The Brexit Workshop

How did Brexit exasperate new and old anxieties about immigration, racism, class, and the so-called 'left-behind'? How can the academic community and city partners collaborate to undo the damage this caused?

What did the project involve? 

This project sought to explore the implications of Brexit for social divisions in the city – with a view to thinking productively and constructively, with colleagues from other disciplines and partners in the city, to address these.

The researchers invited participants to take part in a workshop to think through the impact of Brexit on Bristol and how researchers, in collaboration with various stakeholders in the city, might develop interim solutions to address the lived experience of diversity in Bristol, particularly with respect to the ways in which some cleavages (or at least the perception of some cleavages) have been exacerbated in the aftermath of Brexit. The researchers believed that Brexit had laid bare a number of the cleavages across different communities in Bristol, producing new (and reproducing old) anxieties about immigration, racism, class, and the so-called ‘left-behind’.  Their aim was to work with different communities and practitioners in Bristol to identify these cleavages and also to develop innovative and immediate but also lasting strategies to alleviate them.

The workshop was an informal event to discuss this theme with colleagues across different faculties and schools in the University.  Their purpose was to develop a focus and coherent approach to their theme in advance of inviting practitioners from the city for a half-day workshop later in the year.  The aim of that workshop was to co-produce solutions to the problems they had uncovered.  This was to be followed a public launch event where they re-convened with the other themes and launched our policy agendas for Bristol.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Therese O’Toole (University of Bristol) is a sociologist who’s research interests are in the fields of ethnicity, governance, political activism and social movements. Particularly she has published work on political engagement amongst ethnic minority young people, on young people and politics in the UK, and on Muslim participation in contemporary governance.
  • Jon Fox (University of Bristol) is a sociologist who’s main areas of research are in nationalism, ethnicity, racism, and migration. With each topic, he is interested in the ways in which ordinary people reproduce ethnic, national, and racialised forms of collective belonging in their everyday lives.

What were the results?

Following the workshop with colleagues from other disciplines the researchers held a workshop with their community partners, and used that to consolidate their relationships and develop themes and questions for their planned research together. This culminated in a bid to the ESRC standard open grant scheme, for a £1m project on Everyday Integration: The Local Contexts, Practices and Mobilities of Integration, with Jon Fox as PI, and Bridget Anderson (SPAIS), David Manley (Geographical Sciences) and Therese O’Toole as Co-Is.

The researchers also received the support of and commitments from Bristol City Council and the Mayor’s Office and 4 City Partners who collaborated with them on the aims, design and implementation of the project, and 25 Community Partners who were to participate in the project. A key aim of the project was to co-produce an Integration Strategy for Bristol, and an Integration Toolkit for dissemination elsewhere.