Guest Post: Norma Daykin – Creating Cultural Citizenship

Creating Cultural Citizenship. Understanding the impact of participatory arts on community health and wellbeing, Connected Communities

Improvements to health and wellbeing is one of the components of the Cultural Value Project; indeed, one where we are supporting a significant number of projects (some of them have already been introduced on this blog and more are still to come). Our objective is first and foremost to understand the processes at work in arts and health practices – this, we believe, is a prerequisite to successful evaluation. As revealed by on-going work in this area, meeting this challenge may require that we think beyond the classical RCT approaches used in drug testing, break down the silos existing in health provision, as well as marry different perspectives from the humanities, social and biomedical sciences. Today’s entry from Norma Daykin (who received a Development Award under the Connected Communities’ Communities, Cultures, Health and Well-Being strand) introduces yet another nuanced voice into the debate. Norma suggests how – in order to appreciate the health benefits of participation in activities such as visual arts and music – we should move beyond the ‘medical model […] focused on individual health outcomes’.

This development project explored the concept of Cultural Citizenship through cross-disciplinary investigation of the role of participatory arts in promoting community health and wellbeing. I had the pleasure of leading this ambitious collaboration between six UK universities as well as project partners drawn from national and regional arts and health advocacy organisations.

‘Cultural Citizenship’ is potentially a strong concept that can illuminate the role of arts and culture in connecting communities and promoting (or limiting) health and wellbeing. At present there is considerable interest in identifying health and wellbeing benefits of participation in activities such as visual arts, music and creative writing. However, much research is framed by the medical model and focuses on individual health outcomes. This project embraced the macro level of policy and socioeconomic context and the meso level of networks and advocacy organisations as well as the micro level of practitioners’ and participants’ experience of arts and health projects, programmes and practices. By introducing questions of citizenship, it broadened the focus of research to include social impacts of arts participation.

The Cultural Citizenship concept has great potential but it is currently very broad: its potential cannot be realised until the concept itself is further elaborated. Our project proposed to do this through the lens of the humanities-based perspective of virtue ethics (VE), which builds on moral philosophy to promote understanding of how society could function for the wellbeing of all. Importantly, this approach identifies the key virtues that are important to particular practice communities, in our case the practice-based communities that are connected through their commitment to participatory arts. By working closely with these communities, we sought to illuminate practitioners’ narratives through a VE lens and to identify the key virtues that are seen as promoting positive forms of citizenship as well as health and wellbeing within the arts and health field. The ultimate ambition was to develop a strong Cultural Citizenship concept that would enable the arts and health sector to influence current policy and practice.

Significantly, while arts participation has many established benefits, we also acknowledged the potentially limiting effects of the arts in culture and commercial media, including celebrity culture and elite arts. By focusing on citizenship, the project brought these wider discourses into the frame of arts and health research in order to strengthen our understanding of arts transcendence in the context of community wellbeing.

Our development project has identified three research questions:
1. What challenges, virtues, narratives and forms of practice excellence do arts and health participants and practitioners identify in relationship to community connectivity, health and wellbeing?
2. How might these narratives be developed through the concept of Cultural Citizenship?
3. How might Creative Citizenship inform understanding of the role of arts in generating (or diminishing) connectivity, health and wellbeing?

What is needed to take this further is an ambitious, mixed-methods study involving coproduction with research participants and stakeholders. This has the potential to provide and elaborate a powerful concept of Cultural Citizenship to guide theory and practice development.

Principal Investigator: Professor Norma Daykin, UWE Bristol
Project Team: Professor Vanessa Burholt, Swansea University, Dr Mervyn Conroy, Birmingham University, Professor Lynn Froggett, UCLAN, Matthew Jones, UWE, Bristol, Dr Rebecca Lawthom, Manchester Metropolitan University, Professor John Mohan, Southampton University, Ann Crabtree, independent arts consultant.
Project Partners: London Arts in Health Forum; Arts and Health South West.

