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Now launching: Phase 2 of the Creative Engagement Fellowship

We are excited to announce the launch of Phase 2 of  the  Creative Engagement Fellowship, a scheme that aims to demonstrates the benefits of collaborative partnerships between the arts and research to enhance engagement, diversity and accessibility within research.

Following on from Phase 1, with the University of Leicester’s Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF), earlier this month 5 projects began as a collaboration between artists and academics, to develop projects that enhance engagement with diverse communities on social issues.  

The scheme encouraged applications from those who did not often get the opportunity for public engagement within their research typically, with the aim to encourage a deeper understanding of engagement practice while giving academics the opportunity to approach research differently through creative development.

One of the key aims for the scheme was to allow for the exchange of vital skills between the artist and the academic. Through Phase 1, we have seen that the Fellowships have been mutually beneficial for each participant, as the co-exploration of issues from differing perspectives have resulted in greater communication and wider access to opportunities to effect change. For the researcher, it enables them to inject creativity into their practice that places the community at the heart of the outcome. For the creative practitioners, it offers them the opportunity to engage with innovative research and build their experience to develop practice. Both parties are vital to the Fellowship, as their unique skills and perspectives offer much needed expertise and support.   

The fellowship is funding 5 projects from academic researchers from all three academic colleges across the University Of Leicester which tackle issues around Racism, Ableism and Class within our communities related to their field of study. Phase 2 is an exciting development from Phase 1 of the Fellowship, extending the original timeframe from 3 months to 6 months while also increasing the funding opportunities to £10,000 per project.

Read on to learn more about the 5 successful projects going ahead through the Creative Engagement Fellowship

Exploring Participation Biases in Genomic Studies

This project explores gaps in the participation and study of genetic research involving black communities in Leicester. It considers the historical and cultural reasons for the dissuasion of the community in its involvement to engage with this type of research.  “Human genomics studies show a typical participant profile: white, female and middle aged. Participants of European ancestry constitute form almost 80% of the samples despite being only 16% of the global population.” This multifaceted lack of diversity makes it difficult to translate discoveries into personalised healthcare and precision medicine for underserved populations. This project involves researchers Noemi-Nicole Piga, Chiara Batini, Barbara Czyznikowska, Winifred Ekezie, Katherine Fawcett, Laura Venn collaborating with artist  Vishal Joshi. Joshi is painter with an interest in exploring notions of identity, rules and societal biases using portraiture as a medium to understand the human form and identity. The group strongly believes art can be a common language to enable a fair dialogue between researchers and participants. 

Exploring Cultural and Traditional Perceptions of Natural Remedy Use in Leicester based South Asian Communities  

This project explores the relationships between health and culture, focussing on the use of natural remedies of South Asian communities in Leicester.  Researchers from the Diabetes Research Centre Nasima Miah, Shabana Cassambai  and Sophie Leonardi will be joined by artist Azraa Motala as part of this project. Azraa, through her oil painting practice, seeks to represent women from South Asian communities, appropriating a similar style to traditional oriental painting while challenging historic representations of the community. Both the researchers and artist within this group will discuss and develop ways of engaging the community to understand why medication adherence is often lower than average while also finding out more about why natural remedies may be favoured, with particular focus on how cultural and traditional perceptions affect the management of diabetes. 

The Effects of Long Covid on Affected Communities

Know someone affected by Long Covid? This research project investigates the condition by giving people affected, which overwhelming come from minority communities within Leicester, the opportunity to contribute to research through an exploration of their perspective in order to gain a better understanding of the condition through a creative media. Chris Brightling is a professor within the University of Leicester’s Department of Respiratory Sciences and has published over 450 peer reviewed articles with his research focussing on improving the clinical management and understanding the mechanisms of airway diseases such as asthma, chronic coughs and COPD. Chris will be joined by artists Anthony Overend, Isobel Hoskins, and Michal Lach from GraffWerk. GraffWerk is based in Leicester and have undertaken a variety of dynamic street art projects locally, including most recently the beautiful murals transforming Leicester’s Southgates Underpass.

Everywhere & Nowhere: Exploring Histories of Disability across the National Trust

Everywhere & Nowhere seeks to unearth hidden stories and histories of disabilities within National Trust sites, and consider how these can be presented in ethically informed ways. Researchers Sarah Plumb, Richard Sandell, Suzanne MacLeod are collaborating with artist Christopher Samuel whose multidisciplinary practice explores ideas such as identity and disability. A large aim of the group is to engage and interact with people who wouldn’t normally engage with National Trust Sites or disability history. The project will centre on a collaborative process of ethically, equitably and creatively re-interpreting and presenting these histories of disability in the form of a digital public facing output. 

