Our bread and butter
We are committed to supporting all aspects of humanities research, allowing areas of particular excellence to grow organically from the endeavours of researchers in the University.
NUHRI exists to build new research collaborations between scholars in different disciplines, but also between:
- external researchers
- partner organisations
- research funders
- a wide range of non-academic community groups and individuals
If you have an idea for a project, please contact the Institute's Director, Professor Matthew Grenby.
Freedom City ComicsFreedom City Comics
An anthology of comics for the Freedom City celebrations
Credit: John ‘Brick’ Clark, extract from ‘Activists and Radicals on Tyneside’ as part of Freedom City Comics.
The people of Newcastle and the North East, and visitors to the region, have a long been engaged with what we would now call ‘civil rights’ campaigns. This long pre-dates the visit of Dr Martin Luther King, but provides a context for the Freedom City celebrations. This project presents that history in an innovative format – as an anthology of comics – with the aim of reaching a large public audience, including many children and young people, who would not usually engage with historical research. The comics anthology is a collaboration between researchers at the University and some of the best comics artists and writers around, and will be widely distributed as well as serialised in the Newcastle Journal. The comic will then form the basis of a framework for teachers, to take this unique history into schools.
The Scapa Flow ScuttlingThe Scapa Flow Scuttling
Working with the community to create realistic virtual models of WW1 wrecks
Following its surrender and internment, the German fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney on 21 June 1919. Salvage operations raised most of the ships; seven remain on the seabed. The wrecks have been extensively dived, and a series of multi-beam sonar mapping exercises have attempted to measure the wrecks’ changing structures over recent years. What has not been researched is how these wrecks have changed over time, both in terms of physical decay and their changing meanings for the public. Visited by thousands of divers from around the world annually and of great significance to local communities, the wrecks provide a charismatic vehicle for connecting a wide variety of people to WW1 history, heritage and legacies.
This project, led by by Professor Matthew Grenby, works with the community to create realistic virtual models of the wrecks using new 3D photogrammetric techniques, trying to understand how the wrecks are eroding structurally and preserving their current state for the future record. This will enhance the local ‘Scapa 100’ initiative by ensuring that robust data management underpins continuing wreck modelling and mapping efforts. It will provide a lasting technical framework within which community members and diver volunteers can contribute to research. Our project facilitates effective volunteer participation by ensuring that volunteer divers will be able to add the photographs they take to the larger cache, and index and archive them, all of which contributes to the larger visual capture of the wrecks by photogrammetry. Preparations for the 2019 centenary provide a perfect opportunity to explore what has happened to the ships since their scuttling; the role they can play in the commemoration of WW1, and how this important element of our maritime heritage can best be conserved and presented to different publics.
A project to recover the full experience of eighteenth-century elections.
It is possible to know a great deal about the function of democracy in eighteenth-century Britain. Surviving poll books tell us, for instance, how each voter cast his vote. Thus we can discover which particular segments of the electorate supported which candidates, and how the votes stacked up over the course of an election that lasted several days. The first part of this project brings all this information together, building on the successful London Electoral History project to digitise provincial poll books, and to make the data open to analysis. Beyond this, the project seeks to integrate polling data with research into electoral culture more generally, that is to say the pamphlets, images, rituals, practices and material culture (clothes, cockades, jewellery and tableware) that formed the electoral experience in the eighteenth century.
We have recovered and re-recorded election ballads, and commissioned the making of electoral objects. Our aim is to recover the full experience of eighteenth-century elections. All of this material is presented digitally, in innovative ways that both facilitate scholarly enquiry and will inspire widespread public use. The underlying aim is to understand how democracy worked, and how people were able to participate in electoral culture, in an age before widespread suffrage, and how this involvement paved the way for the franchise extensions. We wish to link what we are calling ‘proto-democracy’ to what might be said to be a ‘post-democratic’ society in 21st-century Britain. In both societies few may vote, but there exist many alternative opportunities for productive engagements with democratic process.
