Annual Review 2020: Community, Arts and Culture

Partners on board for The Ancient Mariner Big Read

Stars of the stage and screen, arts and music helped to transform one of English literature’s most celebrated poems for the digital age in a University collaboration. The Ancient Mariner Big Read saw Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner brought to life across 40 separate readings, each broadcast over the internet. Jeremy Irons, Tilda Swinton, Hilary Mantel, Lemn Sissay and Alan Bennett were among those who took part, and each reading was accompanied by work from an international contemporary artist and paired with relevant scientific research in fields including marine science and climate breakdown. The project, curated by author Philip Hoare, artist Angela Cockayne and Dr Sarah Chapman, Director of The Arts Institute, saw the trio re-team eight years on from the Moby-Dick Big Read, which has gathered over ten million hits since first being broadcast.

The sea has been a rich source of inspiration for many artists, poets and musicians in creating celebrated artworks that continue to stand the test of time. This project continues that legacy, uniting a love of language, poetry and how words and visual metaphor can cut across time and cultural barriers with a longstanding love of the sea, both as a physical and creative space.

Dr Sarah Chapman, Director of The Arts Institute.

Legal support for vulnerable communities

A University project that has established a model of student-led law clinics in the community has scooped national awards for the third year in a row. The Plymouth Law Clinic won in two categories at the LawWorks and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2020, along with one of its partners, the British Red Cross. They triumphed in both the Access to Justice Foundation category and the Best Team of Students, which celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools and the positive impact on those assisted. The Refugee Family Reunion Clinic is one of four that has been created in response to gaps caused by cuts to legal aid. They also include the Employment Law Clinic, the Family Law Clinic, and the Welfare Clinic, and each sits once a week, receiving referrals from partner organisations as well as people walking in off the street. The clinic has helped to reunite vulnerable families forcibly separated by conflict and persecution in countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Cameroon and Malawi.

This is the third consecutive year that our Law Clinic has been recognised at the awards and I think that speaks to a culture of commitment to access to justice issues and a desire for experiential learning among our students.

Rosie Brennan, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law, Criminology and Government, and Director of the Law Clinic.

Health Technology Pop-Up Centre to address socioeconomic deprivation

A University-led collaboration received an Enhancing Place-Based Partnership for Public Engagement award, from UK Research and Innovation, to fund the creation of a digital and eHealth centre in the heart of one of the most socioeconomically deprived areas of the country. The Centre for Health Technology Pop-Up has been developed in Stonehouse, Plymouth, and brings together researchers and students from nursing, computing, design, medicine, engineering, architecture, and urban design, with community activity specialists and crowdfunders over the course of the six-month partnership. The pop-up centre is addressing health inequalities and social deprivation using digital technology and eHealth solutions. This includes companion robots as well as apps and internet-based health and welfare resources. It will support business start-ups and the thriving regional, digital entrepreneur network through industry pop-up spaces and involve the public in the co-creation of initiatives. The centre also helped to provide free public Wi-Fi during the lockdown to people in Stonehouse.

<p>Pepper robot at the Centre for Health Technology pop-up in Stonehouse</p>
<p>Pepper robot</p>

The Centre for Health Technology Pop-Up aligns our research strengths with local community needs, part of our role as a Civic University, in order to positively impact health within the local community.

Katharine Willis, Professor of Smart Cities and Communities, School of Art, Design and Architecture, and Project Lead.


Civic Engagement

A commitment to civic engagement is one of the defining characteristics of the University and has been for many years. The ‘Civic University’ is now an officially recognised model across the higher education sector, and one that Plymouth has helped to shape through its engagement with, and input to, the Civic University Commission. Indeed, it is developing its own Civic University Agreement with stakeholders across the region, which will place the economy and quality of life in the local community among the University’s strategic priorities, and serve to strengthen and celebrate the links between institution and location.

The last 12 months have really proven and tested the importance of the University’s role in the community. Whether it was supporting the national effort against coronavirus, or securing millions of pounds’ worth of European funding for the business community in Cornwall, the University has made a profound contribution. With the Strategy 2030 in place, and its particular focus upon significant industry partnerships, the institution is well placed to go on doing so for many generations to come.

Our civic impact