Arts 42 posts

Sustainability has conventionally been conceived as a predominantly technical or economic concern. Our approach departs from this framing and explores the role of art and culture in delivering prosperity. Our argument is that art and culture can help to develop visions of the good life beyond consumerism. We consider the role of culture not just in communicating sustainability but as an inherent component of prosperity. Our work develops the conceptual framework for this approach and explores the complex interactions between prosperity, place, work, leisure and the right to self- expression. Our empirical research engages directly with cultural activities in practice. For information about our arts research stream, please have a look at our theme page.

Creative Economy, Critical Perspectives | Cultural Trends Special Issue edited by Kate Oakley and Jon Ward
CUSP researchers Kate Oakley and Jonathan Ward are guest editors of a special edition of Cultural Trends. In exploring how the idea of the creative economy persists since the 1980s, papers engage with the topic on a social, political, economic and/or organisational level.
Engaging the imagination | Journal paper by Kate Oakley, Jon Ward and Ian Christie
This paper explores the potential of 'new nature writing' – a literary genre currently popular in the UK – as a kind of arts activism, in particular, how it might engage with the environmental crisis and lead to a kind of collective politics.
One Hundred Islands — An Interactive Installation | York Theatre Royal, 6 Nov 2018
One Hundred Islands is an installation that has been created through a collaboration between The Bare Project Theatre Company and the CUSP. The installation responds to the concept of denial: in particular the denial of the immediate need for change. Why are we failing to act? Is it that we won’t listen or that we are unable to?
Generation Z — A photography exhibition by CUSP Fellow Kerstin Hacker, documenting the changing urban experience in Zambia
Documentary photographer and CUSP fellow Kerstin Hacker is investigating the developing consumer culture of Lusaka (Zambia) and examines photographically the emergence of a new cultural sector. Supported by the Centre of African Studies at University of Cambridge, the exhibition is on show until 21 December 2018.
This Must be the Place: An interview with Dan Lyttleton | By Mark Ball
Coming at an interesting time for the city, Dan Lyttleton’s new photo book This Must be the Place prompts discussions of Stoke ‘free from cliches’. Given CUSP’s continued interest in the city, Mark Ball sat down with Dan to talk about his new book, the role of photography, and Stoke.
Flow Activities as a Route to Living Well With Less | Journal Paper by Amy Isham, Birgitta Gatersleben and Tim Jackson
Research suggests that the excessive focus on the acquisition of material goods promoted by our consumer society may be detrimental to well-being. Current Western lifestyles, which promote unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, therefore risk failing to bring citizens the happiness they seek.
Social Darts | Blog by Mark Ball
Leisure doesn’t always make business sense, and success doesn’t mean turning a profit. Against the logic of expansion and abundance, Stoke has something major metropolitan cities do not, Mark Ball finds. His research looks at the connections between leisure, wellbeing and sense of place — and currently involves playing a lot of darts
Can a play start a conversation and generate multi-disciplinary projects? | Guest blog by Shirley Wardell
Few people understand how money works, and yet it has a vital part in our lives. In her new theatre play ‘Balance’, former Positive Money consultant Shirley Wardell tries to address this issue by making the topic relevant to people who watch the play — and to those who act in it.
Making connections, experiencing flow, and countering consumption: crafting is more fun with less stuff | Blog by Sue Venn
One of the research projects within CUSP is concerned with how wellbeing can be enhanced through immersing oneself in challenging activities, leading to a state of ‘flow’. BBC Four's recent MAKE! Craft Britain programme is a perfect showcase of that concept. The programme is connecting people to traditional crafts, past and present generations — and, importantly, to those with whom we are crafting.
T h i s is not all there is: Thinking utopias as ideas and practices | Blog by Will Davies
'Utopias' is one of the cross-cutting themes in CUSP, spanning our various research programmes. In this blog, Will Davies is reflecting on what the concept of utopia can offer in terms of its prefigurative potential, and how it is informing our interdisciplinary research.
Forging connections: Review of The Progress of this Storm and General Ecology | By Richard Douglas
How should we understand the relationship between nature and society, now that we have entered that condition known as the Anthropocene? Two new books offer radically opposing views on this question—though, as Richard Douglas finds, both remain prisoners of post-Kantian metaphysics.
The Politics of Enclaves: Launch of Economic Science Fictions | London, 2 May 2018
Economic Science Fictions is a new volume of essays exploring the overlap between the economic imagination and science fiction, in economics, fiction, design fiction and utopian (and dystopian) political economy. To celebrate the publication of the book, this event will explore the politics of enclaves from the perspective of urban design and science fiction, so as to cast different light on the anxieties and hopes of the present.
