Fully-funded PhD opportunities
Wanted! Outstanding candidates interested in fully-funded doctoral projects in collaboration with Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Seven Stories is a groundbreaking museum, archive and visitors’ centre with a mission to preserve and celebrate Britain’s rich heritage of children’s literature. As the National Centre for Children’s Books, Seven Stories hold manuscripts, artwork and archival material relating to British children’s books from c.1930 to the present day, representing over 250 leading authors and illustrators ranging from Enid Blyton to Michael Morpurgo, and correspondence and other material from editors and publishers. See here for an overview of current holdings. Seven Stories shares this collection with the public through events in their visitor centre, and exhibitions which tour nationally. Through their award-winning creative learning and engagement programme they work closely with schools and community groups.
To take advantage of this opportunity you will:
- be a resident of UK or EU
- be seeking to begin a PhD in October 2019
- have an outstanding academic record, including a first degree in a relevant subject and (in most cases) a master’s degree either in hand or shortly to be completed OR relevant and equivalent working experience
- have an interest in working on a doctoral project in collaboration with Seven Stories, in one or the areas listed below.
Applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award are invited in the following research areas:
Children’s and youth literature projects will make substantial use of one or more archival collections at Seven Stories. Critical and creative projects will be considered. While the Seven Stories collection represents material from the 1930s onwards, proposals on the history of children’s literature, as well as work focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, are welcomed. Themes of interest to Seven Stories in this application round are:
- Makers of children’s literature: children’s book history; editing; publishing; education; bookselling
- The art of children’s books: children’s book illustrations; picturebooks; comics; development of printing technologies; art history; visual experience; materiality
- Childhood and place: national identity; global childhoods; cosmopolitanism; heritage and historical fiction
The child and the book: children; childhood heritage; literary heritage; the book as object; memory; childhood reading; reading contexts Museum and gallery studies projects will focus on Seven Stories’ role as a museum, focussing on our visitor centre and touring exhibition programme. Themes of interest to Seven Stories in this application round are:
- Children and museums: children; young people; early years; museums; galleries; heritage; archives; digital technologies
Creative practice projects are invited in any artistic medium or discipline, that respond to our collections, spaces, work and audiences, and could adopt the form of residencies within our venues. Themes of particular interest to Seven Stories are:
- The evolution of children’s books: children’s books; production; experience; distribution; experimental practice; participation; collaboration
- The future of storytelling: storytelling; technology; artificial intelligence; machine learning; immersive technologies; interactivity; virtual reality; augmented reality; mixed reality In each of these research areas, we particularly welcome projects which explore themes around inclusion, diversity and representation: race and heritage; disability; gender and gender identity; sexual orientation; age; socio-economic status; religion; culture; children’s rights and human rights.
How to register an interest in a Collaborative Doctoral Award with Seven Stories:
Potential applicants are asked to select the research area they would like to pursue, and contact Dr Annie Tindley (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss ideas. They will then submit a project summary which will undergo an initial assessment in November 2018. Projects selected at that point will be supported into the main competition. For more information about Seven Stories please explore the website.
For queries about eligibility, suitability and for general enquiries please contact email@example.com
Current Northern Bridge Collaborative PhD Student Helen King says of the application process:
I found Seven Stories and my supervisors really supportive throughout the Northern Bridge process. It’s a lengthy process and I felt daunted by it at the start, but they were enthusiastic about my ideas whilst also challenging me to keep improving my proposal. I was made really welcome when I came for a visit so I got a real sense that I’d enjoy studying here. It’s important to remember that your potential supervisors have a wealth of expertise both on their subject and the application process. It’s also worth remembering that if they have accepted your expression of interest it means that they think your research is exciting and worth doing, and they will be rooting for you to get a place.
17 – 18 November 2018, Seven Stories
Once upon a Tyne
17 November, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm; 13:30 – 14:30 pm
Discover the original scribbles and doodles behind children’s books in this hands on session with the Seven Stories Collection. This insightful session will be led by the Seven Stories Collections Team and the Children’s Literature Unit at Newcastle University.
