Miss Emily Hopkins

Supervised by

  • Oli Mould First/primary/lead supervisor

    1/10/17 → …

Personal profile

I am a PhD researcher in urban and cultural geographies, based within the Centre for the GeoHumanities. Supported by the ESRC, my thesis is titled ‘Creating the Ordinary City: The Making of Place and Community in Coventry, UK City of Culture 2021’. This aims to build upon previous research on the creative city by analysing the governance practices and lived experiences of culture-led regeneration.

Attending to the UK City of Culture competition ran by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the work looks at my home city of Coventry as it applies creative placemaking strategies which have been further supported by its successful bid to become UKCofC202. Data collection occurred during the build-up period in 2019 – a time of intense strategy development, as decisionmakers and creative communities prepare for the upcoming celebratory year in 2021. The UKCoC competition has arguably become synonymously linked with post-industrial cities, whereby the cultural and creative industries are framed as a remedy to economic and urban decline. By studying Coventry, this work studies the application of creative regeneration practices through the lens of an ‘ordinary’, mid-sized city, and the impacts of these policies in places which face the challenges of industrial closure, austerity politics, territorial stigma and deep-rooted social inequality.

As the popularity of these cultural competitions increases, there is a need to further understand how and why smaller cities are choosing to deliver creative interventions. This builds upon previous research on the creative city by moving beyond the global ‘superstar’ narrative and analysing ‘off-the-map’ places, which are applying a similar style of tactics. These often commercial and competitive approaches highlight the wider influence of urban entrepreneurialism, whereby activity is governed by forces largely interested in facilitating neoliberal imperatives. Looking beyond the ‘hard evidence’ typically sought from economic evaluations, this qualitative analysis focuses on the nuanced and tacit sociocultural outcomes emerging from ephemeral cultural titles. This challenges the wider monitoring and evaluation of the cultural megaevent, which is often critically averse due to the immense pressures placed on delivering transformative change in such a short space of time.

Using ethnographic methods influenced by my own positionality as a Coventrian, the data is interested in documenting internal narratives from those within the city, which arguably captures a more accurate sense of place. A year-long embedded ethnography within a local creative industries network aimed to build a relational picture of the build-up period from the perspective of those involved with independent cultural production and engagement activities – ultimately, those foregrounded as some of the key beneficiaries of the competition. In particular, this study focused on interactions with and between cultural organisations with varying levels of involvement with the bidding process and the early programming. The immersive and everyday nature of the methods also exposed the vernacular and amateur creativities which can be lost - or co-opted - within commercially oriented evaluations.

During my PhD, I have presented my research at the London Festival of Architecture (2018) and the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference (2018, 2019). I have also completed a three-month Overseas Institutional Visit to the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where I studied cultural tastemaking under the supervision of Dr. Richard Ocejo. 

Throughout 2019, I was involved with various site visits as part of the Creative Industries Councils' 'Revitalising Small Cities' project, where I contributed through roundtable participation and blog post summaries. In 2020, I undertook a UKRI Policy Internship within the DCMS Place and Analytical Spoke teams. Over three months, I produced a Rapid Evidence Assessment titled 'Cultural Interventions in Towns'. I currently sit as a postgraduate member of the AHRC Cities of Culture Research Network, and as a board member for the Photo Archive Miners - a visual arts organisation in Coventry who co-produce narratives of place with local communities using photographic resources. 

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