LICA: Engaging actively with our communities to transform wider society.

Groupwork, gathering keywords in a workshop.

LICA's Engagement Approach

A distinctive philosophy of Engaging underpins the diverse culture at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. Principles such as co-creation, participation, site-specific and social practice, are different names we use for a shared ideal: people and organisations need ownership over the knowledge, insights and tools we produce.

Engaging in a transforming world

Our academics work with society, culture and the environment to manage, adapt to, and take control of transformations in society. We use the methods and intellectual affordances of our creative disciplines to remain at the cutting edge of technology and culture, to understand the repercussions of demographic shifts, and to anticipate, model and imagine a future of rapid environmental change. We do this across three themed areas:


Co-design methods underpin many of our workshops with communities and businesses.


LICA academics are regularly employed by companies and organisations outside of higher education to apply our expertise to industrial and social contexts.

Exhibitions, Screenings and Performances

Many of the academics at LICA are working artists, film- and theatre-makers. Our work reaches audiences in settings across the world.

Public Lectures

We host and present world leading research presentations for the public.

Partnership in Teaching

Many of our creative subject courses include residency, internship, placement and partnership working opportunities.

Our Engagement Priority Areas

A theatre performance featuring a runway model dressed as a rabbit.
Professor Andrew Quick's Cinema Inferno project with Maison Margiela.

Culture Innovation

We collaborate with key institutions across the Cultural and Creative Industries to drive innovation. This includes exploring the implications of new technology in theatre and film, making new interdisciplinary connections between cutting edge science, engineering, artificial intelligence and the arts, and using design to re-imagine the role of creativity in the North.

A photograph of Morecambe Bay by Serena Pollastri.
Image from Dr Serena Pollastri's Timescapes Project.

Environmental Change

We use artistic methods, and site specific practice to collaborate with human and non-human communities in environments across the world. This includes design speculation on future coastlines, art that visualised today’s climactic symptoms in the context of deep time, and practical applications for material reuse and other sustainable approaches to the built environment.

Eden Project North in Morecambe designed by Grimshaw
Proposed £100 million Eden Project North in Morecambe designed by Grimshaw.


We work with people and communities to make the places you live and work in better. This includes documenting the rich cultural histories embodied in cinema-going, vibrant present-day artistic networks, supporting the creation of creative neighbourhood economies so they are fit for the future, helping new and transient communities articulate their experiences, and working in partnership to bring world class artists and landmark events to our region.

Engagement in Action

FREE project workshop

FREE (Film-making with refugees) workshop project

This project, which took place in Spring 2023, was designed and led by academic staff in LICA, Professor Bruce Bennett (Film Studies), Dr Maryam Ghorbankarimi (Film Studies) and Professor Emma Rose (Fine Art).

Over five weeks, a group of 25 asylum-seekers residing in the local area, participated in a course that incorporated a field trip to Liverpool, lectures on film history and style, and training workshops on camera operation and editing. Working in five groups, the participants borrowed a camera kit and shot and edited a set of short films under the supervision of the LICA staff leading the project. At the end of the project, the resulting five films were screened in a premiere at the Dukes before an invited audience and introduced by the filmmakers who were awarded a certificate for completing the course.

The project derives directly from the research expertise of the three academic leads. Bennett is working on a monograph, Refugee Cinema (Oxford University Press), Ghorbankarimi is a filmmaker and academic whose publications focus on Middle East cinema and politics, while Rose has run several co-creation workshops with asylum seekers and torture victims.

The rationale behind the project included the following points:

  1. political: it offered this socially marginalized group an opportunity for self-representation
  2. personal: as a creative activity it was very valuable for individual well-being
  3. social: this group project was a social activity offering the participants an opportunity for integration
  4. skills: it offered the participants the opportunity to learn a new skill set and also an introduction to higher education as a possible future route.

Professor Bennett, Dr Ghorbankarimi and Professor Rose are currently planning a second version of the project that will run in Spring 2024.

Images of lunar cycles

Sensing the Luminous Night

Sensing the Luminous Night aims to foster a deep appreciation of the night as a nuanced and important time and place with great significance for both humans and non-humans. Through unattended sensors and an all-sky astronomical camera located in Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve, the project captures and communicates the presence, rhythms, and cycles of both natural and artificial light over various timescales. It approaches sensor data as a social and cultural resource that can act as a bridge between individuals, communities, and environments. Sensing the Luminous Night aims to contribute more broadly to an awareness and appreciation of the entanglement of nature and society.

Partners: Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve

Funders: AHRC Impact Acceleration Account; Joy Welsh Post-doctoral Fund

Emergency! Art installation by Professor Sarah Casey in Switzerland.

Emergency! 2019- ongoing

Emergency! Is a project by Professor Sarah Casey that explores the precarity and challenges associated with glacial archaeology. This branch of archaeology is concerned with artefacts emerging from alpine glaciers as a result of climate change as the ice in which they have been preserved for 50, 500 or 5000 years is now melting at unprecedented rates. This rare and valuable archaeology provides important knowledge about human past, yet insight comes at the cost of environmental change and threatened futures. The project began by asking how might processes of drawing and sculpture - with their respective narratives of marking and erasure, substance and absence - negotiate these ideas and find ways of thinking through loss and change? It began in 2019 drawing examples of glacial archaeology at the Musée d’histoire du Valais Switzerland. Research has been supported by a Henry Moore Institute Research fellowship June 2021- May 2022 and as artist in residence at Musée d'art du Valais in Sion, Switzerland in 2023.