Inspired by the Tyne and the rivers, seas and oceans that feature within the Seven Stories Collection, explore manuscripts from authors including David Almond and Robert Westall, and artwork from illustrators including Polly Dunbar.
Session lasts 60 mins and is suitable for everyone interested in children’s literature. Tickets are free and can be found here. No visitor admission is required.
Undiscovered Land: Write like David Almond
17 November, 2:30 – 4:30 pm
‘Writing will be like a journey, every word a footstep that takes me further into undiscovered land.’ David Almond, My Name is Mina.
Join Ann Coburn, children’s author and Lecturer in Creative Writing at Newcastle University for a free creative writing workshop.
Through a series of creative exercises you will start your own story inspired the work of celebrated North-East writer David Almond. Learn how to convey a sense of place in your writing and incorporate elements of memory, history, magic and transformation.
Session lasts 2 hours and is suitable for adults. Tickets are free and can be found here. No visitor admission is required.
Tales of the Tyne
18 November, 2:30 – 3:30 pm
‘They thought we had disappeared, and they were wrong. They thought we were dead, and they were wrong. We stumbled together out of the ancient darkness into the shining valley.’ – David Almond, Kit’s Wilderness.
As the mines closed and the shipyards fell silent, the North East saw the end of a long and vibrant tradition. Where next for the communities who had grown up with the old industries woven into the fabric of their lives? David Almond’s wild and beautiful stories explore the end of the old North East, and the possibilities for new beginnings.
Join Dr Lucy Pearson from Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit for a talk on how David imagines these endings and beginnings, followed by a tour of our Where Your Wings Were exhibition focussed on David’s work.
Session lasts 60 mins and is suitable for young adults and adults. Tickets are free and can be found here. No visitor admission is required.
Find out more about the Festival over on the Vital North blog.
October 23 2018, 5:30 pm
Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
It is now widely recognised that creativity is as important as literacy or numeracy, and that allowing ourselves the time, space and freedom to be creative is essential for good mental health… sometimes we need to stare into space, Lauren Child argues.
Join the UK Waterstones Children’s Laureate to explore how staring into space promotes creative thinking, letting us problem solve, understand who we are, and how we relate to others and the world we live in.
This event is part of the Insights Public Lectures series at Newcastle University, in partnership with BookTrust and Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books.
The event will be taking place at Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 7RU. Admission is free and on a first-come, first-served basis. No booking required.
We’re really excited to have two postdoctoral posts available here in the Children’s Literature Unit at Newcastle University, each lasting two years (if full-time). The successful candidates will work on projects funded by Newcastle University’s Research Excellence Academy and Research Investment Fund. These offer the opportunity to work closely on the Aidan and Nancy Chambers collection at Seven Stories, or to pursue a postdoctoral research project of the candidate’s own design. The former would suit someone with experience in working with literary archives and an interest in developing this experience further, as well as someone with an interest in one of the many areas covered by the collection, which spans the whole of Aidan and Nancy’s working lives. The latter will be more independent in scope since it involves a project of the candidates own, but we’re interested in work which aligns with research interests in collection and archives, heritage, or diversity and inclusion.
- Developing collections, archives and exhibitions of children’s books, with a particular focus on how we tell national stories of children’s literature.
- Children/young people and heritage.
- Diversity and inclusion in histories of children’s literature.
The awards recognise both David Almond’s contribution to children’s literature and his connections with these partner institutions: he is a patron of Seven Stories and an honorary graduate of Newcastle University.