Guest post: Phil Jones – The value of cultural intermediation

Cultural Intermediation: Connecting Communities in the Creative Urban Economy, Connected Communities

Our third guest contribution comes from Phil Jones, University of Birmingham, who is also leading a Connected Communities’ project – Cultural Intermediation: Connecting Communities in the Creative Urban Economy. The question central to Phil’s research – How can the creative economy benefit all and not just a chosen few? – resonates with the Cultural Value Project. Not only are we interested in how the cultural value generated by the creative industries can be captured and evaluated; we ask how the arts and culture give rise to value in the creative economy in the first place (or, to put it more simply, how the cultural sector is related to the creative sector). Crucially, we want to know about the distribution of this value – Who gets to access and benefit in the creative economy sector? Indeed, it is apparent to us that it is no longer sufficient to ask whether the creative economy is a strong driver of development: the key question is whether it promotes a sustainable and inclusive development on social, environmental and economic levels (to use the terminology of the recent UNESCO Creative Economy Report). There are several angles one could take to tackle this question. Phil’s project approaches this problem through the lens of cultural intermediation. Its findings are of great interest to the Cultural Value Project.

From the late 1970s the UK economy became more divided between the haves and the have nots. The Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, rose steadily until the mid-1990s and although it has declined slightly since its peak, today there have not been significant gains for more deprived communities who are being left behind as the economy slowly recovers.

Although the creative industries are now a lucrative segment of the UK economy, they tend to have high barriers to entry and a disproportionately large number of people working within the sector have undergraduate degrees. Thus while the creative industries may generate economic growth, the danger is that they have little value in reducing overall inequality.

In our project we have been looking at the people and organisations who try to get communities more engaged with arts and culture. Drawing on the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, we refer to such people as cultural intermediaries, in that they act as bridges, joining up communities and forms of cultural activity that are often disconnected. Within this intermediary sector a great deal of effort is being made to help more deprived communities gain from the benefits of creative economic activity. This is more obvious in the publicly subsidised arts and culture sectors, which have a more overt social mission than the private sector.

There is a belief that the value of engaging struggling communities with different kinds of arts and culture is in inspiring young people to new career paths, raising aspirations and confidence, and a general sense that culture enriches people’s lives. Engaging with a local arts project or going to your local art gallery thus does not immediately hold the key to getting a job in the creative industries, but is often seen as an investment in the future of a community.

This raises important questions about the value of this activity and its sustainability at a time when sources of public funding are drying up. In our work with intermediaries, what’s becoming clear is that the mission of social engagement is under real pressure. Public funders still want to direct cultural activity toward various social aims and make the same kinds of demands of intermediaries as they did in the past when funding was more readily available. For those intermediaries attempting to operate in this austere funding climate the trade-off between the demands of funders and the resource available looks less and less appealing. Other sources of income and types of activity with perhaps less emphasis on the social mission of community engagement may have to take priority even where intermediaries are personally committed to making a difference to communities – artists still have to make a living after all.

Another issue is that large cultural institutions and small community arts organisations are sometimes lumped together as working within the broader cultural sector, but as intermediaries they generate value in very different ways. The primary value of these large institutions is simply not their capacity to raise aspirations in deprived communities on their doorstep, but is instead about international branding and reputation for the host city. The scale of the funding to these larger organisations can and does, however, generate real resentment from smaller, community arts organisations struggling to make ends meet. This of course raises a broader debate about the relative value placed on general economic growth through city marketing as against attempting to directly raise aspirations and enrich the lives of the very poorest in society.

Phil Jones, University of Birmingham
culturalintermediation.org.uk
@cultintermed

Guest post: Helen Graham – How should decisions about heritage be made?

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How should decisions about heritage be made?, Connected Communities Programme

Helen Graham’s project raises a number of interesting issues in relation to cultural value. Like Andrew Miles’ post last week, Helen’s entry draws attention to the problem of legitimising knowledge which renders decisions concerning cultural value a prerogative of  ‘elite (and often unelected) decision makers’. This legitimising discourse can persist unchallenged because of the elusive promise that one day its conception of cultural value will be vindicated by finding the Holy Grail of the missing evidence or methodology, which will ‘prove’ its claims about cultural value now and for all.  By challenging this discourse and its preconceptions, How should decisions about heritage be made? speaks to the Cultural Value Project in a number of ways. Firstly, it echoes our conviction that the notion of cultural value must reflect what people actually consider to be of cultural merit in addition to, or sometimes independently of, the canonised main stream. Secondly, it aligns with our belief that there’s no silver bullet – no single methodological innovation, nor single piece of data that will validate one supreme manifestation of cultural value. Indeed, recognising this, in the Cultural Value Project we have adopted a framework-approach spanning a number of irreducible components of cultural value calling for different methodologies and forms of evidence. We are therefore glad to welcome Helen’s challenge to consider ‘the question of the value of culture or heritage not as bound up with a deficit of evidence but much more with a deficit of democracy’.

