Leeds Creative Labs

Collaborations for Academics & Creative Innovators

Category: News

To survive and prosper social labs need to be less lab, and more social: helping people find their own solutions in unique situations rather than discovering universal laws to scale and to replicate. We need more labs. But we also need a mixed ecology of innovation spaces – the trans-disciplinary studio, the Utopian experiment, the engineers’ test-bed, the artists’ colony – blending the science and tech with the art and craft of the (seemingly) improbable.


Reflections at Half-time

Yesterday afternoon, this year’s cohort took over the first floor bar of Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen to share their experiences of the first five weeks of this edition of the labs. We’re actually way past the half-time mark, but we thought this was a useful juncture to pause and reflect.

Each group took a few minutes to introduce themselves, outline the conversations they’d been having and the projects, insights and artefacts that are beginning to surface from their collaborations; we also wanted to give them an opportunity to get to know each other outside their matched pairs.

The cohort was also joined by a few members of our advisory group – Dave Lynch, Simon Popple, Richard England & Sarah Goodrum – who helped to provoke discussion and provide useful commentary on each project.

As each group outlined its projects, what was striking was the very human core to each subject area – from spoken histories of the Hajj pilgrimage, to the works of Harold Pinter, playful ways of seeing sound, interpreting the context of photographic archives and the training of actors – each was rooted in humanities and largely motivated by understanding the impact of technology.

Simon East also observed that many of the projects appeared to be toying with notions of randomness and serendipity. I wondered if this was a broader reaction to wider anxieties about a data and algorithmic-driven culture (what Simon called the “tyranny of big data”) and an attempt to design a kind of humanity into digital artefacts. We didn’t offer themes or narrative framing at the outset of the labs, so it was a somewhat satisfying surprise to see some common and complimentary themes emerging across the cohort.

Though most of the presented content focussed on outputs, Sue, Dave and I were quite curious to understand the process, mindset and methodology each group was experiencing. Many of the cohort commented on the liberation they felt from institutional and commercial pressures; I did wonder if this freedom would intimidate some, but they all embraced it with elevated ambitions.

It feels as though the labs have progressed creatively and intellectually between the 2012 and 2014 editions, we’re understanding that people and creative process are what’s unique about the structure and also we’re more confident in the vocabulary and metaphors that describe the philosophy behind it.

I’m actually a bit sad we’ll only have two more weeks with these groups, but each is determined to find a way to continue their collaborations in some capacity, with most looking at follow on funding to develop their projects further.

If you want creativity, let artists and technologists work together

Everything is suddenly converging in a gigantic open-plan office of the mind. The techniques, technologies and mindset of the world of arts and digital entertainment are now being brought into service across whole swathes of the economy, from hi-tech manufacturing to systems analysis and healthcare.


Found by Jane Wood, one of our Summer 2014 cohort, and pretty much addressing what we’re trying to do with the labs here in Leeds.

Partners in production

Arts Professional profiled the Leeds Creative Labs yesterday in a piece titled Partners in production, written by the labs’ very own Sue Hayton.

Sue discusses the 2012 edition’s wider impact on innovation within the University of Leeds, noting how the Pararchive project evolved into a much larger AHRC-backed initiative to research archives, collections and storytelling, that’s also commissioning work from local suppliers.

You can find the full article over at… artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/273/article/partners-production

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