‘No-Shows’ - Simply rejections, or heuristic gestures for us to contemplate and respond to?
Recently, I carried out a fairly extensive phone survey of Barnsley area ‘Unite the Community’ members to tell them about the haunting project and our search for possible participants in our research. Sixteen people showed a strong interest in learning more and all agreed to attend an Introductory meeting which I arranged for March 23rd at the NUM Offices in central Barnsley. The plan was for Geoff to use the meeting to explain the project more fully and to outline the novel approach to research we envisaged. After discussion, Q & A etc., we hoped to sign-up most if not all those attending as willing research participants.
Of the sixteen people who agreed to attend, two gave apologies before the event for not being able to attend, one texted an apology during it, and another emailed an apology a couple of days after. All four of those who apologised said they were still interested in being involved. From the remaining twelve expected at the meeting, only two showed up - though the discussion Geoff and I had with them was positive, worthwhile and at moments, emotionally profound.
Of course, on the day Geoff and I felt bewildered and disappointed that so many invitees failed to show up. Yet thinking about this the next day moved me to write the following note to Geoff:
“Re yesterday’s no-show phenomenon, I really DO think it should be recorded and written in to the project’s findings. Regarding those who didn’t come, their lack of, or ambiguity of, initiative, is surely on some level a reflection of the mining community’s Haunting. Has one or more aspect of their loss of industry, living, health, place, relationship or identity somehow left them with a poverty of caring or conviction, of thinking things don’t matter that much, of being prepared to start an engagement with folk (like us), whose interest in them, however sincere, in the end, they know all too well, will be ephemeral? The other interesting, and certainly recordable, thing is the message you (Geoff) got from (attendee A) about (Attendee B) opening up more when she and he walked off from the meeting together. This spoke as much about her willingness to relate to him as his to open up to her. I’m sure you already prevised this, but whatever happens between participants on this project I think is going to be at least as important, if not more so, as what happens between the researchers and the participants.”