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UAL cultural value experts support UK Cities of Culture research

A cityscape saturated in colour
  • Written byCat Cooper
  • Published date22 June 2022
A cityscape saturated in colour
Gratte Ciel: The Awakening. Jamie Gray. Performed in Broadgate, Coventry, UK.

Since its launch in 2009 and first winner Derry/Londonderry in 2013, the UK City of Culture programme has established itself as the country’s foremost culture-led placemaking opportunity.

As the programme prepares to welcome Bradford in 2025, a review commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by the University of Warwick sets out why and how the UK City of Culture programme should be informed by arts and humanities research.

The Warwick UK Cities of Culture Project launches today with a report ‘The UK Cities of Culture Project: Towards a research-informed approach’ published by the University of Warwick and co-authored by Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow, UAL Social Design Institute.

A series of related papers will be published in the Autumn, and Professor Graeme Evans, Professor of Creative and Cultural Economy based at London College of Fashion will join the UAL project team, working with Dr Kaszynska.

A distinctive role for arts research

The review proposes a research-led approach that would examine how culture can lead to impacts that address the specific needs of a place and its diverse communities.

A key driver for the UK City of Culture programme is to invest in places that have a clear ambition and evidenced plan for culture-led city transformation. The focus of the Warwick UK Cities of Culture Project is on the distinctive role that arts and humanities researchers can play in placemaking and in the success of the UK City of Culture programme, in collaboration with other disciplines.

The UAL team bring critical perspectives and their combined expertise in the cultural impact and methodology fields and in cultural value, including co-creation/co-design, co-production and practice-based research; with in-depth contributions to the papers that will follow today’s initial report. This includes new approaches and methodologies for capturing cultural value, understanding and measuring social value from user perspectives and democratising cultural production. They will also contribute a paper consolidating a state-of-the-art understanding of heritage branding.

About the report

The report provides the first overview of the UK City of Culture Programme from its inception in 2009 to the fourth-round award of the prestigious title for UK City of Culture 2025.

It draws on over 30 interviews with cities, universities and cultural organisations, data available from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Office of National Statistics published assessments, geo-demographic data from shortlisted cities across the UK, and broader research and analysis of the four rounds of bidding.

It includes analysis of findings and learnings from the extensive monitoring and evaluation of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, and the experience of establishing a research-intensive programme in collaboration with local partners, spanning planning, delivery and and legacy of the City of Culture year.

Through an analysis of findings from these data sources, the report makes a series of proposals to drive a more strongly research-based approach in the City of Culture programme. These proposals are intended to maximise the opportunities and impacts of independent research and learning going forward. They also identify areas requiring further research and evaluation to sustain and enhance value creation, impact, and knowledge transfer from the UK City of Culture programme to localities across the UK.

Researcher biographies

Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow, Social Design Institute, University of the Arts London (UAL) is a highly experienced researcher with a well-established profile in cultural policy. Through the AHRC Cultural Value Project (2012-2016) and the Cultural Value Scoping Project (2016-2017) whose recommendations led to the establishment of the Centre for Cultural Value in Leeds – she shaped the interdisciplinary debate concerning cultural value in the UK. As a founding member of UAL’s Social Design Institute, a strategic initiative focused on value, systems and policy as they intersect with design, she has been driving the development of new approaches to valuing design across research and Knowledge Exchange practice. She is PI for the Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital Research, jointly funded by the AHRC and DCMS, leading the team of economists, heritage scientists and cultural policy experts to support the decision-making system to value and account for culture and heritage assets and to understand future research needs in this respect.

Professor Graeme Evans, Emeritus Professor of Creative and Cultural Economy, University of the Arts London, Founding Director/PI (2018-2020) The Business of Fashion Textiles & Technology Creative R&D Project, under the AHRC/Industrial Challenge Fund Creative Clusters Programme (2018-23). He is an expert in culture-led urban regeneration, formation of creative industries clusters and contribution of arts & culture assets to creative industries at a local level; he has commented on the instrumental use of arts and creative practices for the purposes of urban regeneration, in contrast to vernacular and everyday culture and exchange extensive experience of leading/delivering. His recent projects include: Historic England, The Contribution of Heritage to Placemaking in Business Improvement Districts, DCMS CASE Evidence programme, The Role of Culture, Sport and Heritage in Place-Shaping, Council of Europe, Cultural Routes Programme Evaluation and SME Evaluation, DCMS CASE Evidence programme, Art of the Possible: feasibility study on assessing the impact of Cultural Investment. His recent and forthcoming publications are: Mega Events: Placemaking, Regeneration & Regional Development (Routledge), The Production & Consumption of Cultural Space (Routledge) respectively.

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