Loneliness Connects Us: Youth Loneliness Summit

We invite you to join us to develop practical and imaginative strategies for reducing youth loneliness at the Youth Loneliness Summit: research-informed, arts-inspired, youth-led social action to reduce youth loneliness.

22nd February, 10am-4pm at Federation House, Manchester, M4 4BF.


Youth loneliness is increasingly recognised as a significant social issue, with claims of a ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness affecting as many as one in three young people in the UK.

This event is part of the ‘Loneliness Connects Us’ project, a youth co-research project exploring youth loneliness from the perspective of young people. The aim of the research was to provide young people and those working with them new knowledge and strategies to reduce loneliness and increase belonging and solidarity. The research explored the diverse perceptions and experiences of youth loneliness in relation to social conditions such as poverty, transitions in life, and relationships of support and connection. A key finding was that although loneliness is an important part of life, we must take practical and political action to come together to reduce youth loneliness.

The aim of the Youth Loneliness Summit is to build on the research by working with young people from the Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Youth Forum to support them in developing creative social action projects to reduce loneliness in their communities.

We invite people young and old to join us in imagining new ways of being friends with one another, supporting young people that don’t seem to fit in, and create common spaces and communities so everyone feels they belong somewhere.

The day will begin with a short performance on loneliness from the excellent Clean Break Theatre, then presentations from a range of youth projects before the focus shifts to developing the ideas and strategies that will be brought to life by the young people in the Greater Manchester Housing Providers’ Youth Forum.

Come along and help us re-imagine more convivial and caring communities across Greater Manchester and the UK.

If you would like more information please email James Duggan (Research Fellow, MMU) on J.Duggan [at] mmu.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @YouthLoneliness

The Loneliness Connects Us is a youth co-research project, young people exploring the lived experience of loneliness across the UK. The project was developed by ‪@ESRI_mmu and ‪@42ndStreetmcr.

This research and event is funded by the Co-op Foundation through its Belong programme, a national network of projects tackling loneliness among disadvantaged young people.

To register for the event please visit the Eventbrite page

Dr Lisa Procter

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of an inspirational colleague and friend, Dr Lisa Procter. From the moment Lisa arrived with us at ESRI, MMU, just 18 months ago, her fresh and thoughtful approach was palpable. Lisa brought an incredible energy to all aspects of her teaching and research, deeply affecting students and colleagues with her infectious love of learning and a wild, unbounded curiosity for all things.

Her eclectic passions for education, the arts, environmental issues, non-human animals, emotions, spaces and places and social justice (among so many other things) fuelled a tireless enthusiasm for inquiry that motivated her teaching and research work. Lisa’s classroom pedagogies were creative and caring as she approached ideas, probed perspectives and generated an excitement for inquisitiveness in her sessions. Her contributions to reading groups, seminars and workshops were thoughtful and vibrant, as she speculated, offering insights into the distinctiveness of her thinking.

Lisa’s contributions to the Children and Childhood Research Group were significant. Pushing at boundaries and scrutinising taken-for-granted assumptions, she poured all her energy into each project, fully absorbed in the intricacies and intensities of each research encounter. No matter how seemingly insignificant to many of us, Lisa would pay attention to disregarded moments, forgotten gestures and overlooked places to dig deeper and wonder harder.

Lisa was a force of life. Her loss will always be felt and memories of her short time with us at MMU will be entangled with, and continue to inspire our work.

Interdisciplinary research about children, place and space


Arts based cross-disciplinary research on toilets as places of exclusion and belonging


Storytelling and meaning making inspired by children’s experiences of sound in the environment


Young children’s experiences of museums


Rachel Holmes and Abigail Hacket


Tackling dementia through the art of comic books

Tackling dementia through the art of comic books

A new research project aims to develop a comic book to raise awareness of the issues surrounding dementia.

The rise in popularity of comic books shows no signs of slowing, with superhero franchises dominating cinema screens, and adaptations such as The Walking Dead becoming must-see television.

Yet researchers at Manchester Met think that comics can also play serious role in educating us about our health and wellbeing.

Research Associate Sarah McNicol is leading a new research project, which aims to produce a comic on dementia. Developed alongside people who have the condition, the comic will raise awareness of the issues faced by people with the condition, and their carers.

The year-long £10,000 project is funded by the Arts Council, and will see people with dementia work with artists to help them talk about experiences they might otherwise struggle to explain.