The Fellowships aim to promote high-quality research in the Seven Stories collections that will call attention to their breadth and scholarly potential. The two awards of £300 each are to facilitate a research visit to the Seven Stories collections in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK of at least two days by a bona fide researcher working on a relevant project. Applications will be considered from candidates in any academic discipline. The successful applicants will have a clearly defined project that will benefit from having access to the Seven Stories collections (please see indicative information about the collections below). All applicants should consult the Seven Stories catalogue as part of preparing their applications. A well-developed dissemination strategy will be an advantage. Priority will be given to the importance of the project and best use of the Seven Stories collections as judged by a senior member of the Children’s Literature Unit in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University and a senior member of the Collections team at Seven Stories.
Some previous David Almond Fellows have gone on to take up fully-funded PhD studentships at Newcastle University, others have disseminated their research into the collection through book chapters, peer-reviewed journals and conference papers. One of our former Fellows said of her visit that it was ‘a wonderful opportunity to work in the archive of Seven Stories… it is undoubtedly an invaluable asset for researchers internationally, and something the city can be extremely proud of.’
Eligibility for the award
Applicants must hold a first degree or higher from a recognised institution of higher education.
Note: non-EEA applicants are reminded that to take up a Fellowship they must hold an appropriate visa. Neither Newcastle University nor Seven Stories can help with this process. Please see the UK visas website for more information.
Fellowships must be taken up before the end of December, 2018. Recipients are expected to spend at least two days in Newcastle and are encouraged to time their visits to enable them to participate in events organised jointly or separately by the Children’s Literature Unit and Seven Stories. (Please note: successful applicants must contact Seven Stories and agree a date for the visit prior to making travel arrangements; normally a minimum of two weeks’ notice is required before any research visit.) Acknowledgement of the Fellowships must accompany all dissemination activities arising from the research.
The Seven Stories Collection
Seven Stories is the only accredited museum specialising in children’s books in the UK. Its collections are a unique resource for original research, particularly insofar as they document aspects of the creation, publication and reception of books for children from the 1930s to the present day. The steadily growing archive contains material from over 250 authors, illustrators, editors, and others involved in the children’s publishing industry in Britain.
Researching the Seven Stories collection could enhance a number of research topics. Examples of research areas and relevant collections:
Makers of children’s literature: children’s book history 1750-2000
Children’s books have been under-represented in book history scholarship. Seven Stories’ holdings can be used to investigate the forces which have shaped the children’s book. Areas of interest include editing and publishing, education and bookselling, diversity and race and changing technologies. Key archival holdings include the David Fickling Collection, the Aidan and Nancy Chambers / Thimble Press Collection, and the Leila Berg Collection. The recently catalogued Noel Streatfeild Collection also provides fascinating insights into the life and times of a leading children’s author during the mid- twentieth century.
New adults: the growth of teenage literature
Seven Stories’ holdings represent the opportunity to investigate the development of teenage literature from a number of perspectives: holdings include detailed evidence of the process of composition from early draft to published text; evidence of socio-political contexts, and evidence of the publishing contexts. Key archival holdings include the Aidan and Nancy Chambers / Thimble Press Collection, the Diana Wynne Jones Collection, the Philip Pullman Collection, the Beverley Naidoo Collection, and the Geoffrey Trease Collection.
Inclusion and diversity
Seven Stories is particularly interested in supporting studies which explore themes of inclusion and diversity within our archives: race and heritage, disability, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, religion and culture. Projects in this research field might be cross-cutting, looking at a number of different archives within the Seven Stories Collection.
Children on stage: twentieth century children’s theatre
Seven Stories holds the complete archive of David Wood, one of the most prolific and influential playwrights for children in Britain. Projects based in this archive may approach the topic of children’s theatre from a number of perspectives, including theatre history and adaptation. Other relevant holdings include the Michael Morpurgo Collection and the recently acquired David Almond Collection.
More information can be found on the Collection pages of the Seven Stories website. Most of the artwork and manuscript collections are fully catalogued*, and the catalogues can be searched online via the link provided on the website. A list of many of the authors and illustrators represented in the collection can also be found on the Collection pages.
(NB this is not a complete list of the collections).
