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MDX's Dr Francesca Murialdo and Dr Rui Su win British Academy SHAPE Involve and Engage Awards

"We are delighted to support these partnerships between researchers and cultural organisations which will galvanise local communities and target audiences related to research themes" - Professor Julia Black, British Academy

Artwork showing building on Kilburn High Road with people in front of them, in black and white with some block colourDetail for The Kilburn Tapestries, by MDX academic Helen Delany and Brenda Aherne aka Electronic Sheep

Two MDX academics are among the first tranche of researchers to receive pilot funding from the British Academy, the UK's national body for the humanities and social sciences, for an innovative public engagement research project partnering a regional cultural organisation such as a museum, gallery or library.

The SHAPE Involve and Engage Awards are designed to promote creative methods of engaging the public in cutting-edge SHAPE research (which stands for Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy). The awards, worth up to £8000 each, support researchers to co-design innovative projects that connect local communities and audiences with SHAPE research topics, and meaningfully involve them in creating new research outputs.

In partnership with Kilburn Library and Paprika Collective, Director of Interior Architecture and Design Programmes at MDX Dr Francesca Murialdo has been awarded funding to develop Kilburn Museum Lab. This is a key element in plans for a Kilburn Museum, a nomadic cultural space in the NW6 district with a mission to encourage community participation.

The Museum Lab will foster understanding and appreciation for different cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, exploring intersections of place, space and community through workshops and engagement initiatives.

"We are delighted to announce our successful funding: a significant step in our long-term plan to create a cultural hub committed to positively impacting Kilburn’s social fabric" says Dr Francesca Murialdo. "This project extends and builds upon our recent collaborations with Kilburn Library and Paprika Collective, as well as our partnerships with local governments, organizations and individuals."

Photo of a group of mostly young people in winter outfits, standing in a circle in a yard by a railway archMDX Interiors students on a field trip to Kilburn

Fiona Tarn, Head of Libraries for Camden Council, says: "Camden Libraries are delighted to be working with MDX and Paprika Collective on this exciting project. Camden Libraries are developing a local 'What If' approach to their libraries, encouraging the community to engage and participate to help shape their local library, and this project will be a creative way of supporting that ambition in Kilburn.

Director of PAPRIKA Collective Dr. Ada Xiaoyu Hao says that "Kilburn, with its rich history and cultural diversity, presents a unique opportunity to capture and celebrate the diverse voices of the collective heritage. As a not-for-profit grassroots arts organisation based in Kilburn, we are excited about working in collaboration with students, educators and researchers from the Interior Architecture and Design programmes at MDX and Camden Council’s Kilburn Library".

Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer in Tourism at MDX Dr Rui Su has received funding for Taste of Memory, a project in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives to explore the collective memories of British-Chinese chefs by means of oral history, examining how they negotiate their identities and cope with challenges.

Dr Su and colleagues will organise a one-day Food, Migration and Memory festival at London Metropolitan Archives, including an immersive multisensory exhibition with interactive games, "tasting memory", "colouring memory" and "collage".

Historic black and white photo of an East Asian chef, in traditional chef's hat and a white coat, slicing a slab of meat with a big kitchen knife. The chef is smilingA Chinese merchant sailor, who served as chief cook, carves meat in the kitchen of the Chinese sailors' convalescent home in Liverpool (Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection, 1943)

Three skills training workshops will leverage via online conferencing international scholars and a wide interdisciplinary network focused on food, migration and memory.  "I hope that this project will foster cultural exchanges and social inclusivity for scholars, practitioners, policymakers and communities across the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector and beyond," said Dr Su.

Symeon Ververidis, Engagement and Learning Manager at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) says: “We are delighted that this grant will allow us to work with Ming-Ai, Middlesex and the University of Nottingham to discover and share the history of the British-Chinese community.

"We look forward to taking these stories to new audiences, believing that everyone should be able to explore, discuss and celebrate London’s extraordinary history. This ambitious project will establish community ownership in a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can contribute, explore and share collective histories".

Chungwen Li, Dean of charitable educational organisation Ming-Ai Institute said: "The British Chinese communities in the UK have a long history in the UK catering industry, and have been engaging with the British food culture intensively. We have a long-standing partnership with Middlesex in providing Chinese culture heritage programmes. Ming-Ai has a digital platform, British Chinese Heritage Centre, to preserve and collate the cultural heritage of the British Chinese. This project will enrich its oral history and exhibition collections".

Carol Xiaoyue Zhang, Associate Professor in Tourism Marketing at the University of Nottingham, said: “We are thrilled to announce the successful funding of this interdisciplinary research and knowledge transfer project which represents a significant step towards giving voice to minority communities. We will continue our efforts to make contemporary society more open and diverse, in and beyond this project”.

Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said: “Our vision is to see public engagement fully embedded in research. So we are delighted to support these partnerships between researchers and cultural organisations which will do just that, galvanising local communities and target audiences related to their research themes.

"I know that the review panel were struck by the sheer creativity, innovation, diversity and variety held not only within our disciplines, but in how researchers feel they can meaningfully engage with audiences through arts and culture institutions which sit in the hearts of communities.

"On behalf of the Academy, I offer my warmest congratulations to those who have received awards. We hope that their partnerships will inspire and spark new meaningful connections between communities and the humanities, social sciences and arts".

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