Case study 1: can public libraries in the UK provide a pathway towards increased cultural engagement for people perceived as having low socio-cultural capital?
Clore fellow Jennifer McDerra’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research project Quest aims to connect people experiencing low socio-cultural capital with cultural spaces and their community, through their existing relationship with public libraries.
Public libraries provide carefully tailored conditions of welcome and support for a wide range of people. This project investigates whether public library conditions could be replicated in other civic cultural institutions seeking to remove the visible and invisible barriers that affect people’s confidence in entering and engaging with them.
This project sought first to capture the specific conditions that make people feel welcome in libraries using two main methodologies.
It is clear from the conversations and exchanges in both phases of this research project that there is room for an initiative such as Quest on the UK cultural map. Public libraries in the UK can provide a pathway towards increased cultural engagement for people perceived as having low socio-cultural capital by offering a working model and a starting point. There is a will from libraries to share their knowledge and there is interest from the community to further their engagement in other civic cultural institutions if conditions are improved and a pathway offered.
This research project has established an initial list of recommendations, adaptations and requirements. Quest is currently being piloted in Norwich in partnership with With One Voice from 2019 to 2020.
Case study 2: artists practising well
Clore fellow Nicola Naismith’s AHRC research project ‘Artists Practising Well’ highlights the importance of effective support for artists who work in health and wellbeing contexts.
There is growing research evidence which supports the claim that the arts are positive for our health and wellbeing. Creative health: the arts for health and wellbeing, the report from the all- party parliamentary group on arts health and wellbeing, tells us that ‘the most successful arts projects in healthcare involve artists who care’. The phrase ‘caring for the carer’ – where the individual offering the support, encouragement and care to another is often in need of those same things in order to stay safe and well – applies in this context. If the arts are positive for participants, so too should they be for the creative practitioners delivering them.
Nicola’s research project highlights the issue that artists who work in health and wellbeing contexts, should also be cared for by those around them. This project has successfully started a conversation about effective support for creative practitioners working in arts for health and wellbeing contexts. A report has also been published, detailing a number of recommendations to assist with the support for creative practitioners.
Read the report Artists practising well.
Case study 3: where am I? BAME role models and leaders in performing arts
Clore fellow Suzanne Gorman’s AHRC research explores whether the visibility or invisibility of role models might be a factor in workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds attempting to establish a career in theatre.
In 1976 Naseem Khan’s report The arts Britain ignores: the arts of ethnic minorities in Britain was published. In her opening address at the conference ‘40 years on: the arts Britain ignores and diversity in theatre’ (held at the Curve Theatre, Leicester in October 2016), Naseem Khan said it’s ‘extraordinary’ that the issues around diversity and the arts remain as ‘sharp, troubling and vibrant as ever’ (Shaikh, 2016).
Suzanne’s research project examines the impact of such underrepresentation. This research project has explored the importance of BAME role models for developing a more diverse workforce. In doing so, it blends concerns of key sector bodies and a growing public recognition that workforce diversity in the arts and culture is an issue that needs addressing (eg the recent #OscarsSoWhite, #BritsSoWhite, #Yellowface campaigns).
Although there now exists a substantive body of academic research into workforce diversity in the arts and culture (see Eikhof and Warhurst 2013 for an overview, Maxwell 2004 for BAME), studies into BAME role models are not available. This research project has found that BAME and other role models are important for the aspirations and career progression of BAME workers. Authentic, visual representation, in terms of ethnicity is of particular importance for BAME workers. Another key finding is an insight into how role models operate. They can be seen to have functions, as ‘bright lights’, ‘forgers’ and ‘enablers’ that each have different impacts and influence on individuals.
The overall aim is to facilitate change. This project has opened up vital conversations and generated insights that deserve to be continued and explored further if we want to:
- support a diverse workforce
- see confident, adaptive and resilient BAME workers and leaders across our cultural sector.
Read the report Where am I? BAME role models and leaders in performing arts.