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

Helen Johnson, Nicole Monney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages25
JournalForum: Qualitative Social Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The spark for the current study was ignited when the second author approached the University of Brighton to form a partnership to enable HKP staff and volunteers to understand more about local people's engagement with the arts and to agitate for greater support for the arts locally. The impetus for this came from a funding call released by the University's Community University Partnership Program (CUPP), in response to a successful U.K. Research and Innovation grant bid. CUPP was established in 2003 with funding from Atlantic Philanthropies and has been funded by the University of Brighton since 2006, with the aim of developing and promoting impactful and sustainable university-community engagement. Staff at CUPP seek to connect university and community partners and nurture the development of these partnerships in mutually-productive relationships (FOX, in press). To date, they have worked with over 150 academics, 3000 students and 500 community partners (UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON, n.d.) and received seven inter/national awards (FOX, 2020). [16]

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Institut für Qualitative Forschung,Internationale Akademie Berlin gGmbH. All rights reserved.


  • Arts and health
  • Arts-based research
  • Collaborative poetics
  • Community-university partnership
  • Participatory research


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