Re-opening Heritage: Bill Douglas Cinema Museum Curator Phil Wickham tells us about the museum ahead of its reopening on 17th of May 2021

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum (BDCM) is home to one of the largest collections of material on the moving image in Britain. Both an accredited public museum and academic research facility, it has a collection of over 85,000 items. The museum documents the development of optical entertainment from shadow-puppets and 17th century books on projection, to the most recent Hollywood blockbusters, including artefacts such as Magic Lanterns, rare books, prints, and an extensive variety of publicity materials.

The museum commemorates British filmmaker Bill Douglas (1934-1991), whose work includes the Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972-78) and Comrades (1987). Bill Douglas, together with his friend Peter Jewell, was also a collector and after Bill’s death Peter donated their amazing holdings on the moving image to the University to found the museum, which opened to the public in 1997. The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum is a unique resource, Phil Wickham tell us: “Nothing else in the UK has the breadth and depth of our collections, which range from the seventeenth century to the present day or is as accessible. Instead of holding films themselves we focus on the experience of seeing them or engaging with the devices that preceded them. Together then the artefacts that make up the collection form a people’s history of the moving image that demonstrates how moving images have changed the way we see the world around us.”

The museum’s artefacts include programmes, prints, postcards, toys, books or devices, and are all accessible to both researchers and the public, as a source of engaging with this history. The museum also holds archives by independent British filmmakers in addition to Bill Douglas, including Don Boyd and producers Gavrik Losey and James Mackay. The collections continue to grow and the museum acquires material from many members of the public, who know their donations can be enjoyed and explored by all.

Phil says that “the collections are used extensively for research by academics at the University of Exeter and form the basis for a number of funded projects. Over the past couple of years, the museum has been involved in research topics as diverse as Vivien Leigh, Theatre and visual culture in the nineteenth century and the effect of Western gay films on LGBT communities in China.”

The BDCM supplies materials from its collections to over 100 classes a year at the University across a wide range of disciplines; including History, English and Sociology, as well as being central to the Film Studies programme. Alongside Professor Linda Williams, the Head of Film, Phil teaches a module in which students curate an exhibition as part of their assessment. He states that this “teaches them new skills in curation and teamwork – the collection enables innovative learning of many kinds.”

The collections are particularly useful for student dissertations, in order to undertake original research. Phil stresses, however, that the museum is a research resource for the whole of the academy and not just Exeter: “The stipend scheme has meant that scholars from all over the world have been able to visit and explore the collections. You can read Blogs written about their experiences at: https://www.bdcmuseum.org.uk/research/research-at-the-bill-douglas-cinema-museum/stipends-at-the-bill-douglas-cinema-museum/.”

Discussing how the museum has adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic, Phil told us that rules have meant that the Museum has been closed to the public for much of the year: “We were open for brief periods in the autumn but much of the usual teaching has not been able to take place on campus. We have still been as busy as ever however, especially in scanning materials to create digital resources from the collection for teaching. This allows students to still utilise our collections and apply them to what they are learning.”

The BDCM hopes to reopen in May when restrictions ease. Phil told us that the team “are very excited to welcome visitors back to enjoy our galleries and for us to share our physical collections. While we have all learnt the importance of the virtual over this period, it has also made clear how fundamental the pleasures of going out to places and seeing objects from the past are to us. It will also be great to welcome back the student volunteers that have been such a big part of the museum’s success in recent years.”

 

To donate to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum please see: https://store.exeter.ac.uk/product-catalogue/education-student-experience/bill-douglas-cinema-museum/donation-to-the-bill-douglas-cinema-museum, and follow @bdcmuseum on Instagram and Twitter for updates on its reopening.

Uncovering the Northcott Theatre Archive: Q&A with Heritage Project Manager Sophie McCormack about the upcoming ‘The Impact of Women’ Event on the 5th of May 2021.

On the 5th May at 18:00, Exeter Northcott Theatre will be hosting their ‘The Impact of Women’ event that will explore the stories found in the theatre’s archive collection. The project, which began last Spring was led alongside a team of interns from the University of Exeter who delved into the Northcott’s archive. The event panel will look at the stories that have been uncovered and discuss how the knowledge collected can be used to shape the future culture of Exeter and the South West.

Can you tell me a bit about the history of the Northcott Theatre?

