I’m now four months into my PhD in the field of arts and health within the context of cultural regeneration.  I have a professional background in economic development consultancy and working as a research assistant at Citizens Advice Scotland.  This role developed my interest in the social determinants of health. It helped me to better understand how people move in and out of poverty, poverty’s many dimensions and the everyday experience of living on a low income. The wide variety of volunteering roles I’ve undertaken have all involved improving people’s health and wellbeing including through art, sport, community tourism, the reduction of social isolation and the mood enhancing benefits of being around dogs. This PhD is a great opportunity to develop these experiences and interests in a research environment.

I am currently building a theoretical foundation for my doctoral research. I am exploring the ways in which the disciplines of health, art and urban studies have defined themselves, each other and how they have conceptualised and addressed health inequalities, social inclusion and regeneration. There are a lot of contested terms and areas so I’m in the process of analysing the tensions within and between disciplines.

It is challenging to bring together different disciplines into a research framework to address complex social issues.  Using a transdisciplinary approach gives me tools to tackle the challenge due to its innovative research methods and the emphasis on local knowledge. I’m naturally inclined to this approach, as I’m an outsider to these disciplines and to academia and someone who’s passionate about working holistically.

This approach requires trust and good relationships between local groups and people. In Paisley, I’ve been excited to see the collaborations across the public sector and with community organisations.  For example, I represent CCSE in the Culture, Arts and Social Network.  This is a group of education, health, social care, heritage and leisure stakeholders who have come together to influence the development and implementation of arts programmes in health and social care in Paisley. It’s a new group with a diverse range of programmes from art in hospitals to arts and education projects and social prescribing.  I am looking forward to seeing how my research will develop alongside these activities.