The AHRC Everyday Creativity Research Network was officially launched in the elegant surroundings of the House of Lords’ River Room on Monday 13th March 2023, following the kind invitation of Lord Steve Bassam. Supporters of the Network met, mused and mingled surrounded by centuries of inspiration and overlooking a gold-washed River Thames. It was a fantastic, warm and thought-provoking event, which evidenced huge amounts of support for everyday creativity and the work we are doing as a network.
Following a brief welcome from Lord Bassam, David Bryan of Creative Lives, who hosted the event, said a few words about the fantastic work they do supporting people to be creative in their everyday lives. Dr Helen Johnson, Principal Investigator for the Network, then introduced the ECRN, its aims, themes and work to date, ending with a literature review in poem form that explored the many reasons “why we create” – “because breathing is creation.”
Dr Johnson was followed by Professor Rusi Jaspal, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Brighton, who expressed his support for the Network, and Professor Owen Evans, ECRN Co-investigator, who spoke to the Network theme of home, placemaking and everyday creativity.
Lewis Hou, of Science Ceilidh, then took the stage, reflecting on the role of science and technology in everyday creativity, including the issues the rise of artificial intelligence raises for our understand and enactment of human creativity. Lewis also drew our attention to the fact that the right to access culture and the arts is enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights; an Article which Alex Coulter (National Centre for Creative Lives, Arts and Health South West) returned to during the concluding panel discussion, reminding us that: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”[i]
Alex was joined in this vibrant panel discussion by Chair, Dr Rachel New, Professor Geoffrey Crossick (Creative Lives), Professor Christopher Smith (Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council) and Baroness Lola Young, who between them spoke to wide-ranging issues touching upon everyday creativity, including: the role of process in helping people to embrace their own creative potential; everyday creativity as a means through which to de-medicalise wellbeing; and cultural value outside of the domain of publicly-funded arts.
The panel also raised interesting questions around such as issues as whether something needs to be startlingly new in order to qualify as creative or whether we could consider something like repetition within a community setting as being of equal creative worth; how we might understand creativity as a plural, akin to the way in which theories of intelligence(s) have developed; what value there is in seeking to name and define everyday creativity; and what work we could be doing to dismantle the hierarchy of methods, so that creative, qualitative research is given an equal platform alongside more established, high profile methods like randomised controlled trials.
Overall, this was a wonderfully productive and stimulating meeting of minds that moved our discussions of everyday creativity forward, whilst amply illustrating the ways in which community and collaboration can enhance and be enhanced by this everyday creativity. In the words of Helen Johnson’s poem: “…we harmonise in choirs,/touch patchwork palms/imprinting psalms and song,/in synergistic kinship.”
~ Helen Johnson
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[i] Article 27, part 1, see: https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights