PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

The Beat of Our Hearts: Staging New Histories of LGBTQIA+ Loneliness

26 May 2021

LGBTQIA+ loneliness has a long history, as do the relationships and spaces that LGBTQIA+ people have built for solidarity, creativity, and care. The Beat of Our Hearts will engage LGBTQIA+ and non-LGBTQIA+ audiences with these histories, reconnecting them with past queer lives.

This project is part of an AHRC EDI Engagement Fellowship, run by Dr Charlotte Jones (PI) and Dr Richard Vytniorgu (PDRA) in partnership with local writer Natalie McGrath, the Intercom Trust, and the Northcott Theatre. This work draws upon previous and ongoing loneliness research and collaborations developed by Dr Fred Cooper and Dr Charlotte Jones as part of the WCCEH’s Loneliness and Community Beacon Project.

What are we doing?

The Beat of Our Hearts begins with a programme of creative workshops about loneliness with LGBTQ+ communities in Devon and Cornwall, in partnership with the Intercom Trust, a leading LGBTQ+ charity in the South West. This will culminate in the development and staging of an original performance at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre as part of LGBT+ history month in February 2022. The performance will be written by playwright Natalie McGrath, drawing on a community of queer writers and artists. The performance will be accompanied by a parallel festival of events, bringing in local and national LGBTQIA+ charities, groups, and initiatives.

Why are we doing it?

Many LGBTQIA+ people in Britain have been subject to exclusion and isolation, both historically and today. This can result from explicit discrimination and hostility in family homes, on the street, and from institutions such as our education and healthcare services, as well as a more diffused cultural biases which favour and naturalise some lives and relationships over others. Loneliness is one of the most significant emotional and psychological expressions of this marginalisation.

What’s next?

Over the summer we will be holding our online creative workshops, which will be open to LGBTQIA+ people of all ages who are based in the South West – so watch this space for more details!




PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

Shame and Medicine

19 January 2021

Shame and Medicine is an interdisciplinary research project that is based at the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham, with a collaboration with a clinical partner at Children’s Health, Ireland, in Dublin.

The overall aim of the project is to research the role of shame in various aspects of health and medicine, including clinical practice, patient experience and medical student education.

The project is engaging a team of researchers in social sciences, cultural studies, medicine and philosophy to investigate the philosophy and cultural representation of shame in medicine, while also doing empirical studies looking at shame experiences in current healthcare practices and professional culture, particularly exploring how race, ethnicity, class and gender impact on the experience of shame.

The Shame and Medicine project will provide evidence that will improve the quality of health services and enrich our understanding of the experience of shame as it relates to health, professional practice and education.

Find out more at the project website:

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

UNESCO: Quay Words

18 December 2020

To celebrate Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the Centre held a short call for literary research projects. 

Literature Works is collaborating with Exeter University’s Waiting Times project research team Professor Laura Salisbury and Dr Michael Flexer on a partnership designed to promote wellbeing and the creation of an inclusive community, held together by creative explorations of writing and storytelling.

Together, they were awarded seed funding to support the preparatory consultation, outreach and programme design for a series of community-based writing courses to be held as part of Quay Words 2020-2022 at Exeter Custom House. The programme design will enrich the Wellcome Trust-funded interdisciplinary project Waiting Times, which is itself supported by WCCEH, and ensure shared outcomes to meet the objectives of both parties.

This responds to priorities that Literature Works and WCCEH hold in common as members of the Steering Group on Exeter as a UNESCO City of Literature: the socially engaged use of the literature artform to promote health and wellbeing.

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

UNESCO: Welfare Sanctuary

18 December 2020

To celebrate Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the Centre held a short call for literary research projects.


When the country was put into lockdown, 25 of Libraries Unlimited’s staff from across the organization embarked on the Design Thinking process, developing ‘How might we support people through our services in the short to medium term of these Covid-19 times?’ questions in light of the public buildings being closed and physical services shifting on-line or no longer being available to the patrons. Given the various relationships people have to the physical buildings one of the themes that arose from the process asked:

‘How might we provide a sense of sanctuary beyond the library walls?’

