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Participation in community arts: lessons from the inner-city

Clennon, OD and Kagan, C and Lawthom, R and Swindells, R (2015) Participation in community arts: lessons from the inner-city. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20. ISSN 1360-3116

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Abstract

In this paper, we critically reflect, through the lens of liberation psychology, on our experiences of using participative community arts in work with young people and intergenerational groups in inner-city Manchester, UK. We used mixed methods to examine the impact of and engagement with community arts in two projects. One study was quasi experimental in design and used questionnaires developed by the researchers to compare Higher Education aspirations with levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy, as a result of participating in creative music sessions. The other study was a multi-media action research project, using qualitative methods to explore participant experience and the impact of the activities. Our methods included observations, interviews, the creative products and the creative processes. Through our critical reflections, we examine the role of power and powerlessness in participative arts, as well as ways in which participation had the potential to enable ‘conscientisation', which in turn had the potential to lead to self-empowerment and motivation for action. Both projects demonstrated the importance of forming ‘communities of practice’ with a diverse range of stakeholders in order to gain maximum impact from the projects and move towards a position of collaborative governance. We found that this approach was a useful starting point for facilitating ‘collaborative governance’ for wider social and political change.

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