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.

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!


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.

Sense, Sensation and Cinema – MA Film Studies

Question: What is the study of film and why do I do it? 

First of all, to study film is really to study life, in many ways, within defined time/space parameters. Studying the affective properties of films relies on close watching and noting personal (and universal) reactions via personal response and peer-reviewed texts. We have the luxury of being analysts, philosophers and theorists with the added benefit of the freeze-frame and rewind. We can also draw upon so many resources outside of film study; from literature, art, neuroscience and behavioural therapy, just to name a few. A film can be read from so many perspectives beyond reflexivity. It’s a treasure box of possibilities!

Recently, I watched L’Avenir/Things to Come (2016) from a perspective of reading “Words for a conversation: speech, doubt and faith in the films of Eric Rohmer and Mia Hansen-Løve” by Professor Fiona Handyside. (see ref). The text takes the point of view of ‘female becoming’ in mid-life and post-crises.

The film is highly dialogical rather than overtly visual; the scenes play out in ‘real-time’ without voice-over or flashback narrative. Why is this an important detail, and would I have really noticed this fact before studying film? I guess I would have called it an ‘intellectual drama’, or ‘sort of French film’ pre-study, but without being able to fully articulate why I thought that was so.

The director circumvents problems of misplaced attention to the wordy interactions of the female protagonist by endowing her with the profession of Philosophy teacher, thus her dialogues are ‘read’ as in keeping with her character. But there is also a certain satisfaction to be drawn by films which assume an intellectual competence on the part of the audience, in that we can understand the content and meaning behind her discussions and debates.

The film dialogue centres around Nathalie, from whom we get a certain sense of superiority of attitude, yet we also watch her trying to make emotional sense of her life unravelling around her. The main quality that I enjoy with this film is the slow sense of time; we are with Nathalie the whole way through the film, comprehending and simultaneously not understanding the sequence of events that begin to define who she is becoming, and ultimately setting her free.

I wanted to mention this film, firstly because it made me realise something I was forgetting:

To watch films, to really understand films, you have to first understand elements of yourself; although conversely, films can also teach you something about yourself that you didn’t really know, or teach you new things about the world, your attitudes, beliefs and desires. What I began to miss was my passion; in reading academic texts, (which unfailingly give me the tools through which to define my own academic practise), I was beginning to take on ideas and write about things which I felt were correct, and although I have an interest in everything I write about, the ‘spark’ was missing –  my “I” voice, the one whose ideas really want to be heard in the world.

So L’Avenir reminded me, by vague proxy, of who I am; of a similar age (but without the attachments that Nathalie loses throughout the film), and still ‘becoming’ – I felt Nathalie’s frustration, passion and continuing desire to keep on evolving. And it reminds me why, via study as a mature student, I will never fully satisfy my curiosity about life, the universe, and everything.


Fiona Handyside (2019) Words for a conversation: speech, doubt and faith in the films of Eric Rohmer and Mia Hansen-Løve, Studies in French Cinema, 19:1, 5-21, DOI: 10.1080/14715880.2017.1408981

Video: Curzon, “Things to Come clip – “Sick of it.” YouTube Video, 2016.

Sense, Sensation & Cinema

By Anne Moore, studying MA English Literary Studies/Film Studies Pathway – Part Time 2 years

Film Studies Overview

If you are looking to study film theory, then the University of Exeter provides access to a wide range of research materials, world-class expert tutors teaching from within specialized fields, use of a vast library and online resources, The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, and many opportunities to take advantage of listening to visiting speakers in lectures and seminars. There are also special screenings and a regular film talk session, which is an informal discussion between staff and students about a particular film.

University of Exeter Pop-Up Cinema event for students on the MA in International Film Business (MAIFB) course in the Bill Douglas Centre, Streatham Campus.

