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Research with Impact

Our research has an impact beyond academia, and many of our researchers work in partnership with both local and global external organisations. These include a range of arts and cultural providers, international NGOs and charities, and community-based groups. Our researchers have also worked closely with forensic scientists, the police and the law courts, artists and policymakers and arts entrepreneurs from the global south. The public engagement embedded in our research maps onto the University of Manchester goals for social responsibility. We have 25 impact case studies being submitted to the REF2021 exercise across nine units of assessment, from Area Studies to Music. These have been selected from a body of on-going impactful work being carried out by researchers across career stages and disciplines. Current research with impact includes the following ongoing projects.

The Delia Derbyshire Archive: Transforming the Perception and Understanding of the Authorship, Range, Reception and Influence of the Work of Delia Derbyshire

Dr David Butler, Drama

Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) is a key figure in the development of electronic music and sound design in Britain.  Based at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop from 1962-1973, she also composed for film, theatre, live happenings and festivals with her contributions often uncredited.  Butler's acquisition of the Delia Derbyshire Archive (DDA) and subsequent development, curation and research into its contents has provided the catalyst for a wide range of local, national and international public engagement activities, raising awareness and understanding of Derbyshire's practice and Britain's electronic music heritage; the commissioning of new artistic works responding to the archive and the establishment of an educational charity, Delia Derbyshire Day (DD Day), which provides support for emerging artists and works with school children to enhance their music technology skills through an understanding of Derbyshire's practice and Britain's electronic music heritage.

Exploring the ethics and emotions of bird-human relationships in poetry and conservation science

Dr Clara Dawson, English, American Studies and Creative Writing

Through its focus on poetry and natural history from 1790-the present, the project examines how cultural and imaginative attitudes to birds change over the course of the Anthropocene period. It explores the emotional resonances of human-bird encounters (joy, wonder, melancholy, loss) and foregrounds the power dynamics which emerge from incompatible uses of landscape (farming or urban dwellings vs. nesting or feeding). Dawson works with bird conservationists to generate research that demonstrates the importance of bird conservation and help prevent further bird species decline.  A partnership with Cheshire Wildlife Trust will use this research to increase their public engagement via the arts.

New Cheshire Wildlife Trust partnership dovetails poetry and conservation - University of Manchester

Brexit and the UK’s cultural relations with EU member-states

Dr Charlotte Faucher, History

This project examines the manifold impacts of Britain’s withdrawing from the EU on the health, confidence and sustainability of the UK arts and cultural sector and its relations with EU member states. Faucher has worked with Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy, and UK and EU stakeholders (government agencies, EU networks, local councils, artistic federations, and youth groups) to publish “The Arts After Brexit” (November 2020). This report has stimulated debates in the cultural sector and the UK and European media. In 2021, Faucher is organising a series of events to encourage networking and knowledge sharing between UK and EU stakeholders. The project aims to make policy recommendations and work closely with governments.

The Arts after Brexit: The impact of the UK's departure from the European Union on its cultural relations with European Union member states

Grave Goods – Objects and Death in Later Prehistoric Britain

Dr Melanie Giles, Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology and Egyptology

In the first longitudinal study of its kind, this collaborative project between the Universities of Manchester, Reading and the British Museum investigates how archaeologists have used grave goods to interpret past society, arguing that they were not just integral to past personhood but part of how people dealt with death itself, and showed their care for the deceased.

Alongside major academic research outputs, the project has:

  • Engaged the public, especially schools, with their local heritage: using the past as a lens through which we can ‘talk more of the dead’ via a Schools Pack (downloadable here), featuring the work of poet Michael Rosen (hear him read the poems here) and artists Rose Ferraby, Kelvin Wilson, Chie Kutsuwada and Craig Williams
  • Created a temporary exhibition and trail entitled ‘Death and Objects’ at the British Museum (2019-2020)
  • Enhanced professional and public end-user access to this research by enhancing Historic Environment Records from our six case study regions, and depositing the archive with the national digital repository ADS
  • Developed engagement tools with partners on the AHRC project Continuing Bonds: Creative Dissemination to open up conversations about death, dying and bereavement (see the published collection The Living and the Dead and teaching materials for collaborative ‘death café’ workshops)

Learning from LGBTIQ+ experiences of COVID-19 in the UK and Brazil for more inclusive crisis strategies

Dr Billy Tusker Haworth, Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Socio-economically marginalised groups are more vulnerable during crises, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer+ (LGBTIQ+) populations. Yet, their experiences, needs and capacities are not adequately included in crisis management strategies. Based on interviews with a diverse range of LGBTIQ+ people in the UK and Brazil during COVID-19, this work adds to understandings of the experiences of gender and sexual minorities during crises. The research increases awareness and highlights diversity that must be considered in future public health responses. This includes unique vulnerabilities experienced across LGBTIQ+ populations, but also resilience and coping capacities that can be better harnessed and supported to develop and implement more nuanced and inclusive social, health and humanitarian policies and strategies.

