The value of the Coddiwomble- Why I chose to study MA Creative Writing

By Hannah MA Creative Writing student at The University of Exeter

My name is Hannah and I am a word nerd. I love them all, every character, particularly once they’ve been plucked from language’s jumble and trained into lines designed to delight. My favourite word tamers include Emily Bronte, Robert Macfarlane, Hillary Mantel, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami. These literary legends transport one from the bed, the bath or the bus to the Moors, sixteenth-century Court, Discworld, tropical archipelago’s and Victorian parlours. Until teleportation becomes an option reading is the easiest way of getting yourself an interdimensional holiday for a tenner – a real penny saver for travel bums like myself. Twenty-five years after discovering I could get to Narnia, Hogwarts and Wonderland by reading, I’ve come to study word organisation at Exeter. I hope that the modules, lecturers, environment, time and space help me craft something(s) that transports other readers away from (and on) rainy afternoons and sleepless nights.

Why study a Creative Writing masters? I’d already completed a BA in English and Creative Writing, what would I gain by putting myself through another bought of deadlines? Even I’ve asked myself the question on the Sunday’s I’ve spent hunched over a laptop while everyone is out playing or snoozing on the sofa. Technically I’d already achieved what I’d set out to: I was paying the bills through my work writing. I’d also discovered just how many varied opportunities there are for pen wielders; in Peru I used my degree honed skills to write about the alleviation of Menopause’s 34 symptoms and in the UK, I’d increased charitable income by working as a Trust Fundraiser. But the problem is, I wasn’t writing my words, (and my interest in surrealism and fin de siècle Gothic’s far surpasses my interest in the menopause).

So, I’ve decided to actively Coddiwomble*, that is to push myself to ‘travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination’. The ‘vague destination’ is somewhere / some scenario where I can live by writing my own words (ideally it will be on a beach). In order to purposefully travel towards this unmapped location, I quit my full- time job as a Trust Fundraiser, jumped into the unknown (excuse the cliché) and landed back on campus – the University of Exeter’s to be precise. Already the move has forced me to grow as a writer.

In term one Sam North’s suitably challenging Poetry of Events module convinced my classmates and I, that in order to excel we needed to stop worrying about crafting beautiful prose and instead focus on working out what separates a good plot from a bad one. (Hint: Desire and satisfying the audience’s thirst for puzzles is key). I’ve also been able to indulge my fascination with late 19th century society and its literature by taking the English Literature module Empire, Decadence and Modernity. Highlights have included; considering the paradoxes and epigrams of Oscar Wilde and discovering relatively obscure but brilliant texts such as The Story of a Modern Woman by Ella Hepworth Dixon.

The wisest decision I made was to complete the course over two years rather than one. In addition to getting a whole extra year of study, I’ve also been able to combine the course with a role in communications and, importantly for me, I’ve only had to deal with one set of deadlines per term.

Realistically the move back into academic study may not add digits to my paycheck or land me a top dollar publishing deal, but it is allowing me access to storytelling experts, 1-1 support, a global community of writers and most importantly of all, the time and space to write.

*Can we all try to actively reintroduce this incredible old English slang word back into everyday conversation?

Fieldtrip series, Part 2: A coastal walk from Poldhu to Mullion

By Orla MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy student at The University of Exeter

As the second instalment of my fieldtrip series, we’ve got a fieldtrip which I went on as a fundamental part of my Heritage and Environmental Change module. As one of our assessments focused around the coastal harbour of Mullion, which is situated on the Lizard Peninsula, our first fieldtrip for this module was a coastal walk from Poldhu Cove to Mullion itself.

With our lecturers, we re-enacted Louise Ann Wilsons interpretative walk ‘Mulliontide: A Guide for Walkers’, which encourages walkers to actively engage with the environment whilst exploring themes of loss, change and identity. Wilsons’ original interpretative walk was done in October 2016 but was so popular that a guide has been published so that it can be re-created by anyone at any time. The walk itself went along some incredible areas coastline and some of the South West Coast Path – and you’ll be pleased to note that the weather on this occasion was bright sunshine!

In pairs, we carried the guidebook alongside us, which got us involved in individual stories, legacies and also some singing of the ‘White Rose’! Although we didn’t do the original choir justice, we all joined in and gave it a go and there was a lovely sense of community when were all singing along together. We followed the stations in the guide, sharing some gummy fish and also paddling our toes into the sea as recommended. At lunchtime, we stopped at the Chocolate Factory for a hot drink and also some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted!

