BAFTA-nominated musical theatre practitioner returns to Edge Hill to work with students

Edge Hill Musical Theatre students have been working with BAFTA-nominated musical theatre practitioner Benjamin Till on his latest musical, Em.

After students participated in a ‘read through’ of an early draft of the show last year, the award-winning composer returned to the University earlier this month to help them record a version of one of the musical’s most vibrant numbers and film an accompanying music video.

Set in Liverpool in 1965, Em tells the tale of an unmarried, teenaged woman, desperate to keep a baby the authorities want to take away from her. The show is a harrowing, gritty, but ultimately uplifting tale of friendship, class and love, against the backdrop of a city which is bursting into colour.

Benjamin Till said:

“It was a genuine pleasure to work with the Musical Theatre students at Edge Hill.  I’ve totally fallen in love with them! I was bowled over by their commitment, enthusiasm and work ethic and I’m hugely excited about the film we made together. It was thrilling to bring Em, which is a deeply personal story, home.”

The students worked with Benjamin to record their version of Em track The Pool in Edge Hill’s state of the art recording studios, which is be included on Em’s official cast album as a bonus track.  They also filmed an accompanying music video at various Liverpool locations.

Recent Edge Hill Dance graduate Alice Lapworth, who choreographed the number, said:

“I am thrilled to be working with Musical Theatre students from Edge Hill. This project is a great opportunity for them to experience the fast paced, creatively vibrant industry that will surround their careers. As an emerging artist myself, Edge Hill is providing me with a fantastic chance to build my professional portfolio”.

Multi-award-winning composer and film maker Benjamin Till has worked professionally in theatre and TV for over 20 years. He has made more than 15 musical films (largely for the BBC and Channel 4), released four albums, worked as a casting director in feature films, composed classical works for the concert platform, and written five stage musicals including Brass, Beyond The Fence and Em. He is perhaps best known as the writer/conceiver (and one of the grooms) from Channel 4’s hugely successful, BAFTA-nominated Our Gay Wedding: The Musical.

The project with Benjamin was organised by Edge Hill Musical Theatre lecturer Clare Chandler.  Benjamin Till said:

“Clare keeps her ear permanently to the ground, is a great supporter of British musical theatre and brings in really interesting practitioners to work with the students.”

To find out more about studying Musical Theatre at Edge Hill, click here.

Health research grant to help young adults with complex care needs

L-R Dr Katherine Knighting, Professor Mary O’Brien, Professor Barbara Jack, Professor Sally Spencer.

Edge Hill University has received funding from the National Institute for Health Research to review the provision of respite care for young adults with life limiting conditions or complex needs.

The research team, led by Sally Spencer, Professor of Clinical Research in the University’s Postgraduate Medical Institute, has received £168,554 to evaluate the provision of respite care services when the young person turns 18.

It is estimated that more than 55,000 young adults are living with life-limiting conditions and 100,000 young people are living with disabling conditions in England.  However, due to improvements in medical care, the number of these young people has increased by almost 50 per cent in the last decade.

Young adults with these needs require high levels of complex care, normally provided by their parents or carers with support from health and social care professionals.

Respite care provides relief for families and carers that helps to reduce stress and unplanned hospital admissions. Before the age of 18, respite care and short breaks for carers are provided through children’s hospices and other specially designed children’s services.

However, as these young people reach adulthood they are often no longer eligible to access children’s services and there are major geographical and service differences in the nature of respite care services provided for young adults.

Professor Spencer is working with Professors Barbara Jack, Mary O’Brien and Brenda Roe and Dr Lucy Bray, Dr Katherine Knighting and Dr Michelle Maden from Edge Hill University. The team is joined by Professor Jane Noyes from Bangor University, Dr Ceu Mateus from Lancaster University and Julia Downing from the International Children’s Palliative Care Network.

Professor Spencer said: “An urgent need for a review of current evidence and policy has been identified by respite care providers and charities. Our funding, secured through a very competitive process, will evaluate what is currently known about respite care provision for this population to inform the development of future services and identify the need for new research.

“We will work closely with clinical colleagues, charity partners, an expert committee and a patient and public advisory group who have first-hand experience of the issue to gather and summarise research from across the world.”

This research will take 18 months to complete.

Professor Jo Rycroft Malone, Programme Director of the NIHR Health Services & Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme said: “I am pleased that the NIHR is supporting research in such an important area. Respite care is a vital service for young people with life-limiting conditions and their families. I hope that this research will identify what is working well and where provision can be improved so that services can be developed to better suit the needs of this group.”

