Remaking Society: realising the potential of cultural activities in contexts of deprivation
Remaking Society: realising the potential of cultural activities in contexts of deprivation An AHRC Connected Communities ‘pilot demonstrator’ project Graham Jeffery University of the West of Scotland Neill Patton The Cadispa Trust www.twitter.com/RemakingSociety
Process• Co-designed research process with experienced community-based partners• Four sites: Fraserburgh, Milton (N.Glasgow), N Tyneside & Bradford• Each working in areas of high deprivation using participatory arts/media methods, but each v different (periurban/urban/suburban context; different media, different approaches/philosophies)• Participatory arts/media not one thing but complex, variegated fields of practice
Aims• Demonstrate how participation in cultural production in locations where people are experiencing increasing economic hardship can catalyse the creation of community and wellbeing.• Explore the ways in which, through creative engagement with arts and media processes, participants can re-vision collective futures.• Compare the different working principles and theories of community arts practice in the demonstration site organisations.• Test methodologies for evaluating cultural practice as an integral component of socioeconomic regeneration.• Provide a set of narrative insights, through cultural production, into the lived experience of poverty and social exclusion; broadening the range of evidence contributing to the UK national Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Study (www.poverty.ac.uk).
explorations• complexify current understandings of the social impacts of the arts:• providing a grounded analysis of histories of practice and specific creative processes• exploring arts and cultural practices as community assets to be activated (i.e. arts not simply ‘brought in’ from outside to impact communities); cultural activity as ‘bringing community into existence’• showing arts working within multi-agency arrangements;• uncovering conflicts over the rationales for arts evaluation by different organisations (government NGO, corporate, commissioning, funding, etc.).
diverse perspectives on participatory arts• Everyday participation vs ‘high culture’• Outreach, engagement, conversation, encount er• Most theoretically developed in models of ‘community cultural development’ in UK, Australia and the US (Kretzman/McKnight/Hawkes/Goldbard)• Contested concepts and complex terrain• The ‘value of culture’ debate
antecedents & arrangements• Theatre Modo: European street theatre/circus traditions; celebratory arts companies such as Welfare State International: commissioned process within local authority/third sector partnership – focus on ‘engaging the disengaged’/‘circus with a purpose’• www.theatremodo.com• Love Milton: Odd Numbers - dialogical art strand led by artist Nicola Atkinson and architect Lee Ivett within multi- dimensional grassroots community regeneration project (gardening, new build community centre, social/cultural activities); ‘new genre public art/socially engaged art’?• www.lovemilton.org
Issues• A more nuanced analysis of modes of cultural participation• Engagement at a range of different levels of intensity – policy pressures for ‘outcomes/impact’ but engagement is fuzzier and less linear than a simple input/output model• Not a full ‘typology’ of cultural participation/community arts but a set of cases that yield different insights• The tension between ‘artist led’ and ‘community led’ processes and the role of ‘facilitation’• Locating the projects within theoretical/critical/philosophical frameworks• “Theatre Modo” & “Love Milton” use ‘brand awareness’ to promote/reshape perceptions• Culture as a component of social wellbeing?• Temporary autonomous spaces? Models of modelling and mentoring?• Reshaping perceptions of place through shared, public, cultural practices
Tentative optimism?• Although cultural policy debates are entrenched, the situation on the ground is dynamic, and tends to be driven by urgent pragmatism rather than ideological purism. Moving beyond a reliance on arguments about ‘instrumental’ versus ‘intrinsic’ benefits of arts participation, our study will provide rich narrative insights into the hypothesis that: “making art is a biological necessity…there is a fundamental connection to be explored between creativity and health as a pathologically optimistic expression of survival.” (White 2009 p. 6)