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Representing Communities: developing the creative power of people to improve health and well-being

Image of terraced housing in a valleys type community

The aim of this project is to establish how community representations produced through creative arts practices (e.g. story-telling, performance, visual art) can be used as forms of evidence to inform health-related policy and service development.

This study will develop methods for using creative art forms as a mode of communication and knowledge exchange.

The project will take place across five distinct case-study communities in Wales, Scotland and England and connect these to relevant policy-makers, researchers and arts practitioners in each country.

This project will consider how perceptions and experiences of community health and well-being vary across time and changing circumstances, and how communities and the people living in them are represented in relation to key differences and divisions relating to gender, class, ethnicity and age.

The research will critically analyse existing representations (both artistic and ‘formal’) of each community, with a focus on the factors that influence health and well-being, in order to develop frameworks and methods for integrating these analyses into qualitative research and policy discourse.

Each case study will use creative engagement methods to generate new community self-representations, working in partnership with local arts and health organisations. These new ‘data’ will be presented to relevant local or national policy makers and service development officials through exhibitions, performances and digital media.

The project will create a permanent legacy of artistic resources for the communities involved in the study, as well as sustainable web-based and training resources that can be used to foster co-production of evidence of health related policy and services.

Please visit the Representing Communities site for more information about the project. 

Research team

Professor Gareth Williams (Principal Investigator), Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences
Dr Clare Barker (Co-Investigator), University of Leeds
Dr Eva Elliott (Co-Investigator), Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences
Dr Qulsom Fazil (Co-Investigator), University of Birmingham
Dr Sarah-Anne Munoz (Co-Investigator), University of the Highlands and Islands
Dr Roiyah Saltus (Co-Investigator), University of South Wales
Dr Peter Seaman (Co-Investigator), Glasgow Centre for Population Health


Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Communities, Cultures, Health and Wellbeing Research Grant
£1.5M, July 2013 – June 2016


Academic outputs: Book and journal articles

Dissemination outputs: Working papers, national conference, interactive website, exhibitions and performances.

Archives and legacies: Creative representations will be digitised as resources, new creative products will be generated (such as photographs, documentary audio-visual footage, film, socio-spatial maps and stories, artwork) and deposited with local archives and arts centres.

Teaching and learning: Some outputs will be used for teaching purposes.

The project will fund two PhD studentships:

‘Community health and wellbeing in contemporary British fiction and culture’ based at Leeds University supervised by Dr Clare Barker.
‘The understanding and use of creative community data in informing policy’ based at Cardiff University supervised by Dr Eva Elliott