Please see also the Seven Stories Collection Blog, containing a variety articles describing or inspired by the Collection.
Applicants are asked to submit the following items by 1 June 2018:
- an application form
- a curriculum vitae
- a brief proposal (of 1,000 words maximum)
- one confidential letter of recommendation (sealed and signed; confidential letters may be included in your application packet or recommenders may send them directly)
Applications may be submitted by email or post.
Post: David Almond Fellowships, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
* NB Thanks to a major accrual, recently received, cataloguing of the David Almond archive is ongoing – the records are expected to be online by 30 June. An interim listing is available on request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Images from Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books, photography by Damien Wootten.
Unfortunately, this event is cancelled with many apologies from Brian. We hope to reschedule these talks in the autumn.
Children’s books history expert Dr Brian Alderson will discuss:
“Maurice Sendak, but ‘sc.’ rather than ‘inv’.”
Dr Alderson offers expert insight into the history of children’s literature and his children’s book collection, which he is donating to Newcastle. The Looking at Children’s Books talks are presented by Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit in partnership with the University Library and Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books.
Liz Flanagan, teaching fellow in creative writing and author of Eden Summer (David Fickling Books, 2016), recently chaired an event at the School of English with Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan to explore their co-authored verse novel We Come Apart (Bloomsbury, 2017). Here are some of Liz’s thoughts on the evening.
I was delighted to chair this event. For me, Brian and Sarah are two of the most important contemporary YA authors, and I love the fearlessness of their writing, both in its form and content. They tackle urgent and complex subjects, while telling stories in unusual and innovative ways.
Sarah and Brian’s working relationship began at the award ceremony for the Carnegie Medal 2015, when Sarah was shortlisted for Apple and Rain, and Brian for When Mr Dog Bites. At that time, Brian was thinking of writing a novel in verse and he asked Sarah about the form. They began corresponding via WhatsApp, sending messages and chunks of text back and forth in what became a swiftly unfolding digital conversation. The whole novel was written this way, its authors working in different countries, not meeting in person until afterwards.
We Come Apart is a love story that doesn’t shy away from darkness and difficulty, beautifully told in verse, with two narrative voices. At the early draft stage, the authors each wrote a section and sent it to the other, in a kind of creative tennis match. At first, Brian wrote the character of Nicu and Sarah created Jess’s voice. Both authors spoke about how different this was from their usual creative process in having to relinquish control of planning and respond to what they received. They found the quality of their writing improved because they were working collaboratively. They also learned about their own process by seeing the differences in the other’s working style (it definitely sounded as if Sarah was more of a planner than Brian!). However, in the later editorial stages, the process slowed down, and both writers worked on each character’s sections. A love story seems perfect for this dual narrative approach, with its layered perspectives, so that each character is shown to be struggling via their own interiority, but is also seen with compassion and understanding through the eyes of the other.
The authors described their careful approach to the depiction of difficult topics such as the domestic violence of Jess’s home life. Sarah wanted to write the scenes just explicitly enough, so that any young person who had experienced similar abuse would recognise what was happening; but so that it wouldn’t be traumatic for those readers who weren’t yet ready to understand the violence of the situation.
I asked Brian and Sarah about the issue of writing in the voice of someone from an under-represented group: in this case, that of Nicu, who is Romanian, of Roma ancestry. Brian talked about his experience of working with Roma teenagers, and how that fed into the creation of Nicu’s speech patterns, and both authors cited the extensive research they’d undertaken. They discussed the importance of privileging and amplifying ‘own voices’ narratives, while also resisting the idea that, as writers, we can only create from our own lived experience.
The conclusion to We Come Apart feels nuanced and in keeping with the subtle balance of light and shade within the novel as a whole. Sarah spoke about one particular tantalising WhatsApp exchange as they approached the end. She could see the little dots told her ‘Brian is writing’, but it took long minutes for the response to appear. They finally wrote three versions of the ending. I had an odd experience on first reading the novel: I think the ghost of the ending not chosen was haunting my perceptions, and I was braced for a more brutal denouement that didn’t come. However, on second reading, I could more fully appreciate the satisfying end to Jess and Nicu’s story.