Geoscience in Pixels

Through the exploration of geoscience, can examples be set which build digital confidence in the museum and heritage sector, improve inclusivity within research fieldwork, and lead to a more creative and innovative research culture? This is just one of the many questions this project seeks to explore, utilising digital techniques to understand how new technologies can be used to remove barriers to participation of neurodivergent people. Rosa Francesca is a digital artist creating works ranging from 3D renders to performance and interactive installation, focussing on ideas of accessibility and the body. Often experimenting with biofeedback and facial recognition, she aims to find ways for people with limited mobility to engage with and create music and art. 

  • Geoscience in Pixels is match-funded by the University of Leicester’s Institute for Digital Culture, led by Professor Ross Parry.
  • Ross Parry is the Professor of Museum Technology at the University of Leicester. He leads the international research consortium (‘One by One’ – building digitally confident museums) and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy Board member for Attenborough Arts Centre,  and Trustee of the Jodi Mattes Trust – for accessible digital culture. He currently serves as a member of the UK Research and Industry’s Steering Committee of its £19 million digital cultural heritage initiative ‘Towards a National Collection’. With Dr Vince Dziekan (Monash) he is the founding co-editor of the Routledge book series ‘Critical Perspectives on Museums and Digital Technology’. Parry has also been the Director of CAMEo (the Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies) and  the Academic Director of University of Leicester’s College of Social Sciences Arts and Humanities. In 2018 he was listed in the Education Foundation’s ‘EdTech50’ – the fifty most influential people in the UK education and technology sectors.
  • The University of Leicester’s Institute for Digital Culture is an organisation working with the culture sector to lead and adapt in a digital world. Commissioned by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the institute works to make research more open and approachable to the public and takes a multidisciplinary approach to research making use of resources across multiple departments. The institute is keen to develop research which is grounded, purposeful and able to support change and development in the world.

While each project has freedom within their approach to their projects and areas of study, each project will create a digital output at the end of the 6 months. 

These exciting research projects cover vast areas of study and all aim to creatively engage communities in key areas of study, working across all three colleges at The University Of Leicester.

Each project has been proposed by academics but throughout the project will be developed with a creative practitioner for effective public engagement. The creative practitioners have been selected through our staff at Attenborough Arts Centre, utilising our networks of working artists across Leicestershire and the UK, as well as an open call out across artistic institutions around the country. Attenborough Arts Centre is keen to develop its use of research to find new ways of engaging the public in creative arts, and has consistently worked across departments to engage academics in various fields, and support artists across the country

Paige Manning. Marketing Officer and Academic Engagement Coordinator pictured in front of a Creative Engagement Fellowship poster
Caption: Paige Manning, Academic Engagement Coordinator at Attenborough Arts Centre, pictured in front of the Creative Engagement Fellowship poster in our Salmon Gallery.

Founded and initially developed by Dr Marie Nugent, based on her many years of public engagement within university settings and community outreach, Phase 2 was developed and launched by Paige Manning, Marketing Officer & Academic Engagement Coordinator at Attenborough Arts Centre. As co-author of Phase 1’s Summary Report, which can be found here on the University of Leicester’s Figshare, Paige began her role earlier this year supported by the Universities Wellcome Trust ISSF Executive Board to develop Phase 2 based off of previous learnings and evaluations from the original cohort, and facilitate the direction, launch and next steps for the Fellowship, including match-funding from the Institute for Digital Culture and securing projects from all three of the Universities colleges. 

“It has been incredible to be a part of the Creative Engagement Fellowship, as it is a scheme that pushes the envelope when it comes to changing institutional cultures and centring public engagement within research. Academia is an incredible advent for discovery and exploration, however I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact research has a history of being insular. With this scheme, we hope to break through this culture of working through the artist collaborations, to push researchers to engage with their work in different ways that places public engagement at the centre. In turn, both the artist and academic get to exchange vital skills and work with real communities across the city and beyond.”
– Paige Manning, Marketing Officer & Academic Engagement Coordinator  

Find out more 

Learn more about the projects by visiting our dedicated page for the Creative Engagement Fellowship. For further information, please email Paige Manning, at pm429@le.ac.uk

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