Creative Engagement Fellowship

The Creative Engagement Fellowship was developed to demonstrate the benefits of collaborative partnerships between the arts and research to enhance engagement within research.
The interdisciplinary collaborations allow for greater diversity and inclusion within studies, ultimately making research more accessible. While the Fellowship champions the importance of engagement within research, it also provides open spaces for early career researchers and developing artists to exchange vital skills. 

The Fellowship was developed through the work accomplished by U.matter, an engagement project focused on supporting community health, and funding supplied by the Wellcome Trust’s Institutional Strategic Support Fund, which supports research within health and biomedical sciences towards interdisciplinary research and public engagement.
In 2021, Phase 1 was launched exploring the topics of either ‘Racial Equity 2020’ or ‘Beyond Ableist’. Each project was selected based on their ability to allow co-creation and adhere to the core themes. Phase 2 is underway in 2022 with 5 projects over 6 months – learn more about them below.

Creative Engagement Fellowship: Phase 2

Phase 2 aims to build upon what we learned through Phase 1, this includes extending the original timeframe from 3 months to 6 months, increasing the funding opportunities to £10k per project.

For the scheme, each project is proposed by the academic but developed with the creative practitioner for effective public engagement. The creative practitioner will be found through our staff at Attenborough Arts Centre, utilising our networks of working artists across Leicestershire and the UK.

Although each project has freedom within their approach to their projects and areas of study, each project must create a digital output at the end of the 6 months. Explore our 5 Fellowship projects below as we update their findings and work as the months go by.

Artist Christopher Samuel talking to the camera while a man next to him interprets his words into BSL. Underneath the caption says "he used a walking stick, a wheelchair and a pulley mechanism."

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

Researchers: Sarah Plumb (Senior Research Associate), Suzanne MacLeod (Co-Director) and Richard Sandell (Co-Director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries)
Artist: Christopher Samuel

Everywhere and Nowhere is a collaboration between the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, the National Trust, and artist Christopher Samuel that explores little known and previously untold histories of disability from across the Trust’s sites and collections. Our approach placed experience and expertise around disability at the heart of a collaborative research process to investigate how stories related to the lives of disabled people in the past can be ethically researched and creatively presented in new ways. The collaboration resulted in a film that spotlights 10 stories, objects and sites with connections to histories of disability from across the Trust.

Learn more about the project and its outcomes by clicking here:

A dark room with an orange curtain to the side. In the middle stands a large white cube on a black stand.

Geoscience in Pixels

Researchers: Ed Thomas (Lab Technician), Anna McGairy (Postgraduate Researcher) and Manlin Zhang (Postgraduate Researcher, School of Geography, Geology and the Environment)

Artist: Rosa Francesca

This Fellowship brings together academics, doctoral students and technician staff within the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment with digital artist, Rosa Francesca who experiments with biofeedback and facial recognition to find innovative ways for people with limited mobility to make music and art.

This project explores digital techniques and technologies in the geosciences and how they can be used to remove barriers to participation for people with invisible illnesses and disabilities, such as mental health conditions, learning difficulties and neurodivergence. The project’s theme is the ‘future of fieldwork’ – reflecting upon what tools, protocols, frameworks, or vocabularies we can begin to create that will enable field practices to be more inclusive – especially for neurodivergent and learning disabled students and staff.

Geoscience in Pixels is matchfunded by the University of Leicester’s Institute for Digital Culture. The Institute collaborates with cultural organisations, professional bodies, and communities of practice, to drive research around digital technology that is practical and purposeful for the culture sector nationally and internationally – collaborators include Art UK, the Collections Trust, and the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. In addition to hosting Fellow Rosa Francesca in its Digital Culture Studio, the Institute for Digital Culture is supporting the project team to develop and share outputs which can improve inclusivity in geosciences, as well as impacting upon the practice of cultural and heritage organisations that use fieldwork practice.

A serious of people covered in flags holding hands as they create a DNA strand.

Addressing ethnic participation biases in human genomics

Researchers: From the Department of Population Health Sciences: Noemi-Nicole Piga (Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Genomic Epidemiology), Chiara Batini (UKRI Innovation Fellow at HDR UK), Katherine Fawcett (Asthma + Lung UK Fellow) and Laura Venn (Research Manager in Digital Health at EXCEED study)

From the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (NIHR ARC East Midlands) and Centre for Ethnic Health Research (CEHR): Barbara Czyznikowska (Community Engagement Officer) and Winifred Ekezie (Research Associate, Diabetes Research Centre)

Artist: Vishal Joshi

Human genomics studies show a typical participant profile: white, female and middle aged. Participants of European ancestry constitute ~79% of the samples despite being only ~16% of the global population. Reasons for this bias may have roots in several factors including structural racism, socio-economic classism, exploitation, insufficient cultural competence among researchers, and general lack of trust. This multifaceted lack of diversity makes it difficult to translate discoveries into personalised healthcare and precision medicine for underserved populations, exacerbating existing health inequalities. We want to understand the perceptions of Black communities about taking part in genomic research. We believe 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

Researchers: Shabana Cassambai (Research Associate for ARC East Midlands and Centre for Ethnic Health Research at Leicester Diabetes Centre (Health Sciences)), Nasima Miah (Community Engagement Officer, Centre for Ethnic Health Research) and Sophie Leonardi (Operations Manager, Centre for Ethnic Health Research)
Artist: Azraa Motala

One of the key aspects of engaging with patients and carers from ethnic minority backgrounds, such as South Asian people, is being able to understand and relate to cultural and traditional practices. In order to engage with this community and understand why medication adherence is often so low, it is important to understand the motivation behind the use of these natural remedies and how it affects their decision making process when it relates to management of their diabetes. This project proposes to produce an engaging piece of artwork, which centralises community discussions and links researchers to South Asian communities, with the aim to build long lasting relationships with these communities.

Long Covid Stories

Researchers: Professor Chris Brightling (NIHR Senior Investigator and Clinical Professor in Respiratory Medicine, Department of Respiratory Sciences)
Artist: Anthony Overend, Isobel Hoskins, and Michal Lach from GraffWerk

Long COVID is an emergent condition and as such, is poorly understood. Working with Leicester artists GraffWerk, this Fellowship offers participants affected by long COVID an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences through different media, potentially in the absence of established modes of expression that are accessible to people learning to live with a better understood condition or disability.

To learn more about Phase 1 of the Creative Engagement Fellowship and the projects we supported, click here to read our Final Report on Phase 1 of the scheme on the University of Leicester Figshare.

To the left, watch the completed webinar by Dr Marie Nugent on Phase 1 of the Creative Engagement Fellowship scheme.