David Yip In Conversation

David Yip and Professor Roger Shannon in conversation

The Liverpool Chinese actor and writer David Yip visited Edge Hill on November 1st for a talk with Professor Roger Shannon about his wide ranging film, television and theatre work spanning four decades.

Professor Roger Shannon said: “Daid Yip’s role as John Ho – in the early 1980s BBC police series The Chinese Detective – was singled out for discussion, primarily because that was the first UK TV drama series ‘carried by’ a Chinese actor in the lead role, and thus far the only one of that ilk. The recent very public discussion of the lack of diversity on the UK’s small and large screens was a significant part of our conversation. “

David Yip also commented on his roles in Indiana Jones and James Bond movies, as well as paying attention  to his background within the Chinese community and culture in Liverpool, which he has drawn on for his acclaimed and award winning theatre piece, Gold Mountain and for the film by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges, Blue Funnel.

This well-attended public event in Creative Edge was jointly arranged by the University’s Institute for Creative Enterprise and the Confucius Institute. Chinese students at EHU introduced attendees in the foyer of Creative Edge to traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy, paper cutting and the Chinese Tea Ceremony, and other examples of Chinese culture, thereby providing a wide-ranging Chinese experience for the students and the public.

While David Yip was on campus, he generously gave his time to record interviews in support of the research work of Rosa Fong (the writer, director and Senior Lecturer in Film and Television) who is uncovering the lives of Chinese seamen who travelled to and from Liverpool, as did David Yip’s father.

Students enhance their skills through collaboration with top brands

Edge Hill students gained new skills and boosted their employability through challenges set by top businesses during dedicated ‘Hack’ week.

Last week, students from the Computer Science Department were given the opportunity to take part in extracurricular activities, working in teams to put their skills to the test and receive feedback from industry experts.

Highlights included working with ROQ on a web based hackathon, where students could learn and experience a little about the testing phase of the software development lifecycle and network with the technical staff from ROQ.

A group of 25 students visited the UKFAST offices in Manchester to take part in a ‘real-life’ hacking challenge which took place over the course of five hours, simulating the work carried out on a daily basis by penetration testers at world-leading ethical hacking firm Secarma. Ten teams competed against each other to find vulnerabilities in a replica of a real-life business IT environment, with points awarded for identifying weaknesses and providing recommendations for fixing the problem.

Working in teams of five, Alder Hey Children’s Charity set students the challenge of producing a range of games for children of primary school age, with the aim of transforming their experience in hospital by bringing comfort, fun, reward and distraction to young patients, whilst providing vital information to parents and carers.

Professor Nik Bessis, Edge Hill’s Computer Science Head of Department said:

“Hack week is one of a number of extracurricular opportunities students can take part in while at Edge Hill to improve their employability skills and enhance their career prospects.”

Helen Walters, Enterprise & Knowledge Exchange Co-ordinator from Edge Hill’s Computer Science Department, said:

“It’s great that so many well-known companies want to get involved. The graduate job market is so competitive so students can really benefit from opportunities like this as they can network and receive feedback form industry experts, as well as testing their creativity by working together on real world challenges.”

Holby City writer and producer encourage healthy debate at Edge Hill

Image copyright BBC

Two key members of BBC medical drama Holby City’s creative team will visit Edge Hill University next week for a free public event.

Presented by Edge Hill’s Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) and Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI), the In Rude Health – Medical Dramas event will explore how the dramatic portrayal of medical storylines complements, or clouds, public discussion of issues in the health profession.

Liverpool-born Joe Ainsworth, Story Consultant and BAFTA award-winning screenwriter for Holby City and Series Producer Kate Hall (previously series editor for Channel 4’s Hollyoaks) will join Edge Hill academics including Professor of Film and Television Roger Shannon and nursing lecturer Sharon Roberts. They will be joined by Professor Tim Woolford, Consultant Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon at the University Department of Otolaryngology (Head & Neck Surgery), Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The event will question whether television’s view of medical issues is in ‘rude health,’ if the two professions of media and health positively interact or negatively conflict and whether the license of fiction and creative representation allow for a wider airing of key health debates.

Holby City is the BBC’s flagship medical series. First screened in 1999, it attracts a weekly audience of five million viewers.

Simon Bolton, Director of ICE said: “In Rude Health – Medical Dramas’ is an exciting new event for Edge Hill. For the first time, it brings together the Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI) and Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) to provide a stimulating platform for critical and reflective debate.”

