Please read on for details of how we went about our interviews and survey.
Brighton and Hove Yiddish choir
The project first became involved with the Brighton and Hove Yiddish Choir in August 2020, although Ben Rogaly has been a member of the choir since 2018. The choir was put on hold in September 2022 although occasional Yiddish Singing Workshops continue in Brighton and Hove. Initially, we made informal contact via email with the choir director Polina Shepherd. We explained the aims of the project and suggested that we would like to invite choir members to take part in interviews. Following ethical approval from the University of Brighton research ethics committee in November 2020, and also with Polina’s approval, Ben contacted choir members through the internal mailing list. 13 choir members responded to this invitation. These individuals were sent an information sheet containing details about the project and a consent form to sign and return. Online interviews of around an hour were then conducted with those 13 choir members using Zoom software. In 10 cases, Ben conducted the interview alone, in two cases Ben and Amy conducted the interview together, and in one case Ben and Cath conducted the interview. All bar one interview was audio-recorded on a separate device and professionally transcribed; detailed notes were taken in the interview that was not recorded.
During interviews, choir members were asked biographical questions about where they have lived and their working lives, as well as questions relating to membership of the choir, the experience of the pandemic, and broader issues of community, hope and solidarity in Brighton and Hove and beyond. All choir participants were sent a copy of their transcript and given the opportunity to comment on, edit, or redact aspects of it. They were also shown a draft of the choir case study report so that they could see their comments in context and make further suggestions. Three of the choir participants chose to use their own names in the report.
Migrant English Project
As a volunteer with the Migrant English Project (MEP), Cath approached MEP volunteers informally in January 2021 via the MEP mailing list, to ask whether they would be willing to take part in an online or phone interview and, following an extension of our initial ethical approval, we began interviewing volunteers in February 2021. In total, 12 volunteers were interviewed. All participants were sent an information sheet and asked to return a written consent form prior to their interviews. 12 volunteer interviews were conducted online and recorded using Zoom software (although in one case, the recording failed and we had to rely on notes taken during the interview; these were checked with the participant for accuracy). Cath conducted all the interviews and was joined by Amy and Ben for one interview each. One interview was transcribed by the team; the rest were professionally transcribed.
During interviews, MEP volunteers were asked where they are from and how long they have lived in Brighton and Hove. They spoke about other meaningful places in their lives. Then, they explained why they got involved with MEP, their initial feelings about the project, and how those feelings developed over time, including during the pandemic. We asked about their involvement in other community groups too. They then described their views of hope and solidarity in general, and in relation to MEP. All MEP volunteers were sent a copy of their transcript and given the opportunity to comment on, edit, or redact aspects of it. They were shown a draft of the report, so that they could see their comments in context and suggest further changes. None chose to use their own names in the report.
In addition to the interviews with MEP volunteers, we conducted a survey and interviews with MEP students in July 2021. The survey was designed primarily to support democratic decision-making within MEP regarding the location of the project going forward. The survey was approved under a separate ethical application and included the following questions: what MEP students like and don’t like about Brighton, what the students like about MEP and suggestions for making MEP better, what gives them hope and whether MEP gives them a sense of hope or solidarity. Students were also asked what experience they had of MEP’s venues and online classes, and where they thought that MEP should meet in future. Students did not have to reply to all the questions.
In total, 22 students completed the survey, most with support from an MEP teacher or volunteer. The survey data was then analysed alongside the volunteer interviews to inform a decision over the venue.
Following the survey, interviews were conducted with 7 MEP students. Cath carried out all of the interviews, four in English, and three with the help of interpreters. 5 interviews were on Zoom and 2 on the phone, and all were recorded. One Zoom recording failed owing to a technical issue and we had to rely on notes taken during the interview; these were checked with the participant for accuracy. Students spoke about how long they had lived in the Brighton and Hove area and their feelings about the city. None wished to speak about the country they came from. They explained how they first came across MEP and their feelings about the project, including about the venue where we meet. We asked about their involvement in other community groups too. They then described their views of hope and solidarity in general, and in relation to MEP. We asked for their suggestions for MEP and for the Hopeful Solidarities in Brighton and Hove project.
In most cases, participants have been anonymised. However, the decision to name the community groups was approved by the University of Brighton social science research ethics committee. While naming the group may make participants more recognisable, at least to people who know them, we felt strongly that naming each group was not only practical, but would allow both the Brighton and Hove Yiddish Choir and Migrant English Project to make use of the project for their own purposes. It also reflected the desire of both groups to be named and recognised in outputs, which we hope may be useful to them e.g., in self-promotion or funding applications as relevant/ appropriate. More broadly, our research is guided by ideals of doing engaged and sociable research, and one of our aims is to help build solidarities. This would be extremely difficult were the groups to have remained anonymous.
While the groups are named, we have taken care to anonymise individual participants, although any participant could request in writing that their own name be used and this was the case with three Brighton and Hove Yiddish Choir participants. The information sheets and consent forms both explained the limits to anonymity, notably that participants’ names and personal details are anonymised as default, but not the group they belong to. The information sheets and consent forms also explained that, because the groups were not anonymised, individuals may be identifiable within their community.
 The research is located in Brighton and Hove, which is important to two of the team members as geographers (it is usual in the discipline of geography for places to be identified). Identifying Brighton means that it would practically have been very difficult to anonymise the community groups in more than a superficial way.