September the First

Francis Close Hall is coming back to life after the summer break. The virginia creeper’s turning red. We have only sixteen days to go before Induction week. We’re rushing around and enjoying every minute of our favourite month.

Cheltenham is gearing up for the  Literature Festival 2014, too. The School of Humanities has close ties to the festival and the three-week event is the highlight of our year. Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Ben Okri are just a few authors among many who’ll be in town for England’s biggest literary festival.

The town is already looking autumnally fine.



A very warm welcome (back) to all current and new students of English Literature, Creative Writing, History and English Language. See you soon.

Photos of Cheltenham courtesy of and

Students read Cider With Rosie to raise money for Booktrust

To celebrate World Book Day and to raise money for Booktrust, our enterprising level 4 students of English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing arranged a sponsored reading of Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. It also marked the centenary of this Gloucestershire writer’s birth, and offered a good excuse to drink cider and eat cakes.


Siani Medlock made and decorated these splendid cupcakes.

Twelve readers started at about 3:30, egged on by a supporting crowd. By 9:30, in another location, we were flagging. But we completed the book.

The bitter end, c. 9:00 pm.

The organisers were interviewed on camera and some photos taken for the Student Union newspaper Space. We’ll collect the incriminating evidence for our Flickr photo gallery, to be uploaded here soon; please check back.

Many thanks to the organising team: Charlotte Damiral, Niall Gallen, Melody Grace, Siani Medlock, Laura Nicklin and Katherine Timbury. The readers were (in no particular order) Beth Norris, Siani Medlock, Luc Wafford, Katie McDonnell, Niall Gallen, Cherie Jones, Melody Grace, Natalie Mason, Laura Nicklin, Katherine Timbury, Hilary Weeks, Debby Thacker.

Sponsored Read-a-Thon for World Book day, 4th March

English Literature students are marking World Book Day next Tuesday with a sponsored reading of Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie. All proceeds go to the Booktrust.

The event celebrates the power of reading to change lives, and draws on the School of Humanities’ many connections with Gloucestershire writers. Each year we sponsor the Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, and the University Archives have extensive holdings of Gloucestershire Poets, Writers and Artists’ work.

Organiser Melody Grace writes:

Today in the UK, three in ten children are living in households that do not contain a single book. This year Booktrust have launched the Children’s Reading Fund to support children with additional needs, disadvantaged children and children in care. They want to help children throughout the UK enjoy books, reading and the lifelong benefits they can bring, and your participation could make a real difference.

On the 4th March, the English Literature course hosts a sponsored Readathon of Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. It will begin in TC001 at 3:15-and end in TC002A by 9:15 at the absolute latest. Refreshments will be provided!

Please support this student-led event and help to spread the gift of reading that we take so much for granted.
Cider with Rosie Read-a-Thon
Tuesday 4 March 2014
Francis Close Hall TC001 (Main lecture theatre)
3:15 till evening
Refreshments provided

A letter from a recent English Literature graduate

Graduates are lifelong members of the University. We love to hear from our former students and find out what they’re doing now. Here’s a letter from Mike Jordan BA (Hons) English Literature, class of 2013.

Mike’s fantasy front room.
Hi, my name is Mike Jordan, and I’ve just recently graduated from the University of Gloucestershire after three years of my English Literature BA (which I really enjoyed).

Towards the end of my final year, I had received an email asking if I was interested in doing any voluntary work for the Wychwood festival; working with Waterstones as part of the children’s literature event. The summer holidays in between studies are long, and I thought this would be a great experience to put my degree to good use. And I’m glad I did- as not only did I have a great time meeting the authors and learning a bit about children’s literature,  I was very fortunate in later getting a job with Waterstones; which I’m thoroughly enjoying and hope to take further as a career as a bookseller.

For anyone thinking of volunteering for anything or wondering what opportunities are out there that can help tie in with their own degrees after their studies, I would say to ask their lecturers and see if they know any contacts in the fields you are interested in. My lecturers were a constant support to me; and I know that without the contacts that my lecturers have had with these booksellers for example, this opportunity would not have been possible.

What I would say is keep looking out for these opportunities for voluntary work and do apply to them. Amongst having some fun experiences of your own, you never know what path they might lead to for your career.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013

In November our English Literature undergraduates became Bachelors of Arts. The Awards ceremonies took place at the Centaur, overlooking Cheltenham. It is a privilege to attend and always an occasion for pride, and some emotion. We all hear a great deal about what education can do for us, but not enough about how people’s talents and achievements help to create a better society. So let us pause and say so.

The University’s Flikr album captures some moments from the day. Professor Robert Macfarlane, who gave last year’s  annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture , received an Honorary Doctorate. The School of Humanities was among several schools represented. Our congratulations go to everyone.

After the ceremonies at the centaur, lots of new graduates returned to Francis Close Hall for the School of Humanities’s farewell tea. That was fun.


