New Research Centre for Environment and Culture

The University of Glasgow is launching a new interdisciplinary research centre that seeks to bring the study of environment and culture together.

Based at the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus, the Solway Centre for Environment and Culture is the first of its kind in the UK.   Natural scientists and cultural specialists work together, creating truly interdisciplinary courses and good collaboration.

Initial projects include a project studying the impact of a spate of wildfires across the UK in the spring of 2011 and an archaeology project encouraging the local community to find out more about hidden, local archaeology.  The Solway Centre is also keen to establish itself as a national centre for environmental art.

Valentina Bold, the Director of the centre said “It seems fitting that the Solway Centre is opened in the part of the world where the word ‘Environment’ was created by Carlyle in 1826 and which has sustained creativity from the ‘ploughman poet’ Burns to modern land artists Jencks and Goldsworthy.  We are very excited about the opportunities for cross collaboration that the new centre will bring to us all here in Dumfries.”

Building on the strong partnerships already created in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Solway Centre will continue to work closely with local partners and the community.  The centre seeks to develop projects which cross the Solway Firth into England, between academics and specialists working in arts and natural sciences, and has already built partnerships from Cumbria to Cornwall.

Eight University researchers are the core team, based at the Dumfries Campus, working with an additional seventeen academics from the University of Glasgow and beyond.  They will initially focus on three research areas:

·          Rural landscape management

·          Sustainable rural tourism

·          Landscape, place and memory

Professor David Clark, Head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Dumfries Campus, home to the Solway Centre said: “This is a great boost to our research ambitions. The Solway Centre is already undertaking innovative studies that shed light on cultural and environmental issues in our region. It will present many opportunities for research and further study in the coming years and a real focus for working across disciplines.”

The Solway Centre for Environment and Culture will be launched on Wednesday 3rd October 2012

3.30 pm – 5.00 pm

The event will be chaired by Professor John Briggs and you will have the opportunity to hear from centre staff and associates and hear a performance from internationally renowned harper Wendy Stewart. Locally sourced light refreshments will be served.

For more information or to attend the event, contact Cara MacDowall in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535; 07875 203387 or email

Over the Irish Sea

The Over the Irish Sea symposium in Dublin was a great success last month with two outstanding plenaries from Professors Claire Connolly and Margaret Cohen. The discussion in general encouraged a consideration of infrastructure and mobility across the archipelago, and how this might have affected, and how it might be affecting, literature. Tempering the academic tone though, John Brannigan had organised a reading by the poets Alan Gillis, Andrew McNeillie and Conor O’Callaghan before the conference dinner.

Papers ranged far and wide the following day though, from Nick Groom’s discussion of a satirical 18th Century pamphlet recommending the draining of the Irish Sea to Margaret Cohen’s rediscovery of the underwater paintings of Zahr Pritchard! It was a stimulating and creative atmosphere that offered unusual ways of thinking about the significance of the sea that surrounds us. It will no doubt inspire some interesting new perspectives and methods in the other researchers who attended. Many thanks to John Brannigan and UCD for a great event!

Over the Irish Sea

Dr. John Brannigan of University College Dublin has announced a symposium continuing the work of the Atlantic Archipelagos Research Project. ‘Over the Irish Sea’ will examine ‘the shorelines and shifting tides of the Irish Sea as figures of connection rather than division’. The sea itself has played an important role in helping to shape the cultural life of the Isles but in what ways specifically? The symposium will explore the sea as a ‘mythic, utopian space’ and as a ‘fraught and contested space’ ‘The purpose of this symposium,’ John explains, ‘is to provide a platform for current research on literary preoccupations with, and crossings of, the Irish Sea in the modern period in Irish, English, Welsh, and Scottish literatures.’

Proposals for papers should be sent to Dr. John Brannigan by 1st January 2012. The symposium itself will take place on April 26th-27th next year at University College, Dublin. We hope to see you there!

