Localism, Narrative & Myth


Principal Investigator: Antonia Layard (then University of Cardiff, then University of Birmingham)
Co-investigators: Prof Joe Painter, Durham; Prof Hamish Fyfe, Glamorgan; Hilary Ramsden, then UWE
Collaborators: The creative partners were storyteller Martin Maudsley and photographer Rebecca Bernstein in Bristol, Malcom Green at Beyond the Borders, Laygate Stories in South Shields, the Durham Book Festival and Michael Smith.
Duration: From 2012 to 2013

Localism, Narrative & Myth was a research project funded by the Connected Communities programme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in 2012-2013. The academic partners were Antonia Layard (now Bristol), Raksha Pande (Durham), Joe Painter (Durham), Hilary Ramsden (then UWE) and Hamish Fyfe (Glamorgan).

The project consisted of two strands both of which are available on this website. In the South West, artistic interventions were of local activities that were rather idealised and idyllic, including May Day, storytelling events and a photography shoot of a local choir. This prompted an often rather lyrical response by participants, identifying both the presence and the absence of ‘the local’. In the North East, meanwhile, the artistic interventions were more observational of daily life, documenting in film, photography and interviews how people understand and engage with their locality.

The findings of the project are that participants could identify a, and even ‘the’, local in a specific area but that often this was noticeable by its absence. This absence was both because people moved to somewhere different (though often younger, more affluent people, felt that they could become local) and more strikingly because the public spaces in which people interact, such as shops, pubs or cafes are missing in more economically deprived areas. As one elderly participant put it in Patchway in Bristol: ‘there is no local here, love’.