Learning from LGBTIQ+ experiences of COVID-19 in the UK for future crises. HCRI Policy Brief Series, 2021.

Researching experiences of gender and sexual minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

19 in 20: socially engaged arts organisations and artists in creative conversation on communities, creativity and COVID-19 in 2020

Dr Alison Jeffers, Drama

The project investigates, documents and shares the range and scope of hyperlocal socially engaged arts practices across England that have emerged in response to COVID-19. The research will result in a sharing of good practice among the hundreds of small arts organisations and the even bigger numbers of freelance artists in the UK, impacting on their work with some of the communities worst affected by COVID-19. The data gathered will also contribute to an enhanced understanding of the social aspects of the pandemic and will impact on our growing understanding of the implications of the disease and its aftermath for those communities hardest hit, as well as within the larger social sphere.

The research involves a series of facilitated conversations using creative and participatory qualitative research methods. The data gathered through these conversations will be used to create an audio-visual document that will be of value to three audiences: socially engaged artists and arts organisations; community groups, local authority arts officers and charitable bodies with an interest in socially driven arts work; scholars in applied theatre and in human or cultural geography who are interested in the social questions that are emerging as a result of the pandemic. Scholars who are interested in the role of practice in research will be particularly interested in the ways in which social questions are being articulated and responded to by groups and communities most affected by Covid19 and its repercussions.

Infodemic: Combatting COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

Prof. Peter Knight, Department of English, American Studies and Creative Writing

Responding to the World Health Organisation’s warning that misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic constitutes an “infodemic,” this project combines methods from digital humanities and cultural studies to understand how and why conspiracy narratives circulate in different online spaces, and to assess the effectiveness of the varying responses by social media platforms. The project is helping to produce a toolkit for teachers, resources for science communicators, and training materials for journalists. The project brings together researchers from The University of Manchester, KCL and University of Amsterdam, and is funded by the AHRC as part of UKRI’s COVID-19 funding.

Forensic linguistic authorship identification for anonymous texts

Dr Andrea Nini, Linguistics and English Language

Forensic Linguistics is the application of linguistics to forensic problems. One of these problems is the analysis of anonymous documents to determine their authorship, such as in cases of texts that happen to become evidence in court cases. With the increase in use of the internet in modern times, more and more crimes are committed online, for example on the dark web, where the clues left by the perpetrators are predominantly linguistic. The research is focused on quantifying and understanding individuality in language and on applying this knowledge to help the delivery of justice in cases involving disputed documents. My research is applied regularly to either help law enforcement to investigate serious crimes or is presented as evidence in court.

Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America

Prof. Lúcia Sá and Dr. Ignacio Aguiló,Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

The project aims to explore how artists in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia address racial diversity in their work and how they use their art to challenge racism. Working in close collaboration with artists, the project helps them raise awareness about the potential their productions have for exposing and confronting the persistence of racism in Latin America. The analysis of the role the arts and emotion can play in anti-racist practices can also help activists to develop innovative actions aimed at social inclusion (AHRC-GCRF project. 2020-2022).

CARLA website

Prosecuting Rap: Criminal Justice and UK Black Youth Expressive Culture 

Dr Eithne Quinn, Department of English, American Studies and Creative Writing

Rap music is now regularly used as evidence in criminal proceedings. Prosecutors try to get rap lyrics and videos with violent, criminal themes made by defendants admitted to trial; police officers then take the stand to interpret the rap for the jury. This evidence, which calls forth stereotypes about young black men, often goes uncontested by defence. Drawing on Quinn’s research on gangsta rap, the Prosecuting Rap project intervenes in this unfair practice, building capacity and knowledge among rap experts and defence lawyers so that inflammatory rap evidence can be fully scrutinized and, where it lacks probative value, excluded from trial. Partnering with lawyers, musicians, campaign groups, and journalists, this project seeks to prevent rap being a pathway to unfair conviction and overrepresentation of young black men in the criminal justice system.