means being accessible to everybody who can't even afford to go on a walking tour. So we put on our free events monthly so that there is another option for those who simply can't afford to do it.

09:38

Olivia Durand

So this goes through prospecting in festivals, so when we do a tour for a festival, this will be for free. But as you mentioned, we have a public lecture series. So because we're in Oxford, because we're in Britain, the history of the British Empire is very much present in the stories we tell. And you can hear my accent, I'm French, but the history of the Empire, the history of colonization, in many Western countries is not at all part of the secondary school curriculum. So what we've noticed is that on the tours, a lot of people have only very vague ideas about the history of colonization, of expansion, and unless they had the chance to go to university and decided to pick history, they might not have had any further contact with this history. So what we decided to do is to monthly offer a public lecture, titled a Very Short Introduction to the British Empire. We are right now finishing up the first module, so the first free lecture module of this academic here, on the Age of Exploration. We've done the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and we're going to do next week, December the 5th, the Pacific Ocean.

10:01

Alina Boyko

We would like to move away from the streets and inside the museum, because you do free tours at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Tell us more about this museum and your relationship with it?

11:10

Paula Larsson

The Ashmolean Museum is the archeology Museum of Oxford. I would say, it's the number one visited museum inside the city. It's really big, it's very beautiful, and people go in it for the history of archaeology, but also just to look at the mummies and the statues of Rome.

11:22

Olivia Durand

So we approached the Ashmolean Museum quite early on actually in our projects, in February, and they have been very good at collaborating with us. And since May, we've been running once a month, two tours of the museum for their after hours event on the last Friday of each month. Because it's only once a month really, what we decided was to do a tour that will interrogate what a museum is, how museums are created as institutions, what sort of narratives to different galleries, exhibitions, highlight or hide, and try to engage the public in discussions about repatriation. This is one of our free events, so it's very, very diverse in terms of audience. We can see that there are so many people who really really want to engage with questions, and it tends to be, it's very different each time, but it's a very fruitful discussion to have.

11:36

Paula Larsson

It also helps you bring in that perspective of the audience on how a museum can choose to decolonise, how a museum can choose to recognise difficult histories, and how a museum could change even just labels to do such a thing. So small, little changes here and there, because the audience are such a creative force, you know, they have such a great perspective that, you know, when you are stuck in a museum quarter, it's hard to see past the display. But for people who are approaching it from the other side, they see exactly what's missing. And their perspectives really helped to, you know, give us feedback, which we then pass on to the Ashmolean Museum, and the Ashmolean Museum will listen to that, and they are going to go through some redesigns in the next couple of years, and we'll be able incorporate some of the feedback that's taken in from the audience.

12:24

James Harrod

Is there any plan to do a similar collaboration with any other museums?

13:06

Paula Larsson

We'd love to do more collaborations with other museums. Currently, we've been in talks with the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford as well. They have a little bit more of a difficult history, of course, with sourcing of items, and how they are displayed even. Pitt Rivers of course, himself being a military man who collected weapons to show how civilizations went from, a quote he said, was savagery to civilization, and the need to display in topology amongst types of items so that you could see the progression of peoples as he put it. Now that's really difficult history, and they're really protective of how it's approached, because they are doing a lot of collaborative approaches with different local international communities. But it hasn't gotten so far yet. We have also been approached by Blenheim Palace to possibly do something in the future. We'd love to expand into other museums, institutions, especially because we're a walking tour and at some points it gets cold outside.

13:12

Alina Boyko

Would it be possible for you to tell us a little bit about the Pitt Rivers itself? So what is this museum?