The Welfare Sanctuary Project takes over disused or under-used urban/green spaces and provides a new place of learning for residents and visitors. A safe outdoor space where people can come together to experiment and discover more about organic food production, biodiversity and climate protection. The space will help them adapt to climate change and learn about healthy eating, sustainable living and a future-oriented urban lifestyle. Fresh organic vegetables and herbs are grown in raised beds across the site without the use of pesticides. There are seating and table areas safely positioned across the site where people can enjoy a drink and a meal. The food and drink concessions are rented on a rotation basis by local hospitality businesses, giving an on-going interest for locals to return, they are housed in adapted shipping containers. Likewise there is a shipping container library where people can arrange to pick up books and sit outside to read them over a pint and events arranged for small safe groups, such as Star Gazing, Flower Arranging and Bird Watching led by specialists as well as culturally engaged activity.


Project Partners:

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

UNESCO: Creative Writing & Mental Health: East African Representations & Voices

18 December 2020

To celebrate Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the Centre held a short call for literary research projects. 

Working with Kigali-based Huza Press and African creative writing teaching initiative Saseni!, this project is concerned with supporting East Africa-based writers to write and publish creative work that engages with issues of mental health. It is a creative, critical and collaborative research initiative concerned with highlighting the relationship between literature and well-being, with modes of supporting writers who are interested in exploring difficult and traumatic subjects, and with increasing the visibility and complexity of the narratives of mental illness circulating in the East African region. This forms a key part of an emerging stream of Africa-focused programming which is an anchor project for Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature, focusing on building event and research connections between Devon and East Africa. It will also enter into dialogue with work being done by partner Royal African Society, highlighting current innovations shaping mental healthcare in Africa today and developing a roadmap for working towards the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan.

Led by Dr Kate Wallis, the seed funding enabled the team to begin building the partner relationships, audiences and digital materials to support a larger project. They initially worked with Huza Press and Saseni!, to develop and run a 2-hour online creative writing workshop for up to 15 writers based in East Africa. This workshop focused in particular on supporting the development of narratives around mental health that respond specifically to the challenges brought about by COVID19. Working with Huza Press and Saseni! to develop audiences and materials for this one-off workshop enabled the building of an evidence-base that informed the development of this longer-term project, providing vital information about writer engagement as well as the kinds of writing and support creative writers in the region are looking for and could benefit from.

Read the full report here: Creative Writing & Mental Health: East African Representations & Voice

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

UNESCO: The Lockdown Blues

18 December 2020

To celebrate Exeter’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, the Centre held a short call for literary research projects. 

“Many of us felt lonely before the pandemic, and the lockdown might have made this better, worse, or made no difference at all. Some of us have become isolated recently in a way which is unfamiliar. Living alone during lockdown might feel different to how it felt before; our relationships might have changed or suffered; and we might feel sad about keeping a physical distance from others, with no touching. We might have discovered we have different priorities and views to the people we care about. We may also feel unsupported or abandoned by the government and the decisions they’ve made about our well-being.

Some of us could be worried about what comes next, and if life was difficult before the pandemic, then we might not want to return to the way it was. It’s also not clear if our new support networks and different ways of communicating will stay or go, and whether some of us might be left behind.”

The Lockdown Blues is an online scrapbook for people in the South West to submit their thoughts, feelings and experiences, in whatever their chosen  medium, to be shared with others in regard to the COVID lockdown.

The researchers, Fred Cooper, Charlotte Jones and Olly Clabburn, designed this project to show people who feel lonely that they aren’t the only ones, and to provide a way for them to tell their stories. They also wanted to make sure that the way people feel during COVID-19 isn’t forgotten or overlooked, and explore the connections between reading, writing, creativity, and wellbeing.

Go to the Lockdown Blues website for more information.

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

TRA: Cancer and close relationships

1 August 2019

Transformative Research Awards support novel, innovative and interesting research that moves beyond established divisions and dichotomies to enable insight, debate and new approaches to current health challenges.

The impact of a cancer diagnosis on close relationships

When one partner has a diagnosis of cancer the impact on relationships can be extremely challenging.  Yet this aspect of a cancer experience is often overlooked and support to help people is limited. In more than 20% of cases relationships break down. WHY supports more than 500 people each year through their cancer experience and understands the strain on relationships that cancer can bring. Social support networks can flounder, and relationship dynamics change.  WHY would like to understand more about this impact on close relationships, why they break down or change and how the provision of counselling or other therapeutic interventions can support families.