Find out more by visiting our pilot project.
Not As It Is WrittenNot As It Is Written
Black Pittsburgh in Voice and Image
Inspired by Newcastle’s connection to Dr Martin Luther King Jr.—which will be celebrated by the university and city during Freedom City 2017—this exhibit offers the chance to contemplate the black freedom struggle in one American city in a compelling multi-sensory way. The focus is on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, famed for its central role in the US steel industry and one of the many cities where African Americans flocked to find better opportunities during the Great Migration, which they found alongside new forms of segregation.
The project is coordinated by Ben Houston, who directed the Remembering African American Pittsburgh (RAP) oral history project before he came to Newcastle. The exhibit matches digital audio clips from selected interviews with historic photos taken by the renowned Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris, a longtime resident whose archive of over 80,000 images constitutes one of the finest photographic archives of black urban life in the world. Taken together, the combination of spoken memories and the visual imagery serves as an example of how African Americans experienced and fought against racism.
The exhibit Not As It Is Written: Black Pittsburgh in Voice and Image will run at the Great North Museum: Hancock during Freedom City. A similar version will feature at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (home of the Teenie Harris archive) from 28 July 2017 to February 2019.
Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris
American, 1908 – 1998
Elderly woman holding Pittsburgh Courier newspaper with headline reading “Reverend King Freed: Albany tense” seated in armchair
Black and white safety film, H: 4 in. x W: 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
Carnegie Museum of Art , Pittsburgh: Heinz Family fund, 2001.35.7018
The Architecture of Lying-inThe Architecture of Lying-in
Building Maternal Materialism 1680–1830
The Architecture of lying-in is Emma Cheatle’s ongoing postdoctoral project. The research examines the buildings and interior spaces used for childbirth in England from the seventeenth century onwards, and evaluates their impact on the development of maternity practices, and the material understanding of the female body. Until the 1750s labour and delivery took place at home, the master bedroom carefully remade as a dark and airless ‘lying-in’ chamber. ‘Lying-in’ described the month period of recovery following labour, during which the new mother recuperated, first bed-, then house-bound, which ended with the public cleansing and thanksgiving ritual of ‘churching’.
From the 1750s the domesticity of maternity was made complex by the emergence of lying-in hospitals, aimed at the ‘industrious poor’. With lofty, neo-classical designs, containing roomy, airy wards of 6-8 beds, each hospital was instituted by an ambitious man-midwife, providing him a formal space for medical experiment, including instrumental intervention and autopsy. Although welcome to women with poor domestic conditions, they conversely offered a compromised, even dangerous, spatial experience. Further, as the risk of death in hospital rose throughout the eighteenth century, the man-midwife’s opportunities for dissection increased, shifting the material understanding of the female body.
In this project I draw on a range of archival and historical sources including, architectural drawings and buildings, midwifery manuals, diaries, novels; and maps, woodcuts, watercolours and photographs. Using creative critical methods I reconstruct the spaces of domestic and institutional lying-in, examining their spatial and social affect on the body and home.
Quiet CitiesQuiet Cities
Sound and Music in the Town Planning Movement, 1898-1939
Dr Jonathan Hicks (NUHRI Research Fellow)
This project lends a critical ear to the first major planning movement of the twentieth century, one that can be traced back to Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-Morrow, first published in 1898 under the title A Peaceful Path to Real Reform. We can gain some measure of Howard’s influence by looking at the projected endpoint of my study: a 1939 documentary film entitled simply The City. Planned and shot in the eastern United States, this film followed the line espoused by cultural critic and urban theorist Lewis Mumford, who was one of the keenest advocates of Howard’s ideas in the New Deal era. The arc of the film runs from a Romantic vision of an old New England village to the planned ‘Green Cities’ of modern-day New Jersey, via the stresses and strains of the modern metropolis (represented, of course, by the towering office blocks and hurried commuters of Manhattan). What makes the documentary remarkable, especially for my purposes, is the musical score composed by Aaron Copland – a score completed the same year as Copland’s incidental music for the unsuccessful Broadway play, Quiet City. In both his film and stage work, we find Copland exploring urban and pastoral tropes, providing a musical counterpoint to the verbal argument.
