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Being Human: Past, Present and Future

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This research priority area was established in the university to address areas of research that were concerned with human experience and a sense of heritage and direction. It draws on the riches of the past, with the formative potency of memory, and focuses on engaging with modern thinking about humanity in the cyber-age and considering possible futures. The modern post-secularised situation is one which looks for the recovery of meaning following the profound loss of commonly accepted construals of reality. Within this context, the questioning of what it means to be human is a key imperative underlying the area’s direction of research. This is inseparable from acknowledging how the meaning of the human is continually contested by, and inextricably entwined with, powerful forces of globalisation, spectacular advances in technology and scientific knowledge, and conflicts over politics, ideology and resources.

Heritage and direction

This strand of the research area is related to the preservation, encoding and transference of our collective experience, and what might be called our mimetic inheritance. This inheritance embraces a wide body of work, and research in philosophy, theology, history, English, art, and writing, ranging from literary, film, language and cultural studies to computer science and journalism among others.

Meaning and reality

This strand of the research priority area focuses on artistic, cultural, curatorial, and critical concerns. This includes artistic, philosophical, and spiritual enterprises, and the critical study of textual and visual artefacts, and social and material conditions of the production of such artefacts. Research in this area focuses on the study, questioning, and representation of the nature of our reality, and in finding ways for us to critically examine it, including through the generation of artistic media, and through the reception of such media.

Forces and contests

This strand of the research priority area focuses on the study and representation of the conflicts and contests one finds where powerful forces come into apposition and opposition, and what that means for us as individuals and as a species. Naturally, there is significant cross-fertilisation of ideas with the other two strands, and this strand covers a broad range of work in Literary, Historical and Philosophical Studies, while also including work produced in artistic and other media.


Living in the Weather-World: C​​ultural influences on the Experience of Weather

by Prof Arran Stibbe​

Living in the weather-world compares cultural representations of weather in meteorology textbooks, weather forecasts, pop songs, everyday conversation, haiku poetry, and nature writing. The aim is to discover ways of representing the weather that inspire us to enjoy and appreciate a greater variety of weathers, and through this help us find our place in nature.

Find out​ more:

​The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: skills for a changing world
​​Positive Discourse Analysis: re-thinking human ecological relationships
​​​Ecolinguistics: Language, Ecology and the Stories We Live By​

Lower High Street

by Dr Christian O'Connell

Collaborating with the Cheltenham West End Partnership and the Cheltenham Civic Society, researchers in History focussed on exploring the memories and experiences of former and existing residents through oral history research. The aim was to challenge long-standing negative perceptions of this area, provide a more balanced history of the town and attempt to influence urban regeneration policy that would be appreciative of Cheltenham’s neglected working-class history. Work on the project is ongoing and can be accessed on the Cotswold Centre for History and Heritage website. In addition, Dr David Howell formulated the next stage of the project entitled ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’​, which aims to incorporate historical and contemporary experiences of migration to and from Cheltenham. This project was awarded £5000 in Heritage Lottery Funding in 2018.

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by Prof Richard Billingham​

A 25 minute, looped, black and white single screen video installation (a film for a gallery). It is elliptical, seamlessly looped, and written to enable the spectator to enter / exit the installation at any point, avoiding the linearity of sequential clock time and conveying the more ‘confined’ and homogenous time of a zoo animal or prisoner. At times shocking and laced with an unsettling humour, ‘Ray’ is a film about addiction, loneliness and control. Richard has received the 2018 IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award, presented in association with the BFI (British Film Institute), which comes with a £50,000 grant.

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Grit, Resilience and Vulnerability

by Dr Nicola​ Rivers

The project 'Grit, Resilience and Vulnerability: Higher Education, Neoliberal Accounts of Human Nature & Student Attributes' arose out of emergent concerns over the growing neoliberalisation of education in general. The primary aim of the project was to interrogate these notions, and assess the extent to which students, teachers and researchers are well-served by them. A more detailed description of the project can be found by visiting the blog​.

