Using the Arts to Support the Arts: A Creative, Community-University Partnership Approach to Building Arts Inclusivity in Economically-Deprived Communities




arts-based research, community-university partnership, collaborative poetics, participatory research, arts and health


There is robust evidence supporting the positive impacts of the arts on health and wellbeing; however, researchers suggest that the poorest in society are significantly less likely to engage with the arts than the wealthy. In this article, we describe a creative, community-university partnership between the Hangleton & Knoll Project and the University of Brighton, where we aimed to investigate and tackle this "participation gap." Using the participatory arts-based method of collaborative poetics, we found that, contrary to claims in the literature, local residents valued and engaged with a wide range of art forms; however, their access to the arts was limited by issues including money, travel and illness. By communicating these findings creatively to a broad range of stakeholders, we were able to stimulate greater investment in the arts locally, with steps taken towards the establishment of a dedicated community arts venue. In this article we reproduce some of the arts-based outputs we created, using these to criticize the reductionist understanding of the arts that lies beneath "participation gap" claims and to demonstrate the enormous potential that can be unlocked when universities and local communities collaborate creatively as equal partners.


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Author Biographies

Helen Fiona Johnson, University of Brighton

Helen JOHNSON is a principal psychology lecturer at the University of Brighton and co-director for the University's "Centre for Arts and Wellbeing." She is a leading voice in spoken word/poetry slam scholarship and an expert in arts-based and creative research methods. Helen is particularly interested in the intersections between arts-based research, participatory research and social justice, and has developed the collaborative poetics method framed by these concerns. She is also a spoken word poet and stage manager for the "Poetry&Words" stage at Glastonbury Festival.

Nicole Monney, Hangleton and Knoll Project

Nicole MONNEY is the community learning and arts coordinator for the Hangleton & Knoll Project. She is a highly skilled development worker with achievements spanning from executive and strategic leadership roles, program building and management, to frontline delivery and casework. Nicole has extensive experience working with communities disproportionately affected by social and economic disadvantage. She adheres to social change and social justice as guiding principles, working on the belief that people are the experts in their own lives. Nicole is an executive member of the "Arts & Creative Industries Commission" and a champion for neurodiversity and autism.




How to Cite

Johnson, H., & Monney, N. (2021). Using the Arts to Support the Arts: A Creative, Community-University Partnership Approach to Building Arts Inclusivity in Economically-Deprived Communities. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 22(3).