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“To change the conversation, we have to change who is part of it”

Collaboration, creativity and impact for arts and humanities research in the North

How do you deliver impact around arts & humanities research? A new project through Durham University's entrepreneur in residence project explores bringing people together - internationally and around the North.

Paul Drury-Bradey explains: 

CartoneraI’ve been Entrepreneur in Residence across Durham University’s Arts and Humanities faculty since March 2019. This innovative project was framed ‘the art of possible’ and is all about shining a new light on the world-class research from the university, exploring new connections and entrepreneurial ways of working.

Throughout my time in Durham I’ve been working with academics, students, and professional support staff on a wide range of entrepreneurial, creative and ideas for impact generation. These have included Durham Soup, a series of interactive ideas-pitching parties; leading sessions on social enterprise; and one-on-one coaching for staff and students.

I was asked to do this work after spending ten-years in arts & culture agencies in London, spending more than two-years working for a social entrepreneur funding body, and completing a variety of global projects through the British Council’s Creative Entrepreneur programme. My work has always been at the intersection of culture and commerce, looking at progressive ways to bring new audiences to the arts and igniting creative thinking around impact. 

In 2020 I’ve been working with Durham University academics and artists & activists from around the North to explore this creative thinking through a collaborative process called the Possible Podcast. This involved connections to existing academic research in Durham, concept development with creative collaborators, and storyboarding podcast episodes to bring research to life. The end results is a new five-part series that’s available on Soundcloud and Spotify. 

Across five episodes, Durham University academics give a unique insight into the ideas behind their research and explore the positive impact it has on culture and society in the North East of England and internationally too. 

Each episode gives listeners a chance to hear about the fascinating range of Durham’s arts and humanities research projects, including Life of Breath, a five-year project which explores the relationship between breathlessness and art. This is particularly relevant for new ideas around breathlessness during the pandemic.

Durham University researchers are joined by a number of guests, including local artists who talk with the university's Music Department about why music has a special power to connect people to their memories.

The work also delves deeper into the world of censored literature with Durham University's Classics Department to explore censorship in the past and the impact this has on marginalised groups, with a focus on the LGBT community.

Closer to home, the Possible Podcast series looks at how the North East of England inspires a unique song writing culture in an episode led by the university's Sociology Department with local folk musicians.

Obviously, all of this work has taken place during the unfolding and uncertain time of the great pandemic. All the podcasts were recorded and produced 100% remotely. But perhaps more importantly, they became a way to deeply connect people beyond the university. 

I’ve discovered that academic research can open the door to unexpected conversations and opportunities, with a strategy that focused on a collaborative making process you can encourage people to think differently and leverage unexpected results. And if you didn't already know, it also proved that Durham and the north east is home to some truly extraordinary thinkers and makers. The potential for possibility is limitless. 

Listen here:

  • S1 E1 - New Narratives: on the power of publishing and zine culture during the time of the pandemic. Featuring research on the history of self-publishing during the Victorian era, the unique zine cultures of Latin America and how they parallels with new creative energies in the North East. We also hear direct from a maker in Detroit on how publishing your own narrative has helped to forge a new identity for the city enabling extraordinary international connections: https://soundcloud.com/possiblepodcast/possible-podcast-s1-e1-new
  • S1 E2 - Music and Memory: on music's ability to creative lifelong memories. The podcast features conversations with academics on world class research between music and memory. We speak to club promoter and international artist Fayann Smith, a top London music futurist and hear from the drummer of new band LIFE fresh from a gig in New York and supporting the Kaiser Chiefs on a major tour https://soundcloud.com/possiblepodcast/possible-podcast-s1-e2-strings
  • S1 E3 - Uncensored: examining the history of censorship and what we can learn from classics. How does censorship affect marginalised communities today? This podcast features the brilliant Prof. Jennifer Ingleheart, a previous face of Jamaica Pride live from the Caribbean and the founder of Durham Pride https://soundcloud.com/possiblepodcast/possible-podcast-s1-e3
  • S1 E4 - Breathlessness: Explores how art and literature represent breathless. It features ideas and research from around Durham University, exploring why this thinking is so important in the Covid-19 age and we hear from a mint North East poet on why these ideas matter so much in the region https://soundcloud.com/possiblepodcast/possible-podcast-s1-e4-life-of
  • S1 E5 - Protest Song: Thinking about the UK's proud history of protest song, learning about Durham University's innovative protest songwriter in residence project and hearing from new talent such as BBC Introducing recommended North East talent MELOSTME https://soundcloud.com/possiblepodcast/possible-podcast-s1-e5-protest

Series two of the Possible Podcast is currently in production for release later in July. To connect on social media follow @hellodurhamsoup on Twitter or @PossiblePodcast on Facebook. #PossiblePodcast 

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