Remaking Society

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Health in Social Science


Remaking Society will be:

1) Working with local partners in demonstrating and assessing participatory cultural activities in four contrasting contexts of deprivation - Bradford, Glasgow, Fraserburgh and Newcastle.

2) Using these four pilots to generate new forms of evidence about the lived experience of poverty and exclusion.

3) Creating opportunities for marginalised and less visible sections of society to communicate with wider audiences, including policy-makers.

In this project, the concept of community is not restricted to communitarian accounts of 'a group of people in a given place', or as a site of consensus and constructed oneness based on social categories such as race, class, gender or location. Ours is a dynamic model in which community formation is seen as a continual re-negotiation of co-existence and interdependence, not confined by place, as illustrated by the thirty years of pioneering work by Southall Black Sisters. Questions about how communities conduct these negotiations become particularly important now, at a time of economic crisis, when resources are scarce and stress levels among vulnerable individuals are high.

The study will make critical connections between our understanding of community performance and participatory process across academic fields - including conflict resolution, cultural geography, public health, social psychology and sociology. It will allow a re-examination of inter-disciplinary concepts of community through arts and media practices.

Belonging to a community is critical to a sense of wellbeing for individuals and families, particularly significant for those who live on the breadline. The second element of Remaking Society is the generation of narrative evidence on the cultural dimensions of poverty and social exclusion. It will add a unique inter-disciplinary arts and humanities perspective to the ESRC's national study, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK ( Running until 2013, it is the UK's largest ever research project on the impact of poverty.

Planned Impact

The pilot demonstrator sites have been carefully selected to represent a range of approaches and all partner organisations are regarded as leading practitioners in their respective fields of participatory arts/media.

Twenty four individuals from the four deprived areas and members of their communities will gain practice-based learning and skills development from the art projects in which they are involved and meet those from the other three locaitons. We will build their capacity to both undertake them by themselves in the future and to fundraise for this purpose. In addition community-based performance practitioners are key beneficiaries of the project. We define this group broadly to include artistic directors, education officers, cultural producers, and professional and volunteer performers attached to the four locations. The plan to create impact at local, regional and national levels, as well as internationally, will be informed by their participation in the project and in the production of the co-authored book and DVD.

At a national and international level, the team has a track record in influencing policy and practice, including Wakeford's previous work with the the Human Genetics Commission and Rockefeller Foundation on legislative performances (such as citizens' juries) and Jeffery's previous work with NESTA/DCMS on creative learning.

The international conference which will present the findings of the project will convene all stakeholders including participants from the four sites to exchange knowledge in an international context, bringing in leading experts from the USA and Australia to offer a comparative perspective on the project

Working with our partners: Cadispa Trust, Mission Models Money re:think programme, NHSGGC and we will extend the reach of the project's findings beyond traditional academic outputs to social media platforms and communities of practice in the arts, health and regeneration field.

Alongside the UK and Scottish governments, the outputs will be presented to Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, NESTA, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many regional arts, community organisations and think-tanks. Mission Models Money has the capacity to ensure that opinion-formers and decision-makers learn from the project and are supported to change policy based on a dialogue that they will help facilitate. The International e-Conference will be at the centre of opening a dialogue with these stakeholders alongside those with either a regional or international remit.
Description In this pilot demonstrator project, four community arts and media organisations committed to engagement with autonomous and dynamic communities drew on the creativity of local people. Together they either addressed issues, solved problems or generated alternatives - sometimes all three.

We joined these groups' exploration - through performance, visual art and digital media - of the extent to which people conventionally regarded as excluded from society can choose to negotiate their own inclusion.

