Universities enlisted to help theatres and museums bounce back

A new research project will draw on academic expertise to ‘reset and reimagine’ cultural life in the UK

July 10, 2020
Source: iStock
The show must go on: live arts need to learn the lessons of lockdown

A new research programme has been unveiled to help the cultural and creative sector reinvent itself following the coronavirus crisis.

With venues slowly beginning to reopen, the plan was revealed at a virtual round table organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on 8 July on how to “retain, reset and reimagine the cultural sector” and featured contributions from science minister Amanda Solloway; Neil Mendoza, provost of the University of Oxford’s Oriel College; historian David Olusoga; and leading cultural figures such as violinist Nicola Benedetti and poet Lemn Sissay.

AHRC executive chair Andrew Thompson explained that, through its Boundless Creativity: Culture in a Time of Covid-19 campaign, the organisation had already been “exploring the real-time, differentiated and disruptive impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s cultural and creative sectors and analysing how the cultural world has embraced digital technologies”.

It was now joining forces with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on a research programme designed to “enhance our understanding of the impact of the pandemic on culture and creativity and to look at the role of digital innovation in the culture sector’s recovery and renewal”.

Ottoline Leyser, the new CEO of UK Research and Innovation, hoped that this would enable the cultural and creative sectors to “us[e] the wonderful lessons which have emerged during the crisis...to build back better”.

Themes to be examined included the opportunities, as well as disruption and threats, Covid-19 has brought to these sectors; how to restore public confidence in cultural participation; how new digital and immersive technologies can help in engaging and diversifying audiences; and how to build resilience against future shocks, such as a possible new period of lockdown.

The joint research project will be chaired by Professor Thompson and Mr Mendoza, who in May was appointed commissioner for cultural recovery and renewal by culture secretary Oliver Dowden. They will announce the members of an expert advisory panel, consisting of leading figures from the arts, cultural, creative and university sectors, by the end of July. The panel will then run until July 2021.

Looking forward, Professor Thompson hoped that the new joint research project would “put the expertise of arts and humanities researchers at the heart of Whitehall, forging a strong knowledge partnership between the AHRC and DCMS”.

matthew.reisz@timeshighereducation.com

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