Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 through a Headphone Verbatim lens
: A Study into Civic Pride

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Through a headphone verbatim ‘lens’ this study investigates the impact that a UK City of Culture (UKCC) programme of work may have on the behavioural manifestations of ‘civic pride’ amongst residents of Coventry before, and during its titular year in 2021, conducted through a practice research methodology. In particular, the thesis explores civic pride and how it manifests as a measurement of ‘success’ when considering indicators of social change (Collins 2017). As a result, I have identified key behavioural dimensions that indicate how levels of civic pride amongst citizens might shift and change during a UKCC year. I discuss how evaluation reports and studies into past UKCC programmes have discourses rooted in research fields such as sociology, human geography, and economic disciplines (Myerscough 1992, Garcia 2005, Derry City & Strabane District Council 2016, Culture, Place & Policy Institute 2019). Of these, the majority have used quantitative methods with few examples of qualitative studies. Further, of the few qualitative studies, key stakeholders appear to be the focus, whereas community-based participants and citizens are rarely given a voice. This, I argue places limits on evidence that can better inform cultural policymakers and programme evaluators alike. Crucially, to date there are virtually no arts-based practice research studies that explore the impact of a UKCC programme on host city residents. This thesis responds directly to that gap by arguing for, and giving an account of the development of, an experimental practice research design and output model. I introduce this model as ‘Evaluative Performance’, a term that encapsulates this project’s utilization of theatre practice, and specifically headphone verbatim as a useful, and innovative way to collect, analyse and communicate personal stories of citizens that are currently lacking in research evaluations, and wider policymaking agendas (UK Civil Service 2021). I provide an account of my testing of this model through the development of a piece of practice research by way of headphone verbatim performance. Throughout this testing, I question contemporary considerations of ‘authenticity’ by drawing on scholarly accounts of philosophical thought (Lyotard 1984), and headphone verbatim practice (Fisher 2011, Kinghorn 2017, Schulze 2017). The project makes a novel contribution to knowledge surrounding evaluation practices, specifically on the importance of the affectual experience of citizens when investigating civic pride through arts-based methodologies. Reciprocally, by taking headphone verbatim out of a traditional storytelling mode, I offer new insights to the application of practice research and headphone verbatim scholarship. These contributions, briefly, are i) understandings of what civic pride means, within the context of UKCC programmes; ii) understanding the wider affordances and potential applications for headphone verbatim within an experimental evaluative context; and iii) the value and importance of participatory engagement in the production of performance for public engagement in evaluation processes.

Date of AwardSept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor), Nick Henry (Supervisor) & Susanne Foellmer (Supervisor)

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