Organising, sensemaking, devising: understanding what cultural managers do in micro-scale theatre organisations
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow for intended publication of papers
The purpose of this enquiry is to challenge and add a further dimension to cultural management, through an empirical exploration of what cultural managers do in a particular domain (theatre) and scale of organisation (micro-) within the (subsidised) cultural sector, in South West England. Working from a sensemaking perspective (Weick, 1979, 1995a, 2009), it focuses attention on what these practitioners do, rather than what they could, should or do not do. It draws on literature from cultural management, theatre and performance studies and organisation and management studies to help address the following questions: • What do cultural managers do in micro-scale theatre organisations (in South West England)? • Why do they do what they do? • How do they do what they do? • In what ways might an analysis of what they do inform talk in and about cultural management? • To what other theoretical conversations might such an analysis contribute? The subjects are three cultural managers running micro-scale contemporary theatre organisations in Bristol, Plymouth and Redruth. The study adopts a qualitative, ethnographic, multi-case study approach, with data collected through non-participant observation, informal interviews and documentary sources. Analysis is inductive, deductive and abductive. The thesis concludes with a conceptual and epistemological re-framing of cultural management as cultural managing, suggesting that what the cultural managers studied do is not only vocationally dedicated to the purpose, values and work of their organisation, but is also isomorphically inflected by them in the doing. Furthermore, it offers (a) an adjusted perspective on “high reliability organising” (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007) orientated more towards making the best than mitigating the worst; (b) a focus on organising in theatre to colleagues pursuing the relationship between management and the arts; and (c) a challenge to traditional notions of divide between theatre managing and theatre making, particularly at the micro-scale. This is an interdisciplinary study with cross-disciplinary implications.
PhD in Leadership Studies