On 11-12th September 2019, CCSE’s Professor David McGillivray and Dr Severin Guillard attended the conference “Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe” as part of their HERA-funded project, FESTSPACE. This 2-day conference was a good opportunity to meet with members of the other 19 funded projects, and to develop research plans with the FESTSPACE researchers based in London, Dublin, Barcelona and Gothenburg.
During the conference, the team displayed a poster presenting the project’s research questions and the ways they will be addressed in each case study, and held various meetings to discuss future conferences presentations and collective publications.
This event also provided a fruitful opportunity to exchange idea on the theoretical reflection and empirical investigations which have started in each city, and the specificity of the work carried out by each member. While the London team (Dr Andrew Smith, Dr Goran Vodicka and Prof Guy Osborn) has started to investigate everyday interactions in London’s Finsbury Park, Dr Bernadette Quinn and Dr Theresa Ryan (Technological University Dublin) are exploring how expectations for solitude and silence shape encounters in Dublin’s public libraries. Dr Kristina Lindstrom is observing how laws and regulation inform the production of Gothenburg’s festivals, while Dr Alba Colombo highlights how language, place of origin and place of living influence the perception of Barcelona’s events. Finally, the Glasgow team (Prof. David McGillivray, Prof. Gayle McPherson and Dr Severin Guillard) has begun to address the issues at stake in the promotion of Glasgow’s as an event city, involving interviews with public institutions and festival organisers.
More information about the FESTSPACE project is available here Follow the project on Twitter at @FESTSPACE1.
CCSE Professors, David McGillivray and Gayle McPherson recently returned from a week in Tokyo, Japan, as part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded Japan-UK project focused on the Paralympic Games and Social Change. The project is designed to build Japanese research capacity around disability studies and sport to positively impact the lives of people with disabilities. In March 2019, six Japanese colleagues visited the UK to learn about disability sport studies and visit Stoke Mandeville, while in June UK colleagues visited Tokyo for a week to understand more about the way the Paralympic Games 2020 are to be leveraged to the benefit of people with disabilities in Japan. Professors McGillivray and McPherson participated in a tour of games venues, helped host a policy forum and shared future research plans during a symposium held at the Houses of Parliament, attended by members of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, government ministers and Japanese academics in the field of disability sport.
Parasport events like the Paralympic Games are often heralded for raising awareness of disability-related issues and for transforming attitudes towards people with a disability in the host nation, and internationally. However, building on several large comparative research projects undertaken over the last five years, Professor’s McGillivray and McPherson have demonstrated the need for concrete, resourced and effectively leveraged strategies if the enthusiasm and excitement generated by events is to be sustained in the longer term.The project continues until December 2019 and progress can be followed at http://paralegacy2020.net/about/.
On the 3rd July 2019, I presented at the Global Strategy Forum, in the National Liberal Club, in Whitehall, London. Global Strategy Forum is an open forum, founded in 2006 and dedicated to the promotion of fresh thinking and active debate on foreign affairs, defence and international security issues. It was an interesting audience of about 80 people; made up of Ambassadors, Lords, Ladies, MPS, ex-military personnel and policy makers. The session was entitled: The GSF/British Council July 2019 Research Launch: ‘Building A Lasting Peace: New Approaches To Conflict And Recovery’.
The website promoted the event saying ‘we were delighted to welcome to GSF Professor Gayle McPherson of the University of the West of Scotland, and Professor Joanne Hughes of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast’. We presented the key findings of new research commissioned by the British Council on the role of education and culture in international efforts to address the causes of conflict and build sustainable peace and discussed their implications for UK and international peace and security policy. The event was co-chaired by Lord Lothian PC QC DL, Chairman of GSF and Dan Shah, Director, Research at the British Council.
