Since March 2016 I have been involved in the evaluation of the RE:Present programme, a new initiative aimed at emergent and established cultural leaders/ producers and artist/leaders from diverse backgrounds who are currently underrepresented in Birmingham. Continue reading RE:Present Symposium: Cultural Leadership & Diversity
As part of my role as a researcher at Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, I was recently invited to evaluate Re:Present, a new programme of activities which seeks to transform the diversity of Birmingham’s cultural leadership. As researcher / evaluator my focus will be twofold: the individual participants’ experience and the significance of the programme in relation to Birmingham’s cultural ecology.
Created and delivered by Helga Henry of Creative Shift and Lara Ratnaraja, Re:Present is funded by Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England, with the additional support of University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University and Aston Business School. But Re:Present is also best described as a very personal project for Lara and Helga. Having worked with Birmingham’s cultural industries for over 15 years, they have witnessed significant changes in the cultural landscape during that period of time. Re:Present was created in response to their concerns and what they perceive as a lack of opportunities for individuals from ‘diverse’ backgrounds. I will explore the idea of ‘diversity’ in future posts but for this first blog post, I describe the context for this initiative. Continue reading Diversity and Cultural Leadership
With my colleague Karen Patel, I am writing a paper which seeks to address issues of identity and professionalism for female cultural entrepreneurs by drawing on the online activities of a small group of women. We are investigating the construction of professional identities as expressed through social media activities, in this case we focus on twitter as a key platform for cultural workers.
One of the contradictions in women’s contemporary experience is a level freedom and empowerment co-existing with inequalities. This is described by Angela McRobbie (2004) as an entanglement of feminist and anti-feminist ideas illustrated by celebrities such as Karen Brady and Sheryl Sandberg who merge a feminist discourse of empowerment with neoliberal values (Gill and Scharff, 2011). In particular, entrepreneurial activities tend to appropriate a ‘can do’ language which puts an emphasis on individualism and agency as a driving force for personal development. Of concern to scholars such as McRobbie, Gill and Scharff is the pervasiveness of a neoliberal agenda on personal identity and notions of subjectivity as individuals become preoccupied with self-image to demonstrate qualities such as expertise and professionalism. Continue reading Post-feminism, Cultural Entrepreneurship and Social Media
I recently presented at the New Directions in Film and Television Production Studies 2015 conference as part of a panel presenting research on the topic of Creative Labour.
My paper, entitled ‘The nature of entrepreneurial labour in regional film making’, focused on a small sample of Birmingham film makers and has drawn on my PhD thesis.
My aim was to explore the day-to-day lived experience of entrepreneurial modes of work, identifying individual endeavours and collaborative initiatives, within the context of recent UK cultural and film policies. The space in which film maker’s negotiate personal identities is framed by the local milieu: policies, institutions and individuals. In my research, I find that at a local level, entrepreneurial film makers have a pragmatic approach by contributing to policies and engaging in developing alternative support systems. Structures and relations between individuals help to shape the cultural milieu for entrepreneurial cultural work, but this is a fluid space in which individual film makers negotiate diverse priorities and values.
We had a fascinating discussion yesterday, Wednesday 11th February, at the weekly BCMCR research seminar. First, Dr Christina Scharff presented her research project ‘Young, female and entrepreneurial?
Exploring the working lives of young women in the classical music profession’ addresses various timely issues, such as the racial, classed and gendered inequalities that characterise the classical music profession, the gendered politics of self-promotion, as well as the psychic life of neoliberalism and the subjective experiences of precarious work.
I followed Christina with my own research based on an aspect of my PhD thesis, ‘Identity and becoming a cultural entrepreneur’. My paper explores the idea of ‘rethinking cultural entrepreneurship’ by focusing on the cultural entrepreneurs’ sense of themselves. Their personal identities based on their subjective experience of being an entrepreneurial cultural worker. As this is not a fixed identity, I propose the idea of becoming a cultural entrepreneur, in an environment in which individuals negotiate their version of the entrepreneurial cultural worker. In my presentation, I argue that cultural entrepreneurs perform the identity of the cultural entrepreneur, either by making use of popular stereotypes or by counteracting them, and that they are not puppets, passively accepting dominant attitudes and behaviours associated with entrepreneurship or with cultural work. Rather, cultural entrepreneurs are reflexive and negotiate their identity to suit their personal narrative, within a relational context. Here are the presentation slides:
In her chapter entitled Good Work? Rethinking Cultural Entrepreneurship (in Creativity and Cultural Policy edited by Bilton), Kate Oakley rethinks entrepreneurship and the notion of good work. The thrust of her argument is that the policy rhetoric encouraging entrepreneurship in the cultural sector needs to take note of the challenges of cultural work and self-employment. A better understanding of different practices and individual experiences needs to inform the ‘rethinking of cultural entrepreneurship’. As Oakley states, there is a ‘disconnect between the discourse of cultural entrepreneurship and the reality of it.’
I’d like to pick up a few ideas from Oakley’s chapter and add my own research and comments to the debate. Continue reading Cultural Entrepreneurship: Good or Bad Work?
What role does Higher Education play in creating platforms, spaces and networks for creative arts and the creative industries? This question was the topic for the third workshop in a series of events, Beyond the Campus organised by Dr Roberta Comunian and Dr Abigail Gilmore and hosted by my colleague Dr Paul Long on Wednesday 6th November 2013.
The workshop focused on collaborations, networks and spaces shared by creative industries and higher education exploring both formal arrangements and practices as well as informal networks and shared activities. Different spaces and networks were discussed including a keynote talk from Sebastian Olma challenging us to re-think the nature of work and the environments conducive to current working practices. Olma’s work is based on his study of serendipity as a crucial ingredient in innovative and entrepreneurial models of work, discussed previously in this blog.
My own contribution was a study of Birmingham’s creative milieu and how it can act as a space for students in ‘becoming’ a creative industries professional. My research suggests that an opportunity to interact with the local creative industries community can offer an environment for experimentation in preparing for the realities of creative industries work.
I argue that by engaging in a creative industries milieu, characterized by its networks, relationships, key individuals and spaces (on and offline), students experience the realities of cultural work. Some students contribute to the local dynamic, establishing relationships which last well beyond their studies. But the process of immersing oneself requires cultural and social capital, and, as a student, is by no means easy. The research highlights some of the challenges through my interviews with international students and networks such as Birmingham’s Social Media Cafe. I suggest that a focus on encouraging interaction to explore the realities of creative work leaves little room for contesting or disrupting the status quo. A lack of critical reflection could be dangerous for creative industries students entering what is often described by academics as insecure and precarious work.
I hope that as part of the Beyond the Campus research, some of these challenges will be further developed.
My presentation slides: