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5.5 Places of self-care and policy connections on understanding cultural assets

The term “culture” goes beyond the governmental definitions used by DCMS (2017) and Creative Scotland (2018) as my research reveals that social hubs such as cafes and shops can form cultural assets and some venues such as doctors surgeries which may not traditionally be thought of as cultural are nonetheless vital to the cultural life of a community as they form meeting spaces, offer sources of advice and signpost complementary wellbeing activities which enable people to make a more involved contribution to local activities. Some items forming part of the cultural landscape which would not immediately fit in with the definitions of asset used in section 2.4.1 include doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. These were often mentioned in cognitive maps, and although their primary purpose may be for healthcare, they may also form as a social hub and meeting space, and a signposting waypoint for related cultural services such as referral to groups which are designed to support mental health yet engage with arts. Places of self-care are also highlighted as important assets, for example hair salons and spas and recovery cafes. Although healthcare may not be viewed as a cultural activity, it is interesting to consider the implications of these observations for the importance

of such facilities in cultural participation; for example in a working group for a cultural bid, bodies such as the emergency services would have valuable inputs for activity planning and identification of assets and some studies have noted this involvement in previous City of Culture or cultural asset mapping work (Bullen, 2010, p.87, Municipal Cultural Planning Incorporated, 2010, p.25).


The positive role that cultural assets play in overall wellbeing is recognised in policy documents at a local to international level; for example within the Florence Declaration (UNESCO, 2014). This same document also recognises that the dominant paradigm for culture can ignore the “global south” (UNESCO, 2014, p.3) and that harnessing the power of culture to empower individuals, particularly marginalised sections of the community, is essential. There are references to the inclusion of non-traditional audiences as “disadvantaged players” (Sepe, 2013, p.599), therefore a recognition of who is not currently included in discussions, and why, then testing methods to involve them in cultural asset definitions is important. To do this it is advisable to bear in mind the limitations of standard definitions of a cultural participant as illustrated by the comment that “in this sense the ‘deficit’ model of culture employed by government is unhelpful, as what matters for health and well-being appears to be participation per se, rather than a particular set of tastes and practices” (Miles and Sullivan, 2012, p.26). Peel (2005) links the involvement of the community in cultural activities as being essential to self-empowerment and actualisation, making links to known self-development strategies which encourage reflection through getting involved (doing) and understanding one’s own position with reference to influencing the development of an area. Aligned with this, it is a pertinent example to note that involvement within my research has helped reveal hidden assets, and encouraged some groups to develop new projects, actively mitigating further perpetuation of hidden heritage:

The methods used sparked many ideas and actually led to our walking group ‘STAR Striders’ creating a community map of the local assets based on their own and their family’s memories (McAulay, 2018)