When the Rain Stops Falling: a multimedia theatre project

Project lead: Elisabeth Swift, University of Gloucestershire


This project will research a develop a multimedia theatre production  based on Andrew Bovell’s epic environmental play, When the Rain Stops Falling. It will pioneer several new multimedia theatre practices in the areas of video mapping, projection, and soundscapes, using an in-the-round immersive performance as a template.

Being Human: Deconstructing semantic and iconic representations of evolution in children’s literature

 Project leaders: Eve Tandoi, Alex Masardo and Erin Spring (University of Calgary). Funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area and the University of Calgary.


Charles Darwin’s work captured the public imagination, revolutionised the study of science and had a profound effect on people’s understanding of themselves. This study aims to examine how our collective understanding of evolution is encoded and transferred through the use of words and images in the burgeoning number of children’s picturebooks on the topic.

Grit, Resilience and Vulnerability: Higher Education, Neoliberal Accounts of Human Nature & Student Attributes

Project leaders: Nicola Rivers and David Webster. Team members: Ros O’Leary and Hannah Grist.  Funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area and LIFT, University of Gloucestershire.


This project arises out of emergent concerns over the growing neoliberalisation of education in general, and in particular, the relevance of grit, resilience, and the Growth Mindset. There currently exists a research lacunae, following the widespread adoption of approaches informed by this ethos, throughout the Education sector. Deployment of these approaches is still growing, yet there is a genuine gap in our understanding of the impact and consequences of these interventions. This proposal focuses on research into the increasingly contested notions of Resilience, Grit, Mindfulness and the Growth Mindset. Specifically, we are interested in how these are represented within Higher Education, and what this means for us as educators, learners and crucially the role and nature of the Academy itself.

Lower High Street Project

Melanie Ilic and Christian O’Connell. Funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area and LIFT, University of Gloucestershire


History’s Lower High Street (LHS) project explores what it means to ‘Be Human’ through the provision of primary documents-based historical, social and cultural analyses of the Cheltenham Lower High Street commercial and residential communities, its buildings and landscapes, and by offering digital capture of the memories of local residents and traders alongside a photo archive. It explores the construction of multiple and sometimes conflicting identities through the examination of historical and contemporary everyday aspects of the lives of LHS traders and residents; and, through oral interviews and online surveys, the subjective responses of the local communities to the changes they have experienced and that are being proposed in the LHS area. It also examines the ways in which local town planning endeavours have been received and responded to by residents and traders in the LHS area, and the impact that town planning has had on the historical makeup of the local built environment. The project also examines the construction, maintenance and persistence of a sense of distinction and ‘difference’ amongst local residents and traders in the LHS.

Sharing Memories of Adventure Play

Wendy Russell, Tom Williams, Stuart Lester, Hilary Smith, and Malcolm MacLean, funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area and the Sport, Exercise, Health and Wellbeing Research Priority Area, University of Gloucestershire


The project works with adventure playgrounds in Bristol and Gloucester to gather memories of those involved as children, staff, community, etc., over their history, in order to explore how they mattered to them. Drawing on post-qualitative research methodologies, memory studies, geography, philosophy and policy, it aims to develop a ‘critical cartography’ as a different way of articulating the value of adventure playgrounds that can be used to inform future policy. We use performative, creative and non-representational methods, both in terms of process (gathering and analysis) and artefacts (artists’ drawings, video, exhibition). For more information, visit

Living in the weatherworld: cultural influences on the experience of the weather. 

Arran Stibbe, funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area, University of Gloucestershire, and the European Union


This project examines the construction of the weather in everyday discourses in the UK, including conversation, weather forecasts and travel advertisements, to reveal the cultural schemas that influence how people experience the weather. These cultural schemas are compared with the very different schemas that underlie New Nature Writing in the UK, and contemporary and traditional art forms in Japan. The focus is on how the schemas place humans within the larger ecological and meteorological world in which they live (the weather-world), at a time of environmental and climatic change. The findings of the project fed into a European Union funded Erasmus+ project involving universities in Turkey, Italy, Slovenia and the University of Gloucestershire. The result was a multilingual Education for Sustainability resource for teachers to use in their practice across Europe.

Biosemiotics: meaning beyond the human world

Shelley Saguaro (principle investigator) with Tony Clancy, Nigel McLoughlin, Andy Moxon, and Arran Stibbe, funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area, University of Gloucestershire


One of the most significant attributes of ‘being human’ is language; linguistic systems are not only integral to human culture, but semiosis (the production of signs) has often been seen as singularly human. For some long time the facility of linguistic communication has been a defining feature of, and justification for, humankind’s predominance.  Recently, extensive theoretical work has been done in the exploration of the semiotic processes that extend, not just to more-than-human species, but also to fundamental biological and geological systems. The particular contribution of this project is to extend a biosemiotic critical approach through a range of media and disciplines: literary criticism (Shelley Saguaro); ecolinguistics (Arran Stibbe); creative poetics and cognitive analysis (Nigel McLoughlin); photography and sound (Tony Clancy and Andy Moxon).  From the dynamic and familiar to the invisible and the supposedly inert, this project aims for a new way of apprehending more-than-human meaning.

The International Ecolinguistics Association


The Being Human Research Centre hosts the International Ecolinguistics Association, a network of 600 ecolinguistics researchers from around the world who cooperate, share ideas, and publish articles in the Language & Ecology journal. It also hosts The Stories We Live By: a free online course in ecolinguistics.

Building capacity in moral ecologies: exploring conflicting understandings of ‘conservation’


Iain Robertson, funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area, University of Gloucestershire

This aim of this project is to build a new archive of oral histories of poaching in the north-west highlands and islands of Scotland and explore questions of the nature/culture binary and of associations between the non-human and human. There has been a recent revival of interest in the spaces and places of conflict and resistance, and the project will contribute to this important area of research.

Externalising Evil: The Devil and demonism in Reformation England

Anna French, funded by the Being Human Research Priority Area, University of Gloucestershire


The project explores the ways in which the Devil was represented, symbolised, and understood by early modern communities. In particular, how depictions of the fiend enabled society to externalise their fears and anxieties about the proximity of evil in the world.