This semester is well underway, and I must say it has been incredibly stimulating – some debate can even get quite lively at times! Every module is taught slightly differently, which also gives variety. Dr Joe Kember, the course convener for this module, likes to open the floor to general debate and encourages student participation as we thrash out the finer points of the week’s readings. Generally, there are about 4-5 texts to read along with two films to watch. The films are analysed in parallel to the text topics. It is great to see how each of us have unique interpretations according to our own experiences. In theory, of course, ideas are continually evolving, and I personally have gained some surprising insights into my own film-making practice which I hadn’t considered before embarking on a deeper research into film theory.

I get a lot of very incredulous ‘raised eyebrow’ looks when I explain to people that my course centres on analysing film. The general response is along the lines of, ‘oh, so do you get to sit around watching films all day?’ – Not quite! It’s a strangely incongruous practice; you have to watch the film as ‘naturally’ as possible in order to understand the affect of the film from a theory perspective, but at the same time you have to step outside of the enjoyment factor and look for minutiae, often stopping the film scene-by-scene in order to thoroughly comprehend the detailed information present. I admit I was closed minded at first about the genre or era of films that I wanted to watch, the ones I thought I enjoyed the most. But after one and a half semesters, I have found to my utter surprise that I have enjoyed films that you could not have paid me to watch before!

The reading is highly academic as you would expect; there is a lot to take in for the first few weeks, but this is essential in order to ‘get on top’ of current and historical theories in order to be prepare for the first assessment: The Literature Review. At 2500 words, this doesn’t seem to be a lot, but you do need to have read a wide range of theorists in order to compile a decent amount of research.

For me, this is my first ‘University’ experience, where the course is arranged over modules which act independently of one another but are weighted equally. I came from an Art College background, where the writing was supportive of practical assessments, hence the written work was around 50% of the overall award. I realised pretty quickly that I needed to read more…a lot more! I have learned to become more focused and keep to timetables in organizing my coursework. At Master’s level it is understood that you can be self-sufficient and organize your time well. Of course, there is plenty of help at the university by way of one-to-one tutorials, the Study Zone and wellbeing services, to name a few.

If you have got this far (stay with me!) I thought it might be useful to write a typical week breakdown, and the insights that I have gained in deepening my academic practice.

This week, (week 4), we have been analysing the kinesthetic affect of performance on audience spectatorship. The films to watch were: City Lights by Charlie Chaplin (1931), and A Man Escaped by Robert Bresson (1956). There were four texts to read, all dealing with the topic of kinesthesia from cognitive and phenomenological theory and philosophy. As audience/spectator in the cinema, we talk of ‘being moved’ by a film, but how so? And in what manner? Are we moved emotionally, as in ‘does the film make us laugh/cry’, etc.? Are we moved physically – do we jump in a startled response? Do we find our feet tapping to a dance number, or cover our eyes in horror, or, (like me watching The Aeronauts’), do we fall out of our seats? These seem like obvious and simple questions to answer, but as they say, the devil is in the detail, and there is great wealth to be uncovered in dissecting these responses using ourselves as subjects as well as reading the available texts.

Regarding the two films, I surprised myself by quite enjoying Chaplin in this role, and even found the film did in fact ‘move’ me, which I didn’t think possible, due to an unremitting antipathy for the actor. Likewise, I didn’t know what to expect from A Man Escaped. Although I enjoy the ascetic approach to filmmaking with its minimalism and strange emptiness, I found the film far more emotive on a tension level that, again, was surprising. These films are chosen by the tutors, and they are chosen I think because of this very likely presumption on behalf of most students – i.e. they won’t like them. It would be easy to put-up well-known blockbusters for perusal, but in using these more obscure films, then, we must cast aside all presumption and preference in order to reveal the meanings offered by the textual interpretations and apply theory accordingly.

I will post further insights of my own experiences of my course soon!

Disclaimer: I am a mature student on the course mentioned in the title, and all views and opinions on this blog are purely my own thoughts about my experience of it. All information given is correct to my knowledge regarding activities and services. Please feel free to contact me at any time for any corrections, advice or for anything else that I may be able to help with.

