Affective Digital Histories: An AHRC-funded research project

The Centre for New Writing has been centrally involved in the Affective Digital Histories project, devising and commissioning eight award-winning pieces of creative writing about de-industrialised Leicester and the milltown of Glossop. The commissioned writers worked closely with newly digitised archives to produce innovative new histories from below.

Affective Digital Histories Website

Affective Digital Histories Digital Archive

BBC Radio Leicester coverage of the commissioned writing’s inaugural readings


About the project | About the commissionsEnquiries | Commissions

Carol Leeming and Mark Goodwin
Carol Leeming and Mark Goodwin, commissioned writers (c. Pamela Raith photography )

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 Histories, 'the commissioned work 'reframes our collective knowledge of people whose lives rarely register in either local or official histories of post-industrial spaces.' (p.44). 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.

Corrine Fowler and commissioned writers
Corinne Fowler and commissioned writers (c. Pamela Raith photography )

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

Corinne Fowler and Ming Lim
Corinne Fowler and Ming Lim (c. Pamela Raith photography )

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.


Enquiries may be directed to Corinne Fowler.

Reading the book
(c. Pamela Raith photography )

Useful websites

Histories of 26 buildings in the Cultural Quarter, archive material and oral histories.

Information about the Leicester Mercury Archive at the University of Leicester.

Highfields Remembered - an earlier DMU project on nearby Highfields.

My Leicestershire - Online resources on the history of Leicester and Leicestershire, including Manufacturing Pasts – a project on Leicester’s recent industrial history (not CQ specific but useful for context).

Die-Hard Club - Contains archive material from Dielectric.

Rave Archive - Contains mix tapes / fanzines etc relating to the rave scene in the UK and overseas.

Read the commissions

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. The book can be purchased here.

Holding the book
(c. Pamela Raith photography )

The commissioned writers are Sarah Butler, David Devanny, Divya Ghelani, Mark Goodwin, Pete Kalu and Fereshteh Mozaffari, Carol Leeming, Kevan Manwaring and Irfan Master. Read the commissioned writers' blogs here.

You can read the commissioned work at the bottom of this page, on the smartphone app or you can order the book online.

Sarah Butler - Textiles: Spinning Stories in Glossop's Mills (flash fiction)

David Devanny - Crows Step in the Quarter / Animated version (poetry)

Divya Ghelani - An Imperial Typewriter (flash fiction)

Pete Kalu & Fereahteh Mozaffari - 5 Glossop Cats (radio play)

Carol Leeming - Love the Life You Live…Live The Life You Love (choreopoem)

Kevan Manwaring, Marginalia: Graffiti, Urban Coding and the Semiotics of the Street (historical narrative non-fiction).

Irfan Master - For The Love of Something (radio play)

Mark Goodwin - Mist's Rave (poetry)

News! Divya Ghelani's An Imperial Typewriter has been chosen by B3 Media Talent Lab to be turned into a short film as part of their talent scheme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic artists. Carol Leeming's commissioned choreopoem won the Siobhan Logan Writing for Listeners Award, 2015.

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Contact the Centre

The Centre for New Writing
School of English
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH

Dr Corinne Fowler

Deputy Directors:
Dr Harry Whitehead
Mr Nick Everett

Project Manager:
(Colonial Countryside)
Kevin Ncube

Useful Links:
Creative Writing at Leicester