Anthropocene Dreams — Review of The Ends of The World | By Jana Bacevic
If the Anthropocene had an intellectual mixtape, The Ends of the World would be a worthy candidate, Jana Bacevic finds. The book presents perspectives on the end of the world beyond the Western-centric view, to include those for whom the world has already ended; providing valuable lessons. 
Economic Science Fictions | Edited by Will Davies
From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley’s consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, CUSP co-investigator Will Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power of the utopian imagination to revitalise economic thinking.
Dance Me to the End of Love—An Economics for Tomorrow | Guest blog by Alan Simpson
Any economics that defines the time given to human interaction as negative productivity has lost the plot, Alan Simpson writes in his guest blog. The economy of tomorrow must be built around people and their inbuilt kindness and decency.
Writing A Better Future | Guest Blog by Denise Baden
Most of us feel it: the future doesn't look too bright. Dark future visions such as the Black Mirror series feed into our anxieties; the global news and climate change discourse create further avoidance. What we need, Denise Baden argues, are positive visions that allow transformative solutions to be showcased and played out—a kind of product placement for sustainability.
Everyday Culture and the Good Life | Working Paper No 9
The purpose of this paper is to prepare the ground for a strand of work in CUSP which aims to look at the role of culture in everyday life, and in doing so to understand how it might operate as an element of sustainable prosperity. The paper considers the basis on which we might start to think about new legitimations for cultural policy and a fuller understanding of its potential for living well with less.
Nature On The Page — Wildlines @ The Leeds Library w Kate Oakley, 15 Mar 2018
On 15 March 2018, CUSP researcher Kate Oakley will be joining an expert panel of writers and naturalists to explore the process of putting our experience of the natural world down on paper. Who gets to write about nature, and why? Is there a place for politics in nature writing? Does the north have the nature-writing it deserves? And why does nature writing matter?
The art of the good life: culture and sustainable prosperity | Journal paper by Kate Oakley and Jon Ward
This paper analyses the potential for cultural work to encourage alternative visions of the “good life”, in particular, how it might encourage a kind of “sustainable prosperity” wherein human flourishing is not linked to high levels of material consumption but rather the capabilities to engage with cultural and creative practices and communities.
Not the City of Culture — Blog by Mark Ball
Early December 2017 Stoke-on-Trent was one of four cities not to win the title of UK City of Culture 2021. This may have been drowned out by the ongoing noise of European Capital of Culture uncertainty, but it was big news for Coventry who now follow Hull and Derry~Londonderry to hold the award. In this blog, Mark Ball is reflecting on not winning City of Culture.
The Acting Class | Film screening and discussion, Leeds 6 Dec 2017
The Acting Class (77 mins) is a documentary feature film by Mike Wayne and Deirdre O’Neill that explores the causes and consequences of class stratification in the acting profession. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the film makers.
Meritocracy vs. Social Cohesion: A Review of The Acting Class (UK, 2017)—By Anthony Killick
The latest documentary from D O’Neill and M Wayne highlights the barriers faced by working class actors attempting to pursue cultural work. The film exposes the fraudulence behind some of the central tenets of neoliberal meritocracy, Anthony Killick finds, particularly the idea that arts and cultural jobs are equally accessible to all on a “level playing field”.
Call for Papers — Cultural Trends Special Issue: After the Creative Economy
CUSP researchers Kate Oakley and Jonathan Ward are guest editors of an upcoming edition of Cultural Trends. In exploring how the idea of the creative economy persists since the 1980s, papers are invited that engage with the topic on a social, political, economic and/or organisational level.
Stoke, the City of Culture? | Blog by Jonathan Ward
Stoke-On-Trent has set itself an ambitious task with its bid for UK City of Culture 2021. Should it be awarded the promising title then it will face a number of competing priorities and tensions, Jonathan Ward comments on the recent shortlisting, and the city should take it seriously.
After Urban Creative Economies | RGS-IBG Annual Conference w Kate Oakley and Jon Ward
The creative economy continues to inform activity outside de-industrialised urban centres. In this session at the 2017 RGS-IBG annual conference we will explore how the creative economy persists.
What makes for a good life in Stoke-On-Trent? | A Workshop Report
This report presents a summary of a workshop we held in Stoke-on-Trent in May of this year. The emphasis in the workshop was to encourage discussions around identifying existing assets within the city, and to consider what would make Stoke-on-Trent a better place to live.
