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Creating the baseline: data relations and frictions of UK City of Culture evaluation

Daniel Ashton (Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Ronda Gowland-Pryde (University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Silke Roth (Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Fraser Sturt (Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)

Arts and the Market

ISSN: 2056-4945

Article publication date: 6 September 2023




Socioeconomic aims and impacts are an explicit part of the UK City of Culture (UKCoC) application, bidding, delivery and evaluation stages. This article engages with existing debates on evaluating cities of culture and introduces perspectives from critical data studies to examine the collection and analysis of different data for the purposes of the CoC application and evaluation processes.


The meta-methodological concept of accompanying researcher is used to analyse the experiences of researchers based within a city bidding for UKCoC 2025 in dialogue with the evaluation reports from past UKCoC host cities.


Findings are analysed under three themes: defining data morsels; local histories and infrastructures of data generation and sharing; and resources, capacities and expertise for data generation and evaluation. The discussion examines data still to be generated and/or brought into relation; tensions around data and measurement; and how constructing an evaluation baseline is generative—creating new organisations, relationships and practices.

Practical implications

The conceptual and methodological approach and empirical findings will be relevant for academic, policymakers and practitioners engaging with cultural evaluation.


In focussing on the bidding stage in real time through the accompanying researcher position, this article presents original empirical insights into the process of creating a baseline for cities of culture evaluation. The conceptual originality of this article is in using critical data studies to explain strategies of data generation and analyse data relations and frictions.



Ashton, D., Gowland-Pryde, R., Roth, S. and Sturt, F. (2023), "Creating the baseline: data relations and frictions of UK City of Culture evaluation", Arts and the Market, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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