The Social and Cultural Value of Participatory Arts for Children and Young People

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Geog, Politics and Sociology


By exploring creative processes, the project will critically examine what it is about participation in arts activity that holds social and cultural meaning for children and young people in the context of an increasing focus on target driven objectives. Focusing on the explorative and expressive rather than the instrumental value of creativity, the study will shed light on the role of participatory arts in the development of young identities. Combining ethnographic and visual methodologies, the research will pay particular attention to the young participants' perspectives, using the artistic outputs generated by the children and young people as important data. Childhood from a sociological perspective can be understood as a social space within which young people explore their environment, and experiment with their agency as their identities are emerging. The project seeks to explore the role of creativity in the ongoing formation of identities, and in the exercise of young people' agency, examining how this occurs and taking account of its potential value. To do so, it will draw from sociological understandings of childhood and arts practice, examining the social and cultural factors that shape how young people participate. The research will use a theory-based, inductive approach which can make sense of the complex interactions of the nature of the participatory arts process, the social and cultural position of participants, and the spaces in which the interaction occurs. The project will be located within the arts-based work of Culture Bridge's network of Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations, schools and youth groups, working throughout the North East region. The purpose of the Culture Bridge programme is to create sustainable partnerships between these organisations to ensure children and young people experience high quality creative and cultural opportunities that will make a meaningful difference to their lives. As a collaborative project with the Culture Bridge programme, hosted by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM), it will also inform practice in the future development of their work with children and young people. The research will be with young people (aged 11-18 years old) and is participatory in orientation. In collaboration with Culture Bridge, an advisory group of children and young people will be set up to inform decisions on the research design. The advisory group will meet quarterly and devise a set of guidelines that will be adhered to throughout the research and will collaborate on the arts-based methods and the form these will take. The methodological design will be centred around a range of qualitative approaches that enable the gathering of different types of textual, visual, ethnographic and representational data: face-to-face narrative interviews, field conversations, focus groups and participant observations, arts-based methods such as photo and film diaries, theatre, walkabouts and workshops, and the art-work produced by the young people themselves. The broad range of approaches to be used have the benefit of both using, but also adding to qualitative interviews. By combining different methodological approaches, the research aims to use a 'mosaic of accounts' to illuminate young people's experiences and how identities are produced and reproduced within a creative space. Ethical considerations have been central to the design of this project. Previous professional experience including youth participation training and a Level 2 qualification in Safeguarding and Child Protection will be drawn upon in order to guarantee the safety of young participants. Key issues such as transparency of objectives, informed consent, confidentiality and acknowledgement of power dynamics will be thoroughly anticipated and approaches to managing established.


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Description The findings from my PhD have been disseminated by Culture Bridge North East to arts organisations and schools across the North East region and beyond through their blog, website, CPD events and conferences. I am in the process of writing an extended blog post as part of Culture Bridge's Secondary School's Campaign on the value of creative practice in secondary schools which is due to be published in April 2019. I am also chairing a panel discussion at an event organised by Culture Bridge North East for Local Cultural Education Partnerships from across the U.K in April.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural