Some information about me
I am a Senior Research Fellow at CRESC and convenor of the Centre’s Trajectories of Participation and Inequality research theme.
I have been connected to the Centre since its inception in 2004. At that time I ran affiliated projects as a consultant in the cultural sector, having left the University of Birmingham where I had been a lecturer and senior lecturer in modern social history since the beginning of the 1990s. Part of the reason I left this job was that the social science based approach to reading history in which I had been trained at the University of Sussex in the early eighties, and which formed the focus of my research, was I felt losing its dynamism and becoming marginalized within the wider discipline. By contrast, CRESC’s avowed interdisciplinarity, its engagement with ‘the world out there’ of the cultural sector, and its penchant for heterodox thinking and methods in the social sciences were all rather exciting. Gradually, I became more involved, combining sector-facing work with more academically focused research on cultural participation, until, with the re-funding of CRESC in 2009, I became a core-funded member of staff.
As a historian, my broad interest has always been in social systems and their underlying dynamics - how they are organised, which groups have power and status and why, and how social and cultural power has been maintained and challenged over time. Most of my own research and writing in this sphere has been on the pattern and processes of social mobility and career development over the past 200 years, and what this reveals about trends in stratification and life chances in modern societies. My book Social Mobility in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England (Macmillan, 1999) remains the only systematic study of historical social mobility in the UK.
My current interests are more focused on the present and on how this is constructed from the contexts and experiences of the post Second World War generations. In working in this area, I share wider CRESC concerns about the somewhat cavalier ‘epochalism’ that has tended to dominate recent sociological thinking. My focus at present is on the dynamics of social and cultural participation. I am interested in the demographic, spatial and longitudinal dimensions of cultural engagement, in the formation and influence of cultural elites, and in the emergence of the cultural sector in the post war period. Connected to this, I also have a particular interest in mixed methods approaches to social and cultural research.
I recently completed a study of the ‘non-users’ of cultural events and venues, based on a large collection of in-depth qualitative interviews. I am now developing this into a broader research project on everyday participation and cultural value, leading a consortium of academic and sector-based researchers which has just won a development project grant under the AHRC’s Connected Communities funding scheme. I am also currently working with Mike Savage at York on the relationship between social and cultural participation, mobility and identity based on a major new collection of qualitative life history narratives from the 1958 Birth Cohort Study (National Child Development Study). This joint CRESC/Centre for Longitudinal Studies project is the first systematic qualitative study linked directly to a major quantitative panel survey. My third main focus is my involvement in an innovative collaboration between transport researchers at Leeds and CRESC social scientists (including Niamh Moore and Mike Savage) on changes in travel behaviour. This project, which is funded by EPSRC to the tune of £1.5 million, aims to inform the development of transport modelling by locating people’s travel and transport decisions in the wider contexts of their everyday lives. It will develop the world’s first longitudinal qualitative panel survey of household travel practices.
A key part of my role at CRESC has been to broker the Centre’s user engagement and knowledge transfer activities with the broader cultural sector. In this capacity, I have developed strategic partnerships at both local/regional and national levels and in 2009 was seconded to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as an ESRC Placement Fellow. I continue to work directly with cultural sector organisations and agencies on the development of research and evaluation tools to determine the impact and value of cultural projects, including interventions in key social policy areas. In this connection, I have worked with a range of client groups, including individual arts organisations, voluntary bodies, local and regional authorities, NDPBs and government departments. A particular focus of my work here has been the arts in criminal justice, where I am a former Chair of the inter-governmental Research into Arts in Criminal Justice Think Tank (REACTT). Currently, I am working on several projects connected to the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games, including the Arts Council’s research and evaluation programme for the Cultural Olympiad in the Northwest.
Refereed Journal Papers
Trajectories of Participation and Inequality
Step-Change is an EPSRC-funded project that brings together a cross-disciplinary research team from the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds and CRESC at the University of...
The BBC’s Great British Class Survey was launched on 26 January 2011. Already the largest ever survey of social class in the UK, it draws predominantly on CRESC research. ...
This introductory page is the first of three pages about the Understanding Everyday Participation project:
Tue, Dec 14th 2010
This conference will celebrate the 15-year career of Mike Savage as Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. The conference programme includes invited papers from friends and colleagues, all prominent in their own fields, who have been in conversation with Mike’s work over the years.
Fri, Jan 21st 2011
CRESC and the Institute for Cultural Practices at Manchester are jointly hosting the second meeting in The Knowledge Exchange Network - Participation and Engagement in the Arts Seminar Series.
Fri, Mar 18th 2011
This course is for people who have prior experience of doing mixed methods research and would like some training and guidance. The course will focus particularly on doing mixed methods research with longitudinal survey data.
Proletariat to Precariat? Working-class politics, identities and socio-spatial change in Britain from the Great Depression to the ‘Big Society’Thu, Jun 30th 2011
This interdisciplinary CRESC workshop brings together researchers across the social sciences and humanities to ask how we might explain the robustness of this form of social identification in the face of the economic and political changes outlined above and what this implies for policy narratives like ‘the Big Society? In particular, what role does the spatialisation of inequality play in understanding class formation, fragmentation and relations; in the construction of social identities and the articulation of belonging; in the experience and memory of displacement and de-industrialisation and in the potential for a renewed class-based politics?
Fri, Oct 21st 2011
Drawing on the Centre’s general scepticism over epochal accounts of social change, linear accounts of causality and the passivity of methods, this one day workshop seeks to bring together CRESC researchers to explore the kinds of understandings of temporality we are utilising in our study of changing worlds.
Proletariat to Precariat? Working-class politics, identities and socio-spatial change in Britain from the Great Depression to the ‘Big Society’Fri, Oct 14th 2011
Thu, Jul 12th 2012
The EPSRC funded STEPCHANGE (Sustainable Transport Evidence and modelling Paradigms: Cohort Household Analysis to support New Goals in Engineering design) project will hold a workshop on its survey work
Thu, Nov 1st 2012