11 August 2016

How the gypsies got their music: the future of storytelling research

Warwick University is holding its first storytelling conference aimed at storytellers, arts practitioners, and researchers.

Photo by Alden Chadwick (Flickr,

When? 28th November 2016, 12.00 noon – 17.15 pm
Where? Warwick University, Main library, Coventry

What do we want the future of storytelling research to be? This conference considers current work that is being done in the broad field of storytelling. The aim is to engage people to thinking different avenues that future research in storytelling could take. We will cover a number of different topics involving inclusive research with people with learning difficulties, applied storytelling and drama with the Belgrade Theatre, and how to consider the role of the storyteller in research. In line with our creative theme there will be a live/recorded performance of How the Gypsies got their music (by Cornish storyteller Mike O’Connor), and a poetry writing workshop. 

The conference includes a buffet lunch. Registration is £10 (towards storyteller fees).  Registration is required to attend. If you are interested in attending please click here! to pay. If we recieve any extra funds this will go to local Coventry artists.

Any difficulties please email

Keynote speakers

Nicola Grove (University of Kent and storytelling charity openstorytellers) will be presenting a talk on Interdisiplinary narrative research that considers the relationship between storytelling and “small stories” with particular reference to the work of Dell Hymes, an ethnographer who studied the links between the telling of legends and everyday anecdote. And the importance of “small stories” to people with learning difficulties. Nicola’s talk will include a brief exercise that she uses with people with profound disabilities to include them in storytelling.

 Catherine Heinemeyer (York St John University and York Theatre Royal) will provide examples from her storytelling practice to illustrate that we need to resist the urge to pin down, close off, or over-simplify the meanings given to us by participants in our research, and be prepared to be attentive to what occurs in the storytelling exchange itself.  Rather than yielding data as to the benefits of storytelling, they may provide eloquent answers that may ‘help us navigate through our rapidly changing and liquid lives’ (Mike Wilson 2014).  Further, working within story may help young people to name and understand the forces shaping their society, and facilitate dialogue and advocacy between generations whose experience is radically different.  
A little time is set aside to explore our creative side on the day through a crafting a poem workshop (by Emma Parfitt and Catherine Heinemeyer). Inspired by your favourite folk and fairy tales Cath and I will be inviting everyone to complete a little preparatory task to be completed on the day through a free writing excercise. We would love you to share your poems with us, but this is not required as Cath and I will bring our poems to share if no one is brave enough. 

This conference has been organised by Emma Parfitt, IAS Fellowship, Sociology, Warwick University with funding from the Institute of Advanced Study. Emma Parfitt (University of Warwick, Belgrade Theatre) will present some preliminary findings about current research with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. The research study involves interviewing previous participants of the Belgrade Theatre’s ‘acting out’ programme which aimed to encourage participation in the arts. The interviews will assess participants’ subsequent engagement with the arts and further education. This research is being funded by an IATL Strategic Grant from Warwick University.

13 June 2016

Professor Jack Zipes' visit to Warwick University (June 2016)

Professor Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota, a world expert on fairy tales and storytelling, came to Warwick and participated in a number of events with academics and members of the public. The event was funded by a collaboration of resources at Warwick brought together by Emma Parfitt an IAS Early Careers Fellow: an IAS residential fellowship, the support of the Humanities Research Centre and the Departments of Sociology and English & Comparative Literary Studies.

Here is a short description of the fantastic events that were organised during his stay.

Panel discussion at Loughborough University

A panel discussion occurred entitled: storytelling and young people. The panel was introduced by Dr Sally Maynard and consisted of Professor Jack Zipes (University of Minnesota), Professor Mike Wilson (Loughborough) and Emma Parfitt (Warwick).

At a time of great public debate about the future of education, be that emphasis on testing of young people with a focus on the ‘rules’ of grammar, the forced academisation of all schools, or the increasing levels of mental illness and illness among young people, the panel will discuss the role of storytelling in education and whether it serves as a civilising force or an opportunity for children to realise their creative potential and determine their own futures (Mike Wilson, University of Loughborough)
Ask Zipes about publishing!’ A PhD workshop

 A training event for postdoctoral students about publishing proposals. Those attending asked questions about interdisciplinary publishing, turning a thesis into a book and translations. The discussion was recorded to be used in a Critical Reflections essay for the IAS journal Exchanges.

French documentary Film

Priscilla Pizzato, a french documentary maker from Paris, contacted me about arranging to film Jack Zipes for a documentary about Cinderella for the French-German channel Arte.. Zipes underwent an interview with the film crew at the beautiful Cryfield Farmhouse, Leighfield Road.

