By Catherine Clarke, Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community at the IHR

We are delighted to announce that the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community is seeking to recruit to three paid early-career research internships, for a project on ‘Creative Repurposing’ and Levelling Up: Place, Heritage and Urban Renewal. This project is supported by the UKRI Higher Education Innovation Fund, via the School of Advanced Study, University of London.


Context and Project

With the publication of the Levelling Up white paper in February 2022, policies for regional and place development are firmly in the spotlight. The Levelling Up Prospectus (March 2021) announced ‘Cultural Investment’ as one of the cornerstones of the government’s Levelling Up agenda, with ‘creative repurposing’ a prominent central strand. It sets out a vision for local place-based renewal through ‘creatively repurposing museums, galleries, visitor attractions (and associated green spaces) and heritage assets as well as creating new community-owned spaces to support the arts and serve as cultural spaces’.

This project will interrogate the varied processes, politics and possibilities of ‘creative repurposing’ in local development, with a particular attention to uses of heritage assets in urban renewal. With partners Historic England and local collaborators across the UK (in local government, arts and culture, business and industry), the project will analyse specific case studies to extend and deepen understanding of what makes successful ‘creative repurposing’, informing future policy and best practice at both local and national levels.

In addition to the creative re-use of historic buildings and built heritage, this project will also break new ground by examining how these processes of material renewal interact with the ‘creative repurposing’ of local stories, heritage and traditions: for example, recently, the re-imagining of Lady Godiva as a ‘champion’ of ‘activism and social justice’ in Coventry City of Culture. What are the opportunities and risks around these repurposings? How can the re-mobilisation of both tangible and intangible heritage help to shape place and identity in new ways? What are the social, cultural and economic benefits of successful ‘creative repurposing’ for our urban centres?

This project emerges from recent policy-facing research and network-building in the IHR’s Centre for the History of People, Place and Community (CHPPC). The Centre is already at the forefront of work on intersections between place, heritage and Levelling Up. Professor Catherine Clarke, Centre Director, was recently Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project ‘Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery’, which investigated uses of culture in regeneration and development across the 101 recipients of Towns Fund investment. The project’s Research Scoping Report, commissioned by the AHRC, identified further research into ‘creative repurposing’ as a priority, highlighting its potential ‘contribution to community well-being, to sense of place, to intergenerational community building, to retention’. Catherine’s recent policy-facing work in this area has included presentations on ‘Culture and Post-Covid Regeneration’ (Southampton) and in the LRaPP ‘Levelling Up London’ programme. CHPPC Lecturer Matt Bristow also has both research and applied knowledge in his area, through his role as Architectural Editor for the Victoria County History, and his other job, outside SAS, as Senior Investigator for Historic England, which currently co-ordinates a far-reaching programme of urban renewal through its ‘Heritage Action Zones’.

Three Internships

We are seeking three early-career researchers to contribute to this project as paid interns. Each intern will have lead responsibility for one of our case-study locations: Coventry, Barking & Dagenham, and Sunderland. In Coventry, our focus will be the major renewal of the city centre, focus of a Historic England Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), in the context of broader place-making work through its City of Culture status; in Sunderland, we will focus on creative repurposing of the Binns department store (also a HAZ and a Levelling Up Priority 1 area), opening up comparisons with former department store sites in other locations; and in Barking & Dagenham (also a Levelling Up Priority 1 area) we will look at initiatives including the recent ‘Paint the Town’ project. Interns will liaise with local partners, under guidance from Clarke and Bristow, collect photos and evidence of community responses / debates (local newspapers, media, oral histories and memories), engage with key stakeholders, produce online content and contribute to the project report / policy paper.

  1. One field trip to the case-study location, with the option for further visits, depending on capacity / time available
  2. Write a report on the case-study location for the project website, including photos and other evidence
  3. Liaise with local partners and archives in the case-study location
  4. Participate in an online project event

Bursary and Timing

Each internship will be supported with a total bursary award of £2000 (paid as £800 at the start of the project, £600 at a midway review point and £600 on completion and approval of the project). Objectives and milestones (including the midway review) will be agreed with the project supervisor at the start. Additional travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses will be available.

Internships must be held across the period from April 2022 to the end of July 2022. A condition of our funding is that the project and all deliverables must be complete by the end of July (funding will no longer be available after this point). The internship will not require full-time work over this period: the intern will be required to deliver the activities and outputs described above, and there is some flexibility around how each intern would like to organise the time they spend on their project (for example, alongside part-time work or studying commitments). This should be agreed with the academic leads at the start.


We encourage any early-career historian to apply. We define ‘historian’ broadly and are keen to receive applications from those based in a range of different disciplines and professional contexts, if you consider your main area of work to be ‘history’. We aim to be as inclusive as possible and are using no strict definition of ‘early career’: we simply ask that you declare in your application that you identify as an early-career researcher / professional.

How to Apply

Please submit your application to by 12 noon, UK time, Monday 4 April. Please mark the email subject line ‘Creative Repurposing Internship’. You should include as a single attachment:

  • Statement of up to 300 words explaining why you wish to undertake this internship, and explaining how this opportunity will support your career development, and the skills and experience you would bring to the role. You may indicate if you only wish to take on a specific case-study (Coventry, Barking & Dagenham, or Sunderland), or if you have a preference; or you may wish to apply for all / any of the internships.
  • A short critical overview of a ‘creative repurposing’ project which has interested you (up to 500 words). You may include pictures if you wish.
  • A statement confirming that you identify as an early-career researcher / professional, and also confirming your availability to hold an internship during the period April – July 2022, and your willingness / ability to travel to the case-study location (subject to any government Covid restrictions).
  • A CV of up to 2 A4 pages, including your current job or student status.

Applications will be reviewed by a panel including project leads Catherine Clarke and Matt Bristow. Shortlisted candidates may be invited for a short online interview. We will aim to notify all applicants of the outcome by Friday 22 April, 2022.


Professor Catherine Clarke is Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research. Catherine is a cultural historian specialising in the Middle Ages, but she also works across a wide range of periods on questions of place, identity, heritage and uses of the past.