Challenging Elites: rethinking disconnection and recovering urban space

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of Scotland
Department Name: School of Creative & Cultural Industries

Abstract

Our project is grounded in the lived experience of contested urban spaces and neighbourhoods undergoing rapid change. Through deep engagement within four contrasting sites in England and Scotland over five years, we will investigate power dynamics and their consequent material, cultural and symbolic struggles, bringing together academics, community and campaigning organisations, citizens, artists/designers, activists and planners. We will propose, test and analyse live, investigative interventions through arts, media, design and storytelling that enable participants to challenge taken-for-granted or 'common sense' narratives of urban development, belonging and civic participation. The project brings together a multidisciplinary team of academics and community partners with a deep commitment to participatory practice.

Wider outputs from the large grant proposal developed from this process will include: publications, exhibitions, events, debates, reports, film, audio, media, and direct, participatory urban design and public art interventions in the chosen localities.

The research questions, aims, objectives and methods outlined above, agreed across the consortium, will be subject to an intensive co-production process through the development phase of the project. Within this process questions, issues, concepts and approaches will be refined, challenged and reflected upon. As well as workshops, presentation of brief position papers and discussion, we will also test out some of the other methods that are core to the project - walking, mapping and making temporary art/design interventions in the chosen locations. This deliberately peripatetic and experimental approach will require members of the research team and partners to visit different locations, engage in discussion, listen to participants and interact with wider communities, seeking appropriate permissions and assessing the potential of the sites to generate powerful evidence/testimony drawn from tension, conflict and ongoing urban redevelopment plans.

We will also identify appropriate archival sources, assessing relevant heritage and built environment resources, meet with new cultural and voluntary sector organisations, and generate detailed criteria for finalising the selection of sites where we will work. We will recruit an advisory group which will act as a challenging sounding board and connect the project to wider stakeholder communities, including local/national policymakers, academic, charity and third sector networks, artists, architects and urbanists, think tanks and media organisations.

Scoping papers and brief literature reviews will be shared amongst the whole team through a series of short blogposts linked to the development of a public website as well as use of closed social media in order to build trust, confidence, sharpen our approach and clarify concepts and methods. We will also connect with international sources of comparative methods and approaches including projects and programmes in India, the USA, mainland Europe and other international academic networks dealing with our themes and questions.

Planned Impact

The primary impact of the development project is linked to the opportunity to produce a large scale grant proposal for research on challenging elites, disconnection and division across four or more UK locations, drawing together an innovative and highly engaged consortium of HEIs and partner organisations.

The process of developing the large grant proposal will bring the project team into conversation with a number of key stakeholder groups, including but not limited to:

- national and local government agencies and officials in England and Scotland
- corporate interests, property developers, investors and lobbyists in relation to urban development processes
- officials of public-private regeneration partnerships
- a range of wider stakeholder community and voluntary groups in each locality, identified in letters of support and elsewhere in this proposal. We will seek to ensure that these include those least engaged/most excluded and/or informal groups, i.e. women's organisations, disability groups, LGBT and minority ethnic communities.
- international research and knowledge exchange networks in urban regeneration, city planning, community activism, architecture, urbanism and public/participatory arts practice
- community and oral history libraries and archives, faith groups, activist organisations and cultural organisations working in the selected neighbourhoods

These conversations will feed into the development process and inform our plans for impact arising from the large grant proposal, as well as potentially seeding new collaborations and investigations which may be the subject of other research proposals.

There will be a number of subsidiary impacts arising from the development process:

Learning and development opportunities for all participants, particularly through the development of interdisciplinary, shared understandings of methods, theories, approaches and experiences across our sites.

