Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


Dr Jonathan Ward

Research Assistant

0113 343 9947

Clothworkers' Building North, G.23d

My research adds to critical contemporary debates in the cultural and creative industries. In particular, it explores the conditions of cultural labour, and its social, policy and spatial contexts.


I completed my PhD in Sociology at the University of Kent in 2015. After a period as a Teaching Fellow in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds, I joined the School of Media and Communication as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in 2016.

I am currently working along Professor Kate Oakley exploring the role of the arts and culture in sustainable prosperity. Through research involving cultural workers, young people and cultural participants, this work critically investigates the ways in which the arts and cultural can offer a version of the ‘good life’ – providing scope for meaningful work and activity which can be viewed as inherent components of prosperity itself.

This work is part of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, a major research centre funded by the ESRC.

Research Interests

  • Cultural and creative labour
  • Cultural participation
  • Culture-led urban policy and regeneration
  • Narrative and identity


Journal articles

  • Oakley K, Ward J, Christie I (2017) “Engaging the imagination: ‘new nature writing’, collective politics and the environmental crisis”, Environmental Values. (Accepted)

  • Ward J (2016) “Down by the sea: visual arts, artists and coastal regeneration”, International Journal of Cultural Policy. : 1-18. (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1080/10286632.2016.1153080, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95871/

Conference papers

  • Mair S, Jones A, Ward J, Christie I, Druckman A, Lyon F (2017) A Critical Review of the Role of Indicators in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. World Symposium on Sustainability Science and Research: Implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals Proceedings: Handbook of Sustainability Science and Research Springer. (Accepted)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112902/

PhD Thesis

Cultural Labour in the Context of Urban Regeneration: Artists’ Work in Margate and Folkestone

This thesis engages with debates around cultural work and culture-led regeneration by exploring the working conditions encountered and experienced by visual artists who have located in Margate and Folkestone, two towns in Kent (South East England) which have pursued culture-led regeneration. It draws on, and contributes, to critical debates on cultural labour and the conditions of cultural work as well as long-standing debates around culture and creativity as drivers of urban regeneration. It establishes the ways in which artists’ labour is integral to culture-led urban policies, and further critically explores the quality of such work, looking at the conditions under which it proceeds, and the values and meanings individual workers ascribe to it. The thesis demonstrates that culture-led urban strategies represent a locus of economic exploitation for the artists implicated in them. This accords with other studies that provide evidence of artistic, and other forms of cultural, labour as wholly beset by economic and social structures that instrumentalise cultural value, and undermine any intrinsic value or meaning to cultural labour. However, this thesis also provides a ‘defence’ of artists’ work. While noting the continuing inequalities, marginalisation and exclusionary effects of neoliberal working conditions and practices, this thesis demonstrates that creative cultural work is not fully colonised by the market, and that within the cultural industries there remains the possibility of ‘good work’. This thesis concludes that although economic exploitation and insecurity are common, workers are able to draw upon pre-existing cultural discourses that sometimes allow them to produce value and meaning in their work in ways that evade capitalist logics.

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