Learning from 'Left-Behind' places: everyday hopes and fears for the future after Brexit in England

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

Learning from 'Left-Behind' places: Everyday Hopes and Fears for the Future After Brexit in England

This project will investigate how residents of four urban areas in England think about Brexit and its consequences. It will study their hopes, aspirations and anxieties about the future after Brexit. The research will focus on four electoral wards in three English cities. These are places where large post-industrial, social and economic changes, together with government policies of austerity, have contributed to experiences of marginalisation and exclusion amongst many residents. They have been identified in social scientific, political and media accounts as 'left behind' places.

It has been argued that the referendum provided residents of 'left-behind' communities the opportunity for a 'protest vote'. Not merely a protest against the EU (although of course many voters were doing precisely that), but also a protest against, for example, establishment politics (Westminster), the detrimental effects of austerity, the forces of globalisation, the tyranny of market fundamentalism, and immigration policies. The argument that a vote to leave the EU demonstrated defiance and mistrust is significant. However, it tends to screen out residents of the same localities who voted to remain, those who did not vote, and those who were not permitted to vote. It flattens the diversity within such communities and assumes a unified response. This project will investigate what Brexit means, two years after the referendum, to people on the ground. We hear from politicians that 'Brexit means Brexit'. But what does it mean for ordinary people? What does it mean in relation to their everyday preoccupations and concerns? Does Brexit feature in the futures they imagine? Or in the futures they have abandoned? Is it significant to them, and if so how?

Concerns about immigration played a large part in the vote to leave the EU. We know however that the meanings and anxieties attached to immigration across England and within 'left-behind' places are not uniform. This project aims to investigate where, when and how immigration figures in everyday Brexits. By everyday Brexits, we refer to the ordinary, everyday ways in which Brexit features in people's lives.

The project will take place in three phases over 12 months. The first will 'take the temperature' of the everyday concerns about Brexit of residents in the four localities under study. Focus groups and group discussions will be organized and from these meetings interested participants will be 'trained up' in social scientific research methods: for example, in doing interviews, photo-journalsor mini-surveys. The second phase of the research will focus on 'Brexit Day' on the 29th March 2019. This will be investigated as a political event. The aim is for research participants, trained earlier as 'citizen social scientists', to record the day in the form of photo-diaries, mini-interviews, and media accounts. The third phase of the research comprises a series of public dissemination events to which local politicians, policy makers, members of campaigning groups and NGOs will be invited. The aim is for research participants to be closely involved in the organisation of these events and in presenting the findings of the research.

The project will provide a more nuanced and fine-grained account of what Brexit means for residents of urban England than we have thusfar. It will include research participants in the design, conduct and presentation of the research in ways that will facilitate their participation in discussions about governance that are usually about them but rarely include them. It also looks beyond the current emphasis on division and explores the commonalities and connections across social categories and places, in order that communities and policy makers have something meaningful to work with, rather than against.

Planned Impact

This project will focus on four electoral wards in three English cities. It will open up a space for response and critique from people who are over-discussed and under-represented in current political and academic debate about Brexit. The public communication of cultural, social and economic concerns of our informants will be on their terms and, in this sense, the capabilities of individuals and groups to garner both academic and political attention will be established and maintained throughout the course of the project.

Impact activities are fully incorporated within the research project design from the outset, involving research participants at every stage of the research including identifying the relevant research questions, collecting data, and disseminating results. Local participants will articulate their own concerns for the future after Brexit. We will aim translate those concerns into transferable knowledge that is intended to have an impact in policy and political discussions.

The project aims to engage local people as co-researchers in the development of questions regarding Brexit and Governance that are relevant to them. It will draw on their local, everyday 'expertise' and the project will impact local communities by:

- building social scientific literacy;
- building capacity and developing skills of data collection and presentation;
- and improving access to effective political representation.

