CHPPC Director Catherine Clarke is a Co-Investigator on this project, with Nicky Marsh, Southampton (Principal Investigator), Will May (Co-Investigator) and Michael Howcroft (Senior Research Assistant). The project also involves professionals in the Social Sciences based at the Centre for Towns Think Tank (CfT), as well as two core partners at the  forefront of applied research, innovation and disruption in these areas: Historic England and NESTA‚Äôs  Policy and Evidence Centre for the Creative Industries.

Victoria County History knowledge and networks

The Victoria County History (VCH) also plays a key role in this project. The project will build on VCH knowledge and networks in four case-study towns: Bournemouth, Darlington, Hereford and Southend. This is an exciting opportunity to think about new applications of VCH research, and how VCH expertise can be mobilised in new and policy-focused ways, including deepening our understanding of local places and identities.

Project context and focus

In 2019, the Government identified 100 towns that qualified for additional support in four key areas:  transport, broadband connectivity, skills, and culture. The latter three, in particular, are closely aligned.  Culture, and the skills and digital connections necessary to develop, promote, and sustain it, help build the civic infrastructure to tackle urgent social and economic issues. Equally, a vibrant and diverse cultural life grows the creative economy, attracts and retains the young people who can revive depleted town centres, and bridges socially or fractured or divided semi-urban communities. 

The need and means for civic and cultural regeneration have been transformed by the ongoing crisis of COVID-19. The behavioural and organisational adaptations by governments, businesses, and individuals have already created a seismic shift in our understanding of how rapidly we can effect change or rethink long-standing strategies, structures, and practices. The severe difficulties faced by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), specifically in the cultural, creative and heritage industries, will need to be addressed with new kinds of support and resources. This will happen just as the new local and digital networks shaped by the social, mental, and economic challenges of the pandemic start to emerge.