Connecting Through Culture As We Age – Screen Reader Mode

Connecting Through Culture As We Age

We want to increase participation in social, digital and cultural life for all as we age. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for older populations, particularly those that are disabled, or racially or socio-economically minoritised.

Established in 2021, this three year UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge funded project is exploring how and why we take part in arts and culture as we get older. We are interested in how participation in all forms of arts and culture, particularly those accessed digitally, can influence our wellbeing and feelings of social connection as we age.

Working alongside disabled older adults and those that identify as socioeconomically and racially minoritized we will co-design new arts and cultural experiences. Our inclusive digital innovation process will encourage cross sectoral collaborations in designing new products, services and experiences, and support creative industries to grow and to better understand diverse older adults. 

The University of Bristol Team

We are pleased to introduce the Connecting Through Culture As We Age team representing the University of Bristol. We are an interdisciplinary team with experience encompassing arts and humanities, social and policy studies, computer science and human computer interaction. We look forward to announcing our community co-researchers in the coming weeks.

An illustration of a lady (Helen) with a laptop, busy with work and, sitting on the ground of her room is shown.

Dr Helen Manchester

Principal Investigator

Helen is academic lead person for the project. She’s passionate about working with different partners, designing creative activities and methods and spending time with older people. When not at work she enjoys swimming outdoors, tending her garden and getting out of the city. As a lover of indie music her natural habitat is in the moshpit but kitchen dancing is more common these days.

An illustration of a lady (Ki) speaking at a podium to a room full of people is shown.

Professor Kirsten Cater


Ki is a Professor in computer science with oversight of the digital aspects of this project. She is passionate about designing new technologies that enhance people’s lives by working closely with users to understand their needs. When not working she loves going on long walks with her husband, two daughters, and golden retriever dog or pottering around in the garden.

An illustration of a man (Paul) dropping a microphone after performing is shown.

Dr Paul Clarke


Paul is a practitioner-researcher exploring the use of digital technologies in participatory and place-based performance, along with creative responses to archives. Over the last 20 years he has directed 25 works with Uninvited Guests, which have shown internationally and at major UK cultural institutions. A series of AHRC and JISC-funded research projects with the Theatre Collection contributed to scholarship around the relationship between performance and the archive and led to the co-edited book Artists in the Archive, published by Routledge in 2018. In light of pioneering work with site-specific theatre, interactive performance and emerging technologies, he was awarded a Bristol+Bath Creative R+D Fellowship on the Digital Placemaking Pathfinder.

An illustration of a man (Paul), sitting and reading a paper is shown.

Dr Paul Mitchell


Paul is a researcher in health economics at the University of Bristol. He will be involved in the evaluation of the demonstrator products developed during this project. He is a keen music and sports fan. He likes to go for walks whenever the weather allows for it.

An illustration of a lady (Kirsty) sitting down in front of a freshly painted webpage artwork is shown.

Dr Kirsty Sedgman


Kirsty is a Doctor of Audiences and theatre academic, fascinated with how different people make sense of and find value in cultural experiences. With two little boys, a cocker spaniel, and a couple of cute pet rats, she’s often too busy for hobbies – but she’s obsessed with books (both reading and writing them!), loves her electric bike, and can often be found talking nonsense on Twitter.

An illustration of a lady (Jo) with a laptop, busy with work and, sitting at her desk is shown.

Jo Gildersleve

Research Coordinator

Jo Gildersleve is a Research Coordinator within the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering. Jo focuses on the coordination of interdisciplinary research projects across computer science, as well as civil and water engineering. With her additional research interests in History, a subject in which she holds an MPhil, Jo is also currently involved in a project that models stories from the classics of ancient Greece within an educational VR environments.

An illustration of a man (Stuart) reclining while using a VR headset is shown.

Dr Stuart Gray

Research Associate

Stuart Gray is a researcher in human-computer interaction. At work he enjoys designing and developing technologies that improve people’s health and wellbeing – making games and tools that encourage players to eat better, harness their mental and emotional skills, take more exercise, and monitor they eyesight. In his free time, Stuart enjoys playing fetch with the dog, playing football, watching gritty crime TV shows, and is an enthusiast of owning and driving 90s Japanese cars.

An illustration of a man (Tim) standing and admiring three portrait art works is shown.

Dr Tim Senior

Research Associate

Tim Senior is Impact RA on Connecting through Culture jointly with Tot Foster. Tim is a cross-sector collaboration specialist, with extensive experience working across the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Communities and Innovation. He is co-founder and research lead of supersum – the wicked problems agency (

An illustration of a lady (Karen) sitting on a pile of large books and reading a book of her own is shown.

Dr Karen Gray

Research Associate

Karen is a researcher on the project. She likes to garden (although she isn’t very good at it) and she does like to be beside the seaside, or a river, or a lake. She is a member of several book groups because that means she has to make time to read the books. She has her hands full with two teenage children and two cats.

An illustration of a lady (Tot) being edited within the frame of a digital video player is shown.

