Civic Lab Research Group Annual Symposium 2021

Date and time
Thursday, 8 July 2021 -
Friday, 9 July 2021


Civic LAB Research Group. Proudly part of the Digital Material Artistic Research Centre


Socially inclusive art and design innovation are needed now more than ever to support and regenerate civic life. The launch of this symposium in July 2021 marks “a year since UK higher education was faced with an abrupt shift to response mode in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. The sector responded with agility, creativity and flexibility with much to celebrate in how our community innovated so rapidly with many adaptions showing the way towards significant innovations for the longer term. At the same time as the COVID-19 crisis, The Black Lives Matter movement emerged and mobilised action for change” (CHEAD, 2021).

This symposium creates an open space platform, to learn and reflect, to turn our thoughts to the renewal, and reimagining of our role in a sustainable and diverse future. This symposium is created by the Civic LAB Research Group which is part of the Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre at the University of Derby.

8 July

Evening keynote

18:00–18.15 Welcome address by Professor Kathryn Mitchell - Vice-Chancellor, University of Derby  
18:15– 19.15 Keynote by Dr Cara Courage  
19:15- 19.45 Post keynote discussion facilitated by Dr Rhiannon Jones
Dr Cara Courage Head of Tate Exchange and Interim Co-Director, Learning and Research, Tate, and independent arts and placemaking researcher and publisher.

Cara is the author of Arts in Place: The Arts, the Urban and Social Practice (Routledge, 2017), the co-editor of Creative Placemaking and Beyond (Routledge, 2018), and editor of The Routledge Handbook of Placemaking (Routledge, 2021).

9 July

Full day symposium with guest panellists. 


“Thinking Locally, Acting Globally.” In two parts:
Panel 1: Local
Simon Carnell, Head of Community, Derby County Community Trust
David McGravie, University of Derby
Professor Cecile Wright, Professor of Sociology, University of Nottingham and Chair BLM Derby
Mike Brown, Arts Office, Derby City Council
The Very Rev'd Dr Peter Robinson, Dean of Derby 
Caroline Barth, Creative Learning Director, Derby Theatre
Panel 2: Global 
Sandra Booth, Director Policy, The Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD) 
Dr Annie Tubadjiat, Cultural Economist, Swansea University,
Benita Odogwu-Atkinson, Senior Lecturer Fashion, University for the Creative Arts and FACE Ambassador 
Anna Lindberg, Cumulus coordinator
Alice Janssens, External Relations & University Collaborations Manager, European Cultural Academy
The symposium Programme will be announced in due course. 

Call for participation - now closed

Civic LAB is delighted to announce its first symposium to be hosted by the University of Derby on July 8 and 9, 2021 (online).  
Civic LAB is inviting academics, post-graduate research students, artists and researchers to participate to activate the city of Derby, through papers, workshops, digital performances, artist-led labs, debates, online installations and interventions. Civic LAB will bring together UK and International based artists and researchers to push the boundaries in research and practice across the thematic tracks as set out below. 

Founded in 2020 through the Digital Material Artistic Research Centre, Civic LAB is a new research group based at the University of Derby. Civic LAB is an interdisciplinary research group centred on participatory culture, creative dialogue and experiential design for social impact.

It explores how we build communities (Manzini, 2019) and how we create the conditions in which those communities can sustainably develop, innovate, and thrive within the social, economic, environmental and cultural challenges of the twenty-first century.

Civic LAB brings together a diverse group of researchers and practitioners who represent a plethora of creative practices and perspectives across the arts and social sciences to contribute to this burgeoning field of enquiry. The group aims to interrogate, extend and redefine the value of creative practice to the public sphere.

As a research forum for partnership and transfer of knowledge and best practices, the LAB offers thoughtful and provocative readings of this sphere through practical and theoretical acts of research and dissemination.

The LAB promotes and supports a wide range of multidisciplinary creative research activities with a view to working with external cultural partners, public, commercial and third sector organisations, educational institutions and international networks.

Through public engagement, participation, and collaboration we aim to develop, deploy, evaluate and publish projects, works and methodologies which engender sustainable social, environmental and cultural impact. Our emphasis is on creative industries and the public sector, and how these align with the listed emerging themes:

  1. Civic placemaking
  2. Civic dialogues 
  3. Civic pedagogy 
  4. Civic technology
  5. Civic heritage

We invite proposals that propose innovative ways to bring cross, trans and/or interdisciplinary perspectives together including projects that involve public collaboration. We welcome performative digital papers, case studies, workshops as well as conceptual papers for this symposium.  
The call seeks to harness the potential afforded in the temporary occupation of, and movement between, these sites to expand our examination of Civic LAB practices. 
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the world are mobilising their teaching operations online. A renewed emphasis is focused on the benefits of interconnected, communicative learning environments. 


Civic LAB will be producing its first dedicated Civic LAB digital publication. Featuring essays, artworks, contributions from selected artists, researchers and participants.

Registration deadlines

  • Early registration deadline - 18 June 2021 
  • Regular registration deadline - 25 June 2021 
  • Late registration deadline - 5 July 2021 
Further enquiries: 

Any questions can be addressed to the Lead of Civic LAB FAO: Rhiannon Jones at civiclab@derby.ac.uk.  
It is important to note that Civic LAB has limited resources, technical support and does not offer funding for artists or others to show or create new work. We are, however, able to provide support in kind and written letters of support for those wishing to apply for funding to attend. 
Civic LAB is proudly working in partnership with: CVAN EM, Derby Theatre, Deda, Cultural Campus, Derby Cathedral, Derby City Council, Derby County Community Trust, DESIS, Cumulus, In Good Company, Mansions of the Future, S.H.E.D, InDialogue, University of Derby 
Dr Rhiannon Jones, Artist Researcher, School of Art
Lead Civic LAB Research Group  
Lead Convener Civic LAB Conference  
Editor Civic LAB Publication 
Jade Murden, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies and SEND 
Co-convener Civic LAB Conference 
Member Civic LAB Research Group 
Co-Editor of Civic LAB proceedings 
Dr Daithí McMahon, Senior Lecturer in Media 
Co-Convener Civic Lab Conference 
Member Civic LAB Research Group 
Co-Editor of Civic LAB proceedings 
Professor Angela Bartram, Professor of Contemporary Art  
Co-Editor of Civic LAB proceedings 
Head of Digital Material Artistic Research Centre DMARC, home to Civic LAB 
Professor John Steel, Research Professor in Journalism
Member Civic LAB Research Group 
Co-Editor of Civic LAB proceedings  
Co-Editor Special issue (TBC) 

Matthew Hawthorn 
Co-Lead Civic LAB 

Book your place

This is a ticketed event, there are a limited number of early bird tickets available at £20, once these have sold out the standard ticket price is £30.

Purchase your ticket at our online shop

Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre

The Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre (DMARC) is the academic research centre for our School of Arts at the University of Derby. Our focus for DMARC is to increase understanding of the shifting boundaries and new relationships within artistic research practice and theory.  

A collage of puctures of student activity
Image Designed by Marc Bosward, University of Derby, 2020