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Research – heritage and culture

How should heritage decisions be made? (2013-2015)

The ‘How should heritage decisions be made?’ project was conducted as part of the co-designed AHRC Connected Communities project. It drew on my interest in co-produced research projects – often focused on questions of public participation in decision making. I use participative and action-led research methods, experimenting with how small-scale participatory work can be combined with large scale whole system action.

Since then I have embarked on two strands of research. The first in York in collaboration with architect Phil Bixby and the City of York Council is a staging of large scale participatory public engagement process (My Future York / My Castle Gateway / My York Central) in key areas of urban regeneration and city-level development. The approaches developed through these projects have combined the personal through narrative, story-telling and imaginative methods to enable personal articulation (hence the ‘my’ in the project titles) with developing a new form of public sphere via inquiry-led forms of debate and discussion and an approach to change that actively works across scale from large scale institutional/government-led infrastructures and investment to tactical experiments and community-led action.

The second is via Bradford’s National Museum where I am working with the museum staff, other researchers and a number of project partners to explore connections between the museum and Bradford. Linking all the key issues – Bradford, the museum, communities, science and technology – is an exploration of the benefits of relational approaches through action-led and experimental methods.

Keywords: public participation, democratic decision-making, story-telling, community-led action, action research


My Future York / My Castle Gateway / My York Central

Bradford’s National Museum: Connecting Bradford and the National Science and Media Museum, 2017-2020

Related publications:

‘Living with History in York: Increasing participation from where you are’., Heritage, Conservation & Communities: Engagement and capacity building. 2016, Richard Brigham, Lianne Brigham, Peter Brown, Helen Graham


Contributed by: Helen Graham – University of Leeds, Phil Bixby – Constructive Individuals



Whose heritage matters? Mapping, making and mobilizing heritage values for sustainable livelihoods in Cape Town and Kisumu.

This two-year project is in collaboration with the African Centre for Cities and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in Kenya. It is funded by the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme.

Cape Town and Kisumu are two secondary African cities with high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Harnessing cultural heritage may play a role in addressing these challenges. However, it is a value-laden concept, particularly in the context of colonial histories and urban futures. The project asks:

  • Whose heritage matters?
  • How can we negotiate competing and plural values?
  • How can cultural heritage be mobilised to support sustainable livelihoods?

Using a co-produced action research approach, we will bring stakeholders together to map heritage values and develop creative interventions for sustainable development. Specifically, we will be working with local teams and groups of women in low income communities to collaboratively examine and respond to these questions.

Keywords: action research, co-production,

Project website:

Related publications:

Festivals as integrative sites: Valuing tangible and intangible heritage for sustainable development, Beth Perry, Laura Ager, Rike Sitas (eds)

Contributed by: Beth Perr, Vicky Habermehl – University of Sheffield, Urban Institute; Rike Sitas – University of Cape Town




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