Why do we do participatory arts? Let’s not try an answer here: it’s all in the fascinating report of the three-year Arts & Humanities Research Council Cultural Value Project.

What the report highlights is that wishing for benefits from participatory arts isn’t enough: the evidence is often unconvincing and approaches are not sufficiently rigorous. On the other hand, we’re overlooking some areas where real benefits are to be found. Part of the problem lies in our tendency to confuse evidence with short-term advocacy.

There are key issues here for us to grapple with, so it’s with excitement that I welcome the news that ArtWorks Alliance funders Paul Hamlyn Foundation, together with AHRC, King’s College London and Arts Council England, are undertaking a scoping project to explore how research, evaluation, evidence-building and analysis into cultural value might best be supported in the future.

I’ve already had a meeting with the project’s researcher, Patrycja Kaszynska, who is consulting across the UK with practitioners in the cultural and creative sectors, researchers, and policy-makers and funders. Several themes seem important – including making current research more widely accessible; and finding ways to make future research genuinely helpful to all. And, above all, keeping the conversations alive and ongoing.

But you will have your own ideas, which I am keen to feed into those conversations. Please, let me know your views at kathryn@artworksalliance.org.uk

Understanding the value of arts & culture: The AHRC Cultural Value Project.
Geoffrey Crossick & Patrycja Kaszynska, 2016. Download at