Collaborative Doctoral Award Projects 

Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDAs) provide funding for doctoral studentship projects to work in collaboration with an organisation outside higher education. They are intended to encourage and develop collaboration and build partnerships with a wide range of organisations in the public, private and third sector, including grass-roots and activist organisations. They  enhance the employment-related skills and training available to the research student during the course of the award. Collaborative Doctoral Awards are not only a route into academia but also provide hands-on work experience in the cultural sector and transferrable skills. 

Listed below are the Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship projects that we have funded.


2020-21 Collaborative Doctoral Award Projects

Queen Mary University London in collaboration with the British Library

Wasafiri_Issue 100 Front Cover

This project will explore the background and history of Wasafiri, a ‘little magazine’ known since the early 1980s for its pioneering role in providing a critical forum and platform for Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic writers. Drawing on unique archival sources, now housed in the British Library Contemporary Collections and not as yet publicly available, the particular history of this magazine will act as a paradigm to offer broader insights into the material conditions affecting the production, publication and reception of BAME writing in Britain from the fraught era of Thatcherism in the 1980s to the present. The project is particularly timely given the BL’s recent acquisition of the archive, the magazine’s celebration of 35 years of publishing and the scarcity of material currently available in tracking the history of this writing, including the early history of several now well-known figures, featured in the magazine long before they were to rise to national and global prominence. The prescience of the magazine’s mission in terms of its global vision and inclusive aim to diversify the canon will be illuminating in the context of postcolonial studies now and moves to decolonise the curriculum across the educational and publishing sectors.

King’s College London in collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe

This project aims to produce an urgent revision of the critical study of the body in Shakespeare’s England and on stage by considering the relationship of race to the understanding of bodies in early modern culture – ‘urgent’ because of the persistence of the idea of a white ‘norm’ in such studies which looks very outdated in the context of recent research demonstrating the presence of non-white people in early modern England – and to assess the value of a recuperation of early modern notions of the racial body for the analysis of contemporary performance. The thesis will advance the field by conducting research in intersectional ways, combining methodologies such as historical phenomenology, critical race theory and performance studies. It will examine race in relation to Shakespearean/early modern drama through a range of topics including: the systems of the body, the relationship between dissection and the colonial enterprise, the performance of race on the early modern stage, cross-cultural encounters, black presence in Tudor/Stuart England, England’s role in the slave trade, and the ways in which the theatre acknowledged and represented these encounters; and it will reassess contemporary theatrical choices in respect of race in light of this new knowledge.

Royal College of Art in collaboration with Tata Motors

‘Inclusive Design for Shared Autonomous Vehicles’ will explore and advance vehicle
designs to meet the requirements of disabled, elderly and potentially marginalised users of
shared autonomous transport systems, and investigate how supporting these users benefits
the wider user population of such systems. Studies show that the early adopters of shared
autonomous vehicles are likely to be these individuals because current transportation
systems are not well equipped to support their needs, particularly in rural areas. Often public transport is not inclusive enough, door to door solutions are not well developed, and low-income users are unable to afford the customised personal mobility solutions. As implementation of autonomous transport systems accelerates, there is an opportunity for autonomous vehicles to increase the accessibility of public transport and reduce costs for marginalised populations by providing journey sharing, door to door pick-up and drop-off services and advanced journey scheduling. Inclusive design methods such as empathy,
design anthropology and journey mapping will be key research approaches to observe, interpret and translate people’s needs into vehicle designs. The outputs of these studies will aim to benefit all vehicle users, making autonomous vehicle designs more widely available for the target populations and better for the entire travelling public. 

Royal College of Art in collaboration with Birth Rites Collection

The project will create a unique research platform between Royal College of Art (RCA) and the
Birth Rites Collection (BRC) which is hosted by the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing,
Midwifery & Palliative Care, King’s College London. BRC is the only public art collection in the
world that takes birth and the maternal as its subject and it is installed across four buildings on
Guy’s campus. The Shared Gaze research project aims to bring the birthing body into view,
considering the midwife’s highly skilled and yet often contested knowledge base through the frame
of visual art.

