2 February 2016

IATL Strategic Grant

I have been awarded a grant for a project with the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry to begin on completion of my doctorate. This is a highly competative staff fund, for large-scale projects which support the university's teaching and learning strategy. I obtained this grant with the support of Cath Lambert.

The title of the project is:


A retrospective study to ascertain the pedagogic benefits of research-led teaching

 ‘Bearing witness to marginalised groups’


My research interest

The Belgrade Theatre’s ‘bearing witness to marginalised groups’ programme aims to work with young people from diverse backgrounds. Each group works closely with a trained dramaturge (a crafter of stories for the stage), sharing and shaping experiences into dramatic form. This offers young people an opportunity to reflect, share, rethink, and transform their stories. As post-war Coventry was rebuilt so was a theatre for the community (the Belgrade). The Council Statute stated that the theatre was obliged to build links between drama and young people. 50 years later, the Belgrade has continued to work with groups of young people, from primary to secondary school age, in the theatre, in the community, and in schools in Coventry.  The theatre’s 14 regular groups meet weekly during term-time, and in addition there are holiday camps and summer schools. Our project is a retrospective study with previous participants of the ‘bearing witness’ programme. 

From IATL’s perspective

This project is an exciting opportunity to assess Warwick undergraduates through a research-led teaching experience. I therefore proposed that the study would hire two undergraduates to receive paid research experience and training to improve their employability. The students' progress will be supported and assessed by the research assistant throughout the study in order to inform the aims and objectives of a research-led teaching module.


1 February 2016

Paid Undergraduate Research Assistant Position

Job title: Undergraduate research assistant
Deadline: 12 noon, 29th February
This might be the opportunity for you
Are you an undergraduate first year student in social sciences or humanities?
Would you like research experience on your CV?
Do you need paid work experience?
Overview of the project
The Belgrade Theatre’s ‘bearing witness to marginalised groups’ programme aimed to work with young people from diverse backgrounds. Each group works closely with a trained dramaturg (a crafter of stories for the stage), sharing and shaping experiences into dramatic form. This project offered young people an opportunity to reflect, share, rethink, and transform their stories. Our project is a retrospective study with previous participants of the ‘bearing witness’ programme from 5 to 10 years later.
Vacancy Type/Job category
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Social Sciences - Humanities
£1070.76 (plus holiday pay of £129.24)
Extra for conducting approximately 15 interviews, £360 (which works out at £24 per two hour interview)
University of Warwick and local Coventry area
Paid research experience
Reference provided (subject to performance)
Open to current first year students, at Warwick University, from social sciences or humanities.
No previous work experience or set qualifications required.
Enthusiasm and reliability a must.
Applicants should be willing to learn and able to work with others.
I am looking for two first year undergraduates who are interested in the opportunity of a paid research position. Preferably available through the summer, but will consider term time only
The role involves research-led learning. You will be led through the complete research process including how to conduct qualitative interviews, transcribe interview recordings, analyse qualitative data with Nvivo, presentation and writing skills.
You will be in charge of interviewing and filming, scheduling interviews, recording participants, etc. And get a chance to write a paper and present a case study.
Expect interviews to be weekends and evenings around participant’s schedules.
Time commitment
Interviews are anticipated to commence from the 1st July – 1st October 2016, involving about 10 hours of transcription a week.
There will be training sessions on interviews, transcription, Nvivo software, presentation and writing skills lasting approximately 1-2 hours.
Some assessment will be conducted through the process which will be explained in the interview, this will require keeping a journal of your experiences throughout the project. Data analysis will begin in term 1 (academic year 2016-2017, with an estimated 2 hours a week from November to December 2016).
If interested please email: with a paragraph explaining why you are interested in the post, giving some information about yourself, and what subject you are studying at Warwick.
This post has been funded by the IATL Strategic staff fund

15 January 2016

The hills are alive...

The International Sociological Association have accepted my abstract to speak in Vienna this July. Yay! I won't be wearing a dress made from curtains but this is what the presentation will be on, perhaps I'll see you there.
Photo 'Vienna' by Osamu Kaneko (
A Managed Heart in relation to storytelling: how education policy shapes young people’s perceptions of emotion.
Literature searches indicate that Hochschild’s theories of emotion have not been linked to oral storytelling in an educational setting. In A Managed Heart Hochschild researched how flight attendants at Delta Airlines managed emotion. Hochschild proposed that people were trained to manage emotion in the workplace. This paper explores Hochschild’s theories in the context of educational policy and oral storytelling.

