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.
- 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.
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)