Funding boost and expertise to level up places around the UK

Aerial panorama over suburban homes gardens

Funding boost demonstrates the contribution of the arts and humanities to local regeneration and development.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, has today announced an £850,000 investment in nine projects across different parts of the UK.

The projects will support cultural regeneration and boost regional economies.

From building capacity for the creative industries to restoring civic pride in our towns, these projects will support cultural and social regeneration across the length and breadth of the UK.

Local regeneration and development

Each of the grants awarded as part of the investment brings together arts and humanities research and expertise with local policy makers.

The grants will design initiatives that develop the cultural landscape for the benefit of local people and places.

These initiatives are running throughout the year and will achieve a range of goals including:

  • redeveloping iconic local landmarks
  • increasing cultural participation within communities
  • tackling socioeconomic inequalities.

Importance of place

The investment forms part of the AHRC place programme which is led by Professor Rebecca Madgin at the University of Glasgow.

The programme uses arts and humanities research to inform policy decisions and help enrich lives in every part of the UK.

The announcement comes in the same month as the government’s latest white paper on levelling up.

The announcement will help to support the vision laid out in the paper of more resilient and prosperous parts of the UK.

Local governments and councils will play a key role in feeding into each initiative.

They will ensure that the work of the researchers involved, and the contributions made by local people, inform future cultural strategies and important place-based decision making.

Decision making at every level

Professor Rebecca Madgin, AHRC Programme Director, said:

Bringing together arts and humanities researchers and policy makers is essential to ensure decision making at every level takes into account the full breadth of our lived and felt experiences.

The initiatives funded as part of this investment will benefit places across the UK by bringing people into important decisions about local culture, heritage, and infrastructure.

AHRC is proud to support projects which will deliver real benefits to local communities and their places across the UK.

Commitment to research and innovation

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, said:

This is a core part of AHRC’s continuing and growing commitment to research and innovation across the UK, showing how arts and humanities can support flourishing individuals and communities, create economic and social opportunity, and inform policy and decision making.

Further information

Funded projects (in alphabetical order of project title)

Active communities arts development: social prescribing, sustainable strategic planning and breaking down barriers across sectors in North Lanarkshire

Led by Dr Marisa de Andrade at The University of Edinburgh.

This project will ensure sustained access to the arts for all ages in North Lanarkshire and use it to help tackle:

  • education
  • health
  • socio-economic inequalities.

With a strong focus on community engagement and collaboration across sectors, the project will bring together key stakeholders and community members.

This collaborative approach will support community led initiatives which cut across:

  • early year’s education
  • healthy ageing
  • community safety and social justice
  • health and wellbeing.

It will also help North Lanarkshire Council co-produce a long-term sustainable arts strategy which will support more integrated and effective decision making which cuts across sectors to address issues and inequalities.

City of caves: regenerating the heart of Nottingham through ‘hidden heritage’

Led by Dr Christopher King at University of Nottingham.

City of caves will help put Nottingham’s heritage at the centre of a major redevelopment of the important Broadmarsh site.

It will ensure residents and visitors are able to benefit from it for years to come.

Much of Nottingham’s unique historical landscape is often hidden, underground, or unknown.

This includes over 870 caves that date back to at least medieval times and are still used for a variety of commercial, community and private functions.

Many of these caves, and other parts of the city’s heritage, can be found on the Broadmarsh site.

This project will draw together research to inform Nottingham City Council’s plans for developing the site, including a proposed new Cave Heritage Centre.

City change through culture: securing the place legacy of Coventry City of Culture 2021

Led by Professor Nick Henry at Coventry University.

Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 is a year-long programme ending in May 2022 designed to increase cultural participation in the city region and deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits.

A substantial range of innovative research and evaluation is taking place within this programme to evaluate benefits and impacts.

This project will support the exchange and dissemination of this research material and demonstrate whether Coventry City of Culture 2021 has made a (lasting) difference to the city.

This project will work with the Coventry City Council insight team to inform future strategy and planning within the council.

It will support the mid-term 2022 refresh of the Coventry cultural strategy and the West Midlands Combined Authority plan for growth clusters.