This project will begin in autumn 2019. It was developed from the workshop WHY carried out as part of a Research Initiation Award.

Project leader

We Hear You

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

TRA: Dance, health and well-being

1 August 2019

Transformative Research Awards support novel, innovative and interesting research that moves beyond established divisions and dichotomies to enable insight, debate and new approaches to current health challenges.

Dance, Health and Well-being: debating and moving forward methodologies

It is now widely agreed that there is considerable evidence of the positive benefits of dance in developing physical aspects of health and fitness. Building on this, this eighteen-month research project has sought to develop understanding of the under-researched aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that dance makes to health and wellbeing across the lifecourse. In particular it focused on what kinds of methodologies are appropriate for investigating these contributions, and how these methodologies can generate findings which extend how we understand the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing.

The research has taken a transdisciplinary approach, bringing together arts education and community research and practice, together with dance science and dance health practice. This is represented in the research team which has been led by Associate Professor Kerry Chappell from the University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education, working together with colleagues Professor Emma Redding, Veronica Jobbins and Dr Rebecca Stancliffe at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Dr Sue Smith at Dance in Devon, and Ursula Crickmay also from the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter.

The questions we asked:

  • What are the aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that Dance makes to Health and Wellbeing across the lifecourse?
  • What methodologies (mixed/innovative?) are appropriate for investigating these contributions?
  • How can findings challenge/respond to the impact agenda?

What we did:

  • A systematic literature review (available here: was undertaken to articulate the current state of understanding of the aesthetic, artistic and creative contributions that dance makes to health and wellbeing across the lifecourse within evaluation reports and peer-reviewed articles, including English-language literature from 2000 to 2019.
  • Focus group discussions were conducted with dance and health practitioners, participants and other stakeholders to seek their opinions and experiences of how dance contributes to health, and to debate how they have been involved in researching creativity and artistry. The findings are being disseminated through a project report.
  • A symposium, hosted by the University of Exeter Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, took place online on 19 April 2021 to share the results of the research, and to debate and extend the findings. The recording and presentations from the event can be found on the links below:

D and H Symposium Presentation 1

D and H Symposium Presentation 2 – Stakeholder Perspectives

Project Report

You can read the 2021HUMS002 Dance, Health and Wellbeing Report FINAL.

Systematic Literature Review

You can read the Systematic Literature Review here.


Project Partners

University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education: Creativity and Emergent Educational-Future Network

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Dance in Devon


Project leader

Kerry Chappell

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RIA: Live Music Now

12 July 2019

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Partnership working and live music

“[The session] allowed our pupils to enjoy new musical experiences in a non-threatening, non-judgemental setting … an opportunity to model how to sit and appreciate live music, something that is a challenge for many of our students. But there were also moments during the session where it was OK to ‘ whoop it up’ and just let our hair down.”

Excellent and inspiring session. I think the idea of children seeing and hearing live music can have such a profound effect on them. I would hope all children would be able to have this experience.”

Live Music Now is a UK-wide music charity providing access to live music for children with special educational needs and older people, including those living with dementia.

Teachers consistently tell us about the vital part music can play in helping children overcome learning or physical difficulties and improve their quality of life. Despite this, children with special needs experience considerable difficulties in accessing high quality cultural and creative experiences, due to the physical barriers to accessing venues, a lack of appropriate events, and a lack of understanding of different behaviours.

Building partnership skills for both teachers and musicians at the outset of their careers has the potential to make a considerable difference to the quality of musical opportunities for these children and young people in the future.

Circle of people in discussion

Discussions on the impact of live music on children with special education needs

This project was a partnership between Live Music Now and the University of Exeter Graduate School of Education, bringing together children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, young professional musicians and PGCE students at the University of Exeter to work together to research a model of partnership working, establish common ground in our working practices and try out the practical activities.

Working together to plan the activity gave the PGCE students the opportunity to experience good practice in partnership working and delivering music activity and LMN musicians the chance to learn about pedagogy and lesson planning. The three participatory concerts/workshops provided an opportunity for children with special needs to visit the university campus and experience live music with professional musicians.