The Northcott opened in 1967 as the first of several important theatres that were built on University campuses in the UK. From the very beginning it was hailed as a ‘theatre for the people of Devon’ and it quickly established itself as a theatre which intended to push boundaries, champion new writing and develop talented creatives. Over the years its many artistic directors have taken the theatre’s identity and mission in different directions – taking on the challenge of what it means to be ‘a theatre for everyone’ and interpreting this in a variety of ways. It has become well known over the years as a training ground for high profile actors such as Dame Diana Rigg, Imelda Staunton, Robert Lindsay, John Nettles and Bon Hoskins, as well as a training ground for theatre technicians and crew. Its annual Christmas Pantomime and summertime Shakespeare in the Gardens are fondly remembered locally and are documented in detail in the archive. The theatre has also lead work with young people through its Young Company, developing creative and artistic skills over several generations.

Has the archival work that has been conducted as part of this project altered or added to that history?

Our work with the collection has enabled us to explore the specific ways that the theatre reinvented itself over the years – and while this was previously looked at as a problem (the theatre having an identity crisis and never quite living up to the ‘theatre for everyone’ mission) we have found that in hindsight this flexibility and ability to change is behind its longevity and ability to withstand and survive some difficult periods in history.

The particular role of regional theatre and how it reflects, engages with and presents work to its community — drawing on local stories and talent in this process — is also gaining new relevance as the current team at the theatre looks to massively change the way it works with and supports its local communities.

How important were the student interns in carrying out this work?

The interns have been central to the archive research. They have identified key themes and trends in the archive and then looked into the detailed records and materials in the collection to uncover the stories behind them. The project focus has been led by them in a very real way: the content relating to theatre productions, projects, actors and theatre staff we are sharing publicly have all been selected and interpreted by our teams of interns over the past year. They have also made the selections of the material we have had digitised by the Digital Humanities department at the University.

Why did you choose Natalie McGrath, Sandhya Dave and Rachel Vowles as your speakers for this event?

Natalie is a real leader in the arts and heritage sector and highly respected locally as the co-founder of Dreadnought South West – an organisation that shares the hidden histories of women and their activism. Natalie is also a wonderful writer and experienced in working with regional theatres, including the Northcott.

Sandhya is a real changemaker in Exeter’s culture through her championing of diverse voices and communities and through her leadership of anti-racist work. Sandhya has worked with the Northcott previously to support better and more meaningful engagement with people with from diverse heritages and works tirelessly to support people locally to be resilient.

Rachel is an education and community engagement expert and well-remembered for her work at the Northcott during 1999-2009 — leading work with hundreds of local young people and developing spectacular large-scale community productions. Rachel is an excellent theatre practitioner with loads of knowledge about the local arts sector and the people that make it work.

What do you hope the event will achieve?

I hope that people will begin to see the archive as a fluid, dynamic resource rather than a dusty collection of boxes. It’s important that history and heritage are opened up to be interpreted by as many people as possible, so we get a fuller picture of the legacies we have been left with today. I hope that by using the archive as inspiration, the panel and event audience will see how history can be used to change and shape what comes next.

Tickets for the event are free and can be purchased via: https://www.exeternorthcott.co.uk/events/the-impact-of-women/

The event is part of a wider project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

To learn more about the Exeter Northcott Theatre, see: https://www.exeternorthcott.co.uk and follow @ExeterNorthcott on Twitter for updates pertaining to the event.

 

Q&A with Exeter Arts and Culture Co-ordinator, Naome Glanville, who tells us about the University’s art collection, current projects and her work.

Naome Glanville is an Arts and Culture Co-ordinator at the University of Exeter. As part of the Arts and Culture team, she looks after the university’s fine art collection and supports arts and culture projects and activities. Naome also writes articles for the Arts and Culture website, uses the fine art collection to support art history study and advises staff and students in planning exhibitions. 

To begin, can you elaborate on the importance of art commissions for the University?

The main aim of the University’s Arts and Culture strategy is to activate creativity, which involves supporting and the sharing of creativity both within and outside the University. We invite commissioned artists to make connections with research and researchers to inform their work and develop their practices, as well as invite researchers and academics to discover new perspectives to their work through interactions with creative practitioners. This potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas can enrich learning and impact for both parties.