A storytelling space was created in three schools in the UK, Warwickshire, in 2013. Analysis involved NVivo coding of storytelling and focus group sessions one hour long, over five subsequent weeks, with young people from 12-14 years. In total, there were six groups of four children, of mixed ethnicity, ability, and socio-economic background. The students’ conversations were recorded and transcribed for empirical analysis.

The findings suggest that English literature guidelines, set by the Department for Education, influenced the students’ interpretations of emotion. There were significant similarities between educational guidelines and the way students discussed oral storytelling. For instance, the students connected character motivation to emotion reflective of an educational approach (a standardised way to interpret classroom texts such as Romeo and Juliet). The students identified a character’s emotional ‘motivation’ and linked this to ‘actions or events’ in a causative way. Through Hochschild’s work parallels can be drawn between ‘how society uses feeling’ (2003, 17) and how individuals might be educated to use feeling through Governmental policies like the National Curriculum.

The analysis indicates that oral storytelling is a useful method for exploring the theories of Hochschild in a social context. If education influences the students’ analysis of texts, and the analysis of oral storytelling, similar aspects of interpreting behaviour and emotions might arise in other situations in the students’ lives. In this way education might have structural influence over students’ emotional connections, and potentially, the negotiation of social relationships with others.

30 November 2015

World War Z (a film about a zombie apocalypse)


I was asked by Iggy to prepare a Sociological reply to the following questions regarding the film World War Z. First I would like to say that I did not enjoy this film. I was bored. This is a personal option, yet, if you want to see a good zombie movie I would recommend the following (in no particular order):

Night of the living dead

28 days later

Warm bodies



The questions I was asked to consider were, if a zombie outbreak occurred:

*What is the most realistic human reaction to the crisis?

*In what order would society break down?

*Would humanity come together or would it be a case of every man for himself?


Question one: What is the most realistic human reaction to the crisis?

Firstly, it is unlikely that social structures would break down (sorry to disappoint). Obviously such themes thrive on dooms day scenarios. But it isn’t real. Investigating the World Health Organisations previous response to epidemics… well we’re all still here… for now…

William Close wrote a terrifying book about Ebola in 1995. In reality the response of medical personnel resulted in only 11,300 deaths worldwide.

If this is compared against previous global epidemics, although it is sad that people lost their lives, the numbers are small in comparison. For example


1346-1353 the plague killed 75-200 million

1918 Influenza killed 30-50 million people

1633 Small pox in New England resulted in the death of 70% of the native population


This kind of goes to show that there are more things to worry about than Zombie invasions. But do have an escape plan just in case.

Question 2: In what order would society break down?

If, as in a zombie movie, society was to break down it would be because a large number of zombies overwhelmed the structures in place. I guess that’s why so many hospitals are filmed in zombie movies. An interesting point to consider is, if the majority of people were to be traumatised this could overwhelm and disrupts social support structures, leading to cultural trauma. However, you don’t often see the work done by psychologists in zombie movies as people try to come to terms with the fact that Aunty Emma now prefers slurping body parts to her famous casserole.

Question 3: Would humanity come together or would it be a case of every man for himself?

Social science research suggest that solidarity and a sense of community arise in times of emergency. People help each other out. Plus, the WHO and law enforcement will easily be able to identify zombies and contain the problem. Except, if there was some level of human error say at the level of the WHO then this would increase the spread of containing the problem.

Questions raised

One thing to consider is what do zombies represent socially? Are zombies a reflection of our fears of social upheaval? Or of people becoming zombie-like? I’m throwing these questions out there for discussion.



Drezner, D. W. (2015). Theories of international politics and zombies.


24 October 2015

Rise up @ the Belgrade Theatre (Coventry)

The show got me during its final moments when the young people on the stage said to the audience 'you have a choice.' I was enjoying four young people's portrayal freedom riders in the US; riding the buses to protest against segregation. Part of me, however, wanted to hear another story: that of British segregation. It wasn't taught to me at school and still appears not to be. I only know it exists because of narrated life stories. It's a bit like the feeling I get when Black History Month comes around... my first question is always why? Not in the sense that it is a bad idea, but growing up in a multi-cultural society and having friends from a diverse range of countries and backgrounds, out with and inside the UK, I want to know why our History curriculum is not reflective of our society.

