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Institute for Cultural Practices

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Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts

The Social Theory, Politics, & the Arts 2018 Conference took place at The University of Manchester on 1-3 November 2018.

The Social Theory, Politics, & the Arts is the oldest and one of the most influential academic gatherings in the field of arts management and cultural policy. STP&A participants are drawn from a broad range of disciplines including political science, sociology, economics, law, arts management, arts education, art history, museum studies, cultural studies, education, and policy studies as well as arts managers and artists.

The 2018 Conference took place at The University of Manchester on 1-3 November 2018. The theme was Culture, Democracy, and the Arts: Rights Here, Right Now and it sought to address a number of questions:

  • What strategic and policy approaches promote cultural democracy and how do they affect the arts?
  • Does public funding for the arts promote inclusivity or elitism?
  • What are the implications of a creative industries workforce dominated by the middle classes?
  • How will the rise of campaigns against sexual harassment, pay gaps and other inequalities change the status quo?
  • Does meritocracy address inequality or promote it?

In the hyper-mediated, globalized contemporary society, we need time to reflect and refresh the possibilities of and for cultural democracy and ask what it means in the 21st century. The conference, therefore, aimed to bring together key thinkers, researchers, and practitioners to consider the relevance of cultural democracy to cultural policy today. It critically explored the basis which arts and creativity offer for social participation, representation and change both historically and in contemporary society, considered the forms of governance which constrain and promote freedom in cultural expression, and provided a platform for a wide range of disciplinary exchanges and interdisciplinary approaches.

Programme and list of speakers

Learn more about the conference’s programme and list of speakers.


The STP&A2018: Culture, Democracy and the Arts – Rights Here, Right Now, was supported by the following partners:

  • Creative Manchester
  • HOME
  • North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership
  • Taylor & Francis Group

Conference reflections

STP&A 2018 was a 3-day international conference, hosted by the Institute for Cultural Practices, The University of Manchester for the Social Theory, Politics and the Arts Association.  Main academic conference sessions were held at the Martin Harris Centre, including paper presentations, workshops, roundtables and keynotes. We also produced associated partnership events, including a civic reception at the Whitworth, a PGR/ECR day workshop with funding from the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership, and two panel debates open to the public including one in partnership with HOME (see below for event details). 

Conference in figures

  • 90 delegates registering from 11 different countries and 5 continents
  • 3 days of conference activities with 20 paper sessions, with 83 papers, plus 6 workshops and 4 roundtable panels
  • 15 guest speakers from academia, industry and policy
  • 25 members of the public participating in open events
  • 15 student volunteers supporting the conference administration

With many thanks to the sponsors and partners for the conference:

STP&A, Creative Manchester, CIDRAL, HOME, NWCDTP, Taylor and Francis

Huge thanks to all those who worked on the conference, especially: Alex Shaw, Emma Cox, Amy Jones, Tom Pearce and Karl Spencer from the Martin Harris Centre technical and arts admin team; Lukas Nohrer and Maria Arias for invaluable conference administration, marketing and event management; Sophie Everest and Andrew Hardman and the Bellevue production team; student volunteers from AGMS and AMPP.

To see and hear more about debates and conversations at the conference search #stpa2018 or listen to these audio recordings