The University of Exeter is an institute that values the arts, and the outputs of our arts commissions have been exciting and thought-provoking. They have ranged from exhibitions, soundscapes, movement with virtual reality headsets, to poetry and films. The commissions have supported the artistic community and increased opportunities for networking and learning.

Can you give an overview of the University’s Fine Art collection?

The University’s Fine Art collection consists of around two thousand items, including sculptures, paintings and prints. It includes works by Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost, Bridget Riley, Newlyn artist Harold Harvey and a large number of 19thcentury engravings of JMW Turner works. Working with the collection means not only acquiring artworks but also caring for them. We have just developed a new policy for the development of the collection, so that we manage the collection in a more consistent, transparent and strategic way.

What is on display on campus and where can the collection be accessed online?

You may be aware of our sculpture walk on the Streatham Campus.

Figure, 1964 by Barbara Hepworth.

Credit: Barbara Hepworth ©Bowness, Photo: Courtesy University of Exeter ©John Melville

Although currently closed to the public, we look forward to a time when it will be safe for the public to tour the sculpture walk once again.  On our website www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk you can see images of all the sculptures in the walk, read about the works and download a map showing where the sculptures are. Many of the sculptures date from the 1960s and 1970s and complement the architecture of the University buildings. Each month we are shining a spotlight on one of our artworks from the collection on the Arts and Culture website, so look out for that.

Can you tell me about Arts and Culture’s current art commissions?

The current arts commission is an 18-month partnership project with University partner the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), called Here’s to Thee. The project seeks to uncover the complex ecology and cultures that surround the art of cider making. This fascinating project is being led by internationally renowned artist Simon Pope, who is collaborating with a team of creative practitioners and also academics at the University of Exeter. The project includes the display at RAMM of a wonderful ‘Wassail bowl’ made of local clay by ceramicist Abigail North. You can see more about Here’s to Thee and check out Simon’s video diaries here.

The In Company of Insects project looked really interesting, can you tell me about it?

In the Company of Insects was an 18-month project with award-winning poet Fiona Benson. Alongside sound artist Mair Bosworth, Benson recorded insect sounds and interviewed entomologists from the University of Exeter and beyond, who were able to shed light on the curious lifecycles and habits of insects. These were all drawn together with poems specially written by Fiona, to make a set of amazing, immersive soundscapes, that you can listen to on the Arts and Culture website. The project then reached out for more insect-related poetry through workshops. Poems composed by members of the public, school children and other poets were recorded and can be heard on the Arts and Culture website.

How have art commissions and projects been implicated by the pandemic?

The pandemic has of course affected the way our work has had to be conducted. Very soon after the first lockdown Arts and Culture initiated a series of 10 micro-commissions in partnership with other city arts organisations, entitled Hyperlocal which invited artists from Devon and Cornwall to create a digital artwork exploring the hyperlocal of their immediate domestic environments. After a public-call out, the 10 selected artists created very different responses to the confined world they found themselves in, including poems, illustrations, soundscapes and films. I am sure that they will be fascinating to revisit in years to come, as a record of life in lockdown.

To find out more about the work of Arts and Culture visit www.artsandcultureexeter.co.uk and sign up for our regular Arts and Culture newsletter. Follow Arts and Culture on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/artsandculturex

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artsandcultureex/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtsAndCultureExeter

William Golding: Beyond Good and Evil: Q&A with PhD student Bradley Osborne who tells us about the upcoming William Golding symposium on the 8th April.

As he approaches the end of his degree, Bradley Osborne and colleague Arabella Currie are hosting a symposium on the work of William Golding. An extensive range of work by the Cornish-born author is held in the University of Exeter Special Collections and archives. These are used extensively by academics and students and, often, inspire teaching modules.

Bradley’s thesis argues that Golding’s novels had a clear goal to reawaken in his readers, a sense of strangeness and mystery in the world, which he felt had been lost as a result of contemporary developments in science and technology. The symposium, which will include talks from academics at the University of Exeter, Chester and Bath Spa, similarly seeks to shed new light on Golding’s works, where the writer’s creative output has suffered from a dearth of serious critical attention in the past two decades.

What attracted you to William Golding’s work as a basis for your PhD?