Comics can raise awareness of important issues

More than 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia, and numbers are set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. It is one of the main causes of disability later in life, yet much less is spent on it compared with other conditions.

Sarah says the condition’s prevalence, and its potential impact both on the UK population and its economy, are reasons why more should be done to raise awareness.

“I think that educational comics play an important role in healthcare. They are really effective at raising awareness of conditions, offering reassurance, and can act as a means of exploring the impact of illness on family relationships.

“However, not many people know about their use and effectiveness both within the health system and elsewhere. They also carry the stigma that they are light-hearted and just for children and young people. I think this is a shame, as my research has shown that they are excellent ways of helping patients and their families learn and understand conditions.”

“I hope that the comics might help change the perception that exists of people with dementia. There are many who still have ordinary lives, and I want the comic to share their stories.”

Project offers real-world benefit to society

The comic will be developed through workshop sessions where people with dementia from the Beth Johnson Foundation in Stoke-on-Trent will share ideas with Cathy Leamy, a comic-book artist from the US.

Together they will write a script, which will capture the experiences of people with dementia also and from health and social care professionals.

Once complete, the comic will be shared with hospitals, care homes and other organisations to help improve understanding of the condition. It will also help explore how health and social care professionals can use comics further in their practice.

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “It is terrific to see Sarah in receipt of funding from the Arts Council for this innovative project, which combines art and health in novel and exciting ways.

“We are keen to champion research projects such as these, as they exhibit real-world impact and offer a tangible benefit to society.”

This post was originally posted here 

Giving Up the Ghosts

‘Song Lines to Impact and Legacy: Creating Living Knowledge through Working with Social Haunting’, funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme, has brought together a team of artists, academics and community partners, including Manchester Metropolitan University, Unite Community, the Co-operative College and folk musicians Ribbon Road.

The project has used the idea of a ‘social haunting’ and a range of arts methods to inquire into how difficult feelings, carried into community life from contested pasts, can be harnessed as energies for benevolent and productive change. Based on community workshops run across the north of England, musicians Ribbon Road have created an original song/image piece.

To celebrate the end of the project, you are welcome to join us at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme on Monday 27th November from 6.00pm where Ribbon Road will performing the songs created for the project. This is a free event, but please email s.mcnicol@mmu.ac.uk or phone 0161 247 5104 to reserve a ticket.

21st Century Man (ESRC Festival of Social Science)

This unique, one-day inter-disciplinary conference will explore the challenges and complexities facing men in the 21stcentury. The topics debated will cover a range of themes on everything from hidden male voices to male childlessness; from youth loneliness and belonging to male victims of honour-based violence.

Colleagues from across Manchester Metropolitan University will showcase their research and invite debate and discussion from a guest panel of experts and an audience of experts from across the fields of health, law, education and society as a whole.


12.00pm – Registration and lunch

12.45pm – Event Starts with introduction from Dr Jenny Fisher

1.00pm – Panel debate chaired by Dr Michael Carroll with guest speakers:

  • Dr Kellie Payne – Research and Policy Manager, Campaign to End Loneliness
  • Ally Fogg – Writer, journalist and a co-founder of the Men and Boys Coalition
  • Professor Steve Robertson – Emeritus Professor, Leeds Beckett University
  • Rani Bilkhu – Founder of Jeena Charity

2.00pm – Banter in spaces of care and truce // Dr James Duggan, Research Fellow, School of Childhood, Youth and Education Studies, Faculty of Education; and Brian McShane (Goldsmith’s College)

This session explores the challenges and tensions in conducting research and practicing youth work with young men at the interstices between cultures of care and research, and forms of masculinity and difference. The talk aims to explore banter as a relation and the ontological positions of this. We consider the different ways speech acts operate based on group contexts and the ways that banter reaffirms but also refigure hierarchies of belonging

2.30pm – ‘How is a man supposed to be a man’ // Dr Robin Hadley, Research Associate, Research Institute for Health and Social Change

This session is draws on Robin’s autobiographical research studies on childless men who wanted to be a father. Childless men are invisible in statistics and their experiences are absent from most literature. This presentation draws on interviews with men who wanted to be a ‘Dad’ and will show how the impact of not becoming a father lasts across the life course and has serious implications for mental and physical wellbeing, economically and socially.