If Copland’s contribution provides a logical conclusion for my study – before the outbreak of global conflict, which radically altered the scale and scope of urban planning – the origins of my topic reach back into the late nineteenth century and the debates sparked, in particular, by the Arts and Crafts Movement. The first chapter of the book I plan to write at NUHRI thus places Howard and his contemporaries in the context of a broader concern with the social and political life of post-urban communities. At the very centre of Howard’s blueprint of the Garden City was a cluster of civic buildings, including a Concert Hall and Theatre. In practice, most of the developments that were realized after his design featured a single, multi-use hall, which played host to a range of musical and dramatic activities. Despite the fact that many of the communities sketched or inspired by Howard (notably Letchworth, Welwyn, and Hampstead Garden Suburb) now hold substantial archives detailing the work of clubs and societies, including active musical and theatrical groups, there has been almost no research to date into how the cultural practices of Garden City settlements related to, or diverged from, the planners’ visionary claims.
My research will take advantage of the abundant source material in order to ask wide-reaching questions about the importance of sound and music in what Henrietta Barnett, a key figure in the planning movement, termed ‘practicable socialism’. My four case studies are grounded in the work of four different planners and critics: Howard and Barnett provide the first two examples, with a focus on their roles in developments close to London; I then turn to Patrick Geddes, a biologist-cum-urbanist who made his name trying to refashion Dunfermline as the ‘Bayreuth of the north’ before undertaking consultancy work in India and Palestine, where he advocated musical performance as part of a drive to activate historical associations between ‘folk’ and land; my final case study centres on Mumford’s advocacy of ‘green’ planning in the United States, which, as it happens, was where Howard began his career, as a stenographer, in the nineteenth century.
One of the main concerns of my research is the shared historicism of architects and composers: ‘mock-tudor’ was an insult thrown equally at Letchworth Morris Men, Welwyn recorder players, and Hampstead homes with black-on-white timber. By exploring the details of musical practices – professional and amateur, occasional and everyday – I hope to cast new light on the cultural assumptions and ambitions of an international network of cultural localists. At the same time, the word ‘sound’ in my title signals a sincere commitment to listen beyond the confines of the musical to the broader auditory structures of feeling in the new suburbs and cities. Like the well-documented noise abatement campaigns of the early twentieth century, the Town Planning Movement understood urban noise as a symptom of a broader sickness. However, Howard and Co. envisaged a more holistic remedy than the double-glazing and earplugs of the anti-noise brigade: they thought the good life was the quiet life and that is a formulation that, I think, bears further scrutiny.
Living LegaciesLiving Legacies
The Living Legacies 1914-1918 First World War Engagement Centre aims to bring together communities – particularly those in Northern Ireland and the North East of England – through connecting projects that concern the First World War and its continued resonance. The Centre is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (as part of their ‘World War One and Its Legacies’ scheme) and the Heritage Lottery Fund from 2014 until 2019. In the first three years of the Centre, NUHRI, together with NISR, supported Research Associate Dr Emma Short to record the activities taking place at Newcastle University that play into these themes, and to organise events. Aside from the substantial research progress that is to be gained from this collaboration, the benefit to our shared memory of the First World War is significant.
The work carried out by Living Legacies both builds on and fosters existing and emerging research across the University. This includes Dr Jane Webster’s (School of History, Classics & Archaeology) NISR-funded development of the Armstrong FWW memorial into the Armstrong Digital Memory Book, and the subsequent Universities at War project (in collaboration with Durham University) that has emerged from this.
