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The Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launch Boundless Creativity Joint Research Project

Date: 08/07/2020

  • Joint Research Project to inform cultural recovery and future growth
  • Nicola Benedetti, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Peter Florence, David Olusoga and Lemn Sissay discuss cultural challenges and recovery
  • Museum of Boundless Creativity, the people powered collection, launched to celebrate the value of creative industries

Today, Wednesday 8 July 2020, the UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announce a Joint Research Project with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Launched in response to AHRC’s Boundless Creativity campaign, the Joint Research Project will see the creation of an Expert Advisory Panel that will bring together leaders from across the arts, cultural, creative and HEI sectors, to guide, review and report on the subsequent findings to provide an evidence base that informs cultural recovery, renewal and future growth, and makes recommendations for future actions.

The panel will be co-chaired by Executive Chair of AHRC, Professor Andrew Thompson, and Neil Mendoza, recently appointed Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal. It will investigate the threats and opportunities impacting the culture and creative sectors due to Covid-19, advise on measures to restore public confidence in cultural participation, as well as understand the societal impact of accelerated trends in innovation, collaboration and participation observed during this period.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, says:

"Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our creative industries have come up with innovative digital projects and concepts so a global audience can enjoy world-class culture from home. This new research will help provide insight to further drive innovation, develop new ways to reach audiences and grow the sector."

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of Arts and Humanities Research Council, says:

“Culture and creativity are powerful forces that together help to shape our rich shared national heritage. Both are increasingly entwined with the digital technological revolution of our times. Boundless Creativity is designed to explore the interactions between the cultural and the digital, and between the physical and the online. It is vital we do all we can to bring the resulting insights to bear on the recovery of our arts, cultural and creative sectors. This joint research project will put the expertise of arts and humanities researchers at the heart of Whitehall, forging a strong knowledge partnership between the AHRC and DCMS.”

Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal, Neil Mendoza says:

“Our culture holds us together. From heritage sites to immersive theatre culture in all its forms is a vital part of people’s lives up and down the country. As well as creating some exceptional new and innovative experiences, Boundless Creativity presents a unique and immediate opportunity to explore the impact of the pandemic on culture and creativity and how digital innovation can support the sector’s ultimate recovery and renewal.”  

The announcement was made at an online event convened by Professor Andrew Thompson and chaired by writer and broadcaster Vivienne Parry. It explored the technological transformation, demographic shifts and broader socio-economic trends that present both opportunities and challenges for culture, the creative economy and wider society at this time of radical uncertainty.

This included a pre-recorded video message from Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who shared his thoughts on the opportunity this unprecedented time offers to place renewed importance on the value of the arts and humanities.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said:

“The dual pandemic of racism and deadly disease has taken a toll on our physical, emotional and economic wellbeing but organisations promoting the arts and humanities should take the lead in recovery. We can address the health crisis by equipping the public with knowledge, explain the science and disseminate best practices to keep our audiences and employees healthy. We can also address the crisis of racism by fighting fear and blame with hope, encouragement, education and inspiration. Although we’re going through massive challenges, I believe cultural institutions can lead the way in finding solutions and making this moment truly transformative.”

The event featured provocations from major cultural figures, including Nicola Benedetti, Lemn Sissay and Lu Zhang, who each considered the essentials of their cultural life, prior to lockdown, that they wish to return to, and what can be reimagined in the future.

Research Update & Key Opportunities and Challenges for the Culture Sector

Key academics and researchers also presented a review of current and new research projects funded during and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This included Eliza Easton, Head of Policy Unit, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre; Professor Helen Chatterjee, Professor of Biology in UCL Biosciences and Head of Research and Teaching at UCL Culture; Professor Andrew Chitty, UKRI Challenge Director: Audience of the Future & Creative Industries Clusters Programmes; and Lorna Probert, Head of Interactive Production, Aardman.

From digital innovation and accessibility of arts and culture, to the mental health and wellbeing of the nation, they addressed the key challenges and opportunities facing culture and society at this time. This framed a roundtable discussion between Financial Times Arts Editor Jan Dalley, Director of Hay Festival Peter Florence, AHRC Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation Professor Edward Harcourt and historian David Olusoga.

Museum of Boundless Creativity

The event coincides with the launch of AHRC’s Museum of Boundless Creativity. People across the UK are being asked to help create the first ever collection of a new temporary digital-only museum that will celebrate the UK’s highly successful cultural and creative industries, and culture and creativity more broadly.

From iPods and Netflix, to Stormzy and free access to museums and galleries, the Museum of Boundless Creativity will celebrate the ideas, people and objects that have shaped the first twenty years of the 21st century. The general public will be invited to submit suggestions for consideration, alongside contributions from leading cultural figures including Director of Tate Maria Balshaw CBE and Sir Peter Bazalgette. A panel of curatorial experts will then select the first twenty items to launch the online collection in September.

To contribute to the collection, please visit: https://ahrc.ukri.org/innovation/boundless-creativity/museum-of-boundless-creativity/

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