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1.1 Introduction and Context

This PhD involves two elements; a portfolio of practice and a written thesis which together examine the idea that every locale contains a wide range of cultural assets which deserve to be recognised and celebrated and that by involving community groups who may be traditionally under-represented in cultural participation, a more complete picture can be mapped and developed which more accurately reveals the hidden cultural assets of an area. A practice-based approach, using methods of cultural asset mapping and participatory action research in the field was adopted, which represented a unique opportunity to produce

practice-based research which drew on theoretical and creative practice, in conjunction with a thorough academic analysis and reflections regarding the role of a practitioner researcher embedded within a live City of Culture bid (Paisley 2021 for UK City of Culture).


Cultural planning is inter-disciplinary, and cultural mapping works best when a variety of interests are represented (Scullion and García, 2005, Wilson, 2010, Valletta 2018 Foundation, 2012). Residents must be involved in decision making to avoid a top down process which can impose undesirable projects upon an area and fail to take into account less vociferous views (Mand, 2012, PAS, 2018); this process for involvement must be accessible and open, and creative methods form a valid form of discussion to engage as wide an audience as possible in accordance with the principles of ‘working on the edge’ with communities (Sarkissian, Hurford and Wenman, 2010). Expressing ideas through play and creativity (Gauntlett and Holzwarth, 2006) emphasises that everyone can engage with creative idea generation and is to some degree creative (DeBono, 2012) yet the language of cultural heritage can be isolating and exclusive, and imply that only those who can navigate the official rhetoric can participate in decision-making or identification of important assets.

Finding ways to address this and invite participation through play, creativity and less formal

methods should contribute towards removing barriers.


Everyone has a unique perception of their neighbourhood based upon the activities which they are involved with, their home location and place of study or work; settlements contain areas with paths, edges, nodes, districts and landmarks which vary for each individual (Lynch, 1960) and the identity of an area is formed by far more than just the buildings and spaces and street name. The character is based on the juxtaposition of the different weavings of tangible and intangible heritage, which form a tapestry of experiences, over time.

Moreover, the attractiveness of an area for visitors is based upon more than the ‘big sights’ - it is often the more local aspects which can be hidden and invite further exploration.

Cultural mapping is a valuable approach to reveal this rich tapestry of experiences, as it is not just the nationally recognised and designated listed buildings which are mapped and form the heritage of an area; this is especially pertinent when locally significant places are just as important to the overall character of a place (Schofield, 2014). Different kinds of cultural activities can be mapped concurrently, allowing a map user to explore well-known attractions alongside indigenous activities, and areas of growth juxtaposed with up and coming areas, which is particularly relevant within the context of changing former industrial areas adopting a new approach towards cultural development (Mathews, 2014).


1.1.1 Event-led cultural regeneration


The European Capital of Culture (ECoC) programme commenced in 1985, with Athens being the first designated capital and Glasgow being the first UK capital in 1990 (UNeECC, 2016). The UK City of Culture competition was established after Liverpool gained the 2008 European Capital of Culture title; the current aim of which is to “encourage the use of culture and creativity as a catalyst for regeneration, to promote the development of new partnerships, and to encourage ambition, innovation and inspiration in cultural and creative activity” (DCMS, 2017, p.3). The separate use of the terms creative and cultural within this aim is interesting, as it acts to emphasise the importance of creative approaches to engagement with cultural activity and recognises their complementary nature.


Festivals and events which respond to, and celebrate, local issues rather than serving a temporary imported population of interested consumers in a “tourist bubble” (Judd and Fainstein, 1999, p.39) are now seen as more desirable - this form of labelling particularly applies to mega events where a cultural programme often runs concurrently with the main sporting event or Expo. In Stavanger (European City of Culture 2008) it was argued that local freelance activity was seen as less important to organisers and promoters than high profile one off events, with controversy over whether any new activity took place among such businesses or whether it did actually promote new links and opportunities (Bergsgard and Vassenden, 2011). Within the context of a post Liverpool 2008 environment, a major review of over 50 studies revealed that whilst the majority looked at economic impacts there were gaps in evaluation relating to environmental impact and in particular “intangible socio-

cultural impacts” of events (Langen and Garcia, 2009, p.9). This study also discusses the difference between non-commissioned academic studies and those which had been commissioned by local authorities which tended to focus on “economic or mixed socio- economic impacts”; this is important within the context of a practice based PhD as it highlights the need for practice based research to consider a holistic approach where challenges are able to be debated; treading carefully in the terrain of being a practitioner- researcher embedded in a live project. This means that it is helpful to consider the different positions and specialities which partners and stakeholders within the live process have, and adopt a creative stance which allows an understanding of the issues which have affected an area in the past and currently. Using the DeBono (2012) approach of wearing different “hats” is helpful here; gaining a strategic overview of different angles within a situation, and then applying this to the practice-based research to bring in strategies which address emotional, strategic and practical responses to the research question. Clarity in terms of stating ones positionality as a practitioner-researcher, also bearing in mind potential risks associated with self-referentiality is thus important (this is discussed further in section 2.3.1).


Within the context of large events, it has been highlighted that those responsible for holding and organising such events should ensure that evaluation is embodied in programmes at the earliest stages, making clear expectations otherwise risking compromising “what value culture brings to major events beyond a superficial gloss” (Cox, McGillivray and McPherson, 2014, p.213). Some have argued that mega events can often result in aligning pre-existing events to the larger event agenda, potentially confusing impact measurements and focusing attention away from locally important issues towards wider tourism impacts (Stevenson, 2012) and whilst the situation regarding evidence for the potential catalyst effect of events and festivals has gradually changed from the early days of UK City of Culture, as there are examples of considering legacy impacts at an earlier stage and publishing on intended regeneration impacts (Matheson, 2010) it is important to continue to report on non-economic matters and wider cultural impacts. Although the focus for the ECoC is still culture, the aims of the competition for candidate city have changed since 1985, as noted in the most recent documentation for choosing the Greek 2021 ECoC, which stated “a particular new development is the requirement for a city to have a formal medium term cultural strategy.

This ensures the ECoC is an element in progress of a city and not a one-off event” (European Commission, 2016, p.5). This additional requirement provides a renewed focus on sustainability of designations and legacy, tapping into the environmental and cultural aspects discussed above. Festivals are championed for celebrating and promoting civic pride (Civic

Voice, 2015) and attendance at events is now monitored as a form of producing quantitative data, numericising cultural participation (Scottish Government, 2017a). Whilst this recognition of cultural activity is helpful to make a case for its importance to policy makers, and thus also potential funding, reducing cultural participation to a key performance indicator completely ignores unofficial culture and risks underestimating actual participation rates.