Staffordshire and Keele Universities join forces to create a Cultural Observatory

Posted on 29 September 2017

Staffordshire and Keele Universities have come together to establish a Cultural Observatory which will play a leading role in Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021.

Through the work of the Cultural Observatory, the two universities will play a vital role in evaluating the powerful impacts that a year-long festival of culture will have on and for the city. 

The Cultural Observatory for Stoke-on-Trent brings together academic specialists in arts, culture, history and public engagement, working in partnership with communities and major providers from the cultural sector, such as the New Vic Theatre, B-Arts and the British Ceramics Biennial.

Cultural Observatory group

Picture: Members of the Cultural Observatory meet to discuss Stoke-on-Trent City of Culture

Professor David Amigoni, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Keele University, explains:

“The Cultural Observatory builds on the work already undertaken in preparing the City of Culture bid; establishing baselines, benchmarking against national and international comparators, and carrying these through the years to 2021, delivery and into the future. It forms a crucial part of the build-up process as well as a component of our permanent legacy.”

The Cultural Observatory will include research into tourism, health and wellbeing, economic impact, educational aspiration, and cultural engagement, and will draw on existing expertise including the Centre for Health & Development & Creative Communities Unit (Staffordshire University) and the Community Animation & Social Innovation Centre & Centre for theUnderstanding of Sustainable Prosperity (Keele University).

Professor Ieuan Ellis, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Partnerships and Region, Staffordshire University, explains:

"We are laying the foundations to be a new, national exemplar for the evaluation of a major cultural programme. The Cultural Observatory will build the national knowledge bank around the importance and contribution of culture to economic and social wellbeing, and develop indicators for ongoing use across the country.”

Academic expertise in the Cultural Observatory will be complemented by engaging communities as researchers, not just respondents, and working with cultural and other partners in evaluation of the programme. These community researchers, evolving out of the Community Advisory Network and the City’s Cultural Forum, and trained using the established ‘Get Talking’ methodology of Staffordshire University, will ensure that the work of the Cultural Observatory is ‘research for and with, not on’ local people.”

Councillor Abi Brown, Chair of the bid, comments:

“On the day when we submit our full and final UK City of Culture 2021 bid, it is great news to see the new evaluation unit, which has taken months of hard work, officially established.

“Understanding the tangible benefits both socially and economically for the area is critical. We are confident that this would take the work of Hull2017 to the next level for the benefit of the whole of the UK.”

For more information about the bid, visit