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New research collaborations explore how grassroots creativity challenges exclusion


How is the division and disenfranchisement experienced by minority communities channelled into productive creative resistance and connection?

Creative Interruptions (creativeinterruptions.com), a major global research project led by researchers at Brunel University London, asks what can be learned about the centre of society from the margins, and how can such lessons be understood, communicated and scaled-up in order to change power structures and connect those on the peripheries to each other and to the centre.

Under the lead of Brunel’s Professor Sarita Malik, Creative Interruptions’ researchers are working with marginalised voices from a range of backgrounds and in several different countries: black and Asian communities using screen media as anti-racist activism in the UK; food factory and warehouse workforces in the east of England; refugee, migrant and LGBT communities in Northern Ireland living through the experience of past and present civil rights struggles; Palestinian filmmakers and solidarity networks; and a cross-section of faiths in post-partition Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora in Scotland.  

The project team recognises the power of the arts and creative industries as major agents of social change, but it is clear that power relations as they exist in the law, public policy, and society, creates obstacles for some communities to participate fully in the social and cultural spheres and have their voices heard.

Through Creative Interruptions, the team aims to produce vital research and outcomes in collaboration with these communities. The nature of this collaboration is in itself a key area of research to explore – to what extent is co-produced research a creative, interrupting, destabilising and equal process? And what does this model of research, which puts the communities in the core of the research process, mean for the world of academia?

The last decade has seen a surge of nationalisms and a proliferation of anxieties converging around culturally 'different' minority communities and lifestyles. This has been catalysed by economic crisis, new media, global flows, and processes of fragmentation of the State and exacerbated in the UK by fractures in the union and the questioning of our role in Europe, the researchers explain.

As a result, although all communities contain divisions and exclusions, certain communities have been disenfranchised in particular ways and have been intensely demonised and objectified. But they continue to agitate for social change through the arts, be it filmmaking, digital communication, photography or community theatre. The arts become a form of solidarity, conviviality, and power.     

Creative Interruptions draws on Sociology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Heritage Studies, Literary Studies, Theatre Studies, and Human Geography. It is led by Brunel University London with co-Investigators based at The University of Sussex, Sheffield Hallam University, Queen’s University of Belfast and The University of Strathclyde. Outputs will include academic articles, an edited book, a theatre production, films, a photo exhibition, and digital installations.

Creative Interruptions, which began in 2016 and runs until 2019, has a new website. Visit www.creativeinterruptions.com for more information.

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations