I write, curate, perform, and make ...
Dr Jenna C. Ashton is an artist and curator, and Lecturer in Heritage Studies, at the Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester. Jenna's research contributes to evolving social practice and creative methods within "heritage studies" theory and practice, for addressing social and ecological (in)justice. Jenna's work is often site-specific, highlighting experiences and knowledge(s) of place. Her research outputs are practice-based as well as journal or book focused, with a concern for how research dissemination articulates and embodies an ethics of practice, especially where co-creation has informed the research methods. She has over 15 years’ experience in community collaboration and co-production.
In 2017, Jenna was awarded an internationally competitive visiting Global Cultural Fellowship with the “Institute for International Cultural Relations”, Edinburgh University, working with thirty global curators, artists and policy makers exploring cultural exchange for addressing issues of human and environmental rights. She holds advisory and trustee roles in the UK and internationally.
Jenna is currently leading the project, "Community Climate Resilience through Folk Pageantry", AHRC, UK Climate Resilience Programme (2020-2022), and is a Co-I on “Creative Adaptive Solutions for Treescapes of Rivers (CASTOR)”, funded by NERC Future of UK Treescapes programme (2021-2024). Previously, she was a Co-I on project: “Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population (GHIA)”, NERC, Valuing Nature Fund: ref NE/N013530/1 (2016-2020).
Alongside her creative practice, Jenna is also working on two contracted books Creative Pedagogy for Messy Heritage (Routledge, 2023) and The Routledge Handbook on Heritage and Gender (Routledge, 2025).
Jenna the founder and Creative Director of the arts and heritage organisation Digital Women’s Archive North (2015 -), and in 2019-2020 in collaboration with women artists, she co-founded the Centre for International Women Artists, a collective artist studio and gallery experiment in Manchester, UK. Jenna is also 1/4 of artist collective InsideOutsideHouse (2018 -), with puppeteer and theatre maker Alison Duddle, animator Eleanor Mulhearn, and textile artist Alice Kettle.
Jenna teaches across critical heritage studies theory and practice, heritage policy and management, natural heritage, intangible cultural heritage, heritage and conflict, art curation, and museums studies and practice.
Trustee, Advisory and Consultant Appointments & Directorships
- Co-Founder and Co-Director, Centre for International Women Artists (CIWA), UK (2019 -)
- Advisor, Kosovo Heritage and Creative Industries, Bogujevci Family Foundation, Kosovo, (2019 -)
- Advisor, North Regional Advisory Board, National Trust, (2018 -)
- Research Consultant, National Trust, National Public Programming, (2017-)
- Trustee Treasurer, Delia Derbyshire Day charity, an arts commissioning and education programme celebrating the archive and work of electronic musician Delia Derbyshire, (2015 -)
- Project Committee, "Transitions & Mobilities: Girls growing up in Britain 1954 - 76, PI Prof Penny Tinkler, Sociology, UoM, ESRC, (2017 - 2020)
- Trustee and Chair for Public Engagement and Arts Programming, Victoria Baths Trust, (2015 - 2017)
- Founder and Creative Director, Digital Women's Archive North CIC, (2015 -)
- Campaign advisor and activist: Save Nutsford Vale, Friends of Ryebank Fields, Save Hulme Hippodrome, Friends of Baguley Hall, Save Ancoats Dispensary.
Memberships or Affiliations of Academic and Professional Bodies:
- Association of Critical Heritage Studies (International)
- The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage - TICCIH (International)
- Valuing Nature Network (NERC)
- Arts and the Artist in Landscape and Environmental Research Today Network (AHRC)
- Manchester Urban Institute (UoM)
- Urban Justice, Gender, and Social Difference group, MUI (UoM)
- Green Research in Education Group (UoM)
- Race, Roots, & Resistance (UoM)
- Manchester Environment Research Institute (UoM)
- Manchester Environment Education Network (Regional)
Areas of research include:
Marginalised cultural heritage and arts practices
Spatial practice and creative geographies
Art under conflict and creative resistance
Creative reuse of industrial sites
Arts and craft of industry
Local memory and industrial heritage
Ethics of care
Affect and heritage
Making, play, storytelling
Material archive/ object cultures
- Co-I on “Creative Adaptive Solutions for Treescapes of Rivers (CASTOR)”, NERC/ Future of UK Treescapes programme, 2021-2024, ref NE/V021117/1, funded value £1,993,614.
- PI: Partnership Development in Kosovo: “Empowering victims of war through art and culture: developing a museum of war, peace and memory in Kosovo”, GCRF - HEFCE Partnership Development Pump Priming, 2019-20, £25,990.
- Co-I: “Creative Methods for Representing Lived Experiences across Audiology, Deaf Education and Speech Therapy”, combined across Social Responsibility Fund, UoM, Wellcome ISSF, UoM, Ewing Foundation, Starkey Hearing Technologies, SEEChange Social Entrepreneurship Do It Award UMIP, UnLtd, HEFCE, Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation, and Learning (CHERIL), UoM, 2015-19, £61,950.
