Rethinking Centres and Peripheries

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Politics


As urban and regional social scientists our aim is to stimulate academic rethinking around the uneven urban geography of England by holding three ESRC research seminars in the cities of London, York and Newcastle. Each city represents a particular and distinct urban-regional experience in terms of demography, labour market, socio-economic profile, cultural diversity, and regional, national and international integration. By combining a 'global core city' with a non-metropolitan ancient city and a post-industrial metropolitan city-region, the research programme aims to chart and analyse the impact of the financial crisis and the new austerity on three distinct but representative urban locations.
We see these research aims as connecting very closely with all three of the ESRC's strategic priorities concerning Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth, Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions and creating A Vibrant and Fair Society.
The seminar series' principal aims are as follows:
-To interrogate in more general and critical terms what it means to live and work in a 'core city' as opposed to a more 'peripheral' locale.
-To review and analyse the ways in which the 'core-periphery' model has been used traditionally by social scientists to describe Britain's uneven urban and regional geography.
-To question whether the terms of reference and the data sources used by policy makers in search of 'balance' are relevant and meaningful in the context of urban society in the 21st century.
-To research and assess the challenges that face governments seeking to rebalance wealth creation and consumption between different urban centres and regions in the context of an increasingly financialised and crisis-prone national and international economy.
- To investigate and understand the growing environmental pressures and the downstream economic impact that, for example, fuel scarcity is likely to have on more vulnerable urban groups.
-To reflect on how physical distance from the 'core' may exacerbate existing inequalities and what mitigating policies might be possible given the declared constraints of fiscal austerity.
-To think beyond the confines of the regional and the national in order to explore the ways in which urban populations situate themselves within meaningful and functional economic, social, cultural and political networks at a super-local level often even in so-called 'ordinary cities' and among 'indigenous' residents.
Seminar organisers and participants are very mindful of the importance of exchanging knowledge and insights from academia and the research community with policy makers and stakeholders with an interest in urban social cohesion, sustainable economic development, cultural and arts based regeneration, refugee and migrant communities and not for profit and voluntary sector organisations.
We also aim to share and disseminate the findings of the research seminar series via a dedicated web page which will contain links to participating institutions as part of the CURB website at the University of York. This will feature podcasts of seminar presentations and discussions together with written papers and presentations. More generally, we will issue press briefings and summaries of the key seminar findings (with links to the papers where possible) and we aim to target particular broadcast, print and web media with tailor made stories or interview opportunities.

Planned Impact

We see a number of key audiences for the work that will be presented and discussed during the series, more specifically we have identified the following:

-Practitioners involved in regeneration, community building and participation
-Policing and other agencies involved in social order
-Citizens and related activist organisations engaged in growing debates about urban life and social inequality
-Economic development agencies and institutions working across urban and regional spaces

The seminar series will benefit these organisations in terms of direct participation in the series but also through a series of engagements that will go beyond the immediate life of the events themselves. In this respect we plan a number of further engagement activities to ensure that the full impact of the seminars is realised:

Web resources: As with previous CURB events we will collate all presenter slides and maintain a resource of podcasts from the various presentations which will be made publicly available (following the granting of consent from each speaker).

Publication: Two key strands of publication activity will surround the series. First, the co-organisers will be closely involved in writing a series of articles for online and news media to broadcast the themes of the meeting and to record major insights and empirical insights stemming from the presentations. Second, we will seek a special issue of a journal (likely to be the international and top-ranking journal Urban Studies or City). We are in negotiation with the managing editors of these journals at this time to obtain a slot for a special issue.

To further maximise the public benefit of the meetings we will construct a two page summary document for each event that draws on all of the presentations delivered and is written in a non-technical, plain language format that also utilises tables and other graphical presentations of data to ensure usability for a wide cross-section of interested parties. These resources will be placed on the same webpage as the podcasts and will be co-ordinated by the lead organiser of each seminar alongside both of the applicants to ensure consistency. All of the events will be press released effectively by the relevant lead organisation.

The main social and economic impacts of the seminars will be conceptual by conceiving a series of seminars designed to promote thinking around questions of inequality, concealed socio-economic problems and uneven development. The series will be used to spur policy and community conversations around these issues, thereby shaping the nature and tenor of policymaker actions. We are also keen to promote pathways to engage diverse local communities and groups who seek to lobby and work within the challenging policymaking environment that has emerged in recent years by providing data and clear conceptual scheme that can be introduced to public conversations around austerity, public investment, local economic development and social exclusion more broadly.

