Centre for Rural Economy

Frances Rowe

Frances Rowe

Engaging with the agency of contemporary arts practice and its relationship to social innovation in remote areas of England and Scotland.

Email: f.rowe@newcastle.ac.uk

Supervisors: Dr Menelaos Gkartzios and Professor Mark Tewdwr Jones

Project overview

My PhD is engaging with the agency of contemporary arts practice and its relationship to social innovation in remote areas of England and Scotland. It is investigating how contemporary arts organisations may act as agents of disruptive change in rural communities, and how and why this might lead to enhanced capacities for social innovation. Creativity is increasingly recognised as a key component of innovation by policy-makers. However, much of the academic and policy literature characterises remoteness and distance from urban centres as barriers to creativity and innovation.

The research takes as its point of departure Schumpeter’s ideas of innovation as ‘creative destruction’. In Schumpeter’s analysis, creative entrepreneurs disrupt the existing equilibrium with the development of new ideas, products and processes in response to market opportunities. In developing the concept of ‘creative disruption’ I am exploring how and why contemporary arts organisations might act as creative agents of change within processes of social innovation, broadly defined as meeting social needs in new ways and the development of new social relations. This involves in depth case studies of four arts organisations in remote areas of England and Scotland that are located in rural places. I am taking a qualitative approach via in-depth interviews, participant observation and focus groups, employing a grounded theory approach to analysis. This is supplemented by extensive use of documentary evidence and use of secondary data.

I hope the research will be relevant to both policy and practice at a time of significant cuts to cultural programmes and organisations, and an increasing emphasis on rural communities providing for their own needs within a climate of diminishing state support.