Viewing Tereze, 2016, Courtesy Birth Rites Collection

In turn, the visual arts can, by foregrounding the role of the visual, view birth through aesthetics and cultural theory bringing wider questions and new knowledge to birth practitioners. This discursive space between the fields of midwifery and visual art is currently under represented in the overarching field of maternal studies. There is a need for a new interdisciplinary platform for researchers and industry specialists (health practitioners, policy makers, artists and curators) to work across sectors to challenge the historical invisibility of the birthing body in both the history of
Western Art and also in a conventional medicalised birth setting which can often deny the agency
of the productive birthing body. This project will allow a researcher to reflect upon and work with the Birth Rites Collection whilst being based at the RCA and it is envisaged that the contribution would be in the field of arts practice. It would be supervised between the Royal College of Art’s School of Arts and Humanities, the Birth Rites Collection Curator and King’s College London’s Women & Children’s
Health department. Alongside Hermione Wiltshire, Senior Tutor in Photography at the RCA, the
project will be advised by Helen Knowles BRC’s Curator, Elsa Montgomery, Senior Lecturer,
Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care and Jane Sandall, Professor
of Social Science and Women’s Health in the Department of Women and Children’s Health in the
Faculty of Life Science and Medicine.

Royal College of Music in collaboration with the Natural Voice Network

photo credit Nick Landells

In this project, the PhD student will analyse the impact and contribution of the Natural Voice Network (NVN) as a complex ‘grass roots’ UK network of singing practitioners. He/she will explore the network’s potential as a resource for ‘healthy publics’ (Hinchliffe et al., 2018) and cultural democracy (Gross et al., 2017), and examine the value of this kind of network as a means for realising the creative capabilities of a broad population, through a comprehensive analysis of its members’ and participants’ experiences.


The project is conceived as three strands of inquiry. In the first strand, research which the NVN has contributed to will be reviewed and analysed, building a picture of its overall historical contribution. Themes emerging from these data will inform the design of a second strand, where Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods will build a picture of the phenomenon of group singing as experienced by NVN stakeholders, involving NVN members and participants in a workshop process of collaborative inquiry to unearth the knowledge contained in the network’s current practices. In the third strand, case studies of good practice drawn from the previous stages will be developed, and the project findings disseminated broadly across academic and practice networks.

King’s College London in collaboration with Serpentine Galleries

Ian Cheng Serpentine Gallery installation view BOB ©2018 Hugo Glendinning. Courtesy of the artist and Serpentine Galleries.

Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence have had a transformational impact on the corporate world, while the cultural sector has been slow to acquire an adequate media literacy. This has become an issue for contemporary art institutions due to the fact that Artificial Intelligence, especially machine learning, has become a creative medium for contemporary artists, while curators and cultural institutions working with contemporary culture also need to fulfil the important role to translate the societal impact this technology into a critical response. To understand the media literacy needed in cultural institutions working with artworks using creative AI, this project will analyse the complex ecology of digital commissions delivered by the Serpentine Galleries through participatory observation from a media and technology studies perspective thereby contributing to art gallery studies. A critical and creative response of artworks using creative AI is needed given the societal impact of this technology. Using the Creative AI lab initiated by the Serpentine Galleries and KCL as a platform to acquire interviews with other cultural institutions, artists, but also technology producers, the outcome of this project will contribute to the understanding of creative AI in media studies and also to deliver guidance and best practice for cultural institutions.

Queen Mary University London in collaboration with the Museum of London

© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0

The end of meat is coming, so say various Extinction Rebellion posters around London. In Smithfield, this is undeniably the case as the UK’s largest and longest-running wholesale market edges towards permanent closure. The western end of the so-called ‘Cathedral of Meat’ is being transformed to make space for a new Museum of London while market traders face relocation to the urban fringe. Time is running out and there is a vital history to be written. Smithfield Market is a unique and legendary place: a throwback to a disappearing London. It is a male dominated workplace where jobs still pass from father to son, and women are marginalised by a meaty masculine culture. And yet, the market endured in the post-war era by evolving with the city. It weathered the decline of high street butchers and the rise of supermarkets by supplying large numbers of kebab and chicken shops, accommodating religious preferences around meat, catering to changing demographics and cultural tastes, and upgrading in the 1990s to comply with EU standards. This collaboration will capture the recent history of Smithfield Market before it literally becomes a museum. Using archival material and oral history, it will document the livelihoods and culinary cultures it supported, using the site to understand wider transformations in London’s past and future.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in collaboration with State Archive/ MusALab Franca Rame Dario Fo