Campus talk & wine reception

'Childism and the Grimms' Fairy Tales, or How We Have Happily Rationalized Child Abuse through Storytelling.'


Professor Jack Zipes, Emeritus at Minnesota University giving his talk in Ramphal on the Grimms’ fairy tales.

A discussion of the way in which fairy tales reflect conditions, ideas, tastes, and values of the societies in which they were created. Technology is changing the role of storytelling in society. Whether or not oral storytelling lasts, is it important to be aware of who is controlling television, and the social media. Would we be better off if more and more people controlled the mass media instead of corporate conglomerates?


Widening participation workshops and debate (Coventry City Council, Earl Street, CV1 5RR)

A storytelling workshop with local young people followed by a discussion of this storytelling method. Professor Jack Zipes led a two hour storytelling workshop with 35 young people aged seven to eleven years of age from the following local primary schools: Pearl Hide, Grange Farm, Hearsall Community Primary, John Gulson, and All Saints Church of England.

Permission was refused from Sheila Bates, the Children’s Champion for Coventry, to record the event to be utilised as additional research materials for a collabourative paper. However I negotiated the presence of four observers. And a consent form by the Council was taken from each parent to allow me to take photos of the event.

Attendance: Young people 22, 1 Coventry council staff, 2 academic staff (Warwick and Manchester) and 1 PhD student (Warwick)

A father talked to Professor Zipes and Emma Parfitt, and Sheila Bates, Children’s Champion, after the workshop and asked that the storytelling and drama workshop be part of a regular event allowing more children to attend especially those who needed help with writing skills.


Professor Jack Zipes asking young people at Coventry Council questions about fairy tales


Young people from schools in Coventry acting out their version of Polly and the Wolf, an alternative Little Red Riding Hood Story. Here two wolves approach two Polly’s (in red and blue) with her family in the car.



26 May 2016

Fargo ‘artists and academics’ exhibition 26th of November (10am - 6pm)

Calling artists and PhD students.

To celebrate Coventry’s bid for the City of Culture in 2017 the University of Warwick and Fargo village are bringing artists and academics together for an exhibition of local artists work. The exhibition will invite applications from 17 artists (from all mediums and crafts) and 17 PhD students at the University of Warwick. The artists will create pieces based on the research ideas of PhD students from the University of Warwick.
This exciting exhibition is a chance to bring people together with the aim of closing the art-science divide. It opens the academic world to the community, from an internationally diverse set of students and subjects.
It is also a different way of communicating research in a creative way, thus demythicizing the idea that research outputs from theoretical to practical cannot be communicated to everyone. Knowledge, like art, should be accessible to all.
The resulting artistic creations will be displayed alongside short paragraphs describing the PhD inspirations. Visitors will be offered the chance to purchase the artists’ work thereby supporting local art and culture.
If you are an artist who would like to promote your work, would you be up to the challenge of creating a piece of art inspired by student work at the University of Warwick? If the answers to those questions are yes then we would love to hear from you.
We are planning an exhibition at Fargo Village, Coventry, to display the work of local artists inspired by research. Open to all mediums and crafts, with the opportunity not just to be creative and promote yourself but to sell your work at the exhibition.
A commitment is required for producing work for the exhibition, and at least one initial meeting/contact with a research student. I am currently in the process of raising funds, hopefully for £100-200 materials/supplies for each artist. This money is not guaranteed I will update this blog if that changes.
Deadline extended: 31st August 2016. To express your interest please send a short summary about yourself, along with a note of your preferred medium/craft, along with your name and contact information to, or Emma Parfitt, C/O Sociology Department, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL. Pictures of your previous work would be appreciated.
We look forward to hearing from you.
If you are a research student would you like the chance for your PhD thesis to inspire a piece of art? No experience required, an opportunity to engage non-academics with your work, open to all PhD students from first to final year.
Commitment required: You should be prepared to talk about your work in lay person’s terms to an artist, and we also hope you can attend the final exhibition.
To express your interest please send a short summary of your research, along with your name and contact information by the 30th of June to clearly stating your department.
Emma Parfitt has submitted her PhD in oral storytelling at Warwick University and has been awarded an IAS Early Careers Fellowship, and an IATL strategic grant to do research with previous participants of Acting Out, a Belgrade Theatre storytelling project. If you have done any drama work with the belgrade more information can be found here: LINK.

This event is being supported by Fargo Village and funded by The Culture, Media and Creativity fund, Sociology Department, University of Warwick.