Senior Lecturer, Co Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research
+44 (0)20 7078 5073
My work is concerned with urban change and the dynamics of participation in the city governance brought about through arts based urban interventions, urban planning, research and evaluation as well as informal spaces of citizenship and community. My work lies at the overlap between visual sociology, experimental methods and action research. Along with colleagues in the Sociology Department I share a concern with concerned with ‘The Social Life of Method’ (Savage et al 2013) and ‘Live Sociology’ (Back and Puwar 2012).
My areas of teaching are concerned with gender and sexuality, aging, art and governmentality, research methods, visual sociology and urban theory.
Arts and Active Citizenship ESRC Case studies to support research capacity building in the Third Sector: working with Lincoln and Manchester Metropolitan Universities to develop research for Active Citizenship and Community Empowerment. Working with Arts and Active citizenship (7,000) (ESRC) Case studies to support research capacity building in the Third Sector: working with Lincoln and Manchester Metropolitan Universities to develop research for Active Citizenship and Community empowerment. The two case studies are London Bubble Theatre and Stream Arts.
Skills Exchange. Research and evaluation partner to the Serpentine Gallery’s Skills Exchange project which brings together internationally-renowned artists, architects, housing and care organisations in order to explore and generate new dynamics of relationship and exchange. This project examines the role of the artist in understanding older people’s sense of home and experience of urban change in four London Boroughs. Dominant formulations of ‘care’ often place the elderly in the role of the ‘serviced’ or ‘cared for’, as those ‘without’, or ‘after’ the peak moments of their lives, and the artist or social-worker in the role of the ‘skilled’ or ‘carer’. This project, in contrast, begins from a notion that artists, older people, care-workers and others might exchange their skills, and, in this process, alter reified roles and well-rehearsed relations through processes of creative exchange.
Extending Creative Practice (ECP) is a European Grundtvig /ECORYS partnership project which is motivated by a desire to make ICT accessible to marginalised communities, particularly elderly people and isolated people from rural communities. Extending Creative Practice uses digital storytelling as a means to increase the active usage of ICT by older citizens. The ECP team includes partners from Romania, Slovenia and Finland.
Attitudes to Migrants, Communication and Local Leadership (AMICALL) Evaluation of a transnational learning network which will identify, share and disseminate best practice among Europe’s local and regional authorities and civil society organisations in communicating with local citizens about migration and integration of third-country nationals to address tensions and build public understanding.
London Thames Gateway Dance Partnership Evaluation. (London Thames Gateway Dance Partnership). Working with eight London Dance organisations in four Thames Gateway boroughs, this project explores the possibilities of community dance projects in improving health and developing a sense of place within the context of the Thames Gateway development area.
Signs of the City - Metropolis Speaking. (European Culture Programme) Arts led visual research into young peoples experience of Urbanism in 4 European cities. European partners in Berlin, Barcelona and Sofia including include Goethe Institute London, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Hangar Barcelona.
Neighbourhood Cohesion Project. (Housing Corporation £15,000). Principle Researcher, 18-months Project. Participatory Action Research.
Mobilizing Knowledge (Urban Buzz UEL £25,000) Principal Researcher, 12-months Project. Partnership with Lewisham Council. Participatory planning with older people and planners. Produced report, toolkits and Guidelines.
Sci:dentity (Wellcome Trust £10,000) Principle Researcher, 12-months Project. Participatory art and research with Transgendered youth. Partnership with Central School of Speech and Drama.
Evaluation of Home Office Initiative ‘Active Learning for Active Citizenship’. (Home Office, Civil Renewal Unit £50,000), Researcher, 2-years project.
Knowledge East - Arts Impact Research Toolkit. (HEFCE funded knowledge exchange programme). Developing a flexible and innovative toolkit for evaluating the social, economic and cultural impact of participation in the performing arts to support social inclusion, for use by urban regeneration practitioners.
Newtown Neighbourhood Project: Community cohesion and action research project in semi-rural housing estate with high settled Traveller population (2006-2008). Funded by: Housing Corporation, delivered in partnership with West Kent Extra and real strategies Ltd.
Camberwell Advocacy Project/Sceaux Gardens Life History Project: Development of a multi-disciplinary research and advocacy tool to be used in deprived micro-neighbourhoods. Funded by: Camberwell Neighbourhood Renewal, delivered in partnership with ATD 4th World.
My research interests are focused around issues of class, gender and sexualities in urban contexts. Alison has written on issues relating to cosmopolitanism, visibility, embodiment and belonging in classed and queer cultures. Alison's work focuses on gendered and sexual subjectivities, grounding queer theorising in everyday lived complexity. Her PhD research Lesbian Landscapes And Portraits: The Sexual Geographies Of Everyday Life was a visual ethnography exploring the interconnections of spatiality and subjectivity for working class lesbian and bisexual women. Reports and blog posts can be found at the CUCR webpage
I have has developed expertise in participative research, action research and evaluation with a specific focus on the social, economic and cultural impact of creativity. My Phd research Lesbian Landscapes And Portraits: The Sexual Geographies Of Everyday Life focuses on gendered and sexual subjectivities, grounding queer theorising in everyday lived complexity. I used participative visual methods to explore the interconnections of spatiality and subjectivity for working class lesbian and bisexual women.
