The role of the contemporary urban arts centre
This full-time three-year PhD studentship, which starts in September 2016, is fully-funded by the ESRC CASE studentship scheme in conjunction with Bluecoat (an arts centre in Liverpool city centre).
CASE studentships involve a PhD researcher working in partnership with a collaborative partner from outside of the Higher Education sector to undertake a programme of academic study relevant to the organisation's field of activity. In general, this funding scheme creates an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to undertake a PhD in a professional context and to produce a thesis that will resonate both inside and outside the academic field. Regarding this particular studentship, the academic supervisors - Drs Paul Jones (Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology) and Yiota Vassilopoulou (Department of Philosophy) - have well-established research and teaching links with Bluecoat and with Bryan Biggs, the arts centre's Artistic Director and co-supervisor of this doctoral project.
The aim of the project is to critically examine the role of the contemporary urban arts centre. Arts centres are sites that are bound up with cultural dialogue in ways that go far beyond just the display and appreciation of art; this research will connect theoretical appreciation concerning the cultural constitution of publics with empirical study of the practical social role of art centres in contemporary cities. Bluecoat, which is one of the longest-established arts venues in the UK and was arguably the first multi-artform arts centre, will serve as a case study for the project. Ethnographic analysis of Bluecoat will span the building's 300th anniversary in 2017, and will see observation focused on the interactions between people and things that animate the site and constitute it as a social and artistic space. In addition to the ethnographic component of the research, an archival element will address the ways in which Bluecoat has been represented at key points throughout its long and fascinating history.
Against this backdrop, the project is likely to address the following three research areas:
1. By drawing together the currently-disparate academic research literature on arts centres vis-a-vis urban cultural production, to question theoretically the characteristics of the contemporary urban arts centre;
2. To develop an ethnography of the ‘art world’ (Becker,  2008) of Bluecoat through study of the practices – crucially including ones not typically understood as 'artistic' – and objects that are constitutive of the site;
3. Via analysis of unique archives pertaining to Bluecoat, to interrogate the ways in which this arts centre has been represented in local and national media and political debate at three key points in the twentieth century (these are to be determined after initial research in the archives).
• Applicants must hold a Bachelors degree equivalent to a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours UK degree;
• Applicants must also have (or be reasonably expected to gain) a Masters degree/overseas equivalent at minimum Merit level, so with a coursework/examination average of 60% or more and a dissertation mark of 60% or more, in a relevant discipline such as sociology, anthropology, or geography. The Masters degree needs to be ESRC recognised or alternatively to contain a substantial research methods training component (in the absence of such training the candidate will need to evidence extensive research experience at a comparable level);
• Applicants will preferably have an existing academic interest in arts policy and practice, and be willing to engage in multi-disciplinary thinking and analysis of such. Knowledge of relevant academic debates as they apply to the research topic will be of significant advantage;
• Candidates must satisfy the ESRC's academic and residential eligibility requirements; find out more about this here: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/skills-and-careers/studentships/prospective-students/am-i-eligible-for-an-esrc-studentship
The studentship covers academic fees and provides a stipend (£14,057 in 2015/16 – rate subject to confirmation from the RCUK for 2016/17 onwards).
Enquiries about the vacancy should be directed to: Dr Paul Jones ([Email Address Removed]).
Apply by Monday 8th February 2016 5pm GMT by emailing the following to [Email Address Removed]:
• A full CV, including two named referees (one of whom should be your most recent academic tutor/supervisor)
• A copy of your first degree and Master’s degree transcripts (or anticipated grade if the latter is ongoing)
• A letter of application (not exceeding two pages of A4, double line spaced) outlining your suitability for the CASE studentship, and some reflection on how you would anticipate approaching the research.
Interviews are expected to take place in Liverpool on Monday 15th February or Tuesday 16th February 2016. Candidates invited for interview will be eligible to claim back reasonable travel expenses to attend such.
The successful applicant will also be required to submit a full application to study for a PhD in Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Liverpool and to have been offered a place on the programme by September 1st 2016.