Participatory Arts and Well-being: Past and Present Practices


Principal Investigator: Dr Jane Milling
Co-investigators: Kerrie Schaefer, University of Exeter; Hamish Fyfe, University of South Wales; Josie Billington, University of Liverpool.
Collaborators: The Young Foundation; The Reader Organisation
Duration: 2011

This project aimed to examine diverse definitions of communal well-being and the complex ways in which participatory arts, past and present, have contributed to and sustained community well-being.

We set out to study examples of best practice in content, process, outcome and impact, of historic and contemporary participatory arts activity. Community and participatory arts practices focused on community well-being have a long history, and range in nature from top-down, prescriptive activities funded and arranged by governments to grassroots, amateur and self-organising groups of participatory makers (Kershaw 1992; Cochrane 2001; van Erven 2001; Edensor 2010; MacLagan 2010; Gauntlett 2011). Three network events drew together community artists, academics, community arts workers, health professionals and applied theatre practitioners to share research and experience of working towards community well-being. Several pressing issues emerged including questions of evaluation, benefits and experience, socio-economic inequality, the quality and integrity of artistic processes.