I was not at all a Golding expert before starting the PhD and in fact I originally had no intention of studying his work. It was only when the university advertised a funded PhD studentship on Golding and the archive that I seriously considered making his writing the focus of my research. I realised very quickly that the study of Golding had been virtually abandoned for several years and that there was therefore an opportunity to do something completely new and fresh. So I applied for the funding and, as they say, the rest is history.

How important was the Special Collections Golding archive to your research?

The archive has been absolutely essential to my research. It’s fair to say that I could not have written my thesis without it. My argument heavily depends on the findings that have come out of my study of the drafts and notebooks held in the archive. On a slightly different note, what else the archive has given me is a genuine sense of discovery that I had never experienced before as a student of English Literature. During my undergraduate and masters degrees, I wrote on texts that I knew well and liked well already, and about which I already had a firm idea of what I thought and what I wanted to say. Whereas as a PhD student, I’ve found that my conception of what Golding’s work is about could change quite drastically from week to week, because of the discoveries I was making.

How did the event come about? Can you provide some insight into your collaboration with Arabella Currie and the Golding estate?

It’s been something of a pet project of mine and Arabella’s for a long time now. On more than one occasion, we discussed the feasibility of putting on a Golding conference at Exeter. I must admit that I was rather pessimistic about the likelihood of attracting a large enough audience and array of speakers to present. It was Arabella’s idea to put on a digital event, and it’s an example perhaps of one of the very small number of positive results that have come out of the current pandemic. What this means for us is we can attract a global audience that might otherwise have been dissuaded from attending, had we organised an in-person event in Exeter. Golding’s name is internationally recognised, so it’s important that we in Exeter stay in touch with fans and scholars scattered across the globe.

Why do you feel that Golding’s creative work has suffered from a dearth of critical attention in the past 20 years?

I can certainly elaborate on it, though I wish I could explain it. Lord of the Flies, of course, suffers from being done (and therefore overdone) at secondary schools, so I suspect that most students are discouraged from reading the rest of Golding’s work. School textbooks are ultimately based on the academic scholarship, and the critical consensus on Golding has not changed very much since the 1960s. Back then, most critics argued that Golding was a pessimist as a result of his experiences during the Second World War, and thus they read his novels as allegories of the human condition. My guess is that the study of Golding collapsed from exhaustion – there was too much being written that had too little that was fresh and original to contribute to what was already known and thought about his work. But this is exactly why there is a huge opportunity now – thanks, in large part, to the archive being made available to researchers – for anybody who is interested in Golding to change the narrative, and this is what we are trying to encourage with this event.

What panels are you particularly looking forward to?

I must admit that I have a favourable bias towards research that is outside my own expertise – so I’m especially excited to hear Cristina Ferreira Pinto and Sofia de Melo Araújo’s paper on teaching Lord of the Flies in primary school and in universities. Otherwise, though, I think we have a nice range of papers, selected from a large number of proposals. The other presentations such as Adam Gutch’s proposal for a film & the conversation with Una McCormack and Nina Allan are hugely exciting too and will be a nice break from the more serious academic discussions which will take up the rest of the event.

The symposium aims to be an important first step in reawakening interest in Golding’s work and in re-establishing it as a viable field of study for future scholars. Exeter professor, Tim Kendall, told us that Arabella and Bradley are both writing ground-breaking books on Golding’s work and that the university are proud to be organising a virtual symposium on Golding’s achievement.

To register for the event and view a full programme see:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/william-golding-beyond-good-and-evil-registration-143746949997?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch

Cataloguing the Common Ground Archive

Annie Price, Common Ground project archivist, tells us about the arts & environment charity’s archive, which is held at University of Exeter’s Special Collections.

The University of Exeter’s Special Collections holds many exciting and fascinating archives, including the archive of the influential arts and environmental charity, Common Ground. In August 2018, I embarked on a project to catalogue the charity’s extensive archive, which was completed in December 2020. The new catalogue descriptions will allow the archive to be more easily searched, accessed and used, both by the University’s staff and students, as well as external researchers.

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was established in the early 1980s with a mission to link nature with culture and use celebration of the everyday as a starting point for local action. The charity has raised awareness of a variety of environmental issues through its innovative projects, which have involved public participation, the commissioning of new artistic works, the organisation of events, the launching of new calendar customs, and the publication of books, pamphlets and leaflets. Many of the projects – in particular, ‘Parish Maps’, the ‘Campaign for Local Distinctiveness’ and ‘Apple Day’ – have proven to be highly sustainable, continuing long after Common Ground’s active involvement in them ceased. The Common Ground archive comprises a wide range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1982 and 2013, including project planning papers, correspondence, reports, financial papers, research material, press clippings, photographs, promotional material, and publications.

