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Future Works is part of the Stories of Change project funded by the AHRC under the Connected Communities programme (April 2014- March 2017). The project aims to help to revive stalled public and political conversations about energy by looking in a fresh way at its past, present and future. The project stems from the cross-party commitments to decarbonisation that sit at the heart of the UK Government’s Climate Change Act (2008). It draws on history, literature, social and policy research and the arts to encourage a more imaginative approach to current and future energy choices. Stories of Change is a collaboration between the Open University, the University of Bath, the University of Birmingham, the University of Exeter, the University of Sheffield and the University of South Wales, and the arts organisations TippingPoint and Visiting Arts.

The Future Works strand of the project is based at the University of Sheffield and will uncover accounts of the relationship between energy, industry and landscape in the English Midlands and Derwent Valley region. Future Works is sparked by popular interest in industrial heritage and landscape, as well as widespread concern about the future of energy, work and making, in a region that has good claim to being the hearth of industrial manufacturing. It will gather communities together at a series of factory sites in or near the Derwent Valley to develop accounts of past, present and future energy system changes as they affect the workplace.

The project will forge connections with three distinctive communities that have been under-recognised and under-researched in relation to energy debates: apprentices (through SMEs, factories and research centres); employers and employees (through unions, the Chambers of Commerce and businesses); and volunteers (through industrial heritage and museum organisations). The research team together with its Project Partners will work to develop energy stories with the three communities (both past accounts, present experiences and future projections). We aim to invite a sense of shared ownership of the dilemmas and choices faced by a range of present-day industries large and small. We developed the project in collaboration with a range of partners drawn from industry, arts and academia and we are also meeting new partners in the process. Our industry partners include the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Derby Museums, Gripple Ltd., John Smedley’s Ltd., The South Yorkshire Industrial Museums Trust, Bloc Projects, Portland Works, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Transition Town groups in Belper, Derby and Melbourne, and the Derwent Valley Mills Trust.