Read the full report here

Highlights for the students:

  • Experiencing a new environment, and a new aspect of their local community.
  • Opportunities to join in with live music making, including conducting and using voices and percussion instruments.
  • Opportunities to respond both emotionally and cognitively to music
Post-it notes with workshop feedback

PCGE student feedback from one of the teaching sessions

Highlights for PGCE students:

  • Direct experience of the impact of live performance on children and young people
  • Practical ideas for preparing children for and following up live music performances in schools.
  • Understanding how children with special educational needs, including autism and sensory needs, might respond to live music.

Highlights for Live Music Now musicians:

  • Opportunity to work in the different context of the University environment.
  • A better understanding of pedagogy and lesson planning, and how they can help teachers to make the most of live music experiences.
  • Confidence in their own expertise and the value of what they are bringing into schools.

We learned …

In the planning phase, we learned a number of things that will be useful in any future partnership:

  • The importance of integrating the project into the core curriculum for the PGCE students.
  • The challenges of bringing children with disabilities on to campus for live music making.
  • The importance of a “brokering” role between Live Music Now and University of Exeter.

Next steps

Everyone felt that this was a valuable learning experience and something on which to build. A small-scale research project is going ahead, led by Hermione Ruck Keene. The data we collected in interviews and through an online questionnaire are being analysed for future publication.

Project leader

Sophie Dunn


PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Risk and resilience

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Risk and resilience in child mental health: a cross-cultural study of children in India, Peru, Vietnam and the UK

This project created an international network that consolidated relationships with partner institutions in India, Peru and Vietnam. Collaborating with local academics in each country, our trans-disciplinary team (anthropology, economics, psychology, medicine) aimed to support the creation of a participatory research community to co-produce knowledge with local schools, professionals and families.

Read the project report.

Project Partners

Daisy Elliott
Ginny Russell
Abigail Russell

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Compassionate care

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Compassionate care in CAMHS in-patient settings

This project will collaborate with staff and patients in adolescent inpatient wards to ask what they think compassionate care looks like, and what helps it to happen and prevent compassion fatigue or burnout. This will help to develop future research that draws on patients’ and staff definitions of compassionate care and compassion fatigue, as well as patients’ and staff ideas for how we can improve care experiences. It will also offer a space to consider the literature on the systemic, social and political contexts which compassion fatigue and burnout occur in and ways to relate this to an experimental design.

Project Partners

Lucy Maddox


Ethical approval was granted after a lengthy 7-month process. Access to three adolescent mental health inpatient wards has been approved for staff, although sadly the patient element of the study has not been approved and so the patient voice will not be part of this project. Focus groups with staff are happening now, and analysis of themes will form the basis for a survey of staff to see if themes related to compassionate care are generalisable.

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Community well-being

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Exploring community well-being in context

This was an exploratory project, working closely with local communities to understand key elements in healthy, resilient communities and how they result from, and contribute to, individual well-being. The partners looked at four very different places in Devon: coastal community, market town, urban area and rural community, working closely with local people to highlight the differences and similarities among them.

We hope the outcomes of this reflection will help us plan together for future research, and more effectively support community-based initiatives focused on health and well-being.

Read the final report: Community Wellbeing in context: a place-based scoping study

Project Partners

Nicola Frost, Devon Community Foundation

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Devon Sustainable Food Networks

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Devon sustainable food networks: mapping partnerships to enhance sustainable food cultures

This project is based on insider, practitioner and academic knowledge of the challenges sustainable food cities face, as well as understanding the potential for bringing together seemingly conflicting food agendas; those focused on food poverty, diet-related ill health and boosting local and sustainable food cultures. We aim to build capacity in Devon sustainable food networks by mapping food programmes in the city regions of Exeter and Plymouth, and the rural South Hams, to transform partners’ programmes by identifying and categorising existing activities to transform responses to food poverty, public health issues, sustainable ‘food work’ and research in the region. The project partners will collaborate to identify opportunities to streamline often competing public health/food poverty/local food agendas, enhancing health, environmental and food cultures across Devon and set strategic visions/agendas in food network research.