For me personally, the aspects of Common Ground’s work that really shine through the archive are project conception, public participation, and engagement through the arts. For each project there are project proposals and project planning notes, which reveal the thought processes and creative ideas behind Common Ground’s projects. The excitedly scribbled questions and ideas on pages of lined paper are particularly wonderful! All of Common Ground’s projects involved public participation to a certain degree, but my favourites are those that invited members of the public to share their own knowledge and experiences. Thousands of letters from people around the UK (and, in some instances, around the world) relating to projects such as ‘Flora Britannica’, ‘Orchard Observances’ and ‘Parish Maps’ provide fascinating insight into the relationship between people and the environment. And finally, the archive contains correspondence, photographs and publications relating to Common Ground’s collaboration with artists, sculptors, craftspeople, photographers, writers, poets, playwrights and composers. The directors of Common Ground understood that the arts are an effective means to engage and excite people about their local environment, and made a special effort to work with a wide variety of practitioners, including Peter Randall-Page, David Nash, James Ravilious, David Wood, James Crowden, and Karen Wimhurst.

The Common Ground archive has the potential to be used for research in a wide range of areas, including environmental studies, geography, literature, visual arts, cultural studies, sociology, and business studies. The archive may also be of general interest to anyone keen to know more about environmental issues, arts, culture, or their local area (the archive includes material relating to thousands of towns, cities and villages across the UK). We hope that this cataloguing project will enable the archive to be more easily and effectively accessed and used for research, teaching and pleasure.

You can explore the new archive catalogue online here. More information about Common Ground’s different projects and the archive is available via the Special Collections project blog posts and our online guide to the Common Ground archive. You are also welcome to contact Special Collections by email at for more information about the archive.

Postgraduate student, Anna Townhill, tells us about her experience with The University of Exeter’s International Heritage Management and Consultancy MA programme

I recently graduated as a student at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, in the second cohort of Exeter’s MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy. I was first drawn to the MA course because of the variety of learning experiences it had to offer. The opportunity to follow my existing interests while exploring new and current thinking in the heritage sector was invaluable. The course was both vocational and academic, which was exactly what I was looking for, having just completed my undergraduate studies in English at the Streatham campus. I wanted to gain more workplace-specific knowledge and this degree offered a great variety of both topics and learning methods. While other heritage MAs specialise in only one area, this programme enabled me to research anything and everything from Irish peat bogs or metal detecting, to the British Museum’s recent exhibitions.

One of the most important skills I gained during the MA was project management and the ability to grapple with big issues in heritage. Adapting large projects like the field course and dissertation to home-based learning was challenging, but it certainly tested our research skills and adaptability. Lots of heritage research is site-based and so the lockdowns forced us to find new ways of working. Developing innovative approaches to work is a skill that we honed throughout the MA, as balancing competing deadlines and incorporating new research into our learning was very much encouraged throughout. The skills and experiences I gained prepared me for a wide variety of future careers, from local government to entering academia or heritage education. A network of professional bodies and partners have helped shape the course, and this really shows in the programme. Heritage and Environmental Change was a module that left a big impact on me, and has made me really mindful about considering heritage in context of the climate crisis. Exeter has an amazing heritage team who are at the cutting edge of research and engagement in this area. This meant that everything was very fresh and exciting. The course is very collaborative and interdisciplinary, and has elements of geography, history, literature, anthropology and politics, to name just a few areas that kept us on our toes.

The experience I found the most useful was my work-based placement with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Team at Cornwall Council, one of the University’s partners. I had the opportunity to present at a conference and network with professionals alongside my studies, which was a great experience. If I were to give advice to other students on this course, it would be to not be afraid to take opportunities that are presented to you — whether it’s presenting at an event or becoming a research assistant. The work-based placement allowed us to pursue an area of particular interest, or just to try something new. I wanted to gain experience in natural heritage and community engagement, so this was a great fit. Some of my peers with other placement providers designed exhibitions, while another created a biodiversity report for a local estate. Reflection on the placement was built into our assessment, and this really helped me pinpoint the things I’m good at and the areas I’m keen to improve in the future.