This studentship will re-assess the work of Italian actress, writer, theatre-maker, and political
activist Franca Rame (1929-2013), now best known as wife and principal collaborator of Nobel
Prize-winning performer and playwright, Dario Fo, by challenging the archival ‘gaps’ where her
contributions ought to be found. The student will produce original research that makes visible
Rame’s work and her crucial contribution to work attributed solely to Fo within the context of the
occluded history of feminist practice and activism in the European theatre. The doctoral student
will work with the archive of Rame and Fo’s work in Verona (MusALab) and participate fully in
the postgraduate community of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Central) and its
vibrant research culture. Working with the archival team at MusALab and with experts in cultural
theory and practice-led research at Central, the student will develop a skill set that enables them to move fluently between HEI contexts, archives, and theatre practice, and which is applicable in the job market beyond the arts or academia. The student will have the opportunity to contribute to the development and promotion of the MusALab archive, through knowledge exchange activity,
including a dedicated symposium, workshops, and public events.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in collaboration with The National Theatre (Black Plays Archive)

From the Shadows critically assesses the presence and contributions of Black Queer British theatre practitioners throughout the last 40 years by piecing together, documenting and disseminating their histories. This project will produce primary research to support its aim of revealing the untold narratives of Black British LGBTQ+ theatre communities while critically evaluating why these lineages have historically lacked visibility. The doctoral student will work in collaboration with the team from the National Theatre’s Black Plays Archive (BPA) while studying as part of the postgraduate community of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and its eclectic research culture. The student will thus gain a thoroughgoing understanding of the research process, supported by Central’s expertise in both theatre theory and practice and the National Theatre’s expertise in archiving. To maximise public engagement and impact in this research, the student will develop digital educational resources for the BPA for use by established and emerging theatre companies. She will work with the National Theatre to address its historical omission of Black Queer theatre history in their programming and archive and, to support the NTs critical self-engagement, will curate exhibitions and talks around the thesis topic thereby disseminating its findings.


2019-20 Collaborative Doctoral Award Projects

SZ107, Red book, Opera house

Royal College of Art in collaboration with AKT II Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers

Many buildings are in functional terms not defined by formal, but organisational and structural typologies. Especially structural design significantly determines both the external form and internal layout of a building. The potential of topological structural models to define more holistic architectural typologies and their implications for new construction and design processes that work across the scales of the building to that of the room or building element and component has been little researched. In order to undertake this research, however, a continuing divide between architects and structural engineers has to be overcome. Thus, the research asks: Can integrating a structural and architectural design process delineate new architectural building typologies that are defined by structural topologies, and do these provide useful design responses to social and economic needs in the building industry? Are these new architectural/structural models more effective when designing adaptable buildings required by increasingly changing building lifecycles and user demands? And, what are the performance parameters that define these typologies and topologies? 

King’s College London in collaboration with Creative United

The UK policy framework regulating the publicly funded cultural organisations (PFCOs) has historically been connected but strongly distinct from the one of the creative and cultural industries (CCIs). The project aims to explore the connections existing between PFCOs and CCIs with a specific focus on London and its cultural ecology across public, private and not for profit organisations. Using a complexity science perspective and integrating qualitative methods with social network analysis, the project aims to map the collaborative networks connecting PFCOs and CCIs and reflect on the motivations and benefits behind these interconnections. It also aims to quantify the impact and value – economic, social and cultural – of these exchanges, looking at how public funding for culture channels through key cultural organisations create broader benefits for the private and not for profit sector in the CCIs.  The project will take as initial case studies a selection of major arts and cultural institutions and through snowballing and secondary dataset analysis map their ecologies. It is hoped the findings will help inform public policy towards culture and recognise their interconnections and synergies in a more consistent and transparent way.

