Keeping it Real? Research as Intervention, Youth Activism and Community Empowerment via the use of Participatory Arts: Research Project

Academic Lead: Dr Ornette D Clennon

Related Posts

Keeping it Real? Applied Critical theory research and Community arts activism

Campaign to Save the Nello James Centre

Publications and Outputs

Click here.

AHRC Funded

We wanted to see if working creatively with music and video to discuss discursive issues around race, culture and representation would actually translate into measurable outcomes around perceptions of crime, offending behaviour and wellbeing.

All photos courtesy of Blue Matthews-Mason

The Intervention

Through the provision of participatory activities that included creative writing, song and video workshops, over 5 three-hour sessions participants were encouraged to make pieces of work that explored their views of race, youth and representation and the impact these issues had on their anti-social behaviour or view of anti-social behaviour.

sketches for the lyrics

Participants were also informally interviewed during the creative sessions in order to background the work they had created. Participants were split into two groups; “test group” and “control group”.

The test group took part in the music activity and used music to reflect on their offending behaviour or attitudes towards offending behaviour. The other group took part in a video making activity and only learned video making skills, with no critical reflection of the issues. We treated this group as the control group. The control group made a short video of the test group’s creative processes.

songwriting around the piano

The Participants

The study population was a random sample of young people between the ages of 16 – 24yrs (n=20) from the Blackpool and Greater Manchester areas. The test group had n=10 members with n=1 participant who was an ex-offender. The control had n=10 participants with n=3 who were ex-offenders. We had a 75 per cent return rate of questionnaires, as five participants decided to leave after the first session. All participants 16 – 17yrs were given consent forms for their carers/parents to sign before they participated in the study. This ensured that the parents/carers were informed of the exact nature of the research and that they were happy for their young people to participate.

IMG-20151106-WA0003 (1)
lights, camera, action!


The design was quasi-experimental (the young people self-selected the video or music groups upon application to participate) using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. We administered Crime-Pics II (Frude et al. 1994) to all the young people participating in the study before and after the intervention. The questionnaire was administered verbally on an individual basis and questions were rephrased in an age appropriate manner when necessary. Crime-Pics II generates five scales. Four are generated by attitudinal questions and the fifth explores a problem inventory. The scales are scored in such a way as to denote a greater ‘deviant’ or ‘criminal’ attitude with higher scores than lower scores.

Scales General attitude

(G) Measures the offender’s general attitude towards offending. A low score indicates that the individual believes that an offending lifestyle is not desirable Anticipation of future offending

(A) Measures the offender’s anticipation of reoffending. A low score suggests that the individual does not anticipate reoffending Victim empathy

(V) Measures the offender’s attitude towards his or her victims – whether they believe they have caused any harm. A low score indicates that the individual recognises their actions have an impact on victims, directly or indirectly i.e. higher victim empathy Evaluation of crime as worthwhile

(E) Measures the offender’s evaluation of crime being worthwhile. A low score indicates that the individual perceives the cost of crime as being greater than its rewards Problem inventory

(P) This problem inventory measures the offender’s perceptions of their current problems (e.g. money, relationships, housing, etc.). The higher the score, the greater the number and gravity of identified problems. However, caution should be taken when interpreting these results as an increase may also indicate better problem identification skills.

We also used the ‘Map of Me’ graffiti chart. The graffiti chart was developed in 2005 in my work at HMPYOI Werrington. Interviewees were encouraged to give each quadrant of a four-box grid a name of an issue that was of most importance to them in the interview. The interviewees were then encouraged to write or draw sub-issues under the title of their quadrants that gave further explanation of their chosen issues. Finally, interviewees were asked if they could make links between the issues and sub issues by drawing connecting arrows that described the relationship. The end result was a map of the interviewees’ current issues of importance in the session.

Werrington Map of Me (2)
an example of a Map of Me

The chart generates ranks according to the number of times an issue is mentioned pre- and post-intervention. The more times an issue has been mentioned post-intervention, the more important it is deemed to the participant, the higher it is ranked. The converse is also true. The ‘Map of Me’ graffiti chart was drawn by interviewees at the beginning and at the end of the intervention. The chart was also drawn after the completion of the Crime-Pics II questionnaire, which meant that if there were any significant issues arising from the questionnaire, especially from the problem inventory section, there was an opportunity to explore them further in the graffiti chart. The chart was administered on an individual basis.

Data Analysis

The pilot study used a mixed mode of data analysis. The quantitative data was entered into the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) and validated by an independent observer who will screen check each entry. Analysis was carried out by using descriptive statistics and the Pearson’s r-correlation (r) and Spearman’s rank correlation (rho). My main measurement of pre- and postintervention correlation and significance was Pearson’s rcorrelation with a measurement for p. However, I  found it useful to test the distribution and statistical significance of the data with Spearman’s rank, especially when working with my ranked results from ‘Map of Me’.


The participants reported that the project had increased their feelings of well-being. One participant especially noted that the project had helped her to manage her anxiety attacks more effectively. Other participants noted how the group formed important social bonds that made the group feel like a “family”. Although not directly attributable to the intervention, at the moment, previous studies (e.g. Clennon, 2013) indicate that increased well-being and feelings of social connection are likely to have a small but measurable positive impact on attitudes towards offending behaviour, especially shown by the V and A scores of the Crime-Pics II.

6th International Conference on Community Psychology (6ICCP)

I also gave a presentation about this project at this conference in Durban, RSA. My presentation explored the hidden processes of co-production behind the research, which in my paper were called ‘process measures’. These measures were significant because the research and the intervention played a significant role in a wider piece of community activism to save a local community centre.

My presentation outlined the inherent tensions between research and community activism, as their process measures often had conflicting agendas that needed to be harmonised towards an effective outcome.

Here is the ppt.

The published paper from the presentation will follow shortly.

Here is some of the buzz from twitter

Related Posts

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NEWS RELEASE – KEEPING IT REAL? Being Human Festival 2015

Black Hyper-Masculinity, its Interiority and the Importance for Black Leadership and Black Activism: Decolonise not Diversify, 8.10.16

What’s the problem with Black Masculinities?

“Who Got the Juice?”: The importance of black hypermasculinity to racial capitalism


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