Pacifists and Protesters Theatre Trip

English students recently went to see Pacifists and Protesters at the Parabola Arts Centre. The production brought to life the little-known story of suffragette and anti-war campaigner Alice Wheeldon, who was sent to prison during the First World War on the charge of attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister. Wheeldon’s real crime was sheltering conscientious objectors, and the play showed how the evidence against her was fabricated by a secret agent, leading to some dramatic courtroom scenes in which Alice and her family were brought up against the full legal force of the government of the day. Alice was eventually released after going on hunger strike, but sadly died not long after. The production concluded with a devised piece that combined physical theatre and music with the words of poets, pacifists and protesters.

Induction Week diary: Friday

Francis Close Hall in the sunshine, early Induction week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English Literature students visit Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre during Induction week

Students of English Literature, and English Literature and Creative Writing, work and play hard during Induction week. The highlight is a visit to Cheltenham’s historic Everyman theatre. This gorgeous Victorian theatre runs a lively programme all year round and is very much at the heart of Cheltenham’s cultural life.

Here are some of one student’s photos of the theatre:


Photos courtesy of Emily Coleman, class of 2016.


We think there’s no better way to introduce students to their new home town than to to explore its cultural history. Freshmen students research, create and present a project on the theme Literary Cheltenham: Writing the Town. Every group of students came up with something new, or a fresh insight, reminding us that research is really a matter of curiosity, noticing things, seeing anew.
Students then contributed an idea, image or, in the case of one group, a collage of words and images to an oversized map of Cheltenham; a map of cultural or psychogeographic space. Our Writer in Residence, Anna Lawrence Pietroni, and Dr Debby Thacker led this part of the project; the English Literature team joined students for a round-table discussion at the presentations.
The best thing about this project is that students devise their own ways of looking, reflecting, and working. Our thanks go to all who took part.

All the world’s a stage

Cheltenham is a great town for lovers of the dramatic arts. The School of Humanities has long-standing partnerships with local theatres. Dr Rebecca Bailey, Senior Lecture in English Literature, and her students have been very busy lately on the dramatic front. Here’s her report:

This term returning students have benefitted from wonderful local opportunities to enrich their studies. In October, third year students from EX340 had front row seats at the Cheltenham Literary Festival for a conversation with award winning, contemporary playwright, Jez Butterworth. Talking about his new play, The River, currently running at London’s Royal Court Theatre and reflecting on the success of Jerusalem (2009), Butterworth discussed the role of the playwright in contemporary society. A fascinating experience for staff and students alike!
Second year students from the Stages of Drama module have enjoyed theatre trips to the beautifully restored Cheltenham Everyman Theatre to see Oscar Wilde’s delightful comedy The Importance of Being Earnest and Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. Both texts are discussed on the module and students relished the chance to see such excellent live performances.

Whilst, last week, students from the Renaissance, Restoration, Revolution module ventured to Bristol’s Old Vic for a rare chance to see John Ford’s classic revenge tragedy ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Produced by the renowned Cheek by Jowl theatre company, this was an electrifying and darkly funny staging which gave a fascinating insight into the early modern imagination.
 More theatrical delights are in the offing! I understand the English Society is planning a trip to see the terrifying Woman in Black later this month and I’ve heard whispers about a Christmas pantomime extravaganza and a trip to Stratford to see As You Like It in the spring.

Robert Macfarlane delivers the Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham Lit Festival

As usual, students and staff are enjoying a fortnight of all things literary, cultural and book-obsessed at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. Yesterday something really special took place. Robert Macfarlane delivered the annual  Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the University of Gloucestershire, to a capacity audience at the Forum. Dr Shelley Saguaro, Head of the School of Humanities, introduced Professor Macfarlane’s talk on walking the ancient paths and track-ways of Britain.  His long walks helped reconnect him with the landscape, as well as with walker-writers such as Laurie Lee, whose long walk from Gloucestershire to London and then on to Spain to fight in the civil war is described in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969). Professor Macfarlane’s book The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012) explores, in all senses, ‘the relationship between paths, walking and the imagination’. The autumn weather participated in the talk; thunderclaps and a terrific rainstorm forced him to stop speaking for several minutes. We felt that it was a tribute to his book.

Our students investigate Cheltenham’s cultural delights

Induction week is over. We combine work and play as best we can, and try to get to know each other a little before classes begin. English Literature students and tutors enjoyed a visit to Cheltenham’s gorgeous Everyman Theatre , recently restored to its late-Victorian glory.


For an hour and a half, we walked around the theatre, onstage, backstage, under the stage, up in the lighting galley, in the props room and the scene-painting area, the green room, and out onto the roof. The theatre is like a small factory dedicated to producing illusion and fantasy, challenging us to think about the relationship between reality and representation. Dick Whittington is the Christmas panto in 2012. We’re going. Oh yes we are!

The visit formed the basis, or at least the inspiration, for the Induction week project, Literary Cheltenham: Writing the Town. Students researched some aspect of the town’s cultural and literary life and history, and in a very short time – with a late night on Thursday, I hear – produced some sterling presentations on their findings. In the session I attended, discussion ranged from theatre architecture to Byron, from Lewis Carroll to C. Day Lewis, from Jane Austen to Thomas Hardy, from Stephen Fry to Geoff Dyer, from the local jazz scene to Jilly Cooper. We were impressed not only with the quality and engagement we saw, but with students’ poise and confidence. It was a great start to the academic year. Our thanks to all English Literature students who took part.

Photos: H. Weeks