Situating the Local in Cultural Policy

To coincide with the publication of a special edition of Cultural Trends, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh will host a half-day colloquium to discuss and debate the role of ‘the local’ in cultural policy.

  • Description
  • Programme

From the growth of city regions, to the calls for more localism, from the Great Exhibition of the North to initiatives like Creative People and Places, Scotland’s Place Partnerships, and Northern Ireland’s Local Government Challenge Fund, engaging with ‘the local’ has become an increasingly important part of cultural policy rhetoric in the UK. Yet despite apparent recognition that the practices of culture are always situated (and hence local) the mobility of cultural policies, flows and exchanges refocuses attention outside of the local and back onto national and global dimensions (see Durrer et al., 2018).

This obscures understanding of how cultural policy is designed, delivered and implemented, hindering examination of the differences, similarities and alliances operating both within and between nations. An increasing body of work calls for greater recognition of the “situated cultural practices [and] internal logics, histories and structures” of particular places in the study of cultural policy (Gilmore, 2013, p. 86; see also Durrer, 2017). It draws on work that considers the ways in which local relationships and practices of policymaking, convergence, and transference negotiate and manage national and international policies (e.g. Stevenson et al, 2010; Wilson & Boyle, 2004; Johanson et al 2014). This work has been accompanied by growing rhetoric and advocacy for co-production and citizen-led as well as participatory governance structures (Jancovich, 2015). While many welcome these potentially more democratic approaches (Ostrom, 1990; Gonzales, 2014; Murphy & Stewart, 2017) questions equally abound about the application and implications of such approaches.

Some caution the weakening of local power and decision making by replacing governmental policy (either at a local or national scale) with a neo-liberal governance model, which actively reduces state responsibilities. It is argued that this approach might perpetuate uneven distribution of resources and instead place responsibility for development on already under resourced communities. Within the cultural sphere in the UK contradictions and tensions are demonstrated through an evidenced reduction in the investment in local culture, despite a professed growing interest in and recognition of the local (CMS, 2016).
This event will seek to explore these issues in more depth, through inviting a range of speaker to reflect on what the local means to them in regards to cultural policy and to illustrate this through specific case studies that encapsulates their perspective.

12:30-13:00 - Registration and coffee
13:00- 13:10 -  Welcome from Dr David Stevenson, QMU, Edinburgh
13:10-13:30 - Dr Victoria Durrer, Dr Abigail Gimore, Dr Leila Jancovich and Dr David Stevenson - guest editors of Cultural Trends - will offer a collective keynote drawing out the key themes from the papers selected for inclusion in the special edition.
13:30-14:45 - Panel presentation: Researching ‘the local’

⦁ Dr Louise Ejgod, Aarhus University: This case study will consider the municipal collaboration involved in the delivery of European Capital of Culture Aarhus, its strength and weaknesses and the way in which the local, regional, national and European was negotiated.

⦁ Dr Olga Kolokytha, University of Vienna: This case study will consider Giortes Rokkas, from rural Greece. It will discuss how, despite the lack of national or regional cultural policy, cultural initiatives can flourish in remote areas and contribute to citizen participation, repopulation and local development.

⦁ Malaika Cunningham & Elysia Lechelt, Doctoral Candidates, University of Leeds: This case study will consider the extent to which meaningful participatory policy-making was adopted to create Calgary’s Cultural Plan.

⦁ Lindsay Dunbar, Clore Fellow: This case study will consider the on-going development of Dumfries and Galloway's creative region and the importance of an artist-led approach.

Following the presentations there will be twenty minutes of open floor debate around the issues that the case studies raise.

14:45-15:00 - Coffee break
15:00-16:15 - Panel presentation: Working with the local

⦁ Sinéad O’Reilly, Head of Local Arts, Arts Council Ireland

⦁ Gary Cameron, Head of Place, Partnerships and Communities, Creative Scotland


Each panelist will offer a 15-minute presentation that addresses the following questions

⦁ How does your organisation understand ‘the local’?
⦁ What relationships does your organisation have with ‘the local’?
⦁ Why does your organisation work at the level of ‘the local’?
⦁ What are the difficulties of working at a ‘local’ level?
⦁ What is the best example of working at a local level that your organisation has delivered?

Following the presentations there will be a 30-minute Q&A with the panel, moderated by one of the guest editors.

16:15-16:30 - Coffee break
16:30-17:30 - The afternoon will conclude with an open floor plenary about the key issues and ideas that have been raised in order to reflect on what future research is needed to advance both knowledge and practice in this important area of cultural policy making.

Event Details

Location Queen Margaret University Queen Margaret University Way Musselburgh EH21 6UU
Date & Time Start 15 August 2019
12:30pm End 15 August 2019
Cost £7.50-£15.00 (Refunds up to 7 days before event).
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