Skip to main content Skip to navigation

About WCE

The Warwick Creative Exchange (WCE) was established in 2011, with the aim of bringing together Warwick academics and cultural organisations - mainly from the West Midlands - to identify and encourage interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchanges between the University and the cultural community. It originated in response to the AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy call in April 2011.

Aims & Objectives

  • To provide support and information to cultural organisations in order to identify and address their research needs and interests. This includes this WCE web site and at least one forum meeting per year to examine current research interests.
  • To develop cross-departmental collaborations among Warwick academics and with the region’s cultural community.
  • To develop thinking on Cultural Value and Digital Platforms in the academic, cultural and public policy communities.

WCE Team

Steering Group

  • Dr Eleonora Belfiore (University of Warwick, Centre for
    Cultural Policy Studies)
  • Dr Chris Bilton (University of Warwick, Centre for Cultural
    Policy Studies)
  • Professor Lucy Hooberman (Warwick Manufacturing Group Digital)
  • Professor Jonothan Neelands (Warwick Institute of Education
    and Warwick Business School)
  • Dr Cath Lambert (University of Warwick, Department of Sociology)
  • Catriona Firth (University of Warwick)
  • Dr Jane Woddis (Associate Fellow, University of Warwick Centre for Cultural Policy Studies; Project Manager of WCE, 2013-2015)


WCE’s first year of activity, 2011/12, was supported by an Incubation grant from Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study.

  • Four events were held during the year, which brought together twenty practitioners from fifteen
    regional cultural organisations, academic staff from twelve departments across all four faculties,
    PhD students, and university support staff.
  • Five research themes were identified and discussed:
    • The Real Value of Arts and Culture;
    • Rethinking Impact and Evaluation;
    • Performances and Audiences in the Digital Era;
    • Reconnecting Classical and Contemporary;
    • Professionalism and Participation.
  • A sandpit event on Creative Technology was organised, which was funded by the University’s GPP Digital Change.
  • Eight cultural organisations were supported in exploring collaborative research projects with Warwick
    academics, including two successful grant applications with Birmingham REP (to the AHRC Cultural
    Engagement Fund and ESRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards) for research on The REP’s Children project.

We have been fortunate in being awarded a Warwick Strategic Impact Grant for 29 months to July 2015 to build and develop WCE.

Key themes

Two key themes have been prioritised by WCE’s cultural organisation partners – Cultural Value and Digital Platforms.

These themes are not only current concerns in the creative sector but are also of significant academic interest and fit with the priorities of external funding bodies. In July 2012 the Arts and Humanities Research Council launched a project on the Value of Arts and Culture. Members of WCE’s co-ordinating group have met with AHRC leaders of this project, including Rick Rylance (AHRC CEO) and Professor Geoffrey Crossick, the project Director, and Dr Eleonora Belfiore has been invited onto its advisory group. Also in 2012 NESTA launched its Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in partnership with Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The AHRC’s Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange Projects include a study of the profound effects on the major institutions of the creative economy, especially the library, the publishing house, the museum and the institutions and businesses involved in the development of digital technologies.

At Warwick, arising from the work of WCE, and as a direct result of a suggestion at one of WCE's events, the University has set up a Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value which aims to transform the public debate ahead of the next election.This Commission will have a strong West Midlands voice through the involvement of the WCE members. In addition, a Cultural Value strand has been added to the University's Connecting Cultures Global Research Priorities programme. Professor Jonothan Neelands is one of the directors of study for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, and is supervising a PhD studentship with the Birmingham Rep to study the long-term impact of the Rep's Children project. At the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, Dr Eleonora Belfiore has established the #culturalvalue Initiative. She is also part of an interdisciplinary consortium, co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Miles of CRESC (Manchester), which has secured a large AHRC project grant for ‘Understanding everyday participation – Articulating cultural values’. Dr Chris Bilton has undertaken one of eight projects

supported by NESTA, Arts Council England and the AHRC through the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture and is currently involved in developing two further bids to the fund for 2013, working with arts partners in the region.

Internationally, Cultural Value is an emerging research priority and digital developments have global impact. For example the Australia Council for the Arts has as its research focus in 2012/13 the establishment of a worldwide network of researchers on cultural value (ArtSmarts July 2012). Significant cuts in public spending in the world’s economies are transforming how the creative economy and cultural learning are funded and how cultural activity and capabilities are derived and distributed. In this period of financial restraint, artists need both to demonstrate effectively the impact and value of their work, and to harness and develop digital tools for cultural production and distribution.

The key feature and strength of WCE is the involvement of cultural practitioners, and this is reflected in plans for annual forum meetings, a seminar series and a conference in 2015, which will be constructed and delivered by cultural practitioners working in the region as well as by academic staff. A variety of inputs will be explored and presented, such as creative workshops/demonstrations of creative practice; digital recordings of the views of young people and other participants in cultural activities. Both the events and concrete research projects with cultural organisations will also further develop WCE’s interdisciplinary collaborations, bringing in speakers and participants from a range of departments and faculties across the University.