University of Sussex
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Spaces after modernity: a systems based analysis of creativity, community and narrative formation

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:53 authored by Bella Wheeler
Drawing on principles from systems theory, critical health psychology and narrative analysis, this research sought to examine the relationships between environments that facilitate creative arts-based group work, and notions of self-governance and self-determination that they may give rise to; exploring whether such processes are discernible in speech, language and narrative formation. The research constituted an eleven month, qualitative community-university project that examined ways in which the 'Centre user and volunteer led' organisational ethos of the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP) - a charity working to relieve poverty and hardship based in the south of England - related to the forming of a creatively working and self-managing group. This sought to better understand the emergence of the group; the ways in which participation was experienced; and what (if any) effects participation may have had on sense-making and narrative formation surrounding the topic of food poverty. Using arts-based and participatory methods, the research was carried out with a group of twenty Centre users with experience of food poverty. It culminated in the production and display of an art exhibition on this topic as part of the Brighton Festival in May 2015. The research suggests that using participatory and arts-based approaches in the exploration of food poverty in the facilitative environment of the BUCFP enabled participants to examine and contest societal discourses surrounding poverty. The research describes how, through a complex interplay between group discussion and the material and semiosis of art-making, participants developed and symbolised a counter narrative that deflected stigmatising narratives surrounding food poverty, instead developing a collectivised narrative of resistance. The ability to 're-narrativise' forms of social discourse and to signify the taking of a position in the socio-cultural and political landscape through creative methods may be tied to notions of wellbeing that are important to consider within a community health milieu.


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