In unison with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, learning will also be shared with places who have bid for UK City of Culture 2025 to amplify the benefits of culture-led placemaking.

Creative peninsula

Led by Professor Thomas Trevor at University of Exeter.

This project will examine the contribution that arts and culture can make to local economic development and social change.

It will use this to inform policy development in local authorities in Devon and Cornwall, including a new public art strategy and policy for Exeter.

Much of the work of the project will culminate in a Devon and Cornwall arts summit in September 2022.

It will bring together universities, local government, and arts organisations to share learning and build a network of connected organisations to take this work forward beyond the end of the project.

Cross-pollination: growing cross-sector design collaboration in placemaking

Led by Dr Katerina Alexiou at Open University.

Cross-pollination is a creative approach for bringing people together to share resources and knowledge to design initiatives.

Set up as a collaboration between the Open University and The Glass-House Community Led Design, and building on the work of a previous AHRC funded project, this project will train representatives from three partners based in Wales, Scotland, and England, in the approach.

The project team will then support them in using the approach to develop partnerships and initiatives to address place-making in their local areas.

The project will help these local partners to plan and deliver local impacts.

From support for building the creative industries in Merthyr Tydfil, to improving cross sector collaboration in Glasgow and enhancing the environment in Clapham Junction.

Reflections and learning from the experiences of the local partners will also be disseminated through:

  • a documentary film
  • the creation of a cascading box filled with resources to support others to use the approach.

Design innovation and cultural resonances (resonance): place-based collaboration

Led by Professor Lynn-Sayers McHattie at Glasgow School of Art.

Building on the work of previous AHRC funded projects, Resonance will draw together creative economy practitioners and creative and cultural organisations in a series of productive civic exchanges.

The exchanges will be centred upon the capturing, amplifying and sharing of nuanced local knowledge and cultural assets to inform decision-making.

In doing so Resonance will develop the capability, capacity, and collaborations needed to ensure the cultural knowledge of local stakeholders and communities can inform government decision making.

The project will work with three partners in different communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It will help each community to discuss place, landscapes, and cultural assets, and how their local cultural heritage could be used for future development plans.

Feeling towns: the role of place and identity in governance and local policy

Led by Professor Nicky Marsh at University of Southampton.

Feeling towns will help local and national government, as well as national bodies such as Historic England, to create, put in place, and evaluate strategies for civic pride.

Often seen as an important part of local regeneration, the idea of pride and place has become an important aspect included in many initiatives and funds to support development and regeneration.

Yet many local authorities lack access to relevant expertise or capacity to respond to these.

This project will help them bridge that gap, bringing the research and building the capacity needed to enable them to respond.

At the same time, it will work with Historic England to develop and test new approaches to evaluation which will support their High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative.

People, heritage and place: using heritage to enhance community and wellbeing in Saltaire, Bradford

Led by Professor Andrew Wilson at University of Bradford.

This project will support management and development of the Saltaire World Heritage Site by:

  • encouraging public engagement with planning for the site
  • stimulating tourism in the area
  • enhancing education about the site.

This will be achieved through closely collaborating with local schools, businesses, and residents to develop a digital 3D representation of Saltaire.

Work developing the model will increase knowledge of the site and allow people in the city to develop their skills.

This will include helping them to record the current condition of some elements of the site and feed into planning and development.

The model will be linked to the existing virtual Bradford model to increase visibility of the site within the city and for visitors to the city.

It will also be used to support the development of a tourist app for the site, which will help improve information available to visitors.

Roots and futures: scaling up and sustaining co-produced, place-based heritage with underserved communities in heritage policy and decision-making

Led by Dr Elizabeth Craig-Atkins at The University of Sheffield.

Roots and futures will enable, empower, and embed the voices of diverse communities more explicitly in Sheffield’s current heritage strategy in ways which will:

  • enhance belonging, wellbeing and inclusion
  • address the needs of strategy-makers.

The project builds on existing partnerships with Pakistani, Yemeni, and Somali communities to realise the needs of these communities via new partnerships with regional decision makers.

The work of the project will provide an example that can be shared with other cities to support similar approaches.

Top image:  Credit: fotoVoyager, Getty Images

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