3.00pm – Break

3.15pm – ‘Sperm function and fertility’ // Dr Michael Carroll, School of Healthcare Science

Research over the past 15 years suggest that sperm quality is declining. This decline can be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors. This talk will give an overview on sperm function and factors that can impact on the quality of sperm and male fertility

3.45pm – ‘Boys Don’t Cry – using multi-media mobile technology to talk to men about mental health’ // Dr Jenny Fisher, Department of Social Care and Social Work

This session is based on a co-produced research project that took place in Summer 2016. Health and social care professionals, social science researchers and volunteers who work with men around mental health are increasingly using digital technologies to engage people in discussions. We used a mobile multi-media method to engage men to talk about mental health in a variety of community spaces across the North West of England.

4.15pm – ‘The Forgotten Voices: Men, Honour-Based Violence and Forced Marriages’ // Maz Idriss, Manchester Law School and Trustee of the Management Committee of Derbyshire Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service (DDVSAS)

This title explores men’s experiences of honour-based violence and forced marriages in the United Kingdom. As a group, male victimisation is often overlooked; this session will aim to highlight the lack of support offered to such men by society as well as exploring a series of recommendations to support men experiencing HBV violence.

4.45pm – Closing plenary chaired by TBC

To register for this event please go to the Eventbrite page.

Dates for your diary! Arts based methods sessions

Dates for your diary! Our programme of arts based methods sessions this semester will be as follows:

Monday 2nd Oct, 4-5pm, Drama Studio, Brooks Building 

In the Teaching Spaces we Inhabit

Becky Patterson and Alison Ramsay


Weds 22nd Nov, 3-4pm

Tuning in to Loneliness

Janet Batsleer and James Duggan


Mon 4th Dec, 4-5pm 

Image and Word on the Street; using images and words reflexively to explore street-connectedness

Andrew Stevenson


Mon 22nd Jan, 4-5pm 

Walking as propositions for research-creation

Sarah Truman


For more information visit our Arts Based Methods website.

Graphic Lives: telling Bangladeshi migrant women’s stories through graphic narratives

This joint project between MMU and Hyde Community Action sees women from the British Bangladeshi community in Hyde (Greater Manchester) exploring their own life stories and the historical narratives of their communities through workshops on life history, cross-cultural storytelling and digital skills, as well as visits to Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and MMU Special Collections to engage with collections. The women will use a simple online comics creation tool to communicate their own multimedia story using photographs; drawings; and text and sound in any language.

To share the comics more widely, we are organising a celebration event for the local community and showcasing the project at local and national events and festivals including Oldham Libraries; Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival; and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We will also be running sessions in local schools and a workshop for teaching/social work students in autumn 2017. One of the project outputs will be a resource pack to encourage and support other organisations wishing to undertake similar activities.

Graphic lives: telling Bangladeshi migrant women’s stories through graphic narratives has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to widen representations of migrant heritage in order to raise awareness; change attitudes and behaviours; and ultimately, improve understanding and cohesion.

Read the comics created by the women:

Download (PDF, 9.08MB)

Download (PDF, 5.44MB)

Download (PDF, 11.04MB)

Download (PDF, 7.69MB)

Download (PDF, 7.23MB)

Download (PDF, 14.62MB)

The comics are also available at: https://issuu.com/happinessdragon

You can see more of the project activities in this booklet:

Download (PDF, 6.17MB)

If you would like to try making comics for yourself, this pack has instructions for all the activities we did:

Download (PDF, 3.43MB)

Below is a list of the events we’ll be at over the next few months. Do come along if you can – and please share with other people/networks you think would be interested.

Event Date Location
Oldham Libraries workshop Saturday 30th September, 10.30-12.00 Oldham Central Library: http://www.oldham-council.co.uk/libevent/events/view/united-kingdom/oldham/oldham-library/graphic-lives-telling-life-stories-through-comics free, but please book a place
Lakes Comics Festival Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th October Kendal Clock Tower: https://www.comicartfestival.com/
Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival workshop Saturday 21st October, 11.00-3.00 4 workshops at Karvan travelling caravan: http://rochdaleliteraturefestival.co.uk/whats-on/emma-dawson-varughese-karvan/
Workshop and display @ MMU  Wednesday 15th November Workshop:  Special Collections, 11-00-12.30 (free, but please pre-book):https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/graphic-lives-telling-life-stories-through-comics-tickets-37251256511

Display: All Saints Campus, room TBC, 12.45-2.00

Celebration event at Hyde Town Hall Saturday 25th Nov, 12-00-3.00 Please email s.mcnicol@mmu.ac.uk  if you would like an invitation

Sarah McNicol

Digital comics and stories of heritage, lives and experiences

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been working with British Bangladeshi women from Hyde Community Action in Tameside on a Heritage Lottery funded project to make digital comics telling the stories of their heritage, lives and experiences. We’ve been doing a wide range of activities including: planning stories using pinboards; visiting museums and galleries; developing digital skills; and discovering how to tell stories using words and pictures. You can see more of the activities here.


