Listening space: Lessons from artists with and without learning disabilities

Hannah Macpherson, Alice Fox, Susan Street, John Cull, Tina Jenner, Des Lake, Martyn Lake, Shirley Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we develop an expanded conception of listening as ‘being-with’ and explore this in the context of creative visual arts activities with people with learning disabilities. Through a series of textual and visual interlocutions between Inclusive Artist ‘Alice’, Social and Cultural Geographer ‘Hannah’ and members of the contemporary arts group ‘The Rockets’, we identify how an expanded conception of listening is practiced and the results it produce. Where listening for the Inclusive Artist includes an attentiveness to visual, verbal and gestural vocabularies of arts- based methods; the construction of conducive spaces for listening and voice with attuned collaborators and appropriate art materials; the use of art materials as ‘meeting points’, which enable a non-verbal conversation to take place and knowledge of how particular materials and practices can influence a person’s work and sense of themselves. The temporalities of these forms of expanded, attentive, curious listening are explored and concern is expressed about how they sit in opposition to the hasty demands for research with ‘impact’. We hope this paper provokes researchers to consider what it means to listen through arts-based methods, the crucial role of the facilitator and the temporalities of listening they are bringing into being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-389
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2016


  • Learning disability
  • art
  • listening
  • impact
  • engagement
  • creative methods


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