Images, from left: Tintagel, Cornwall; Stonehenge, Wiltshire.

Another big attraction of this MA was the opportunity to go out in the field. While our biggest field trip to Vancouver was sadly cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had still been able to experience a variety of UK field courses in the academic year, such as to St Michael’s Mount and Stonehenge. My stand-out moment was standing in the inner circle of Stonehenge just after dawn. Such opportunities are rare, and looking back it feels even more special than it was in March, just before the pandemic took off in the UK. It was such a beautiful frosty morning that we didn’t mind getting out of bed at 5am.

I have recently started a new job at the National Lottery Heritage Fund as a Business Delivery Assistant in the Central Team. It matches up very well with the knowledge and skills I gained during my MA – from knowledge of the grants application process to managing a portfolio of work. I’m really enjoying getting to know everyone at the Fund, and gaining more insight into a diverse organisation that is the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage. Had I not taken the leap and started the Masters course, I would not have felt confident enough to apply for this role. I would definitely recommend this course to others wishing to further their understanding of heritage and the role it plays in the UK and societies around the world.

Culture Interns: Humanities student Rosanna Armstrong tells us about her experience as a PATCH intern and becoming a mentee with Heritage Lead Nicola Nuttall…

I am in my third year at the University of Exeter, studying Art History & Visual Culture and History. I have long been interested in pursuing a career in the Arts & Heritage industry and my time at university has strengthened this ambition. It has enabled me to gain a greater understanding of the sector as well as the chance to develop my skills through work experience.

In my first year I undertook the University’s ‘Professional Pathways to Arts, Heritage and Culture’ (PATCH) program. This training course was delivered by industry professionals and included speakers from various cultural organisations such as Arts Council England and the National Trust. This program enhanced my understanding of fundraising, audience evaluation and project management. This year I signed up for the University’s career mentor scheme with Nicola Nuttall (Heritage Theme Lead) as my mentor. This was a valuable opportunity to have one-to-one careers advice from an experienced professional. I gained a greater insight into working in the Heritage industry as well as access to networking opportunities.

In October 2020 I was given the opportunity to attend a virtual conference by the South West Federation of Museums & Art Galleries. I was given free tickets to the event in exchange for participating in a Twitter takeover and undertaking social media activities on behalf of the organisation. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Interpreting, Curating and Combatting the Climate Emergency’. The conference involved fascinating sessions about how the Heritage sector can contribute to increasing public awareness about climate change. It was led by a range of workshop leaders from across the South West and beyond.

During my time at university, I have made use of the museums and arts organisations in Exeter. I am especially interested in cultural outreach and have sought opportunities to gain knowledge in this area. I began volunteering at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in 2019 and my role was initially focused on cataloguing historic film stills. I am now building on an audience development report by exploring ways of expanding the Museum’s community engagement initiatives. I am also a member of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum’s Youth Panel. This role is based on shaping the Museum’s exhibitions and events programme in order to maximise the engagement of younger audiences. It has involved assisting with publicity, exhibition planning and the organisation of a ‘RAMM Late’ evening event.


In the spring lockdown period, I took part in RAMM’s social media campaign to keep audiences interested in the Museum by creating video content. At this time, I was also employed by Mayes Creative in an internship organised through the University. This involved producing creative engagement opportunities in partnership with Heritage organisations in Cornwall. The focus was on COVID-19 response projects designed to offer a sense of connection to those facing additional isolation due to age.

Overall, my experiences with Heritage in Exeter has enabled me to clarify my future career aspirations as well as add depth to my degree studies. I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had whilst at university and hope that they will have enhanced my employment prospects for the future.

English student Kate Debling updates us on her internship experience with the Exeter University Heritage and Culture Team

During the summer of 2020, I undertook a virtual internship with the University of Exeter Heritage and Culture Team as part of the Pathways internship programme. Five months on, I am delighted to be continuing my experience with the department, now interning as a Heritage Innovation Communications Assistant.

