Scientists and arts researchers at the University of Derby have come together with artists and creatives from across the UK to develop Shedding Light on long Covid, a thought-provoking exhibition and programme of events to engage local communities in the latest long Covid research.
Taking place until 8 October at the Museum of Making and Derby Cathedral, the exhibition features a diverse range of artworks created by local and national artists, including community podcasts, photography, live performance, online and in-person workshops inspired by research data.
Current data shows that 1 in 10 people who contract Covid-19 will develop a lasting symptom profile, commonly referred to as long Covid, which affects two million people nationally and is a recognised public health crisis. In Derbyshire alone, there are approximately 10,000 patients living with long Covid, and this figure is rising weekly.
This virtual and interactive exhibition has been created by S.H.E.D – Social Higher Education Depot, a research and innovation space that engages the public with lifelong learning and teaching through creative industry and cultural practice. S.H.E.D can adapt to multiple situations and designs, supporting diversity and bringing people together from a range of communities and disciplines. S.H.E.D is delivered by Designing Dialogue, a spin-out company from the University.
This unique platform brings together clinical and academic research and creative and cultural knowledge to create a community project focused on the impacts of long Covid and how people in the city and region can come together to understand and challenge these impacts.
Dr Rhiannon Jones, Associate Professor (Civic) at the University of Derby and CEO/Founder of S.H.E.D, said:
“We are proud to showcase this thought-provoking project in Derby. As a Civic University we are committed to investing in people and culture as a driver for change and supporting people’s health and wellbeing. It is wonderful to work with artists, designers, scientists, the public, stakeholders and partners Derby Cathedral and the Museum of Making to bring this project to life. I would like to take this opportunity to thank S.H.E.D funders the Royal Society of Arts and the University of Derby.
“This sci-art public realm project features a display of artworks by researchers from the University of Derby School of Arts and Manchester School of Arts. A series of dedicated workshops will be online and in-person to support access needs delivered by a range of local organisations. We also have QR codes located around the space to take people to further works made by local and national artists and organisations that are hosted online on the topic of shedding light on long Covid.
“S.H.E.D is a platform for the public to communicate their thoughts and opinions on issues affecting daily life. We are proud to be an inclusive and neutral space to platform the voices of others and provide a safe space for people in the community to come together.”
The University has been at the forefront of research into causes and effects of long Covid since 2020. The research has mostly been learning about the challenges of the condition and how this impacts the abilities of people to undertake their everyday tasks. The research team hope to use this learning to create pathways to support people with long Covid.
Dr Mark Faghy, Associate Professor in Respiratory Physiology at the University of Derby who is leading this research, said:
“By bringing together the research side and the arts in a unique collaboration, we’re hoping to bring conversations around long Covid right to the front of people’s minds, increasing public awareness of living with the illness and highlighting the need for health and wellbeing services.
“From a health perspective, it’s vital that we understand how we can support those with long Covid and it’s fantastic to be able to highlight the societal issues posed by the disease in a creative and community-based way.”
Alongside the exhibition, a conference day at the Museum of Making has been designed to support academics, clinical, industry and research professions and the public to come together and share their insights into long Covid through a series of presentations, workshops and networking sessions.
The conference will be followed by a celebration event to share and discuss this sci-art public realm project and its impact with key stakeholders and partners and bring the local community together with those who have taken part and shared their experiences as part of the project.
The Very Reverend Peter Robinson, Dean of Derby Cathedral, said:
“Derby Cathedral is delighted to welcome S.H.E.D, once again. This is such an important opportunity being offered to people of all generations to delve deeply into our shared experiences of long Covid. We hope that many will come to the Cathedral and enjoy the headset benches under the trees in our Church Yard and so form part of this precious continued research.”
Dr Catherine Putz, Director of Programming at Derby Museums, said:
“We have been keen, since this project was first mooted many months ago, to host the S.H.E.D in showcasing this critical research into the impact of long Covid in our city. At the Museum of Making, our programme centres on creating the conditions for wellbeing and enabling our local communities.
“We are proud to be partnering with the University of Derby in this endeavour, demonstrating the resilience and reciprocity at the heart of the way our city tackles the most challenging questions in society.”
The University of Derby launched its Civic University Agreement in June 2022 – a set of five goals demonstrating its Civic commitment to supporting Derby and Derbyshire and its communities. Working with organisations and groups across the region is vital for creating opportunities and supporting the ambitions of local communities and people.