Perhaps the greatest dangers of the Cultural Value debate is the sense of ‘cultural value’ being primarily an epistemic problem. While the AHRC Cultural Value project has created space to explore and challenge this persistent sense of an evidence lack, there remains a seductive desire that if only we could find the right piece of data or the right methodology then the value of cultural could be proved once and for all to policy makers and funding for culture and arts forever secured. In its most dangerous iteration this ties together a particular form of knowledge production ‘about the value of culture’ to a particular set of elite (and often unelected) decision makers. You could say the ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ project approaches the question from the other direction – seeing the question of the value of culture or heritage not as bound up with a deficit of evidence but much more with a deficit of democracy.

‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ is funded under the AHRC Connected Communities programme. The project is part of a pilot programme ‘Co-Design Development Grants’ which offered funding in two phases. The first being a four month period of collaborative working and ‘co-design’ leading to a research project plan, followed by a second phase of funding which supported us to carry out our research. Our co-design work was premised on ideas of plurality of perspective, with our team being made up of people who work in, or engaged with, heritage in quite different ways. Our understanding of heritage has been to emphasis that it is part of life, our everyday and as ‘ordinary’ in Raymond William’s sense. Our conceptual interest has been to see heritage as part of wider and complex systems of constant and ongoing interaction between people and things. Our methods have been of experimentation and action, from active reflections on practice, to undertaking collaborative collecting of electronic music with fans and music at the Science Museum to engaging our research questions at a city-wide level in York. If you’re interested in how we designed our project and what we’ve done have a look at our booklet produced for the July 2014 Connected Communities Festival and our project blog.

But rather than offer lots more detail on what we’ve done I want instead to share our work around two concepts that speak directly to the politics of cultural value. From our first co-design workshop – hosted at Bede’s World in Jarrow – we recognized the political problem generated by ‘heritage’ lay in its rather un-ordinary claims; that ‘heritage’ is ‘for everyone and forever’, for all of humanity and for posterity. A key strand of our work has been to suggest that this task is too big and, because it is impossible to involve everyone now and everyone in the future democratically, decision making has become about knowledge and expertise exercised ‘on behalf of’ us all. This has served to put a lot of power for determining what is significant and important in a small number of hands.

One idea with which we’ve been experimenting at the Science Museum and in York is that specific collections, ideas or buildings generate around them their own democratic constituencies. Two things are enabled by this which reconnects knowing, politics and life. Rather than hold people at arms length in the name of the greater good (if everyone can’t touch an object, then no-one should’), we’ve been trying to think about 1) anyone not everyone; to create meaningful communities who can manage, look after, know about and decide about specific collections, buildings and places and 2) the future comes from now; a more meaningful future for collections and places can emerge from present day use and passion.

We don’t need to ‘know better about’ what the public value is so better decision can be made by professionals; instead communities and constituents can live and act through collections, buildings and places – and from this let a more democratic decision making emerge.

A strand of the project has focused on Stonebow House a brutalist building in York. We’ve been using stalls, history menus, facebook discussion and events to see how a constituency might be developed around the building.

Image 3 Stonebow credit York Mix copy

Stonebow House. Credit York Mix

Paul Furness leads York: A Walk on the Wild Side, March 2014

Paul Furness leads York: A Walk on the Wild Side, March 2014

Jorvik Café is based in Stonebow House. We developed some history menus

Jorvik Café is based in Stonebow House. We developed some history menus

 

 

 

 

 

To find our more about the ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ project see:

Our recent booklet: http://www.scribd.com/doc/236788598/Heritage-Decisions-Booklet-July-2014

The ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ project blog: http://codesignheritage.wordpress.com

The York strand of the project has generated it’s own blog: York: Living with History: http://livingwithhistory.wordpress.com/

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