- Co-I: Project: “Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population (GHIA)”, NERC/AHRC/ESRC Valuing Nature Fund: ref NE/N013530/1, funded value £726,905. https://ghia.org.uk/
- PI: National Trust Commissions: “Women & Power” / “People’s Landscapes”, National Trust, 2017- 18, £15,000.
- PI: “The Travelling Heritage Bureau of Displaced, International Women Artists”, Heritage Fund, Aug 2017 – Jan 2019, £48,200. https://jcashton.com/thb
- PI: “Feminism in Heritage Discourse,” combined across Arts Council England, Ida Carroll Trust, Heritage Fund, HEFCE UnLtd, Wellcome ISSF, Digital Humanities Fund (UoM), £24,700.
Other research outputs:
- Lindley, SJ, Ashton, J et al (Jan 2020), Nature and Ageing Well in Towns and Cities: Why the natural environment matters for healthy ageing, Available at http://www.ghia.org.uk
- Ashton, J (Jan 2020), “Consultation Report Development of a museum of memory, peace and human rights in Kosova”, for the Bogujevci Family Foundation, Kosova.
- Ashton, J (Sept 2019), “Women and Power 2018: Research Report”, for the National Trust.
Audio-visual media (Film, Exhibitions, Installations, Performance)
- Co-Director and Producer, “Still I Rise”, Filmmaker and Director, Angelica Cabezas Pino (2019)
- Co-Curator & Artist, “The House of Opposites”, Dean Clough Mills (Feb - April 2020).
- Curator, “Deaf Education & Audiology: a journey through artefacts, archives and creativity”, Manchester Central Library (14 Oct - 14 Dec 2019).
- Curator, “Who Cares? Urban Nature” residency & exhibition, Manchester Museum (Mar 2019 - Jan 2020).
- Curator, “The Mothers of Tiananmen: 30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre 1989-2019”, CIWA Gallery (5 June - 31 Sept 2019).
- Curator, “The Travelling Heritage Bureau”, HOME Mcr (Refugee Week, June 2018).
- Curator & Producer, “Still I Rise”, Manchester Art Gallery (JFI, October 2018).
- Curator, “A Room of One’s Own”, Zellij Arts (Aug 2017 - Sept 2018).
- Co-Producer & Co-Curator, “Thread Bearing Witness”, Whitworth Art Gallery (Sept 2018 - April 2019).
- Curator, “Hearing Loss and Social Isolation in South Asian Communities”, Levenshulme Inspire Community Gallery (Dec 2016 - Feb 2017).
- Curator, “Telling Tales: speech communication disorders”, Manchester Central Library (Oct - Nov 2015).
- Artist, “In Memory of Chroma”, multi-sensory performance with Dr Frank Mair, Manchester Science Festival (26 Oct 2013) & “Dark Matters” exhibition, Whitworth Art Gallery (19 Nov 2011).
Selected Talks and Presentations:
- Kumu Art Museum, Estonia. Invited Keynote, conference, Women Artists
in Baltic and Nordic Museums, March 2020.
- University of Manchester. Co-Investigator Keynote, Nature and Ageing Well in Towns and Cities (final research project event for GHIA: https://ghia.org.uk/), Jan 2020.
- Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany. Invited presenter and workshop participant, Developing Cultural Heritage Practices and Collaborations: Manchester & Hannover, Oct 2019.
- Newcastle University, Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience Conference, invited paper on artists as heritage-makers in post-war Kosovo, 29 & 30 July 2019.
- Kosovo National Library, invited keynote, symposium, Kosovo, 20 years on, 29 March 2019.
- Oxford University and the National Trust Women and Power conference, invited presentation on behalf of NT on Methods of Unlocking Resonance and Relevance through National Creative Programming, 7 March 2019.
- National Archives & RLUK national conference DCDC18: Memory and Transformation, invited paper on the Travelling Heritage Bureau: addressing displacement and memory, 21 Nov 2018
- Valuing Nature Network (NERC) annual conference, invited paper on Participatory Arts and Creative Archiving for Valuing Urban Nature, 14 Nov 2018
- NWCDTP conference on Digital Humanities, Human Technologies, invited keynote on Digital Heritage, 11 Oct 2018
- British Society of Gerontology conference 2018, Averil Osborn Symposium, invited paper on participatory research practices, 6 July 2018
- Feminism and Museums Live! at Wonder Women Festival, invited keynote on book publication, People’s History Museum, 24 March 2018
visual culture, arts, feminism, museums, heritage, human rights, memory studies, conflict, archives, childhood, home, collecting, storytelling, affect, emotion, place, space, activism, migration, diaspora, craft