AHRC UK Cities of Culture Project

The Walking Forest (Photograph: Adele Reed)


Informed by strong and robust data and building on the innovative approach to monitoring and evaluation taken by Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 (UK CoC 2021), the project demonstrated the transformative impact of the UK CoC 2021 programme and the role that arts and culture can and should play in the economic and social wellbeing of culturally diverse neighbourhoods, towns, and cities.

Led by the University of Warwick, the project received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation

The project adopted an evidence-based approach, to demonstrate the value of Arts and Humanities UK CoC 2021-driven research alongside economic, health, wellbeing and civic pride measures, while also connecting with the language of government – to placemaking and place-based research; levelling up; and culture and heritage capital.  It provided case studies of how the ‘city of culture journey’ can lead to transformational change in bidding cities.

Strands of Work

The project includes three strands of work.

Research and Future Cities of Culture

An initial ‘Towards a Research-Informed Approach’ document − released on 22 June − that includes:

  • a brief history of UK Cities of Culture including DCMS expectations around arts and culture as a catalyst for place regeneration and prosperity
  • how have previous UK Cities of Culture and other contending cities placed arts and culture at the centre of their civic ambitions and what are their expectations for the distinctive impact of culture-led place making
  • asking what the dimensions of value are that the arts and culture contribute towards and how are these grounded in the experiences of UK Cities of Culture and contending cities; social, economic, health and wellbeing, civic pride, place recognition, new place narratives, skills and talent development etc.
  • providing thought leadership and advice on research questions to inform the criteria and guidance for future UK City of Culture processes.

Future Trends Series

The Future Trends series − released on 8 December 2022 − discussed ways of thinking about the value of culture: the importance of research in understanding the place of culture in everyday lives, its impact on local people, society, economy and wellbeing and prosperity at large; and how this research-informed approach connects with the needs of policy making.

Each title in the series presented an expert analysis of current and future trends concerning key concepts or ideas, supported by case study evidence from UK CoC 2021:

  • Innovations in Economic Impact Assessment
  • Social Value Creation and Measurement in the Cultural Sector
  • Reasons to Co-create
  • Addressing Cultural and Other Inequalities at Scale
  • Maximising and Measuring the Value of Heritage in Place
  • Measuring the Impact of Arts and Culture on Wellbeing
  • Building Trust in Policing through Arts Collaboration


A roundtable event − Connecting Place, Culture, Research and Impact: Stories From Coventry − took place on 3 February 2023 at The Box, Fargo Village, Coventry. It showcased some of the innovative research and creative projects and independent UK CoC 2021 evaluation research case studies before discussing ‘What’s next?’

On 6 February 2023, a top level meeting was held in London. It included representatives of each of the UK Cities of Culture, DCMS and funding bodies and discussed operational practices and lessons learned that can be applied to future programmes.

Further Information

Related articles from Arts Professional Magazine were reproduced as insights articles entitled Research is Central to City of Culture and Evaluating large-scale cultural events.

This place-based knowledge exchange project, led by the University of Warwick, received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) logo


This website reflects a variety of UK CoC 2021 activities, funded by different funding bodies. It has been created as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project City Change Through Culture: Securing the Place Legacy of Coventry City of Culture 2021 (Grant Reference AH/W008769/1).

Coventry City of Culture 2021 logo Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) logo