The Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG) is a community engagement initiative based in the School of Arts and Creative Industries (ACI). CERG builds on UEL's strong commitment to public and community engagement, focusing on critical and co-created explorations of complex economic, social and cultural factors framing everyday practices of people in East London and South Essex.

On this page you can find out about old CERG events and where they took place.

You can also find out more about CERG by visiting the CERG blog

CERG are: Dr Tony Sampson (ACI), Dr Andrew Branch (ACI) & Giles Tofield (Cultural Engine Community Interest Company)


UEL's Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG) and the Royal Docks Learning & Activity Centre (RDLAC) present an alternative view on 'community wealth building'


UEL's Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG) and the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre (RDLAC) present The Silvertown Sessions: 'Community Wealth Building'.

This event invites people to consider this concept of 'community wealth building' as a possible alternative to the broken austerity agenda. During the session our group will aim to answer these questions about our community:

  1. Why does money made in the local community not stay in the community?
  2. Why does global corporate competitiveness always come before local co-operation?
  3. How might the local economy improve if local authorities, universities and businesses procured their products and services from local traders rather than global corporations?
  4. Could these changes increase jobs and bring prosperity closer to home?

The workshop will take place at the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre. The programme will be as follows:

7pm: Welcome reception with local food and drink, followed by an introduction to the Silvertown Sessions from Dr Tony Sampson (CERG) and Joy Caron-Canter (RDLAC)

7.30pm: Discussion chaired Dr Andrew Branch (CERG)

Framing the Concept: Giles Tofield (CERG) 

Guest Talk on the Preston Model by Dr Julian Manley (UCLAN) University of Central Lancashire 

Responses from Dan Durcan (senior policy officer, London Borough of Newham) and Chris Abell (local affairs manager, Tate and Lyle)

Audience Q&A

9pm: Break with more local food and drink

9.30pm: Two workshops with the local community, traders, academics, local authority, and academics, plus an open discussion

10.30pm: Close

CERG presents: Youth in the Community


This Silvertown Session invites you to debate Youth in the Community  from a range of viewpoints, including strategies for youth empowerment, critical thinking on youth crime prevention practice and neighbourhood policing, as well as local perspectives from community leaders on youth safety. We will also hear from Newham Council about the Mayor's Youth Safety Board and invite you to have your say on these policies.

Join the Debate

Youth culture can play an incredibly important role in sustaining and reinventing the local community. Youth can bring together and refresh communities.

In the past decade, local communities have seen funding cuts to many youth services and crime prevention agencies supposed to help young people flourish and maintain stability in the community. The current rise in youth related violence is arguably a symptom of this decline leaving all of the community feeling increasingly unsafe. 

Can this decline be reversed? There are some encouraging signs. The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, has 'made youth safety a major priority' in the borough. In 2018 she announced the launch of Youth Citizen Assemblies, enhanced activities and transformed services, including doubling the number of youth hubs. The local authority says they are 'listening to… young people about their experiences living in the borough,' asking them what they need to make them feel safe.

Come and join the debate on 28 November.


Starts 7pm with free food, drink and activities 

7.30pm Introduction to Silvertown Sessions (Andrew Branch, University of East London and Joy Caron-Carter, RDLAC) 

7.35pm Chair's introductions (Tony Sampson, University of East London)

7.40pm Guest speaker. Prof Lez Henry (UWL) Goal Models 

8.05pm Q&A 

Panel talks

8.10pm - Frances Winter (Newham Council) on the Mayor's Youth Safety Board

8.20pm Dr Anthony Gunter (University of East London) 

8.30pm Joy Caron-Carter (RDLAC) 

8.40pm Q&A 

8.50pm Break - with food, drink and activities

9.20pm audience Q&A

End 10pm 

The Silvertown Sessions are organized by RDLAC and the Cultural Engine Research Group (University of East London) 
This event is funded by the University of East London's ENGAGE FUND, RDLAC and The Cultural Engine.

Club Critical Theory hosts a free two-day conference focusing on public policy areas that impact local communities


Club Critical Theory (CCT) is a partnership between the University of East London (UEL) and Southend-based social enterprise The Cultural Engine. Established in 2014, CCT is a public engagement programme that seeks to encourage academics to get out into community spaces to explore how radical theory can inform the imaginative life of society.