‘Perspectives on Tim Robinson’

September 9th and 10th this year saw the project ‘Perspectives on Tim Robinson’ come to fruition at the Druid Theatre in Galway. Day one saw John Elder give his keynote lecture on connections between his own New England home and Tim’s across the Atlantic, exploring some common philosophical, geological and literary ground, followed by a panel on the poetics of the Irish landscape and a panel looking more closely at Tim’s work and trying place it culturally. In the evening a coach drove the conference audience out to Roundstone, to the town hall which served as a cinema for the night to show Pat Collins’ documentary portrait of the man himself.

Day two saw Tim give his own keynote lecture to a full house of academics, artists, poets, travellers, townsfolk, students, other interested parties of the public. Norman Ackroyd opened up his artist’s portfolio for people to walk around and look at and showed a short film of himself etching the southern cliffs of Araínn. In the evening a full house gathered at the Druid again for readings by Andrew McNeillie, Manchan Mangan, Eamon Grennan before Moya Cannon, before Tim read the final chapter of the final book of his Connemara trilogy to a very moving standing ovation.

The Atlantic Archipelagos Research Project would like to thank all of those people who took part in ‘Perspectives on Tim Robinson’ for helping to make it a truly memorable occasion. We hope that this first case study has helped to plant a seed of thought and research that will grow in unexpected ways and branch out towards future projects exploring the changing relationships between people, places and works of art and literature across this archipelago. Keep checking this website for details of future projects and events!

The Connemara Symposium

Perspectives on Tim Robinson – Symposium

Friday 9th – Saturday 10th September, 2011

Funded by
The British Academy and National University of Ireland, Galway

Folding Landscapes
The Atlantic Archipelago Research Project at the University of Exeter and the Moore Institute, National University of Ireland Galway
The Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research, National University of Ireland Galway
The Centre for Innovation and Structural Change, National University of Ireland Galway

The Connemara Symposium brings together artists, writers, scholars and the public in conversation with the work of Tim Robinson. It is supported by the Atlantic Archipelagos Research Project (AARP), which is a collaboration between the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the University of Exeter. AARP is grateful to acknowledge the support of the British Academy, the University of Exeter and the National University of Ireland, Galway, in bringing these events to life.

Tim Robinson is best known for his two-volume study Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage and Labyrinth (republished by New York Review of Books Classics Series 2008-9); he is currently completing the final volume of a trilogy, Connemara: Listening to the Wind (2006) and The Last Pool of Darkness (2008). The recipient of a major European Conservation Award in 1987, Robinson was Parnell Visiting Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge this last year.

Tim Robinson’s two-volume study Stones of Aran was described by the Irish Times as ‘One of the most original, revelatory and exhilarating works of literature ever produced in Ireland’ and by the London Review of Books as ‘a wonderful achievement’. Next year is the 25th anniversary of the first publication of Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage.

The Connemara Symposium offers a unique opportunity to engage with his work and follows a previous meeting in Cambridge, which you can view here – The Connemara Symposium brings some of the world’s leading creative thinkers and artists engaged with questions of human society and the environment to Galway.

All events are free and open to the public.

A full schedule of events is below. Please contact  for further details and updates.

We look forward to seeing you in September.


Friday 9th September
Location: Galway City Museum
Opening remarks: Nicholas Allen (NUI Galway)
Plenary Lecture: John Elder (Middlebury College) – ‘Edge to Edge’

Break 2.15-2.30

Location: Galway City Museum
Conversation One: Poetry and Landscape

Matthew Campbell (University of Sheffield)
Moynagh Sullivan (NUI Maynooth)
Hugh Haughton (University of York)
Briona Nic Dhiarmidha (University of Notre Dame)

Location: Roundstone Community Hall
Reception and screening of Pat Collins film, ‘Tim Robinson: Connemara’

Saturday, September 10
Location: Galway City Museum
Opening Remarks: Jos Smith (University of Exeter)

Plenary Lecture: Tim Robinson – ‘A Land without Shortcuts’

Location: Galway City Museum

Conversation Two: Prose and Landscape

John Brannigan (University College Dublin)
Eamon Wall (University of Missouri-St Louis)
Christine Cusick (Seton Hill University)
John Wylie (University of Exeter)
Kelly Sullivan (Boston College)

