We are now halfway through the Get Creative Research Project and have written an internal interim evaluation report, drawing on our research to date, which has been circulated to the Stakeholder group running the campaign. This has been a fairly substantial piece of work which – although provisional – lays out a series of interim findings and recommendations. While the report itself is not public, we can give an indication of some of the aspects of the Get Creative campaign on which we have been reporting at this stage. These include the clarity of the overall aim(s) of Get Creative, the role of the ‘Champions’ within the campaign, and the modes and effectiveness of partnership working between the organisations involved. More generally, the ambitiousness of running a campaign across such a wide variety of creative forms on a national scale has become clear, including the challenges and opportunities this presents.
The overall purpose of the campaign has not always been equally and consistently clear to all Stakeholders, and the emphasis of what exactly Get Creative is and aims to achieved appears to have shifted somewhat during its life so far. The launch events, particularly the debates around the country in February 2015, foregrounded the role of the arts in society as well as creative activities more generally. Since then the campaign seems to have prioritised getting more people involved in creative activities, which has included content on the Get Creative website that goes beyond what is usually considered as part of the arts, such as diary writing, crocheting, or being a music fan. Moreover, the BBC have suggested that the stories about crafts activities have been particularly important on the website.
This interest in crafts is a particularly interesting development in relation to demographic trends in arts participation. The genesis of the campaign was, in part, the Warwick Commission into the Future of Cultural Value. The Commission’s final report highlighted the statistic that only the most educated, middle-class 8% of the UK regularly engage in publicly funded arts and culture. The interest in crafts in the campaign (as indicated by a high level of interest in crafts stories on the website) suggests that the campaign has the potential to be reaching beyond the usual demographic of arts participation. Chan et al.’s analysis of national datasets indicates that those who engage in crafts in the UK are from a somewhat different demographic to those who participate in the arts more generally. While arts participation is strongly correlated with levels of formal education, craft participation is less consistently correlated with this. In regards to income, those on lower incomes are more likely to engage in painting/drawing, computer art, textile crafts and other types of craft than those on higher incomes. It is clear that the type of craft activity is important here; for example, wood crafts are more likely to be engaged in by people (especially rurally-based men) with lower status jobs than those with higher status jobs (Chan et al. 2008). The comparative popularity of the crafts stories on the website therefore requires further attention in our research because it indicates interesting possibilities for how the Get Creative campaign could be of interest and value to a wider range of people than is typically the case with activities and initiatives provided by publicly funded arts and cultural organisations.
A second issue we have highlighted in the report is the role of the ‘Champions’ in the campaign. There are well over 1000 organisations around the country who have signed up as Champions, and they represent a great diversity of arts, education and community organisations, from independent artists, to disability arts groups, to arts venues, to national organisations. One of the challenges the campaign faces is therefore to find ways of working with Champions that engages such a wide variety of groups and individuals. Currently the Champions are required to put on a free or cost-recovery event that engages members of the public in a creative activity. However, our research suggests that many Champions are not yet clear about what their role is within the campaign, and there are strong indications from our research that many are unclear as to what the potential benefits are of engaging in the campaign. The research team has therefore suggested that the role of Champion – and the ways in which Champions engage with the campaign and with each other – needs to be considered further, and communication with Champions needs to be clearer. There is great potential in this network of Champion organisations and groups to give powerful voice to the campaign, as well as a huge wealth of expertise in how to develop opportunities for creativity), which we suggest the campaign can tap into further. This will strengthen the Champions’ role, and help the Get Creative campaign to more fully realise its potential.
We’re now embarking on the next phase of research, including visiting eight regions of the UK to conduct focus groups with What Next? Chapters and one-to-one interviews with Get Creative Champions. We will also be attending a series of Champion networking events that have been scheduled in several locations around the UK, in response to our recommendations. As we do so, we are also considering incorporating some additional components to the range of research methods we are employing, in order to investigate more fully some of the key issues that have emerged within the Get Creative campaign so far. If social research is very often an iterative and reflexive processes, it is perhaps particularly so when the object of study is as heterogeneous and fast-moving as a UK-wide, experimental collaboration between over 1000 organisations. One of the specific – and particularly interesting – features of a piece of research of this kind is the ongoing process of considering which methodological and conceptual tools it is necessary to employ in order to effectively describe the key features of the developing object of study… Watch this space!
Chan, Tak Wing, John Goldthorpe, Emily Keaney, and Anni Oskala. 2008. ‘Attendance and Participation in Visual Arts and Crafts in England. Findings from the Taking Part Survey’. Arts Council England. http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/TakingPart_0506_Visualarts.pdf.