Sport in the Arts: the Arts in Sport

An AHRC funded research network

Jonathan Long

In 2013 the LSA published the papers from the first Fields of Vision conference and last year the Newsletter carried a report about the symposium at Magic Weekend.  We have now been successful in winning AHRC funding for a research network considering ‘Sport in the Arts: the Arts in Sport’.

The worlds of the arts and sport are commonly separated in academic study, research, professional practice and cultural policy, even though they both lie within the remit of a single department of Government (Department for Culture, Media and Sport). The proposed collaborative network will engage arts and sport practitioners and policy makers in dialogue with scholars and researchers to examine the potential benefits and arrive at a common declaration of principles and practice.

We shall then invite a wide range of individuals and organisations to become signatories.

The objectives for this initiative are to:

  1.  examine critically the potential economic, social and cultural benefits from bringing together sport and the arts;
  2.  foster collaboration and new work between researchers working in the fields of sport and the arts, across different disciplines, in part also to begin to address a significant gap in existing research studies in this field;
  3.  draw together academics, policy makers, professionals and practitioners working in the fields of sport and the arts and contribute to a shared understanding of synergies and benefits of co-operation.

To that end the network will consider the propositions that:

  1.  links between the arts and sport can enhance strategies to increase participation in each and promote cultural citizenship. [The reason for such a proposal lies in part in the belief that sports projects can appeal to social groups with lower income and educational levels, who are often put off by the air of exclusivity and high ‘cultural capital’ requirements characterising traditional arts activities. Moreover, competition may be used as a tool for enhancing participation as part of cultural citizenship strategies. Equally the arts may play a part in changing the sporting experience and widening audiences for sport, by communicating alternative messages about what sport is and suggesting new ways of representing, critiquing and understanding sport activities];
  2.  collaborations between sport and the arts can stimulate cultural experimentation, and be aesthetically innovative;
  3.  arts-sports projects offer opportunities to overcome the mind-body duality, and can produce physical and mental health and well-being benefits, for instance as part of responses to problems generated by sedentary lifestyles, including the growing issue of obesity.

The network will run a series of three seminars (in Manchester, Bristol and Leeds) on themes suggested by current theoretical and policy concerns:

  1. Participation and audiences, National Football Museum, Manchester, 28th June, 2016.
  2. Aesthetics and representation, The Watershed, Bristol, 6th September, 2016
  3. Well-being, social capital and cultural citizenship, The Pavilion, Headingley stadium, Leeds, 16th January, 2017.

A further theme, cutting across all our seminars, is how to redress the separation of the arts and sport at the level of national, regional and local policy-making. Arts and sports managers and policy-makers have different types of training, professional associations, qualifications, conferences and networks. Outcomes from the network’s activities will contribute to both professional areas separately, but more importantly draw them closer. The need for this is emphasised by the cuts in public expenditure introduced as a result of austerity policies that are bringing about the need for integration and dialogue between these related but different professional worlds. We will therefore investigate the possibility of integrated forms of arts-sport skills development for both project managers and policy makers. We will also explore appropriate managerial ideas in the arts and apply them to sport, and vice versa.

Disseminated outputs from the network will include a website, social media communications, academic papers and a special issue of a journal. These will culminate in a Declaration to provide the first step towards a common arts-sport manifesto.

The LSA has been invited to nominate two members to attend these events with expenses paid;  anyone who would   like to attend should contact Bob Snape at




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