Animating Heritage and Stigma

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Music Humanities & Media


The Animating Heritage and Stigma project will build on the successes of two Connected Communities funded programmes - Heritage and Stigma, and Untold Stories of Volunteering. The shared aims of these original and discrete projects were to allow their participants to help shape the projects they were part of and thus represent themselves in their own terms. In particular, service users and volunteers were invited to co-design the research and co-produce its output. This new project aims to take the findings from Heritage and Stigma, which reflected the 'ordinariness' of mental health and learning disability, and use the techniques crafted by the Untold Stories of Volunteering to reach new audiences. We will use the existing testimonies collected and created by Heritage and Stigma and 'animate' them by employing Cultural Animation, a methodology of stakeholder engagement and knowledge co-production developed by Untold Stories of Volunteering to explore key themes. Cultural animation allows participants to co-produce stories using plays, songs and other creative activities to give participants a 'voice'. Pioneered by the team at the New Vic Theatre and Kindle Partnerships, who are partners on this bid, it involves acknowledging and critically approaching existing power and knowledge hierarchies and taking steps to minimise them. This way of working was unforeseen in the original Heritage and Stigma project,which was limited by its terms of reference to capture service user testimonies and to present them as part of a museum project. It was also limited in terms of its geography focusing in and around the Leeds city region. Similarly, the focus of Untold Stories was not on mental health but by employing its Cultural Animation techniques the partners will work together to ensure the long-term legacy of this new project by consulting with and showcasing outputs to key stakeholders and policy makers on a national and international level. This will allow us to create new and meaningful ways of dissemination that also broaden the geographical scope. It will also develop and provide a toolkit for community groups, broadly defined, to explore their own heritage and histories. This interest from community groups was also unforeseen in the original projects and toolkits will allow us to give the original research value beyond the original group of co-producers. To achieve our goals, the project team has identified five key stakeholder groups with whom we will work. These are school groups, mental health and learning disability professionals, social policy makers, international 'gatekeepers' in the USA and Japan, and community researchers. None of these groups were foreseen in the original Heritage and Stigma bid and these stakeholders have been chosen, not only for their demand and interest in the project but also because of their ability to effect organisational change. In each case, the participants will be introduced to the issues arising from Heritage and Stigma, focusing on the pathways to acceptance and understanding of marginalised groups. Overall the project will encourage participants to challenge notions of stigma with a view to improving the understanding and acceptance of marginalised groups. The project's key outcomes will be: 1. The co-creation and dissemination of a transformative drama for use in schools during the lifetime of the project and beyond. 2. The development of cultural animation materials to be used in conjunction with the drama to inform the training of mental health professionals in an understanding of patient and service user perspectives. 3. The creation of a 'toolkit' for community researchers to explore their own histories which will be tested and shared at key points in the life time of the project. 4. The co-creation and dissemination of project outputs to policy makers at a national and international level with a view to creating inclusive dialogues about the nature and future of care.

Planned Impact

The rationale for this project is a timely one. Cuts to mental health services generally and children's services more specifically have highlighted a need to 'kick start' a conversation with young people about key issues (1). In 2016, research showed that young people have problems with their own mental well-being (2). Central to this is a continuing need to address the issue of stigma which has been described as the 'most toxic' of issues facing those living with mental ill-health (3). Moreover, the UK funding councils have recently announced initiatives to encourage and strengthen mental health research (4). Significantly, the objectives described within this bid, will deepen the impact of the Heritage and Stigma project, which was described as 'internationally excellent' in the REF2014 as an impact case study. Moreover, by drawing on the strengths of the project partners it will enable the exchange of knowledge by engaging with audiences unforeseen initially. Rather than just presenting a history of care we will look to use our materials to influence policy and attitudes towards mental illness and learning disability. The strength of this collaboration is that it has the potential to reach, engage and educate a much larger audience by using innovative methodologies described elsewhere in the bid. Clearly, working with those of school age children allows Animating Heritage and Stigma to encourage young people to reflect on the everyday realities of mental ill-health and also to consider its impact. The New Vic Theatre has an existing schools programme in the north west of England and we will work with eight schools on this project. The materials collected by Heritage and Stigma will enable our partnership to reflect on both the ordinariness of mental health and learning disability and also their challenges. Our partnership and innovative cultural animation activities will allow the participants to consider pathways to understanding and acceptance and we will use our 'histories' to re-imagine the present. Moreover, we will use our partnership work with future caring and health professionals so that we might impact on care in the longer term. Our aim here is to help those who wish to work with vulnerable adults to understand the complexities of lived experience and arm carers with the tools to empathise fully with those under their care. Finally, we have a number of partners on board who will help us explore the longer term sustainability of the bid and enable us to engage with policy makers at a national and international level. Our partners in both the USA and in Japan have expressed a demand to see the messages and methodologies of Animating Heritage and Stigma transferred to their own countries. This will allow our work to reach those involved in care internationally, with partners offering access to their own communities of mental health professionals in each of those countries. In each of these cases, we aim to provide models of learning and understanding that can be replicated so that the reach of the project extends beyond the funding period.
1. 'Child mental health 'faces' complex and severe problems', 20 Feb 2015, available at [last accessed 11 Apr 2017].
2. 'More than a third of female students have mental health problems, 11 Apr 2017. Available at [last accessed 3 Nov 2016] and 'Sons fear talking to their
fathers about mental health', 28 Oct 2016, available at [last
accessed 3 Nov 2016.]
3. Clare Allan, 'The most toxic issue facing those with mental health problems', Guardian, 3 April 2013, available
at [Last
accessed 11 Apr 2016].
4. 'UK Research Councils join forces on mental health', 17 Aug 2017, available at [last accessed 20 Oct 2017].


