What We Learnt in 2017
After closing on an intensely eventful and exciting pilot year of arts and cultural activity in 2017 – during which we supported 39 projects with around 400 events across a range of art forms all over the UK – we have been busy working out next steps for Amal.
Rigorous evaluation of the projects formed the basis of a findings report that was published in April 2018. The report evidences the impact that can be achieved through arts and cultural engagement in increasing understanding of Britain’s Muslim communities among people of other faiths and none, and fostering a stronger sense of belonging in the UK among its Muslim communities.
The main findings were:
1. Creating moments of convergence for Muslims and people of other faiths and none, to encounter each other through the medium of arts and culture helps to open minds and forge common ground. The more participative and sustained the “encounter” with the arts and between communities, the deeper the impact.
2. Providing young Muslims with the opportunity to express themselves through the arts, particularly through drama/storytelling/poetry, helps raise their aspirations and build their confidence and sense of belonging. Using contemporary art idioms and platforms (as opposed to traditional ones) is particularly effective as a tool for engaging both audiences and participants.
3. There is value in engaging with audiences who do not regard Muslims particularly negatively and/or in a monolithic way because many of them nevertheless have few opportunities for genuine engagement with Muslims; they go away from such “encounters” with a deeper understanding which they pass on to others.
4. Representation of Muslims on stages and screens challenges negative perceptions on the one hand and provides role models for young Muslims to aspire to on the other.
5. The networks and incentives needed for Muslims to progress in the creative sectors are currently barely being supported by either British Muslim communities or public funders and new content featuring Muslims often reinforces prejudice by portraying stereotypes.
6. Targeted funding can influence the thinking and approach of arts organisations and other funders. Mainstreaming Muslim cultural production provides opportunities to showcase artists, performers and participants that, without the funding, would simply not be possible for them.
You can read the report in full here.