School of Advanced Study in collaboration with Royal College of Physicians

The work of women as medical practitioners – particularly of ‘domestic’ medicine inside the home – in early modern England has been conventionally underestimated. This is especially the case in Tudor and Stuart England, a 150-year period in which the practice of medicine formalised and transformed from folk medicine into science. Even after the first major hospital in Britain opened during the early Enlightenment in the 1720s, medicine was routinely performed by non-professional (male) medical practitioners and women provided casual medical care in domestic settings. Nuns ran conventual infirmaries and nursing orders, mothers wet-nursed, and women worked as midwives. Women were consumers, collectors, authors, and sharers of printed, manuscript, and oral medical knowledge. This PhD project aims to assess evidence of their knowledge networks, based on the rare books and archives of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and supported by Institute of English Studies (IES), School of Advanced Study, University of London, the UK’s national centre for humanities research and a leading centre for book history.

This PhD project will build on research into the history of women’s medical work by exploring evidence of women’s medical knowledge in the holdings of the RCP, supported by the IES’ expertise in book history. Through collections-based research, it will identify and assess provenance evidence of women’s access to or ownership of medical books and manuscripts to map women’s access to this knowledge, including for home cures. Concurrently, it will examine women as authors of medical texts and recipes, based on RCP holdings. This study will then compare medical information in the manuscripts to that in the printed texts, revealing the knowledge exchange between women who practiced medicine and the professional or licensed physicians who used the texts they wrote. This will allow the analysis of the reception history of women’s medical knowledge in early modern/pre-Enlightenment England. Finally, it will assess the RCP’s printed and manuscript corpora for evidence of women as medical practitioners.


Royal College of Music in collaboration with British Association of Performing Arts Medicine

Making music at the highest international levels can be immensely rewarding, but it is also challenging, with recent research highlighting numerous, pernicious ways in which practising and performing can affect musicians’ physical and mental health. A growing body of evidence now points to a need for more (and more effective) health education and promotion initiatives within music educational and professional settings.

In collaboration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), the project will evaluate sector-wide resources and best practice in health literacy, education and promotion within higher music education. It will consist of three strands:

  1. Mapping health and wellbeing assets and resources for musicians in UK higher education;
  2. Creating case studies of good practice in health literacy, education and promotion within UK higher education, informed by international best practice;
  3. Assessing parallels and differences between music and other performing arts in terms of health literacy, education and promotion, assessing the potential for positive, interdisciplinary exchange in supporting for performers’ health and wellbeing.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in collaboration with National Theatre’s Black Plays Archive

This Studentship will re-assess the work of black British women playwrights over the past 60 years by challenging the archival ‘gaps’ that have left them marginalised in histories of modern British theatre.  The doctoral student will work with the National Theatre’s archive team on the Black Plays Archive (BPA) and participate fully in the postgraduate community of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Central) and its vibrant research culture. The student will produce original research that sheds new light on how the intersections of race, gender and class shaped British theatre through research that makes visible the valuable contribution of black women playwrights to the history of British theatre. They will develop a skill set that enables them to move fluently between HEI contexts and archives, and which will be applicable in the job market beyond the arts or academia. The student will have the opportunity to contribute to the development and promotion of the BPA, through knowledge exchange activity, such as exhibition curation, public workshops and related education events. The student will gain a thoroughgoing understanding of the research process, supported by Central’s expertise in both theatre theory and practice and the National Theatre’s expertise in archiving.

