Monday, 29 September 2014

Take a trip around the fabulous Everyman Theatre next Wednesday!

During Activity Week, on October 8 we are going to have a guided tour around the fabulous Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. For an hour, you’ll have a VIP view behind the scenes of one of the country’s oldest rep theatres. You’ll be taken around the theatre, backstage, under the stage, above the stage; see the costumes and props, and find out about the theatre’s history (and current  productions).

If you are going to the performance of She Stoops to Conquer on the evening of Thursday 9 October, this tour around the Everyman is an absolute must.  And it’s on us – there’s no charge.

The tour runs on Wednesday 8 October from 2:00 – 3:00pm. We’ll gather in front of the CEAL building at 1:30 and walk over. Please email me on if you want to go.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Open Day on Saturday 27 September

Therre are three Open Days before Christmas. Please join us at Francis Close Hall next Saturday 27 September and talk to the English Literature team about our great course. For all the details, including how to book a place, please click here:


Monday, 22 September 2014

She Stoops to Conquer plays at the Everyman in October

I have reserved 30 seats to see Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer at the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre on October 9th 2014. This promises to be a great production!

As some of you will know we study this play on HM5305: Staging the Cultural Moment. However, even if you are not taking this marvellous module next semester you are welcome to come along to the performance.

Tickets are a snip at £12. I need to know numbers by Friday 26 September so please email me to let me know if you would like to attend.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Induction Week diary: Friday

Francis Close Hall in the sunshine, early Induction week.

It rained miserably today. But what did we care? We were indoors pursuing research. On Fridays of induction week Humanities students present the results of their findings in small group research projects.

English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing students work with the theme of 'Literary Cheltenham: Writing the Town' to explore Cheltenham's cultural meanings, history and continuities. Starting with a walk around town (see Wednesday's diary) freshmen visit places of literary and cultural significance. Best of all, they begin to 'read' Cheltenham through their senses as well as their intellects.

We listened to some fine project presentations. One group presented on the novelist Frances (Fanny) Burney; another group demonstrated how Cheltenham draws on international art and multiple forms to create a kind of colony. This point had never occurred to me before, but in fact the Montpelier fountain and the caryatids do constitute a kind of art theft, or perhaps appropriation or bricolage. Other groups spoke about music and poetry, architecture and painting; why poets, writers and artists take the spa waters and whether it did them any good (Handel, Dr Johnson, Tennyson). One group used black and white graphics to suggest Cheltenham's shadow side - another potentially rich way of reading.

With presentations like this, we don't need photos. But I still would like some. If our freshers send me any of the photos they took on their Magical Mystery Tour, I'll add them to the Flickr gallery.

Turkish food was served but only the flag was left by the time I arrived.

Our last appointment was with some of the directors and organisers of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. The Festival begins in a fortnight's time and we're going to be involved on a massive scale. Staff are holding workshops; the School sponsors the Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture and other events; and students will be working as volunteers, attendants and assistants. The Festival has generously given us over a thousand free tickets, too. Watch this space for all you need to know about the Festival.

That concludes a really successful and enjoyable Induction week. Now for a weekend spent relaxing  before classes start on Monday morning. Our thanks go to all our students.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Induction Week diary: Wednesday



Today was Project day. Creative Writing students took the low-key approach - excellent in its way - with an open-mic reading; English Literature opted for a long walk before lunch. About twenty-five students set out on a Magical Mystery Tour armed with town maps and a set of questions to answer, and luckily, the day was beautiful, sunny and warm. We walked to Pittville Park where Professor John Hughes and I heartlessly abandoned the students, but everyone made it back to town, and at one o'clock we joined Dr Charlotte Beyer and Dr Rebecca Bailey at the celebrated Everyman Theatre for our quiz. Things got a little noisy and I would like to apologise to patrons of Cafe Everyman who had hoped for a peaceful lunch.

Since the Quizmaster couldn't hear the answers, we gave up on the competition and decided that everyone was a winner. The superb staff at Cafe Everyman made us so welcome; many thanks to them for treating us handsomely.

The cakes looked like this. We ate twenty-five pieces between us. Some of us had seconds.

Students will now produce a small research project on 'Literary Cheltenham' to present on Friday morning. It was great fun and we hope that they were inspired by our walk around the town. Students, do please send us your photos.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Induction Week diary: Tuesday

Today, with most of the administrative and timetabling business out of the way, campus life started to look more mellow. The weather was better, until 11:30 anyway. Students went to their respective Course meetings to hear about tomorrow's Induction week project.  Once the English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing students managed to locate HC105, we could launch our project, 'Literary Cheltenham: Writing the Town'. Their task is to create a small research project on some aspect of Cheltenham's literary and cultural life, past or present. Since Cheltenham was first mentioned in the Domesday Book, and has been unjustly sneered at by various writers ever since, there's plenty of material to choose from.