Professor Roger Shannon, who will chair the discussion and is Associate Director of ICE, said: “Edge Hill has a strong reputation in both healthcare and media, and this discussion arranged jointly by PGMI and ICE builds on this renown. In this regard it’s a bonus that the University is able to draw on the support of Joe Ainsworth, who has an English degree and an Honorary Doctorate from EHU as well as a University building in his name!”

This event will take place in the Faculty of Health at Edge Hill University. It is free to attend but places must be booked in advance.

To book click here

Learn more about ICE here and PGMI here.

New publications establish Edge Hill academic as a leading voice in performance art research

Dr Mark Edward, Reader in Dance

Edge Hill’s Reader in Dance, Dr Mark Edward, has authored a new book and two high profile book chapters exploring various aspects of performance including drag, contemporary dance and queer art making.

The book Mesearch and the Performing Body, an anthology of Mark’s work, is published by Palgrave MacMillan on 29th December 2017. Detailing his creative practice-led projects, it transmits and communicates his research through varied artistic means, primarily contemporary dance, immersive art installation, drag performance and photography. It delves into performance making, ageing and performance, fat and body visibility, queer art making, ‘mesearching’ and shifts in identity.

Mark said: “My research, which I like to call ‘mesearch’, is quite unusual because as the author I am of course the theoriser but in my case I am also the theorised. This study delivers a personal, creative narration, combining reflections and emotions in relation to self and performance. Instead of being an attempt to undervalue or challenge the accepted notions of style within academic research, it promotes a freedom of expression which allows greater fluidity between the researcher, the performer, and the writer.”

Mark will also have a chapter in The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research Ethics, published in March 2018. As part of this in-depth review of the ethical considerations which accompany qualitative research, he will explore ethical dilemmas in improvisational site performance making, drawing on his own ‘mesearching’.

He said: “Collaborative improvisational performance is, by nature. constantly evolving, so the ethics around it don’t always fit into a neat box. I explore such risky ethics within this chapter. People taking part in this sort of performance have a duty of care both to themselves and others.”

Mark also has a recently published chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Dance & Wellbeing (co-edited by Edge Hill’s Professor Vicky Karkou). In the chapter that Mark co-authors with Dr Fiona Bannon (University of Leeds), they discuss the fluidity of identity, performance making and mental health through performance.

Mark’s book Mesearch and the Performing Body can be accessed via the Palgrave Macmillan or Springer websites.

University funded trip changes career direction of talented human biologist

A talented Biology graduate from Edge Hill University has completely changed her career path after the University paid for her to complete a work experience placement in Japan.

Jazmin Kean who graduated this summer with a First in BSc (Hons) Human Biology was planning a Masters focussing on the study of mosquito borne diseases.

But after studying DNA repair proteins responsible for hereditary cancers in Tokoyo she has now switched to a Biomedical Masters.

Jazmin said:

“I spent last summer working as a Research Assistant in Edge Hill’s Biology department which was really helpful to my final year of study, so I was really keen to arrange another placement this summer.

“I was desperately trying to arrange a volunteer placement related to mosquitoes but it’s really difficult to be accepted anywhere at undergraduate level. I came across an old 2014 advert for a placement studying proteins in Ochanomizu University in Tokoyo and dropped them an email on the off-chance.

“To my great surprise they came back and offered me a six week placement assisting their PhD students studying the DNA of the repair protein BRCA 1 which is an indicator of hereditary ovarian and breast cancers.

“But with it being in Japan I would never have been able to afford to go without the help of the University’s Student Opportunity Fund.”


Jazmin found herself working under one of Japan’s leading genome and bioinformatics Professors, Kei Yura.

She said:

“It was an amazing experience. They made me feel very welcome and although the lectures were in Japanese they give me a Macbook so I had everything in English and I met with Prof Yura each week.

“I was responsible for gathering information and existing research on BRCA 1 and I absolutely loved it. I never thought that I’d want to study protein science and bioinformatics (a combination of computer science, programming and statistics to interpret biological data) but something just clicked.

“That’s why I’ve switched my Masters and I’ve just moved to Glasgow to study Biomedical Science and I hope to specialise in cancer research.”

She added: “I can’t thank Edge Hill enough for funding my flight and accommodation but more than that, for helping me decide on my future career direction. Thanks to that placement I was able to demonstrate my interest and background in protein science to change course and I’m sure it will help me when I apply for future placements.”