Project updates

17th December 2020

Following the symposium of 2019, the final report is now available for reading.

29th November 2019

Rebecca Sandover was an expert witness in the Devon Net Zero Taskforce’s hearings to gather evidence towards creating a Devon Carbon Plan. Rebecca focussed on measures to bring more, affordable local food to local markets and local food procurement, drawing on evidence from her recent research, including this project.

Read more here

Thursday 17th October

The partners held a symposium to set out some of the initial findings of this research and explore the challenges and opportunities for Devon Sustainable Food Networks.

Project Partners

Rebecca Sandover
Food Plymouth
Public Health Devon
The Bioregional Learning Centre
The Sustainable Food Cities Network

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Outsider art

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Who owns ‘outsider art’? Exploring best practice in the use of visual artworks made in Arts & Health

The use of art-making to improve mental health has a long-standing history. In parallel in the art world, creations by artists with mental health conditions or disabilities have developed into a well-established art movement, known as Outsider Art, for which the public appetite grows steadily each year. Outsider Art exhibitions often sell out and early pieces from this movement now reach record prices. But who owns the artworks and who is entitled to their royalties? Who gets to decide whether an artwork is displayed to the public or kept within the confines of medical confidentiality? What at first appears to be a simple question of legal ownership has, in fact, deep implications for the representation of disability and mental health in our culture. Working with artist-clients, arts & health practitioners and lawyers, we will collect new evidence to address this question and inform policy-making in Arts & Health.

The project

Today, the practice of using art-making to improve health or wellbeing is well-established and growing. Going by the ‘umbrella’ term of ‘Arts & Health’, practitioners are drawn from a range of professions, ranging from registered medical professions (e.g. Art Therapy) to unregulated therapeutic or social work (e.g. Arts Psychotherapy, Community Art). In the art world, the popularity of the art made by artist-clients or artist-patients, called ‘Outsider Art’, has exponentially increased in commercial value over the last decades. These artworks are thus unique, for they attract the interest of the medical profession, the art community and the art-buying public in equal measure. This level of interest exacerbates the desire to show the artworks beyond the walls of the therapist’s office or the art studio. Yet, the right to show the artworks and share them with the public rests with their owners. But who owns them? Is it the artist-client who made the work, or is the supervisor, carer or therapist who oversaw their creation? Who gets to decide when and how the artwork is to be displayed or stay confined to the confidentiality of medical records? Who is best placed to decide on the future of such pieces? These are the questions this project seeks to explore.

The ethos framing the use of clients’ artworks, which in large part relates to the ownership of the work, is a divisive topic in this field. Each Arts & Health profession approaches the ownership of the artist-clients in a different way. These differences, which until recently have been strong divergences, underpin the classification of Arts & Health professions currently cleaving the field. For this reason, the question ‘who owns the artwork?’ is a politically-charged one in Arts & Health, for which a clear and straightforward answer is yet to be given. This project proposes to bridge this critical gap in understanding by gathering empirical evidence of behaviour, working directly with artist-clients and Arts & Health professionals specialising in different practices.

Adding another layer of complexity to this issue is the fact that the ownership of artworks is, ultimately, a matter of law. A traditional doctrinal analysis of UK law would be ill-equipped to tackle the ethical implications at play and the potentially negative impact of the law on the agency of people with mental health conditions or disabilities. This is because very few laws were designed to account for the position of artists with disabilities. Nevertheless, existing regulations, however sparse or ill-suited, remain binding on practitioners in Arts & Health and their clients. For this reason, the project brings ‘Law’ as a key strand of the research to confront existing regulations to artist-clients’ and therapists’ expectations of ownership.

The aim of the project is to identify or uncover pivotal, transdisciplinary values, across all fields and perspectives, to inform the legal concepts of ‘capacity’, ‘personhood’, ‘impairment’ and ‘ownership’ — key to this question. This new transdisciplinary knowledge will assist an inclusive interpretation of the law conveyed in contracts, codes of best practice and court decisions going forward.

In order to tackle the multi-faceted question of ownership in Arts & Health, the project adopts a transdisciplinary research method which brings together academics, practitioners from Arts & Health and Law, as well as artist-clients, to explore principles of best practice for the management of artworks. The research team will survey existing practices and understandings of ownership of artworks in Arts & Health to compare these to the provisions made by UK law.

