Press release

Hubbub in modern life explored as new £1m Wellcome Collection residency begins

The urge to be busy defines modern life. Rest can seem hard to find, whether in relation to an exhausted body, a racing mind or a hectic city. Should we slow down, or should we embrace intense activity? What effects do each of these states have on the health of our bodies and minds? A new research group called Hubbub have taken residence at Wellcome Collection and are bringing together scientists, humanists, artists, clinicians, public health experts, broadcasters and public engagement professionals to breathe new life into the questions we ask about rest and busyness.

The group are the first occupants of a new dedicated space, The Hub at Wellcome Collection, designed to house two-year long interdisciplinary projects exploring medicine, health and wellbeing. A core team of five, led by social scientist Felicity Callard (Durham University), have been awarded a £1 million grant and will work with over 40 partners of rich variety to explore the dynamics of rest, tumult, activity and work, as they operate in mental health, neuroscience, the arts and everyday life. Other core members are psychologist and writer Charles Fernyhough (Durham University), broadcaster Claudia Hammond (BBC's 'All in the Mind' and 'Health Check'), neuroscientist Daniel Margulies (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences) and poet James Wilkes (Durham University).

Hubbub will have freedom to explore and develop research and public outputs over their residency, staging experiments, exhibitions, events and broadcasts. It is hoped that the use of different modes of investigation will produce a novel archive about rest and activity in early 21st-century city life, and offer unexpected avenues for academic and creative inquiry, clinical practice and public policy. A core cohort of London participants will be recruited during residency to help study different cultures of rest, with investigations crossing the arts, psychology, neuroscience and the social sciences.

Partners from diverse specialisms will explore how divisions between the ‘resting’ and ‘non-resting’ mind and body are understood and lived at different historical moments and by different kinds of people. The group will examine the many attempts to map activity, noise, clamour and silence across space at different scales, from cartography to self-monitoring to brain mapping, and interrogate different methods and data sets, entangling micro-scale geometric data on city noise, ‘noisy’ brain data and artistic mappings of sound and silence.

Details of all the Hubbub contributors can be found on the Hubbub website.

Felicity Callard, Hubbub group leader, says: “It is a great honour to have been selected as the first residents of this flagship space for interdisciplinary research. The Hub offers a unique opportunity to be experimental in all senses of the word – and we are enormously excited at the thought of bringing new ideas and things into the world through entangling the experimental practices of artists, scientists, humanists, public engagement professionals and, indeed, of diverse Londoners. The search for rest in a world of tumult, busyness and noise preoccupies many of us. Our two years in The Hub will allow us the space and time both to investigate this common, but complex, desire and to uncover the multiple ways in which people find – or don’t find – ways of satisfying it.”

Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection, says: “Hubbub promises a thrilling commingling of creative minds, of thinkers and makers. It’s a collaborative project of dizzying variety in search of answers to questions that are pressing to all of us caught up within the tumult of modern life. We have established the Hub as part of an expanded Wellcome Collection to foster unexpected and original research and activity and we look forward to being surprised and enriched by the work Felicity Callard and her group will nurture during their residency.”

Hubbub are residents of the Hub at Wellcome Collection between October 2014 and July 2016.