The research also has a broader reach. Access to a more nuanced and 'thick' knowledge base about 'everyday' Brexits in four urban areas of England will be valuable to politicians, and policy and decision makers in the UK in their deliberation of long-term governance post-Brexit. The key to the project is to interrogate common grounds: mutual anxieties, shared hopes, and agreed solutions that cut through current, dominant discourses of polarisation and division. It will provide information about shared concerns and hopes for the future that government might work with rather than against. If successful, it is a research model that might be mobilised in other parts of the country, at the same time as generating fine-grained, qualitative data about everyday Brexits in other places.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Comic strips and images 
Description In collaboration with an artist various narratives from the perspective of the research participants are in process 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact will be assessed after the end of the award (see research infrastructure) 
 
Title Exhibition 
Description An exhibition will combine and display the various artistic outputs of the research. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact will be assessed after the end of the award (see also research infrastructure) 
 
Title Film: The Future After Brexit (Katherine Smith and Kieran Hanson) 
Description This is an ethnographic that combines original footage from N. Manchester, archival material and animation. Restrictions due to Covid 19 stopped filming and delayed the final edit. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Impact will be monitored after the film is made publicly available 
 
Title Learning from 'Left Behind' Places (Katherine Smith and Jose Luis Fajardo) 
Description In collaboration with an ethnographic film maker this film was made in N. Manchester. It has been edited and will be made publicly available on the dedicated project webpage. (see research infrastructure) 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Will be continuously assessed (see research infrastructure). 
 
Title Podcasts 
Description Research participant-led podcasts were recorded during the time of the award. They have since been edited and are now publicly available. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact The webpage on which the podcasts are available has a platform on which listeners can comment. Feedback will be monitored and assessment of impact made over the next twelve months (see research infrastructure) 
URL https://podcastonbrexit.wordpress.com/
 
Title Web page: BrexitFutures.co.uk 
Description A webpage, BrexitFutures.co.uk, has been designed and developed in collaboration with youth and a community artist in Gorse Hill. It combines and displays the artistic materials developed through the project 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Impact will be monitored when the webpage is made publicly available - delays due to Covid 19 
 
Description The project investigated what Brexit meant for residents in four localities in England that, in political and media discourse, are considered 'left behind'. Our research shows how the concept of 'left behind' is firmly rejected by residents of these places. It is seen as patronising, out of touch and a definition imposed from a more powerful or privileged position. Rather than 'left behind', people in these localities know themselves to have been being 'left out' and/or 'let down': left out of decisions that affect them and their communities, and let down by politicians of all parties. Brexit is deeply entangled with the experience of austerity policies in all four localities, and for some residents presented an opportunity for change as things, we were told, could not get any worse. Ethnographic and participatory research methods allowed research participants to 'set the agenda' and discuss what is important to them. This included negative experiences of social and economic change, the work of themselves and neighbours in 'picking up the pieces', and their aspirations and hopes, not only for a return of secure employment but also for recognition.The research methods deployed and strategic collaborations with an artist, sound engineer and film maker resulted in a series of creative outputs, including podcasts, film and artwork.
Exploitation Route The webpage acts as a resource and repository which is publicly available. The URL is to be confirmed. The domain name is BrexitFutures.co.uk
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Title Comic strips and illustrated texts 
Description In collaboration with an artist, understandings and images of the future after Brexit from the perspective of research participants are re-produced in a variety of forms - including postcards, posters and comics. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Outputs will be made available after then of the award and impact can reassessed then 
 
Title Ethnographic film combining archival material 
Description Working with a film maker and an illustrator to produce short films that will combine interview, illustration and archive material in order to convey 'futures' after Brexit from the perspective of research participants 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These tools will be made available after the end of the award, and their impact will be assessed then 
 
Title community podcasts 
Description Training and working with local residents to produce podcasts 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Greater understanding and ownership of social science research amongst research participants. Stronger and wider dissemination routes. 
 