14:03

Paula Larsson

The Pitt Rivers museum was founded by Augustus Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, who is a general who didn't have very much money early on in life, but later came into a big inheritance, and was able to therefore expand a collection of items, originally through his own travels as a military man through the British Empire, where he collected lots of weapons. He was really specifically interested in weapons to start with. But then when he retired, he got a big inheritance from like a long uncle, and was able to purchase a lot of other items. He had this huge, huge collection of about 30,000 I think items at the beginning, that he wanted to put on display. So he thought the best place to do that was Oxford, being an academic place, and he really wanted to create an anthropology museum. So he donated his collection to the Oxford University, on the condition that they create a Museum of Anthropology with his name on it, so it's the Pitt Rivers Museum, and that they continue to organise by type, so that every artifact could be kept with type. So religious artifacts together, weapons together, you know, I guess like even food cooking implements together. The idea was that you could see the progression if you put items together, in his mind, from savagery to civilization. And that is very much the theme it was created with. Now today, it's the anthropology museum, and if you walk into it, it is like walking into the mindset of an anthropologist in the 1880s. It is a very uncomfortable space, especially if you come from a former colonised country. I'm from Canada myself, but the fact that it's kind of maintained, that means that it has to handle its own legacy, and it is trying to do that through talking about what it was to be anthropology more so, than what it is to study other cultures. But it still has a long way to go.

14:08

Alina Boyko

Ok. Those people who are unfamiliar with the Pitt Rivers and the Ashmolean, so Pitt Rivers is the second most visited Museum in Oxford, or?

15:43

15:51

Olivia Durand

I'm not really sure about the numbers. I think it's a little bit weirdly hidden, because you have to walk through the Natural History Museum, and there's a little door at the back of the museum through which you enter the Pitt Rivers. But I think it's quite visited, it's just a little bit of an awkward space. I mean, it's an awkward space in terms of how it displays things, but also of where it's located, in some ways. But we do walk through the Pitt Rivers. So we talk about the Pitt Rivers museum on our Oxford and Empire Tour, which is specifically about the relationship between Oxford as an institution, the University of Oxford, and the British Empire, and how it's changed over time because of the needs of the British Empire. So we walk through the Natural History Museum, talking about natural sciences, then the Pitt Rivers museum talking about anthropology and the study of humans and then go on to other departments, such as geography, international development, which was formerly the colonial studies department, and so on.

James Harrod

So one of the things we really love about the Uncomfortable Oxford tours is the fact that you do openly engage in pretty difficult debates, debates that people may not necessarily want to have, one of them being gender equality, which you say quite open in your website, it is something you're trying to break down barriers. Could you give us maybe an example of how gender equality comes up as a theme in your tours?

16:46

Paula Larsson

Yeah, we do talk about women in the university, and the way in which women have made a name for themselves and a space for themselves throughout history, that often is unrecognised how some women had a really big influence or how to space inside the university itself, outside of just being a queen, or an idol of Saint Mary. And women were wash women, and they had a specific spot, and they made a big impact. There is one really famous woman who we love to talk about, named mother George.

17:07

17:31

Olivia Durand

So a painter came to visit Wadham College [Oxford University], who was coming from the Netherlands. One day he came across MOTHER GEORGE, and was fascinated by her features. So he actually made a painting of her. Now you can find it in the senior common room, at Wadham College, a painting of MOTHER GEORGE, a painting of a town woman inside a college of Oxford. At the same time, when we still have today a lot of debate within the university about diversifying the portraits that we see in the collages, because it's mostly old white men with wigs. But in this case, you do have a portrait of an old woman who is also not linked to the university in terms of degree and was just working for the university. So she's one figure that we're trying to bring. When we try to bring women or other characters into the stories we tell, we also try to bring more of the town into the narrative, into the space of the center of the City of Oxford, because it is so much taken over by the university. So we really try to diversify what we see in terms of both, in terms of gender, in terms of narratives, but also in terms of how we perceive Oxford as a city.

Paula Larsson

We also like to engage with what's been forgotten as well. One case for instance is where women and how women were allowed into many of those colleges. So if anybody has managed to see the newest Mamma Mia, the second Mamma Mia, there's a great scene at the very beginning where the three women graduate from New College, which is my own college in 1979. Women were not allowed to even come in until that year. So there's no way that three women were able to graduate. But it's really interesting how these kinds of Hollywood approaches to history, just assumed that they were there. Of course 79, why wouldn't women have already been allowed into these colleges, but actually, it was the very first year, later that year that they were even allowed to step foot inside the college. So talking about how we miss remember these facts really helps bring about those narratives as well.

18:45

Alina Boyko

Another big theme within your tours is the role of the British Empire.

19:30

James Harrod

Something, which is often misremembered and misinterpreted.

19:34

Alina Boyko

Yes. Anti-imperialism in the history of Oxford, and by this we mean Oxford the town, Oxford the university and as well as British history in general. And as we see time and time again, this can be a pretty touchy subject for a lot of people, and many don't like having the rose-tinted view of Britain challenged. Have you found that participants, your audiences, do they ever react negatively to the uncomfortable truth that they may hear?

19:35

Paula Larsson

Absolutely. That's what we expect, and we train our guides to be able to handle. I mean, one thing I think in academia is the fear that you'll have to handle the criticism that will come with talking about uncomfortable histories, that recognising them can be either you didn't do it enough, or you didn't do it well, and there's criticism on both sides. So we specifically are ready to handle that, and we developed a way to deflate tensions, which is actually quite helpful.

20:08

Olivia Durand

So whenever someone makes a very inflammatory statement, rather than opposing their statement by another argument, we try to question them in the sense that we'll ask them, why do you think so? Would you mind unpacking a little bit? Or where does it come from? So we call it amongst ourselves the question method, but basically, it is a very good way to deflate tension, because nothing is worse than opposing an argument, another argument just creates an escalation of tensions. Whereas if we question the person, it's up to this person who has made this inflammatory statement to interrogate themselves and try to find why they are thinking this, where it comes from. Depending on the kind of argument, depending on the person, it will vary, but quite often we manage to maintain the conversation. So our goal is to very much have the conversation, we want the conversation to keep going, we don't want it to break apart and become an argument. And through questioning inflammatory statements, quite often people tend to go back to more moderate statements, or they try to compromise a little bit more of the rest of the group. We find this is a good way to kind of bring people together, even though sometimes it's difficult.

20:32

Paula Larsson

Yeah, it takes a lot of practice. But you can see when you question someone, how they suddenly start questioning themselves. That's a really important moment for them. So why did I just say that? Because if you ask them, it's on them to justify it, it's not on us. And it really, it takes the academic knowing that it's not about my ego, it's not about me proving them wrong, it's about them realising where they're coming from. And at some point, they will realise they're coming from a place of either misunderstanding, misinformation, bigotry, or just in general, a need to be inflammatory. The fact that it's a public space, we are having face to face conversations, it makes a huge difference as well, because it's different from the internet. Suddenly, when you say something quite inflammatory, you are looking people in the eyes while you do it, and they have the opportunity as well in the audience to respond. So we do use our audience, the audience wants to respond as well. So they do also manage to jump in and say, well, you've just said this, but you know, here's the other. So that's really important to us, is to maintain productive conversation. We do it with the creed that we don't think that shame and blame are very productive emotions. They are very reductive emotions. And if you reduce someone to shame and blame, that's not taking anyone to a better future. It's just creating more pain now.

21:51

Olivia Durand

Also we think very carefully about the questions we want to ask, so that we don't want to ask questions, whether it be so called right or wrong answer, it's more about how people feel, what their opinion is. The goal of the tour is not necessarily to give answers to people who come on the tour, we want to give them some context, but mostly you want to provide them with questions, they'll keep asking themselves that they'll use and apply them to other spaces, other statues, other names that they encounter. So that's very much the goal, to kind of stimulate more questions.

22:58

James Harrod

So you've touched on a couple of your, sort of more specialised tours, the uncomfortable literature tour, obviously, Lewis Carroll, as well as the Oxford and Empire tour. And you also have one which I think it's called Uncomfortable Money. Is that correct?

23:28

Paula Larsson

Yes, we do.

23:42

James Harrod

What's sort of the main aim of the Uncomfortable Money tour?

