SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Using arts activities to improve food research

Doctoral students Rachael Taylor and Ruth Segal, members of Brighton and Sussex University Food Network (BSUFN), organised a national level workshop on 11 May 2016 to discuss public engagement with the food system.

The primary aim of the workshop was to initiate a wider conversation about food research and explore ways to engage community groups so as to enable them to influence and shape policies to meet their needs.

At the event, participants could choose from three arts-based activities: collage, theatre/drama and photography/film. They were encouraged to experiment under the guidance of facilitators experienced in the use of creative participatory methods for research. Rachael Taylor facilitated the photography/film group, which investigated the area of City University London campus for food-related stories.

The three groups then reconvened to share conclusions and outcomes in a debate chaired by Ruth Segal. Summing up the discussion she said: “Today has highlighted the value of using creative arts methods to engage with hard-to-reach groups as they can help open up dialogue and inspire collaboration across different types of actors in the food system”.

The event, co-organised with the Centre for Agro-ecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) and hosted by the Food Research Collaboration (FRC) based at City University London, brought together participants from civil society, the public sector and academia and gave them the opportunity to explore the potential of arts-based methods for dialogue about the food system.

BSUFN is a multi-disciplinary network that brings together academics, non-academic organisations and a range of individuals and community groups to improve the value of academic research on food for practitioners and policy makers. In order to reach out at a national level, the workshop was organised in conjunction with the FRC.

FRC will publish a briefing paper on the outcomes of the workshop exploring in more depth the different methods. It is hoped that this will allow others to use creative participatory methods for research in the future so as to continue learning.  

Further information

Watch video from the workshop.