And then we were off! The first day, Thursday 23rd April, was a PGR/ECR workshop day exploring fantasy as a point of engagement through presentations and small group work.
Laura Anderson talked about her experience in working with other academics, all from different faculties and all new to public engagement, and how they came together to develop the successful and interactive ‘Curious Encounter with Objects Past, Present and Future’ project. Cath Heinemeyer discussed her work helping vulnerable young people build creativity and self-confidence in their own experience by using imaginative fantasy as a launching point and by partnering with York Theatre Royal.
Each set of presentations was part of a two-hour session covering a different aspect of using fantasy as engagement. Participants spent the second hour in small groups exploring tasks related to the session theme, mini-presentations to the wider group, and then hearing feedback from the guest speakers.
After some lunch, Sarah Copeland discussed how digital storytelling — using computer technology to help people develop the art of sharing — can act as a problem-solving strategy where localised issues of social justice are given space to be identified discussed and potentially solved. Heather Robbins from the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy then spoke about the complexities of representing a research centre online, discussing both the tools she uses to facilitate her work and the challenges involved in avoiding potential difficulties.
Beginning the final session (on pedagogical engagement), Xavier Aldana Reyes of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies drew on his experience teaching a genre constantly shifting in definition and often contested in wider cultural/critical perspectives to explore how teachers can overcome challenging module designs and practice. After this, creative art/writing teacher, artist, and storyteller Peter Stevenson first introduced participants to the exciting world of visual storytelling and then discussed how dramatizing the nuances of combining word and image in mutual balance helps creative artists and writers produce narratives of both aesthetic and emotional richness.
Though we were all exhausted by the end of the day, both organizers and participants were excited and inspired by all the stimulating discussions and insights which had emerged.