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University research sniffs out how the Black Country smells

University research sniffs out how the Black Country smells

In partnership with Black Country Living Museum, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce the University of Wolverhampton has secured funding to undertake pioneering research that explores past and present smells of the Black Country.

Two community research events – entitled ‘Snidge Scrumpin’ – are being held at Black Country Living Museum (Wednesday 21st November) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (Thursday 22nd November) as part of the Being Human Festival, the only national festival of the humanities in the UK.

In Black Country dialect, ‘Snidge’ means ‘nose’ and ‘Scrumpin’’ is ‘foraging’. The University has secured over £2,000 funding to conduct the research.  Anyone who is local to the Black Country, and over 18, can book a FREE place to attend one of the events. A Philosopher of the Senses, a psychologist and a Black Country writer will give introductory talks, and refreshments will be served following the research activity.

The events, themed around ‘origins and endings’, were selected to be part of Being Human by the festival organisers, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy (BA), and the School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS). 

The Being Human Festival runs from 15th to 24th November 2018. The events, which are part of a 10 day national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages, champion excellence in humanities research in the West Midlands.

Sebastian Groes, Professor of English Literature in the School of Humanities at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “Smell is unique because it has the ability to take us right back to our childhood. Snidge Scrumpin’ maps the specific smells that belong to the Black Country, from Banks’s Brewery’s hoppy stink to groaty pudding and spicy curry.

“Our community events will build on research into the so-called ‘Proust Phenomenon’, which suggests that odours can trigger childhood memories.  We will be conducting an interactive psychological experiment that collects Black Country smells and tastes that trigger different memories. People attending the events will be exposed to these and they will be asked to retrieve and describe memories, and then rate their intensity and emotionality.

“It is hoped that the Snidge Scrumpin’ research will demonstrate the importance of the smell and taste for our sense of regional history, and shows how place shapes us. The project will draw up the lost odours belonging to this post-industrial region whilst charting a new 21st-century palate.”

Snidge Scrumpin’ is a pilot project for nationwide research into the creation of a UK map of smell and memory.

Mel Weatherley, Head of Learning at Black Country Living Museum, said: “When we heard about the ‘Snidge Scrumpin’’ experiment we were eager to take part.  We know odour can be a powerful emotional trigger and we’re excited to learn more about the lost odours of the past, as well identifying those distinctive smells that signify today’s Black Country. 

“Through understanding more about the relationship between smell and memory we hope to discover vivid new ways to bring history to life.”

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “We are delighted the gallery is a partner with the University of Wolverhampton on this fascinating and exciting concept.

“While galleries are predominantly perceived to house visual stimuli, this presents a new and novel way to examine our culture.

“We are looking forward to learning more about the psychology of smells and their relationship to regional history.”


For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

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