Spaces and Places Research Cluster

The Spaces and Places Research Cluster is an interdisciplinary group of researchers that explore how spaces and places are experienced, and how they are represented in local and international cultural settings. The initial spark for the cluster came from an exploration of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work, including the work of Agnes Varda, who worked in film, documentary, installation, and with the public.

Our aims

The cluster considers the work of artists, photographers and filmmakers in both a historical and contemporary context. We also investigate the issues of creating spaces for work to be shown or disseminated. There is a particular interest in the work of women artists who are under-represented in terms of visibility, representation and exhibition space, but our research expands beyond this subject. We are interested in the ways in marginalised works, and to what extent increased visibility and access can create further discourse and dialogue. The spaces explored may be physical or digital, traditional or alternative, and will place artists and their work within a wider critical dialogue. 

Examples from our work include Teresa Forde’s work on 'Co-curation as feminist practice: exhibiting the work of Marion Adnams' and Maria Photiou’s edited volume ‘Art, Borders and Belonging: On Home and Migration’.

The cluster welcomes collaboration opportunities on projects including, but not limited to: 

"I strongly believe that arts can inspire positive social change and contribute to social justice and equality. This is reflected in the collaborations the cluster has initiated with the local communities and my research activities exploring the concepts ‘home’, ‘migration’, and the sense of ‘belonging'" - Dr Maria Photiou 

"The cluster aims for interdisciplinary and collaborative activity.  My own interests include practices of curation and exhibition across film, television and art. I am also very interested in issues of representation and equality within my own research and in collaborative activities, viewing research is a platform for critical engagement, challenge and change." - Dr Teresa Forde

Research Cluster Team

Our research

Guest speakers

We invited a range of guest speakers throughout the term, including staff and research students from Creative Writing and Arts Therapy. We also invited an external guest speaker Esther Johnson, who presented her community project on SHIPS in the SKY: Civic Place and Memory Making. Esther is Professor of Film and Media Arts in the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. Her work is held in the special collections of British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection, Central Saint Martins; Science Museum Group; Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Centre, Buffalo and Yorkshire Film Archive. 

'Mush(Rooms): Home, Resilience, and Community' event

The cluster organised the event ‘Mush(Rooms): Home, Resilience, and Community’ which was co-created with Derby Museums. This event was part of the 2022 Being Human Festival, a free nationwide festival showcasing humanities research to a wider audience. During the event, 40 participants had the opportunity to explore ideas of home, resilience, and community through arts and crafts activities.

As part of the event, Maria Photiou ran the activity ‘A Mush(Room) of One’s Own’, where the audience brought a photo that represented home for them and we discussed the importance of home and the sense of belonging. This activity builds on Maria's on-going research on 'Home and Migration'. In 2017 she convened the session ‘Home, Exile and the Politics of Belonging’ at the Association for Art History Conference. This lead to the volume Art, Borders and Belonging: On Home and Migration (Bloomsbury 2021), which she co-edited with Professor Marsha Meskimmon from Loughborough University.

Steph Rushton provided a time lapse video installation of growing mushrooms and also ran an event, supported by Teresa Forde, for participants to decorate card houses with mushroom spores inside so members of the public could take them home to grow. Christine Thomas ran a session on shared embroidery and Amanda Davis asked participants to write about their thoughts and experiences in relation to the Georgian house and garden. These activities were related to ongoing research projects related to the theme of the event. 

'Women and Domestic Violence: What has Changed?' event

Members of the cluster organised the event Women and Domestic Violence: What has Changed?, which took place at Derby QUAD on 28 June 2022. The event was organised by Dr Teresa Forde and Dr Maria Photiou and was funded by the University of Derby’s Participatory Research Fund. Teresa Forde led the panel discussion.  Christine Thomas provided a feedback activity.  The event screened Vanessa Engle’s documentary Love You to Death: A Year of Domestic Violence (2015) and was followed by a panel discussion with representatives from Women’s Work, Vox Feminarum, Bambuuu and Dr Jamie Bird from the University of Derby. The panel discussed the wider context of women experiencing domestic violence and whether things have changed over the past decade.

The event attracted over twenty audience members, who engaged with the discussion and raised some important questions on the impact of domestic abuse and the support available to victims. Some feedback from the audience:

‘I learned more about the different organisations working within Derby and the challenges that they face’ and ‘I liked the openness of this event. There were lots of opportunities to ask questions and the panel members gave plenty of insight based on personal experience of dealing with the subject matter.’ 

Teresa Forde has previously liaised with Vox Feminarum on behalf of the University to celebrate International Women’s Day in Derby. 

Join us

If you wish to join the cluster, are interested in applying for a PhD in the area or simply want to know more about our work, please email Dr Teresa Forde and Dr Maria Photiou.


  • Photiou, M. (2021) ‘Weaving Together: Narratives of Home, Exile and Belonging’, in Photiou M. and Meskimmon M. (eds.) (2021) Art, Borders and Belonging: On Home and Migration. London: Bloomsbury. 
  • Photiou, M. (2021) ‘Writing Women’s Art Histories in Cyprus’, in Koureas G., Stylianou E., and Tselika E. (eds) (2021) Contemporary Art in Cyprus: Politics, Identity and Culture across Borders. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Photiou, M. (2021) 'National identity and the politics of belonging in Greek Cypriot visual culture', in Wagner, A., and Marusek, S. (eds) (2021) Flags, Color, and the Legal Narrative Public Memory, Identity, and Critique. Switzerland: Springer. 
  • Forde, T. (2022) Star Trek: Discovery and Controversy: ‘The War Without, The War Within’,  McNally, K. Ed. American Television During an American Presidency, Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  • Forde, T.  (2021) ‘Narratives of Institutional Racism and Social Critique in UK Television Drama’ in Marotta, M. & Flynn, S. Eds. Critical Pedagogy: Teaching for Racial Inclusion in the Digital Age, London: Routledge
  • Forde, T. (2021) ‘Co-curation as Feminist Practice: Exhibiting the Work of Marion Adnams’, Journal of Visual Art Practice, 20:1-2, 97-112
  • Forde, T.  (2020) ‘Finding the Artist: The Role of the Feminist Detective’, MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture, October Issue