November 4, 2020

Music and Digital Storytelling as both Methods and Outputs for Research and Action on Air Pollution

Cressida Bowyer et al.

Air pollution is a growing threat to health globally, particularly in urban areas. The inspiration and expiration of polluted air not only can cause disease, but can exacerbate existing illness. In the case of Covid-19, air pollution is thought to not only exacerbate the risk of infection, but also the severity of symptoms and mortality. In light of this global pandemic, tackling air pollution has taken on a new level of urgency and creative arts-based methods have much to offer. In this workshop, members of the AIR (Air Pollution Interdisciplinary Research) Network ( will showcase two creative methods for both research and action: digital storytelling and music-making. Participants will get some first-hand experience co-creating a digital story online during the workshop on the topic of breath and pollution*. Examples of songs, music videos and digital stories from two projects will be shared. In the most recent Tupumue Project (, creative arts-based methods were used to explore the topic of air pollution and produce audio-visual resources for awareness raising and community mobilisation. In this workshop we will outline issues of process and highlight lessons learned. We will facilitate a discussion around using music and digital storytelling as both research and community-engagement strategies.

* Please have a piece of white paper and a marker or thick pen with you. If possible, use a headset (mic and headphones), or at least headphones. This will improve sound quality.  

* Please be aware that we will be co-creating a digital story in this workshop that will be posted online for open access after the workshop. If you do not want the voice/sound recordings, text or images that you create in the workshop to be included, you must let the convenors know. You can still participate in the workshop” 

Bibliography of Digital Stories and Songs:

  1. Tupumue song and music video
  2. Mazingira song and music video
  3. The digital story “Air Pollution in Mukuru – Dennis Waweru’s Story”
  4. Blog post by Megan Wainwright on digital storytelling.
  5. Article in The Conversation about the AIR Network methodologies
  6. Blog piece on the MRC website:



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Cressida Bowyer

About Cressida Bowyer et al.

Sarah West is Director of SEI York, one of the Centres of the Stockholm Environment Institute, a science-to-policy research institute. She has been bringing diverse voices into science and decision-making for around 12 years, mainly using citizen science approaches. She has used citizen science to address topics as diverse as air pollution, parenting, and exploring community responses to Covid-19. One recent project worked with community visual artists, a street game designer, theatre practitioner, school teachers and environmental researchers to explore air pollution in Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi. Dr Megan Wainwright is a medical anthropologist and consultant in qualitative research. She is based in Portugal and holds an honorary fellow position in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, UK. Her ethnographic work has been on the topic of chronic illness, in particular chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and medicinal oxygen. Her work outside of anthropology is primarily in qualitative health research, evidence synthesis and implementation science. As a consultant she supports a wide range of projects to strengthen their qualitative research capacity for creative and participatory designs, in-depth analysis, software-assisted approaches, and academic writing.