Northern Exposure: Race, Nation and Disaffection in "Ordinary" Towns and Cities after Brexit

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sociology & Social Policy

Abstract

The North of England has played a central role in debates about the causes and consequences of the Brexit referendum, especially in the widespread perception of a divided Britain. There is a pervasive vision of the North outside of the bigger cities, that it represented a "heartland" vote: notably in David Goodhart's romantic vision (2017) of "somewhere" people (core national, rooted, working class, "left behind") against the "anywheres" (affluent, educated, cosmopolitan, metropolitan elites). At the same time, Brexit has raised fears about the future of a multi-racial society with high levels of immigration. The North of England is also viewed as a place of simmering racism and xenophobia: pitting White British, older British minority groups, and newer incomers such as asylum seekers or East European workers against each other in deprived and depressed post-industrial locations. Not least, these tensions are thought to have provoked the murder of a sitting MP - Jo Cox - and to lie behind rising racially motivated hate crime in the region.
Northern Exposure interrogates these perceptions of the North, while broaching sensitive questions of everyday nationalism, race and racism in largely understudied and marginalised places. The project fills out and enriches the argument that the disaffection expressed by voters, or in tensions seen in particular communities, is linked to the long term post-industrial transformation of the region. We must consider the varied paths of industrial, population and spatial change experienced by different localities. There has been a hollowing out of proud old civic solidarities anchored in class and occupation. Northern towns, with their grand histories and identities, have become amorphous, peri-urban entities, ringed by motorways and large shopping malls, with struggling centres and declining populations (Hatherley 2012). Some residents find it impossible to move on or move out. This changing geography, and its fragmenting diversity, have made it ever harder to imagine how to manage shifting ethnic relations or achieve social integration.
The project will offer a detailed statistical profile of 16 "ordinary" large towns and small cities in the North of England, going back in time. We then engage in intensive ethnographic work on four localities-
running from the North West, through West Yorkshire, to the North East-which capture key elements of the post-industrial North in their histories, changing identities, and contemporary struggles: Preston, Halifax, Wakefield, and Middlesbrough. Talking with local stakeholders, community organisations, and social work practitioners, we build up a clear vision of the everyday concerns that damage positive visions of diversity, community and inclusion. This leads on to interviews with older long term residents from different origins and backgrounds, gathering personal oral histories and views about the urban, social and political change around them.
Policy makers in the region feel that conventional multiculturalism and anti-racism are not working, yet that a narrow focus on socio-economic solutions will not solve the riddle of "inclusive growth" or address emergent ethnic conflicts. Our research will transmit voices not often heard into local policy formulation. It will feedback residents' concerns into neighbourhood policing. With our partners, we seek tools for local intervention, identifying mechanisms that lead to community breakdown or community cohesion. Our work will also lead to a comprehensive of study of the state of Northern England in all its diversity as it comes to terms with Brexit. A website, policy roundtables, local presentations, and a large final event will make our work public. Alongside other academic outputs, we are also filming our research and the people we meet. This will result in short online films which portray residents and their lives today, along with a full length documentary for general release.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from this research?

Northern Exposure offers a timely intervention into issues that have risen to the top of the political agenda in the UK. On top of a series of recent policy review and reports, which include among others reports on poverty and declining cities, and reports on community isolation and segregation, the Brexit vote has raised stakes considerably. There is evidence that inter-ethnic relations have worsened, reflected in an unprecedented rise in hate crime that a UN Rapporteur has linked directly with the UK leaving the European Union. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has also stated that leaving the EU will affect anti-discrimination policies. The Government has itself signalled it takes some of these concerns seriously, by announcing a national Race Disparity Audit and White Paper consultation on Integrated Communities. While there are still uncertainties about the UK leaving the EU, existing community relations will change as freedom of movement of EU residents will end. New immigration policies will be put in place, and the architecture of anti-discrimination policy will change. Brexit will also have a differential impact on varied racial and ethnic communities according to their socio-economic characteristics, their everyday practices, their locations, and their local mix. We anticipate therefore that beneficiaries of this research will include: (i) different local communities in "left behind" localities; (ii) local authorities in large towns and small cities, especially post-industrial locations in the North of England as well as similar locations across the country; (iii) national authorities such as the Department for Exiting the European Union, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, the Houses of Commons and Lords, and MPs representing constituencies which share characteristics with those studies; (iv) LAP leaders and governing bodies across the local sector; (v) the media and the general public.

How might they benefit from this research?

The project will provide quantitative, documentary, ethnographic and oral historical policy-related evidence into how understandings of community, diversity and immigration are transforming local communities in the North, as Brexit unfolds and the UK leaves the European Union. It also makes a longer-term conceptual contribution to knowledge in the sociology of race, ethnicity and national identity, challenging and qualifying public understandings of these fundamental questions of identity and belonging, as well as generating insights for local, regional and national policy on community cohesion, anti-discrimination, integration, and symptoms of their breakdown, in hate crime and persistent racial disparity. For (i) local communities and residents it provides them with a voice and a means of speaking to local authorities; for (ii) local authorities it reconnects them with marginalised and deprived communities, helping them to understand the consequences of the changes heralded by Brexit, and better identify challenges and potential responses; for (iii) national authorities, it provides insight into how Brexit is perceived and reframed in so-called "left behind" regions and localities, helping to generate intelligence for evidence-based policy that may address needs of these communities in a timely manner; for (iv) LAP leaders and governing bodies across the local sector, it offers tailored case studies of localities and evidence-based policy recommendations; and (v) in terms of the media and the general public, the research articulates key dimensions of the Brexit and its implications for a multi-racial society, that for the foreseeable future will continue to face population change and immigration in localities struggling with difficult conditions of economic decline, poverty and limited public services.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Policy Brief: Class, Race and Inequality in Northern Towns
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://www.runnymedetrust.org/projects-and-publications/employment-3/class-race-and-inequality-in-n...
 