For me, what was so poignant about this trip was that it would not have immediately sprung to my mind as a form of heritage. The ‘typical’ form of heritage often involves museums and archives, however this trip showed that heritage can move away from these more traditional forms. When walking through the landscape and interacting with stories, we ourselves were interacting with and also helping create the heritage of the landscape itself. I think this is what is so amazing about this MA – it opens your eyes to different forms of heritage and helps you consider things in a way which you never thought of before. If you had told me that I would be walking along the coast, singing with my cohort I think I would have laughed at you! But the experience and feelings of community that were felt, not only on the walk but also when we got to Mullion and learnt about the harbour were hard to ignore.

https://louiseannwilson.com/work/mulliontide-a-guide-for-walkers

Fieldtrip series, Part 1: Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

By Orla MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy student at The University of Exeter

Hey there! My name is Orla Padwick and I’m a 21-year-old hailing from the sunny seaside of Brighton and Hove! Studying as a Postgraduate student on the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy course means that I will always be here to convince you that museums and National Trust properties are ALWAYS worth a visit (even though we all know that the tea-rooms and gift shops are difficult to avoid!). Being at Exeter since my Undergraduate means I’ve had my fair shares of ups and downs and will never be afraid to tell you one of my many embarrassing stories to show you how to (or how NOT) to do things!

Here is part one of my fieldtrip series!

One of the (many!) perks of studying an MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy is the broad range of fieldtrips which you have the opportunity to go on. The course really prides itself in giving you hands on experience with heritage sites and interactions with professionals in the field, so you gain both academic and practical experience. To give a taster of some of the trips that we go on (and also a sneaky peak at my photography skills) I thought I would start a fieldtrip series, including some of my favourite trips/heritage sites from second term.

On a very wet, and very windy Monday morning I went on a fieldtrip to Tintagel Castle in the north of Cornwall as part of my Interpretation, Narrative, Memory and Conflict module. This was actually one of the modules which had drawn me to the course in the first place, and although I had visited Tintagel one before, I was excited to get the opportunity to see what managing such a popular coastal site was like ‘behind the scenes’.

After a very chaotic bus journey, where the scenery appeared to become something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel, we arrived at Tintagel village to find that…everything was closed. Not a tea-room to be seen. Not disheartened (but definitely dishevelled) we made our way down the coastal track to the site itself. Contrary to its name, Tintagel Castle is in-fact a site of ruins – although this certainly does not make it any less impressive. Stepped in history and inherently linked with the myth of King Arthur, the site certainly looked impressive as we battled through the rain and increasing wind to get to the English Heritage station at the bottom.

After sampling the tearoom (a key stop of point for ANY heritage student) we met the Assistant Site Manager in the exhibition. The exhibition explains both the historical use of the castle as well as the intangible myths of King Arthur and Merlin and it was interesting to how English Heritage presented both sides of the story. Although we were told we were unfortunately unable to get onto the site itself due to the increasingly gale force wind, the discussion we had was a true insight into the problems of managing Tintagel. Factors including balancing visitor footfall and coastal erosion were key issues for the site – in 2016 alone Tintagel had 229,809 visitors![1]

There has been a recent inclusion of a suspension bridge between the mainland and the island where the castle is, which has massively improved accessibility, as before visitors had to climb over 100 very step and rocky steps. Personally, I am so glad that more sites are improving accessibility, as it enables the enjoyment of these sites to be shared and inclusive. It was also interesting to discuss managing visitor expectation and the balance between the Arthurian myth and the Cornish history of the site, and how to present this to visitors.

Although the trip was extremely wet and we were unable to visit the main site, I thoroughly enjoyed our first fieldtrip for this term! Being able to take what we had learnt in our seminars and critically apply them first-hand to a site was invaluable, as was the discussion with the heritage professionals. I would definitely recommend a visit to Tintagel to anyone who is exploring or studying in Cornwall and I will certainly be returning to walk across the suspension bridge to the island!

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

[1] https://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=403&codeid=789

MA Creativity Pop-up Event: The Exeter Happinesst

By Emma Anderson MA Creativity student at The University of Exeter

As part of their term two assessment for module EAFM003, the MA Creativity students were asked to create a pop-up event in just twelve weeks. With £250 at the disposal of each group the students went about producing an event to remember. Team Happinesst were one of the lucky few able to open their event before Covid19 prevented the execution of events going forward. The Exeter Happinesst was an interactive pop-up experience celebrating happiness. As one of the team members of The Exeter Happinesst this is my journaling of the process leading up to the event and the event itself.