Musings of a mature student: Coping with the holidays and getting that essay done!

By Anne Moore, MA English Literary Studies with Film Studies Pathway

It’s a New Year, it’s a new day, it’s a new term, and I’m feelin’……meh. Has anyone NOT had the hacking cough virus?? It’s been a struggle, and that’s why I’m so glad I stuck to my early Festive rota of writing as much of my essay as I could before Xmas, leaving wiggle room for editing, refining and (just in case) illness!

So, there are several ways to approach writing an essay; in fact, the LSE have some great tips on their website.

My approach is to get as much done upfront as possible: as a mature student, I can’t pull all-nighters close to deadline, which seems to be a popular choice amongst some of the younger students, aided by heart-attack amounts of red bull and coffee! (Seriously, how do you do it?) …

Instead, I aim at around four hours a day steady writing, occasionally re-checking my research notes and making sure in-text citations have the correct page number. Then I just slog at it. I usually write my introduction at around 10-20% of the word count, then I write bullets points of what I hope to discover. This helps me stick to my point in the main body of the essay. It doesn’t matter about spelling and grammar at this stage – no point in correcting stuff which may well end up being deleted in the final draft! So, basically, I cobble it together then refine afterwards.  And referencing as I go. Also remember to do that turnitin check!

At least, in this way I have something to submit early on, in case of catastrophe, which happened to me in this case. I was bedridden four days up to deadline, so no, I didn’t write the stellar essay I hoped for, but I did have a finished essay to hand in, proof-read and formatted, checked and refined to a degree.

I have days that I’m sure you can all relate to…you know, where the sentence ‘the cat sat on the mat’ is the brain’s intellectual offering of the day and your head is full of clouds. You feel you cannot read ONE MORE thing and your eyes do that funny flicky from side-to-side thing. I either take a break and close my eyes for 10 mins, go and do something physical, or stop and set a later time in the day (that I have to stick to!) to carry on.

I used to ‘wait for inspiration’ in my undergrad days…that was great when I had 7 months to write 5000 words, (I kid you not), but I found it a shock to have to do the same in 3 weeks….so something had to change. I got far more disciplined, and when I wrote out my timetable for the Xmas break, it actually looked not only do-able, but easily so.

Other things I do to stay organised:

Cooking: I plan a week’s worth of food, make out a menu, and spend a day making meals so that I don’t have to waste time wondering each day what I’m going to eat and then have to do needless shopping trips. As it’s a 40 min round trip walking to the shops where I live, this saves me A LOT of time.

Work: Yes, I have to work to support myself, so I make sure that my reading/writing schedule is lighter on those evenings, and make sure I get early starts on the days I’m not at work. It’s so easy to procrastinate at home, and to get side-tracked. It’s not so bad for me as I have no dependents, but I still have to stay disciplined and not decide that hoovering the lounge is suddenly the most fascinating thing ever!

Delegate: I don’t like to ask anyone to do stuff for me, but since asking my sister (with whom I live) to take up the slack from some household/laundry/shopping chores, I find that I have more time. I have discovered that non-University family members can sometimes find it hard to believe that when you’re staring into space, you are actually working! I have also had to be firm about Do Not Disturb – it’s easy for someone to distract you and lose your train of thought. I shut my office door and have a sign on the handle. Family members can’t be expected to remember that you’re still working on the same thing two hours later!

Socialise: I make time to meet up with a friend, have a night out, and not spend the time worrying or feeling guilty, because I have scheduled it into my calendar. A good night out and having some fun does wonders for creativity!

Different approaches work for different people, but as I’m sure some of you have kids and families, and I’m betting that you were either sick or looking after someone who was during the break, which puts a tremendous strain on coursework, not to mention trying to be festive, not to mention all that cooking and cleaning!