After presentations from Joanne and me, the panel were open to questions from the audience. This was a very well informed audience, who were keen to quiz us on specific examples of the contribution of culture and education to global security and stability. It led to an interesting discussion as I was suggesting unusually, that culture, is often both the cause of conflict and a possible aid in post conflict resolution and indeed in conflict prevention. I discussed examples from our research in Rwanda, Colombia and Syria; Syria continuing to present the most challenge of course, as it is not yet post-conflict. The audience were engaging and some of the questions were a bit left-field but thankfully Dan Shah, Director of Research for the British Council was on hand to help with those. We will continue our work in the fields of cultural diplomacy and soft power; and would be happy to collaborate further with colleagues that are keen to be involved with the Centre. Alison Bailey, from The British Council published a short report in conjunction with us called Art as Peace and this is available from the link below along with Joanne’s report on Education for Peace.
There’s one benefit of what my PhD colleague calls Interdisciplinary Imposter Syndrome, I feel I can be part of both the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS) and Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH). So, I took advantage of their summer schools’ wide range of talks and training in the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I was doubled booked for the Interdisciplinary Round Table! Instead, I was at the Health and Inequalities in an era of Crises symposium. There was an interesting range of health inequalities talks covering population and individual health, discussing crises from austerity, to populism and Brexit and including methods from discourse analysis to structural equation modelling.
The symposium stressed the urgency of dealing with health inequalities, describing how progress has stalled and is likely to worsen if action isn’t taken.This is one of the reasons why my research focusses on this area. One area I’m exploring, is how this research has been dominated by social epidemiology and needs to broaden the view of what it considers to be causal evidence. A related area is how research needs to be more in touch with lived-in experiences. So it was great that the symposium also raised these points and talked about how a mix of social epidemiology and qualitative research is vital. Both for understanding what health inequalities looks like from an individual perspective but also examining ways to help to articulate messages. It’s always nice have confirmation that your interests align with research and societal needs!
My research looks at psychosocial factors, which are any factors that affect health outcomes through psychological mechanisms. It was interesting that although this wasn’t discussed in the symposium as a topic most talks referred to specific factors, such as fear, loss of control and meaninglessness, which are directly related to this field.
How do I explore mechanisms? Again the graduate school training has been a help. SGSSS held a great workshop on Critical Realism and Realist Evaluations, something which interested me prior to beginning this PhD. There was a helpful prompt from one of instructors reminding me why I signed up for a PhD. Mechanisms, compared to outcomes, are time and resource intensive to investigate. Which is why we have a lot of evidence, for example in the field Arts and Health, of what works. On the other hand, the body of evidence explaining why something works is less well established. Therefore, a PhD with its luxurious 3 year timescale (which still feels too short), rather than 3 months, is a great opportunity to pursue this; we should make the most of this rare opportunity to dig deep!
I’m about to make a small confession I’ve had it in my diary to write this blog post for longer than I care to admit. The reason I’m making such an, admittedly risky, confession is to show that self-discipline is hard to achieve. I’m sure we all procrastinate from time to time, but when you’re an independent researcher there isn’t really anyone to tell you not to. The beginning of a PhD is an incredibly exciting time. But the self-directed nature the process means that structure we once enjoyed during our undergraduate days, or our time in the workplace, are a thing of the past.
So, what can be done when the inevitable motivational lulls come, or we find ourselves spending more time scrolling through twitter than the latest issues of journals? Well, here are some thoughts and reflections on my own experiences of self-discipline in my PhD journey so far.
1) Structure your day (and stick to it!)
The early stages of a doctorate can feel a little vague. We haven’t got heaps of data to wade our way through, no conference presentations to prepare or chapters to write up. This is a necessary part of the process, but it doesn’t change the fact that the task of ‘learning the literature’ doesn’t necessarily have an obvious starting point, and is certainly easy to feel lost when faced with such an amorphous task.
