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New study probes radical rethink on culture

A £1.5 million investigation, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), has been launched to understand how society can get the most out of the vast array of often overlooked cultural activities Britons take part in.

A team of experts from the universities of Warwick, Exeter and Leicester, headed up by Manchester’s Dr Andrew Miles, will seek to understand the value of hobbies, community festivals and other leisure activities, which millions of people take part in every day.

The team will carry out historical analyses and produce new data to help policy makers and arts organisations target their funding more effectively.

They will find out where cultural participation takes place, how it is valued, and carry trials of new policy interventions - with the help of national partners and community organisations - in Manchester, Gateshead, Peterborough and Dartmoor.

Additional funding from Creative Scotland will enable two further trials will take in Aberdeen and Stornoway.

Dr Eleonora Belfiore, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Warwick's Centre for Cultural Policy Studies said: "This is an exciting and ambitious project which will allow me to explore how, as a society, we have come to place value so firmly on certain forms of cultural participation at the expense of other, less visible types of cultural activities which are equally important in shaping our everyday experiences."

Dr Miles, who is based at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), said: “Though millions of Britons take part in participatory activities every day, we need to do more to understand the contribution these make to communities and places.
“Many bodies define cultural participation too narrowly, considering only traditional cultural institutions such as museums and galleries.

“But we believe that other, sometimes mundane, activities such as pastimes, local events and social activities, should also be included.”

The project engages with the concept of cultural capital, developed by the world famous sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in the 1980s, which argues that what people do in their cultural lives influences their sense of identity and can have important effects on their life chances.

Dr Miles added: “Thanks to the AHRC grant, this radical re-evaluation of the relationship between participation and cultural value will provide bodies with the information they need to target their resources more effectively.

“Our aim is to find ways to promote better identification and more equitable resourcing of the vast array of these overlooked activities which generate wellbeing, cultural capital and contribute to the development of creative local economies.”

Further information:
'Understanding everyday participation – articulating cultural values' is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Partner organisations taking part:
Arts Council England
Clore Duffield Foundation
Creative Scotland
Department of Culture, Media and Sport
English Heritage
Local Government Group
Manchester City Council
Museums Association
National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology
Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Sport England
Voluntary Arts Network
Working Men’s Cub and Institutes Union

For media enquires contact:

Mike Addelman, Press Officer, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 0790 or or to interview Dr Eleonora Belfiore contact Kate Cox, Communications Manager, The University of Warwick on 02476 14255 or