As well as fostering research, Living Legacies, with the support of NUHRI, has also run numerous events at the University designed to encourage and develop collaboration between academics and community partners, and to increase public engagement with the work taking place at Newcastle University, events such as ‘Your Community in the First World War’, which took place in September 2015. The event featured presentations from existing HLF-funded projects (including Tynemouth WW1 Commemoration Project, Durham at War, and Wor Women on the Home Front, and Universities at War), and presentations from the HLF and FWW Centenary Partnership, as well as networking opportunities for community researchers to meet and discuss ideas with academic researchers.
NUHRI supported a series of meetings and writing workshops in 2015 to develop the script for a radio drama based on the experiences of a group of military veterans located in Aden, Yemen in the 1960s. This meeting brought together a range of people from within and outside the university. The project, led by Dr Helen Limon, evolved from an approach for help by the regional veterans charity, Forward-Assist, with whom the University was able to develop a strong working relationship.
This project became part of a portfolio of research work prompted by the interest of Michael Harris, a commissioned BBC radio drama writer. After hearing Helen present at the National Association for Writers in Education conference (Durham, 2015), Michael wanted to take the research through to a working proposal. The proposal developed with the veterans and Michale was welcomed by the producer of BBC Radio 4 drama but it was felt that the timing for such a story was not appropriate given the focus at the time on stories of soldiers who served in the First World War. Helen hopes to review this work in the future with Forward-Assist.
Medical Humanities WorkshopMedical Humanities Workshop
A workshop to facilitate discussion and networking for researchers across the University.
On Wednesday 13th April 2016, NUHRI hosted a Medical Humanities afternoon workshop to catalyse interdisciplinary collaborations with a view to the launch of new, innovative research projects. 50 researchers from across the HaSS and FMS Faculties attended the event. The afternoon was framed around the following four strands, each containing three sessions:
- Health and the Shaping of Indentity
- Bodies (Attitudes to, representations of)
Health and Society
- Medicine, Law and Society
- Medical Practices and Rituals
- Influencing Public Debates
- Hearing from Patients
- Patient-Doctor Interfaces
- Health Behaviours (Mapping; Changing)
Practices and Perceptions
- Medical Humanities Methodologies
Following the event a new mailing list was set up to facilitate discussions (if you are interested in joining this list, please contact Clare Graham), and a new Medical Humanities Steering Group was formed, in order to continue discussions in this area of research.
Scaling the HeightsScaling the Heights
Mountains and Vertical Megastructures
This exhibition and programme of public talks on the physicality and ascent of tall structures and artificial mountains was presented by the Architecture Research Collaborative (ARC) and temporarily installed in the Tyne Bridge’s North Tower, providing a rare opportunity to explore one of Newcastle’s iconic buildings. This event was included as part of Being Human, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, which took place in over forty-five towns and cities across the UK between 17-25 November 2016 and followed that year’s theme ‘Hopes and Fears’.
Contemporary economic and social conditions are driving cities and their inhabitants ever higher into cloud-grazing skyscrapers and high-rises. We invited our audience to experience the long history and mesmerising appeal of all things high and mighty through an exhibition of mountains and megastructures. The North Tower was unlit, unoccupied and unheated and without electrical supply, and the event was set up as an entirely battery powered show. The site was accessible from street level by a flight of stairs that led into the open tower cavity, criss-crossed by steal supports, home to pigeons, prone to leaking in the rain, and echoing with the rhythm of the bridge traffic overhead.
Each visitor was equipped with a torch in order to navigate the exhibits: the dramatic installation ‘Everest Death Zone’ suspended in the vast, vertical space by Architects Stasus; photographic works by the vertical urban explorer and photographer Lucinda Grange; Amy Butt’s Sci-fi reading corner; a participatory sound installation derived from recordings from all the Tyne bridges by James Davoll and David de la Haye; a curatorial cabinet of curiosity by Dr Christos Kakalis.
