Creative Interruptions: grassroots culture, state structures and disconnection as a space for 'radical openness'

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: School of Social Sciences


Creative Interruptions will examine how grassroots cultural initiatives generate a critical space for 'bottom-up' creativity in a range of contexts of disconnection in the UK and internationally. The research identifies how processes of disconnection, exclusion and marginalisation impact on creative practitioners and disconnected communities and how arts and media forms are utilised to make meaning and 'creatively interrupt' state structures and dominant modes of representation. By co-designing an exploration of practice on the ground, the project will interface with a range of disconnected social groups and produce an edgy, self-reflexive and field-defining piece of international research.

From the Black-led community video work designed to critique British state racism, to the online activism of the 15-M Indignados Movement and Take the Square #spanishrevolution; from the urban graffiti art used by Algerian immigrants in France to challenge the rise of Far Right power, to the Theatre of the Oppressed movement in India, Creative Interruptions explores past and emerging moments of creativity and instances of possible 'empowerment', but also how these moments, in turn, can 'successfully' destabilise dominant structures. How do those 'on the margins' make meaning through creative acts, what are their motivations and what are the effects? And how can connecting disconnections facilitate new and enabling bonds between communities at the peripheries and create new possibilities? The project recognises that disconnected communities have a vital role in challenging the decisions of institutions and power structures and shifting the axis of public debate.

Marginalisation is identified as a space for possibility through creativity. Disconnected communities - communities marginalised because of their race, religion, class, economic status, immigration status, political positions and/or geographical location - are positioned as having dynamic, fluid identities rather than being fixed in place. Instead of aiming to connect such groups to the centre, to help them to learn how to submit to more normalized modes of communication, Creative Interruptions explores what can be learned by the centre from the margins, and how such lessons can be understood, transmitted and scaled-up in order to change the centre. This understanding of 'interruptions' will involve looking at past and emergent creative formations - hip hop, rap, street art, slogans social media, community theatre, street art, comedy or agit-prop - and across a a range of visual and non-visual, physical and virtual spaces globally.

The Research Development and community co-design stage of the Creative Interruptions project will involve academics, artists and community-led research activities. It will deliver a pilot collaborative theatre project with young Afghan refugees in London, led by Dr Jasber Singh, the Hate Crime Co-ordinator of Greenwich Inclusion Project, the Belfast playwright Martin Lynch and the North-East England based theatre group, Cap-A-Pie. The creative output from this theatre/research collaboration (to include a filmed record by Ken Fero of Migrant Media) and act as a formative, case study analysis. This will be followed by an International workshop where Investigators, community partners and collaborators will reflect on the pilot theatre collaboration, refine terminology, develop creative methodologies and explore the potential work packages that a Large Consortia Project with an international focus might involve. The development phase will build capacity for the Large Consortia Project proposal submission in 2015. The AHRC focus on disconnection allows the researchers to deal explicitly with the dynamics and processes that rupture, alienate and marginalise and the tools used to cope with such social divisions. It also highlights the critical value of Arts and Humanities approaches in examining processes of disconnection across space and time.

Planned Impact

'AHRC does not require a 'Pathways to Impact' attachment for Project Development Proposals'


