Three-D Issue 19: AHRC Leadership Fellow: Connected Communities programme

George McKay
University of Salford

George McKay, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Salford, has been appointed to a three-year leadership fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for one of its programmes, focusing on community cultures and understanding.

George was lead organiser of the 2011 MeCCSA conference as well as of the 2012 International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK & Ireland) conference at Salford. He was an elected member of MeCCSA executive during 2010-11. He is based at MediaCityUK.

George is joint academic lead of the Connected Communities programme with Professor Keri Facer from the School of Education at Bristol University, working in close collaboration with AHRC staff. Overall, six AHRC leadership fellows are being appointed across the AHRC’s strategic themes. Because of its breadth of disciplines, outreach and cross-research council brief, Connected Communities has two leadership fellows.

The AHRC outlines the scope and ambition of Connected Communities as follows: ‘The programme seeks not only to connect research on communities, but to connect communities with research, bringing together community-engaged research across a number of core themes, including community health and wellbeing, community creativity, prosperity and regeneration, community values and participation, sustainable community environments, places and spaces, and community cultures, diversity, cohesion, exclusion, and conflict.

‘A growing body of work under the programme is exploring the temporal dimension to communities, while other clusters of projects are exploring issues such as cultural value in community contexts and “community and performance”. Another strand of research is exploring the potential for arts and humanities to support approaches to engagement with communities to active participants in the research process, through the creative arts and media, narratives, crafts and by enhancing consideration of issues such as ethics, power and voice.’

To date Connected Communities has awarded over 200 grants, from major cross-institution and multi-disciplinary awards to small funds for scoping and policy reviews. In the media and cultural studies field, these include awards for projects ranging from community podcasts to diasporic film, cultural ‘intermediation’ to superfast broadband in HE/rural education, cultural activism communities to exploring theory and methodology. Creative partners include museums, art galleries, media organisations, community groups, freelance artists, and theatre companies.

George’s earlier work on the Connected Communities programme consists of producing the research review Community Music: History and Current Practice, its Constructions of ‘Community’, Digital Turns and Future Soundings, and as co-investigator on a current project on community gardening. He is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, and Knowledge Exchange College, for Media and for Music.

George said: ‘To work centrally with Connected Communities and its ever-widening constituency of scholars, community partners and media and cultural creatives is a really wonderful opportunity. I’ve long been committed to working with community artists and social activists, writing with them as well as about them, and am hugely enthusiastic about learning more, and helping shape great new opportunities in research, knowledge exchange and engagement.’

‘As for MeCCSA, there are some outstanding opportunities in the programme for the wide-ranging, engaged, cross-disciplinary kind of work that is characteristic of our field. A large number of scoping studies or research reviews has been commissioned and many now published by the AHRC as part of Connected Communities; these are an excellent starting point for colleagues interested in getting involved, not least because they generally identify at the end of each report the important research gaps in subject areas.’

In the new year George will be available for institutional visits to talk about the programme, its initiatives and opportunities, so do get in touch with him if your research centres would be interested.

As well as working with the AHRC on the future shape of the programme, George’s fellowship includes a substantial element of personal research time, in which he will be working on projects around community music, disability arts / activism and festival culture.

Professor Mark Llewellyn, AHRC’s Director of Research, welcomed the appointment of the leadership fellows, saying: ‘These are key posts for the intellectual and strategic development of the Connected Communities programme. Professor McKay and Professor Facer bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience to these roles and we look forward to working closely with them on the further development of the programme.’

Connected Communities is a cross-research council programme, led by AHRC in close partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council.

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Further details of the programme are available at

http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funding-Opportunities/Research-funding/Connected-Communities/Pages/Connected-Communities.aspx

Prof George McKay can be contacted at g.a.mckay@salford.ac.uk

Posted by Einar Thorsen