So, the sun is shining on a winter wonderland today, I’m still coughing a bit, but I’m going to enjoy a well-earned rest, no coursework to write, so maybe some light reading up on this new semester work snuggling under a duvet!

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and are raring to go! Onwards and upwards to Easter!

Musings of a mature student – first blog

By Anne Moore, MA English Literary Studies with Film Studies Pathway

So this is my first post for the University of Exeter! It’s my hope to connect with some students, who, perhaps like me are older than the average student age group, or for other reasons find it a little daunting integrating into Uni life. Over forty (but not over the hill) – suddenly life seems very short, but the crazy idea to go back into study was the best idea I had heading towards fifty! Also, I think as you mellow into your mature years you realise your options are not something that you have masses of time to mull over, and you really value this chance.
My life is quite full, aside from study I have volunteer work in film, plus part-time work and I try to keep up with promoting myself as a freelance photographer and film maker (why are we never great at promoting ourselves I wonder? I guess that’s why there are agencies…hmm).

Graduation 2019 – a very proud moment

I don’t spend a lot of time on campus, as a part-timer, but I really love to be sociable when I’m there – I joined three societies in the first week, – The Mature Student Society, The Post-Graduate Society and Lightbox, and I attended the postgraduate welcome dinner, from which I have found a firm friend. As yet I haven’t made it to many socials, but I’m glad that I did on the ones I did go to. I like to go to the Ram for a Friday early evening beer and ‘decompress’ with my friend Ricky, before catching my train back to Totnes.
I love to mix with all age groups, and nationalities; age is not a barrier to me, although I think other people wonder when will I grow up??
I spent a lot of my life travelling, I lived in Spain and Argentina, never married or had children, so now is the ideal time for me to study without any ties – also it’s never too late! (I know, there is the cat, but that’s another story!)

The cheeky little monkey

I would love to hear from other students, mature or otherwise, who maybe live outside Exeter and for one reason or another don’t spend much time on campus. I think it’s essential to be able to offer support, to be a friendly face or even just to say ‘hi’ and have a five minute catch up. Seriously, days can go by without talking to anyone when studying from home – I do talk incessantly to my cat – she knows a lot of stuff about film now… !
I wrote a blog at my last Uni called ‘Musings of a Mature Student’ – maybe I’ll keep that title? So in short, my posts will be about my course (that’s why I’m here after all) – and how I juggle my studies with everyday life, but I will also share my experiences of my hobbies and interests which enrich my life, and by default also my studies. It’s going to be fun to write about the things I’m passionate about, and also to hear from like-minded souls or find new ideas!
So I hope my journey inspires other mature students out there, if i can do it, anyone can!
Topics To come:
> What – I get to watch Movies as part of my Master’s?

> Why I eat Primal – it’s Good for the Brain as well as the Body

> Tango Passion in the Heart of Devon

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.



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.


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.


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

[1] Friends of St Ruan and St Grade. Available at [Accessed 18 September 2019]

MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy: Field Course to Canada

By Rachel Gordon

This year was the inaugural year of the University of Exeter’s brand-new MA course, International Heritage Management and Consultancy, and I am proud to say that I am (very nearly) one of the first students to graduate!

The course has been jam-packed full of lectures by guest speakers and industry professionals, field trips to various locations in Cornwall and to Stonehenge, and incredible networking workshops and conferences. The icing on the cake, however, has to be awarded to our absolutely amazing 13-day field trip to Vancouver Island and Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada.

