Making it up: Adaptive approaches to bringing freelance cultural work to a cultural ecologies discourse

Ali FitzGibbon*, Ioannis Tsioulakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In this article, a transdisciplinary cultural labour perspective is used to examine the evolving and spontaneous networks and grassroots collective movements of performing arts freelancers in two contexts: Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Athens (Greece) in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. With a principally methodological contribution, the article proposes that evolving cultural ecologies research should mirror the ecologies it studies by adopting more collaborative and improvisational research approaches, drawing on inclusive research methods from disability studies and decolonising approaches within anthropology to reveal deeper knowledge and offer mutual benefit. Furthermore, it proposes that artists, overlooked in cultural ecologies research to date, bring knowledge from their practice beyond lived experience of value to such inquiry. The researchers collaborated with practitioner experts, revealing insights to freelancers’ milieu; their alternate systems for inclusion, representation and radical mutual care; and their increasing vulnerability in the face of ongoing exclusion from cultural recovery strategies and wider political and policy apathy to their concerns. This raises important moral and ethical questions for how cultural ecologies research and researchers engage with practitioner knowledge and the purpose of research in rendering such groups as creative freelancers visible within research and in the implicit and explicit urban and regional recovery planning in different locales. In addition, it proposes the inter- or transdisciplinary nature of cultural ecologies research may be better served by keeping its boundaries fluid, not just in the potential strength of blending research disciplines but also in its boundaries between the formal academy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-478
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Urban and Regional Studies
Issue number4
Early online date19 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • cultural economy
  • cultural ecology
  • freelancers
  • Creative industries
  • Collaborative research
  • performing arts
  • COVID-19


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