This chapter reflects on empirical findings to present methodological developments that emerged from investigating the wellbeing agenda and cultural policy. Research evaluating the impact of cultural participation tends to approach participants and ask how a given dose of culture (such as a community arts programme or a particular performance, for example) may have improved their wellbeing, which has been criticized for lacking robustness. This chapter attempts to reveal what happens when you test this relationship by reordering the research site and variable, instead using a secondary, large-scale qualitative data set collected about wellbeing to ask it questions of culture.
I “re-performed” the UK’s Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Measuring National Wellbeing (MNW) Debate, which enabled me to listen to people describe what matters to them and compare these to headline reports. Drawing from Butler’s recent developments of performativity as “re-performance”, a mode in which dysfunction can be exposed, the chapter applies this to a methodology of revealing, retelling, reordering and re-placing. The chapter summarizes findings from secondary analysis of ONS qualitative survey data, together with group discussions, reproducing methodologies of the ONS. It reveals aspects of the values that wellbeing, cultural and policy research obscure, and it reflects on how cultural participation might be re-placed in conceptions of wellbeing for policy. Knowledge of participation and wellbeing is not a neutral representation of either. Disrupting and reordering knowledge practices enables an understanding of the relationship between cultural participation and wellbeing in a way that better encompasses how the good life is lived.