We envisage impact operating within three key stakeholder communities: policymakers (working around economic development, regional-urban strategy and management, planning, housing and regeneration more broadly) and public sector institutions, community organisations (including anti-poverty, community capacity building, youth diversion organisations) and industry partners in local economic development forums nationally and locally (for example chambers of commerce, CBI). The seminars are thereby conceived as a means of positively informing the delivery of economic development strategies, the conceptual frameworks utilised to understand the current urban crisis and its local social impacts and, finally, promoting socially progressive and more deeply engaged public programs and community insights into these systemic issues.
Title Lots of planets have a north 
Description Lots of Planets Have a North is a project exploring the North of England as it is imagined, lived and dreamed of, in words and pictures. Frustrated by totalising accounts of a solitary man on a mission to uncover 'the North' artist, Claire Biddles and sociologist and ReCAP presenter Emma Jackson (Goldsmiths) set out to produce a more collective and fragmented North. The resulting publication designed by Kate Dunstone includes poetry, embroidery, essays, stories and drawings. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The project resulted in a public exhibition and seminar at The Tetley, Leeds, on 26 September 2014. 
Description The ESRC Rethinking Centres and Peripheries (ReCAP) seminar series ran from January 2013 to November 2013 at the University of York, Goldsmiths College London University and Newcastle University. Bringing together academics from 3 leading northern and southern English urban research centres together with practitioners from local government, voluntary sector and non governmental organisations and the creative industries - a total of 19 papers were given and discussed. A high proportion of paper presenters and discussants were early career researchers who have sustained subsequent research collaborations. We hope to include several of these papers in the forthcoming book based on the seminar series edited by Simon Parker, Daryl Martin and Emma Jackson. Presentations were subsequently made available through audio podcasts on the Centre for Urban Research's website. Seminar presentations were supplemented by the showing of a documentary film and a walking tour of neighbourhood transition in East London. The seminar succeeded in its aspiration of an interdisciplinary critiquing and rethinking of the concept of 'core' and 'periphery' in the context of the UK's increasingly uneven urban and regional development by identifying examples of urban resilience and growth in the North and corresponding examples of vulnerability in London and the South. The social and cultural dynamics of local identity and belonging were explored alongside historic and contemporary policy initiatives aimed at addressing the highly topical problem of Britain's growing economic regional disparities.
Exploitation Route We see the research findings that were presented at the ReCAP seminars as forming part of a national and international conversation that includes the recently launched City Growth Commission report on 're-balancing' urban and regional communities in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and 'the new austerity'. Our findings emphasise the value of human and social capital in building successful and more equitable urban communities and the importance of social diversity in generating employment and economic opportunity in 'peripheral' locations that would otherwise experience social and economic abandonment. The edited book based on the seminar series will include impact oriented studies drawn from a range of social, cultural and public policy interventions that will be of wide interest to a broad public and practitioner readership as well as academic researchers in a range of environmental and social science disciplines as well as the arts and humanities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

Description In the policy and public services field, representatives from City of York Council and the York Trust attended and contributed to the seminar on 'Small Cities in the Big Society' and this has enabled future policy-researcher collaborations through the CURB White Rose Urban Policy Forum. At this early stage we see the impact as one of network development and capacity building, but with the prospect for joint research initiatives on, for example, sustainable housing growth and the living wage campaign in York. In the cultural and societal fields participants in the Goldsmiths and Newcastle seminars (Emma Jackson and Alex Schafran) organised the ReCAP related 'Lots of Planets Have a North' exhibition at the Tetley Gallery in Leeds on 26 September 2014. Friends of the Earth also made use of ReCAP discussions about the future governance of cities in their 'Big Ideas Change the World' literature review on Cities available at
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Friends of the Earth- 'Big Ideas Change the World: Synthesis of Literature on Cities'
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Description Lots of planets have a north 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is an ongoing arts and social science research project involving members of the ReCAP network. The main launch happened at the Tetley Art Gallery, Leeds on 26 September 2014.

There is a well visited Tumblr blog here
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014