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CAER Heritage Project in Wales shortlisted for UK-wide public engagement award

11 June 2014

The CAER Heritage Project has just been announced as the overall winner of the NCCPE Awards, in addition to winner in the History and Heritage category at today's national awards at the National History Museum London.

Co-Director of the CAER Heritage project Dr Dave Wyatt said:

"It's amazing to have won this national UK award. From the outset, the CAER Heritage Project's objective has been to work with the people of Caerau and Ely to explore the area's fascinating the past and make it relevant to the present. The project has therefore always been totally committed to the co-production of knowledge - it puts local people at the heart of archaeological and historical research - while developing educational opportunities and challenging the unfounded stereotypes ascribed to this part of Cardiff in the process.  

"The CAER project would therefore not exist if it wasn't for the amazing involvement, expertise and support of our community partners at Action in Caerau Ely (ACE), local secondary schools, especially the Western Federation schools, and of course the residents of Caerau and Ely themselves. This award is a testament to their warmth, talent and amazing community spirit. Let's hope this helps to put Caerau and Ely back where they belong - central to the identity, history and cultural life of the Cardiff area."

In the heart of a small but historically significant Welsh community the ground-breaking CAER Heritage Project - inspired and shaped by its amazing and largely unexplored heritage was in the shortlist, drawn from more than 200 high calibre entries from across the UK.

The project was one of only three entries shortlisted in the History and Heritage category.

The project has brought the Iron Age powerhouse of South Wales back centre stage, giving a revitalised glimpse of this remarkable and often misrepresented area and aims to get 2,000 people to help explore 2,000 years of history in Digging Caerau 2 next month.

The CAER Heritage Project – run in partnership between Cardiff University and Action in Caerau and Ely [ACE] - began a journey of exploring the prehistoric past of the Caerau iron age hillfort in 2011. The major community excavation in July last year has shifted the archaeological and historical significance of the site on the outskirts of Cardiff, bringing new life to the locality and 1,000 people from near and far to see the dig unfold. Largely unexplored, this historical gem is now revealing its rich past from Iron age roundhouses to Roman settlement.

The project has had a magical effect both on the landscape – creating beautiful linked heritage trails revealing the area's heritage – and on the people in the locality.  In a journey of discovery, local schools and members of the community from all backgrounds helped unearth five large Iron age roundhouses, a roadway and extensive evidence of past communities from Iron age and Roman pottery and a beautiful Iron Age glass bead. 120 local people were actively involved in the 2013 excavation under the direction of archaeologists from Cardiff University, with 1,000 people visiting the excavations during the month-long dig.

The project is one living example that the ivory tower is a myth.  Far from being disengaged with society, researchers are engaging with the public in a host of innovative and effective ways. From inspiring young people with new advances in knowledge, to encouraging members of the public to contribute to research, university public engagement is thriving.

The winners were announced at the national Engage Competition Awards ceremony today 11th June 2014, at the Natural History Museum (NHM). The competition forms part of Universities Week, a week-long celebration of public engagement with research that is taking place across the UK from the 9th June.

Applications uncovered a broad range of high quality activity inspiring and involving public audiences, and covered a diversity of subjects – from exploring the universe to understanding the atomic world; from representations of childhood to supporting innovation in early years learning; from community organisations working alongside university researchers to using drama or comedy to animate research.

John Womersley, Public Engagement Champion for Research Councils UK, said "It is great to see so many examples of the valued contributions that UK researchers make to society. When people think of public engagement, what usually comes to mind is the need for researchers to share their findings. Of course that's hugely important, but the entries to this competition show a much richer range of two-way engagement that can bring much deeper benefits both to research and society."

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Universities UK, said "The NCCPE competition has provided an excellent vehicle for universities' engagement with the public to be recognised during Universities Week, which this year aims to inspire the public about world-leading research taking place in higher education. The standard and sheer volume of entries received is a reflection of the increasing trend for UK researchers and the public to work together. Public engagement is important to the success of the higher education sector and as part of that the NCCPE plays a pivotal role in supporting universities to engage with the public."

Paul Manners, Director of the NCCPE said '"As part of our work to inspire universities to improve their support for engagement, the competition aimed to find and celebrate excellent practice from across the UK. We have been delighted by the high quality of entries, which has raised the bar on what can be achieved through an engaged approach to research. The culture of the academy is changing, as researchers recognise the value of engagement, and we hope the competition provides an opportunity to inspire more people to get involved."

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