A programme of events and talks from the exhibitors animated the site over the week: architect Neil Barker’s talk Building the Tyne Bridge; a walking tour with Rutter Carroll of the Tyne Gorge North Newcastle and Castle Hill and Tyne Gorge South Gateshead and St Mary’s; Professor Steve Graham and Amy Butt discussing science fiction and the vertical city; Dr Josep-Maria Garcia-Fuentes’ talk The Mountainous search for a modern architecture; Dr Martin Beattie’s talk Travels on the edge of empire: John Stapylton Grey Pemberton's expedition to Darjeeling and the 'snowy ranges'; and a chilly film screening of ‘The Epic of Everest’ Captain John Noel, 1924/ restored 2013.
ARCs success with opening an iconic but rarely accessible Newcastle building as a site for Scaling the Heights, was met with great enthusiasm by the public, and has created ambition for further forays into temporary site-specific exhibits in the city, so as to profile the architectural research into the built environment that is coming out of ARC and APL.
Critical Medical HumanitiesCritical Medical Humanities
NUHRI hosted the book launch for The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities
In this landmark Companion, edited by Anne Whitehead, Angela Woods, Sarah Atkinson, Jane Macnaughton and Jennifer Richards (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), expert contributors from around the world map out the field of the critical medical humanities. This is the first volume to introduce comprehensively the ways in which interdisciplinary thinking across the humanities and social sciences might contribute to, critique and develop medical understanding of the human individually and collectively. The thirty-six newly commissioned chapters range widely within and across disciplinary fields, always alert to the intersections between medicine, as broadly defined, and critical thinking. Each chapter offers suggestions for further reading on the issues raised, and each section concludes with an Afterword, written by a leading critic, outlining future possibilities for cutting-edge work in this area. Together the chapters generate a body of new knowledge and make a decisive intervention into how health, medicine and clinical care might address questions of individual, subjective and embodied experience.
Paper TigersPaper Tigers
Film screening co-hosted by NUHRI
NUHRI, the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, School of Arts and Cultures and the Research Centre for Film and Media, in partnership with Keith Magee, are hosting a screening of Paper Tigers, a documentary film by James Redford. The screening was followed by discussion with a panel of experts from the fields of education, film, media and health.
Out of BoundsOut of Bounds
This case study is a continuation of the REF2014 study: ‘Migration, Readership and the Public Perception of Diaspora and Identity’. It develops the public debate initiated there around the presence of a ‘devolved’ literary culture stretching well beyond the conventional metropolitan centres of migrant writing and reading. NUHRI played a vital role in providing further support and funding for the digital elements of this project.
AHRC follow-on funding (97k; PI James Procter; CIs Gemma Robinson and Tom Schofield) supported completion of the first phase of the project, whose partners included the British Library, Bloodaxe Books, Commonword, the Scottish Poetry Library and schools across England and Scotland. Working initially with 200 teachers and students, we re-purposed the critically acclaimed anthology, Out of Bounds (described by Caribbean poet, Fred D'Aguiar, as 'an alternative A-Z of Britain') as a digital resource for schools in post-referendum Britain.
This collection of place-poems by black and Asian voices offers far-reaching opportunities to reflect on migration, diversity, and inclusion - key agendas in schools and British society more widely. In addition to co-producing materials with schools, Out of Bounds has toured across the UK from the British Library to Scottish Poetry Library, from Manchester and Wales to Newcastle. The anthology itself has been widely cited in the national press (The Independent, The Scotsman, Guardian etc) and covered by the American public broadcaster: PBS. The first phase of the post-2014 impact study culminated in the creation of an app, a website, and a pamphlet for classrooms. The website will be launched in tandem with the pamphlet in 2018.
