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Creative Interruptions: cultural politics at work

Creative Interruptions examines the cultural politics at work that deliberately invoke and engage with different marginalised individuals, organisations and networks in society. It seeks to identify, analyse, promote and share evidence on the contribution that these diverse communities make to creative culture and translate these findings to inform policy and decision-making by stakeholders in the arts and cultural sectors. The research will be of interest to policy makers on national and international levels, concerned with community, connectivity and creativity.

The international project works with communities across several contexts and locations, including England, Northern Ireland, Palestine and India. By bringing together practitioners, activists, academics and non-university based collaborators, the project designs a space where diverse creative practices as well as theoretical, cultural and policy perspectives on art and inequality converge.

How we work

The team of investigators is leading the community participation process. Communities that are involved include migrant and long-term resident, food factory and warehouse workers in the East of England; African, Caribbean and South Asian communities in the UK; refugee, migrant and LGBT communities in Northern Ireland; Palestinian filmmakers and solidarity networks in the UK and internationally; and a cross-section of faiths in Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora in Scotland.

Why these communities?

The diverse communities we work with have been identified because they allow us to collectively explore the legacies of British colonial retreat alongside contemporary transnational migration, to offer a nuanced evaluation of the impacts of colonialism, racialisation, globalisation and resistance on creative forms and processes. We are interested in working with these communities to better understand the evolving experiences of groups affected by institutional racisms, faith-based conflicts and/or nationalisms.

Project aims

  • Connect communities not to the centre but to create spaces to build connections across the peripheries: The project seeks to problematise some of the ‘corrective’ intuitions of funded work with ‘disadvantaged’ communities that sometimes assume that such communities wish to be more like the ‘centre’. Rather, we look at how these communities can challenge the ‘centre’ and what can be learned by the ‘centre’ from the ‘margins’.

  • Broaden ideas of what ‘creativity’ is: We are developing historical and contemporary understandings of creative practices by minority and disenfranchised local and global groups, ranging from film and theatre to expressive work on social media, work that is largely unrecorded and unknown in broader mainstream culture. This allows us to deepen public understandings of the practices of disenfranchised communities, broaden ideas of what ‘creativity’ is, and relocate dissent as often involving creative processes that generate creative outcomes. Specifically, it enables us to produce new knowledge regarding how excluded communities agitate for social change through the arts and how that agitation interacts with state structures.

  • Generate new understandings of community: The project explores how disconnected communities see themselves through the way in which they express themselves in creative arts practices. Within the research, we recognise that although all communities reproduce divisions and exclusions, certain communities have been disenfranchised in particular ways and have been intensely demonised, objectified and culturally pathologised. The current uncertainties around immigration, cultural difference, rights and responsibilities are deeply entwined with our research themes of colonialism, race and resistance and our aim to explore the creativity that these circumstances produce. The project aims therefore to reveal different senses of community by asking what happens when we look at disconnection through the lens of creativity.

The Creative Interruptions team and community collaborators are conducting research activities organised within five strands of research.

Creative anti-racisms: Black and Asian UK communities, screen media and racialised power

Intensive workplace regimes, worker creativity and dignity assertion in eastern England

Creative Connections and Civil Rights: Co-Producing Memories and Connecting the Disconnected through Community Theatre

Cinematic Interruptions in the struggle for representation in the Case of Palestine

Along the Grand Trunk Road: Disconnected Heritage and Memory in Post-Partition Punjab


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Sarita Malik - Dr Sarita Malik has been Professor of Media and Culture in the Division of Sociology and Communications since 2016. Her research examines issues of inequality and culture (representation, production and participation) in shifting sociopolitical, cultural and technological contexts. Sarita's work has made a major contribution to how 'diversity', social justice and the role of arts and culture are understood through policy and practice. Publications have spanned topics including 'race', representation and diversity in film, public service broadcasting and the cultural industries, and she has produced a range of writings on culture and inequality more widely. Sarita is a Member of the AHRC Peer Review College, a Member of Sub-Panel 34 (Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management) for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) exercise and, in 2022, was appointed to The Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) College of Experts.  As a former curator and public arts programmer, broadcast journalist and research bid writer, Sarita's research is built on knowledge exchange with a variety of stakeholder groups, community, professional and public, often drawing on collaborative, interdiscipinary and participative research methodologies. Since 2011, Sarita has been the Principal Investigator on four Connected Communities UKRI/Arts and Humanties Research Council projects, including a multi-stakeholder study of community filmmaking and cultural diversity and a collaborative project with the British Film Institute exploring diasporic cinema. Between 2014 and 2020, Sarita generated and led a major AHRC-funded international consortia project about the relationship between culture, creativity and resistance in mainland UK, Palestine, Northern Ireland and India http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=AH/N004094/1 . Her latest AHRC project (2021-24) is a collaboration with the Guardian and British Film Institute, and is a longitudinal study of the screen sector where racial inequality remains a policy challenge. Sarita's research has been disseminated widely in a range of outlets including the Guardian, The Conversation, Arts Professional, Sight and Sound, Channel 4, the BBC and Sky Television.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.


Project last modified 29/06/2021