23:43

Paula Larsson

So this is one that was suggested to us hundreds and hundreds of times by every person who came on the tour, which is why don't you talk about where Oxford gets money from. So we do do that now. We started the business course side, working all the way up to the Blavatnik School of Government and the Schwartzman Center for the Humanities. The idea is to problematise the questions of ethics behind funding, again, not blame and shame, just wondering what are the overall impacts and how do you fund the university.

23:46

Olivia Durand

How it shapes the institute as it evolves through accepting those donations. So we talk about old former donors in other tours, such as roads or Codrington, but in the uncomfortable money tour, we talk about more contemporary donations, especially donations from people who are still alive, and how it might also affect Oxford in its evolution over the years.

24:11

Paula Larsson

It's also a conversation about historical donations, which often were from members of the university. Cecil Rhodes himself attended, Christopher Coddington, a slave owner, also attended All Souls College and Christ Church. But these other individual donors, Rafiq Saeed, Schwartzman, Blavatnik, Sackler, none of them have attended Oxford University. So the huge donations that they've left have made a very different modern impact on the university space for them to accept it. And it does have a statement, which was what we kind of, we problematise and discussed all aspects of what that really means.

24:33

Alina Boyko

Beyond university, because there is still a lot of discussion within the museum sector at the moment, regarding the institutions, which institutions should and should not take money from. Patrons, for example, they are cancelling memberships of a partnership between the, say the National Portrait Gallery and BP, in your opinion, are there ways in which we can confront these uncomfortable links between the art we love and the corporations that we don't? Basically how can we work together to make progress in this regard?

25:06

Paula Larsson

I think the only way to handle that question is to just consistently reevaluate and re-recognise over and over again, always, that there are problems and be ready to change when it needs to happen. And there'll be times when you aren't ready to change, when the museum literally needs to have a new gallery space redesigned because of, for instance, it needs to talk about where those artifacts came from, and maybe need to pay for that gallery somehow. But they need to recognise that even if they are paying for a good cause, like redesign of a gallery, or opening up more space for people of low income to come into, creating better programmes for access, that they're doing it through the acceptance of money in some form. That's just the reality of trying to keep doing things in the museum or academic worlds, the money has to come from somewhere. We have to discuss where it comes from, and why it can be problematic, and just be ready to adapt when we need to, and be ready to recognise when we're not wanting to do that.

25:35

Olivia Durand

For the museums, if they want to be accessible and be free for anyone to come in, then they have to rely very much on donations, but not shying away from those conversations, would already be quite a big step forward.

26:25

Alina Boyko

With this podcast, we're trying to inspire the future generation of museum and heritage workers, those who want to create provocative and engaging learning experiences. What practical tips would you give to young people who might be inspired by the work that you do and who might want to get involved?

26:39

Paula Larsson

One thing that often is a barrier to things happening is funding. We found that of course, we were first started with the Torch Center for Humanities in Oxford, a grant of about 500 quid, which, you know, got us off the ground, but don't relying on just academic sources of funding is usually good. I mean, people want to listen and do what your activity is, we've now become like a social enterprise, almost not for profit next year, to try and maintain some sort of consistent income. That means that we cannot exploit our guides, which means they don't have to work for free, which is great. I know, a lot of people work for free, but we really do, we want to treat everyone on our team as if they, and that's really good advice for everyone, if their time is worth it, but then just do it as well, there's ways to just start.

26:56

Olivia Durand

And to start really the best thing to do is to think practically. So initially, when we met and came up with this project, we were taking part in the summer school, and it was a pitch competition for a project, it was like a five minute pitch. And the company failed, like we didn't win the pitch. We had the idea already, I think we are very theoretical about it, about what we wanted to achieve. But then when we decided to apply to the festival, and join the programme of the festival, it gave us a deadline. And they asked us for a title, they asked us for a starting point, they asked us for how long it's going to last. Basically knowing when it was going to happen, made us work on it. So just giving yourself a deadline, actually committing to something and just trying it and seeing how it works is the best way to get anything started.

