On a blustery Friday afternoon, hardy and rain-spotted folk from in and around Paisley gathered at the Beechwood Community Centre in Shortroods to take part in the first of the workshops planned as part of our UKRI funded place-based partnership project:Improving Community Wellbeing and Prosperity through Culture, #ArtandSoul.
This partnership-focussed work looks at how the benefits of arts and culture projects, interventions, activities and interests benefit local communities. The work undertaken will, we hope, provide evidence of cultural value as well as giving insights into the ways in which local communities and individuals participate in arts and culture. In turn, our findings will feed into policy and practice discussions taking place within community organisations and, at local authority level; helping those who deliver support and services to better understand the wants, needs, skills, abilities and interests of their communities.
Photo credit: Willie Kay
In liaison with local community leaders, our project partners at STAR Project and within Renfrewshire Council’s Cultural Regeneration team led the workshop which was attended by about 50 local community members alongside representatives from a range of local and national organisations; including NHS Scotland, Renfrewshire Leisure and the Disability Resource Centre.
The activities undertaken – and the discussions that arose from them – provided a huge data set which we must now collate, analyse and feed into the next phases of this project and, into the wider discussions currently ongoing at council level – and particularly within the Future Paisley Partnership – on the strategic direction of some of their cultural regeneration work.
We had a great, fun-filled afternoon that also gave us much to think about; there was a lot to say about the art and culture in Paisley as well as about ‘what’s not there’ and ‘what’s been lost’ over the years. That people attended in numbers in spite of really atrocious weather conditions helped to ensure that we were able to gather some very rich and valuable data to take forward in this project and, to feed into relevant discussions and debates on cultural regeneration in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and elsewhere.
CCSE’s Colombian PhD student and associate researcher, Greis Cifuentes has – at the age of 31 – been chosen as the new Development Director for the Fundación Nacional Batuta (FNB) in Colombia. Batuta has a presence in all 32 of the country’s administrative departamentos. FNB serves more than 38,000 children and young people from vulnerable populations providing first-rate musical training which focuses on collective practice from a perspective of social inclusion, rights and cultural diversity. Participation in FNB programmes provides an outlet for creative energies, distraction from challenges arising from surrounding societal difficulties and the constructive development of skills in music alongside complementary improvement of abilities in social engagement. Ultimately, involvement with FNB contributes to improved quality of life for its beneficiaries and their families.
To date, Greis’s professional and academic trajectory has been hugely impressive. Prior to her FNB appointment, she could already boast an outstanding career in the cultural and educational sector working in the public sector and international organisations such as the Fulbright Commission in Germany and Colombia, the Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Consulate in New York.
Among the challenges of this new position, the diversification funding sources for the Foundation and expanding its coverage and the number of beneficiaries participating in FNB activities are priorities. In addition, in her new role, Greis will need to guarantee the continuity of Batuta’s most significant projects across the country.
Greis firmly believes in the transformative power of music and the methodology used by Batuta as a tool for strengthening social capital. The FNB’s pedagogical model promotes peaceful conflict resolution approaches among its beneficiary groups, utilising dialogue as a vital element of the effort to assist participants’ integral development and to strengthen the bonds between children taking part in FNB programmes; a process which, in turn, encourages them to expand their social networks.
FESTSPACE is our recently commenced multi-institution collaboration led by our Deputy Director Professor David McGillivray. The project will examine the ways in which festivals and events enable or restrict access to, and use of, public spaces, including the extent to which they might effectively host interactions and exchanges between people from different cultural, ethnic, socio-economic and socio-demographic backgrounds. The project is designed to explore how festivals and events affect the inclusivity of Europe’s urban public spaces. The focus of this funded work is on Western European cities; consequently, we will be conducting field research in Glasgow, London, Dublin, Barcelona and Gothenburg.
It is our hope that the research and analysis we’ll be undertaking will disclose novel and exciting insights into the contemporary role of festival spaces in and around some of Europe’s most vibrant city spaces. As part of CCSE’s remit is concerned with defining and investigating processes of cultural (and culture-led) regeneration in and around Paisley and Renfrewshire, it is important for us to look at ways in which this large piece of HERA-funded research work can be of benefit to the bold policy and practice agendas that places like Paisley are driving forward. While FESTSPACE is city-focussed, it is nevertheless useful for us to be mindful of the ways in which towns and other smaller urban settings utilise festivals and events. It is also worthwhile to consider how CCSE can ensure the effective inclusion of places such as Paisley – i.e. a town in the greater Glasgow area – in the knowledge generation and exchange which is a crucial part of the FESTSPACE dissemination strategy.
The FESTSPACE project will include a number of public engagement events and non-academic outputs which are intended to promote inclusivity across the widest range of stakeholder groups. It will be interesting to reflect on the efficacy of these efforts to promote broader engagement as well as valuable to keep this process in mind over the lifetime of the project.
FESTSPACE will be hosting a symposium at the University of the West of Scotland on Friday June 14th, 2019. More details can be found here: https://bit.ly/2vqK3cj
Last week the British Council published ‘The Art of Peace: the value of culture in post-conflict recovery’ as part of their Policy Insight series which is intended to further debate and understanding of the role of cultural relations in international affairs. The booklet is a summary document deriving from earlier work undertaken by CCSE which was commissioned on the basis of a successful response to a British Council tender opportunity. The full-length report ‘A Review of the Contribution of Arts and Culture to Global Security and Stability’ comprises a wide-ranging review of both academic and grey literature examining the ways in which arts and culture can be leveraged to address security, stability concerns and, feed into to processes of conflict resolution and reconciliation. In addition, 3 country case studies are discussed. These shed light on the practice-based approaches that have been utilised in the chosen settings (Rwanda, Columbia and Syria); here, we were able to draw upon the specific expertise and interests of two of the University’s doctoral researchers. Finally, we produced a mapping document, intended to function as a point of reference and insight into work ongoing globally in related areas.
This original report has been well received and we’ve been pleased to hear that it’s been widely distributed and positively impactful both within the British Council and across their network of colleagues, partners and collaborators. However, if we’re honest, we can also admit that the readership for this research is never likely to be particularly large. It is for this reason that we are very pleased that the British Council has produced ‘The Art of Peace’ which is presents a concise, accessible summary of our research work and situates it clearly within the context-framework of its own activities and remit.
This process is greatly beneficial, not only for us as researchers interested in ensuring an audience for our work; it also provides food for thought. For instance, what is the most appropriate way for us to package and present our work so that others might read, enjoy and engage with it (and, perhaps, with us)? And, what’s the most efficient and effective way for us to approach this conundrum? These questions are of significance for CCSE as co-production and partnership are very deliberate elements of our collaborative approach. These are questions that arise on a regular basis for us and, we’re always searching for ways to answer them. On this occasion, the British Council has highlighted one of the possible responses.
We’re delighted with this short visual reminder of our launch event which was a great opportunity to increase awareness of CCSE and its activities, bringing together stakeholders from across the Renfrewshire and Glasgow regions with policy makers, community members, creative industry and academic participants active locally and nationally. Our panel discussion developed into a thought provoking debate drawing on examples of success and giving due consideration to the challenges and opportunities to be negotiated if cultural regeneration is to be a positive experience for all.