Creative Economies Through Youth- led Arts and Craft in Jordan (CEARC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Umm Qais is the third-largest heritage site in Jordan. It includes substantial archaeological remains of the ancient city of Gadara, which is at risk of deterioration due to a lack of engagement with tourism and heritage promotion. There is a chronic lack of heritage business capacity, facilities, infrastructure and systems available to heritage authorities to develop creative preservation of Umm Qais antiquities to support new creative economic models to sustain global tourism. Reduced visitor numbers due to the Syrian crisis and COVID19 have resulted in a sharp decline in the local tourism economy, further endangering this vital site.
The LMUQ project has sought to advance creative economic practices in two ways. First, we applied youth participatory methodologies, stressing the importance of taking a situated approach to cultural production and highlighting the relationship between artistic products and social identity. Second, we created a sustainable participatory structure that fostered accountability among young people. This is more uncommon in Jordan, where the majority of previous initiatives fell behind in this aspect. The LMUQ project has provided ways in which young people could generate innovative initiatives, improve a limited set of skills, and be creative to overcome future challenges of poverty.
This project will widely support a multidisciplinary collaboration between Jordan and the UK. The team collectively has extensive experience in delivering creative arts and crafts productions, marketing skills, working with local communities and refugees, and engaging with government institutions, policymakers and stakeholders. The project will deploy a 3-stage methodology to offer a breakthrough in developing an arts and crafts hub in Umm Qais. The project will build capacity in digital and manual arts and crafts, deliver a host of new skills, from art design to entrepreneurship and understanding marketing and retail on which to establish community-led heritage-based arts and craft enterprises. The themes are developed in consultation with members of the community and creative economy professionals in Umm Qais. We will support the teams through structured activity and business development to produce high-quality products marketed to domestic and international visitors. Business skills training will ensure that these small enterprises are sustainable, and digital marketing tools will provide resilience against the impacts of economically disruptive events experienced in the recent past.
The proposed activities are designed to bridge the disparate arenas of largely isolated disciplines, creative industry, skill training, and job creation in Northern Jordan that is urgently needed. The association with technology will offer long term support for start-ups and SMEs, which is anticipated to shift the economic welfare landscape of triable communities in Jordan. Furthermore, the workshops will foster engagement with stakeholders and beneficiaries and advance the discourse on the necessity, applications and market-driven technologies of arts and crafts in Jordan.
The outputs of this project will be disseminated as a case study on developing innovative economic models using participatory approaches at the intersection of international development, cultural heritage safeguarding and inclusive engagement. This will ensure that knowledge transfer and government policy are responsive to all stakeholders, including those most vulnerable to marginalisation.

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