Research

Creative Writing as Social Practice

Dr. Siobhan Campbell is an academic and consultant in post-conflict, recovering, and contested environments, providing humanities-based interventions to support social cohesion, capacity building and the development of civic imagination.

Research Interests

The humanities create a natural network linking writers, cultural policy makers, social justice advocates, academics, diplomats and others, all pursuing new intersections for the arts in society. Her research investigates how applications of creative and expressive writing pedagogy can play a role in the reclamation and development of civic imagination through work with refugees, military veterans, human rights defenders and charities. The projects look at how participatory writing practice can enable participants to recognise their own personal potential as well as their potential for creating cultural cohesion, particularly after divisive conflicts, involuntary displacement or traumatic events.

Research Trajectory

Understandings of writing practice as enabling cultural resilience emerged in work with military veterans and families via Combat Stress UK and SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Family Association) while Associate Professor at Kingston University London. Workshops with veterans supported by a grant (HEFCE) and aid-in-kind (CSUK) generated outputs including publications, an exhibition and an archive. This work received top plaudits for the reach and significance of its impact in REF 2014 (see http://impact.ref.ac.uk/casestudies2/refservice.svc/GetCaseStudyPDF/40629).

Funded work in story-gathering includes ‘Mapping Jabal al-Natheef’, Jordan, 2013, supported by the Ruwwad Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development and the Heinrich-Boll foundation and working with settled refugees in life-writing and providing story-gathering training to the international group of architects and urban planners in interviewing residents. (‘Protocols and responses to interviewing-in-place’ in Jabal Al Natheef, ed. Arini C.P., Heinrich-Boll Stiftung Palestine/Jordan, 2013).

Investigating the applications of narrative practice continued with the Beyond Borders/ Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights initiative in the ‘Beyond do no harm’ project with Dr. Meg Jensen, investigating the place of expressive life-writing in post-conflict situations and in collaborating with mobile human rights project groups. This work is underpinned by a DPC Diploma (Dialogue for Peaceful Change) undertaken by invitation under the auspices of EU post-conflict funding which looks at DPC processes as related to writing workshop process with adjudicated ex-prisoners.

Expanding the field of investigation, having joined The Open University, Siobhan has worked to consolidate the protocols and practices of  expressive writing pedagogy in life-writing for work with post-conflict victims of sexual and other violence leading to The Expressive Life-Writing Handbook (2016) now used by the FCO’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme and in a ‘training the trainers’ scheme where the Fellows of the Gulf Reconstruction initiative have trained in the uses of writing workshops in enabling cultural story-telling. The Expressive Life Writing and Telling protocols and practices are now in use in the UNDP SIRI project Iraq.

Latest Work

In 2017, the all-party report Creative Health - the Arts for Health and Wellbeing - emphasized the importance of imaginative and creative work for those affected by illness, care-giving or displacement. In 2017/8, Siobhan is leading a pilot project with Trinity Hospice London, working with those in palliative care as well as volunteers and bereaved relatives. The project will explore whether creative writing and expressive writing has a place in recovery, particularly with a view to making art that can enter the wider culture.

Siobhan is also working with a nurse practitioner based at an NHS Trust in Hartlepool to explore creative writing practice with patients and advocate groups.

Siobhan can be contacted at Siobhan.Campbell@open.ac.uk or via this website.