3.30-4:00pm Break

Location: Galway City Museum
Conversation with Norman Ackroyd

Location: Galway City Museum
Closing remarks: Nick Groom (University of Exeter)

Location: Druid Theatre
Reception and readings at the Druid Theatre
Free and open to the public
Readings from Andrew McNeillie; Manchán Mangan; Moya Cannon; Eamon Grennan; Tim Robinson


Next Friday we will be meeting in Cambridge to formally begin the British Academy funded project ‘Perspectives on Tim Robinson’. We have been invited to host a salon at Magdalene College on 20th May where a range of participants from across the disciplines will be discussing the Aran Islands, the Burren, Connemara, and the work of the Folding Landscapes company with Tim and Máiréad Robinson.

After a welcome from Professors Nick Groom and Andrew McNeillie, and after an introduction to Folding Landscapes from Tim and Máiréad, the day’s discussion will be broken into two halves:

In the morning we will be discussing the places that Folding Landscapes has been working in, with particular emphasis on their cultural identity and its links to the land. We will also be considering how this cultural identity relates to the rest of Ireland and more widely to the British and Irish archipelago and its historical configurations of identity. During this session we will hear from: artist Norman Ackroyd, poet and literary editor Andrew McNeillie, poet and fellow of Wadham College, Bernard O’Donoghue and myself, a PhD student at the University of Exeter.

In the afternoon we will be discussing Folding Landscapes itself, particularly with respect to Tim Robinson’s work as an artist, award-winning cartographer and, most importantly, as an author. A self-styled ‘rescue archaeologist’ whose ‘gloriously promiscuous’ work roams across the traditional disciplinary boundaries, we will be asking where to place such a unique body of work in relation to European and archipelagic literary cultures. We will consider literary connections to the past (particularly to authors such as John Ruskin, Marcel Proust and J.M. Synge) and to the present (particularly to authors such as Ian Sinclair, W.G. Sebald, Robert Macfarlane and ‘The New Nature Writing’ more widely); but we will also consider connections beyond literature (for example connections to film maker Robert Flaherty, naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger and artist Richard Long).

The salon will conclude looking forward to the formal celebration of Folding Landscapes at the National University of Ireland in Galway and in Roundstone on 9th and 10th September. This event will be open to the public to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage, the first major work from one of this and last century’s most extraordinary and powerful literary voices.


Next year is the 25th anniversary of the first publication of Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage. This affords a unique opportunity to celebrate him and his work. The Atlantic Archipelagos Research Project (AARP) has therefore assembled a number of experts who engage sensitively with TR’s writing and cartography. They have been invited to an informal gathering with Tim and his wife Mairead to discuss his work while he is Visiting Parnell Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2011), a meeting that will be followed by a more formal context of a conference – perhaps more properly described as a celebration – to be hosted by the Moore Institute, NUIG, and leading eventually to a published collection of essays.

‘Perspectives on Tim Robinson’ is the first AARP case study, and will, we hope, exemplify the rich and complex relationships between literature and other forms of cultural expression and environmental thinking. Further case studies will be developed through a succession of networked activities over the next few years. Our aim throughout will be to co-ordinate these activities with public impact through funding applications, rolling workshops with guest speakers (podcast), conferences (with a public dimension), a publication timetable, and, where appropriate, political engagement. We will be disseminating our findings through a wide variety of outputs that would reach both academic and popular readerships (joint-authored books, articles and op eds, interviews, web-based publication). We will prioritize the involvement of policy-makers and aim to contribute to debates on national and regional identity within the Archipelago and in Europe. Our horizon includes engagement with international colleagues to establish a world-class specialism in the study and research of ‘archipelago’ as a creative, intellectual, and political concept.

The British Academy has awarded a grant of £7498 towards this project, which is also generously supported by St John’s College, Cambridge; Magdalene College, Cambridge; the Moore Institute, NUIG; and ECLIPSE (University of Exeter Centre for Literatures of Identity, Place, and Sustainability).

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