Arts in Participatory Settings and Their Role in Further Education - Edinburgh College

Images from the Edinburgh College events

This project, devised and delivered by Iain Bruce and Jess Abrams, set out to raise the profile of Arts in Participatory settings (AiPS) and related practice throughout Edinburgh College through a series of working group meetings, an audit of existing provision and a major Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event for staff.

Increasing knowledge 

Although several of the staff already offer community-based activities to their students, Jess and Iain saw an opportunity to extend knowledge of participatory practice amongst the 300 strong Creative Industries staff at the college. To this end, they formed a working group which met ten times over the course of the academic year to discuss AiPS opportunities for CPD at the College and had several meetings with Programme Managers.

Encouragingly, they found that there is a genuine interest amongst staff in gaining a further understanding of this sector, how to embed it further into teaching and looking at it on a Creative Industries wide level.

Moreover, they found that the staff were hungry for creative experiences themselves so it made sense to offer and promote a lively event that brought together Edinburgh College staff, potential placement providers, employers and students. Participants could then set the context for the Arts in Participatory Settings using some of the existing ArtWorks research and findings to develop a mutual understanding of factors that support quality practice in arts in participatory settings.

Keeping the tone light 

Jess and Iain encouraged participants by keeping the tone light, demystifying the jargon and demonstrating their enthusiasm for the topic, as this text from their leaflet shows:

Today’s taster workshops aim to raise the profile of Arts in Participatory Settings as an important part of the burgeoning Creative Industries sector.
What Do We Mean by Arts in Participatory Settings Anyway?!
Arts in Participatory Settings can be defined as ‘artists working with people in collaborative creative processes’.
Many would define it as ‘Community Arts’. It can be a meaningful and rewarding part of any artist’s career.
We hope you have fun today and get a flavour of the way in which the arts can bring people together to be creative, inspired and connected.
"Creativity is contagious, pass it on." - Albert Einstein

Another key element of the project was an e-survey investigating awareness and understanding of participatory practice amongst the staff. The survey was flagged up in print, supported by Programme Managers and incentivised by a prize draw, to ensure a practicable response rate.

As a direct result of the project, Creative Industries staff have expressed an interest in learning more about Arts in Participatory Settings as well as a desire to participate in Arts workshops themselves and the College Learning and Development team have asked Jess and Iain to contribute to future CPD events.

The working group meetings, survey and participatory event have all informed a set of recommendations for ways in which the college can take forward a strategic approach to Participatory Practice amongst staff and students, which the Head of Creative Industries intends to review to explore how they can be implemented in a phased and funded way.

Feedback from participants:

‘This has been great!! Could be really useful for our course. Thanks.’
‘Very enjoyable session – full of ideas now as to how to make H and S training fun!’
‘Great session, definitely stuff I can take back to my students.’