The research aims to find a common ground between Arts & Health practice and the Law to resolve conflicts existing in either discipline by pooling their complementary knowledge, experience and skills. This will take the form of up to 12 one-to-one interviews with former artist-clients followed by 4 workshops with the relevant professionals in Arts & Health and Law to analyse the interview data and the concept and process of ownership. The findings of the project will be communicated in the form of an online exhibition showcasing the imagery and writing produced by participants during the research.

This project is co-lead by academic and law specialist Mathilde Pavis and senior art therapist Karen Hucvkale, with the support of research fellow and law specialist Tania Barton.

You can find out more about the project here.

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RIA: Voices from Durgapur

11 July 2019

(Header image credit: Voices from Durgapur 2019 ARBAN CC-BY)

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Group of women and men talking, seated on the groundA team from ARBAN, an NGO committed to developing the lives of the rural community in a remote area of Bangladesh, has decided to take the initiative to engage members of the community to tell their own stories. In this engaged process, the villagers tell their stories in their  way, identifying the issues and factors that affect their wellbeing and prioritising the solutions.

In this project, young mothers from Durgapur, a remote area in the north-western part of Bangladesh, met in their courtyards to talk about maternal health, child care, and reproductive health with a gender specialist and fieldworkers from ARBAN.

People talking around a tableThe ARBAN team also organised a round-table discussion with local service providers (government officials, NGO representatives, business community and other private agencies) to share the findings from the women’s discussions.

Read the final report: Voices from Durgapur

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Protein pressures

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Protein pressures and carnivorous crises: human health, animal welfare and the global growth of nineteenth- and twenty-first-century meat markets

This project explored how health, welfare and environmental issues concerning the phenomenal growth of the global meat complex in the twenty-first century can be better understood and addressed through an interdisciplinary engagement with the formative development of globalized meat markets in Britain between 1850-1920.

We held a two-day symposium that:

– Used the Centre’s research themes to shape and develop how scholars with expertise in the relevant history, archival materials and literary and cultural forms can forge links with scientists, social scientists, policy-makers, commercial organisations and advocacy groups involved and interested in the contemporary meat industry.

– Began to identify interdisciplinary research questions, archival resources and impact pathways that will develop in a transformative way Paul Young’s monograph Carnivorous Empire: Adventure Fiction, British Culinary Culture and the Growth of Global Meat Markets, 1865-1914 as an application to the AHRC’s Leadership Fellow scheme.

– Started to build a network of researchers from non-cognate disciplines alongside non-academic stakeholders and orient it towards ongoing collaborative work – within the academy and beyond – on the historical, cultural and environmental dimensions of meat markets as they pertain to issues of human and non-human health and wellbeing.

Read Paul Young’s article in The Conversation: The Victorians caused the meat-eating crisis the world faces today – but they might help us solve it

Watch the Centre seminar: Meat-eating and globalised modernity, with Paul Young, Chris Otter and Usman Mustaq from the EAT Foundation

Project Partners

Paul Young
Steve Hinchliffe
Chris Otter



PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Are you sure?

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Are you sure? Diagnosis, truth and configurations of power

In this project, we explored how the use of terms such as ‘truth’ and ‘certainty’ are associated with the task of diagnosis. We looked specifically at the representation of diagnosis by diagnosticians but also in popular culture. We investigated how this representation uses these authoritative terms to reinforce the transformative power of diagnosis and to protect medicine’s social status and control.

We held a small, international, multi-disciplinary workshop to explore the concepts, scope a broader, multi-phase project, and develop a brief for a multi-media exhibit. We hope to use the networks and learning from this workshop to create follow-on application to the Wellcome Trust to empirically explore patient experiences and institutional settings of diagnosis and medical certainty and uncertainty.

Patient representatives were involved in the workshop and we hope will continue to be involved at all stages of the research, through PenPIG, with which we have worked previously, and through the Patients Association UK.