Tomorrow students and tutors will set forth with maps and quiz questions for a Magical Mystery Tour, ending with a quiz (I must think of a prize) and coffee and cakes at the Everyman Theatre. On Friday morning we'll gather to hear what students have found. Year after year, we're surprised and impressed by the quality of students' work, and by their passionate interest in literature and art.

Course Leaders rarely see the sunshine, and by the time I emerged from my office, the activities and bustle on the quad had gone. Still, the campus looked pretty nice.

We look forward to tomorrow's adventures in Cheltenham, and I promise to take some better pictures.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Induction Week diary: Monday

Induction Monday is always frenetic but fun. Our students met us in the Chapel, where the Head of School welcomed everyone. Then it was off to Subject talks, then Personal Tutor meetings. In between meetings, students folded in some Mexican food to keep them going. No sunshine, no time for photo opportunities - but tomorrow?

On Tuesday Morning we have the Project briefing sessions and Library tour.  Stay tuned.

Friday, 12 September 2014

University Induction Week begins on Monday

Freshers are already beginning to arrive at the University. On Monday morning we meet our new students, our colleagues in learning. It is an exciting and anxious time all round. Will students feel at home? Will our lectures be ready for the first week of classes? Will it rain?

You may think that we are just arriving back ourselves after a long summer recess - on the contrary - but despite the hard work, September always energises us. For students, Induction week marks the beginning of three years of study in a new home town; for staff, the beginning of a productive, creative partnership.  There's a nice article in The Guardian that offers the staff perspective on Freshers' week.

Have a great weekend. We'll see you on Monday morning.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Discover hidden treasure: Heritage Open Days this weekend

September is so busy that many of us miss out on the fantastic Heritage Open Days that take place nationwide every year. Architectural and cultural sites, many of them closed to the public normally, throw open their doors during the second weekend of September for free visits and tours.

Our university chapel at Francis Close will be hosting talks, tours and events, organised by the University Archives and Special Collections, on Friday 12 September. You can read all about it on  their blog.

If you're in Cheltenham you can visit All Saints Church Pittville, Holst's birthplace, and the town's beautiful Regency synagogue. Across the county, places of interest include Chedworth Roman villa, Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucester Cathedral, and many more. Wherever you are this weekend, spend an hour at a fascinating place you didn't know about - or thought you knew.

To see what's on, click here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

'Show Me the Money': Chawton House Library celebrates Jane Austen on the Banknote with a Public Lecture and Exhibition

Chawton House Library, a leading study centre in Hampshire for early English women’s writing (and once the home of Jane Austen's brother Edward), is hosting a two-day event (19-20 September) to celebrate the Bank of England’s decision to feature Jane Austen on the £10 banknote and which also coincides with the arrival in Hampshire of the national touring exhibition, Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance, 1700 to the Present. The event, organised with the University of Southampton and other partners, explores the history and role of money in people’s lives and the exhibition on display at Chawton House Library will focus on the critical but often overlooked role women have played in telling the story of contemporary finance.

The feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who fought to keep a woman on the £10 banknote, will give a public lecture on Friday 19 September to support the event. In Show Me the Money: The Image of Finance at Chawton House, Ms Criado-Perez will talk about the role of women and money in contemporary political culture, and why Jane Austen on the £10 bank note really does matter.
The lecture begins two days of workshops on the theme of The Image of Finance.  Cultural historians and theorists will join with curators from the British Museum and British Library to discuss and debate the material forms of money and to ask: what does money really stand for?
Attendance at the lecture and private exhibition viewing is free but booking is required. Visit Eventbrite at or call Chawton House Library on 01420 541010. Places at the workshops can be booked also, but these events are not free.

Chawton House Library website:
Image courtesy of Chawton House Library.


Monday, 1 September 2014

September the First

Francis Close Hall is coming back to life after the summer break. The virginia creeper's turning red. We have only sixteen days to go before Induction week. We're rushing around and enjoying every minute of our favourite month.

Cheltenham is gearing up for the  Literature Festival 2014, too. The School of Humanities has close ties to the festival and the three-week event is the highlight of our year. Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Ben Okri are just a few authors among many who'll be in town for England's biggest literary festival.

The town is already looking autumnally fine.



A very warm welcome (back) to all current and new students of English Literature, Creative Writing, History and English Language. See you soon.

Photos of Cheltenham courtesy of and