Queen Mary University London in collaboration with PEROU (The Pole for Exploration of Urban Resources)

Through sustained fieldwork in the northern Paris district of La Chapelle, this PhD will consider the actions and practices of hospitality and will establish whether and how hospitality can be considered to constitute an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ under the UNESCO framework for safe-guarding. The practice of hospitality is commonly held to transcend cultural differences, being recognizable on encounter for those who come from afar. Yet hospitality, like all social forms, is subject to cultural variance. This doctoral project will study the variations in modes of hospitality as it is enacted in an area of super linguistic and cultural diversity, at the hub of contemporary migration to and within Europe. Drawing on practices that traverse generations as well as faith and language groups, it will develop a comparative analysis of cultural representations and practices of welcome, drawing on situations of shared sustenance, narration and shelter. The research will investigate the claim that hospitality is a common and potentially universalisable practice, which, across its linguistic variation, can inform an understanding of intangible cultural heritage. The student will work closely with the PEROU, contributing to their UNESCO-oriented project and learning from their methodology as an embedded and experimental research unit.

B/w image Copyright Paul Trevor

Queen Mary University London in collaboration with Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives & The Bishopsgate Institute

During the evening of the 4 May 1978, a day of political tension amid local elections, Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bengali leather garments worker, was brutally stabbed and murdered by three youths in a racially-motivated attack on Adler Street, close to Whitechapel Road in London’s East End. This prompted a summer of protest and political mobilisation where local Bengali organisations formed alliances with other political factions as part of an anti-fascist and anti-racist struggle. The scale of the movement was unprecedented, mobilising and forging alliances with anti-racist struggles across and beyond London and was crucial in its subsequent mainstream political recognition. The energy of the movement by the early 1980s was consolidated by the formation of Federation Bangladeshi Youth Organisations (FBYO), an umbrella body, that spearheaded campaigns for better housing, health, education and against racism. This process of turning inwards also led towards a slow institutionalisation of its key leaders. How to explain such a rapid process of mobilisation and institutionalisation of a movement that laid the basis for Bengali activism in London? Based on qualitative research involving interviews and archive analysis and through a collaboration with the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives (THLHLA) and the Bishopsgate Institute (BI) the project will not only answer this question but provide a much-needed scholarly record of the political events surrounding 1978.

With unique access to the people and archives of the era, this project will collaborate with the THLHLA and the BI in order to generate the first sustained attempt to study the mobilisations surrounding May 1978. Working with those who were part of the struggles in 1978 and bringing together disparate archival documentation of the events, this project will cast new light on the history of Bengali political activism and organising at this pivotal moment, documenting the experiences of those involved and seeking to better understand how and why the subsequent anti-racist movement mobilised in East London. The project involves a collaboration with two key metropolitan heritage institutions eager to deepen their engagement with and preserve the histories and struggles of local migrant communities that are currently under-represented in their collections. It will generate new materials to enhance and promote the archive of Bengali activism in East London and provide the resources for an exhibition, a series of public events, and the development of learning materials for schools”.

University College London in collaboration with Science Museum 

This project focuses on the musical aesthetics of Daphne Oram (1925 – 2003).  Oram was a composer, and musical theorist, central to the establishing of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. Although much has been written about her pioneering work in electronic music from an historical perspective, Oram’s philosophical conceptions of sound have been largely neglected. My PhD project sets out to establish a fuller understanding of her approach to composition and her Oramics graphic notation system, which will contribute to a richer scientific understanding of sound and music, both in praxis and in how composers conceive of it. Oram’s unique Oramics notation – a hybridization of graphics and sound – engenders an approach to the very conception of music and musical composition wholly different from standard musical notation.

The project will give an interdisciplinary account of the philosophical implications of Oram’s work in relation to scientific approaches to sound studies and auditory perception, as well as a critical comparison of Oram’s work with other composer-led music technologies. It will explore how experimental technologies and techniques of electronic music composition, such as Oramics, can engage with current philosophical debates concerning the ontological categorization of sound.

By combining the science, theory, and practice of electronic music, it is hoped that a more unified conception of composition, performance experience, and musical aesthetics can be achieved. 

Queen Mary University London in collaboration with Museum of London

The Museum of London holds one of the world’s leading collections of religious artefacts from late medieval and early modern England, a testimony to the buzzing religious and commercial creativity of the long fifteenth century. Dress accessories, household items, rings, or the ever-present pilgrim badges, gave lay women and men a hitherto unprecedented opportunity to engage with the divine.