Project Partners

Susan Kelly, Annemarie Jutel

Read the workshop report: Diagnosis and Truth

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

RSF: Gender identity

10 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Transforming knowledge about the outcomes of gender identity service use: co-development of a research agenda

This award is supporting us to engage with users of the West of England Gender Identity Clinic (the Laurels), in Exeter, their families, and clinicians, to improve understanding of desired outcomes of gender identity transition and co-develop a research agenda in this area.

There is currently little understanding of what users of these services regard as desired outcomes and our primary aim is to give voice to their views and examine how these might change as they move through transition. Since gender identity transition does not happen in isolation from other people, we also aim to incorporate the perspective of people’s social networks and clinicians, and to facilitate a dialogue between these different perspectives. The primary outcome of the project will be a co-developed research agenda that will guide our future work. We also aim to co-produce initial transformative insights into how to produce a more complete and realistic understanding of the outcomes of this type of service use.

Project partners

David Doyle, Manuela Barreto, Tom Lewis, Ann Grand

Project update

In May 2019, David Doyle was one of the speakers in a Centre seminar on transgender issues. The seminar was hosted by Manuela Barreto. The other speakers were Doris Chou, John Dean and Jay Stewart MBE.


PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

Beacon: big data publics

8 July 2019

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.

Health research & non-traditional data: engaging with publics

Dr Karyn Morrissey,  Professor Lora Fleming, Dr Ann Grand, Dr Kath Maguire, Ms Rita Alflatt

Good public health is a valuable commodity, and finding ways in which public health can be maintained or increased benefits everyone. Anonymised individual level data, either in patient records or large-scale health surveys, are a key characteristic of health research. These data have been used to develop a range of public health measures, such as legislation on air pollution, smoking and alcohol consumption. Many people have concerns about the use of these data, and the institutions that produce them, such as the Office of National Statistics and the NHS, have developed protocols to ensure they are shared ethically and used responsibly.

However, there are now many new sources of data that relate to our health, for example data from social media, personal devices and “apps”, data from store cards and environmental sensor data. These data all have the potential to transform public health. This is particularly true if these personalised data are linked to electronic patient data or health insurance data.

These ‘new’, or non-traditional, data are often held by companies and third-party organisations, rather than health bodies or governments. This means that for the first time, data held outside mandatory data protection mechanisms can be used by public health researchers and to shape public health research more broadly.

Often, such data are collected without people knowing, which makes sharing and using them for health research problematic. To make informed decisions about data sharing, it become important to understand how and why researchers are using our data. However, given the abstract nature of data and research in general, simple reassurance, top-down educational tools and public messaging about the benefits of data sharing for health research are unlikely to be enough.

This project has two interlinked aims. First, to explore people’s concerns and expectations of health researchers using their personal data from a range of sources, including both traditional (national surveys) and non-traditional (social media) as a means to inform the development of future health policies.

A key requirement is to ensure that any consultation on data and health research goes beyond just providing information and reassuring participants, but rather includes respectful, genuine debate and dialogue between researchers and members of the public. The second aim will explore the usefulness of a Publics’ Jury (PJ) (otherwise known as a Citizens’ Jury) approach as a means of engaging diverse publics in a manner that encourages debate and dialogue around health research and data sharing, rather than the top down provision of information alone. However, to ensure that the PJ is as inclusive and engaging of diverse publics, a series of Focus Groups will be used to explore a set of statements that will guide the ‘charge’ put towards the PJ. It is believed that the co-creation of this ‘charge’ will ensure that the direction of enquiry is framed by engaged publics rather than being a purely academic framing.

Project update

October 2019 – We held a pilot focus group in Truro, to test the usefulness of a focus group as a route to co-creation of the ‘charge’ for the Publics Jury. Further focus groups will be held later in the year. We drew on the evidence from the March workshop to create three ‘data stories’ as conversation starters for the group.

Cartoon Cartoon Cartoon


Three people sitting at a table, talking

Workshop, March 2019

March 2019 – we held a launch workshop in Truro that brought together researchers, members of local community groups and organisations and residents of Truro. The aim of the workshop was to begin to understand: what are the acceptable uses of ‘Big Data,’ for health research, especially health data gathered from sources such as social media and store cards?; who should be able to access these resources?; what should they be able to use the data for? and who should manage these processes?



PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

Beacon: transforming evidence

1 May 2019

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.

How is evidence constituted and mobilised in health decision-making in a ‘post-truth’ world?