Dr Tot Foster

Research Associate

Tot Foster is a specialist in developing design-based methods and training in video production for charities and community organisations. In terms of practice she regularly works with communities across Bristol as an oral historian, whilst academically she is also part of a European research project on the development of digital skills for social innovation.

An illustration of a lady (Jenny) looking at an artwork.

Dr Jenny Barke

Research Associate

Jenny is a researcher on the project. She is a psychologist, and her role (shared with Alice) focuses on working with co-researchers across the project. Jenny is interested in how new knowledge is produced through creative collaboration and much of her work has been around social connectivity. Jenny loves travelling but when that’s not possible she’s generally found on the sofa happily watching box sets and Marvel movies with her family or playing board games.

An illustration of a lady (Alice) sitting on top of an abstract circular artwork is shown.

Dr Alice Willatt

Research Associate

Alice is a researcher on the project. She has a background in Organisation Studies with a focus on the voluntary and community sector. She enjoys developing collaborative research approaches that value the knowledge and experiences of the people and communities she researches with. Her role on the project involves building relationships with co-researchers and designing creative methods. In her spare time she loves to cook, travel, cycle and do some print making.

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Our Partners

We would like to thank UK Research and Innovation for funding this project as part of their Healthy Ageing Challenge. UKRI recognise that, “one in 12 people in the UK are over 75”, with this “rising to one in seven” by 2040. Moreover, “a third of children born now are expected to live to 100.” Meanwhile, “on average, people aged 65 will live just half of the rest of their life without disability.”

The Healthy Ageing Challenge aims for, “everyone to remain active, productive, independent and socially connected across generations for as long as possible to narrow the gap between the experiences of the richest and poorest”. As participants in the Healthy Ageing Challenge, the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project is contributing to the iniative’s ‘Community of Practice’ – a learning community that connects other challenge participants and other relevant parties in order to support each others’ projects and research. It is a chance for these organisations to collaborate and share expertise, to learn from each others’ experiences within the UKRI-funded projects and wider work.

Black South West Network is a Black-led racial justice infrastructure organisation. Their over-arching strategic intent is to build dynamic, independent, and strong Black and Minoritised communities, businesses and organisations that are empowered to flourish while challenging systemic barriers and forging a true path for themselves. They believe that only through this will we significantly address racial inequality. Their work falls into three broad areas – Cross-sector Enterprise and Innovation; Cultural Inclusion; Research and Knowledge – with Scrutiny and Accountability and Representation and Power as over-arching themes that cut through all of their work.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with Alive. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with WECIL. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with the Knowle West Health Park. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) is an arts-led charity based in South Bristol. KWMC’s mission is to achieve social, environmental and economic regeneration by involving the community in media activity, education and action. We work with people to co-create learning spaces and we provide skills training and opportunities for all ages to experiment with ‘making and producing’. We develop opportunities for a wide range of people to ‘imagine’ the future, by testing ideas and technology within communities, public spaces and homes. We support people to celebrate and build on the assets within their neighbourhood, and we ensure there are meaningful opportunities for people to engage in arts and culture in Bristol – particularly those who have had the least opportunity. Our digital manufacturing space KWMC The Factory, based at Filwood Green Business Park, supports a diverse community of creative practitioners, businesses and local residents to develop new skills, create and test new products and prototypes, and connect with others.

The Pervasive Media Studio hosts a brilliant community of over 100 artists, creative companies, technologists and academics exploring experience design and creative technology. It is a collaboration between Watershed, University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

“It’s a world of amazingness and wonder. If Willy Wonka existed, he’d be jealous of it :)”– Kieron Kirkland, former Magician-in-residence

Our projects can be cultural or commercial and span play, robotics, location-based media, food, connected objects, interactive documentary and new forms of performance. We test our projects as early as possible and iterate. We are based within Watershed on Bristol’s historic dockside. We have an open plan Studio with a culture of generosity, curiosity and interuptability. We believe that by clustering together people from a broad range of backgrounds, with differing skills, experiences and opinions, all of our ideas get better.

Age UK Bristol works to improve the lives of older people in Bristol. We do this through providing top-quality services, collaborating with other organisations working with older people, influencing local decision-making, and promoting positive attitudes to ageing in the city. Age UK Bristol offers a range of services for older people in Bristol, including activities to stay active and connected with others, as well as practical support on benefits, social care and housing. Since the start of the pandemic, AUKB has led the Support Hub for Older People. This is a collaboration of local charities all working with older people in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, to better meet the needs of the older population. The Support Hub is accessed via the AUKB main telephone line and can match callers with the support they need, whether that is from within AUKB or from the Hub or beyond.

The Age of Creativity provides leadership, profile, advocacy and infrastructure development for practitioners and others interested in the value of creativity for older people. We were established in 2012 with funding from the Baring Foundation. Our work supports professionals working in arts, health, culture, social care, academia and voluntary and community sectors to enable and sustain the involvement of older people in creative activities that support them to enjoy improved health, wellbeing and quality and life.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with the Creative Ageing Development Agency. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with Centre for Cultural Value. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with Bristol Culture. They will be contributing an overview of their work and their role in the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project soon.

Contact us

Dr Helen.Manchester
School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square
BS8 1JA Bristol