Published on 20/10/2021
CHIEF our lives our culture
  • An academic project aiming to help build more inclusive notions of cultural heritage and identity has called on youth theatres to fully involve minority groups to create real diversity.
  • Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future, also known as the CHIEF project, has been taking place across nine countries, with the UK research based at Aston University and the University of Gloucestershire.
  • The research is being coordinated by Dr Anton Popov, a senior lecturer in Sociology and Policy in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Aston University.

Dr Popov was the first interviewee in the new podcast series called ‘Our lives, our culture: youth in a changing world’, presented by journalist Steve Dyson, when CHIEF’s research with youth theatres was discussed.

This involved youth theatre groups in the UK cosmopolitan city of Coventry, and in the multicultural town of Komarno, Slovakia, which lies on the border of Hungary and has large Roma ethnic groups.

Dr Popov said: “In both cases, the youth theatres were driven by progressive agendas to develop effective and more inclusive dialogues between different ethnic groups and cultures.

“But despite this benign and good motivation, both groups reproduced or in some cases entrenched the social divisions and inequalities in society.”

In Komarno, Dr Popov said the issue was that the youth theatre’s performances were very one-sided, based predominantly on Slovakian folklore and in the Slovak language.

In Coventry, he explained that the youth theatre was largely made up of white, middle-class youth and that the “intense physicality” of their performances made it “difficult or inaccessible” for people from minority cultures.

While praising the positive intent of both youth theatres, Dr Popov said CHIEF’s recommendations would be that they should be trying to better reflect the minority groups involved.

He added: “We need to aim to give space to members of the minority groups to express their views, the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis and on their own terms.”

During the first podcast, Dr Popov also outlined the details of the entire CHIEF project.

He said: “CHIEF is about how young people understand what culture is for them, how they connect this with their heritage, and their sense of identity and belonging.”

The CHIEF project has been funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and is being conducted in various youth and educational settings in Croatia, Germany, Georgia, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

The next episode of ‘Our lives, our culture: youth in a changing world’ will be looking at how cultural diversity is taught and learned in schools, and some of the issues that have been experienced.

The podcast series ‘Our lives, our culture: youth in a changing world’ can be found here:
Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University was named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian and the University’s full time MBA programme has been ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking. The Aston MBA has been ranked 12th in the UK and 85th in the world.

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