Newcastle and the North-East in Global HistoryNewcastle and the North-East in Global History
A NUHRI-sponsored workshop was held on 1 July 2015 to discuss the potential for collaborative research exploring the place of both Newcastle and the North-East England in world history, from the middle ages to the present day. A group of twelve colleagues from across the Newcastle HASS faculty, along with colleagues from Northumbria, brought together a number of disciplines, including History, Archaeology, English Literature, Art History and Music. We were also joined by Prof. Maxine Berg from Warwick University, a internationally renowned historian of both the British Industrial Revolution and early-modern global history. Dr Scott Ashley (History) started the discussion with a short presentation of the themes such a research programme might include, entitled ‘Guns, Books and Coal: Newcastle and the North-East in Global History’. There was then a lively conversation around the table, as each participant explained their own areas of expertise and their own responses to the themes. After lunch in Northern Stage Prof. Berg laid out her own experiences of developing a global history programme at Warwick and her sense of where the field was headed. The day closed with a session devoted to the specifics of what a research funding application emerging from the themes of the day might look like and what the practical issues might be of developing a team, building Impact and managing the project. There was a feeling in the room that the interaction between the local and the global was a productive question to explore and that, subject to further work, a good research project could emerge. After reflection and further work, Scott Ashley is currently writing a grant application with Dr Annie Tindley (History) based on some of the ideas that came out of the day, provisionally entitled ‘A Birthplace of the Anthropocene: An Environmental History of Britain’s First Fossil-Fuel Landscapes, c.1600-c.1830’. This will examine the global ecological and environmental impact of the emergence of a fossil-fuel economy through the lens of North-East England and its rich archival resources.
North East Networks in the Nineteenth CenturyNorth East Networks in the Nineteenth Century
This collaboration between HaSS Faculty, Newcastle University and the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, Durham University was supported by NUHRI and organised by Dr Ella Dzelzainis (Literature), Professor Máire Cross (French) and Professor Richard Clay (Digital Humanities).
The story of the North East’s fall from its heights as a nineteenth-century industrial powerhouse is a familiar one. This interdisciplinary, cross-institutional discussion forum sought to generate an alternative narrative: one that recognizes the North East’s centrality in the generation of alternative cultural networks – as an engine for the movement of the people, goods, services and knowledge that were essential to the expansion of empire, while acknowledging the complex legacies of imperialism.
The event attracted around 50 academics from departments ranging from Classics to the Business School plus external collaborators including Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Gateshead Libraries, the National Rail Museum, the Bowes Museum, and the Mining Institute. In small groups, attendees responded to the following questions:
• How was the North East a point of circulation and intersection, playing a part in the creation of the British Empire and shaped by empires across the globe?
• Who transformed the region and who transmitted its influence through international networks of culture, including maritime, industrial, scientific, artistic, literary and financial?
• What resources and material objects already exist in our institutions that enable cultural recognition of the North East as a node of innovation and reception in a global network?
• How did the ingress and egress of people and their ideas shape the region and the relation between the local and the global?
• What radical and/or conservative cultural formations did the region give to and receive from imperial expansion?
The concluding feedback and plenary session produced a range of answers and further questions (such as, How do we move from the local to the global to link Newcastle’s nineteenth-century history to the birth of modernity? How does women’s experience map a crucial alternative story onto Newcastle’s ‘male’ heritage?).
Early Modern Language Skills SymposiumEarly Modern Language Skills Symposium
On 16th March 2016, the Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute (NUHRI), in collaboration with Kate De Rycker (Newcastle) and Peter Auger (London, Queen Mary) held a symposium promoting foreign language skills and transnational collaboration in the humanities. This event was attended by twenty participants from Newcastle, Northumbria, York, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Durham, the majority PhD students and early career researchers.
Prof. Elizabeth Andersen gave a passionate defence of Modern Languages, a discipline which is under threat, and reminded the audience that there are also institutions which are keen to encourage language learning, from the ‘Open World Research Initiative’ (AHRC) to ‘Languages Matter More and More’ (British Academy). Laura Leonardo outlined a pilot-scheme run by Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership, which will pilot a series of online language courses using virtual classrooms, Skype-mentoring, and face-to-face at the universities of Newcastle, Durham and Queen’s University Belfast.
