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Think again. Re-imagining sustainable development in the North of England

In the third of the N8 Research Partnership’s ‘New Thinking From the North’ workshops, more than 50 academics, sustainability activists and arts and humanities practitioners gathered for ‘Sustainable North’.

Co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), ‘Sustainable North’ examined the role of the arts and humanities in re-imagining sustainable development in the North of England and explored how other partners could collaborate more effectively to identify new research challenges and achieve a greater impact.

Of all the university research partnerships established to drive economic growth and promote collaboration between businesses, universities and other research users, the N8 Research Partnership – Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York – is the only partnership collaborating on arts and humanities in addition to the core STEM subject areas.

On the agenda

The day began with a heritage walking tour, from Manchester’s Albert Square to Salford’s Biospheric Foundation. Once there, delegates heard, through a series of talks and discussions, how arts-based and community-led projects are shaping social and economic regeneration in the north and how they are, by promoting sustainability, also empowering communities to become more resilient.

Talks were divided into two sessions:

Session 1: Arts, cultural ecologies and rural economies – working with the past for the future

  • Martyn Hudson, Newcastle University – Curating the Northumbrian Commons
  • Deborah Chambers and David Baines, Newcastle University – Public art, the environment and private sponsorship: representing ‘Restoration first’
  • Helen Rees Leahy, University of Manchester & Belle Vue Productions  – The Past in the Present: Grizedale Arts and a New Cultural Ecology in the Lake District

Session 2: ‘Art-washing’ or ark building? Case studies in the art of social change

  • James Cave, University of York – Building the Ark: developing a community ‘arts hub’ for the Hyde Park area of Leeds
  • Joanne Tippett, University of Manchester – Roundview case study
  • Ben Jones, Newcastle University – ‘Sustainability, community action and social media (what if no one turns up…?)’
  • Stuart Bastik, Art Gene – Re-visioning Utopia

Alongside these sessions, the keynote address was presented by Pam Warhurst from Todmorden’s Incredible Edible, and a tour of the Biospheric Foundation was provided by Chief Executive, Vincent Walsh.

For a run down of the day, including the highlights and conclusions from each session, download Abi Gilmore’s full workshop report.

Sustainable North Workshop Report [PDF, 238.95kb]