CAER Connected

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of History, Archaeology & Religion

Abstract

CAER is an ancient Celtic word that has a range of meanings which coalesce around community identity, defence, resilience and sense of place. In Wales the word is particularly associated with Iron Age hillforts. Such sites are enigmatic prehistoric settlements on geographic promontories usually delineated and enclosed by significant earthwork ramparts. Traditional perspectives have regarded hillforts as functional defensive settlements, yet more recent interpretations argue convincingly that they constitute socially charged monumental expressions of identity. Their conception and creation representing complex inter-community negotiation and collaboration written large in the Iron Age landscape. Taking inspiration from these prehistoric partnerships, CAER Connected will establish a collaborative network of academics and non-HEI partners across 'caer' communities located in the shadow of three hillfort monuments in England and Wales to explore the value of the past for creating new futures.

CAER Connected builds upon the award winning archaeological and historical co-research methodologies and partnerships developed by the CAER Heritage Project (CAER) over the past nine years. Funded by a series of AHRC grants, CAER's initiatives have focused on the socially and economically disadvantaged communities of Caerau and Ely, Cardiff. Through participative archaeological and historical research blended with art, film making, social enterprise and other creative co-productive strategies (e.g. CAER Studio AH/R006857/1) CAER has involved over 19,000 participants of all ages in co-researching Caerau Hillfort - an important yet undervalued prehistoric monument. Caerau is currently being developed into a community co-produced heritage site through a major National Lottery Heritage Fund grant (£1.05m) secured by CAER along with community development partners Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE). CAER Connected takes these award-winning co-research strategies beyond the ramparts of Caerau, establishing new ways of approaching cross-community collaboration and support with other hillfort communities in the post-Covid context.

Through a creative sharing of expertise and knowledge CAER Connected will develop a reciprocal co-production network of academics and non-HEI partners (e.g. community development workers, school teachers and pupils, community activists and participants, artists, performers and film makers) across the 'caer' communities at Caerau and Ely, Cardiff; Penparcau, Aberystwyth and Oswestry, Shropshire. These communities all face different social and economic challenges, but are connected by a shared heritage of prominent prehistoric hillforts that provide striking landmarks in their local landscape. Of these groups, CAER is the most mature, and has been used as an exemplar for the development of social-purpose heritage activity at both Penparcau and Oswestry. With informal relationships already emerging between community action heritage groups at each location, CAER Connected will nurture, develop and sustain these embryonic partnerships. It will initiate co-productive artistic and creative initiatives designed to bring people together in these dislocated times; facilitating peer support, reflecting on the similar experiences, and embracing the different challenges, faced by these communities. In doing so, participants will develop confidence, skills and expand social capital and support networks. Through these strategies CAER connected will cultivate a culturally driven heritage vision for their localities, establishing trust, new friendships and shared perspectives through a collective valuing of the prehistoric the past.

Publications

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Title CAER Connected Exhibition 
Description Three exhibitons were created. The artworks created travelled between the three hillfort communities to be displayed and exhibited in each. This culminated in a mjaor exhibition at the Museum of Cardiff which brought together all of the artworks and three art-doc films that included commuinity voices. This final exhibition lasted for 1 week and had a audience of c200 people. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact These exhibitions had a large reach and led to further exhibitions and artisitc creation (e.g. Exhibiton at the Willow Gallery, Oswestry) 
 
Title Hillfort artworks 
Description Three artworks were produced to reflect local community responses to their local hillforts 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact The artworks were utilised in 3 major exhibitions 
 
Description There were a range of common themes that were identified across all of the communities engaged with during this research. The key theme can be summarised as the identification of a 'spirit of place'. This essentially referred to the role of the hillfort heritage in providing these communities with a unique local identity that formed a significant aspect of their 'place-making'. This concept was inti8mately intwined within the artworks created.
Exploitation Route The obvious next step, and the one we are taking, is the develpment of a truly UK-wide network linked together by hillfort heritage. We intend to co-design and create a new funding application within the next year.
Sectors Creative Economy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description They have led to project partners applying for, and being successful, with spin-ooff projects in their own communities
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Oswestry Connections 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We established connections with academic researchers working at Liverpool University who are part of the Oswestry Heritage Gateway and have created a network for collaboration
Collaborator Contribution This is currently ongoing. Partners have been involved in hosting network visits to Oswestry and development of research and impact directions
Impact N/A still ongoing
Start Year 2021
 
Description Penparcau Connections 
Organisation Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our team brought together a range of specialists and community members to form a network or 'community of practice' centred on the hillfort of Pen Dinas in the community of Penparcau, Aberystwyth
Collaborator Contribution Hillfort specialist from RCAHMW attended network meetings and was involved in leading community walk around hillfort
Impact The RCAHMW are an integral partner with the Dyfed Archaeological Trust of a successful grant application (£143k) to the Heritage Lottery to start the 'Pen Dinas Community Archaeology Project'
Start Year 2022
 
Description CAER Connected Network Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was an afternoon event held 'virtually' over zoom that brought together all of the participants and contributors to the stakeholder visits in each of the different hillfort communities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Co-Production Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Three 'co-production' workshops were held. These were led by the commissioned artists in each of the hillfort communities and led to the creation of co-produced artworks that were included within the exhibitions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Community Stakeholder Visits 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We've completed 3 community stakeholder visits to all of the hillfort communities under research (Caerau, Oswestry and Pen Dinas). Caerau included around 20 participants (academics, artists, members of the publoic). Oswestry visit included a group of around 20 participants (including academics, artists, heritage professionals, members of the public). Pen Dinas visit included a group of around 10 participants (again, including academics, artists, heritage professionals, members of the public). All sparked a range of discussion about project objectvies and potential impact on local communities, and provided opportunties to engage artists in creative reflections on heritage and communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Project Exhibitions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We organised 3 exhibitions (1 in each of the communities) which hosted the travelling artworks and art doc films. This reached a major audience of over 500 people
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022