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Creative and Heritage Industries

Research theme

Creative and heritage industries are a vibrant sector of the UK economy and a well-established area of research strength and growth potential at De Montfort University (DMU). This overarching research theme promotes the university’s strengths in different creative and heritage areas and links with Leicester’s and the UK’s creative and heritage performance. The theme reflects existing areas of excellence across arts, humanities, design, and media, plus new capabilities arising from developments in creative technologies, the enhanced digitalisation of society, and the use of creative leadership and technologies in tackling societal challenges.

The creative industries encompass activities which have as their main objective the production or reproduction, promotion, distribution or commercialisation of goods, services and activities derived from cultural, artistic or heritage origins. Growing five times faster than the national economy, the UK’s creative industries will be an important source of post-Covid growth and restructuring, while cultural heritage will be critical in connecting and making sense of people and place.

The Covid-19 pandemic has given a greater urgency to the creative economy. Many cultural events were scaled back and lost conventional sources of in-person income. Finding new ways for the arts to continue through new platforms and business models will require new research effort over the coming years. Macro concerns around environmental sustainability, health, and wellbeing bring additional societal needs that require creative leadership and design.

The cross-cutting priorities for the Creative and Heritage Industries theme at DMU are:

  • Practice and enterprise, which recognises DMU’s excellence in practice research and recreative methods
  • Inclusion and empowerment in creative and heritage industries, which underpins DMU’s strategic goal as an empowering university
  • Creative performance and creative design, which reflects DMU’s national leadership in areas of arts, design, media and heritage, and its growing reputation in creative technologies
  • Cultural regeneration, which reflects DMU’s international excellence in civic engagement and placemaking
  • Next generation research, with agility to respond to new opportunities and building capability for future research inquiry in creative and heritage industries

Our vision is to work strategically and collaboratively, building on our existing strengths while at the same time, working towards joint goals, which address new societal challenges, and further develop people and places. 

The impact of DMU’s creative and heritage industries research can be seen in the contributions, transformations and benefits that our research has within the creative and heritage industries, in society, the economy, public policy, health and wellbeing, places and the environment at large. Our research theme embraces creativity, culture and heritage, and encompasses diverse aspects of communication, enrichment and wellbeing, inclusion and empowerment, evidence and decision making, sustainability, and technologies. These characteristics provide the foundation on which we will deliver benefit to society. The key principles of our strategy are:

  1. Working with stakeholders to inform and apply our research.
  2. Ensuring that our knowledge makes a difference, by using research to change practice.
  3. Developing mutually beneficial and enduring partnerships to co-create research.
  4. Developing internationally significant research that tackles societal challenges. 

Project: Dance and the African Diaspora

This project continues to develop new ways of thinking about the work of dance artists who are working with dance of the African diaspora. The project is shifting discussions about the work of British-based dance artists who are black beyond issues concerning funding and cultural policies and initiating new discussions about it as a field of artistic production.

Learn more about Dance and the African Diaspora project
Andrew Davies Middlemarch set in Stamford, Lincs

Project: Transforming Middlemarch

Researchers from DMU are leading this project to create a digital resource that maps the process of adapting classic literature for screen by specific reference to Andrew Davies’ serialisation of George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch for BBC TV.

Learn more about Transforming Middlemarch
A photo of The Lanes in Leicester city centre

Project: The East Midlands’ Creative Growth

DMU secured £1.25m over 3 years to support growth of the East Midlands creative industries, as one of the nationally recognised growth areas for the creative economy.

The project draws on DMU’s strengths in creative performance, creative design, and start-up development to level-up the region’s advanced manufacturing, design, and creative economies, whilst further supporting Leicester’s Cultural Quarter and start-up community.

With business support and investment potential, the East Midlands Create Growth programme is worth some £45-50m and will commence in November 2022 for 3 years.

See funding announcement

Project: Design Excellence

DMU is a founding member of the Midlands Design Group, a group of more than 50 participating universities, policy-making agencies, and industry leaders across the East and West Midlands. Midlands Design provides a national voice for design excellence across the Midlands, supporting policy development for the design economy, design thinking in education, and social design principles.

DMU is developing new approaches to sector intelligence in design using citizen science approaches (Leicester Design Directory), whilst our regional leadership for the Kerning the Gap project is addressing gender equality and empowerment in design.


Project: Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts

DMU's Professor Gil Pasternak combines critical theory, cultural history and political science in his research to investigate intersections of photography with post/digital heritage practices in the context of liberal-democratic and populist politics. His work draws on his extensive experience as a photojournalist, fine art photographer, war photographer and photography archivist.

In 2018, Gil led on a £500,000 Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts project, supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding programme—to explore the production, dissemination and exploitation of digital heritage in nationally defined zones of cultural conflict.

Gil's research is an invaluable addition to the examination of how digital technology influences the diversification of cultural heritage and to the inclusion of socially and ethnically diverse stakeholders in its definition and identification.

Learn more

"De Montfort University’s contribution to the creative and heritage industries can be found in our collaborative approach, which draws on our existing strengths in creative performance and creative design, and work with partners to address new societal challenges, and to further develop artistic practice, people, and places."

Rachel Granger and Justin Smith, Creative and Heritage Industries Theme Directors