Day 1: Travelling to Vancouver

Our journey began at Heathrow Airport where our cohort gathered to board the Air Canada flight to Vancouver, Canada. Fourteen of us, including professors of English Dr Jim Kelly and Dr Chloe Preedy, Professor of Heritage, Public History and course co-ordinator Dr Bryony Onciul and professional Film Maker Danny Cooke, sat down in the airport lounge to discuss our expectations and anticipations. Our group was special; we had all come from different disciplines, had a range of different interests and experience and we had bonded amazingly in the 8 months leading up to the trip. We talked about how excited we were to be able to view all of the unique and diverse wildlife Canada had to offer and to be able to explore the various different layers of heritage narrative. Four of us had been to Canada before and were able to share some anecdotes with the rest of the group. We also discussed our lack of desire to have to use our bear-safety training and first aid qualifications that we had obtained as part of the lead up to the trip; Bryony assured us that it was unlikely we would encounter any unwanted wildlife, but we would have the opportunity to view Grizzly and Black bears in their natural habitat, from a safe and secure distance. Jim joked that he hoped we could get some use out of our extensive first aid kits, as they’d been such a hassle to check in. (Disclaimer: all we needed to use were a few plasters for some walking-boot induced blisters!) Before we knew it, our gate had been called and we began the first leg of our journey.

The nine-hour flight seemed to pass by quickly, and we arrived in Canada in the early afternoon. With a few hours’ sleep under our belts, we piled into taxis and made our way to the Pacific Spirit Youth Hostel, which was located on the University of British Columbia’s campus. The campus itself was absolutely huge, it felt like a small city and dwarfed Penryn Campus by comparison. We spent the afternoon exploring the local area and reconvened for some food in the campus pub. By the early evening, the majority of the group began to feel the effects of the jet lag and so we headed back to the hostel for an early night, and to prepare for the next day.

Day 2: MOA, Vancouver

And so our first full day in Canada began. The weather was wonderful, sunny and warm- so we took advantage of our having risen early (due to jet lag) and grabbed a quick breakfast in the sun on the UBC campus. We then travelled on foot to MOA, the Museum of Anthropology, also located on campus. We focused on themes of reconciliation, conservation and the presentation of difficult heritage. Anthony Shelton, the Director of the museum, greeted us at the entrance. He explained to us that the museum was architecturally designed to be embedded in the landscape and not to dominate it; the visitor must walk down into the land in order to enter. We acknowledged that we were stood on unceded Musqueam First Nations territory; we would continue to recognise the land upon which we stood at each stage of our trip. Anthony then proceeded to give us a brief tour of the museum, sharing with us his thoughts on why they had decided to display certain objects in specific ways. Much of the museum’s collection is housed on the basis of ‘dual ownership’, meaning that the museum looked after certain objects, but they still belonged to members of the First Nations communities. He showed us the museums ‘multiversity’, a collection space that housed various different items in glass cabinets that could be viewed from all angles. Then, we moved onto the museum’s newest exhibition: “shadows, strings and other things” which included over 250 puppets from around the world. After our short lunch break on the museum’s sunny roof terrace, we were lucky enough to be given a behind-the-scenes tour by the head curator. She explained to us the issues they were experiencing with lack of storage space and their necessity to expand. We would finish our trip at MOA in order to complete the circle, which is a First Nations idea and way of doing things.

Day 3: Capilano

The second day of our trip involved a lot more travelling as we moved from mainland Canada to Vancouver Island. On the way to the ferry terminal, we stopped at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park which claims to be “B.C’s earliest human connection to nature”. This popular tourist attraction allowed us to explore a broad scope of themes, including First Nations relationships with the natural environment, and the ecological and historical significance of British Columbia’s natural landscape. We acknowledged that we were standing on the traditional territory of the Squamish people (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw), another piece of unceded land.

The narrative of the site was focused on the various European settler groups that had lived in the area and contributed to the building of the suspension bridge.

The bridge itself boasted a beautiful view over the river (which is apparently the most fished river in the whole of B.C, according to our guide), and most of us braved the wobbly journey over to the other side. There, we received a tour of the native trees that grow across B.C, and learnt about their traditional uses. We also got to see the famous Banana Slug, a variety of slug that numbs the mouth of anything that eats it- this was very exciting for us, but they are apparently quite common across North America.

After our tour came to an end, we had the opportunity to explore the park independently, and we reassembled after a visit to Capilano’s extensive gift shop. We then drove to the ferry and waited in line. The crossing was roughly 2 hours, and we sat on the sun deck and enjoyed the stunning views that the evening offered.

