Song Lines to Impact and Legacy: Creating Living Knowledge through Working with Social Haunting


Principal Investigator: Geoff Bright
Co-investigators: Sarah McNicol; Amanda Benson; Andrew McMillan
Collaborators: Unite the Union; The Co-operative College
Duration: From 2015 to 2017

This project developed from the previous AHRC Connected Communities ECR Development Project, ‘Working with Social Haunting’ and the AHRC 2016 Festival project ‘Opening the ‘Unclosed Space’: Multiplying Ghost Labs as Intergenerational Utopian Practice’.

In both of these projects, led by early career researcher, Dr Geoff Bright, the Ghost Lab model of community practice was developed as a means of reanimating aspects of “communal being-ness” concealed within contested pasts as living but subjugated knowledge.

Dissemination of the Ghost Lab model into new areas with new partners is particularly relevant, given the 2016 Brexit vote and a proliferation of popular discourses about a north/south division fracturing along geographies of difference between metropolitan locations and de-industrialised areas – an agenda that emerged strongly during the lifetime of our projects.

We will enhance the impacts and legacies of our two previous AHRC projects by disseminating one of the techniques that we designed as part of a repertoire of community ‘ghost hunting’ methods: the “community tarot” reading – a simple, playful device of community re-imagination that originated during our research work in South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire. Working with our new creative partners, we will showcase the community tarot reading technique at six ‘Impact and Legacy Ghost Labs’ in five new communities (three in NE and two in the NW).

As an innovation, four to six “song lines” (specially written and recorded songs in line with local dissenting song traditions) will be created from those impact events and disseminated regionally, nationally and internationally in video and audio formats through.

Through public-facing impact engagements at the 2017 Durham Miners’ Gala, Great Yorkshire Show, Wigan Diggers’ Festival, and the Co-operative College Conference, we will establish a ‘living knowledge’ in the form of songs, images and an ever multiplying “Community Tarot pack” that operates as a living visual and conceptual lexicon of community re-imagination. Drawing on the example of our input at the Somerset House festival, public “readings’ will be offered by our New Vic theatre partners, who themselves were central to originating and piloting the community tarot readings in Staffordshire.

The policy-maker and practitioner conference held at the People’s History Museum will see the launch of the website; workshops exemplifying the whole repertoire of Ghost Lab techniques; and a showcasing of the music/visual “song lines” created by Ribbon Road, the internationally interactive community radio broadcast material, and the project film material.


The image below (please click the image to enlarge) was the springboard for this project. It’s a comic strip that was created from a verbatim record of a session conducted with a group of teenagers from Hackney at the Utopia Fair at Somerset House on the day after the EU referendum. In this session, ‘Community Tarot’ practice was used to enable a re-imagination of community.