The play reminded me of Mr Maxwell, the teacher with the cheeky opinions who pushed the boundaries of history. He asked the big questions. We got inside the poems of Maya Angelou and the conditions of the slave ships and asked why it happened in the first place. Mr Maxwell challenged us to see that history, the history in the class text, was one version amongst many. History was remembered how it was written.

Plays like Rise Up give me hope because they open up dialogue for people to speak, listen, and reflect. Not necessarily in the theatre but retelling the aspects of the play they connected with to other things and ask those big questions such as 'why isn't our history curriculum reflective of our diverse social background as a country?' Hoping that someone better positioned than I hears this message and challenges the curriculum to change. At the heart of all theatre is the hope of social change.

7 August 2015

The Fantastic Binomial

During June and July I was travelling. My last trip was to the US to work with Dr Ingram at the University of Minnesota, advising her on possible methodology changes in the implementation and assessment of the Neighborhood Bridges Program used to analyse critical literacy in storytelling and drama. Here is a bit of fan fiction to illustrate the fantastic binomial at work in one classroom I visited during the trip.

Fantastic Binomial

Tegan was called up for the fantastic binomial. ‘Yes!’ she said, jumping out of her seat and seizing the white board marker. She usually never got picked for anything.
Maria, the Bridges storyteller, bent towards her. Tegan was instantly aware of being the smallest in the class. ‘Choose a place where you could get lost,’ said Maria, ‘and write it on the board.’

There was already a list of prepositions that the class had generated on the white board. Tegan thought of a word and began to write it carefully in capital letters to the left of the prepositions list. Dalen had the other marker. He was writing down an object that could be found in a classroom. He was hiding his word from the class with both hands. Once the words were written Maria would make up a story on the spot linking Tegan’s word to Dalen’s via the magic of a preposition word like above, behind, between or under. 

Tegan thought that it was fun. You never knew what the story was going to be. Last week the words were ‘Clay inside mum.’ Maria had repeated the title carefully, then said, ‘My mum is a trickster. A trickster who is always playing tricks on me. You might think she looks a little odd, because my mum is green from head to toe with large eyes so she sort of looks like a….’

‘Troll!’ the classroom called out, ‘Ogre!’

‘Yes,’ Maria said, ‘we’re both ogres. I’ve lived under dark smelly bridges my whole life. Life under a bridge is kind of boring so mum would play a lot of tricks on me. This one morning, while I was sleeping, she had a great idea for a trick. She got some clay and pulled, and pulled, and moulded, and pulled it, until it was a giant circle full of holes. And then chuckling she painted this big holey ball of clay. Can you guess what colour?’

‘Green!’ a group of boys decided.

‘Yes, green. How did you know? Because my favourite thing to eat for breakfast in the whole world is green cheese. How I love green cheese!’ Maria rubbed her hands together. ‘So she painted the clay green and arranged it nicely on the breakfast table, on a plate, on a checked table cloth. While this was going on I was peacefully sleeping, unaware of what was going on. Breakfast! My mum called. I got out of bed and went into the kitchen and there was the largest green cheese I had ever seen. Boy was I excited!’ Maria did a little dance of joy. ‘Oh man, this was going to be a delicious breakfast. I took a big bite! Urgh! It’s clay! I spat out the green painted clay and it flew across the room into my mum’s mouth. Her mouth was open wide, she was laughing so hard, and gulp!, she swallowed it whole. And that’s how the clay got inside my mum. And it hasn’t been seen since.’

After last week’s story Tegan was excited to see what would happen as she added the final letter onto her word.
She was still smiling as she fell through the whiteboard and found herself in a forest.

This wasn’t a dream. Often in stories like this it’s all made up but Tegan had a class room of witnesses. One moment she was writing on the board in Mrs Hennepin’s class, the next moment she had vanished. Obviously she found a way back if I can tell you this story. At the time she didn’t know this. Tegan was all alone in a dark forest, behind her in the air was the word FOREST in large red capitals. The trees were taller than any Tegan had ever seen before. They clustered together hiding the sky, and the sun, so that little vegetation grew on the ground. A dark shape in the dark made her jump, and the back of her sweater rubbed out part of the T in FOREST. Tegan blinked as part of the forest became transparent. Was that part of someone’s foot and a desk? She quickly turned around and wiped all the letters away and found herself in Mrs Hennepin’s classroom once more where Maria was telling the story about how Tegan wrote a word on the board and vanished and then returned to the class room. 

Tegan didn’t imagine it though. Did she?

[For more information about The Fantastic Binomial check out the book Speaking Out by Jack Zipes]