Construction Day One: After weeks of ideation and meticulous planning we began constructing and transforming the events space. I arrived around midday with one other team member to collect some props and equipment we had hired from the Drama Department Technical Team. We had ordered a sizeable events tent to use as a central piece to build what we called ‘the nest’ from. ‘The nest’ would be a fort type space made from fabrics, pegs, and washing lines. It was inspired by the kind of thing you made as a kid to play in. However, the scale and instagramable nature of it would make it more of a spectacle for all ages. ‘The nest’ would be a hub for relaxation, meditation, and good feeling, where you could choose to mingle with others in a safe environment or reflect in your own way. Unfortunately, our events tent from which to construct the nest had arrived missing parts. We also found issues with creating the planned window display. The stressful nature of physically creating an event space over designing it was beginning to set in.
18.00: The rest of the team joined once finished with their busy working days to help begin the construction of the space. Our plan was to work in MakeTank well into the night and return early the next day to continue. I had luckily found a remedy for our window display and after a team meeting, we agreed to abandon the use of the events tent. Instead we began attaching taut washing lines from pillar to pillar in the centre of the event space. From these lines, criss-crossed above our heads like a spider’s web, we would hang fabrics and sheets and attach them using pegs. Most of the evening was spent in high spirits watching ‘the nest’ fabricate. Some positive energy, hard-work ethic, and inspiring music allowed us to press on.

Construction Day Two: The team returned to the space after a good night’s rest with energy and anticipation: today we would finish construction. ‘The nest’ was finished first. Next, projectors and coloured spotlights were set up alongside light stands dressed in white fabrics. This area of the event would be for light displays and projecting natural scenes to induce happy feelings. The back area of MakeTank was obscured using hanging sheets. The space was metamorphosed. I began to wonder what MakeTank had looked like before we had started. The event had taken on its own life with a new aesthetic and authenticity. I felt proud as passers-by would stop and look at our construction through the window. A few I invited to join us in the space at its unveiling to the general public the next day.
As the day progressed so did our event. A second delivery of equipment meant that we could continue to improve. An arts canvas element was added, lights and decorations were hung from the ceiling of ‘the nest,’ and an appreciation of the audience journey began to become imperative. I used some spare props to create another component for the event: a photograph opportunity or photo corner. This was put together using some abandoned wooden pallets, a few benches, sheets, fairy lights, excess spotlights, soft boxes, and netting. Although it was an unplanned add on element it helped to fill the space and encourage guests to interact through another dimension. My plan was to add the finished images to the Happinesst Facebook page with the guests consent so that audience members could engage with the Happinesst long after their visit had ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Event Day- March 14th: The team arrived early to make any last-minute amendments. Hot beverages and snacks were bought to offer to guests, letters were written with kind and heart-felt messages inside which could be taken home on exiting, labels scrawled with positive messages were artfully displayed on a hanging net at the front of the event. The intention behind this was that as guests came and went the net would be filled with multi-coloured labels. This would be a spectacle but also an indicator of our audience engagement with the space. Our module convenors arrived before the guests at 12 o’clock. The team were exhausted but proud of their work. I was dis-heartened by the prospect of having to dismantle everything, but the nature of a pop-up event is just that; to pop-up and disappear leaving only photographs and smiles.
The events unveiling kicked off positively. Guests were invited in off the street by a host and herded around each area of the event by a team member. The event received overwhelmingly positive engagement from young children who enjoyed the visual spectacle of the space. Older participants were amused by the event also. Yet, they engaged more with the social opportunities it had to offer. Guests interacted well with ‘the nest’ and the photograph opportunity. Some guests in their teens and twenties preferred the silent disco headsets and art canvas segment. Celebrating happiness, merriment, and a sense of community is welcome to all audiences and as a result everyone felt favourably about The Exeter Happinesst.

Although the event lasted a short three hours guests who entered left feeling that little bit more important and cherished. For the team and I, it was gratifying to see our creation produce the desired effect. Our vision became a lived-in reality all thanks to the resources and funding our MA course provided. The experience was as close as I have ever felt to being an arts curator or creative director, and even if I go down a different path within the creative sector I will always have this memory to strengthen my flourishing potential as a creative.

