The concepts of Britishness and British values are repeatedly invoked by UK politicians across the political spectrum, particularly in relation to rapid socio-cultural change connected to immigration. Community cohesion, national identity, citizenship education and the perceived need to promote belonging and shared values are high on the political agenda.
The potential importance of this research to these debates, to policy makers, government agencies and politicians is therefore very great. This is indicated by our partnerships with Demos, the Refugee Council and Refugee Action. They will support the widest possible dissemination of the research at national level to enhance its impact on public policy.
Our local partners, both public sector and private (Museum, Libraries, Albion Football Club, Glyndebourne etc) see this project as an important means of increasing the effectiveness of their service and making it more accessible and
appropriate to a broader community. This impact will be generated through their learning from participants during the project and from the findings of the research. The project will therefore be shaping professional practice in a wide range of cultural and organisational settings. The resulting enhancement to services will benefit the wider public, including marginalised groups.
Perhaps our most immediate impact will be the personal impact on the participants themselves. We hope to enhance quality of life and improve mental health among a group who statistically manage very high levels of stress, depression and anxiety (Refugee Council 2007). Using arts and culture to widen experience we hope to improve both their, and our, understanding of difference and place in the world.
Despite refugees in some ways constituting a unique case, the empirical material gathered has transferable viability. Does the way a migrant might acculturate values through participation in the arts have implication for how ‘native’ audiences also accumulate values? We hypothesize that it does, but that the outsider/stranger perspective of the migrant may make such processes more visible or conscious. The research will throw up a number of questions that we would like to push forward for future investigation.
Other opportunities for impact will be provided by a guide for those working with refugees on how to design effective and meaningful arts-based projects; a project website hosted by SCCS; a touring exhibition installed in the foyers of Brighton Library, the Brighton Unitarian Church, the Friends Adult Education Centre and Sussex University Meeting House. The exhibitions will increase public awareness of difference and diversity, impacting on tolerance and social cohesion.