My work seeks to challenge the idea that research impacts on society ‘as if from the outside’. Indeed, much of my evaluative research is co-constructed carried out in tandem with others outside of the academy. I am continues to be engaged in a wide range of activities that embed this approach in a number of highly practical endeavours. My work spans the public sector; the policy community; the business community; international organisations; the community and third sector; the media; and ‘publics’ of various sorts. I have been concerned with developing critical and collaborative approaches to research and evaluation and have a long track record in developing a critical and participative approach to the evaluation of a variety of urban interventions spanning citizenship, community development, urban planning and participatory and socially engaged arts at a local, national and international level. If research ‘works’ or is successful, it is by virtue of a variety of social actors contributing to it on an on-going basis, well before the research can be framed as a ‘product’ or as an ‘outcome’.
I recently received two AHRC awards to run expert workshops as part of the AHRC’s ‘Cultural Value’ research project which seeks to establish a framework that will advance the way in which we talk about the value of cultural engagement and the methods by which we evaluate that value. The first of these Creative Collisions and Critical Conversations took as its starting point Creative Families a current innovative multi-agency partnership between arts education arm of a contemporary art gallery (SLG) and the local health trusts’ Parental Mental Health Team. The tensions which have arisen in this ‘early intervention’ were shared in order to illustrate the contrasting framing of ‘cultural value’ from a variety of perspectives, including the affective, cognitive and aesthetic dimensions of art/mental health interdisciplinary encounters. Uniquely, this interdisciplinary partnership combines a participative process evaluation (Rooke) and clinical assessment led by the Institute of Psychiatry (Ellis). These contrasting methodologies for identifying the projects ‘value’ across both art and (mental) health contexts and associated approaches to the identification of value in relation to the aesthetics, and ethics of participation will be shared in order to provoke interdisciplinary discussion. The second Curating Community? was concerned with the ethical dilemmas facing artists working collaboratively with communities in the context of urban regeneration. The workshop brought together artists, commissioners, researchers, educationalists and practitioners from community development and range of arts practices including community, socially engaged art practice, participatory theatre and participatory arts with the aim of reflecting on the opportunities and dilemmas facing practitioners working with ‘communities’ in this context of urban regeneration and gentrification. The workshop asked the following questions: How are forms of ‘community’ are instantiated and negated through participatory arts? Is there scope for making apparent the conflicting positions of stakeholders in arts participation projects? What are the consequences of such an approach? What is the ‘community impact’ of participatory arts? What is its relational significance?
Nine Urban Biotopes (European Commissions Culture Strand, (Principle Investigator). CUCR are research and evaluation partner’s to an international arts residency concerned with urban sustainability in African and European contexts, With partners in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, London, Paris, Turin and Berlin, the project aims at generating an inclusive trans-local dialogue on bottom-up urban development bridging diverse socio-cultural contexts and concerns. Innovative and practice-proven local initiatives in the fields of migration, housing, provision of livelihoods, mobility, health and public safety will be brought into creative exchange by means of 3x3 community-integrated artist-in-residency programmes, an comprehensive web-based communication platform and an innovative dialogical exhibition and outreach strategy.
Creative Families (Guys and St Thomas’s Charitable Trust, current) Alison together with her research team at CUCR, is conducting an interdisciplinary evaluation combining participative process evaluation and a clinical assessment led by the Department of Health & Population at The Institute of Psychiatry. This innovative early-intervention arts programme for parents experiencing mental health difficulties and their children aged under-five in Southwark is funded by Guys and St Thomas’s Charitable Trust as part of their arts and heritage funding of projects that bring together clinicians, academics, artists and arts organisations.
Skills Exchange: Urban Transformation and the Politics of Care. (Baring Foundation, 2008- 2013) was a five year Serpentine Gallery/CUCR collaborative art and social research project concerned with social care and ageing which tested the idea that isolation and discrimination are best addressed if artists, older people, care-workers and others exchange their skills on equal ground, altering roles, representations and well-rehearsed relations through processes of creative exchange. The Modalities of Exchange Report (Rooke 2013) published in Art+Care: A Future? reviews the way in which art is discussed in social care and social care is discussed in art. The report summarises the five artists residencies in which took place in care homes, a hospice and community facilities for the elderly for consideration by funders, policy makers, care-workers, administrators of organisations of art and care. It argues for and demonstrates an how evaluative research can be generative and integral to the research process.
Past projects include Sci:dentity, a project which worked with young transgendered people exploring the science of sex and gender through creative practices, Signs of the City, a European participatory youth arts project, Extending Creative Practice, A European project uses digital storytelling as a means to increase the active usage of ICT by older citizens. (http://www.extendingcreativepractice.eu/about/ LINK) and AMICALL (EU Integration Fund) Evaluation of a transnational learning network which will identify, share and disseminate best practice among Europe's local and regional authorities (LRAs) in communicating with local citizens about migration and integration of third-country nationals to address tensions and build public understanding. http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/research/urbanchange/amicall/.
Content last modified: 16 Sep 2014
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