One major outcome of the workshop was that it was agreed that early career researchers must be proactive in sharing information about their own areas of specialisation, such as specialist language skills. Participants agreed that sharing of information needed to be promoted across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. As a direct result, a number of resources and events have appeared in the past year, starting with a list of ‘Twenty ways to Promote Language Skills and Exchange’. An evolving guide of language resources is also available on the Early Modern Boundaries website.
This workshop also led to the creation of an online network using funding from Peter Auger’s British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (BARSEA) which examined how researchers might develop working practices that better reflect the transnational and multilingual nature of research. The Early Modern Boundaries Network was launched in Autumn 2016, hosted by the start-up company Mobilize, and will run until January 2019. At this time, the network has 172 members from six continents, who can ask and answer research questions in their area of specialisation for other members. Anyone interested in joining this network can find out more about the role of this online community and how to join on the Early Modern Boundaries website.
For early career researchers and PhD students in the North East, there will be a free follow-up event called ‘Thinking Across Borders’ hosted at Newcastle University on the 18th September, 2017. This event will discuss the benefits for young researchers in building their own collaborative research environments beyond their research institutions and disciplines, and will suggest showcase opportunities for participants to build their own online research community using open access resources. For more information about this free event, email Dr Kate De Rycker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Interdisciplinary Research Network’s website.
Regathering on Town MoorRegathering on Town Moor
This regathering celebrated and furthered the ‘Everyone’s Right’ Common Ground initiative in York. A walk on the Town Moor was followed by a meeting at Newcastle University to propose and scope an AHRC grant application. Now in progress, the ‘Wastes and Strays: The Past, Present and Future of English Urban Commons’ application brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to evaluate the past, present and future of commons, using Newcastle’s Town Moor, Norwich’s Mousehold Heath, Bristol’s Clifton Hill and Brighton’s Valley Gardens as case studies.
Urban commons provide unique ‘green’ open spaces vital for health, culture, well-being and biodiversity in the metropolitan context. With different legislative background and use-value to parks, their ‘common’ use is often misunderstood and ill-defined. Many urban commons are now lost, neglected, underused, or threatened by austerity and commercialism. This 3-year project, through close examination of the four case studies, aims to draw out the unique status of urban commons, investigating their history of negotiation, resistance and freedom, and emphasising and promoting the multiple benefits of open space for physical and mental wellbeing. The research questions will be directed through inventive public engagement methods, with the aim to create a new, multifaceted, accountable definition of the urban common that redirects policy guidance and education.
The project will deliver a wide range of academic and publicly facing outcomes including: online resources (‘Placebook’ histories, an online ‘Guide to Good Practice’ for further commons research, a website and blog; a radio essay on the political history of land ownership); lively and accessible engagement and public activities (oral histories, a final exposition including art, literature, exhibits, guided walking tours, exercise guides, talks, education materials and installations); and high quality academic and creative outputs (a monograph on the history and cultural value of urban common land, journal articles, poetry and art). This is an exciting project which aims to restore political and cultural confidence in, and provide public agency for, the future of these beautiful and valuable pieces of land.
Hopes and Fears in Children’s BooksHopes and Fears in Children’s Books
The concepts of fear and hope are central to children’s books. The Vital North Partnership is part of Newcastle University's Humanities Research Institute. So when Being Human, a national festival of the humanities, announced their 2016 festival theme of Hope & Fear, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Vital North Partnership to get involved!
On 24th November, Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit hosted a Being Human event at Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books. The aim of "Hope and Fear in Children’s Books" was to engage non-academic audiences in children’s literature research in a fun and interesting way.
