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The REACH Space across 2019/20: Hosting socially engaged research opportunities

Launched in Autumn 2019, the Arts & Humanities Research Institute’s REACH Space has acted as a creative hub for socially engaged research activities

image of a room with colourful artwork and a plant table
The REACH Space

Across the summer of 2019, the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) team worked hard to transform derelict office spaces on the third floor of the Surrey Street East Wing into the REACH (Research and Engagement in the Arts, Culture and Humanities) Space, a creative and experimental hub for socially engaged research activities.

Development was informed by previous pilot projects, with the AHRI commissioning artworks, installing an arts and crafts area, a kitchen, flexible seating, a slew of plants and purchasing a range of creative resources. A 55-inch portable screen, which can be used for screenings, workshops and live-streaming, was also installed.

The space was formally launched in October 2019. Over its first five months of operation, and prior to the national lockdown in March 2020, approximately 450 people engaged with REACH Space activities. Arts and Humanities departments hosted over 20 activities, 11 of which involved external collaborators. Researchers from 20 departments across King’s took advantage of the REACH Space.

To stimulate activities, a Community Conversations Fund was launched, open to Arts and Humanities researchers wishing to engage with communities with connected or shared practices, experiences, challenges or interests. Three projects received funding totalling £650:

  • London Migrations Workshop (Centre for Early Modern Studies)
  • Networking and Coordination for PLuS Alliance Project Proposal (Dr Katrin Schreiter)
  • Art, Conflict and Remembering: The Murals of the Bogside Artists (Dr Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin, Dr Craig Larkin, Dr Rachel Kerr, The Bogside Artists)

In addition, a Pop-up Research Fund stimulated collaborations led by Arts and Humanities researchers, involving those from other disciplines and / or community organisations. Four projects were funded £1000 each:

  • What does circular design mean for designer makers in the UK? (Dr Lauren England, Julian Needham)
  • An underwater sense of place: Bahamas marine locations and cinema memory (Professor Erica Carter, KCL and Monique Toppin, University of the Bahamas)
  • Between lived experience and stimulated presence (Clara Sukyoung Jo, Dr Sarah Atkinson, Dr Lucia Valmaggia).
  • As Happy as God in France (Dr Julia Pascal, Dr Thomas Kampe).

An Adopt-a-Plant Scheme ran from September 2019 to March 2020, with 15 Arts & Humanities postgraduate researchers taking part from across 8 departments. Feedback from participants highlighted several positive impacts from the scheme focused on personal wellbeing, taking time away from research and having the opportunity to connect with other research students in non-research settings.

““I enjoyed the community, relaxation and safe-space feeling, away from a stressful, hectic, everyday life”– Adopt-a-Plant Participant

Whilst Covid-19 means the physical REACH Space is likely to be unavailable across 2020/21, the AHRI is developing REACH-XR (virtual) and REACH-Out (outdoor, hyperlocal) versions. Associated funding calls will be released in January 2021, along with a new version of the Adopt-a-Plant scheme.

 

For any enquiries relating to the REACH Space, please email reachspace@kcl.ac.uk