We wish the Season’s greetings and a very happy New Year to all graduates, and to current and prospective students. See you in 2014.


Open Day at Francis Close Hall, Saturday 12 October

Our Open Day for English Literature and all Humanities subjects, including Creative Writing, English Language, History, Religion Philosophy and Ethics [RPE] and Theology and Religious Studies [TRS] takes place this coming Saturday. We are based at Francis Close Hall, the Gothic bit, very close to the town centre. Take a virtual tour of the campus.

As well meeting some of the English Literature staff team, you will be able to talk to people about  accommodation at the university, finance, and admissions. You’ll also have the chance to meet some of our current students, too; after all, they are best placed to talk about what it’s like to study with us.

Do please look at the range of modules we offer. Click on our ‘course maps’ for the BA Hons degree in English Literature and English Literature and Creative Writing, . You can also combine English Literature with History or English language. Click on the course  here for maps.

Do you ever wonder what kinds of things we study? The answer is that we’re interested in everything to do with the cultural and literary life. Please take a look at some of our blog posts.

Our friendly Student Ambassadors will be on hand to show you around and take you on a tour of the campus, Library, and halls of residence. They know everything one could possibly know about student life at the University of Gloucestershire (ask them).

Let’s hope the nice weather holds. Whatever the day brings, we look forward very much to meeting you on Saturday. Please join us.

To all new and returning students, welcome to English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire

We are ready for another academic year. Tomorrow the new students arrive for Induction week. If you’re one, we wish you a very warm welcome to the University of Gloucestershire. You’ll meet your tutors and your new fellow students, join the student-run English Society, receive a Library induction, enjoy a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Everyman Theatre, collaborate on a small research project with your new colleagues, and begin the task of settling in. Our rule: if you are not sure of something, just ask us.
Everything kicks off with the first School of Humanities meeting in the Chapel at 9:00. And yes, Francis Close Hall Campus quad really does look as brightly autumnal as in the photo.
We look forward to welcoming back our current students into the next level of their degree programme. Every September, a new phase begins. We hope you are as excited about resuming your studies as the new students are about beginning theirs.  We think there’s nothing better than the literary life, and hope you agree.

Busy June

The exam and award boards may be over, and Wimbledon’s almost finished, but the university’s work continues. Recruitment and outreach events take place throughout the year. We had Open Days on June 6 and 22, and met lots of very nice people. June 6 was on the quiet side, as expected around A level exam time;* but at the English Literature subject talk on June22 it was standing room only. Our thanks go out to our visitors, prospective students, their families and friends. We hope we’ll see you in September.

It wasn’t really sunny and warm at the Open Days. This is s stock photo.

Also in June, sixth-formers from the Cotswold School, who joined us for our first English Literature Sixth-Form conference back in March,  returned to   Francis Close Hall  for a study day on research and library skills. The Humanities Subject Librarian, Mrs Rachel Reid, ran a workshop designed to introduce A-level students to the concept and academic practice of using secondary sources ibn their work – an essential tool for degree-level study.

*Special thanks to Matt Butcher BA (Hons), Amy Hall BA (Hons) and Mike Jordan BA (Hons), our student colleagues at the year’s Open and Applicant Days.

Humanities ‘webinar’ with prospective students

Last week, as we finished the semester’s work, the School of Humanities ran a ‘webinar’ for students who have applied to study with us in September.  Using Skype technology, the webinar allowed prospective students to log into a live chatroom with the Course Leader and students of their selected course. Matthew Butcher (English Literature and Language) and Chris Moore (History) joined me in the chatroom to answer questions about the course, their experience of studying, the University’s social life, the Literature Festival, and even whether Kindles can be used for studying (an excllent question, and the answer is….well, take a look).

Please note that you will need the current version of Adobe Flash Player to see the webinar.

If you use Skype, you’ll know that it is a great way to keep in touch with friends. It’s also terrific for making new acquaintances. Wendy, Scarlett, and Rebecca, thanks very much indeed for taking the time to log on. We enjoyed meeting you and hope we answered your questions. Speaking of which, applicants who have further questions or who would simply like to keep in touch, do please join our Facebook group. Click on ‘request’ and Dr Dave Webster will add your name to the group.

My special thanks to Matt and Chris, scholars and stars both.

George Orwell Day

Placa de George Orwell, Barcelona. Photo: H. Weeks
President Obama’s second inauguration may have pushed the first annual George Orwell Day out of the headlines, but both occasions are remarkable and deserving of our notice. To mark the 63rd anniversary of Orwell’ s death, Penguin Books have declared January 21 a day to remember and to re-read Orwell’s novels, essays, and journalism. Today’s Guardian collects the events in this article. It includes links to the  upcoming season,  The Real George Orwell  and to Orwell’s celebrated ‘Politics and the English Language’. Do Orwell’s five rules of good writing still mean anything in the digital age? You decide.

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking.
              from Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949): 2.7
George Orwell (Eric Blair) 
25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950