About Affective Digital Histories

Affective Digital Histories is investigating how communities change with urban decline and regeneration, exploring the hidden and untold stories of the people who lived and worked in former industrial buildings in two locations in the East Midlands - Leicester's Cultural Quarter and Glossop, a market town in north Derbyshire.

The decline of British manufacturing in the late 20th Century is well-documented, and led to factories and warehouses being adapted to serve new purposes - dance halls, night clubs, and housing, for example. However, the personal stories of the individuals and communities directly affected are often unrecorded so we know little about their emotional bonds with the places they inhabited; it is these stories that reveal how people connect with physical spaces and offer insights into people's relationships with former industrial sites that have subsequently undergone some kind of regeneration.

Affective Digital Histories is working with community participants to collect personal stories and reminiscences to create a picture of how communities shape their environment economically and culturally, and how community and intercultural relationships have occurred in the context of urban change.

A great deal of archive material is also available, but it can be difficult to access and is scattered around many different places. Researchers from the University of Leicester are collecting, analysing and digitising the data that exists to create a digital archive of publicly accessible information including images, press cuttings, audio and video clips. The Leicester archive material is complemented by specially commissioned soundscapes and creative writing, which are being used to develop Hidden Stories and Sounds of the Cultural Quarter, two brand new apps that delve deep into the untold history of Leicester's Cultural Quarter.

Digital technologies enable the creation of sustainable, long-lasting materials that will be accessible to the public, researchers, civic and education organisations, creative arts practitioners and businesses for years to come.

Photographs of a Northern Soul all-nighter held at the Palais de Danse, Humberstone Gate, 1975. Courtesy of the Leicester Mercury Archive at the University of Leicester.

Who's Involved?

The project is based at the University of Leicester and involves researchers from the departments of Management, Urban History, Geography, Museum Studies, Centre for New Writing based at the School of English, and Digital Humanities and metadata specialists from the University Library.

Other project partners are De Montfort University, East Midlands Oral History Archive, Cuttlefish Multimedia Ltd, and Phoenix.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Sites of Interest

Leicester's Cultural Quarter

The Cultural Quarter was once the bustling industrial and commercial district of St George's, home to hosiery and footwear manufacturers. Industrial decline after the 1960s led to factories closing and by the late 1990s the area was largely abandoned. Regeneration funding has since transformed the area into a hub for creative industries with former warehouses and factories now converted into trendy urban apartments.

While the Cultural Quarter's industrial past is clear, far less is known about the period from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, when groups such as the Leicester United Caribbean Association, punks, goths, bikers, cross-dressers and gay-friendly organisations used the growing number 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 20th Century, resulting in abandoned cotton and paper mills that had dominated the town from the late eighteenth century. Gentrification of some factories and industrial housing has occurred, though abandoned or under-used industrial buildings remain; over time these buildings have been 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, increasing the likelihood of them becoming derelict through abandonment, or possibly acquired by community groups.