CivicLAB Conference 2023

Date and time
Monday, 17 July 2023 -
Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Derby County's Pride Park Stadium and Artcore in Osnabruck Square, Derby

Event overview

The Third CivicLAB Annual Conference will be taking place in Derby, a UNESCO city of Life Long Learning and home to World Heritage Sites. This conference has been designed to support academics, creative and cultural industry professionals and freelance creatives to share their insights on research and practice through place-based approach to knowledge generation. This will be the third CivicLAB Conference, hosted by University of Derby in partnership with Derby County Community Trust and Artcore.

The CivicLAB is led by Dr Rhiannon Jones, Associate Professor (Civic) at the University of Derby.

The two-day conference will explore this through a series of presentations, keynotes, workshops, networking sessions and an (optional) community meal. Please see the programme for more information.

The conference setting will provide a thinking space to bring together participants from academia, creative and cultural industry, third sector and freelance practitioners.

Together, we will discuss approaches to building civic practice, research and community capacity as a means of addressing long-standing social issues.

Driving positive change

CivicLAB is an agent to drive positive societal change, to increase civic impact, and connect universities, stakeholders and communities together. To this end, we have invited three specialists to deliver keynotes, each will attend to the challenges and opportunities of civic and community-based practice; through the lens of creative place making.

Our keynote speakers are:

Collectively, they will help us to explore the relationship between higher education institutions working with communities on co-produced activities at both the hyper-local and global.

As a civic university, we are committed to supporting Derby and Derbyshire, our place, our people and its rich and diverse community. And to understanding what civic engagement really means – by enacting and enabling imaginative communities to flourish and support creative cultural ecosystems and strategies to grow.

The programme has been designed to explore the following themes:

CivicLAB is a driver for change through participation and collaboration. It also emulates the University’s promise as an institution to deliver projects, programmes and research that support our commitment as a civic institution.   

The conference provides an opportunity to hear from world-leading experts, industry professionals, practitioners, theorists and academics - and time to learn together and network as colleagues. 

CivicLAB will be delighted to welcome you here, to get to know you, your work, and your vision to build an inclusive, social and civic future.  

What is CivicLAB

CivicLAB was established in 2020 and has created opportunities for 1463 staff, students and external stakeholders and members of the public.  

We have designed and led 35 research sessions, developed eight projects, delivered two sold-out symposiums with 100% satisfaction rates.

CivicLAB is located centrally to the University core business, within the Provost of Learning and Teaching. The work of the CivicLAB supports the six academic themes, with close alignment to Cultural and Creative Industries. It is an interdisciplinary group that cuts across research and innovation, and teaching and learning. 

It has a core membership of ten staff from academic and professional services with representation from all four colleges and the postgraduate research community driving activity.

Keynote speakers


Every day at 1pm on Stockton-on-Tees High Street, an animatronic steam train by the artist Rob Higgs emerges from a plinth on which is a carved a poem by writer and creative researcher Mark Robinson of Thinking Practice.

Mark will share a reflection on tools and tactics that can help artists and arts organisations to contribute to their civic spaces, beginning with the story of that plinth and drawing on recent work for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and his Future Arts Centre-published book Tactics For The Tightrope: Creative Resilience For Creative Communities. 


Mark Robinson is the founder of Thinking Practice, through which he writes, coaches, advises, researches and provokes. Thinking Practice has worked with over 200 organisations of all scales since 2010, nationally and internationally.

Previously, Mark spent 10 years at Northern Arts/Arts Council England, latterly as Executive Director, North East. He has also worked in literature and creative community development in Teesside. Mark is also a widely published and anthologised poet. His Selected Poems, How I Learned To Sing was published in 2014. 


"Locating the dream matter in our city, investing in civic learning, social capital and circular economy" is a bold approach to visioning, building and investing in civic infrastructure for neighbourhoods of the future.

This is the Department of Dreams, part of Civic Square and its work to shape regenerative futures. The department sits within the Neighbourhood Economics Lab, an experimental social lab, in order to enable its continual development, and foster its crucial importance as an open tool and connector across different worlds.


Imandeep Kaur is co-founder and director of Civic Square. Imandeep says: "While investing in the dark matter of large-scale system change, we must also invest in the dream matter – the artists, writers, designers, dreamers and creative visionaries – those who dare to dream up bold new futures for humanity and have the capacity to stretch our imaginations further than we ever thought possible. Department of Dreams is a site for unlocking, sharing, manifesting, and investing into the dream capacity that lies inside us all."


"We are what we value: what we want from placemaking now and tomorrow."