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Reading The Forest

by Jason​​ Griffiths

Reading the Forest is a multidisciplinary research and community engagement project working in the Forest of Dean. Its aim is to identify, research and increase awareness of and engagement with the Forest of Dean’s rich literary heritage. This is a £3m project with majority funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Media Literacy for Refugee, Asylum Seeking Migrant Women

by Dr Ab Gardner​

Enhancing the media literacy competences of (low-skilled/low-qualified) refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women through innovative learning tools, encouraging (low-skilled/low-qualified) refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women to develop and upgrade their media literacy and digital skills through effective outreach-awareness raising.

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MyStory: Digital Storytelling Toolbox for Diversity Training in Schools

by Dr Ab Gardner​

The MYSTY Project provides a means for teachers to share and embed innovative teaching practice to enhance awareness of cultural diversity. At the same time it will increase pupils’ cultural awareness and expression and enhance their social and civic competence. The project​ will also support teacher and pupil digital competence. MYSTY involves the collection, editing and uploading of digital stories to the MYSTY Digital Storytelling Toolbox website. These stories focus on ‘food’, ‘family’ and ‘festival’ and act as a platform for diversity awareness and digital upskilling. Teachers will be trained in the use of digital media for storytelling and pupils will conduct and lead on their collection and editing. More detail on the aims and objectives of the project can be found on the blog​.

Find out more:

MY STORY – Digital Storytelling for Social Cohesion across Europe
My Story

Rain Stops Falling

by Dr Elizabeth Swift​

When the Rain Stops Falling is a contemporary play by Andrew Bovell telling the story of a family across of four generations against a background of cataclysmic climate change. The aim of the project was to develop new ways of using projection in performance through working closely with actors, and the production involved a team of six actors from the theatre company, Red Dog, and a musician and technician from Elizabeth Swifts' performance company, Void. The project was also awarded a £15,000 Arts Council of England grant.

Sharing Memories of Adventure Play

by Hilary Smith​

This project worked with adventure playgrounds in Bristol and Gloucester to gather memories of those involved as children, staff, families and communities, over their history, in order to explore their value. It drew on concepts from post-qualitative research methodologies, memory studies, geography, philosophy and policy, developing a ‘critical cartography’ approach as a different way of articulating the value of adventure playgrounds in ways that can be used to inform future policy.

The Hill (Nine Arches Press, 2017)

by ​​​Dr Angela France

Angela’s latest research piece, The Hill, is a poetic psychogeography of Leckhampton Hill, which she has walked for 50 years, blending her own experience with its layered history. Angela has developed the book into a multimedia show, using photographs, film and a voice actor framed by her own reading of the poems. Arts Council England has also funded a 10 date tour of The Hill multimedia show, which she completed at Torbay Poetry Festival in October 2018.

The Order of Things

by Andrew Bick​

The aim of the exhibition and seminar was to interrogate the use of system and structural analysis in contemporary art practice, looking in particular into patterns of human expression within abstraction. Central to Andrew Bick’s research is the re-exploration of forgotten and undervalued artists within recent British Art History. This exhibition was hosted at The Wilson Cheltenham in February and March 2017 and achieved a £10,000 grant from the Arts Council.

Research centres

Centre for Being Human

The Being Human Research Centre brings arts, humanities and media academics together to conduct research on what being human has meant across the sweep of human history, what it means in the current conditions of the world, and what it will mean in the future. 

To discover more visit the Being Human blog​ or contact Arran Stibbe:​.

Centre for Women Ageing and Media

WAM is a research group consisting of scholars who are working together to explore a range of research themes focusing on older women and popular media forms (digital technologies, film, popular music and television). 

To discover more visit the WAM blog or contact Professor Ros Jennings:

International Centre for Biblical Interpretation

The International Centre for Biblical Interpretation aims to promote scholarship that studies the Bible in its various ancient contexts and engages with its subject matter in such a way as to advocate its continuing significance for life in church and society. 

To discover more visit the ICB blog or contact Professor Gordon McConville:​