This research strand brings together popular culture, one of Jenzen’s key research areas, with community engaged research. Central projects to this theme include the AHRC funded project The People's Pier: The popular culture of pleasure piers and cultural regeneration through community heritage, which Jenzen is currently leading and the ‘What football players do is part of the kids lives': Exploring the connections between young people and sporting celebrity project which aims to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the disconnections between young people and sporting 'celebrities' as community resources at the local, national and global level.
It is important to gain an updated understanding of 21st century pier culture. This includes more in-depth knowledge about how seaside piers as popular culture and leisure spaces converge with new usages such as those introduced with the concept of the community pier. 'The People's Pier' is a research project that investigates community piers as an emerging form of community hubs. It focuses on two related aspects of the pier and community connectivity; first how communities of place may be strengthened in their confidence by taking collective action to safeguard a local heritage asset like the pier and second how the community pier and its popular culture heritage can be utilised to build positive relationships across different groups and empower the community. However, regeneration processes are complex and not always inclusive; they can be both divisive and inequitable. The project therefore also explores processes of disconnection and conflict around the pier as a community space.
Community ownership enterprises are often regarded as an outcome of an existing community's collective effort and ability to rally around a common interest. This project takes a different view by considering how communities connect and emerge through community ownership and related processes such as collective action to 'save' and develop the pier. Such processes involve both connections and disassociation and may be understood as a community making processes in themselves.
Further, the project seeks to explore how the rich popular culture heritage of seaside leisure piers can be used as a resource for the benefit of the community. It places popular culture at the heart of community building and it affirms popular culture as part of a community's cultural heritage, thus challenging traditional perspectives on heritage.
This research is conducted in collaboration with two community partners who are at different stages of realising their goal of restoring, developing and sustainably running a community enterprise pier: The Hastings Pier Charity and The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Foundation and bings together researchers from four UK universities. The project is cross disciplinary and has a stake in debates across Cultural Studies and the study of popular culture, Economies of regeneration and community participation, Cultural Geography, Music studies and Screen and Film studies.