The opportunity to forge links with policy researchers and think tanks e.g. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum, Architecture and Design Scotland, in the design of the main project proposal to ensure traction, network engagement and further potential impact on policymaking and practice at local and national scale

The project website, blogs, and social media presence will amplify engagement and ensure that the project's aims and objectives are challenged through public debate and dissemination. However we will also be mindful of the need to generate engagement beyond the readily visible forms of websites, conference presentations to expert communities and academics through deep engagement with community partners. The products of these engagements may not be so immediatedly visble. For example, single homeless people (the focus of Crisis' work) members of Traveller and refugee communities may generate important insights and testimonies in the development process and these experiences may need to be anonymised, translated and sensitively communicated at all times given the potential legal and territorial issues, and multiple exclusions faced by such individuals. Therefore we will refrain from claiming too much 'impact' at this stage of the project until we have considered carefully how to share the burden of representation amongst ourselves.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description The grant funded a co-production/development process for a 'closed call' large grant application for a large scale, interdisciplinary study across three waterfront sites, examining the challenges of sustaining community participation and voice in urban regeneration processes. It proposed an experimental approach that involved participatory arts and media methods, including temporary public artworks, design interventions and community media activities linked to historical and ethnographic investigation of the politics, planning and lived experience of each of our sites. Discussions, site visits and project activities yielded rich data - oral, visual, cartographic and historical - which will be used to inform subsequent projects. Methodological papers are being jointly written by the project team which explore the cross-disciplinary approach deployed in the study.
Exploitation Route Once published, our findings may be of use to other researchers, policymakers and community organisations engaged in participatory action research, exploring the community and cultural politics of urban planning processes and the lived experience of highly contested urban zones.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description The 'participatory interventionist' approach employed within the project's proposed methods is informing the curatorial and planning process for two exhibitions and workshops scheduled for 2016/2017: an exhibition in Glasgow about the outcomes of the Govan-Gdansk exchange, exploring artist-led responses to heritage/urban regeneration; and a planned re-staging of the Cultural Hijack: rethinking intervention exhibition (first mounted at the Architectural Association School in 2013) in Prague in 2017.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description Royal Society of Edinburgh: Research Networks in Arts and Humanities
Amount £19,900 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 12/2014 
End 12/2016
 
Description Royal Society of Edinburgh: Govan - Gdansk research networking exchange: waterfront regeneration in Northern European cities 
Organisation Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk
Country Poland, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Approaches and methods articulated through the development grant are informing the design and outcomes of the Govan-Gdansk research network.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners are providing comparative data, cross-cultural and comparative policy insights from Poland, as well as offering perspectives on intangible cultural heritage within the context of European debates on culture and regeneration.
Impact Series of multi-disciplinary workshops and seminars in Glasgow and Gdansk exploring participatory approaches to planning and regeneration in de-industrializing, post-industrial and semi-industrial waterfront settings. The exchange involves a team of architects, planners, artists, activists, third sector citizen organisations as well as two museums (the European Solidarity Centre, Gdansk, and Glasgow's Riverside Museum). Three workshops have taken place so far and further conference presentations and a final conference are scheduled for 2016. Publications will follow in 2017/2018. We intend to connect this network to other AHRC Connected Communities projects, including the large grant on Hydrocitizenship, as it develops.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Royal Society of Edinburgh: Govan - Gdansk research networking exchange: waterfront regeneration in Northern European cities 
Organisation Gdansk University of Technology
Country Poland, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Approaches and methods articulated through the development grant are informing the design and outcomes of the Govan-Gdansk research network.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners are providing comparative data, cross-cultural and comparative policy insights from Poland, as well as offering perspectives on intangible cultural heritage within the context of European debates on culture and regeneration.
Impact Series of multi-disciplinary workshops and seminars in Glasgow and Gdansk exploring participatory approaches to planning and regeneration in de-industrializing, post-industrial and semi-industrial waterfront settings. The exchange involves a team of architects, planners, artists, activists, third sector citizen organisations as well as two museums (the European Solidarity Centre, Gdansk, and Glasgow's Riverside Museum). Three workshops have taken place so far and further conference presentations and a final conference are scheduled for 2016. Publications will follow in 2017/2018. We intend to connect this network to other AHRC Connected Communities projects, including the large grant on Hydrocitizenship, as it develops.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Community Sounding Boards 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Voice of Deptford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Workshop: Thinking Differently about Povery, Participation and Policy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015