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Collaborate fund – first cohort announced

Collaborate research project. A large black square structure in the centre of leeds Market. The structure has a range of screens on it, one screen has the word ‘Time Bar’ written on it, one is playing a video of a person, one has a pub quiz. A group of people are watching the screens.

Image credit: The Yorkshire Square by Small Acts Presented at Compass Festival 2021. Photo: Lizzie Coombes.

We are delighted to announce that the Collaborate fund has now awarded research grants to five innovative new partnerships between cultural sector practitioners and academics. 

Collaborate was launched in October 2021 to support the Centre’s core aim of deepening understanding of the differences culture makes to people’s lives and to communities. Collaborate projects are driven by the real-world questions of the cultural sector. They provide opportunities to test new methodologies, explore and more deeply understand cultural practice and to communicate cultural value more effectively. 

The fund received 183 expressions of interest in this first year of funding, showing a substantial appetite among cultural practitioners and academics to develop new collaborative research partnerships. 

The five selected partnerships will research a range of under-explored areas of cultural value, examining issues around audience engagement; race; experiences of gender; the value of beauty; and power and agency. 

Liz Harrop, Manager at the Centre for Cultural Value, says:

“We know from the Centre’s own research that the pandemic exacerbated inequalities in the cultural sector. We believe this cohort of Collaborate partnerships can play a part in a restorative practice by filling gaps in the evidence base and ensuring new, diverse voices are heard.”

The first cohort of Collaborate projects will now receive funding to work together over the next 12 months.

This follows the Collaborate pilot project between Manchester Camerata and Dr Michelle Phillips, a senior lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). This partnership is using the funding to pursue an ambitious method of audience research: collecting neurological, physiological and behavioural data from listeners in response to live and recorded music.

Michelle Phillips says:

“Our team has grown since our initial plans and now includes not only the RNCM, Universities of Salford and Manchester and Manchester Camerata but also undergraduate and postgraduate students. It’s a project that people want to be part of and a really stimulating research team.”

Collaborate has always aimed to become more than simply a funding opportunity. By building in learning and development opportunities throughout the application process, we hope that everyone who has taken part is fired up by the potential of research.

The Collaborate fund will be open again for expressions of interest in autumn 2022.


The first cohort of Collaborate projects:

Compass Live Art with Matthew Reason, Institute for Social Justice, York St John University

Making with / Researching with: Exploration of the experiences, values and impact of different forms of co-creation

Compass Live Art has ten years of experience producing socially engaged, interactive live art. Through processes of ‘making with’ – such as co-creation and community participation – Compass produces work in non-art spaces that engages under-represented, traditionally non-arts attending groups.

The research partnership with Matthew Reason and Lauren Hall from York St John will  investigate the experiences of both artists and audiences taking part in ‘making with’, as well as explore the experiences of previous festival attendees. This will be done through ‘walking interviews’, where participants will revisit the locations of previous Compass Festival events to explore enduring memories of impact and agency.

At a time when the arts are turning to co-creation and participation to engage new and different audiences, this research will provide insight into the impact of ‘making with’ on arts engagement.

Crafts Council with Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, Professor of Marketing and Sustainable Business, Glasgow Caledonian University London (GCU London)

Disrupting the craft canon: the cultural value of craft

This interdisciplinary partnership brings together academics from GCU London, led by Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, with experienced research and participation practitioners from Crafts Council, the UK’s national charity for craft. 

The team will place social justice as central to measures of cultural value. They will explore, develop and test measures of the cultural value and wellbeing attached to craft by racially minoritized communities who are excluded from the cultural space of craft.  

Holding two place-based craft-making events, they will identify and recognise the value of the knowledge, experience and cultural heritage of makers of colour in professional, community or other crafts spaces. The project will investigate the impacts of race, racism, immigration and migration on cultural production, making and value. 

National Museums Liverpool working with Sophie Oliver, Lecturer in English, University of Liverpool

Gender stories

How can objects from the past help us understand the complexities of gender today?

National Museums Liverpool (NML) and Sophie Oliver from the University of Liverpool will work with diverse audiences in the city to explore how individuals can use objects in the museum’s collection to tell their ‘gender stories’.

The team will explore how the collection can encourage people of diverse gender identities (and intersecting identities) to think about their lived experience and empathise with the experiences of others. For those whose gender identity is marginalised, like transgender and non-binary people, or women of colour, the team hope the stories will help foster a sense of belonging in the museum’s narrative, or remake that narrative in light of their lived experiences. 

The participants will be co-creators, whose ideas and feelings about their gender, and their chosen objects, will set the terms for each project phase.

The project aims to weave all the stories collected back into the museum, layering them with existing interpretation to create a kaleidoscope of perspectives. In doing so, the project will push the boundaries of the approach to interpretation and develop innovative methods for narrating cultural history.

Quarantine with Rox Middleton, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol

The beauty project

How is an audience affected by beauty? When the event is over, what remains? 

Beauty can motivate audiences, and in both arts and science, beauty motivates processes of research and creation. But beauty is subjective, difficult to measure and at risk of being overlooked as a benefit and aim.

Theatre company Quarantine, alongside physicist Rox Middleton from the University of Bristol, will work with a researcher in philosophy and with performers and audiences to investigate ways to understand and articulate the value of beauty. 

The partnership will explore methodologies for better understanding and articulating the value of beauty, with a focus on live performance. They will test methods to evaluate intrinsic values rather than solely those that are good because of their effects. They will also seek a new vocabulary for articulating the value of beauty in cultural production. 

Rising Arts Agency with Andreana Drencheva, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, King’s College London

Equitable partnerships: power sharing in the cultural sector

Cultural value is often created through collaboration, yet the specific dynamics of these collaborations are currently under-explored. 

Rising Arts Agency is a Bristol-based community of young creatives aged 16–30 mobilising others for radical social, political and cultural change. Working with Andreana Drencheva from King’s College London, the partnership will explore the nature of truly equitable partnerships in the cultural sector, particularly how power imbalances manifest for grassroots organisations and marginalised creatives working with cultural sector institutions. 

The project aims to shift the focus from how marginalised creatives and grassroots organisations can navigate these power imbalances – where the burden is on them – to how these imbalances can be removed to increase cultural value for creatives, cultural organisations and audiences.

This research will use Rising Arts Agency as a microcosm: part of a grassroots ecosystem, where marginalised creatives come for support and cultural partnerships are being continually modelled. Using reflection, interviews, diaries, labs, sharing events and archives these personal experiences will be placed in the context of the wider sector with benefits for institutions, similar grassroots organisations, marginalised creatives and funders. 

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