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Public Engagement at ESRC Festival of Social Science - 'The Future of Public Parks in Leeds'

Engaging Policy
Supporting Impact
Supporting Interdisciplinarity
In November 2019, LSSI supported a series of events as part of the ‘ESRC Festival of Social Science’. The events in Leeds contributed to the 475 events that took place across the UK. The festival events spanned a wide range of topics – from AI to mental health, economics to gender, but all with a focus on making social science research accessible, relevant and engaging for diverse audiences. The festival offers an insight into some of the country’s leading social science research and how it can influence our social, economic, and political lives – both now and in the future.

One event that took place in Leeds as part of the festival programme was ‘The Future of Leeds parks: Free Exhibition, Public Consultation and Pop-up Park’. This event was held at Leeds City Museum and delivered in partnership with Leeds City Council and the Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum. Over 900 people attended the event.

The event included a research exhibition on the past, present and future of Leeds parks, a history talk by Dr David Churchill (School of Law, University of Leeds), and opportunities for the public to have their say on the next 10-year strategy for parks and green spaces through workshops and surveys. Participants were also able to engage with the Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum and the Leeds Parks Fund – a charity to help protect and improve the city’s public spaces.

Dr Anna Barker (School of Law, University of Leeds), one of the event’s organisers, described the opportunities the event offered to those interested in the preservation of Leeds’ public and green spaces:

Our exhibition focuses on the origins of public parks, how people use and value them today, and big questions about their future given deep cute to local authority funding, no statutory protection, and a host of other contemporary challenges. We want people to come along and share their views on what’s important to them about parks and green spaces in Leeds, and their future management.

As part of the event, the project team also commissioned a new animation, produced by Nifty Fox Creative, designed to engage the public with their research:


Successful Event

The event was highly successful in encouraging a diverse, public audience (over 900 people) to interact with both the history of parks, as well as the pressing contemporary challenges facing Leeds’ green and public spaces. The event allowed researchers working on the project to engage directly with a public audience and support public involvement in the 10-year strategy, which will have a real impact on decisions made about the future of Leeds’ parks and public spaces. Here’s what some of the event’s participants had to say:

Very inspiring and made me feel confident that parks and green spaces in Leeds are going to continue with a strategy for all to enjoy.

Event Attendee

Very interesting, informative and enjoyable talks. I was not expecting to be involved in the discussion groups but really enjoyed it.

Event Attendee

The sense of ‘space’ in a park was well captured here. Much information presented in very readable and creative ways. A real mix of people, with children catered for too.

Event Attendee

A group of students from Leeds Now (a news site produced by Leeds Hacks BA Journalism students at Leeds Beckett University) attended the event and produced two short films about the event. You can view the films here and here.


ESRC Festival of Social Science 2020 & IAA Funding for Public Engagement Initiatives

LSSI will be looking for researchers from the University of Leeds who would like to host public engagement events as part of the 2020 programme for the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Support for festival events is provided in the form of funding, as well support/guidance with promotion and engagement. The call for applications for the 2020 Festival programme in Leeds will be released over the next few months. If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please contact IAA Coordinator, Hannah Crow.

In addition to the annual Festival of Social Science, through LSSI’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), specific funding is available for supporting Public Engagement events and initiatives.

Funding of up to £5,000 is available through this fund, which seeks to support public engagement with the social sciences and promote the public understanding of social science and the impacts of research on cultural life. The funding could be used for (but is not limited to): public forums; participatory performance art/theatre and exhibitions; workshops; online content; and short documentaries and animations. A funding call for this Public Engagement fund is released twice per year (see the current call timetable for information). More information about the IAA Public Engagement fund and associated application forms can be found here.