Description Calderdale Council 
Organisation Calderdale Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Partnerships with Community Engagement Officers to provide academic consultation research expertise and resources to map changing populations and emerging community tensions in the age of Brexit. Conducted through regular roundtable stakeholder meetings on location. Building links and enabling the sharing of best practice across the four authorities through regular joint Board Meetings.
Collaborator Contribution Engaging in co-production of research design, selection of local cases, identifying of priority areas of deprivation or radicalisation, and the provision of data to our research team. The council is bringing in-kind contribution through staff time of senior offices to attend regular Board meetings, to organise stakeholder meetings on location and to advise the research team.
Impact null
Start Year 2019
 
Description Lord Bhikhu Parekh, House of Lords 
Organisation House of Lords
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Lord Parekh is honorary chair of the Board of the Project and the "Commission for Diversity in the North of England". We are working towards formulating a new vision for the future of multi-ethnic Britain which reprises the themes and content of the famous 200o "Parekh Report", The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain.
Collaborator Contribution Lord Parekh attends regular meetings and provides advice and direction on the project
Impact None, as yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description Middlesbrough Council 
Organisation Middlesbrough Borough Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Partnerships with Community Engagement Officers to provide academic consultation research expertise and resources to map changing populations and emerging community tensions in the age of Brexit. Conducted through regular roundtable stakeholder meetings on location. Building links and enabling the sharing of best practice across the four authorities through regular joint Board Meetings.
Collaborator Contribution Engaging in co-production of research design, selection of local cases, identifying of priority areas of deprivation or radicalisation, and the provision of data to our research team. The council is bringing in-kind contribution through staff time of senior offices to attend regular Board meetings, to organise stakeholder meetings on location and to advise the research team.
Impact null
Start Year 2019
 
Description Runnymede Trust 
Organisation Runnymede Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Facilitated introductions to local authorities and local civil society organisations with portofolio on racial justice co-production of knowledge on racial inequalities in Northern Towns
Collaborator Contribution Shared expertise on race equality, co-produced policy brief on racial inequalities in Northern towns.
Impact policy brief Class, Race and Inequalities in Northern Towns published August 2019 https://www.runnymedetrust.org/projects-and-publications/employment-3/class-race-and-inequality-in-northern-towns.html
Start Year 2019
 
Description Wakefield Council 
Organisation Wakefield Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Partnerships with Community Engagement Officers to provide academic consultation research expertise and resources to map changing populations and emerging community tensions in the age of Brexit. Conducted through regular roundtable stakeholder meetings on location. Building links and enabling the sharing of best practice across the four localities through regular joint Board Meetings.
Collaborator Contribution Engaging in co-production of research design, selection of local cases, identifying of priority areas of deprivation or radicalisation, and the provision of data to our research team. The council is bringing in-kind contribution through staff time of senior offices to attend regular Board meetings, to organise stakeholder meetings on location and to advise the research team.
Impact null
Start Year 2019
 
Description 2 day workshop meeting of UK in a Changing Europe 'Governance after Brexit' projects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact University of Leeds, 5-6 March 2020
'Changing Conceptions of Impact and Engagement in Post-Brexit Social Science'
Organisation and co-direction with Dan Wincott of 2 day workshop meeting of UK in a Changing Europe 'Governance after Brexit' projects , with representatives of ESRC, local and national government, and impact/engagement specialists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Research presentation at the University of Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Academic talk to the School of Geography and Planning. 4th February 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description coverage in The Observer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact coverage of the policy brief 'Class, Race and Inequalities in Northern Towns' co-produced with Runnymede Trust
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/18/inequality-north-of-england-race
 
Description invited talk UCL 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact UCL, London, 6 June 2019
'Left Behind Britain and France Périphérique'
Adrian Favell spoke at a public panel at University College London on 'Left Behind Britain and France Périphérique' as part of the university's 2019 Festival of Culture.

academic audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description invited talk UCLA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact UCLA, Los Angeles, 23 May 2019
'Crossing the Race Line: Brexit, Citizenship and "Immigrants" in the Referendum'.
Adrian Favell presented an invited talk at UCLA, Center for the Study of International Migration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description invited talk University of Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact invited talk at workshop ' Citizens of Brexit' 22 of October 2019
Paul Bagguley and Roxana Barbulescu gave a talk on the project
academic audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description invited talk annual ESRC University of Essex 'Understanding Society' report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact London, 28 Jan 2020
'Social integration and cohesion at a crossroads: where to now?'
Adrian Favell spoke to government officers, policy stakeholders and community representatives as an expert panelist at the launch of the annual ESRC University of Essex 'Understanding Society' report
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description invited talk at National Pensioners' Convention annual Pensioners' Parliament 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blackpool, 11 June 2019
'The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain: What Went Wrong?'
Adrian Favell spoke at the National Pensioners' Convention annual Pensioners' Parliament in Blackpool. The NPC represents around 1 million members in over 1,000 different organisations across the UK, organising rallies and lobbies of MPs, leading delegations to parliament and making submissions to government.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description national newspaper coverage (The Guardian) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact coverage in The Guardian based on the Policy Brief 'Class, Race and Inequalities in Northern Towns; co-produced Runnymede Trust
15th of August 2019

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/15/white-working-class-fuels-inequality-north
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/15/white-working-class-fuels-inequality-north