Centre for Arts and Learning Research projects


Some of our ongoing research projects and consultancies.

Finding Comfort within Discomfort - Dr Miranda Matthews

With the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, academics, students and people in all walks of life have had to adjust to being within what might previously have seemed to be the ‘comfort zone’ of their own home, but through limitations on travel and social gathering has changed its significance for many. This research project proposes to explore how domestic and local space is explored in new or extended forms of creative self-expression that support wellbeing.  

The arts are facing a time of great adjustment, in which the online interfaces for public engagement and learning opportunities could be more responsive to the experiences of change in localities and in everyday lives. This project intends to find out new ways in which creative learning communities can be built, and to make a new interactive interface between the research centre, staff, students and public audiences for the arts and learning.   

Participants are asked to submit a film of 30-60 seconds, or an image and 150 words that gives an outward facing view of how they have creatively explored the discomfort zones of lockdown and social distancing. These submissions will become research data that can be thematically analysed, presented on online CAL forums and in research publications that explore creative responses to lockdown and social distancing in relation to Covid-19. Participation in the research is open to Masters, PhD and PGCE students and staff in Educational Studies, and to adult members of the public who engage with the Centre for Arts and Learning in its online forums. We would like to encourage a diversity of response including representation from BAME communities. The project will continue for the duration of social distancing regulations, or until July 2021, whichever is the longer time phase. 

Finding Comfort within Discomfort Information for online respondents (PDF Download)

Visual and Discursive Practices for Intersectional Representation and Wellbeing among Undergraduates

Miranda Matthews is leading an interdisciplinary research project that investigates visual and discursive practices for the intersectional representation and wellbeing of undergraduates in British universities. This project aims to address students’ experiences of a transition away from their communities in starting university, and to develop visual and discursive strategies for self-representation. The project works with lecturers who are applying visual practice in academic subjects, and with artist educators who run extra-curricular creative sessions for undergraduates. 

Responses to Education Policy since 2010: An Investigation of the Adjustments and Strategies of Art and design Practitioners

Miranda Matthews is investigating the issues faced in the current policy climate by practitioners in art and design. Her empirical research among artist educators aims to gather data on the adjustments made in department ethos, methods of resourcing through professional networks, and the individual and collaborative responses of practitioners. The intention of this research is to explore possibilities for building theoretical and practical support. Miranda is referring to de Beauvoir and Foucault, in reflecting upon ethos of ambiguity among artist educators, and their negotiations of power structures. 


North West Cambridge Art Programme

Contemporary Art Society and InSite arts are delivering the North West Cambridge Public Art Strategy which consists of major public art commissions, public events,  and an annual artist in residence programme that links artists with research departments at the University of Cambridge. Dr Esther Sayers is creating a strategy for education through which children and young people can actively engage with the public art development programme.

Get the Message

Peppy Hills and Dr Esther Sayers have been working collaboratively to review the ten year Get the Message project at Camden Arts Centre. The specific focus of this work is to advise on new evaluation methodologies for projects with learning disabled young people .

Xue Xue Institute

Dr Esther Sayers is advising on the development of a new youth area situated across the fourth floor of the gallery and cultural space the Xue Xue Institute in Taipei, Taiwan.


As an educational researcher for Camden Arts Centre, Dr Esther Sayers conducted a feasibility study and modelled a curriculum for Camden Art School as part of the Futurescope project. This involved scoping the possibilities for creating an art school as an extension of existing gallery activity the gallery.

Festival of the World

During Southbank Centre's Festival of the World in 2012, Dr Esther Sayers carried out research internationally into arts for social change projects from which she curated the content for the World Crates installation in the outside spaces around the Royal Festival Hall in London.