Professor Mike Michael (Affiliate Member)
Professor Laura Salisbury
Professor Steve Hinchliffe
Dr Lara Choksey

This project uncovers and explores the constitution and mobilisation of medical evidence in health decision-making in the twentieth century, while undertaking an analysis of the contemporary use of medical facts in a so-called ‘post-truth’ world.

The project will track the emergence of evidence-based medicine and the use of Randomised Controlled Trials as the gold standard, alongside the challenges to this model from qualitative and more narrative-based approaches. This account will be situated within a longer history of medicine; it will also be read alongside a twentieth-century history of ideas that pays attention to the linguistic turn, the turn to narrative, and the emergence of what Jean-Francois Lyotard named an ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’ that gained traction in the humanities and social sciences at precisely the moment that evidence-based medicine was becoming discursively and institutionally powerful. By placing the use of quantitative and qualitative evidence in health decision-making within a broader intellectual history, including the two cultures debate of the 1960s, the theory wars of the 1980s, the movement from matters of fact to matters of concern, and the more recent emergence of so-called ‘post-truth’ in public discourse, this project will enable an analysis of which aspects of evidence, as it is currently constituted, need to be defended, and which aspects can valuably be complicated and transformed to enable the emergence of ‘healthy publics’.

Access to digital media and big data analytics have ensured that variously constituted (and constituting) publics are exposed to and mobilise increasing amounts of information. But information cannot be transformed into credible evidence, or into facts that are legible as such, without modes of interpretation that use affective investments, narratives, generic conventions and particular patterns to render data into a meaningful shape. Changes in the ways in which people access information have transformed narratives and genres of evidence, however, destabilising the consistency of discourses of fact and fiction and the distinction between the quantitative and the qualitative in ways that sometimes enable richer understandings of the complexity of actions and relations, but sometimes weaponise uncertainty. Current conditions thus render particularly explicit the ways in which the cognitive and affective experiences folded into health decision-making necessarily rely on complex patterns rather than particular points of evidence. This project will survey shifts in the affects, investments and genres that are essential to the constitution and mobilisation of facts and evidence in health decision-making at the macro level in order to determine trends in the relationship between Western biomedicine and discourses concerned with truth and efficacy. It will also use carefully developed case studies to track the complex and multiple connections that are assembled in and between publics and the medical evidence they both use and by which they are used. This aspect of the research will seek to engage publics to help determine the research questions and sites, and to take account of the patterns of affects and investments that go into a particular set of health decision-making practices.

The final part of the project will engage with publics to co-create knowledge about how medical evidence, understood as a complex assemblage and as working through particular genres and patterns that collapse the boundaries between qualitative and quantitative, might be represented, disseminated and used. Researchers and publics will use the Centre to work with artists on innovative ways to present the multiple and sticky elements that come together to form evidence in ways that might facilitate the emergence of healthy publics.

The Index of Evidence

PROJECT – Transforming Institutions

Beacon: loneliness and community

15 April 2019

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.

Loneliness and Community

Dr Fred Cooper, Dr Charlotte Jones, Professor Mark Jackson, and Professor Manuela Barreto.

This Beacon draws together a series of transdisciplinary research, engagement, and policy strands on loneliness in and beyond Higher Education. The core project of the Beacon uses medical humanities methodologies to engage student co-researchers in transformative work on loneliness and mental health, most recently in the charged and altered context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by Dr Fred Cooper and Dr Charlotte Jones, this project uses mixed-media journalling alongside new online spaces for creativity, solidarity, vulnerability, disclosure, and reflection. It also bridges vital gaps between student experience and university policymaking.

Other strands include a creative and pedagogical collaboration with the playwright Natalie McGrath and Exeter’s Northcott Theatre on LGBTQ+ loneliness, stigma, and history; the creation of a loneliness network to bring together academics, students, university staff, community organisations, charities, public health experts, and people with lived experience of loneliness;  a policy report for the WHO Regional Office for Europe on the cultural contexts of youth loneliness; and a UNESCO-funded repository for reflections on loneliness and isolation in lockdown in Devon and Exeter, with Olly Clabburn, Devon Libraries and Exeter Phoenix.



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