Revisiting the mid-point of British communities: a study of affect, affordance and connectivity in Glossop

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geography


This project seeks to undertake an in-depth study of community life in the town of Glossop. This town formed the focus of a study published in the late 1950s which subsequently became used to mark a mid-point in a synthesis of the how rural and urban communities might be seen to relate to, and differ from, each other. The town was portrayed as retaining considerable autonomy and independence, and has having a well-integrated community. However, the town has experienced considerable change since this study was conducted, become the location for Manchester over-spill and commuter housing developments, as well as experiencing de-industrialisation and a loss of retail and welfare services. It has been argued that towns such of Glossop that are located on the fringes of major cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, may have become settlements inhabited by people who either have little engagement with, or attachment to, their place of residence, or else have an 'elective sense' of belonging which is based primarily on comparisons with people and places elsewhere. The present project seeks to undertake historical and contemporary research within Glossop, both to explore whether the suspected changes to the town have actually occurred and to consider how the study of communities has itself changed over the period since the publication of the initial study of Glossop.

The project, which involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers drawn from the arts, humanities and social sciences, focuses particular attention of people's emotional and sensory engagement with ideas of community, both within present day Glossop and in the past. It also seeks to document the activity paths routinely enacted by people living within the town, in order to assess the degree to which they are embedded within the town or revolve around places well beyond its bounds. Attention is also drawn to the influence of the historical development of Glossop, which grew from a series of quite distinct settlements, and the topography and landscape settings of the settlement, both of which may be seen to have encouraged, or afforded, the development of a series of quite autonomous communities within the town.

The project will make use of developments in digital and Web 2.0 technologies to both examine and represent contemporary and past forms of community life within the town of Glossop, as well as involve members of the town in the generation and presentation of research findings. Methods used will include in-depth interviews, focus groups, oral histories, archival research and participatory art. The projects outputs will include an interactive website where people can add commentary to materials derived from the project, an interactive mapping system whereby people can explore what particular places in Glossop might mean to the residents of the town, a temporary exhibit of material from the project and heritage trails leaflets which will include QR (or quick-respinse) codes which will allow people to obtain information contained in the project's website and in other on-line locations.

The project is being undertaken in collaboration with a series of local groups and organisations, with residents in the town being invited to become involved as researchers in the project as well as participating through the provision of information and commentaries within questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.

Planned Impact

It is expected that the following groups or organisations would accrue benefits from this research:

Academic community: see Academic Beneficiaries section.

Local community groups and residents.

The research aims to engage with a range of community groups within the town of Glossop, including: High Peaks Community Arts; Glossop and District Heritage Trust; Glossop Volunteer Centre; Glossop Age Concern; the Jericho Café; the Glossop Furniture Project; Gamesley Residents Association; and a range of sport and faith based clubs and groups. The aim of this engagement is not simply to incorporate a range of different groups and perspectives into the study, although this is clearly important, but also to develop collaborative research partnerships in which people come to actively participate in the design, execution and interpretation of the research. This will be achieved through a community advisory panel, which will be convened on a roughly bi-monthly schedule through the course of the project, and the use of residents of Glossop in the execution of a questionnaire survey, oral history interviews and participatory art projects.

The project also seeks to provide a legacy to groups and organisations that it is collaborating with. This is seen very clearly in relation to the Glossop and District Heritage Trust where the project will seek to assist its attempts to create a virtual archive following the demise of funding for its physical Heritage Centre. The project will not only seek to contribute to the digitisation of material contained within the archive, taking high resolution photographs of documents consulted as part of the research, but will also demonstrate to members of the Trust how Quick Response (QR) codes might be employed to create an on-line catalogue which links material objects in the collection with online descriptions and digitised imagery. Members of the Trust can see clear benefits of this collaboration, as is demonstrated in their letter of supportfor the project.

The project website, which will have an on-line GIS embedded within it, will also prove valuable to local community groups and residents. This project seeks to draw upon and develop the experience of conducting research in communities utilising web 2.0 technologies and practices obtained from the earlier scoping project undertaken by Dr Speed and Dr Phillips. This highlighted the value of software architectures that allow 're-write' as opposed to just 'read only' channels of communication. The online GIS will be designed to allow people to add comments to images and texts that have embedded into the GIS, and indeed to post additional material (albeit after moderation) into the GIS. Individuals and groups may hence make the on-line GIS a living documentation of the town of Glossop that will continue beyond the life of the project. The research team has committed to maintain the website for at least 3 years beyond the project end date, although it is hoped that a local organization or group might wish to take over managing it in the longer term.

The experience of this scoping study, and one undertaken by Dr Phillips and Professor Walkerdine, also revealed that many people are extremely pleased to become involved in a project which addresses how they themselves feel about the community in which they live and involves them reflecting back on the places and people which give them a sense of community, or indeed might be reason why they don't feel they belong to a community. The use of psycho-social interviews, focus groups and participatory art within the current project should heighten such benefits.