My summer experience as a digital content creator for the Exeter Heritage website was extremely rewarding, as it equally enabled me to improve upon my existing skills and learn new ones. In creating news and blog content, I was able to implement editing skills that are intrinsic to my degree in English, while at the same time, I could experiment with new forms of writing. Through collating and adapting information and research pertaining to heritage-based academic research and projects, I considerably expanded my knowledge of the heritage sector in the South West, as well as my awareness of the University’s broad level of collaboration with other heritage and academic institutions. This initial work has provided me with significant basis for my current work, in an expanded new role.

In continuing my internship experience, I am looking forward to being more involved with the Heritage and Culture team, in supporting the Heritage Innovation website and its social media platforms. This year, in particular, there have been numerous new projects that have adapted heritage practice to digitally accommodate the constraints of the pandemic – for example, the aerial reconnaissance project co-lead by Exeter academic Ioana Oltean, that utilised drone technology to photograph previously unknown archaeological sites. I am especially looking forward to researching these new projects and am keen to investigate and present the ways in which academics and heritage institutions in the South West have continued their work during this time. Through the Exeter Heritage website and Twitter platform, I will be able to make both students and wider readers aware of this work.

In supporting the Culture Team, I am looking forward to connecting with other arts across the University. My first priority is to build the connectivity between internal departments and students through the website, in which news and blog items can be posted and made accessible to all departments and students. As a site of interest, the website and Twitter can expose students to research projects within their degree and outside of it and, in emphasising the university’s broad heritage network, students will be more able to seek out heritage and culture opportunities, as well as connect with academics about their research. Building on this internal connectivity, I also intend to improve the visibility of the University’s connections with external partners, featuring updates and news from heritage organisations such as the South West Heritage Trust and the National Trust. In using social media in conjunction with the website, sharing information can be more regular and quicker, and will improve interconnectivity through attached links to articles or sites of further interest.

In the new year, I am looking forward to continuing my work with my summer colleague, Frank Allen, and our collaboration in discovering new projects and publishing them on the Heritage website. In working alongside my degree, in my final year of study, I am keen to further improve my time-management skills, balancing my academic work alongside my work as part of the team. In working virtually, I aim to build upon digital skills which are becoming increasingly important as industries become more digitised.

I hope to gain even more skills than I did during the summer and am very excited for the work to come.

Remembering Charles Causley

Following his participation in the digital signing on 17 September 2020 of the Causley Trust/Exeter University Memorandum of Understanding as a Trustee, Mike Cooper reflects on a lifetime influenced by Charles Causley’s writing and by the man himself…

Once upon a time, I was a young English student at Exeter in Charles Causley’s days there. Nowadays, I’m both a Causley Trustee and an Exeter English postgraduate.

I didn’t know Charles Causley. I only encountered him, perhaps a dozen times over 25 years, always anonymously. He’d have no clue at all about me. Half those occasions were at Exeter in the 70s: he was a Visiting Fellow in Poetry in the Department of English; I was an undergraduate.

They were tutorials and seminars, plus a public reading or two of his recent poems. In packed lecture theatres, the effect of poems like ‘A Wedding Portrait’, ‘Ten Types of Hospital Visitor’ or ‘My Friend Maloney’ was remarkable.

English staff, and other visitors like Ted Hughes, gave different public readings. Yet Causley – low-key, diffident, almost entirely self-educated – always gripped the room with his poems’ worlds and ideas, their craftsmanship and striking inventiveness.

That all remains vivid, after nearly 50 years. I recall far less about those smaller-scale ‘close’ encounters, with ten or 20 students jammed into smaller rooms in Queen’s Building. A recording of one such session involving both him and Hughes would have been gold-dust – not least for their patience, and the quiet comedy of typical artsy Exeter students of the period utterly failing to appear cool or impressive. Yet Causley’s generosity and sensitivity towards students went rather wider. He dissuaded one from leaving the course (or worse), and eventually saw him become a schoolteacher. He even offered to read and comment on poems written by the teenage son of the Professor of Extra-Mural Studies.

I left Exeter to train and work in education: deeply fond of, and interested in, Causley’s poetry. I used it regularly with adults and young people. It always ‘worked’ – for me as the teacher or lecturer, but more importantly for the students. And I’m still astonished by how his poetry speaks to me, personally, despite my having virtually nothing in common with him or his life experiences.

