Imagination Creates Creative And Successful Collaborations


The imagination is being used as a tool to help academics and arts and humanities practitioners rethink collaborations and develop new research ideas, attendees at a recent N8 event demonstrated.

Forty-five arts and humanities practitioners, academics and funding partners came together at the event to explore how the imagination is being used to develop new ways of working and influence social and cultural development in the North.

The ‘Imaginative North’ workshop was the fourth in the ‘New Thinking from the North’ project, which aims to identify how academics, practitioners in the arts and humanities and other partners can collaborate to stimulate economic growth, cultural and social impact, inform public policy and the development of communities across the North.

The venue for the event was Imagination Lancaster, an open and exploratory design-led research lab, at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. The lab provided an ideal venue to showcase how to creatively interact with new methods and tools to develop ideas, and a stimulating environment for participants to imagine the future landscape of research in the arts and humanities.

Professor Trevor McMillan, Chair of the N8 Executive Management Group and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Lancaster University, welcomed the attendees to the workshop. He outlined the ambition of the N8 stating “The research expertise of the N8 universities brings together the best with the best. It supports researchers to lead projects that show we are willing to put our head above the parapet, demonstrates that we can conduct interdisciplinary research, and importantly shows that we are ambitious and can think big about contemporary research challenges”.

Participants at the Lancaster event engaged in activities that sought to identify new radical research project ideas and then design novel and creative funding mechanisms to support them. This included interacting with new digital tools for collaboration developed at Imagination Lancaster, which led to a vibrant discussion about the type of collaborations that need to be forged and their relevance to public policy and communities. Sir Christopher Frayling gave a keynote presentation titled ‘What can the ‘R’ word do for the Arts and Humanities?’ which further fuelled discussions about the North’s collaborative and research future in the afternoon.

Dr Abigail Gilmore from the Centre for Arts Management and Cultural Policy at the University of Manchester, said “The Imaginative North workshop has been an excellent opportunity to take forward ideas and thinking from the previous New Thinking from the North workshops and translate them into real opportunities that the N8 can take forward. The hands-on approach adopted supported a participatory imagining of radical research projects that promoted risk rather than shied away from it.”

The ‘New Thinking from the North’ programme is being led by the N8 Research Partnership and is jointly-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). As well as identifying ways to stimulate social and cultural development in the North, the project also aims to identify new research challenges and to explore potential solutions that can be developed by practitioners and academics.

The previous events making up the ‘New Thinking from the North’ project are:

  • Heritage North – looking at the heritage economy in the North and how heritage-based regeneration affects communities.
  • Digital North – looking at how digital is being used to create and sustain culture, identity and community in the North.
  • Sustainable North – looking at how the economic, social and environmental development of the North are connected and how they can be made sustainable and resilient.

Read more about the New Thinking from the North programme here.