Day 4: Port Alberni

The next day we rose early and got ready to start the day. Life felt immediately more relaxed on Vancouver Island than it did in the city, which we had anticipated. We made our way to the Port Alberni Railway Station: this heritage site is more functional in the summer months when a real steam train operates, taking visitors from the station to the Historic MacLean Sawmill. Our guide was fantastic- he was truly passionate about the industrial heritage of the area and had worked in the logging industry in the past. Logging is a widespread industry across B.C, where whole trees are cut down and transported across the country for use as a raw material. The industry continues today, so it was great to be able to compare the living process with its historical past. He gave us a brief presentation, providing us with anecdotes and photos of the sawmill’s history. Afterwards, we drove a short distance to the mill which was a truly fascinating place. Machinery, cars, lorries and wooden structures peppered the landscape. Many of the items had been left to decay and were covered in rust, moss and other growths, and these provided interesting photo opportunities. Our visit also tied in perfectly with one of our modules we had completed that semester: “Heritage and Environmental Change”. What seemed to bring the McLean Mill site to life was not the place itself, but the memories of the site that our guide was able to share with us. On our way to the next hotel, we discussed our obsession with the idea of decay that was sparked by our visit to the site and concluded that it reminded us of our own temporality, and the uncertainty that comes with living in an ever-changing world.

Day 5: Telegraph Cove

The following day became certainly my favourite day of the trip, and possibly one of the most memorable days of my life so far. The focus of the day was on the natural landscape of B.C and the wildlife that lives there. We started the day while it was still dark but it was well worth it to see the sunrise over beautiful Telegraph Cove. We had been staying in small groups in quaint little wooden cabins with our own kitchens and living areas which felt very authentic to this remote part of Canada. After a quick coffee and pastry breakfast we climbed into our boats (the group split into two and each had a driver and a biologist on board), and we began our journey in search of Grizzly and Black bears. About 10 minutes into the journey, a large pod of porpoises began to interact with our boat and were swimming alongside us, jumping through the crystal-clear water. Our guides told us that this was a rare sight for this particular type of porpoise, and we were extremely lucky. It was pure magic. Continuing our journey up to Glendale cove, we were able to see a Humpback whale and some dolphins. This was all incredibly exciting as the main aim of the day was to see bears! We reached our destination and transferred into two more smaller, lightweight boats. We were all expecting to have to scan the horizon for the Grizzlies, but there they were in plain sight as soon as we arrived. Our guide informed us that they can smell when the tide goes out and the mussels and other molluscs are exposed on the shoreline, they then wander out of the woods to eat. They were completely oblivious to being observed by us excitable bunch! After our lunch we travelled around the Glendale area to view some other point of interest. We had seen so much wildlife that our guide took us to some other heritage sights, which included some incredible petroglyphs and an abandoned First Nations village.

Day 6: Alert Bay

Perhaps our most emotionally challenging day was our trip to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, where we visited the U’mista Cultural Heritage Centre. The centre was built just a few yards away from the site of the now demolished Residential school, St Michael’s (or St. Mike’s, as it is known locally.) We dealt with themes of loss, suffering, and learnt about a really difficult part of First Nations’ history. We were greeted by Juanita, who is a member of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. She explained to us what ‘Potlatch’ is to First Nations communities and showed us the Potlatch collection housed at the museum. Most of the collection had recently been repatriated to U’mista from other western museums and private collectors across the world who had been sold items following the Potlatch ban in 1885. One of the conditions of their repatriation is that the First Nations community to which the collection belonged had to build a museum to “western standards”: in which to house it. It saddened me that one of the items that Juanita was currently trying to repatriate is still housed in my local museum in South London, and I reflected on the idea that I had seen it many times but in a very different and inappropriate context.

