Centre for New Writing

Affective Digital Histories: An AHRC-funded research project

About the project

Affective Digital Histories: Re-creating De-Industrialised Places, 1970s to the Present explored the lost and untold experiences of individuals and communities associated with post-industrial buildings in two East Midlands sites: Leicester and Glossop.

Creative writing exceeds the bounds of academic writing, intuiting experiences that are otherwise lost to us. As Carol Leeming writes in her author preface of Hidden Stories, the commissioned work 'reframes our collective knowledge of people whose lives rarely register in either local or official histories of post-industrial spaces.' The project gave writers an opportunity to work with digitised newspaper clippings, photographs and oral histories to produce new histories from below.

Creative writing is uniquely equipped to explore people's emotional bond with particular places. The Centre's work on the 'Affective Digital Histories' project has been an important staging post for the Centre's endeavour to bring writers and researchers into a close dialogue which shapes research findings themselves while also nuancing creative writing which responds to multiple academic fields.

Leicester's Cultural Quarter

The cultural quarter was once a bustling industrial and commercial district, home to hosiery and footware manufacturers. Especially after the 1960s, industrial decline led to businesses leaving and factories closing. By the late 1990s, the area was largely abandoned, with buildings becoming derelict. Regeneration funding has since transformed the district into a hub for the creative industries and into luxury dwellings. While the narrative of regeneration emphasises the Cultural Quarter’s industrial past, less is written about the late 1970s to the late 1990s, when groups such as the Leicester United Caribbean Association, gay-friendly organisations, cross-dressers, punks, goths and bikers used the growing range of disused spaces. A prominent example is the transformation of the ornate Queens Buildings, once housing several footwear firms, into Dielectric, an infamous Midlands rave venue of the early 1990s.


This Derbyshire market town experienced large-scale de-industrialisation in the twentieth century, resulting in abandoned cotton and paper mills that had dominated the town from the late eighteenth century. Whilst gentrification of some factories and industrial housing has occurred, abandoned or under-used industrial buildings remain. These buildings have been variously used by squatters or for light industry as well as for gigs, raves and art installations. Such buildings are decreasingly likely to be maintained by public funds and there is talk of likely abandonment or decay, or else possible procurement by community groups. Interviews, film, photographs and the Glossop Chronicle will be made available for writers who wish to write about Glossop for their creative writing commissions.

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and based at the University of Leicester.

About the commissions

Affective Digital Histories awarded 8 commissions as a means of exploring the afterlife of industrial buildings in Leicester and Glossop as well as relationships between people who might have used them. The commissions contributed substantially to the task of re-imagining urban history in the East Midlands.

Read the commisions

We worked closely with Phoenix Arts Centre, Cuttlefish and the artist Matteus Domingo to produce an animated, location-sensitive smartphone app and an illustrated book of the commissioned writing in 5 literary forms. You can purchase the book via Phoenix.

See the commissioned writers and their work:


Enquiries may be directed to Corinne Fowler.

Useful websites

Back to top