Sustainable Communities Are Key To Generating Economic Growth In The North


Picture: Pam Warhurst addresses participants at the Sustainable North event. Credit: A.Gilmore.

More than 50 arts and humanities practitioners, sustainability activists and academics gathered at a N8 event in Manchester recently (30 October) to hear how arts-based and community-led projects are shaping economic and social regeneration in the North, and how, by promoting sustainability, they are also helping communities become more resilient.

The event was one of a series of themed workshops taking place as part of 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 and social impact, contribute to public policy and the development of communities across the North.

The programme is being led by the N8 Research Partnership and is jointly-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It also aims to identify new research challenges and to explore potential solutions that can be developed by both practitioners and academics.

Delegates at the Manchester event discussed the opportunities for the arts in making the North sustainable, as well as hearing about case study projects and historical models of community innovation.

The venue for the event was the Biospheric Foundation, a new research-led community interest company based in Salford. The Foundation is dedicated to providing practical solutions to urban poverty through community projects relating food production and distribution.

Dr Abigail Gilmore from the Centre for Arts Management and Cultural Policy at the University of Manchester, said:

“Collaboration between sectors and disciplines brings together different experiences, skills and agendas to disrupt, challenge and produce new ideas and models for change. The Sustainable North workshop, at the inspirational Biospheric Foundation – itself a project with an arts base – provided a fantastic opportunity to focus on the lessons from the past and models for future sustainable ecological and economic development, through the work of artists, historians, museologists, horticulturalists and other practitioners.”

Delivering the keynote address at the event was Pam Warhurst, from Incredible Edible, a community-led initiative in Todmorden which turns unused land around the town into vegetable gardens. The team of volunteers also works closely with schools and public bodies to promote food-based learning and recently launched a local history project to bring the community together through local memories and knowledge of food in Todmorden.

Pam said:

“Incredible Edible is an experiment in more sustainable living, so it was very useful to hear about other projects, and to play a role in increasing the understanding of how local communities are shaping the area where they live.

“We are already showing that through the power of small actions, communities can become more sustainable and more connected and we look forward to working with some of the new partners we met at today’s event to explore how we can make an even greater impact in our local area.”

The N8 Research Partnership already has a strong track record in bringing about pioneering research collaborations in science and engineering through forging strong links with industry, matching demand from business with the world-class research being carried out in the N8 universities.

The other 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.
  • Imaginative North – looking at how the imagination is being used to influence social and cultural development in the North.

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