Our paths crossed just a few more times after my Exeter days – again, mainly ‘anonymously’, at public readings. The final occasion was trivial and momentary. A week’s family break in North Cornwall finished the day before Causley’s 75th birthday. As we headed home, we diverted off the A30 to his house in Launceston: Cyprus Well. My five-year-old son, having had ‘The Tale of the Trinosaur’ read aloud to him over the preceding nights, took a card to the door. The elderly man who answered, breaking off from some small gathering, gravely accepted the envelope. He then opened it, read the printed cliches and saw the scribbled signature. “Are you Alex? I don’t think I know you, but thank you very much, Alex. This is a splendid card, and a real surprise, too. I shall keep it.” That was Alex’s first and only time: an episode he’s now long forgotten. It was my last encounter, and I won’t forget it.

A while before that, I began itching to try the kind of postgraduate study I’d never managed. When I moved back down south for new jobs and later began approaching retirement, that idea returned. Connecting first with the Causley Society and the Charles Causley Festival in Launceston – both now merged with the Trust – was a further spur to that thinking. So: I got involved in both those organisations. These days, as a recently appointed Trustee, I try to support its vital, successful work still more.

And as of September 18th, that work is at last rightly and properly going to be in full collaboration with Exeter University. I think Causley would be very pleased about that.

Discovering that Causley had left his archive to Exeter University clinched things for me, about the mature-student idea. So, I arrived back on campus almost exactly a year ago, and began work in the Old Library’s Special Collections Reading Room. Just recently, I’ve returned after the University’s coronavirus hiatus to studying those drafts, notes, clippings and correspondence.

I’m looking at how a lifelong, shattering thread of Causley’s life – war – emerges throughout his writing: his subjects and concerns, settings, stories and characters, his language and images. I hope this too will add to all the growing work and influence of the University and the Trust, helping maintain and promote the legacy and impact of Charles Causley and his poetry.

I’ll end by saying that back in early March, finishing my final pre-Covid spell in the Reading Room, I came across a box of cards amongst his personal mementoes. I was hoping to find some from Causley’s old naval comrades. I didn’t. But amongst it all, I did find one birthday card which had been hand-delivered by Alex.

Heritage Internship #3: a student’s perspective

In the third blog about the Heritage Internships we hosted over the summer, Archaeology undergraduate Ellie Speechly reflects on her experience…

Going into 2020, I was fortunate to have been involved with the University of Exeter’s Professional pathways scheme, an internship programme designed to give students an authentic workplace experience, along with specialist training in a field of their choosing.

As an archaeology undergrad, I was over the moon to have been accepted and was waiting with anticipation for a heritage-related placement! But much like the rest of the world, all these plans were put on hold thanks to the covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the efforts of the PPS team and the wonderful collaborating organisations, remote working positions were arranged so no-one missed out on gaining from this worthwhile and professionally enriching experience. I was privileged to have been offered a role at the University itself with the Heritage Innovation department, a team that ensures the University has an extensive pool of partnerships and collaboration networks, operating on an international scale.

I gained infallible insight into the networking skills required within the heritage sector, in addition to learning how many large-scale organisations such as the National Trust operate. Myself and a fellow student were entrusted to assist in researching and constructing a compressive report, containing all ongoing and completed partnerships, operations of memorandum and projects that the Humanities department were/are undertaking, in addition to the staff involved. This will later become a digital tool for students, staff and external parties to consult in order to better understand the vast number of projects the University has had a hand in. I was particularly proud of the sheer quantity of information my colleague and I managed to read and research; it was all so interesting and engaging that I could easily have spent days at a time reading about a single project, such as those ongoing with Powderham Castle or the fascinating upcoming project on Vivien Leigh being untaken by the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. The internship proved to be great practice in contacting those within the heritage field, in attention to building relationships with those in the sector that has proven valuable as a new graduate, particularly in these difficult times! Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, my internship was a wonderful experience as it provided me with realistic skills needed in the heritage sector today, such as effective communication and research through more innovative means. I’m now fortunate enough to be involved with the SS Great Britain as a direct thanks to my wonderful employers, who have continued to support, mentor and provide invaluable insight and advice into the world of work.

Though working remotely had its set-backs, with interaction being limited to the video chatting format, with which we are all so familiar with now, I couldn’t have asked for better employers or co-workers. I cannot express in words how unbelievably enriching both personally and professionally this internship has proven to be and I would highly recommend to anyone to apply and give it your best shot.

Good luck and all the best in all your upcoming endeavours!