How to kick the growth addiction | Tim Jackson in conversation with Allen White
Endless economic growth, long the rallying cry of the conventional paradigm, endangers our future. Ecological economist Tim Jackson, CUSP Director and author of Prosperity Without Growth, explores the need to envision a post-growth economy with Allen White, Senior Fellow at the Tellus Institute.
Artists as workers. A response to John Bellamy Foster | by Kate Oakley
Bellamy Foster’s essay is to be warmly welcomed for putting the question of what constitutes ‘good work’ on the table. But by arguing - at least in parts - that good work looks like creative or artistic work, it risks perpetuating certain ideas about artistic production that will harm, rather than aid, the struggle for good work, Kate Oakley finds.
Fostering Visual Self-Governance in Zambia | Blog by Kerstin Hacker
Documentary photographer and CUSP fellow Kerstin Hacker is investigating the developing consumer culture of Lusaka (Zambia) and examines photographically the emergence of a new cultural sector. Her project is set out to enable artists to participate meaningfully in the debate around sustainability and prosperity of the sector and the country as whole. In this blog she introduces her work.
Sustainable Prosperity and the Cultural Industries | Seminar with Graeme Evans and Jon Ward, 22 March 2017
This joint seminar brings together CUSP researcher Jonathan Ward and Graeme Evans from the Art & Design Research Institute (ADRI), Middlesex University to discuss the role of the cultural industries in creating sustainable prosperity.
A Cultural Account of Ecological Democracy | Marit Hammond presenting paper at major international workshop
CUSP co-investigator Marit Hammond to present her paper The Centrality of Culture in Ecological Democracy at a major international Democracy workshop, 20 February 2017. The workshop will contribute to the work of the Task Force on the Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance, coordinated by the Earth System Governance Project.
Culture and climate change | Seminar with Joe Smith and Renata Tyszczuk, 15 Mar 2017
Climate change is urgent and important, but also, for many, boring, difficult and confusing. What kinds of stories, artworks and other interventions are being created in response to ‘the greatest challenge facing humanity’ — a challenge that is also apparently forgettable?
Theatre, Performance and Employment | Keynote by Prof Kate Oakley
Co-Investigator Prof Kate Oakley to give a keynote presentation for the Theatre, Performance & Employment symposium to take place 23 – 24 February 2017 at Queen Mary University of London, bringing together scholars, artists, and activists from the theatre and performance industries.
Combining film and field notes to explore spatial practices
This short film seeks to give insight into a particular spatial practice. The use of video and field notes taken as primary research, is set to raise questions around positionality, context, and geographical framing in how and why we measure and understand (time)spaces.
A Dream of a Low Carbon Future | Blog by James McKay
“When an idea is sketched on a page, it can be examined and discussed much more easily than when it merely exists in people’s heads.” In this blog, CUSP Fellow James McKay introduces his recent project: A dream of a low carbon future.
Beyond Consumer Capitalism – Foundations for a Sustainable Prosperity | Working Paper No 2
This paper explores the ramifications of the combined crises now faced by the prevailing growth-based model of economics. In paying a particular attention to the nature of enterprise, the quality of work, the structure of investment and the role of money, the paper develops the conceptual basis for social innovation in each of these areas, and provides empirical examples of such innovations.
Understanding Sustainable Prosperity – Towards a transdisciplinary research agenda | Working Paper No 1
Understanding sustainable prosperity is an essential but complex task. It implies an ongoing multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research agenda. This working paper sets out the dimensions of this task. In doing so it also establishes the foundations for the research of the ESRC-funded Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP).
Governance in the Anthropocene | Blog by Marit Hammond
Our lifestyle today is widely considered to be the dominant influence on climate and the environment. The recognition of the Anthropocene as a new era calls for a new approach to politics, Marit Hammond argues; and the arts could play a key role.
Cultural ecologies: Cultural labour, consumption, and inequality | w/ Kate Oakley
Kate Oakley to give seminar on culture and inequality: tying together consumption and production | Birmingham City University, 11 May 2016
Sustainable prosperity – what’s art got to do with it? | Blog by Kate Oakley
Arts are communicators of a message, but are an element of sustainable prosperity itself, too, co-investigator Prof Kate Oakley writes in this blog, explaining our research approach to understanding the role of the arts and culture in developing visions for a sustainable prosperity.