News Release

Durham University receives £9m Wellcome award to transform humanities’ contribution to health research

Embargoed until 00:01 BST on Thursday 4 May 2023

Grant and Award Announcement

Durham University

-With pictures-

Durham University researchers have been awarded the largest grant ever made by the Wellcome Trust for humanities research.

The £9 million award was announced today (4 May 2023) and will fund a new Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities (DRP-MH).

The Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities will bring the stories and perspectives of people with lived experience of complex health conditions to the forefront of health research.

The Platform will involve people with lived experience and people from marginalised communities as the co-creators of research tackling global health challenges, including mental ill health and health inequalities.

Based at Durham University, the Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities will support a diverse, international and cross-sector network of researchers to develop new and experimental approaches to intractable health problems.

It will enable large-scale collaborations with community, creative, health and voluntary sector organisations, and involve over 200,000 global academics and lived experience researchers through international partnerships with leading Universities in the USA, Sweden, the Netherlands, South Africa and China.

The researchers come from a wide range of fields including Literary Studies, Psychology, Philosophy, History, Sport and Exercise Science, Education and Sociology.

Speaking about the ambitions for the project, the Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities (DRP-MH) Director, Professor Angela Woods of Durham University, said: “In the face of national and international health crises – pandemics, the climate emergency, and global inequalities – ambitious and innovative approaches to understanding experiences of health and illness are urgently needed.

“The DRP-MH will create spaces to experiment with new creative methods and interrogate and expand the kinds of knowledge that are treated as evidence in medicine and health policy.”

Platform co-Director Dr Ben Alderson-Day of Durham University continued: “Through new partnerships, training programmes and fellowship schemes, we will empower people living with challenging and highly complex health conditions – many of which correlate with health inequalities – to take leading roles in the design and delivery of interdisciplinary health research.

“This will enable new and diverse voices – particularly those from previously ‘silenced’ or ‘invisible’ communities – to contribute to healthcare research and practice”, Dr Alderson-Day added.

The DRP-MH will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas between researchers, people with lived experience, clinicians and creative professionals through work at three physical sites: St Anthony’s Health Centre (a GP practice in one of the most socio-economically deprived areas of the UK), the Recovery College Collective (a peer led mental health education and support service based in Newcastle upon Tyne), and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

It will host six Labs for catalysing new methodologies in the medical humanities.

The six Labs will focus on methodological innovation and use creative and experimental approaches to generate new research questions on topics such as chronic pain, addiction, mental health, neurodiversity and disability, as well as exploring the links between reading, narrative and wellbeing with the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Dr Jonny Coates of St Anthony’s Health Centre, a core partner in the DRP-MH, said: “GP practices like ours are traditionally under-represented in health research, which means that research findings are not representative of our communities. When these findings translate to policy, the voices of our patients are absent.

“This partnership with Durham University is an exciting opportunity to bring the voices of our patients to the forefront of the healthcare agenda. By fostering genuine, deep collaborations between patients, clinicians and researchers, it will enable us to deliver innovative health solutions that will improve care for the marginalised groups we serve.”

Alisdair Cameron, co-Director of the Recovery College Collective (ReCoCo) in Newcastle remarked: “This Platform means that communities that have waited far too long for the privilege of inclusion will now be able to use their hard-won insights, skills and lived experience to support themselves, establish best practice and co-create research that will shape the future of mental health services.”

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: “The integrated and multidisciplinary nature of the Platform is hugely inspiring. Its potential to engage new and diverse audiences and to transform our understanding of the relations between stories, wellbeing and health is enormous.”

The DRP-MH will have strong links with the voluntary and community sector. Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of the UK mental health charity Mind and DRP-MH Advisory Board member remarked: “This award is very exciting for the mental health sector. It shows that Wellcome recognise the value of lived experience and humanities approaches to mental health research.”

The Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities builds on the research excellence and flourishing research culture of Durham University’s Institute for Medical Humanities and will reflect on the core values of the Institute: creativity, courage and inclusivity.

It will support the UK’s first Creative Facilitation Unit – a group of specialist staff skilled in the use of arts-based and experimental techniques that enhance interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration – to catalyse new research projects.

Notable projects carried out at the Institute for Medical Humanities include Hearing the Voice – a 10-year award winning interdisciplinary research project on voice-hearing (auditory verbal hallucinations); and Life of Breath – a 5-year collaboration with the University of Bristol that drew on humanities and social science approaches to improve our understanding of breath and breathlessness.


Media Information

Professor Angela Woods is available for interview.

For interview requests and further information on the grant, please contact Victoria Patton on or +44 (0)7543 099255.

Alternatively, please contact Durham University Communications Office on or +44 (0)191 334 8623.


Associated images are available via the following link:

International Partners in the Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities

Vanderbilt University

Peking University

Nanyang Technological University

University of Capetown

University of Pretoria

University of Johannesburg

Linköping University

University of Groningen

Centre for Mental Health

About Wellcome

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and climate and health.

About the Institute of Medical Humanities

The Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH) at Durham University conducts interdisciplinary research into hidden experience: experiences of health and illness which are marginalised, difficult, unspeakable, unacknowledged or invisible.

We aim to transform knowledge within and beyond the critical medical humanities, improve health policy and practice, and benefit the lives of communities and individuals.

Our vibrant, inclusive research culture fosters creative approaches to interdisciplinarity and digital health innovation.

For more information about the IMH visit:

To find out more about its flagship projects, Life of Breath and Hearing the Voice, visit:,

About Durham University

Durham University is a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research based in historic Durham City in the UK.

We are a collegiate university committed to inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham and in the world.

We conduct boundary-breaking research that improves lives globally and we are ranked as a world top 100 university with an international reputation in research and education (QS World University Rankings 2023).

We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive UK universities and we are consistently ranked as a top 10 university in national league tables (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Guardian University Guide and The Complete University Guide).

For more information about Durham University visit:

END OF MEDIA RELEASE – issued by Durham University Communications Office.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.