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Title Creative Interruptions 
Description This short film includes interviews with Greenwich Inclusion Project youth group in 2015, a Community Co-Investigator on the Creative Interruptions Research development award. It is based on the themes of the project around disconnection, marginalisation and state structures. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact This film was part of the RD phase of the Creative Interruptions project and was used as a tool to engage the participants with the key issues of the project and to communicate their stories of disconnection in a film format. 
Description In 2015, following the collaborative Research Development phase of the Creative Interruptions project, a full bid for a large consortia project to develop further the research, was submitted to the AHRC.
Exploitation Route The Planned Impact for the Large consortia Creative Interruptions project, following the successful research development phase (2014-15) include the following targeted groups:
1) Publics and Communities, particularly those who have been socially excluded, disenfranchised or marginalised
2) Creative and Cultural Practitioners
3) Media
4) Non HES: Statutory, non-governmental and activist organisations working in the field of social justice, equality and diversity
5) Policy makers and bodies
6) Academic researchers in media studies, postcolonial studies, human geography, literary studies, visual cultures, drama and film studies, cultural sociology, social work, conflict resolution and cultural policy, in the UK, Northern Ireland, Palestine, India and internationally
7) Researchers involved in the project, notably the local Community researchers, Digital Researcher, PhD Students and Knowledge Transfer Researchers
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Findings of the Community Filmmaking project have helped a range of national and cultural organisations to engage with this aspect of film culture and filmmaking. The project collaborated with a range of organisations and they had the following to say: David Somerset, Education Programmer, British Film Institute The 'Community Filmmaking and Cultural Diversity' project has helped, "enrich our own knowledge and contact with this area of film culture." Ceri Dingle, Director, WORLDwrite "The project highlighted the extraordinary level of innovation within community film and video making, its benefit as a tool for hidden voices and the common problem of lack of recognition and funding. Providing a rare opportunity to network, learn from each other and realise 'we are not alone' the project not only brought diverse community filmmakers together but raised the bar in terms of understanding the value, context and policy backdrop to our collective efforts. Overall a unique opportunity to reflect on common achievements, on problems and where we can go from here." Kelly Jeffs, CEO, Light House "It was of great benefit to Light House to be part of the 'Community Filmmaking and Cultural Diversity' research. It provided an outlet for Light House to highlight the importance of its role over many years, supporting independent filmmakers with skills development, creating industry networking opportunities and most importantly 'showcasing' films that wouldn't necessarily be easily accessed by audiences without our support. The conference enabled us to increase our awareness of some of the other fantastic projects, research and supporting organisations across the UK and Europe as well as meeting like-minded individuals to share experiences of success and failures.... all under the roof of one of the most inspirational film organisations in the world: the BFI." Susan Beckett, CEO, City Eye "In a time when community filmmaking has been so challenged by the failing economy and its impact on local authority and voluntary sector funding, it was a great pleasure to learn of this research project; an even greater pleasure to be invited to join its Advisory Board. The opportunity to meet with other practitioners from UK and further afield has been particularly enriching. The stories of their own work - approaches and outcomes - were invariably thought provoking and inspiring, creating opportunity to reflect on one's own work and its place in this broader context. The conference in particular afforded great opportunity for sharing and debate, for issues and challenges to be shared and aired and for extending one's network of community filmmaking contacts. This focused project has provided a welcome validation of this area of our work which, especially in these times, can feel marginalised and unsupported."
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description AHRC Connected Communities Large Grant
Amount £1,214,120 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2019
Description Collaboration with Greenwich Inclusion Project 
Organisation Greenwich Inclusion Project
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Based at Greenwich Inclusion Project (GrIP), London, we worked with young, mainly Afghan and Somali refugees to produce a co-created theatre piece. CoI Michael Pierse took a role in driving the theatre element, in which Cap-a-Pie (the Newcastle-based theatre company) and to a lesser extent playwright Martin Lynch of Green Shoot Productions and film scholar Clive Nwonka, facilitated discussion and co-created theatre centred on the participants' experiences. A participatory ethic, dialogue and knowledge exchange were key aspects to the project's overall work. . The youths involved reported positive experiences from their engagement with the theatre, with Cap-a-Pie, and with playwright Martin Lynch, his 'inspirational' discussion of community theatre in the north of Ireland and its capacity to challenge inequality and oppression there.
Collaborator Contribution GrIP's Hate Crime Co-ordinator, Jasber Singh, Community CoI on the project, helped facilitate a relationship with the refugee theatre group. He helped to guide the process of co-production and develop a shared ethical framework during the research development phase.
Impact Creative Interruptions film
Start Year 2014
Description Writer-in-Residence 
Organisation Metal Culture
PI Contribution Attendance at community and arts events in Peterborough. Talk in the Metal(Peterborough) Future Network series.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of hot-desking space during my research visits to Peterborough. Networking and contacts. Involvement in discussion over engagement events and grant bids of common interest
Impact Talk in Metal(Peterborough) Future Network Series. October 2016.
Start Year 2016