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6.1 Introduction

This chapter offers some reflections on the role of a researcher in a live context, noting the significance of the area as a case study base, together with reflections on personal development which took place during the research project. Lessons relating to working as a researcher within a live bid, and with communities are discussed (expanded upon in section

6.4 where the originality and contribution to knowledge are explained).

The research took place within a particularly active time for the cultural landscape. During the course of the research (February 2015 – February 2018) the institutional policy context for culture changed significantly in the area affecting my case study, and its related policy domains. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport became the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (July 2017), and Historic Scotland became Historic Environment Scotland (October 2015). Simultaneously the Scottish Government was reviewing its approach to cross sectoral issues of culture, through holding “cultural conversations” nationwide with a view to developing a comprehensive culture strategy for Scotland; initial conclusions from workshops echo my research findings in that “culture is everywhere; it is not separate from everything else. There was a widespread assumption that everyone is cultural” which further promotes debate over the need for involvement in defining locally important assets rather than adopting a top down non-consultative approach around cultural events and issues as “many thought the term ‘culture’ itself can be perceived as ‘elitist’ and ‘not for me’. Some suggested that it could be called a ‘Creativity Strategy’ instead of a ‘Culture Strategy” (Scottish Government, 2018a, p.4 and 7). These comments on the government consultation show how important the labelling of activities is for researchers, for they could potentially discourage participation due to deeply held perceptions of culture. I believe it is useful for a researcher in a cultural bid to adopt a flexible and open approach to community workshops, whilst clearly documenting the results, in line with the debate promoted by the statement that “students should not be presented with a rigid formula or a smorgasbord of definitions, but given some insight into the ways the concept is useful in spite of the impossibility of pinning it down” (Jahoda, 2012, p.300).

Policy discussions involving arts and cultural issues have recently debated the approach which most benefits cultural assets and their communities, for example at a European level a

shifted focus towards looking at value of “from a conservation-oriented approach towards a value-oriented one” (CHCfE Consortium, 2015, p.51) had occurred. Recent Scottish policy discussions have called for a need to “Consider a needs based approach to culture rather than a deficit approach” (Scottish Government, 2018a, p.6), as opposed to conversations in Wales where there is a proposal for “Community and Culture networks to be developed, linking community and cultural organisations at a local level, to share knowledge and resources and plan joint initiatives to address the cultural deficit within communities” (Welsh Government, 2014, p.5). The positionality that there is a cultural deficit assumes that policy and proposals will be aligned towards further action and monitoring aiming to address this, and UK City of Culture bids specifically note that “we expect programmes to be able to appeal to a wide range of audiences and to increase participation in cultural activities” (DCMS, 2017, p.4). As a practitioner-researcher it is important to take cognisance of the current and evolving policy landscape within which one operates, in order to be able to engage with the current debates.