To Belong

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View of Bradford from my bedroom window, old badge found in a charity shop in Newcastle by a friend, and badge made by a friend, Bradford artist Jo Billingsley

Here are some words I scribbled in my scrapbook for this project a wee while ago:

What does it mean: ‘to belong’…?

I belonged in you, Bradford, for a while. My heart sang with the changing of the buildings’ coats to that blackened sand, upon the smell of murky fresh air enveloping me as I descended the train that had held me hostage in space devoid of all meaning; a big, expansive grey green question-mark. No home of mine, no place I knew.

But arriving to you, Bradford, it always felt like getting into bed after a long day, tired and placeless but oh, so content. I was younger, things were in place – family, boyfriend, friends, fresh memories and nights out at the 1 in 12 in the holidays; one of my many ‘homes’ in the city. I owned a share in all these places, my participation guaranteed my comfort there.


Do you know, now, I actually I feel I belong wherever I have dear friends. I feel at home in Leicester – because of my big ol’ grown up turrent-house, but also the knowledge of the number of people to share and explore the city with.

Yes, none local.

This does make a difference. I am effectively a long-term tourist, it shifts your spheres of participation, only spending time with other PhD students. The odd night at pottery, though it is only through the repeated and regular rhythm of returning to these that we establish networks, begin to sprout roots.

Some Questions:

Does ‘belonging’ imply you will be missed if you leave?

Does it mean to integrate with the ‘local community’?

Does it meant to practice local customs?

Whose are the local customs?

Does it mean people?

Physical environment?


Superlocal or wider?

Is it different for everyone?


What if you get ‘stuck’ on the journey and you never really ‘arrive’?

If you create a microcosm resembling your life back in your city/village/country of origin, do you ‘belong‘ where you are now?

At this point, I think I got tired and went to bed, but essentially this was just a splurge of thinking about what it means to ‘BELONG‘ to a place – if we can, how we do it, etc etc, as a result of me thinking about my many migrations within the country – Bradford, London, Manchester, Leicester, Glasgow to come…and what this meant for relationships with people, places…

I get attached easily I have noticed, I miss Manchester greatly, and I only lived there for 9 months. I miss London but less; I feel it’s too big for me now… Each place has brought new rhythms, smells, accents, adventures, unique, similar, varied.

Anyway. This is a procrastination from finishing my essay for the Qualitative module I did last term that I’m handing in today, and which will be the springboard for my next written piece for my supervisor – the Methods Chapter. I’m genuinely excited to get started on this, reading about different methodological approaches to research – what has worked or not in previous research projects and why…

I’m going to an annual conference in Bristol tomorrow too about alternative, creative ways of representing research, the previous year it was held in Bradford which is cool. (See here for details) and I don’t doubt it will spark off lots of thought and giddiness within me.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Finally, I bought this a few weeks ago, John Ruskin addressing the plan to open the Exchange. Not read it yet, but an interesting other angle to think about place, traffic, well-being, the impact of the physical environment on people’s experiences of place, etc.

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Also because you’ve been so good so far this week, here is a limerick to tickle your taste-buds.

There once was a man name of Droysen,

who made up this thing called ‘verstehen’:

“put yourself in their shoes,

take account of their views,

it’s a much more equal way of workin’!”


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