27:39

Paula Larsson

Additionally, two people really help, one person doing it by themselves is difficult because you think you have that deadline, but then there's other deadlines that you have as well. But having a partner gives you a real world deadline, it really helps get things off the ground.

28:28

James Harrod

You mentioned funding as a massive issue. The question we ask every single guest, if magically, somehow you had unlimited funding, what kind of experience would you create?

28:42

Paula Larsson

It would be so impressive. I am thinking about it, because I would be very, I don't know. So this is the conversation we have quite a bit, is do we want to take things into the augmented reality route? One thing we really value is the discussion on the streets, and actually funding doesn't help with that more. It would be great to do them for free and then still be able to pay the guide. That would be perfect, probably. But we don't necessarily need to go all high tech, augmented reality or create all that many new technologies for it. The value of what we do is that you get to talk to somebody else about an uncomfortable conversation.

28:54

Olivia Durand

Yeah, you still need to go on the streets and you still need to facilitate those discussions. The goal is very much for people who don't know each other, who are from different backgrounds to engage in those uncomfortable conversations. I don't think there's any technology that would allow it. On the other hand, we are also very aware that walking tours are not necessarily the most accessible format, which is why I tried to diversify our activity to have the discussion cafes, the public lectures, and we will, in 2020 would like to start having a podcast, kind of a 20 minutes podcast, discussing some uncomfortable histories with researchers, to maybe make it more accessible for people who either wouldn't be able to take part in an hour and a half walking tour, or who are not in Oxford or don't have the time. And for them to still engage with those questions and conversations in the least engaged way, because they would necessarily be discussing the questions, but at least have been able to access some of our resources.

29:31

Paula Larsson

We would love to expand as well to different cities and different places that also need to handle this. Olivia is very keen on us going to Bordeaux. She's from France.

30:25

Olivia Durand

Well, you know, it will be, there's a lot of history of the slave trade, and it wouldn't be the worst place to spend six months to develop a project. I think we need to treat ourselves a little bit.

30:36

Alina Boyko

If there was one thing you would like people to go away from this interview talking about, what is it?

30:49

Paula Larsson

I think the most important thing that we really want to impart is that engaging with uncomfortable topics is doable, and it doesn't have to be an argument. If you can question someone who comes at you, if you can really learn how to not, how not to put it on yourself as like, I need to prove everybody else in the world wrong, but actually say like I need to make everybody else justify where they're coming from, and therefore figure out where their own prejudice is built. I think that's the ultimate goal, is to learn that you can have this conversation, it doesn't have to be terrifying, it can be productive.

30:55

Olivia Durand

Yeah, pretty much admitting that some topics are uncomfortable, but we should still, nonetheless, talk about it. It will be uncomfortable, but it's worth having those discussions. And thinking that, having the discussion will elicit kind of a feeling of shame is probably not the best way to go about it. It's more about admitting that it might be slightly awkward.

31:28

Paula Larsson

There are things in the past which we should feel ashamed about, but we can collaborate together on making a better future.

31:50

James Harrod

Thank you both so much for joining us. Before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to plug?

31:55

Paula Larsson

We have a website where you can find us, uncomfortableoxford.com.

32:00

Olivia Durand

You can also find us on Facebook, just uncomfortableOxford, and on Twitter at unoxproject.

32:03

Paula Larsson

Yeah, you can also find both of us on the Oxford history webpage, which you are welcome to contact us through.

32:09

Olivia Durand

Yes. And additionally, if you do come on one of the tours, we would really love for you to leave a review on TripAdvisor, because this is a very good way for us to increase our visibility to non University Public.

32:15

James Harrod

Thank you both so much for joining us. Before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to plug?

32:25

Alina Boyko

Thank you so much.

32:31

Paula Larsson

Thank you so much for having us.

32:31

James Harrod

If you like this week's episode, go ahead and subscribe and join the conversation on our social media. You can follow us on Instagram @forartssake.

32:36

Alina Boyko

And Twitter, @sake_arts.

31:20

James Harrod

You can also find us at our website, at www.forartssake.co.uk.

31:23

Alina Boyko

Thank you.

31:28