Identity, Culture and Representation Research Cluster

We are a centre of excellence in exploring and communicating the impacts of Derbyshire's heritage, from the local to the global. We bring together research staff and students in English, History, American Studies and Journalism as well as other colleagues outside the College of Arts, Humanities and Education.

Our interdisciplinary research explores representations of identity and culture through and across history and literature. We have particular strengths in the themes of 18th-century heritage, literature and society, and in cultures of writing, reading and publishing.

Our impact

Our work illuminates and challenges cultural values and social assumptions within civil society to benefit local, national and international communities and organisations and to influence public policy.

We are proud of our connections to the cultural landscapes, industry and heritage of Derby and Derbyshire. Staff represent the University across a range of external platforms, including the boards of Derby Theatre, the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Research Steering Group, and Derby Museums Trust. Through these links, work across this research cluster has informed the preservation, restoration and management of public green spaces, increased engagement with museum collections, and received local, regional and national media coverage.

If you are interested in working on a research degree within the School of Humanities and Journalism, please contact Professor Paul Elliott at You can also contact the Research Student Office with general application queries at

If you are interested in using our research expertise in an external project, please contact our College Research Administrator, Christine Selden, by emailing

Bringing history into the present

Between 2014 and 2016 we co-directed the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Centre for Hidden Histories of the First World War, a collaborative community research project. The Centre aimed to develop community projects focused upon alternative histories of World War One, its commemoration and memorialisation.

The Centre supported the Derby First World War Green Spaces community history project, which worked with local groups to present research results in artistically striking ways. This included textile projects, exhibitions and World War One-themed well dressings - an art form unique to Derbyshire.

Hidden Histories of the First World War presentation
Hidden Histories of the First World War work
Hidden Histories of the First World War wall hanging

The project was delivered by lead academic Professor Paul Elliott working with Derby-based community arts collective Spiral Arts, doctoral researcher Mark Knight and a group of volunteers including members of GoldsQUAD, a group that aims to improve the happiness and well-being of those aged over 50 through increased participation in the arts.

We have also engaged with local government and community history groups to share research into the cultural, historical and scientific significance of green spaces outside academia. This work included an AHRC-funded collaborative project on arboreta and a study of urban trees.

Tree collections were idealised as microcosms of nature, miniature encapsulations of the globe and as living museums. This research into arboricultural history has also had an important international dimension, comparing the development of British and Irish arboretums and tree planting with that in Europe, the USA and other countries.

The results of the arboretum project also informed the 2014 National Review of Research Priorities for Urban Parks, Designed Landscapes and Open Spaces report produced by Katy Layton Jones for English Heritage.

A history of the Irish in Derby

Emigration has long been a part of Irish history and identity. And the project Our story: A history of the Irish in Derby recognises the varying contributions the Irish have made to the Derby city and to the wider region.

Celebrating the links between Ireland and Britain, this oral history project explores and collects the experiences of the Irish diaspora.

Being Human

As the only national festival of the humanities, Being Human showcases how humanities researchers work every day on issues that shape the world we live in. Highlighting why humanities research is vital to society, it creates opportunities for researches and engages the public with humanities across the higher education.

Hosting the 7th Annual Being Human festival in November 2020, the University of Derby invited virtual attendees to explore how the lime industry polluted the landscape but inspired romantic poetry. Attendees could also find out how scrapbooks were created with everyday materials and discover items in Derby’s museums, library and record office and learn how they are part of our history as well as our present and future.

Global Derbyshire in 10 objects

This series of ten short podcasts was created by the University of Derby for the Being Human festival 2020. The podcasts look at how objects in various Derbyshire collections can be the start of larger stories and honest conversations about our past, present and future. Through themes of exploration, exploitation and Empire, we will discover how these collections connect the local to the global, and how they continue to shape our city and county.

Listen to Global Derbyshire in 10 Objects on Spotify

Posthuman Meditation

Creative writing lecturer Christos Callow Jr and the theatre company Cyborphic present Posthuman Meditation, a solo science fiction audio play and storytelling experience.

"Who cares what makes us human? Human is only a phase ... Posthuman Meditation blends storytelling, audio drama and guided meditation to explore everything that we are and everything we can be. Join us as we escape from everyday reality, human identity and form."

The free event takes place at 7pm on Friday, 19 November 2021.

Register for Posthuman Meditation