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Been, being and becoming More Music: a critical ethnographic case study of the role and responsibility of a community music organisation in the UK

Currie, Ruth (2020) Been, being and becoming More Music: a critical ethnographic case study of the role and responsibility of a community music organisation in the UK. Doctoral thesis, York St John University.

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Abstract

Community musicians are often understood as having a passion and vision for cultural democracy, underpinned by values privileging access, inclusion and equity as an imperative for being there. In this study, I work with a community music organisation through a critical ethnographic case study to consider the role and responsibility of being a cultural leader within the UK arts and cultural sector. Working with Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and Lee Higgins’ conceptualisation of community music as hospitality, I suggest that hegemonic participatory practices that privilege uneven frameworks for decision making have stimulated a culture that positions cultural leaders as gatekeepers between policy and participation and risks distancing them from a pedagogical imperative for being there: cultural democracy. Through this, cultural leaders develop competencies to ‘play the game of culture’, which contribute to reproductions of top-down decision making frameworks. Despite this, I suggest that when gatekeepers are driven by a passion and vision for access, inclusion and equity, the dissonance of these practices create tensions. Through historical analysis, a literature discussion and three units of analysis documenting fieldwork, I outline ways that these tensions play out and suggest that this opens possibilities to reconsider what the powerful position of cultural leadership can do and why. I suggest that cultural leadership, when considered through pedagogical approaches to community music, may support reflexive and critical positions of strategic leadership. Through this, cultural leaders confront new ways to think about ‘why’ ‘how’ and ‘with whom’, routed through, and more in-step with, their passion and vision. I suggest this is ‘critical cultural leadership’, an activist process of going beyond established practices, which works towards ‘common ground’, sites of decision making unfamiliar to all but more representative of the plurality of ways that participation is experienced, in situ, by those impacted by participation policies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Status: Published
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5046

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