AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund showcase successes

ahrcconf-2bWAHRC Associate Director of Programmes, Ian Lyne said he hoped universities would try setting up their own schemes, based on the Cultural Engagement Fund model

Opera North Projects Director, Dominic Gray spoke of the value of “patience” when engaging with cultural organisations outside academia, as the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) unveiled Cultural Engagement Fund successes at a University of Liverpool hosted showcase.

Describing cultural research as “a good in itself”, AHRC Associate Director of Programmes, Ian Lyne told an audience made up of academics from across the UK: “These short, focused projects with local cultural organisations seem to achieve huge benefits for all concerned. We’re trying to make that boundary between universities and cultural and civic organisations disappear.”

In March last year, the University was awarded AHRC  funding  to allow recently completed PhD students to work with leading local cultural organisations including TATE Liverpool, FACT, the Bluecoat and the Manchester Hallé.

The funding was distributed to institutions throughout the country and sought to deliver both intellectual and real world value to the newly qualified researchers, and the organisations supported.

ahrcconf-6wOpera North Project Director, Dominic Gray said success depended on patience and having “a lot of trust in yourself and your partner”

The showcase heard from Liverpool’s Department of Music PhD, Jacqueline Waldock and her work with the Manchester Hallé, as well as Andy Shuttleworth, from the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology. Talks were also delivered by newly qualified PhDs from Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the Universities of Kent, Sussex, Leicester, Sunderland and Glasgow, among others; covering everything from brand identity to Anthony Burgess, and constructivism to economic botany.

Ian Lyne said: “We do recognise the challenges people face, and the pressures they are under, when they finish their PhD and think through what the next steps are with the skills and development they have. We want to make sure they are aware of other opportunities outside academia that they might be interested to explore.”

The view from the other side of the funding process was provided by Opera North’s Project Director, Dominic Gray. He spoke of the value of engaging with academics and said he hoped these short term arrangements inspired by the Cultural Engagement Fund would open the door to longer-term, mutually beneficial partnerships.

Dominic Gray said: “You need a lot of room for patience, to see how the conversation develops over three, five or ten years, We all need to have the confidence to have these conversations and to let things develop gradually. You have to be patient and put a lot of trust in yourself and your partner.”

Ian Lyne said the AHRC hoped to run the scheme again “depending on funding outcomes” and also urged Universities to consider setting up similar programmes using the Cultural Engagement Fund model.


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