Planners and policy makers
The project has the support of the local district authority, who as outlined in their letter of support are able to provide material support to the project. It is envisaged that the project would be of benefit to the Council particularly in relation its Vision Glossop and Design/Place Making strategies.
Title Glossop exhibiition 
Description in March 2014 an exhibition entitled 'Revisiting the mid-point of British Community Studies' was held in Bradbury House, Glossop. The exhibition presented some of the materials on how community life in Glossopdale had changed since the 1950s. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Elements of the exhibition toured local libraries and community venues for a couple of months after the exhibition. 
Title Glossopoly film 
Description This is a film that describes the development of the interactive community engagement game 'Glossopoly' 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This film was shown at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival in Cardiff in 2014. 
Title Small town? 
Description This film explores how the town has changed between the mid-twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact This film has been shown at AHRC Showcase events in Edinburgh and Cardiff. 
Title Small town?: reflections on change in Glossop 
Description This film shows members of Glossop Volunteer Centre reflecting on how Glossop had changed since the mid-tenetieth century after watching a film of Glossop that was produced in 1959. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact This film has been show at AHRC Showcase events in Edinburgh and Cardiff 
Title The yellow brick road to community engagement 
Description 'The yellow brick road to community engagement' was a promenade performance that made use of cultural animation and the iterative methods of community engagement employed in Glossopoly, a board game that requires people to engage with materials from the AHRC funded research project "Revisiting the mid-point of British Community Studies' 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact For the promenade performance a large printed 'Glossopoly' floor and cards were created which has been employed in a subsequent AHRC project exploring the legacy of the AHRC Connected Communities programme. 
Description This project sought to explore both how communities and community studies have changed since the mid-twentieth century by undertaking a study of the town of Glossop. This settlement was the focus on a study in the 1950s that is often cited as an illustration of a 'classic community study' as well as an incubator of a series of concepts of social change that were to come to prominence over later years, such as middle-class migration, professionalisation and cosmopolitanism. This project revealed how this earlier study was represented and received at the time it was conducted and explored how a range of new methods could be employed in the study of communities, including mobile interviewing, gps-tracking, participatory art and mapping, and psycho-social interviewing. Through such activities the project has sought to develop the concept of 'iterative methods'. These are methods that seek to deepen understanding through repeated engagements with the people, places and artefacts of research. Drawing on such methods, the the research explored how senses of community can continue to exist in places of high levels of daily and migrational mobility, highlighting the significance of emotion, connectivity and symbolic and material spatiality to the formation of relations and identities of community. It also revealed how these are of significance to contemporary policy concerns including the sale of public buildings, services and land; heritage conservation; placemaking; urban regeneration and civic engagement.
Exploitation Route One of the aims of this project was to develop collaborative research partnerships with community organisations in the area being studied. That this has been achieved is clearly evidenced by continuing work with High Peaks Community Arts and Glossop Heritage Trust beyond the end of this research project, not least through the development of further AHRC funded research and dissemination activities, including a project involving the creation of open access digital resources (Affective Digital Histories (AH/L008025/1)) and one focused around amplifying the legacies of this project's development of iterative methodologies (Evaluating the Legacy of Animative and Iterative Connected Communities Projects (AH/L013177/1). It is envisaged that these projects, alongside the continuing actions outlined under 'Engagement activities', will foster use of the project's methodologies by academics and also community groups, community development workers and community organisers. The creative engagement game 'Glossopoly' has attracted considerable interest, both in the UK and also abroad, with there having been one workshop already held with community groups in Athens and a further one planned in early December this year. It is the intention to develop this game into a package that can be readily adopted by community groups and also potentially employed by schools. The first of the above named follow-on AHRC projects also involves the creation of a 'building projection show', 'ipad app' and physical 'exhibition exhibits' that will draw upon the outputs of this research, engaging local residents, community groups and policy makers. A series of further outputs from this project will be forthcoming in the next few years, including a series of academic journal articles and book. These outputs will encompass the two themes of the project, namely how communities have changed and how the study of communities has changed.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description As outlined in the Key Findings Section, this project developed the concept of 'iterative methodologies' which were most clearly demonstrated in the development of an interactive engagement game 'Glossopoly'. This game, which makes use of material generated from the research, has already been adopted by academics, community groups and community development workers/organisers. It has also been used in teaching activities at the University of Leicester.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Cultural

Description Connected Communities Programme
Amount £83,547 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L013177/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 01/2015
Title Glossopoly 
Description Glossopoly is a game created as part of the AHRC Demonstration Project 'Revisiting the mid-point of British Community Studies'. The game is created using results of the research conducted in Glossop and has been developed as a method of iterative research and community development activity. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This tool has been demonstrated at AHRC Showcase events in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff and at a Localities Action Camp for Community Organisers. 
Description Glossop Heritage Trust 
Organisation Glossop Heritage Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team have worked with members of Glossop Heritage Trust to identify changes that have occurred in the town of Glossop since the mid-twentieth century.
Collaborator Contribution Members of Glossop Heritage Trust have provided advice, information and materials (documents, photographs, audio-recordings) to the research team.
Impact Revisiting the mid-point of British Community Studies Exhibition, Bradbury House, Glossop, March 2012
Start Year 2012
Description High Peaks Community Arts 
Organisation High Peak Community Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team have worked closely with High Peaks Community Arts to develop a series of community engagement and community arts projects, including films, paintings and an interactive game called Glossopoly.
Collaborator Contribution High Peaks Arts have worked closely with the research team to develop a series of community engagement and community arts projects, including films, paintings and an interactive game called Glossopoly.
Impact Outputs from this collaboration include paintings ('Glossopoly' and 'Glossopdale 2012'), 3 films ('Small town?'; 'Small town?: reflections on change in Glossop' and 'Glossopoly), and an interactive community engagement game entitled 'Glossopoly'
Start Year 2012
Description Localities Action Camp 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Workshop generated high level of discussion amongst participants

High level of interest amongst community organisers about adoption of method for their community engagement activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014