News Story

Multi-cultural and diverse group stood in a room smiling faced away from the camera

We are delighted to introduce MAC Neighbours, a new community research project aiming to deepen MAC’s relationship with communities in our hyperlocal area, especially those who are currently underrepresented in our audiences.

In partnership with Beatfreeks and supported by Birmingham City University, MAC Neighbours has recruited six local residents to carry out research in their communities, to help us learn more about our neighbours’ perceptions and experiences of MAC, and what they imagine a shared space for the arts should look like.

The group of community researchers will help MAC to understand what positive changes we can make to further ensure MAC is a place where all our local neighbours feel they belong, and where transformative artistic and creative experiences are available to everyone.

Young girl colouring at a table in MAC's café
MAC Neighbours Celebration Event Credit: Will Pace 2023
Multi-cultural and diverse group stand in arts centre smiling at the camera
MAC Neighbours Credit: Will Pace 2023

MAC Neighbours is founded on the principles that:

1. If arts centres are for everyone, we must be proactive about engaging those who aren’t yet using them

2. All of us have a role in defining what is meant by ‘arts and culture’

3. When all of us are included, arts spaces become richer, more democratic and more interesting for everyone

The MAC Neighbours community researchers group are Malyka Din, Robert Fieldhouse, Laila Khan, Allan Liani, Noor Shah and Xian Zachariya, all of whom either live in or have strong connections to MAC’s local area. Between them they have experience in the arts, community engagement, research and journalism, and have networks in a wide range of community spaces, particularly in Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook.

Laila Khan, who, along with Malyka Din, led a focus group for 27 local women from the Balsall Heath CATS community, said: “The training from Beatfreeks and BCU has been really really good, and has given me a lot of encouragement to go ahead and do the community research.

Young girl peeks face above chair in MAC's café
Credit: Will Pace 2023
Woman smiles and speaks to another woman and a man in MAC's café

“Getting started with the research has been fantastic: the networking, speaking to local people, and the enthusiasm that has come from participants as well. I’m really pleased that I’m involved in MAC Neighbours, and I’m really looking forward to the whole research programme, and the positive outcomes as well. It’s been brilliant.”

Recruited mostly through local flyering and in-person outreach in March 2023, the MAC Neighbours group were trained in community research by Birmingham City University Research Fellow Kusminder Chahal, and supported by Beatfreeks to co-design a research methodology. Their research, which takes the form of surveys, interviews and focus groups, will be written up by Kusminder Chahal in summer 2023, and used to inform policy and programming at MAC.

MAC Neighbours is inspired by the USE-IT! community research model led by Birmingham City Council, and the name owes credit to Tate Neighbours, an collective of people local to Tate Modern brought together by artist Tania Bruguera and Counterpoints Arts in 2018.

Illustration of Cannon Hill Park and MAC with swirling multicoloured shapes erupting from the arts centre and leading to nearby neighbourhoods
Illustration for MAC Neighbours Credit: Jake Harding 2023