York and York Partner Projects


Heritage and Homelessness (in partnership with Rachael Kiddey)

Underneath the arches. A rough-sleeping place in Bristol mapped and interpreted for us by its former occupant. Drawing by Eddie Lyons.

Underneath the arches. A rough-sleeping place in Bristol mapped and interpreted for us by its former occupant. Drawing by Eddie Lyons.

In line with the FARO Convention’s recognition that every person has the right to engage with the cultural heritage of their choice, and the recognition that archaeology can give voice to subaltern views and perspectives, a study is underway of contemporary homelessness in Bristol (UK). The study is pioneering in that homeless participants are central to the project. They are more than informants: in some ways they drive the project, by determining what we see and how places and artefacts are interpreted and assessed. Fieldwork is always fun, and challenging. We visit places we couldn’t have imagined, and hear stories that are hard to comprehend. But ultimately the project involves standard archaeological practices of observation, documentation, mapping and recording. We record finds as we see them, and all of the places we have encountered. We are also mapping journeys, encounters, and people’s perceptions of the landscape we pass through. Homeless people have their own lives, centred on particular places and routines. They also value particular places and types of place for interesting and at times surprising reasons. This project seeks to map those perceptions and document them, bringing what some might consider marginal views of heritage and landscape into the mainstream. One specific part of this project was the excavation of a particular homeless place, Turbo Island, involving a team of students and homeless diggers. The wider project has been published in The Big Issue (November 2009) and British Archaeology.

This project was funded by a Challenge Grant from the Council for British Archaeology and supported by English Heritage.



 Locality, Biography and Youth in a Transforming Community (2005-2007) was an ESRC-funded research project (with Tom Hall & Amanda Coffey, Cardiff University) exploring relations between young people, changing physical landscapes, community regeneration and industrial heritage. The project invited young people to walk us around their neighbourhoods and talk with us about local identities and the legacies of industrial heritage in the south Wales valleys. These touring conversations typically focussed on the biographical aspects of place – stories of young participants and stories of the places where we were walking.

The project’s approach actively sought to build upon young people’s participation in community processes. Through local regeneration initiatives such as ‘Communities First’ we were able to involve, and be involved with, young people in grassroots community consultations on ‘deprived’ estates in Blaenau Gwent. Through walking tours of these neighbourhoods, interview recordings and photos were created, archived and shared with Communities First to communicate the views of young people specifically. The project team participated in community consultations, engaging with over 200 young people regarding issues such as: converting a school into a community centre, reclaiming brownfield land for parks, repairing existing playgrounds, litter collection, crime prevention, anti-bullying measures, transportation challenges, creating community gardens, and provision of a ‘forest school’ on reforested former industrial land. The project contributed to local heritage consultations by the Sirhowy Valley Landscape Partnership, Blaenau Gwent Regeneration Division; a partnership aimed at increasing community knowledge of, and involvement in, heritage and historic landscape issues.




Popular music, cityscapes, and characterization of the urban environment (2007-2009) was a 2-year ethnographic research project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. Working in collaboration with English Heritage and National Museums Liverpool to help mark Liverpool’s status as European Capital of Culture 2008, the project mapped the relations between musicians and the changing city. The project team (with Sara Cohen, University of Liverpool, and John Schofield, University of York) approached mapping in several ways. First, we conducted archival research to explore records of the changing city. Second, we conducted ethnographic field work to chart musical activity in city music venues, rehearsal spaces, recording studios, festival sites, and other live performance sites. Our ethnographic field work also involved interviews with local musicians. During interviews we invited musicians to produce hand-drawn maps for us that featured points of significance, nodes, hubs, routes, and other memorable sites of music-making or musical interest in the city.



Documenting “vanishing” heritage

L8: A Timepiece (2010) is an oral history documentary film about black musical heritage in Liverpool. The particular focus of the film is a number of diasporic African and African/Caribbean social clubs that were hubs of music-making and sociality in the Liverpool 8 postcode (or L8), an area also known as Granby, buy more widely referred to as Toxteth. The film showcases interviews with musicians, DJs, clubowners, and community leaders who described a dense cluster of social clubs – including the Ibo, the Sierra Leone Club, the Somali, the Nigerian, the Caribbean Centre and others – in an area that was alive with music in the period from the 1960s through the 1980s. Today, all but two the social clubs have disappeared from the local landscape, and the film aims to highlight this significant ‘hidden’ heritage to a younger generation of local musicians. Produced in collaboration with Urbeatz, an urban youth culture and media agency in Liverpool, the film was screened during 2010 Mobo Awards events in Liverpool.



Reclaiming urban space

As a direct follow-on to the L8 documentary, Brett worked again with Urbeatz to direct attention to issues of urban youth, heritage and social exclusion. The Liverpool One Project (2010-2011) is a twelve song digital ‘urban music’ download produced in collaboration with young Liverpool urban music (e.g., hip-hop, r’n’b, soul, grime, and dubstep) artists and producers. Based upon 16-weeks of studio sessions, this project linked issues discussed in the L8 documentary to present issues in L1 (the Liverpool 1 postcode). Two tracks – the eponymous ‘Liverpool One’ and ‘The Legacy’ – bookend a compilation of songs that provide broad lyrical commentary on the intersections of ‘race’, class, age and other social relations in the regenerated Liverpool 1 area (especially the city’s flagship ‘Liverpool One’ shopping district). The project further involved interviews with participants, the production of two promotional videos, and a live performance showcase in a city centre venue. The project was nominated for an Official Mixtape Award (OMA) in the category of ‘Best Compilation Mixtape of 2011’.



Pop-up Cinema

Pop Up Cinema

Pop Up Cinema. Photo courtesy of Rick Harrison

Site-specific pop-up cinemas are part of a wider phenomenon of creative Do-It-Yourself, temporary and potentially transgressive performances in spaces that were not designed nor intended for such use. Pop-up cinemas have taken place in motorway underpasses, scrap yards, brownfield sites, train stations and car parks – they may ‘pop-up’ almost anywhere. In May 2012 Brett collaborated with Simon Baker, a Leeds-based architect to host an open-air pop-up cinema in the car park at Marshall’s Mill, a Grade II* listed former flax spinning mill that has recently been regenerated in office space for creative industries.

We were interested in the temporary transformation of a regenerated space and the opportunity to see and sense the mill through a night-time, one-off cinema event. We hoped the cinema event would foster broader understandings and interpretations of everyday landscapes through unfamiliar encounters in this area of Leeds.