I have always been keen to stay connected to previous projects that I have worked on, and was pleased to be able to attend a recent conference on New Forms of Public Religion. The conference was an outcome of a 6 year research programme, Religion and Society, funded by the Arts and Humanities and Economic and Social Research Councils. Professor Linda Woodhead, Director of the programme says “The Religion and Society Programme has produced a huge body of new research on religion, and some of the new findings were presented at our Cambridge conference. There is so much still to learn from the research that we be will be presenting findings over the coming years in events like the Westminster Faith Debates, and on our website”
I had been involved in the programme from its inception through my position at the AHRC, and this conference was a chance for me to learn about the findings of the projects that had been funded. I was particularly interested in a project about the portrayal of religion in the media, led by Professor Kim Knott. She and her team replicated an investigation of media portrayals of religion first carried out in 1982-83. In 2008-09 she and her team analysed a month’s content from the same newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Yorkshire Evening Post; and seven days TV from the same channels: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. Using the same methods, they found that there has been increased discussion of religion in the British media. A full synopsis of the research and its results can be found here.
It also gave me an opportunity to catch up and meet people involved in this area of research. One academic I met told me about the work he does in his local community in Victoria, Canada, which is based around conducting lessons in empty shops and educating people within the community, an example that might be useful to the recently funded Catalyst project Leeds Empties, which is looking to transform empty shops/businesses in Leeds.
One academic I met told me about the work he does in his local community in Victoria, Canada, which is based around conducting lessons in empty shops and educating people within the community
The Religion and Society programme was so encompassing of subjects and research areas across the spectrum that I was interested to see a recent Fellow-led project on Faith and Disability that covers an important area that hadn’t been covered by research in the programme. The project is led by Dr Deesha Chadha FRSA and Philip Rosenberg of Faith Forum 4 London, and is based on the idea to create a learning opportunity for around 80 religious leaders to offer teaching on issues around faith and disability. Its aim is to flag both the challenges and the positive stories, with resources that communities can use to improve their inclusiveness and challenge prejudiced attitudes. If anyone is interested in being involved in this project, please contact Dr Chadha.
The interaction between research and projects that work towards a solution to tackle a pressing social problem that the RSA support through the Catalyst scheme is integral and I hope we can see more of this in the future.
Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter