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PhD Scholarship at Liverpool Hope University, Civic Engagement, Wellbeing & the Visual Arts in Liverpool and the Northwest

Civic Engagement, Wellbeing & the Visual Arts in Liverpool and the Northwest

PhD Scholarship at Liverpool Hope University

The School of Creative and Performing Arts at Liverpool Hope University is delighted to invite expressions of interest from researchers for this funded full time PhD programme.

Project Overview

Cultures and societies from all over the world have championed creative expression for the greater benefit and wellbeing of its citizens. This is true whether we speak of examples of collective dance, singing, performative enactment, carnival or community design and craft activities. Whilst most world cultures celebrate their specialist creative artists, they have also at times understood the power of cathartic expression of civic creativity – for everyone.

The importance of creative expression for the betterment of an individual’s health and wellbeing and therefore that of the broader society has been written about by many of the world’s greatest thinkers. Perhaps one of the best examples has become known as the ethos theory – discussed at length in Plato’s Republic, whereby there was a firm relational belief between balanced creative expression and a balanced ‘soul’ of the practitioner and/or listener or viewer.

Throughout different historical periods, cultures have promoted investment in the arts for reasons of wealth creation, either directly (through exports) or indirectly (through tourism, night-time economy and so on). The CEO of the Arts Council England, Darren Henley, puts the argument for investment in the arts most powerfully in his book The Arts Dividend (2016).

During recent years, there has been a significant rise in understanding the impact of the arts in health and wellbeing alongside exploring its cultural and social value. Two reports published by all-party parliamentary group (APPG) – Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing (2017) and the Cultural Value Project report (Crossick and Kaszynska, 2016) highlighted the significance of using the arts as a way of enhancing wellbeing and cultural engagement. It was reported that participation in the arts could be a useful medium in addressing issues in health and wellbeing as well as social inequalities. In a similar vein, a report published by King’s College London’s fourth Cultural Enquiry promoted cultural democracy for everyone by highlighting the importance of cultural capabilities which refers to access to arts and freedom to co-create and participate in cultural production (Wilson, Gross and Bull 2017).

Moreover, since the publication of the All-Party Parliamentary Group report on Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing (2017), initiatives such as ‘arts on prescription’ and ‘social prescribing’ have become strategic priorities for the NHS Long Term Plan (2018) and the Arts Council of England Let’s Create 2020-2030 Strategy, demonstrating that significance of arts in health and wellbeing.

On a national basis there is a strong correlation between areas of ill-health and economic deprivation. In short, locations that are not ‘destinations’ will struggle to increase the performance of their local economy. The night-time economy was worth circa £50.5 billion to the UK economy in 2019, around 5% of the UK’s total GDP. Locations that are ‘destinations’ tend to have lower crime rates, better public health, and lower unemployment figures.

Given the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis in people’s health and wellbeing and the disruption of access to support services; the arts are making vital interventions in the public sphere to supporting both individuals and communities, build resilience and move forward from this difficult time.

Some areas of Liverpool City and the Liverpool City Region, such as Everton, Sefton, Kensington and Fairfield and Knowsley, have some of the most challenging areas of deprivation and physical and psychological ill-health in the UK. These same areas are also cultural ‘cold spots’ with very limited access to concerts, theatres, cinemas, festivals, galleries, and museums. Although there are some notable innovative community arts organisations in these areas, given the population size and/or the ill-health and deprivation statistics, much more enquiry is required to increase developmental support.

The School of Creative and Performing Arts is excited to announce a call for PhD proposals for research projects that investigate the relationship that exists between innovative creative expression of the visual arts and civic health and wellbeing across areas of Liverpool City Region and beyond, but with findings that will be of benefit internationally.

The research can be situated in subjects such as Fine Art, Art History, Film and Visual Culture or can take a practice-led/practice-based approach. We strongly encourage collaboration with cultural institutions in Liverpool and the Northwest, such as TATE Liverpool, National Museums Liverpool, FACT or the National Trust (among others). The School of CAPA has excellent working relations with many cultural institutions and can help with establishing links.

Some themes or questions for enquiry could be:

  • What is the role of the visual arts in a health crisis?
  • How can the arts unlock the creativity of their communities to help shape a better collective future?
  • How can the visual arts create connections, enhance diversity, and strengthen communities?
  • How can the visual arts envision/promote a better culture of care?

PhD students in the areas of Civic Arts would make a powerful contribution to the School of Creative and Performing Arts’ extant research excellence in this focus area. The last REF evidenced the School’s significant strength and depth in around the research areas of ‘Civic Arts’ and ‘Arts and Wellbeing’. There are plans at the Creative Campus to inaugurate a research institute around Arts for Wellbeing to include colleagues from across all areas of the University. PhD students in these related areas will complement our research environment considerably.

Eligible applicants should apply via the Online Application System located on our applicant web pages at – please refer to the ‘How to Apply’ (‘Apply Online Now’) links.

The deadline for full applications is midnight (UK time/GMT) on Sunday 4th June 2023. There will be no extensions to this deadline. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for Interviews to be held in the weeks beginning 12th and 19th June 2023.

Successful candidates will be expected to start their projects in as soon as possible thereafter and no later than Monday 11th September 2023. These are Full-Time Scholarships and the mode of study cannot be changed to Part-Time.

Applicants will be able to upload copies of official academic achievements, plus copies of official transcripts of all degree subjects taken, proof of English fluency (for non-native English speakers only). Written sample of no more than 3,000 words will be required to demonstrate the applicant’s skills as a researcher and/or shows skills in organising and presenting research findings. Please see the attached guidelines. Guidance for Personal Statement [VC PhD Applicants]

For further enquiries, please contact Kathrin Wagner (