Guest blog post written by Dr Lucy Wright, the new Post Doctoral Researcher on the Participatory Arts and DIY Cultures Project at the University of East Anglia.
I am a post-doctoral researcher with interests in tradition, participation and DIY communities. Drawing on my background in ethnomusicology—a field sensitized to the study of people, performance and place—my primary specialisms are the performances associated with the ‘town carnival movement’ in the North of England, including girls’ (carnival) morris dancing and ‘entertaining’ troupe dancers, and the social histories of the English folk arts.
Prior to taking up the post on the Participatory Arts and DIY Cultures project at the University of East Anglia, I worked as a Research Associate on AHRC-funded Digital Folk project at the University of Sheffield. This examined the ways in which folk arts participants utilise digital resources, tools and networks in order to learn, collaborate, reinterpret traditional material and create new work (www.digitalfolk.org). I take a very broad view of the term ‘folk’, regarding it as less a specific vernacular or style, tied to some notion of historicity, and rather as a very contemporary example of self-organised creativity and community self-determination, with strong links to punk, DIY and protest movements.
In addition, I am interested in the development of ‘artistic research’ approaches, at the intersection between ethnography and socially-engaged art. My practice-led PhD explored the potential efficacies of participatory, arts-based research in the context of ethnomusicological inquiry and culminated in a pop-up show at the People’s History Museum in Salford. With a continued practice as an artist I have undertaken residences with KULES at the Airspace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent (2015) and Bank Street Arts in Sheffield (2017). In 2017, I had a solo show, ‘This Girl Can’ Morris Dance at Cecil Sharp House in London, and my work was included in the Creating the Countryside exhibition at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.
That I possess a hybrid identity as both a researcher and an artist is not to say that I perceive a significant disconnect between the varied practices that constitute the fabric of my work. At their most elemental levels, both art and academia represent highly rigorous forms of knowledge production and dissemination, both fundamentally concerned with the circumscription and transformation of human social life. I strive to be both, and to make work which does not merely illustrate theory, but generates it too. For more information about my practice-led research, see: www.artistic-researcher.co.uk.