Inspired by speaking to Brian and Sarah, I now want to experiment with collaborative writing in my own practice. I’ve started a conversation with a writer I admire, intrigued by the potential for surprises and innovation that these authors describe, and I’ve also devised a workshop for collaborative writing that I’ve begun using in my teaching. I’m very grateful to Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan for sharing their experience of working together, and to Dr Lucy Pearson for inviting me to chair their conversation.
Wednesday 7th February, 3:30 – 5:30 pm
If you’re considering an MLitt, MPhil or PhD, come along and find out about studying children’s literature or creative writing for children and young people in Newcastle. Meet current students and discuss your research project with potential supervisors, and find out more about our outstanding research collections with staff from Special Collections and Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books.
We Come Apart with Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
We would also like to invite you to the event We Come Apart with authors Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, chaired by author and Teaching Fellow by Liz Flanagan. This event is free, and will be followed by a drinks reception and book signing. 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Find out more about the event and book your place here.
Jacqueline Ho, MLitt Student
Who do you immediately think of when you hear Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? J.K. Rowling? Eddie Redmayne? There is, however, someone else who is worth just as much praise – Olivia Lomenech Gill, illustrator of the latest edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Last week, I had the privilege to celebrate the book’s exclusive launch with Olivia at Seven Stories, a place I’ve longed to visit.
Stepping into the attic, I was completely mesmerised by the atmosphere: warm, welcoming, magical.
Olivia began her discussion on the creative process behind Fantastic Beasts by sharing one of her very first paintings, a horse, made when she was 6-years-old. Ever since, horses have become her long-term working partner. Before illustrating Fantastic Beasts, Olivia worked with Michael Morpurgo. Where My Wellies Take Me (2012) was her debut illustration project. She was then invited to draw pictures for War Horse. Here is one of them, Standing To:
After many years of working with horses, Olivia began on Fantastic Beasts, a rather challenging project. Taking roughly eighteen months to complete, Olivia began the project by studying and sketching animals from real-life and Greek Mythology. Some beasts pure products of Rowling’s imagination, Olivia found them difficult to create. Once she had tackled the beasts’ general appearance, Olivia sought to make the creatures believable to the readers, visiting zoos and studying special animal collections and archives.
Living in the generation of technology and social media, computer software like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are popular among many contemporary designers and artists. When illustrating creatures, many may also choose to take film footage of animals “in the field” for later use. Not Olivia. She prefers the traditional way: working in situ wherever she can with pencil, charcoal and sketchbook.
Olivia believes doing rough sketches by hand somehow helped her to develop an intimate relationship with animals, and thus aids her illustration work. She also makes animal models. For example, to develop her design of the Acromantula, she created a model of a spider-like insect in her studio.
Olivia’s studio also plays a great role in the illustration process. She designed and built her studio, a strong believer that architecture affects one’s working process. It attracts many creatures, such as birds and insects. At times disturbing and troublesome, Olivia was ultimately thankful for their presence throughout this project; it was fitting that in illustrating creatures some live ones should have been present.
What struck – and inspired – me most was Olivia’s modesty and honesty. This project had panicked her, she admitted. I’m not a good illustrator; my drawings aren’t good enough. On the contrary, Olivia truly is a fantastic illustrator. I empathise with her and see my own struggles as a researcher reflected in Olivia’s as an illustrator. Just as Olivia must spend lots of time “in the field” and make copious preparatory sketches, so in literary studies a researcher must spend lots of time in the library, reading, making notes, forming and employing the right methodology. But when it is something you love – as illustrating is for Olivia and researching for me – take courage, push on through the difficulties and moments of self doubt, do the best you can and you’ll be surprised at just how far you can go.
You can find further examples of Olivia’s illustrations on her website.