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Using art and music to explore medical research is an exciting way to engage the public. A number of projects across our departments have seen collaborations with artists, animators and dancers to communicate research and engage the public with the latest medical discoveries.

Our research represented at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

The CHERUB HIV Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 

ROYAL CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

The CHERUB HIV garden is a landmark project for, and about, people living with HIV. It was launched at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 and conceived by Professor John Frater (Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine), and his colleagues from the CHERUB Collaboration. The Garden was developed working with young people living with HIV, and acts as a focus to develop conversations, for stigma to be openly addressed, and for increased understanding about HIV for those with and without the infection. Find out more.

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Images of the CHERUB HIV Garden, courtesy of Ian Wallman. 

ART

Divisional researchers use art exhibitions and projects to communicate their research with the public. A collaboration between the Oxford Printmakers Co-operative and the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine) saw sixteen researchers paired with sixteen OPC artists to produce different works based on their research. These pieces were exhibited at the Fusion Arts Centre, Cowley Road – see a selection

Researchers from the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology have also contributed a number of microscopy images to an exhibition in University Parks, offering members of the public the opportunity to see the beautiful images produced by the Dunn School Bioimaging Facility. Researchers from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics also contributed images.

Researchers have also worked with animators to communicate their research to the wider public. Peter Oliver, Associate Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, is involved in the 'Silent Signal Project, a group exhibition that brings together animators and leading biomedical scientists to create experimental animated artworks exploring new ways of thinking about the human body. Working with animator Ellie Land, Professor Oliver produced an animation exploring the link between sleep and mental health, and how circadian rhythms can define our experience of the day – see the animation. The project was recently selected by The British Council to been shown in South Korea as part of a science and arts event in Deajeon, taking Divisional research even further afield. 

theatre

Video courtesy of Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah

In 2016, the The Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) collaborated with B-Floor Theatre to produce Fishy Clouds, a puppet theatre show created to engage communities in Thailand with issues of antimicrobial resistance and ethics of research with children. Due to the vast and varying target audience, non-verbal life size puppets were combined with live music and audience participation to create a narrative that could be understood and related to in different contexts. The story, about the proper use of antimicrobials and consenting to involving children in research, enabled all audience members, regardless of language, to connect to the narrative and be moved by the situations and characters it presented.

Fishy Clouds ran for twelve shows during the months of November and December 2016 in schools, hospitals, theatres and health centres. The show was performed in Bangkok and in the greater Mae Sot area in the Tak district of Thailand. Approximately 1500 people watched Fishy Clouds with the audience spanning children, scientists, theatre goers, and migrant Burmese and Karen populations. A University Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund helped to support this project - find out more. 

MUSIC

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Singing with the public. Image courtesy of Nasir Hamid

Breathe Oxford is a research group based in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences that investigates how the brain generates the feeling of being breathless, and how it is affected by stress, mood and previous experience. The group has run a poetry event, ‘To Breathe Ourselves into some Other Lungs,’ with scientists, writers, and members of the public contributing poems about breathing, and also collaborated with music therapist Kate Binnie to produce a breath soundscape entitled ‘First and Last Breath.’   

DANCE

Researchers from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine have worked with Flux Dance Theatre to put together a performance about atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. 'AF' debuted at Oxford's Curiosity Carnival, and audiences were captivated as the four dancers performed a danced infographic about the heart and heart rhythms – see a video of the performance below. 

GAMES AND CRAFTS

SeanEliasatCC.jpegResearchers in the Division constantly develop new ways to engage the public with their research. Dr Sean Elias, who is based at the Jenner Institute in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, runs a Researcher Board Game Café, where members of the public can come and play short, themed board games each hosted by a different researcher who uses the game to highlight their academic research. The experience is designed to be immersive, with members of the public being faced with real research problems or challenges that they have to navigate with the help of the resident researcher. 

Sean in action at Curiosity Carnival (image courtesy of Ian Wallman). 

Emma Palmer-Cooper and Anne Ferrey, who are based in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, have organised The Yarnfulness Project, which aims to engage with local and online communities who practice yarn-based crafts in order to understand their opinions of mindfulness practice. The project will use this information to design a pilot study to investigate the impact of yarnbased craft on health and wellbeing. The project will be public facing, and progress is reported through an engaging web-based blog - find out more.