Call for Papers

A national conference underpinned by learning from the AHRC FailSpace Project, examining how the cultural sector can better identify, acknowledge, and learn from failure

 

Date: 7th of December 2022
Venue: Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (https://www.qmu.ac.uk/location-and-getting-here/)

Over the last 3 years the FailSpace team have been examining how the cultural sector can better identify, acknowledge, and learn from failure. What we have found through our research is a cultural landscape that is not conducive to honesty or critical reflection about failures; a problem that exists not only in the cultural sector but across much of public policy.

 

A lack of trust and open dialogue between participants, artists, organisations, and funders, fuelled by a fear of losing funding, future work, or professional reputation encourages narratives of success as a self-defensive act of blame avoidance.  But this discourages risk taking, encourages repetition of past mistakes and results in a failure to learn that limits significant change.

 

We also argue that the prevalence of these ‘feel-good’ narratives and the tendency to overstate impacts through uncritical stories of success risks undermining the credibility of arguments about why state subsidies for public services, including arts and culture, are necessary.

 

In response, we developed a framework for talking about failure (https://failspaceproject.co.uk/) which we hope will help to normalise conversations about the failures that inevitably occur in cultural projects and policies, where outright success or failure is rare. Our framework encourages people to consider success and failure across a range of facets, along a spectrum of degrees, over different timescales and from the perspective of different stakeholders, with differing value systems – for a policy or project that succeeds for one group, community, or organisation might fail for another.

 

Over the course of 2022 we will be continuing to work with several cultural organisations, funders, and artists to explore ways in which we can embedded a commitment to talking openly about failures into the processes and practices of the cultural sector, recognising the potential for learning and change that such openness and honesty can engender. This conference will reflect on that work, providing opportunities to hear from our partner organisations and FailSpace Champions about the challenges of adopting a more honest approach to failure and the benefits that it can bring. We hope that the conference offers an opportunity to share learning and challenge the current dominant narratives of success.

 

We hope to complement these discussions with inputs from other academics, policymakers, and practitioners, both professional and amateur, who have a perspective on the role and value of failure regarding cultural policy as well as across wider public policy areas. We see this as building upon the work published as part of a special edition in 2020 (https://sciendo.com/issue/TJCP/7/2). We therefore invite empirical, theoretical and practice informed contributions from across a range of disciplines.

 

Topics may include, but need not be confined to, the following:

 

  • Case studies of failure in cultural participation projects/policies
  • The value and role of recognising, understanding, and learning from failure for policymaking
  • Defining and recognising failure in relation to creative practice and/or cultural policy
  • The relationship between risk and failure in relation to creative practice and/or cultural policy
  • Failures of leadership/governance in the cultural sector
  • Case studies of organisational failure in the cultural sector
  • The politics of failure
  • The psychology of failure
  • The morality and ethics of failure in policymaking
  • Evaluating and reporting on failures in cultural projects and policies
  • The relationship between quality and failure in relation to creative practice and/or cultural policy
  • Framing failures in policy and project evaluations
  • Discourses of failure and success in cultural policy

 

We will consider presentations, panels, and workshop-based activities. All proposals will undergo peer review for final selection in the conference programme. We intend for this event to happen in person (subject to any Covid-19 related restrictions that may be in force at the time) as such, there is not an option to present online.

 

How to submit a proposal

 

By the 17th of June 2022, please complete your proposal online at: https://forms.office.com/r/ivH69xjCss where you will be asked to provide us with:

 

  • an outline or abstract of no more than 500 words describing what you would like to present or offer the conference
  • a biog of no more than 100 words for all those who would be involved

 

Should you have any questions about the conference, please contact Lizzie Ridley –  pc16ewr@leeds.ac.uk. The selection of paper presentations and sessions will be announced by the end of July 2022.