Description Advisory Group, DWP 
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 Participation in 'Methods Advisory Group', UK Department of Work and Pensions. Sarah Hall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) Conference Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Panel 'Left behind places: unequal social trajectories of progress', ASA19 University of East Anglia (Norwich), 3-6 Sept. 2019. The panel aimed to put our research in the UK into conversation with research on similar themes in other parts of the world. Edwards and Smith
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Brexit and 'left behind places' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk at Halle University, Germany
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Common Sense Tour 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Common Sense Tour, Manchester, April 2019. SH was invited Speaker: 'Brexit: Is Democracy Broken?'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Community Fun Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact GH Community Fun Day, June 2019, SH organised a stall with the banner "Everybody has a view on Brexit, what's yours?"?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Community group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion events with Women's Group at Community Church in Harpurhey (x3)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Early career academic group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 'Researching Brexit' group, JF presented paper 'I knew exactly what I was voting for!' Durham, October 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Further Education College group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Research training and participant led discussion with trainee youth workers, Wallsend
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Governance after Brexit Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact After Brexit: Everyday Futures. An online seminar reporting back findings from our research to other researchers and staff on Governance after Brexit programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Interview for national news 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Requests form Independent and The Mirror to talk specifically about the impact of Brexit in the North-east of England
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited Seminar Paper (London School of Economics) - Department of Social Anthropology - 'Brexit is the Graveyard of Post-Industrial Britain: ethnography as eulogy for East London and England'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Forty postgraduate students, and lecturers/professors of Social Anthropology attended for an invited seminar talk of one hours, followed by an hour of questions and answers. This led, successfully, to the submission of a paper for consideration for publication in a European journal and invitation to revise the paper for consideration for discussion in a Labour Party policy advice forum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Local chamber of commerce 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Group debate on implications of Brexit for local businesses
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Local resident group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Discussion events with local resident's group in Wallsend (x3)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Methods Advisory Group 
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 Participation of SH in Department for Work and Pensions, Methods Advisory Group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Panel at European Association of Social Anthropologists Conference, July 2020 
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 Edwards convened a panel that including anthropologists from France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Greece: 'All our Brexits': precarity, austerity and backlash. The aim was to begin to investigate how "Brexit' was impacting in other European countries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation to LSE Geography Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk entitled 'Waiting for Brexit: Crisis, Conjuncture, Method'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation to cross-disciplinary audience 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 'Brexit: After the 29 March Deadline,' Jean Monnet Centre, Newcastle University, 6 May 2019. Bethan Harries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Public and student debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The Common Sense Network Tour, Manchester
Speaker: 'Brexit: Is Democracy Broken?'
Dr Sarah Hall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Public panel discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Brexit: A view from Newcastle' a public panel discussion event with journalist Gerry Foley, 12 October 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Research Informant Group Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion of research on Brexit and Everyday Life in Dagenham with a focus group of twenty women in Dagenham and two professional practitioners supporting women in Barking and Dagenham. This sparked lively discussion, and engagement, leading to increasing understanding of issues facing women of diverse backgrounds in Dagenham, and this gave rise to four in-depth individual interviews in participants' homes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Research on Brexit workshop 
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 During the award the team organised a workshop in Manchester for social science researchers currently working on Brexit to pool ideas and develop synergies. This was a follow up to two pre-grant workshops, also held in Manchester, on participant methodologies and current research on Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Training workshop in participatory research methods, Oxfam and Women Asylum Seekers Together 
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 Introducing participatory research methods to NGO and community workers. Sarah Hall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description York Festival of Ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited Speaker for a panel on 'Globalisation and the "left behind"', at York Festival of Ideas. There were over 200 tickets sold for the event, to the General Public, after which further requests for information about the research and later findings have been received.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://yorkfestivalofideas.com/2019/events/economy-day-3/
 
Description Youth group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Workshop events and research training with youth workers in Wallsend
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Youth zone 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Research training and discussion with youth group and staff in HH
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description public forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact York Festival of Ideas
Speaker: 'Globalisation and the "left behind"'
Dr Sarah Hall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019