After an overview of how children’s books engage with hope and fear by Dr Lucy Pearson, Lecturer in Children’s Literature, our first stop was the "Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories" gallery. Dr Jessica Medhurst, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Research Associate, gave us a guided tour of the Michael Morpurgo exhibition.
Next, we headed up to the Attic, where the Seven Stories Collections Team and Dr Pearson facilitated a hands-on session with original material from Seven Stories’ Catherine Storr, David Almond and Judith Kerr collections. Then, Seven Stories’ Storycatchers Jayne and Lawrence introduced us to the Rhyme Around the World gallery, where we had some self-led time to explore hopes and fears in nursery rhymes.
The evening closed with a drinks reception and quiz in the Attic, sponsored by Newcastle University’s Humanities Research Institute.
Tales of ConfinementTales of Confinement
Research in progress on The Architecture of Lying-in was presented by NUHRI Fellow, Emma Cheatle in a public installation at the Being Human Festival, November 2016. The installation took place at the Laing Art Gallery and Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, and presented a wooden filing drawer unit containing different visual displays and sound pieces on the history of spaces used for birth from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. One of the drawers contained record cards for parents to be, parents, grandparents, midwifery/obstetric professionals to share their own ‘spatial maternity stories’. Participants were also interviewed and recorded in a separate screened space. The oral history recordings and written cards will inform Emma’s further research and a radio play.
Building NewcastleGatesheadBuilding NewcastleGateshead
What will Newcastle and Seven Stories look like in 2065?
This October, Newcastle City Futures took over Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books for a weekend of Big Draw Festival activities which encouraged children and families to design and build their future city…
Over 500 people visited Seven Stories over the course of our Big Draw weekend. 2016’s STEAM Powered Big Draw Festival aims to inspire illustrators everywhere to explore creative innovation, enterprise, digital technologies and the arts through drawing.
This seemed like a perfect theme for Seven Stories to connect with the Newcastle City Futures Urban Living Partnership, a project led by Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones at Newcastle University. Newcastle City Futures aims to get people and organisations in NewcastleGateshead talking and thinking about the future needs of the city, and working together to foster innovation.
Over the course of the weekend, children and families added to our large map of Newcastle and Gateshead to create their vision of Newcastle in 2065. And their creativity was amazing! Visitors built homes, cultural, sports and science venues, businesses, hotels, transport systems, power stations and several bridges. In fact, the children organically created pretty much everything you’d need in a future city.
Dr Emine Thompson and students from Northumbria University came in to run a ‘Your City, You Design It!’ workshop. We looked at the streets of Newcastle in 3D and then participants designed a new Northumberland Street using SketchUp. It’s going to look pretty different in 2065…
AHRC Common Ground EventAHRC Common Ground Event
Every One's Right: Retrospectives and Prospects on Urban Common Land
Chaired by Dr Emma Cheatle (School of Architecture and Humanities Research Institute, Newcastle University)
This half hour session consolidated previous conversations on urban common land inspired by academic research on the Town Moor, Newcastle. Inviting a range of contributors, the aim was to stimulate and promote an interdisciplinary evaluation and further research of urban commons. Inspired by Thomas Spence, Newcastle’s eighteenth-century advocate of common ownership, five speakers (Professor Andrew Ballantyne (Architecture, Newcastle University); Dr Rachel Hammersley (History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University); Dr John Wedgewood Clarke (Creative Writing, University of Hull); Al Oswald (former English Heritage Landscape Archaeologist; PhD candidate, University of York); and Dr Alessandro Zambelli (Architecture, University of Brighton)) performed individual 4 minute ‘manifestos’ on common land, suggesting its provenance, history, politics, and possible futures. These speeches were followed by a discussion on the retrospective and prospective value of common land as space in and around cities. The whole session was accompanied by a film presenting visual material and soundscapes of the Town Moor, Newcastle, made by Dr Emma Cheatle (Architecture and Humanities, Newcastle University).