Future work in this area should consider our ground rules:

1. Effective innovation requires the kind of engagement that is committed to change - what we call engagé.
2. Establishing mutual respect for the moral and intellectual standing of all collaborators is essential.
3. Spontaneous learning through practical activities of making, remaking and inventing with the resources available - bricolage - is a fertile route to create emancipatory spaces where people can work together.
4. Beware the evidence trap. Outside assistance and resources from government agencies and other organisations are needed to address deprivation, but the agenda should be set by the people most directly affected. All interpretations of resulting research or action assessed from a variety of perspectives, not just those of outsiders.
Exploitation Route Our findings are timely and appear already to be informing policy and the UK-wide and regional scales, through out contact with local and national policy-makers. The PI and Co-Is have been involved in eight separate meetings at which policy-makers have been participants.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Our findings have been widely used by arts practitioners and our fellow academics. Examples: 1) 2) 3) Presentation at "Lateral Thinking: the value of collaboration between the arts, health and environment" 9 April 2015 4) Presentation with Kerrie Schaefer at Participation and Engagement in the Arts conference, University of Utrecht, 22nd June 2014 5) Lee Ivett, (community partner for Love Milton case study), included in New Architects 3, the Architecture Foundation's survey of the 'best architects' to have set up practice in the UK in the last decade.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description AHRC Follow on Funding for Impact and Engagement
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P00637X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 01/2018
Description Creative Scotland: Open Project Funding
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Funding ID CS-1608-21288 
Organisation Creative Scotland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2019
Description GCRF Highlight Notice: Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S005897/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2020
Description Rethinking waste and the logics of disposability: Compound 13 Lab
Amount £85,251 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S005897/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 01/2020
Description Compound 13 Lab: ACORN Foundation, Mumbai 
Organisation Acorn Foundation
Country New Zealand 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Using methods developed as part of the Challenging Elites project, and linked to an AHRC follow on grant Resources of Hope: giving voice to underprivileged communities in India, we have established an urban lab in Dharavi, Mumbai. Compound 13 Lab, inspired by the makerspace movement utilises materials and resources of the recycling industry as the starting point for teaching and learning about ecological design and living solutions. Through a programme of workshops and residencies by artists, scientists, engineers and designers, the lab will share emerging tools and technologies of the 'circular economy' to those who would not normally have access to them. By equipping the lab in this way, the project proposes to develop a different paradigm of 'smart city' where the technologically advanced city emerges from below rather than being centrally planned and implemented. In particular, members will be able to test and innovate with various technologies, exploring the ways in which plastics can be recycled, remanufactured and remade safely, reliably and creatively.  Through exploring issues of waste management and recycling we want to explore the essential interdependence between the formal/informal, the 'socially included' and 'socially excluded' which are uncovered in representations of the material and imaginary city. 
Collaborator Contribution ACORN provides space, resources and employs local people as facilitators for the Lab. The formal launch of the Lab will be in April 2018.
Impact None yet - project being launched in April 2018.
Start Year 2017
Description Kudali Intergenerational Learning, India 
Organisation Food Sovereignty Alliance
Department Kudali Centre
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have supported members of the communities involved in Kudali Intergenerational Learning in the documenting their experiences of farming in adverse circumstances.
Collaborator Contribution Film training.
Impact Film in preparation.
Start Year 2018
Description Govan-Gdansk exchange: public engagement through artists residencies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Creative Scotland has awarded funding to our community partner Fablevision to deliver a programme of artists residencies, seminars and learning exchanges as part of the Govan and Gdansk (Poland) Riverside Solidarity Project. Focused on the waterfront heritage of both cities, the year-long project, which is being run in conjunction with the School of Media, Culture and Society, University of the West of Scotland, will explore "what's next" for Govan and Gdansk. Can the past inform the planning process? Can our built environment and Govan's intangible heritage - the stories and memories of its people - enhance the shape of things to come?

There will be four residences for award-winning artists, tsBeall, Ben Parry/Lee Ivett, Andy McAvoy and John Mullen, to be delivered in collaboration with their counterparts in Gdansk. In addition, photographer and urban planner, Tom Manley, will work to document the process in images. As part of this programme, Fablevision Studios will involve long-term unemployed local people in making a documentary film to follow the project and explore its conclusions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017