Participation Research Group - Civic Role of the Arts

The Participation Research Group welcomed Professor Helen Nicholson (Royal Holloway) and Professor Birgit Eriksson (Aarhus) to speak to the issues related to the Civic role of the Arts.

The event, chaired by practice researcher, Leo Burtin, the event introduced two research projects to an audience of practitioners, policy-makers and scholars.  

Helen Nicholson (Professor of theatre and performance at Royal Holloway, University of London) introduced her current AHRC-funded research project, Civic Theatres: A Place for Towns. The research is being undertaken in collaboration with Professor Jenny Hughes (University of Manchester) and investigates amateur, professional, community and civic theatres in towns across England.  

Birgit Eriksson (Professor of cultural theory and analysis in the Department of Aesthetics and Culture, Aarhus University) specialises in participatory arts and culture, the uses of the arts, and aesthetics and politics. Birgit shared findings from the research project: Art and social communities in Danish social housing areas (2019-22). 

Together the discussion touched on the limitations of co-production when participation is temporary, and where power dynamics remain intact. Guests were interested in discussing how the arts and creativity can be mobilised towards maintaining the status quo. Political contexts of interventions revealed themselves as enormously important, and the need for specific, local actions to avoid the trappings of the arts as a gentrifying force. As a comment in the chat reminded: ‘creativity can be positive, and it can commodify’. 
The Participation Research Group meets regularly and in 2022 will host a programme of public talks. You can find out more by following @PCI_UniofLeeds; or emailing if you want to join the group.