Heritage and Environmental Change – Field Course to the Lizard Peninsular MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy

By Rachel Gordon

 

In late March of 2019, students from the inaugural International Heritage Management and Consultancy MA travelled to the Lizard Peninsular for one of our three ‘Heritage and Environmental Change’ field trips. This module was particularly engaging, because Dr Bryony Onciul ran it in partnership with Dr Caitlin DeSilvey, a member of the Geography department. The teaching was shared by both, and we were also joined by MA Sustainable Development students. The addition of our peers added a compelling dynamic to this module: we were able to share thoughts and ideas with students from entirely different backgrounds; from anthropology to marketing, zoology to geography. We were also joined by film maker Danny Cooke and a representative of secular organisation The Churches Conservation Trust, Anthony Bennet.

 

ST RUMON

We began our minibus ride down to the most Southerly point of the UK: luckily, the sun was shining, it was a bright and crisp spring day. (Our field trips on the “Sites of Conflict, Commemoration and Memory” module had coincided perfectly with the spring’s biggest storms!) After a short while, we were dropped off at the side of a country lane and were told that we were only able to reach our first destination on foot. We arrived at the site of St Rumon in Ruan Major: this former parish church currently lies in ruin. According to Historic England, its roof was removed shortly after its closure in 1963 and is currently listed as Grade I. Because of the lack of roof, much of the inside is overgrown with foliage. The spring setting of our visit meant that flowers were in bloom, and these signs of new life provided a stark contrast to the derelict and unused structure. Surrounding the church was a small graveyard, with most of the ornately engraved tombstones dedicated to two specific Cornish families. We were met by Professor Paul Racey, who explained his interest in our studies. He was concerned that his church in Cadgwith (which we would visit later), would fall into the same state as St Rumon, as the congregation slowly dwindled. In our discussion we considered the ways in which the changing (social and physical) environment is affecting churches across the UK. Anthony spoke about several churches protected by the CCT that had been saved from ruin because they contained colonies of bats, which are vulnerable or endangered.

ST GRADE

After a lunch in the grounds of St Rumon, we travelled to our next location: St Grade Church. The church of St Grade is used by the local community, but still incredibly vulnerable. It is also listed as Grade I and dates back to the 14th Century. Inside, butterflies could be seen amongst the ferns that have grown in the brickwork. This was an interesting site and draws in visitors who are wildlife enthusiasts, with perhaps no religious or spiritual motivation to visit. Although damaging for St Grade’s structural integrity, the existence of such wildlife has increased visitor numbers and therefore revenue (visitors are encouraged to make a donation). The visitors’ book displayed entries from people who had travelled from all over the world, and all stated how beautiful the church was, and expressed hope for its longevity. Professor Racey spoke about the Friends of St Grade, who have appealed to the community for help in the conservation, preservation and repair of the church, because: “we all enjoy the opportunity at special times in our lives to worship, be married, be christened, be remembered or just rest a while and ponder in a local church.”[1] We discussed the fact that the social changes faced by St Grade made challenges posed by environmental change were even more difficult to negotiate.

ST MARY’S AND CADGWITH

After a discussion with Anthony and Professor Racey in the grounds of St Grade, we took a walk through the meandering countryside, passing the Holy Well of St Ruan on the way. Our minibus picked us up and took us to Cadgwith, a picture postcard perfect Cornish village. We arrived at the church of St Mary, a small structure, that is clad in blue corrugated iron and sits teetering on a cliff edge. Inside, Professor Tracey gave us another talk about the effects that the changing world had on the church, the local community and other traditional practices that have historically taken place in Cadgwith. He spoke of the loss of two local fisherman in 1994, for which there is a memorial situated inside the church, and how their deaths shook the local community. St Mary’s is by no means as old as St Grade and St Rumon, but it still faces the same challenges. After our talk we continued down the steep path, passing thatched cottages and sunny gardens. On the beach, we were lucky enough to be able to witness the interesting spectacle of Cadgwith fishing boats coming ashore. The fishing boats are rolled onto the shore using large logs, a practice that is no longer frequently seen elsewhere in the UK.

We finished our trip with an ice cream and heading back to campus. Our exploration of St Rumon, St Grade, St Mary’s and Cadgwith highlighted the challenges faced by small communities in the wake of environmental and societal change, and it was incredibly valuable to our studies, to be able to witness these effects first-hand. Anthony and Professor Racey were invaluable to our studies, as we gained an insight into two perspectives- the personal perspective of Professor Racey and the management perspective of Anthony. The trip was also a great way to explore more of Cornwall’s beautiful landscape, which is always a joy.

You can view Danny’s footage here https://youtu.be/mMN3Xk7X2ro

[1] Friends of St Ruan and St Grade. Available at http://www.friendsofstruanandstgrade.co.uk [Accessed 18 September 2019]