Tackling Inequalities through Heritage and the Arts

Theme Lead: Dr Josh Blamire

This theme brings together staff and postgraduate students seeking to understand more about the role of participation in arts and heritage for addressing inequalities. We work to promote the voices of marginalised individuals and groups (as well as those who have been traditionally under-represented within research and public policy) through participatory research.

Working with partners in the creative, heritage, and youth sectors, as well as those in education, housing, transport, and healthcare, we promote the importance of arts and heritage-based approaches to enhance civic pride and a sense of belonging. Our research aims to facilitate the building of strong, cohesive communities and to improve community health and wellbeing in diverse areas across a range of settings. Our most recent work explores how engagement with arts and heritage intersects with the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Current Projects

Working with Heritage Lincolnshire and Historic England, this project explores community heritage and place-making through a community researcher model. The group of community researchers – led by Dr Josh Blamire – will examine the diverse cosmopolitan heritage and hidden histories of Boston (Lincolnshire), and co-curate material for an exhibition. In so doing, we explore how engaging with heritage can help to cultivate a sense of community, local pride and belonging as well as to address place-based inequalities. The project has also received funding from Boston Big Local.

Act Now utilises arts as a tool for change in people experiencing multiple and complex issues who are vulnerably housed, homeless, or rough sleeping. Working with partners Geese Theatre Company and SIFA Fireside we adopt a mixed-methods approach to evaluating the impact of the project over the three-year period. The learning will be translated into recommendations for the sector, funders, and policymakers.

Wolverhampton: City of Youth Culture is a three-year project funded by Arts Council England. Led by Newhampton Arts Centre, the project brings together partner organisations to support and evaluate cultural opportunities for young people in the City, including through the provision of festivals, art trails and career opportunities.

ICRD is the evaluation partner and is working closely with all the partners, including recruiting community peer researchers and developing a co-produced a theory of change. The project also contributes to the Levelling Up mission building pride in place through increasing usage and enjoyment of the high street and engagement in local culture through a youth events programme. 


This project is led by Dr Eun Sun Godwin working with Dr Josh Blamire. It explores qualitatively what constitutes meaningful work within the heritage craft industry, and what tensions exist between heritage and ‘innovation’. We also examine the presence and role of the heritage crafts industry for place-making in the context of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda. We are partnered with the Heritage Crafts Association.

Dr Josh Blamire is working on a project funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The project – led by the University of Wolverhampton’s Dr Karan Jutlla – aims to explore and evaluate a participatory approach to co-producing an inclusive place-based model to improve dementia support for people from ethnic minority communities, particularly South Asian, Black African and African Caribbean communities.

TWICEASGOOD is an international research project led by the University of Exeter taking place across four countries (the UK, Spain, Türkiye, and the Netherlands), funded by the European Research Council. ICRD is a project partner. This five-year research project employs a mixed-methods approach to understand the barriers faced by women within politics. Dr Josh Blamire is conducting ethnographic research to explore how everyday encounters on the campaign trail shape women’s campaign efforts and chances at electoral success. Drawn together, this data will generate new insights into the causes of women’s continued under-representation in politics.

Completed Projects

We worked with Historic England to explore young people’s engagements with heritage. Our findings were that participation in young people’s heritage programmes: provides multiple health, social, and learning benefits; offers unique opportunities for fostering identity and belonging; can build strong cohesive communities; and can promote social mobility. These outcomes each align with Levelling Up policy ambitions to cultivate ‘pride in place’. This work proposed a number of recommendations for practitioners, policymakers and politicians. Find out more by viewing the final report, our research webinar, our presentation at Oxford University, our presentation at Hope Evolves, our press release and our blogpost.

Led by Dr Irine Røsnes, Create Walsall was a community research project that utilised co-creative arts-based methods as a tool to amplify under-represented voices within local communities, to identify and better understand the specific needs of communities, and to support social cohesion and wellbeing in Walsall. Follow the links to check out the project website, video, and blogpost.

Our final project report - Beyond Text: lessons learned from creative arts engagement with diverse communities in Walsall - can be accessed here (PDF, 1.2MB)