Alison Rooke BA, MA, PhD

Staff details

Position Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research
Department Sociology
Email a.rooke (
Phone +44 (0)20 7078 5073
Alison Rooke BA, MA, PhD

Alison Rooke is a sociologist with a specialism in urban theory and creative research methods. Alison has an on-going interest in the dynamics of participation in the city brought about through arts-led interventions, urban policy and regeneration. Alison has a long history of working collaboratively with local communities, activists and cross-sectoral stakeholders in educational and community settings on a national and European scale.

Over the last 15 years, Alison has worked in partnership with arts, cultural and educational institutions developing critical and collaborative approaches to research and evaluation at a local, national and international level. These projects have focused on the areas of urban regeneration and governance, third sector research, active citizenship, participatory urban planning and social arts practice. Also is also the the Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research.

Alison's work lies at the overlap between visual sociology, experimental methods and action research. Along with colleagues in the Sociology Department, Alison shares a concern with concerned with ‘The Social Life of Method’ (Savage et al 2013) and ‘Live Sociology’ (Back and Puwar 2012). 


Alison's areas of teaching are concerned with gender and sexuality, aging, art and governmentality, research methods, visual sociology and urban theory.

Research Interests

Alsion has developed expertise in participative research, action research and evaluation with a specific focus on the social, economic and cultural impact of creativity. Alison's 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. Alison used participative visual methods to explore the interconnections of spatiality and subjectivity for working class lesbian and bisexual women.

Alison's work seeks to challenge the idea that research impacts on society ‘as if from the outside’. Indeed, much of Alison's evaluative research is co-constructed, carried out in tandem with others outside of the academy. Alison continues to engage with a wide range of activities that embed this approach in a number of highly practical endeavours. Alison's 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. Alison has 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’.

Recent and current research

Alison Rooke 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 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 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 art 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 partners 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 using 3x3 community-integrated artist-in-residency programmes, and 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 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). This was a five year collaborative art and social research project within the Serpentine Gallery/CUCR. The project’s concern was 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

  • 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 using digital storytelling as a means to increase the active usage of ICT by older citizens. 
  • 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.

Research reports

2012    Modalities of Exchange: Summary Report on the Serpentine Gallery Project Skills Exchange: Urban Transformations and the Politics of care

2012    Alison Rooke and Marjorie Mayo, AMICALL Final Evaluation Report

2012    Alison Rooke & Imogen Slater, Extending Creative Practice Evaluation Report

2011    Alison Rooke & David Kendall,'Taking Part Case Study: London Bubble'

2011    Alison Rooke & Marjorie Mayo, 'Final Evaluation Report'. AMICALL Project 

2011    Alison Rooke & Cristina Garrido Sánchez, 'Taking Part Case Study 1: Stream Arts'

2010    Preventing Violent Extremism Final Evaluation Report (produced for LB Southwark- Internal Report)

2010    Ben Gidley, Alison Rooke and Kerry Chappell ‘Dancing the Gateway 2008-2010: London Thames Gateway dance partnership evaluation report’. With London Thames Gateway Dance Partnership. (Chisenhale Dance Space, East London Dance, Greenwich Dance Agency, Laban/Trinity)



Rooke, Alison. 2010. Telling Trans Stories: (Un)doing the Science of Sex. Abingdon, Oxford: routledge. ISBN 978-0=415-99930-4

Book Section

Rooke, Alison. 2013. Contradiction, collaboration and criticality: Researching empowerment and citizenship in community-based arts. In: Marjorie C. Mayo; Zoraida mendiwelso bendek and Carol Packham, eds. Community Research for Community Development. hampshire: palgrave macmillan, pp. 150-169. ISBN 978-1- 137- 03473-1

Rooke, Alison and Gidley, Ben. 2010. Asdatown: The intersections of classed places and identities. In: Yvette Taylor, ed. Classed Intersections: spaces, selves, knowledges. Farnham. Surrey: Ashgate, 95 -116. ISBN 9780754675624

Rooke, Alison. 2010. Queer in the Field: on emotions temporality and performativity in ethnography. In: Kath Browne and katheerine, j nash, eds. - Alison Rooke (in) Queer Methods and Methodologies:intersecting Queer theories and Social Science Research. Farnahm, Surry: Ashgate, pp. 25-41. ISBN 9780754678434

Rooke, Alison and Moreno Figueroa, Monica. 2010. Beyond ‘Key Parties and ‘Wife Swapping’: The Visual Culture of Online Swinging. In: Feona Attwood, ed. Sense of Online Pornography. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 217-245. ISBN 978-1-4331-0206-6


Rooke, Alison. 2016. Collaborative Sociological Practice: the Case of Nine Urban Biotopes. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 29(3), pp. 327-340. ISSN 0891-4486

Rooke, Alison. 2013. Modalities of Exchange: A summary Report. Art=CAre: a Future, pp. 59-120.

Rooke, Alison. 2010. Trans youth, science and art: creating (trans) gendered space. Gender, Place and Culture, 17(5), pp. 655-672. ISSN 0966-369X

Gaventa, J.; Mayo, Marjorie C. and Rooke, Alison. 2009. Learning global citizenship? Exploring connections between the local and the global. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 4(2), pp. 161-175. ISSN 1746-1979

Mayo, Marjorie C.; Gaventa, John and Rooke, Alison. 2009. Learning global citizenship? Exploring connections between the local and the global. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 4(2), pp. 161-175. ISSN 1746-1979

Rooke, Alison. 2009. Queer in the Field: On Emotions, Temporality, and Performativity in Ethnography. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 13(2), pp. 149-160. ISSN 1089-4160

Rooke, Alison and Mayo, Marjorie C.. 2008. Active Learning for Active Citizenship: participatory approaches to evaluating a programme to promote citizen participation in England. Community Development Journal, 43(3), pp. 731-781.

Rooke, Alison. 2007. Navigating embodied Lesbian cultural space: towards a lesbian habitus. Space and Culture, 10, pp. 231-252. ISSN 12063312


Rooke, Alison; Slater, Imogen and Levy, claire. 2015. Silver Stories Evaluation Report. Technical Report. UNSPECIFIED.

Rooke, Alison. 2014. Arts and Mental Health: Creative Collisions and Critical Conversations. Discussion Paper. AHRC.

Slater, Imogen; Lelliott, Susan; Rooke, Alison and Koessl, Gerald. 2013. Changing places, changing lives Assessing the impact of housing association regeneration. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED.

Rooke, Alison. 2013. Curating Community? The Relational and Agonistic Value of Participatory Arts in Superdiverse Localities. Discussion Paper. AHRC.

Rooke, Alison; Slater, Imogen; Koessl, Gerald and Lelliott, Susan. 2013. Changing Places, Changing Lives: assessing the Impact of Housing Association Regeneration. Technical Report. L and Q housing, London.

Slater, Imogen and Rooke, Alison. 2012. Extending Creative Practice. Project Report. Education and Culture Lifelong Learning Programme Grundtvig.

Rooke, Alison and Slater, Imogen. 2012. Making It Together. Project Report. Sout.

Mayo, Marjorie C. and Rooke, Alison. 2006. Active Learning for Active Citizenship Evaluation Report. Other. Home Office, London.