The Role and Value of Expertise

The Get Creative campaign runs from February 2015 to February 2016. A wide range of broadcasts and activities will be flying the Get Creative flag over these twelve months, including BBC output and events run by (nearly) one thousand Get CreativeChampions’ – cultural organisations of many sizes and types that have signed up to contribute to the campaign.

Many of the BBC’s Get Creative broadcasts are programmes that would have existed even if the campaign had not happened: output that was already in production but which dovetails neatly with the aims of Get Creative, and which has therefore taken its place within the initiative. However, the campaign has also been the spur to one piece of bespoke programming, a series of four half-hour programmes that address some of the central themes of the campaign. Will Gompertz Gets Creative follows the BBC’s arts editor as he visits a different art group each week, trying his hand at life-drawing in Brighton, spoken word in London, pottery in Hampshire, and song-writing in Coventry.

Broadcast on Radio 4 at 10.30am on Saturday mornings, and featured prominently on the BBC Arts webpages, the series is one of the most high profile explorations of the campaign’s concerns to date. Listening to these programmes with my researcher’s hat on, a cluster of questions asserted themselves noisily through each of the four art sessions: what are the challenges and rewards of ‘getting creative’? In what variety of ways – through what vocabularies, and within what implicit accounts of ‘value’ – might the processes of ‘getting creative’ be understood and discussed? And what might be the role of expertise in these processes? Continue reading

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Week 4 – Online creative communities

One of the things that’s been on my mind over the last three weeks, as we design a research project around everyday creativity in the UK, is the role of online creative communities. This is particularly interesting as the campaign we are evaluating, the BBC’s Get Creative campaign, has a digital presence, and is encouraging people to participate in various ways, such as entering competitions or submitting their artwork.

In order get a sense of some of the everyday creative practice that is going on in the UK, the internet seems like an obvious place to look. My interest in online creative communities was initially sparked some years ago by learning about slash fiction, a type of fan fiction, from a friend who writes it. This involves taking two fictional male characters from different shows, films, or books (often sci-fi), and writing a homoerotic story around them. My friend would use slash fiction as a way of improving her writing – the advantage of online writing communities, she argued, is that she would get immediate feedback on what she’d written. Other members of the community might request a piece of slash fiction featuring two particular characters, and she would have to write something convincing. A challenge, if someone requests for Han Solo to get it on with Ron Weasley. Continue reading

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Week 3 – Lace making and line dancing

On Wednesday we met up with Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts, one of our partners in this research. Voluntary Arts was founded in the early 1990s to give a collective voice to the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of umbrella organisations for grassroots arts and crafts groups around the UK. We’re talking brass bands, am dram, lace-making, line dancing, pottery, and even coloured pencil enthusiasts! These are groups that quietly get on and do their own thing, with around 10 million people across the UK participating in such activities. Historically, these groups have not been addressed by Arts Council policy, but they form a vibrant part of civil society infrastructure, as this report by the Third Sector Research Centre describes. However, this is not to say they don’t also need support in terms of policy and infrastructure. For example, Arts Council funding probably has an indirect effect on grassroots organisations, in that there may be links between amateur and professional organisations within a particular art form, but this interdependency isn’t clearly evident from the existing research literature. In addition, grassroots groups need local cultural infrastructure such as advice and support as well as affordable and accessible venues for rehearsals, meetings and other activities. These kinds of provision fall under the remit of the local authority, but as Arts Development UK reports, 36% of local authorities in England and Wales (as of August 2014) have no arts officer. Continue reading

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Week 2 – Meeting Fellow Travellers

Here at team Get Creative research we are very keen to connect our project to related pieces of work going on around the country. This week we had the opportunity to speak with Mark Taylor, Lecturer in Quantitative Research Methods at the University of Sheffield, and a Research Associate on the Understanding Everyday Participation project – a piece of research with close intellectual affinities with our own. Mark has been involved in UEP since it began its work in 2012, and it was great to talk with him about some of the ways in which that project has gone about its work.

Like our own project, UEP has identified a number of ethnographic sites around the country, within which it is undertaking detailed qualitative work. It was helpful to talk with Mark about some of the differences between the UEP’s various research sites, and to hear his suggestions for factors to bear in mind when selecting research locations for work of this kind.

We were also keen to chat with Mark about his approach to working with large quantitative data sets for the purpose of studying cultural participation. Like UEP, the Get Creative research project will be working with qualitative methods and employing techniques of quantitative data analysis to bring our findings into articulation with national trends, as revealed through large quantitative data sets. We were very grateful to Mark for sharing his experiences with us, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with him over the coming months!

This week Anna and Jonathan also had the opportunity to meet with KCL researchers from across a wide range of disciplines, each of whom has a research interest in questions of creativity and diversity. Continue reading

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Week 1 – Getting started

1st July 2015 marked the start of the Get Creative research project, and we have begun as we expect to continue: at pace, energetically, and with a spirit of adventure! The research team has ambitious plans for the coming year, and we couldn’t be more excited to launch our investigations into everyday creativity in the UK. This blog will accompany the research over the next year (and beyond), and here we will provide a weekly update on the progress of the project, as well as more extended reports and reflections at key moments along the way.

The day before the project officially kicked-off the research team met with colleagues from the BBC to talk further about our hopes for the research, and to explore the range of data that the BBC may be able to make available to the research team. The intention is to develop a mixed methods approach, drawing together qualitative techniques (including interviews, focus groups and participant observation) – employed in strategically selected sites across the UK – along with the analysis of quantitative data derived from the BBC’s Get Creative campaign, and from other large scale data sets.

During this meeting we also made plans for members of the research team to visit Broadcasting House during the coming weeks: to continue these conversations, to have the opportunity see behind the scenes at Get Creative HQ, and to meet members of BBC staff helping to run the campaign.

Two members of the research team – Anna Bull and Jonathan Gross – are joining Kings College London from Goldsmith’s College and the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds, respectively, and so part of this week was spent in orientation to a new home. Anna and Jonathan will be working from the Virginia Woolf building on Kingsway, whilst Nick Wilson’s office is in the Chesham building on the Aldwych. During these first few days the three of us have enjoyed several extremely generative discussions in bright sunshine – as we walk between the two offices – and long may these blue sky conversations continue!

The research team spent much of the rest of the week deep in First week musings flip-chart diagrams (see left!) – further exploring our research questions and design. The team is full of excitment about the project’s potential to open up key questions concerning everyday (and latent / unrecognised) creativity, and about the (arts and cultural) creative ecology in the UK. It has been a pleasure to dive into these discussions, and we look forward to opening these up still further over the coming weeks and months.

One of the many exciting features of these initial conversations has been that – whilst there are extensive areas of theoretical and methodological affinity shared across the three members of the research team – each of us is bringing to the project a distinct intellectual history and set of commitments, and our own histories of creative practice. Even within these first few days, the differences between each of our intellectual and creative formations – as well as the many areas of shared expertise and interest – have helped move our thinking along at pace, as we bring the project off the page and into the world. We very much look forward to sharing these discussions with you as the project develops, and to making use of this blog as a space to keep you in touch with our activities, ideas and findings!


This e-bulletin is the first of a weekly series that will accompany the Get Creative research project. We will use these posts to provide a regular update on the progress of the research, and to invite comments, queries and suggestions from all: including ‘everyday artists’, cultural organisation staff, researchers, policy professionals, and the casually curious. Whatever your interest in our work, we’d love to hear from you!

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