University secures cultural engagement funding to support research-led strand at new May Festival

The University of Aberdeen has secured £40k to develop the careers of recently completed PhD students under a pilot cultural engagement scheme from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The initiative seeks to enhance collaboration between universities, cultural organisations and the community while providing early career researchers with opportunities to develop their transferrable skills, particularly in relation to supporting the wider impact of arts and humanities research. 

The Aberdeen bid is linked to the research-led strand of the University’s new May Festival and especially to ensuring that researchers consider impact, training and evaluation in connection with festival activities they design and deliver.

The bid was coordinated through the University’s research and knowledge exchange strategy and led by Dr Ken Skeldon and Dr Janet Stewart of the University’s Public Engagement with Research Unit, and Dr Lucy Leiper of the Researcher Development Unit.  

Dr Skeldon said: “In securing this award and launching the research-led strand of the May festival, the University continues to demonstrate its commitment to embed public and cultural engagement within the core research process.

“The researchers recruited under this initiative are working closely with our highly-experienced May Festival team, helping to shape research-led content while gaining valuable experience of planning and hosting what promises to be a major new cultural engagement anchor for the north east of Scotland.”

Dr Lucy Leiper added: “The award is providing two appointees with a unique opportunity to develop a wide range of transferrable skills while enriching many more researchers through the development of the festival events and associated training modules.”

Aberdeen’s project is one of only three to be funded in Scotland and forty-five across the UK as a whole. Following completion, the AHRC will evaluate the success of the scheme with a view to possibly repeating it in future years.

Dr Lisa Collinson, one of Aberdeen’s early career researchers appointed under the scheme, said: “The AHRC initiative has enabled me to gain experience in festival development, work with researchers in different disciplines and explore public engagement ideas of my own all connected to the University’s exciting new May festival.”

The May Festival will take place from the 10 – 12 May with a primary schools programme preceding the main festival and additional fringe activities taking place throughout the days before and after.  Booking details and programmes will be available at the festival website