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The MixLab

The MixLab is an initiative set up to find out what happens when science and art collide.

The MixLabDuring National Co-production Week 2018, five emerging creatives and five health-related researchers from The University of Manchester got together to create.

The creatives came from the AudioLab and RhythmLab projects. The AudioLab (also a partnership between the Public Programmes Team and Reform Radio) engages young creatives from disadvantaged and/or challenging backgrounds - many of whom left education early - as audiences for, and producers of public engagement. 

Reform Radio's RhythmLab is a collaboration experiment funded by the Arts Council that pairs artists from different genres.

Each young creator was paired with a health researcher and, having never met before, had to co-create a piece of engaging output related to the researchers' topic in just one four-hour session. MixLab built on participatory methods, designed to level the playing field by addressing the power differentials often inherent in public engagement and building on the assets of the young adults taking part.

The results ranged from poems to pieces of music and were shared across social media. The pieces were also performed as part of the Science and Industry Museum's 'Culture Cure', as well as the Association for Science and Discovery Centres conference.

The MixLab's work has reached well over 2,000 people and the creative pieces continue to be viewed and performed.

This project aimed to engage young creatives from disadvantaged or challenging backgrounds with health research.

"All of the young adults in The MixLab didn't originally see science as 'for them'," says Bella Starling from the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow.

"But through The MixLab, they have engaged, in depth, with areas of science new to them and grown confidence in working with researchers."

The project has given these young creators a chance to build their portfolio and gain credibility as fledgling science communicators, leading to further paid work.

The MixLab was also designed to enable researchers to develop their own public engagement skills with marginalised groups.

"One of the researchers said that MixLab opened their eyes to working with more diverse audiences, which is a sentiment echoed by others taking part," Bella says, adding that some talked about the emotional investment and reward of the collaboration.

"Many of the researchers had to adapt their science communication skills to the project; it challenged the researchers' ways of doing public engagement."

Several of the researchers continue to use the creative outputs they co-created, in their teaching, research and public engagement.

Learn more

You can find videos of the creative pieces and the process behind them on their Facebook page and on YouTube

A blog post by one of the researchers involved in the project can be found on the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine PhD student blog.