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Title I have strings 
Description This is play a co-produced with New Vic Borderlines which toured schools in the north west of England. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact In addition to prompting discussions in schools about mental well being, the play provided the inspiration for the Bag of Tricks resource kit. 
Description This innovative collaboration between historians and theatre practitioners has led to creative interventions into the areas of mental ill-health and well-being. By working in partnership with key organisations we have developed a sustainable resource kit (The Bag of Tricks) that can be used is a variety of settings. How the kit is used depends on the strategic priorities of those involved but it has wide reach. It has been used in the UK and Japan and this has prompted interest from America.
Exploitation Route We have created a flexible and sustainable resource that works across a range of organisations and international contexts. We offer a model of partnership working that would be be of interest to other in the humanities.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This is project has been funded by the AHRC for Impact and engagement activities. The original plan was to go into schools with a historically based theatre co-production and then to produce a toolkit for community groups which would be presented at three workshops. In the period covered by the grant, we have successfully toured the production to 8 schools but we have also worked in partnership to develop a resource kit for well-being. Through a series of workshops, the kit has been used by social and health care practitioners, as well heritage professionals in the United Kingdom and Japan. The dissemination of the research in these places was significantly curtailed by Covid and prevented us from delivering sessions in the USA. Nevertheless, we have exceeded the expectations that we laid out in the original funding application and achieved significant impacts. UPDATE 22 Feb 2022: The relaxing of lockdown rules have seen renewed interest in and opportunities to use the resource kit. It is pleasing to know that there is still ongoing demand for this kit.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Use of resource kit with service users (including Japan)
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The Bag of Tricks Resource kit allowed the voices of those in health and social care setting to be heard. Evidence of the ongoing use of resources kits was provided from the mental health care sectors in England and Japan. Plans for further work and evidence were curtailed by Covid.
Description National Trust Resource Kit 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked in partnership with the NT in the North West to develop bespoke workshop at properties in that region.
Collaborator Contribution We worked in partnership with the NT in the North West to develop bespoke workshop at properties in that region. (Activities were curtailed by Covid and the partnership ended when key personnel were first furloughed and then made redundant)
Impact A series of workshops aimed at the NT's 2020 priority around 'Wellbeing'.
Start Year 2018
Description Resource Kit Workshop (Heritage) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a series of Workshops designed to help the National Trust meet its 2020 priorities around mental well being. The workshops were run in the northwest with representatives of twelve national priorities. Resources kits were distributed for use in each of those properties with staff and volunteers. Unfortunately, these activities were curtailed by Covid
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020
Description Resource Kit Workshops (Health and Social Care) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact These co-produced workshops were designed to place mental health service users at the heart of discussions in health and social care settings. Events, took place in England with local councils, charities and health trusts and in Japan with mental health service users. Plans to work with additional groups including students and service providers in the USA were curtailed because of Covid
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020
Description School Play - I have strings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was a co-produced play that toured schools in the north west of England. The aim was to prompt discussions around mental well being. It was supported by the school nursing service and prompted school pupils to talk about their experiences and seek help where appropriate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020