CCT's co-founders are Giles Tofield (The Cultural Engine), Dr Andrew Branch (UEL) and Dr Tony Sampson (UEL).

Keynote speakers:

Robert Hewison (cultural historian and author of Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain)

Jack Monroe (writer, journalist and activist)

Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

The programme will also include local entrepreneurs and key policy makers. 

Day One: Thursday, 15 September

Doors open at 9.30am

Morning session: 10am - 1pm

Introduction to CCT: Tony Sampson

Creative Industries and Entrepreneurialism: Exploring the drive by local authorities and other agencies to encourage growth in 'creative sectors'. What impact is this really having on regional economies, and is it any more than simply 'branding'? 

Robert Hewison (cultural historian and author of The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain)

Joe Hill (Director of Focal Point Gallery)

Duncan Smith (Artistic Director of the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art) 

Chair: Andrew Branch 

Afternoon session: 2-5pm

Food Cultures: Who is really setting the agenda in terms of policies on health and wellbeing in respect of what food we buy and consume? What can be done at a local level to improve 'food cultures' in the context of national policies which endorse a free market vision of society? 

Vic Borrill (Director of Brighton and Hove Food Partnership)

Jack Monroe (Writer, Journalist and Activist)

Chair: Giles Tofield

Evening drinks at the Railway Hotel

Day Two: Friday, 16 September 

Doors open at 9.30am

Morning session: 10am -1 pm

Cultural Policy, Heritage and Place-Making: What do we mean by 'place-making' at a local level? Who creates the stories and narratives that define how our towns and cities are to be 'branded'? Does local cultural policy (where it still exists) have a role to play in creating really distinctive identities and differences in a globalised world economy? How is local 'heritage' being used to promote new narratives of towns, cities and regions? 

Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Scott Dolling (Head of Economy, Regeneration & Tourism, Southend Borough Council)

Robert Bean (Founder of Robert Bean Branding Co)

Chair: Giles Tofield

Closing remarks by Andrew Branch

The Essex Futures Conference is funded by the University of East London.

Resorting to the Coast: Valuing the Past to Shape the Future 


UEL, Essex County Council and the Cultural Engine social enterprise based in South Essex are co-organising this all day conference as part of Resorting to the Coast, a Heritage Lottery Funded and Essex County Council project, supported by Tendring District Council.

About the Conference

'Resorting to the coast' has been a national pastime since the Victorian period, evolving to address demographic changes, greater mobility, fluctuating levels of prosperity and competing leisure activities. The conference will look at the current issues in the national debate around seaside coastal resorts in relation to promoting their often unsung heritage. Specifically, our focus will be on the Tendring coastal resorts of Dovercourt, Walton, Frinton, Clacton and Jaywick Sands. Local history groups associated with these resorts are heavily involved in archiving and promoting their seaside heritage, but we ask whether this valued work is sufficient to attract new visitors? In a world of uneven development, how does a resort set itself apart from the competition? How do you unite as a coastal region when the reality is you're in competition with each other? Can lessons be drawn from the past in order to resuscitate the 'Great British Seaside Holiday' as an object of desire, or is it time to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?

Full programme will appear on this site soon.


Confirmed speakers, guests and activities include:

Dr Tony Lidington (Keynote speaker)

Dr Kathryn Ferry (Historian)

Dr Toby Butler (Historian)

Dr Daniel Burdsey (University of Brighton)

Dr Tim Gale (University of Bournemouth)

Joanne O'Connor (Journalist)

Tim Burrows (Journalist)

Club Critical Theory (University of East London)

Harwich Society

Clacton & Local District History Society

Frinton & Walton Heritage Trust

History Fair

Cinema screenings

'Curator's corner - ask an expert

Links: Resorting to the Coast website


Conference Organisers:

RTTC Project Lead: Juliana Vandegrift (Essex County Council)

UEL Project Lead: Dr Tony Sampson (


Organising Committee Members

Dr Toby Butler

Dr Andrew Branch (UEL)

Giles Tofield and Peter Vadden (Cultural Engine social enterprise)


Project Team

Social Media: Katie Holland (UEL)

Programme Co-ordinators: Rebecca Gilchrist and Jessica Currie (UEL)

Conference Activities and Events Management: Naomi Nanor and Amy Marks (UEL)

Graphic Design: Laetitia Zanga (UEL)