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Contribution to knowledge- Methods

Methodological contributions are threefold. Firstly, the ability of a practitioner-researcher to influence approaches towards community engagement activity as part of a city of culture bid, secondly the use of multi-modal methods to research a cultural issue (in this instance uncovering hidden heritage) and thirdly the adaption of established community consultation toolkits from planning and placemaking, for use in a cultural research context.


My approach to developing and nurturing relationships locally and internationally as a practitioner-researcher allowed the profile of research activity to be raised, which can help with policy impact but is also particularly useful in a conceptual manner (Belfiore, 2016), as explained in the definition that “conceptual impact (of research) refers to research used to

change understanding about an issue or choice” (Hurley et al., 2016, p.455). As a researcher who is separate from the local authority I was able to go beyond traditional departmental pathways, effectively being given the mandate to ‘be strange’ advocated by Metzger (2011, p.222) as I was able to appreciate the policy and local government context but is also undertaking creative projects which examine culture from different angles in this practice- based PhD, and thus able to offer unique insights into the role in which a researcher may play in a city of culture bid. This process can be likened to projects undertaken by and described as ‘overt participation’ as the study is funded by an employer or sponsor (McAreavey, 2009, p.314, Druiff and Hope, 2015). and those where a local authority is a partner in a university research led project, such as cultural mapping in Wollongong, Australia (Gibson et al., 2012). Working across silos, and bringing a research led approach to a live city of culture bid (as referred to in section 2.3.1 above) is one way in which to encourage multi-level engagement, which is of relevance across programmes on a global level, as illustrated in this UN document:

“to overcome the inertia, vested interests and silo-based decisions that perpetuate the status quo and obstruct.. transformation. It means trying to engage.. stakeholders in a collective effort that will be sustained over time and across political cycles” (United Nations Human Settlements

Programme, 2014, p.12).


The opportunities generated by Paisley 2021 definitely allowed me a special opportunity to conduct original work and work with groups to explore their view of culture, making a direct contribution to the answering of the DCMS bid criteria (DCMS, 2017) and the understanding of cultural assets in Paisley; highlighted in a community newsletter thus “Without the focus on the bid we may not have attracted a PhD student to come from the University of West of Scotland to capture lots of your stories about the shops, dance halls and cinemas, places to go, from Gibson’s Tea Room to the Bonnie Wee Well, and places of work from the Mills to Robertson’s Jam” (Roar Connections For Life, 2017, p.1).


Being a practitioner-researcher embedded within a city of culture bid enabled me to start discussions about new methods to use in consultation and community engagement techniques within my host organisations, highlighted in the testimony below:

“The development of the research and the way it was conducted has acted as an exemplar of how to uncover many of the hidden stories and more

intangible assets of Paisley” (McMillan, 2018)

The adoption of multi-modal methods and use of word clouds to represent the cognitive maps is a creative application of the approach discussed by Gieseking (2013) and the use of the SP=EED toolkit (PAS, 2018) in a cultural and creative context rather than the town planning context for which it is originally designed is represents a contribution to both methodology and practice. I will continue to seek out opportunities to expand on this work through recontacting the groups which I worked with and engaging in the post-doctoral opportunities such as teaching, volunteering, consultancy work, authoring academic papers and presenting at conferences as part of personal development work as a practitioner-researcher.