What, then, can be done to add a bit of structure to those first few months of PhD life? Creating a weekly and daily ‘to do’ list and setting myself reasonable goals helped me get to grips with the self-directed nature of doctoral study. Got a piece of writing I want to finish up? Or maybe a number of articles I want to read each day? Or a book to finish? Breaking down your broader goals into smaller, more attainable tasks can make the process less daunting and help add a degree of structure to the process. Of course, this only works if you actually stick to your plan, and this takes some practice. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if there’s a few things on your to-do list which seem to keep appearing!
2) Take some time to explore other opportunities
Of course, it is incredibly important to take the time to lay the foundations of your research. But there’s also so much more the PhD experience, and your first year can be a great time to explore the plethora of exiting opportunities that we now have access to as PhD students. There is a seemingly infinite amounts events, seminars and conferences taking place. You don’t have to be presenting your research at an international conference to start building a network of researches and practitioners in your field!
I was fortunate enough gain my first bit of teaching experience last semester. Though this might have been time consuming it was an incredibly rewarding experience and one which I feel has given me heaps of transferable skills, and confidence, which I can take into my PhD journey and beyond.
3) Take a break!
Yes, even PhD students take time off! However, scrolling through my Twitter feed, it would certainly seem as though we’re all constantly working. There is certainly no shortage of posts from academics asserting how busy we all are. This can compound the pressure to feel like you’ve always got to be working. But it is important to use the early stages of your research to establish a healthy work-life balance and a sustainable working pattern – we all want to avoid the dreaded burnout down the line!
Self-discipline is an important part of the PhD process, and the ability manage a project on this scale is one of the most valuable transferable skills doctoral study equips us with. But it is important to remember that this is a learning curve, and the art of self-discipline is one that takes practice to perfect. Maybe next time, this task won’t be in my diary so quite as long!
My PhD revolves around the discipline of Creative Economics, which sounds like a euphemism for financial crime. Its first commandment may be Richard Florida’s statement “Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron once was”
This was hardly a radical statement when first uttered in 2002 and even less so in 2019. Reviving de-industrialised “coal and iron” towns by means of investing in creative industries and culture has been the explicit policy of many local governments in Europe and the world for the last 40 years.
The notion that creative output is a motor of economic growth is easily demonstrated numerically: the creative industries grow faster than other parts of the economy (44.8 % increased value added 2010-2016 compared to average of 22.7 %), and the output per employee grows faster, too. Investing in creative business is à la mode like never before. A high concentration of design firms and cultural institutions brings economic multiplier effects: jobs are created in retail, construction, and tourism. Public and private revenues rise. Successful transformations can help old industry towns regenerate.
However, there are some well-known side effects. First of all, property development and increasing property value brings gentrification. Gentrification may be alluring to local government: gentrified areas experience less violence, the inhabitants pay higher income taxes, and the taxable property values rise accordingly. Private businesses are often eager to invest in developing areas targeted at wealthy prospective homeowners. One local example of this would be the newly constructed Cotton Street houses in Paisley which sold out quickly despite (or due to) being in the upper price range for Paisley flats.
Regeneration by gentrification may exclude a large portion of the people living in the area in the first place – which the projects were aimed at helping. Instead, they could face further marginalisation and displacement.
My research focuses on evaluating projects aimed at creating inclusive growth in Paisley via investment in culture and creativity. The inclusive part is especially important as many flagship cultural regeneration projects regarded as highly successful, such as Glasgow in the 1980s, still experienced centre-periphery problems and the negative effects of gentrification.
The investments are necessarily considered in different ways: The £42 million investment in the complete restoration and development of the Paisley Museum will not pay off in ticket sales. But it may be a key to creating a cultural district, a way to preserve the town’s history – it’s already one of the most popular destinations in the county for locals and tourists alike.
The bid for UK City of Culture 2021 was the starting point for the research project now engaging me and two other PhD students at UWS. Despite losing the bid, the county decided to invest in local culture and creativity. Arts-led regeneration is well-studied, as is regeneration through mega-events. But arts-led regeneration through losing the bid for mega-events? An optimist would say we’re breaking new ground.