The Shrine and the Market Place is a collaborative doctoral project, joining the Museum of London and Queen Mary University of London. It put these objects centre-stage, combining the examination of their materiality with documentary evidence for their production, dissemination and use. This will be assisted by digital technologies both in the analysis and display of religious objects from late medieval and early modern London, making these little-known artefacts, their uses and histories, available to a wider public.


2018-19 Collaborative Doctoral Award Projects

University College London in collaboration with Shakespeare birthplace trust

No other town in the United Kingdom boasts a local studies collection as rich and as focussed as Stratford-upon-Avon’s. Shakespeare has proved a catalyst of exceptional power for generating an extraordinary breadth of historical research. Collections of national and international significance have accrued in the archives of The SBT, encompassing both local history and Shakespeare Studies (especially in the areas of literary biography and cultural materialism). These include hundreds of notebooks, letters, transcriptions, maps, sketches, drawings, and other images. As we approach the centenary of the Dugdale Society (named after the pioneer who has some claim to be the first Stratford-upon-Avon antiquarian, Sir William Dugdale 1605-1686), the time seems right for us to propose a fresh overview and critique of the papers and collections relating to the Shakespearian antiquarians who devoted their energies to Stratford-upon-Avon, the better to understand their respective achievements. But the thesis will also identify new directions for research arising out of a deeper understanding of these important and underused archives. University College London, too, houses a cache of papers by the great nineteenth-century Shakespearian and Stratford-upon-Avon antiquarian, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, a resource which will play an underpinning part in this new collaboration between UCL and SBT.

Remarkably, many of these papers have to date not been systematically explored. It is expected that the proposed research will reveal hitherto unnoticed, or long-forgotten, Shakespearian nuggets in the papers of the individuals themselves, or else will make critical connections between their work that in turn will afford new insights into Shakespeare’s life and that of his home town. The overarching framework of the proposed research is the systematic investigation of the papers, diaries, and publications of the Stratford antiquarians, in search of new information.

King’s College London in collaboration with Dr Williams’s Library

The library of the Protestant dissenter Dr Daniel Williams (c. 1643-1716) features a substantial number of books and other material deriving from France, Spain and Italy, mostly relating to the early modern period. A catalogue published in 1727 indicates approximately 1,900 French books (books written in French and/or books with a French imprint often in Latin), with a wide variety of subjects including the Americas, European travel, philosophy, aesthetics and theology. There is some existing research, including by Dr Barry Taylor of the British Library, on the Spanish and Italian elements of the collection, but none on the French material.

The aim of the collaborative PhD is to produce a digital catalogue of the French material in Dr Williams’s library through comparison of the 1727 printed catalogue with the books themselves and other catalogued versions, with details where possible of provenance, annotations, ownership, binding etc.

Dr Williams’s library will provide training in bibliographic, cataloguing methods and descriptions of historic bookbinding.

The collaborative PhD is an outstanding opportunity for a postgraduate research project which will be of lasting benefit in terms of the production of a research resource and scholarship on the material itself, which will enhance the profile of modern language knowledge, transmission and learning in the early modern period and beyond.

University College n collaboration with The National Archives

In this new and emerging environment, where data is becoming more ubiquitous and the repositories holding it are proliferating more than ever before, the traditional skills of the curator (trusted stewardship and preservation, selection and interpretation) take on a new significance at the same time as they face challenge and change. This study seeks to map out existing and evolving Humanities data practices with particular emphasis on the changing relationship this implies between researchers and curators. It defines data practices as broadly as possible, including for example;

  • Mechanisms and procedures for gaining access to existing data sets through portals such as the UK Data Archive, the Administrative Data Research Centres, as well as through individual contacts and informal mechanisms.
  • The nature of data sets in use by or created by scholars in the Humanities with regards to size, format etc.
  • The creation of bespoke code and scripts to manipulate and analyse data sets
  • The preservation and provision of access to data sets and the quality of information facilitating their reuse.

The mapping exercise will inform a work stream involving data delivery services desired by Humanities scholars in respect of those data sets held by The National Archives.