Every member of the group is creating her own comics using an app called Book Creator. The comics will be finished by early autumn when we start the dissemination phase. This includes workshops in schools, libraries and at MMU; stalls at comics and literature festivals; and a celebration event at Hyde Town Hall.

In our last session before the school holidays, I asked the women about their experiences of the project so far. These are some of the things they said:

I’ve enjoyed telling my story. It’s helped me to remember my background and given me an opportunity to talk about the past.

I learnt how to use comics tools and how to express myself using pictures and writing to make a story.

I was able to express myself about personal issues.

I feel like I’m a writer now!

If you want to know more about the project, or about the events we’re running in the autumn, please email s.mcnicol@mmu.ac.uk

Sarah McNicol

Final exam results are becoming less valid – Prof. Harry Torrance

There are good reasons, rooted in traditional assessment concerns for validity and reliability, to involve teachers in setting and marking national test work in their own schools (coursework, project work and so forth).

Validity demands that the pursuit of broader curriculum goals such as analysing data, applying knowledge and developing practical skills be underpinned by broader methods of assessment. These wider skills and abilities cannot be tested by written final papers alone. For example, final papers can test knowledge of how to conduct an experiment, but not the actual practical skills involved or the collecting and recording of data over time.

Equally, reliability demands that these and other skills and abilities should not simply be measured by a one-off test, but assessed on several occasions over a longer period: the larger the sample of assessed work, undertaken under a variety of conditions, the more reliable the result is likely to be.

Now, however, history, experience and good educational practice are being set aside as the Conservative government moves back to an entirely final exam-based system. The argument is that the previous Labour administration allowed too many flexible teacher-assessed elements into school exams, lowering educational standards and inflating pass rates.

Yet teacher assessment has been a key element of education for many years under Conservative and Labour, while pass rates at GCSE and A-level have risen consistently under both parties since the 1970s.

Given that these upward trends have extended over so many years, there is likely to be some element of a genuine rise in standards driven by the better socio-economic conditions of students, higher expectations of educational outcomes by students, parents and teachers, and better teaching underpinned by better training and resources.

More recently, however, this trend has been combined with and compounded by an increased focus on passing exams because of the perceived importance of educational success for school accountability, teacher career progression and student life chances.

Research evidence indicates that the pressure to raise results at almost any (educational) cost is a key driver of grade inflation. Thus, identifying a possible problem of grade inflation is one thing; assuming that eliminating coursework and teacher involvement in assessment is the only solution is quite another.

Pursuing new curriculum goals demands new forms of assessment to report grades with validity and reliability – coursework, fieldwork, oral work and so forth can capture different outcomes from end-of-course written tests.

When we also add in ideas about formative assessment and changes in pedagogy – including students drafting work, receiving feedback on it, and then redrafting it for final submission – we produce a potentially positive situation in which students can be supported to develop their knowledge and understanding of subject matter over time and produce their best possible work for exams.

In principle this should constitute the core of any attempt to broaden and raise “educational standards”. However, in a context of intense accountability such practices can lead to little more than coaching students to meet exam criteria, thus undermining the validity and credibility of results. Yet improving the validity and reliability of teacher assessment is possible – this is what assessment policy, research and development should be trying to achieve.

As accountability pressures increase, the evidence base for published results is becoming narrower and less valid as the system moves back to wholly end-of-course testing. Instead, policy should:

(i) decouple accountability measures from routine student assessment and address the monitoring of standards over time by use of specifically designed tests with small national samples;

(ii) re-conceptualise the development of educational standards by starting from the perspective of the curriculum: ie, put resources and support into rethinking curriculum goals for the 21st century and developing illustrative examples of high-quality assessment tasks that underpin and reinforce these goals, for teachers to use and adapt as appropriate.

Prof. Harry Torrance (MMU)

This article is reposted from SchoolsWeek.

A longer version of this article is available in the British Journal of Educational Studies, 2017.