Taking our cue from Creative Aging’s concept of ‘mattering’, we will use this time to think about what matters to us in placemaking. Weaving in thinking on the imagination and on good ancestry, we will ask what we want to take forward in our placemaking practice and what we want to hold this practice accountable to as it matures and gathers momentum.


Dr Cara Courage is an arts and placemaking consultant, practitioner, researcher and writer, a globally renowned placemaking leader, cultural and creative sector consultant-director and researcher and creative and organisational change agent. Her passion for and dedication to people and place has led her to specialise in practices that are socially engaged, community led, and embedded in place. 

Cara is named in the top ten of place-thinkers worldwide and a ‘strategy angel’ for the arts sector. Her most recent project is ‘Trauma-Informed Placemaking’, with Dr Anita McKeown, a research platform and forthcoming textbook (Routledge, 2023).

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

General guidelines

The first language of the conference will be English.  

Please do let us know of any access requirements by no later than 30 June, we will be happy to support. Contact civiclab@derby.ac.uk

Certificates of attendance can be issued after the conference by asking Deborah Bennett at d.bennett2@derby.ac.uk

CivicLAB Conference programme


Monday 17 July 2023


Harrisons Hub at the Community Corner
Derby County Community Trust  
Pride Park Stadium  
DE24 8XL

The optional evening meal will be in Captain's Corner at Pride Park Stadium.

Day one activities

  • 9.30am-10am Registration
  • 10am-10.15am  Welcome, Dr Rhiannon Jones, University of Derby
  • 10.15am-10.30am Opening address, Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice Chancellor University of Derby [online]
  • 10.30am-11.30am Keynote presentation - Locating the dream matter in our city, investing in civic learning, social capital and circular economy,  Imandeep Kaur, co-founder and director Civic Square
  • 11.30am-11.45am Break
  • 11.45am-12.15pm Workshop - Social Prescribing: Health and Wellbeing, Dr Yoon Irons, Associate Professor, University of Derby
  • 12.15pm-1.15pm Lunch
  • 1.15pm-2.30pm Keynote presentation - The Infinite Town: tactics for the civic tightrope, Mark Robinson
  • 2.30pm-3.30pm Workshop - Changing the World Through Games, Professor Ian Turner, University of Derby
  • 3.30pm-3.45pm Break
  • 3.45pm-4.30pm Workshop - The Civic Understory: exploring, measuring, and growing social connections to make change more possible in the places we live, Rachel Smith, Make/Shift, and Georgie Grant, Onion Collective, plus a demo of Understory, a new digital mapping tool for communities
  • 4.30pm-4.45pm Close of day remarks 
  • 6pm-10pm Conference Dinner, Captain's Corner, Pride Park Stadium, with welcome address by Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice Chancellor University of Derby


Tuesday 18 July 2023


8 Albert Square
Osnabrook Square 

Day two activities

  • 9.30am-10am: Welcome/registration
  • 10am-10.05am: Opening address, Professor Keith McLay, Provost Learning and Teaching, University of Derby
  • 10.05am-11am: Keynote Presentation - We are what we value: what we want from placemaking now and tomorrow, Dr Cara Courage
  • 11am-12pm: Workshop - Placemaking and Events: Towards Imaginative Communities, Dr Vladimir Antchak and Dr Iride Azara, University of Derby
  • 12pm-1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm-2pm: The Global and the hyper-local: A perspective on Civic Placemaking with Cumulus Association and Culture Derby chaired by Dr Rhiannon Jones, Associate Professor (Civic)
  • 2pm-2.15pm: Break
  • 2.15pm-3pm: S.H.E.D and the National Justice Museum, Dr Rhiannon Jones, Associate Professor (Civic), University of Derby
  • 3pm-3.30pm: Plenary panel discussion
  • 3.30pm: Closing remarks

Conference delegates have been gifted tickets for a performance of Together/Untethered, a response to the creative therapeutic project for depression by Arts for the Blues, at Derby Theatre 18 July at 6pm. Please email DerbyTheatreTickets@derby.ac.uk using the reference CIVIC to redeem your ticket. 

Conference committee  

The CivicLAB Conference committee: 

Conference fees

Conference fee: £80 (including VAT)

Conference evening meal on Monday 17 July only: £20. The meal will take place at the following address: 

Captain's Corner
Derby County Football Stadium
Pride Park Stadium
DE24 8XL

We also invite expressions of interest from external organisations and individuals who would like to seek support for a limited number of guest tickets to participate in the conference, and/or conference evening meal.

Note: All attendees, internal or external, will be expected to pay the £80 admission charge to help cover external catering costs and provide a charitable donation to support the community venues we are using to host this event.

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