Accessibility statement

WRoCAH-funded PhD opportunity: 'Music making a difference: exploring inclusion and impact in community music networks'

Project 1

Sheffield, Making music, making musicians: exploring access and diversity in leisure-time music-making

Main Academic Supervisor Academic Co-supervisor Partner Organisation
Prof Stephanie Pitts, Music, University of Sheffield Dr Freya Bailes, Music, University of Leeds Ms Barbara Eifler, Chief Executive, Making Music

Project summary

This partnership between the University of Sheffield and Making Music will critically evaluate historical and current models of amateur and community music-making, critiquing the existing division between the 'leisure-time music-making' of (predominantly) white middle class amateur choirs and orchestras, and community projects designed with a more social than musical agenda. Research is needed to examine the benefits and barriers in both types of setting, and to consider how meaningful lifelong musical engagement can be made accessible to a broader sector of the population.

Project description

Making Music (MM) is a membership organisation that provides support for amateur musical groups across the UK, from traditional choral societies and orchestras to community choirs, jazz and world music ensembles. They are active in engaging with researchers to tackle the challenges facing their membership, and two years ago worked with Stephanie Pitts on a national survey looking at the impact of their groups’ activities on their localities. That survey raised many questions that now inform this project, including concerns about sustainability and flexibility in amateur music-making in the light of an ageing constituency, many of whom have followed traditional school- and family-based routes into lifelong musical engagement.

Conversations with MM have highlighted their awareness of diversity and access debates in cultural provision, and their desire to gain understanding of the triggers to musical engagement that are most accessible to today’s young people and adults. They are key contributors, for example, to Make Music day, which would in itself offer a rich source of data collection. The student working with MM will therefore have opportunities to do long-term ethnographic research with MM’s existing membership within reach of Sheffield, and also to reach out to lapsed and potential musical participants through one-off events, including those the student might devise and implement him/herself.

MM use the term ‘points of exclusion’ to talk about the ways in which musical activities become out of reach for a large proportion of the population: these include the challenges of supporting young people to acquire high level musical skills, but also the difficulties of entering new musical worlds as an uninitiated beginner. They are interested (as are all the network supervisors in our own work) in how the aspects of musical participation that appear sociable to established members can feel cliquey to newcomers.

This project will be open to definition by the appointed student, but will address the questions of access and opportunity that present a challenge to MM’s member groups:

  • What routes to lifelong musical participation have been taken by members of the amateur groups in Sheffield and its regions, and how accessible are similar routes to today’s school-leavers?
  • What are the factors in creating a thriving leisure-time music scene in a city, and how are these threatened or supported by current educational and cultural policy?
  • What are the opportunities for tackling ‘points of exclusion’, both within member groups and through wider community-based events?

There is scope for this project to combine quantitative and qualitative methods, but the latter will be particularly encouraged as offering the in-depth understanding of experiences of musical inclusion and exclusion that will supplement data already held by MM on the demographic profile of their members. Working initially with MM members in Sheffield, the student will first seek to understand their practices of membership, rehearsing and performing, and would then aim to work with one or two organisations to make that practice more inclusive and to document this through action research. Gaining the perspectives of currently excluded participants will also be essential to the project, and might come through working with marginalised communities who feel unable to access traditional musical groups, or with music-makers who fall outside the remit of MM’s current activities by virtue of their more informal or less visible structures (or at the overlap between these two).

For more information about this project contact:
Prof Stephanie Pitts (

Learn more about this opportunity at the University of Sheffield.

Project 2

Leeds, All Music Matters: the value of music for creating inclusive communities

Main Academic Supervisor Academic Co-supervisor Partner Organisation
Prof Karen Burland, Music, University of Leeds Dr Martin Suckling, Music, University of York Mr Mark Chilington, Business Developer, Leeds Music Trust

Project summary

Leeds Music Trust is a wide-ranging community organisation providing a variety of musical opportunities to diverse groups across the city. Partnership with them offers the opportunity to critique the 'fit' between the organisation and the communities it serves, addressing the often-neglected question of how music intersects with the wider social experiences of individuals involved in community projects. Detailed studies of specific projects will be complemented by a broader analysis of the potential and challenges of community music interventions, and the particular role that festivals and 'one-off' events play in overcoming the 'points of exclusion' (MM, Project 1) identified across our network of partners.

Project description

The Mission of Leeds Music Trust (LMT) is to provide musical opportunities that are ethical, intergenerational and inclusive. They support young musicians and give disadvantaged people in Leeds access to training, mentoring and skills development. LMT believe that All Music Matters, that it is a powerful force for breaking down social barriers in order to benefit those who participate in their activities and the wider communities of Leeds. LMT provide rehearsal spaces and studio facilities for bands/DJs/individuals, of all abilities and ages, who live in Leeds. They provide resources and training (musical, technical/technological, entrepreneurial, business) for individuals with learning disabilities, mentoring for younger musicians from more established ‘Stars’ (like regulars ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’), and they are involved in interventions aimed at reducing male suicide in the most deprived areas of Leeds. They are also regularly involved in the annual large-scale community festivals. LMT has been operating for nearly 3 decades and whilst it has a wealth of anecdotal evidence relating to the impact it has had on the individuals that pass through its doors, the organisation wishes to understand this in more detail. This project therefore aims to address the following research questions:

  1. What impact does LMT’s work have on the range and diversity of people who engage with its activities and resources?

  2. What impact does LMT have in the local community, and the wider region? Is the impact reciprocal (i.e. does the community impact on the work of LMT, and in
      what ways)?

  3. What is the long-term impact of its work with individuals?

  4. What factors contribute to the impact of LMT’s work?

  5. How does LMT’s work fit within a wider network of musical and non-musical opportunities for those groups of people it aims to reach?

