Public Engagement at the Core of Research

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Andrew Demetrius is a part-time PhD student in the School of Art History, where he investigates the historical position and legacies of public art in new towns such as Glenrothes. Although, cataloguing and archival work is a major part of this, he is more often found out and about, looking at the public art and meeting members of the community for whom this art impacts. Andrew believes that there is a close interweaving of the typical archival and cataloguing work of art history, and understanding the social history that public art can bring. As such, he is passionate for the wider public to see what they have in their public art and discuss with these community members about what this art means to them and how they can interact with it. There is an undeniable dialogue between Andrew and the public within his research which ultimately leads to engaged research.

David Harding, Rocket (1973) Source: David Harding

This conversation and dialogue was imbedded at the beginning of Andrew’s PhD project, by a soft launch event taking place in the Kingdom Shopping Centre in Glenrothes, where Andrew was able to introduce the project to the community and for him to understand how they felt towards the public art. This was especially important for Andrew’s project as, despite being public, due to the placement of the art, much of it is in some quite private places of the community. One of the benefits of being a part-time PhD student is that Andrew has been able to build that trust and dialogue with the community over the years, which has led to sufficient public interest for a BBC documentary on the public art of Glenrothes ‘Meet You at the Hippos’ (available until December 2022).

David Harding and Stanley Bonnar, Hippo Group (1973) Source: David Harding

One of Andrew’s aims for this documentary was to encourage the discussion of the art, to preserve stories surrounding it, and to share how this public art was able to create an identity and history to the new towns and humanise these new urban landscapes. This is because, as Andrew describes it, “we now have three generations with the Hippos”, which means the concrete hippo statues have become a local landmark and part of the identity of Glenrothes. Andrew feels that this new documentary was able to carefully tread the ambitious line between academic information with informal presentation, which as a TV audience is so broad, he hopes will enable people of all areas and interests to engage and identify with their community.

Andrew believes this public engagement work is important as he has been able to meet with some really interesting people and learn their stories, to document the development of new town art and community.

Industry, Glenrothes
David Harding, Industry (1970) Source: Peter Goldsmith


If you would like to learn more about how you can engage the public with your research, email the public engagement team on [email protected]

Related topics

Share this story