REF2014 Impact Case Study: Popular Culture and the City: Exhibiting Inclusive and Challenging Urban Histories

Impact: Cultural & Creative Impacts, Economic & Commercial Impacts

Description of impact

Brad Beaven’s research into the changing character and form of popular culture in the English city between 1850 and 1945 underpinned the ‘Portsmouth Voices’ project’s engagement with class, gender and ethnicity in narrating the city’s past, and played a guiding role in the curation of a major exhibition that successfully challenged preconceived ideas on generation, race and sexuality.

Who is affected

Local communities, school groups, museum visitors including tourists visiting the city, museum staff and Portsmouth City Council by contributing HLF funding. Museum exhibition policy.


The basis of this research is how working class communities, particularly men, responded to civic initiatives aimed at influencing their working lives and leisure habits, in peace and in war. Beaven's monograph Leisure, Citizenship and Working Class Men,1850 -1945 explored the issue of social class and identity in the midlands and southeastern England 1850-1945. The book was based on original research of government records, contemporary newspapers, youth organisation archives etc and demonstrated the problems of assuming homogeneity in working class culture and illustrated the importance of gender and generation in developing working class identities. In the book and in other peer reviewed publications, Beaven explored a range of themes including teenage cultures, courtship, and the gendered nature of work and leisure patterns. These topics formed the basis of collaboration with Portsmouth City Museum's Portsmouth Voices project through Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF).
Portsmouth Voices successfully engaged with local communities through an oral history project,as well working closely with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Trust. Beaven played a major role in winning the £223,500 HLF grant which provided important income for the museum enabling them to secure appropriate staffing levels for the project (economic impact) and to create the Portsmouth Voices exhibition (together with publications and educational packs) which used Beaven's research themes as the themes for the exhibition itself. This approach to exhibition design also inspired the museum to re-evaluate its approach to future exhibitions. The impact that stemmed from Beaven's research therefore also included cultural and quality of life impacts.
Impact statusOpen
Category of impactCultural & Creative Impacts, Economic & Commercial Impacts
Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


  • REF2014