Work from this project is exhibited at Drawing Projects UK in the exhibition Emergency! 12 November 2022 - 4 February 2023 with a programme of public events accompanying the exhibition.

In summer 2022 and 2023 the drawings were exposed to the heat of alpine sun at the foot of glaciers in the Val d'Herens, Switzerland to observe and test the effect of the sun's heat as erasure. This resulted in a further group of works: Ablations.

Images of lunar cycles

Making Dust Fly

The Making the Dust Fly project aims to grow and accelerate the impacts and findings of the Dust Bunny Project implemented from 2018-2021. Lancaster University UK and NMIR co-led the Dust Bunny Project to develop home cleaning interventions through community engagement to reduce infections and Antimicrobial Resistance in Ghanaian Homes. This research identified critical impacts and findings within the Madina, Adenta, and Ga-East Municipalities of Ghana, which has necessitated an increase in awareness-raising, knowledge management, and information dissemination within the policy-making landscape and the educational sector in Ghana.

To this, end, the Making the Dust Fly Project seeks to:

  • Further assess the research impact, since the project end, of the interventions and collect more evidence.
  • Widen community impact reach by disseminating more widely through media.
  • Engage schools and schoolteachers to embed home cleaning and project insights into school extra curriculum activities.
  • Engage policymakers and other key stakeholders to disseminate project insights.
Images of lunar cycles

Ai:Lab: Artificial Intelligence in Low Carbon Building

The AI:Lab asks: how can processes of Artificial Intelligence (AI) target the reduction of carbon expenditure in the design and construction of buildings, and what role do architects, engineers, our students and the public have in the process of de-carbonisation using new tools of AI?

The built environment has a vital role to play in responding to the climate emergency - addressing upfront carbon is a critical and urgent focus.

Buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions: 28% from operational emissions with the remaining 11% from embodied carbon in materials and construction.

Working with Grimshaw Architects, and Eden Morecambe, our key objective is to establish the Ai:Lab as a vehicle to recognise the cross-disciplinary demands and opportunities of AI, to capture these at an early stage, and produce impactful research in communities and across the construction sector.

Dr Jen Southern delivering a lecture at Quarrybank National Trust

Gathering Downstream

What can humans and machines learn about the impacts of climate crisis and ecological emergency from the trees, meadows, rocks, river, mosses and lichens at Quarry Bank? Artist Jen Southern’s specially commissioned installation Gathering Downstream is linked by a central theme of the movement of water on different spatial and historical scales, and attempts to understand the impact of the industrial revolution on climate change and ecological emergency. It has been inspired by the River Bollin that lies at the heart of the estate and which brought Samuel Greg (1759-1834) and his cotton mill to Quarry Bank in 1784. The artwork unfolds through films created with machine learning technology trained with thousands of images from the Quarry Bank estate and archives. Visitors can contribute photographs to collectively change future versions of the films. The artwork explores the legacy of the Industrial Revolution and its, often exploitative, impact on the landscape and people. The installation gathers together the movement of plants, rocks, people and machines, through their relationship to water. From the river and damp air that brought both mossy abundance and the cotton mill to Quarry Bank, to the drought and flooding that are two of the biggest global impacts of the climate crisis. In the films, the human-made, machine-made and natural are interwoven, intimately entangled, and inseparable. As they struggle to co-exist, they are teeming with human and non-human life, and each could easily overwhelm the other. With their lives so closely connected, the work suggests an urgency to act now to care for our collective futures.

Gathering Downstream took place at Quarry Bank from 7th May 7th – 25th November 2022. Visitors explored the exhibition and participated in activities that contributed to the emerging videos.

Diagram of the Materials Passports project

Materials Passports

Dr Ana Rute Costa and Orms are partners on the research project ‘Accelerating Material Re-Use in Construction’ (AMRUC) funded by AHRC. This IAA project will be vital to disseminate the Policy Paper on how to accelerate material re-use on construction.

This policy paper provides guidance on how to implement materials passports and accelerate material reuse in construction. The purpose of this paper is to enable the widespread adoption of materials passports to support a circular economy. We propose an achievable deliverable for all projects and advocate for the creation of policy to support this. This policy paper provides a suit of guidance and templates to facilitate the immediate and comprehensive adoption of materials passporting across Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. This policy paper provides guidance on how to implement materials passports and accelerate material reuse in construction. The purpose of this paper is to enable the widespread adoption of materials passports to support a circular economy. We propose an achievable deliverable for all projects and advocate for the creation of policy to support this. This policy paper provides a suit of guidance and templates to facilitate the immediate and comprehensive adoption of materials passporting across Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. The full policy paper can be consulted here: Materials Passports Policy Paper

Interested in finding out more about partnership, engagement and consultancy opportunities with LICA? Contact us below.

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