High demand for British Academy pilot funding, connecting scholars with regional cultural partners to engage the public with new research

11 Sep 2023

Fourteen researchers across thirteen projects are the first to receive funding via the British Academy’s new SHAPE Involve and Engage Awards, a pilot scheme designed to support creative methods of engaging the public with cutting edge SHAPE research (social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy). Each award is in partnership with a regional cultural organisation, including galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The scheme attracted notably high demand, receiving many more applications than anticipated.

The awards, of up to £8000 each, will support the researchers to develop innovative public engagement projects and activities, co-designed in collaboration with their chosen cultural organisation. The projects will inspire and connect local communities and audiences with SHAPE research topics and meaningfully involve them in the creation of new research outputs.

Examples of partnerships in action include:

  • A photography project with English Heritage and Photoworks designed to explore an English castle's history through the stories of the Black Revolutionaries of the Windward Isles who were imprisoned there in 1796
  • A cultural history of Birmingham using the city’s Number 11 bus route as a lens to illustrate links between landscape and cultural identity, in partnership with the Library of Birmingham

The projects awarded showcase exemplary SHAPE research through a strong sense of place, local histories, communities and storytelling.

The successful researchers begin their awards today, through a kick-off public engagement workshop at the British Academy. Their projects will be delivered between October 2023 and October 2024, with more details of public activities and events to be revealed next year.

Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said:

“Our vision is to see public engagement fully embedded in research and so we are delighted to support these partnerships between researchers and cultural organisations which will do just that, galvanising local communities and target audiences related to their research themes. I know that the review panel were struck by the sheer creativity, innovation, diversity and variety held not only within our disciplines, but in how researchers feel they can meaningfully engage with audiences through arts and culture institutions which sit in the hearts of communities. On behalf of the Academy, I offer my warmest congratulations to those who have received awards. We hope that their partnerships will inspire and spark new meaningful connections between communities and the humanities, social sciences and arts.”

Dr Dominique Bouchard, Head of Learning and Interpretation at English Heritage, said:

“English Heritage is delighted to receive this funding to continue our work with Professor Astbury and Photoworks to raise awareness of the Black Caribbean prisoners of war at Portchester Castle in the 18th century. We are excited to engage a new generation of young people with this incredible story, working with them to creatively engage with heritage and with pioneering historical research. Projects like this enable young people to take a leading role in shaping how we understand the past, which is crucial in securing the future of our heritage. English Heritage seeks to tell the fullest possible story of the sites in our care, and showcasing fascinating but lesser-known stories like this one allows us to fulfil that aim.”

The researchers awarded SHAPE Involve and Engage grants for 2023-2024 are:

  • Richard Anderson, Lecturer in the History of Slavery, University of Aberdeen for the project Aberdeen in Africa, Africa in Aberdeen: Community Co-Curation in Decolonising Collections, Campus, and Community – in partnership with Scottish Civic Trust
  • Rui Su, Senior Lecturer in Tourism, Middlesex University, for the project Taste of Memory - in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives
  • Meg Kobza, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Newcastle University, for the project Taking Your Fancy: the experience of Georgian Fancy Dress for today’s heritage audiences – in partnership with National Trust Bath Assembly Rooms
  • Shakthi Nataraj, Lecturer of Sociology, Lancaster University for the project Queering Theory through Arts and Crafts – in partnership with QUEERCIRCLE
  • Claire Gwinnett, Professor in Forensic and Environmental Science and Director of the Centre for Crime, Justice and Security, Staffordshire University, for the project Plastic Histories – piecing together human civilization with plastic through creativity & play – in partnership with Potteries Museum and Art Gallery
  • Sandra Kazlauskaite, Lecturer in Sound and Music Theory, University of Lincoln for the project Sound Considered Museum in partnership with Lincoln Museum
  • Luca Csepely-Knorr, Chair in Architecture, University of Liverpool School of Architecture for the project Setting the scenery: Scottish Women of the Welfare Landscape – in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland
  • Rohini Rai, Lecturer in the Sociology of Race, Brunel University London, for the project Indigenising the Himalayas: Reimagining its past, present and futures – in partnership with Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG)
  • Francesca Adele Murialdo, Senior Lecturer, Director of Programmes in Interior Architecture and Design, Middlesex University, for the project Kilburn Museum Lab – in partnership with Kilburn Library
  • Andrea Livesey, Senior Lecturer in the History of Slavery, Liverpool John Moores University for the project From Slavery to Roe vs Wade: Using Theatre to Explore Black Diasporic Understandings of Reproductive Health and Justice – in partnership with International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool, and Collective Encounters
  • Kathryn Moore and Alex Albans, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director, West Midlands National Park Lab, Birmingham City University for the project Number 11: Know Your Place – in partnership with Library of Birmingham (Central Library)
  • Katherine Astbury, Professor of French Studies, University of Warwick, for the project Freedom and Photography – in partnership with English Heritage and Photoworks
  • Denise Baden, Professor of Sustainable Practice, University of Southampton for the project Engaging the Public in Climate Solutions via Interactive Theatre – in partnership with Southampton City Libraries

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