Day 7: Campbell River

The next day allowed us to experience another magical few moments that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. We travelled southwards down the island and stopped at Campbell River, a bustling town that was very different to the rural locations we had been staying in the days prior. The main activity of the day was… whale watching! Something we were all highly anticipating given the success of our previous wildlife tour. We were all given dry suits: heavy duty sailing attire that seemed a little excessive as the day was reaching the mid to late 20’s Celsius. We climbed into our boats, again the group split into two vessels and we started our journey. We were lucky enough to see three Orcas, accompanied by a new baby calf! We had to keep our distance in accordance with Canadian law which states that you must not pester the wildlife for too long. We had to scour the water for quite some time before we spotted them, which made their appearance even more thrilling! As we left the Orcas, we also saw porpoises and dolphins, as well as golden and bald eagles. The landscape was very remote as we drew away from Campbell River and it was an excellent opportunity to be able to view it in this light.

When we returned, we clambered back into our vehicles and headed for our next destination.

Day 8: Comox

One of my favourite days on the Field Course, and certainly one of the most uplifting was our visit to the K’omoks First Nation in Comox. The land we stood on was a reservation, and not unceded like some of our previous destinations. We were invited into their Big House, a structure built in the 1950’s by the grandfather of one of our hosts. This was a real privilege as non-community members have to be invited inside. The space inside was really special, it had a dirt floor and a fire was lit in the centre. Beams of light came in through a small crack in the roof and the smoke looked as if it was dancing. The room was framed by 4 totem poles, only three of which were carved because the artist sadly passed away before he could complete it. The K’omoks First Nation decided to honour him by leaving it blank. Our hosts performed 4 dances for us as we sat around the edge of the Big House overlooking the fire. The first was a ladies dance which welcomed us to the space, one was the dance of the ‘wild man of the woods’, and one was a dance that could only be performed by the son or grandson of a Chief. The fourth and final dance was a participatory dance that we all were able to take part in. Each dance was accompanied by singing, and the lyrics to each song told the story of the dance. There were also two drummers, one played a small drum made of stretched animal hide and the other played the “drum log” which was a large carved tree trunk that lay horizontally on the floor. We were able to see where bits of wood had been chipped and worn away after decades of being played. This experience was a wonderful way of seeing traditional Potlatch masks and regalia in a totally different context to the way we saw them at the U’mista Cultural Heritage Centre.

When the performances were complete, we ate a lunch together that our hosts had cooked for us, and we were able to ask questions and have a chat. It was a unique experience that we all treasured.

Days 9-12: Presentations and networking

At the end of the trip, we had the intense yet valuable experience of organising our own conference in which we each had to deliver a 15-minute presentation. The focus of the day was to share our thoughts and favourite moments of the trip with each other. Our presentations were marked by Bryony, Chloe, and Jim, the three lecturers who accompanied us. The planning process itself was a learning experience, Bryony had organised a room for us to use at MOA but outside of that, the responsibility was ours. We decided to divide ourselves by theme and create 3 separate panels. The themes were: nature and culture, indigenous identity, and loss within different Canadian communities. The presentations were really impressive. Everyone spoke on different topics entirely and it was a great experience hearing what everyone had learned and gained from the 12 days prior.

In the evening, we dressed up in our finery and made our way to the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver. This was our final event of the trip and a great way to round off a fabulous twelve days. The aim of the evening was to network with heritage professionals, Exeter alumni and academics, and the guest list was extensive and impressive. Sir Steve Smith, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, attended along with his wife and he and Bryony delivered speeches that made us all so proud to be part of the inaugural cohort of International Heritage Management and Consultancy.

Day 13: Going home

We returned home the next day ready to write our dissertations and complete the course, with a whole new knowledge base and skillset under our belts. The Canada Field Course was, from start to finish, entirely interesting, challenging, thought provoking, and enjoyable and I am sure any prospective student who experiences it in the future will feel the same.

Rachel Gordon is currently studying MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy at the University of Exeter.