The academic team involved in the research are leaders in understanding the value of musical participation through qualitative research methods. Their work to date has primarily focused on amateur music-making in classical contexts by individuals from a more privileged socioeconomic status, but this work now needs to be complemented by work which looks at those who don’t have the disposable income to subsidise their musical interests, who cannot access other forms of amateur music-making, or who might find accessing other groups challenging for a variety or personal or social reasons. It also responds to research which highlights the value of music for addressing social inclusion and respect for diversity, particularly in the most challenging of geographic regions (Odena, 2007). In a social climate in which continued and meaningful access to music for all is diminishing through changes in the school curriculum (Carol & Gill, 2017), it is important for organisations like LMT to understand the extent and source of its value – for individuals and their communities - in order to continue to make convincing cases for support and funding.
The research will be designed in collaboration with the research student, and whilst the research questions are outlined here, the precise ways in which these will be addressed may change. The methods that may be involved are as follows:

  • Semi-structured interviews with participants (past and present), community leaders, organisational leadership, partner organisations;
  • Observation of activities (particularly festival and community-focused events);
  • Longitudinal surveys/interviews with previous participants of LMT provision;
  • Diary studies with current participants

The data are primarily qualitative and as they aim to understand the experience of the individuals as well as the source of the impact, it is likely that a rich and detailed analytic tool like Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis will be used.

For more information about this project contact
Prof Karen Burland (

Project 3

York, Creative collaboration: York Music Hub

Main Academic Supervisor Academic Co-supervisor Partner Organisation
Dr Liz Haddon, Music Department, University of York Dr Fay Hield, Music Department, University of Sheffield Ms Molly Newton, Co-manager, York Music Hub

Project summary

This project seeks to explore the activities of the York Music Hub with a particular focus on the inter-relationship between the organisation’s activities and the engagement of local participants, investigating policy, delivery, reception, creative collaboration and further development of the organisation.

Project description

York Music Hub describes itself as ‘a strong, inclusive partnership of key providers of music education within the city of York. Through our partnership of organisations and schools and wider musical networks, we set out to provide and sustain musical diversity and excellence and to enhance the education, life experience and self confidence of children and young people through music making’. YMH is funded by the Department of Education, administered by Arts Council England as part of the National Plan for Music Education. In 2018 the Hub underwent a change of management with Craig Brown and Molly Newton to be employed as part-time co-managers from September 2018. Both are highly experienced musicians/educators and have a long history of working in York, enabling community groups to access music (Newton) and working with school groups and informal learners (Brown). The new managers acknowledge that this situation brings potential for exciting developments. YMH has a designated fund for commissioning new projects which could involve developing and sustaining access for disadvantaged young people to music. Therefore, there is scope for the involvement of a PhD student (viewed as highly desirable by managers and trustees alike) to study the development of the organisation, its connections with other stakeholders, challenges, strategies and outcomes of processes initiated by the new managers, and for the researcher to document, analyse and evaluate the construction, delivery and outcomes of specific projects enabled through the commissioning fund. The project will therefore aim to address the following research questions:

  1. What are the challenges for a developing organisation and how are an organisation’s vision, strategy and goals generated, realised and evaluated?

  2. What impact does YMH have on the local community? For example, do the activities of YMH extend to creating self-actualising communities of practice within the
      wider community?

  3. How are individuals working with the organisation supported, and is the work sustainable?

The research questions will be further refined through discussion between researcher, YMH and the network supervisors to ensure that they will be meaningful, relevant and realistic at the point of commencement of the project. Brown and Newton are acutely aware of the need to strategically and operationally improve the work of YMH and are extremely open to the involvement of a PhD student and research network to help develop their work and to benefit the community, as well as to develop awareness of the complexities of working in this area, which will be valuable to researchers and practitioners. This presents a rare opportunity for a researcher to be embedded early on in a new operational phase of a community arts organisation.

The supervisory team is experienced in qualitative research methods and in practice-based work, outreach and impact, which enables them to support a PhD researcher in devising and delivering projects, e.g. through creating musical work to engage a particular sector of the community, or through generating documentation of existing practice leading to development of new strategies e.g. explored through the ways in which practitioner-musicians communicate with participants, or how musical tools such as instruments are deployed. Exploring the research questions through a practical project could enable the researcher to probe particular areas such as feasibility, reception and evaluation which could be advantageous to the future work of YMH and of research value. It is envisaged that the project will utilise qualitative research methods, which aligns strongly with the work of the principal York supervisor; data collection may include semi-structured interviews with YMH managers and participants, observation of activities and reflective diaries.

For more information about this project contact:
Dr Liz Haddon (

How to apply

How to apply

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) Studentships are open to UK nationals, or EU nationals who have resided in the UK for three years or more. These studentships will run from October 2019 for 3 years full-time, or 6 years part-time. Applicants will need to meet the high standards required for AHRC funding, typically a Master’s degree with distinction, and/or equivalent excellence in work experience or other achievements.

Applicants are advised to contact the network lead (Liz Haddon) and/or the project supervisors (see project descriptions below) to discuss their application in the first instance. Please also refer to the details of the award and application process as set out by WRoCAH

Please note that this application is a two-step process:

Step 1

Apply to the network to be selected as our candidate for your chosen project.

Send a draft application directly by email to the supervisor of your chosen project by 5pm on Monday 17 December 2018.

Download the form to complete your draft application
WRoCAH-AHRC-Competition-Studentship-Application-2019 (MS Word , 24kb)

Step 2

In the second step, we work with the successful candidates to develop your funding application for the main WRoCAH competition, which closes 5pm Wednesday 23 January 2019.

Successful studentships will be announced in April 2019.

Date of interviews: Thursday 10th January 2019