In all my thinking about London, one element that I haven't done a wonderful job thinking out is how I'm going to be conducting my interviews. They are, after all, the heart of my project. A successful summer will hang greatly on the quality of these interviews, and on my getting at least 15 of them done.
I imagine myself visiting quite a few churches while I'm in London. The demographic that will be most interesting to me for my study will be traditional Britons--not so much newer immigrants, which there will be bound to be many. While interviewing immigrants will still be a very useful addition to my study, the individuals that I am most interested in talking to will be: 1) Church clergyman from the Church of England, the Catholic Church, and other christian churches (such as an evangelical or Methodist church). 2) Univerisity professors--especially those who are already interested in religious studies and who might be able to help me conduct my survey. 3) Government workers, such as social workers, policemen, or pubic officials.
Talking to people from these three sectors is important because the trend I am researching is focuses on church attendance among other forms of religious behavior, and who better to answer questions about people attending church, and whether it does them good or bad, than church leaders themselves? Secondly, university professors are bound to have a very different take on the role and tradition of religion in the country. Many of them may be atheist or agnostic, they might be religiously indifferent, or even highly religious themselves (the British Social Attitudes Survey confirmed that those who are highly educated and religious tend to be very religious). Since I would like to conduct my survey to college aged young adults around 18-24 years old, if possible, the best gatekeepers for that kind of project would be a university professor who already has an interest in studying religion and who may be intrigued by my research. Talking to public officials would be very interesting because of the current debate going on between those who favor PM David Cameron's assertion that the UK is a Christian country, and those who oppose him, and the role of government with respect to religion is a complex matter that may change a great deal as the country becomes more secular (or not). Thus, finding a thoughtful person in government about the trend would be very interesting indeed.
Gaining access will be a challenge for each of these three, shall we say, target demographics. I believe the easiest to penetrate would be religious leaders. Since most religious events are public, the chance of being able to go to a meeting or a religious service and then go up and talk to a preacher or religious leader afterwards about my project seems very likely to me. One thing is certain - my chance of getting an interview with one of them depends greatly on how well I can talk about my project. If it makes sense and I can make it sound relevant to their work, I may get an interview. If it doesn't sound relevant at all, they'll blow me off. The same goes for professors and government officials - they are all busy people. A whole hour of talking to me isn't something they are likely to just give away unless they feel like it is very important or useful to them too. That's the question I must ask myself: Why would talking to me about religion and religiosity be important?