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Video Blog – Toby talks CUROP

Two months spent on Creative Cardiff as part of a Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme really paid off. So what is it and why should you consider one yourself?

In this vlog I attempt to answer those exact questions, and in the article that follows, I’ve also added some personal thoughts in regards to the importance of Creative Cardiff. As always with my content here, every opinion is entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect that of Cardiff University.

Among the many things that I have learnt over the past two months, one has left a particular impression. That is, if you tell someone that you’ve been ‘researching’ full-time, it doesn’t result in a particularly exuberant response.

Should I have expected one? For those outside of the academic institution, the term ‘research’ can bring with it negative connotations, and not all are entirely unfair. I don’t think research is always the best at justifying itself in layman terms, and this a problem when many who arrive at it are coming from a culture where austerity is preached from the heavens and – from a student perspective – many readers will be staring down the barrel of a debt-loaded shotgun. Given the circumstances, they think, why is research permitted to soak up funds while real people are being hung out to dry?

It’s an understandable perspective, if a reductionist one. Although the necessity of specific research will always remain a matter of perspective, it’s important that we don’t write off research on kneejerk judgements without adequately understanding what it can offer.

Take Cardiff University’s’ ‘Creative Cardiff’ project, for example. In brief, its fundamental goal is to research the media landscape of the capital (from businesses to freelancers) to make Cardiff the most creative place it can be. This ranges from building a creative network where stakeholders in the industry can connect and collaborate to discovering what the city offers for graduating media students looking to get their foot in the door.

Although a project of this kind has never been attempted before, having worked on it for two months I fully believe in both the project’s aims and the people that are striving towards them.  I understand that my opinion might not translate to your belief in the necessity of such a project (especially if you’re not part of Cardiff’s creative economy and / or never intend to be) but please believe that this project matters enough – to enough people – to justify its presence, and I say this with the benefit of having had the opportunity to talk extensively to those within Cardiff’s creative economy.

Perhaps my words mean very little. Ultimately, as a student wishing to enter the creative industry myself and having been funded by the University to contribute to it, my opinion regarding the project will always be subject to accusations of bias.  As such, I’d urge you to watch two films of two events; both of which we laid on for creative people in the city.

What do the pictures show? They show people coming together to communicate, engage, and have a good time. Every attendee to each had some sort of stake in the creative economy and benefitted from the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals to share their ideas and perspectives. If nothing else, this highlights the value of a research project that breaks away from the traditional perception of the ivory tower and gets ‘on the streets’ to discover what the subjects of the research really want from it.

This is one of the project’s greatest parts, in my opinion. I’ve been guilty of being a research sceptic in the past (hasn’t everyone?) but what strikes me about Creative Cardiff is how progressive it seems. The stereotype dictates that research must be conducted in a darkened room by individuals who do not see sunlight for days, and although it’s a clearly ridiculous image, it’s surprisingly pervasive. Heck, it’s part of the reason why I had doubts applying for a research summer job in the first place.

As such, I cannot describe how refreshing it was for my pre-determined judgement to be thrown out the window. Although Creative Cardiff has very specific goals in regards to the creative economy, I believe that its impact should – and will – be felt extremely widely. It sets a precedent for the use of a relatively untested research method (‘mapping’) and sets a standard for what modern research needs to do in order to justify the money being devoted to it. Closed doors are becoming increasingly intolerable in a world where spending transparency is becoming paramount, and Creative Cardiff is one of the projects that is leading the way in terms of inviting individuals outside of the traditional academic institution to interact and engage with it.

I’ve said enough, but if you’d like to know more, then please visit the Creative Cardiff website. I hope that even if this project will not impact you directly, you will be able to empathise with those who it will.



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