Earlier this year, Edge Hill launched the Student Opportunity Fund (SOF) to enable students to take advantage of career enhancing and life changing opportunities. It allows undergraduate students to apply for up to £2,000 which can help towards the cost of activities designed to prepare them for the future and enhance their employability skills.

Children in the justice system to benefit from new mentoring scheme

Sean Creaney, Edge Hill University Lecturer in Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour

Edge Hill University students are working with Voice for Children and Cheshire Youth Justice Services to provide support to vulnerable young people through a new mentoring project.

Voice for Children (VfC) specialises in working with young people involved in youth justice, and children in or on the edge of care, offering them opportunities to learn about their rights and responsibilities. In addition, they teach professionals how to engage and meaningfully involve children in decisions that affect their lives.

The mentoring project will involve BSc (Hons) Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour students sharing knowledge, experience and wisdom with children and young people who often have experiences of the care and justice systems. The support that will be provided by Edge Hill students to mentees will be anything from helping them with educational goals to improving their confidence.

Sean Creaney, a professional advisor at VfC and Lecturer in Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour, said:

“Disproportionately children in care and justice systems have experienced trauma, which often restricts their life chances. Our new mentoring project with Voice for Children will be beneficial for service users especially those who have had an adverse childhood experience. Edge Hill students will have opportunities to gain valuable work experience by helping and supporting vulnerable children.”

Stacey Davenport, a final year student who is one of the first Edge Hill students to take part in the mentoring scheme, said:

“VfC is such a fantastic organisation, with its heart in the right place. They know their goal and strive to help all young people. They are currently raising funds to support football for care leavers – recently they have paid for their fees for a year so they can play in a local league. This allows young people to engage in a hobby and can help with their emotional wellbeing.

“I am passionate about supporting vulnerable children in the care and justice systems. I am thoroughly looking forward to volunteering with Voice for Children ,helping to co-produce material and support young people in difficulty.”

VfC is unique in the sense that its CEO & Founder, Liam Hill, has direct experience and a diverse understanding of exactly what it means to ‘be in care’ and has first-hand experience of the criminal justice system both as an adult and child.

“Voice for Children is linking up with Edge Hill to give students an opportunity to work directly with society’s most vulnerable young people, giving students first hand direct experience of working with young people and an opportunity to be part of our organisation in making a real difference to children and young people we work with,” said Liam.

“Voice for Children is looking forward to developing a fruitful partnership with Edge Hill and hope that our mentoring scheme is the first of many joint projects”, Liam added.

Last year, Liam presented at an Edge Hill event on the treatment of children in the youth justice system where he discussed his personal experiences in the care system and how Voice for Children began.

Tom Dooks, Senior Manager at Cheshire Youth Justice Services said:

“Our youth justice service users have often been overlooked or actively excluded from educational opportunities, and far too often this can result in a deeply entrenched ‘poverty of aspiration’. I greatly value VfC’s work and welcome this innovative new mentoring project with EHU which aligns perfectly with our own skills and knowledge partnership with the University.”

West Lancashire new town celebrated in major visual art exhibition at University

Image ‘Sunday in Skem’, André Stitt courtesy of gallery ten, Cardiff.

Edge Hill University’s historic main building will house CIVICS, a major exhibition of works by renowned visual and performance artist André Stitt, from tomorrow, Thursday 26 October, until April 2018.

CIVICS brings together a significant number of works responding to the legacy of Britain’s New Towns and post-war brutalist architecture. The paintings in this large-scale exhibition draw upon the materiality of the built environment and its abstract displacement through art as a memory of forms reimagined as a parallel universe.

The exhibition will include work made during 2016 and 2017, based on several research trips to the nearby new town of Skelmersdale.

Edge Hill University students from a range of courses will be invited to produce their own creative responses to the paintings. Their own work will then be showcased through live events, documentation and discussions, and in the exhibition publication which will be produced in April 2018.

Cathy Butterworth, Arts Manager at Edge Hill said:

“We are absolutely delighted to present such a significant body of work by internationally renowned visual artist Andre Stitt and to be able to integrate it so beautifully into the university’s main building.

“The 37 paintings, the two screen prints and the collection of ceramics, which will be on display for six-months, echo the architecture of the spaces where they are installed, giving people an opportunity to see both the paintings and the building in new, fresh and interesting ways. At Edge Hill we are interested in innovative approaches to making art and culture central to peoples’ everyday lives in the places where they live and work.”