Archive of English and Modern Languages stories

Oxford Brookes named as one of the best young universities in the world


Oxford Brookes University has been named in the Times Higher Education’s 150 Under 50 Rankings for the first time.

The Rankings 2016 is a ranking of the top universities in the world which are under 50 years old. It celebrates those young universities that have made a great impact on the global stage in years rather than centuries and showcases the future rising university stars.

Oxford Brookes is among 25 UK-based universities to be named in the rankings.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Paul Inman said: “We are delighted to see Oxford Brookes recognised for the first time in THE’s 150 Under 50 Rankings. With our excellent reputation for teaching and support and internationally recognised research, this latest ranking is another indicator of our ability to compete with universities across the world. We are confident that we can increase Oxford Brookes’ global standing even further in the coming years.”

Last month, Oxford Brookes’ global reputation was recognised in the QS World Rankings by Subject where 12 subject areas were considered to be among the ‘world’s elite’.

Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry – shortlist announced!

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Kate Clanchy with her students, pictured at the recent International Poetry Competition awards event – photography: Frank Dumbleton.

The shortlist for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry has just been announced, and Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is very proud to have partnerships with two of the six poets shortlisted by judges Jackie Kay, Andrew McMillan, and Ali Smith.

Kate Clanchy has been shortlisted for her collaborative radio programme We Are Writing a Poem About Home. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 for National Poetry Day in October 2015, it featured a number of the students from Oxford Spires Academy who have been tutored in writing by Kate. The Poetry Centre has collaborated with and supported Kate’s work in Oxford for a number of years now, most notably with the creation of the role of Oxford City Poet, which Kate held from 2011-13, and during which she inspired hundreds of children across the city to write poetry. Three of Kate’s students also recently read at the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition awards event.

Speaking about the Ted Hughes Award, Kate said: ‘I am so delighted to have this shortlisting. The radio programme was a joy to make because it brought together seven years of writing at OSA l in what felt like a very natural, easy way; and a joy to hear because it framed all the students’ diverse voices so well. I keep telling the students that their poems are excellent not just as schoolkids’ work, but for a wider audience, and that their school, where there is no majority culture and where so many nationalities are brought together in a humane and loving community, is a very special place in the wider world, too. They don’t always believe me, but maybe the shortlisting will help. It definitely helps me, and encourages me in my work.’

Also shortlisted for the award is Chris Beckett, for his work on the exhibition Sketches from the Poem Road (after Matsuo Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North), which, thanks to the Poetry Centre, will be visiting the Glass Tank exhibition space at Oxford Brookes from 20 June to 15 July. The exhibition, first shown in the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, and accompanying pamphlet published by Hagi Press, Sketches from the Poem Road, are the result of a creative collaboration between poet Chris Beckett and artist Isao Miura. Poet and artist set off on an interpretative journey in the footsteps of Matsuo Basand his ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’, which he undertook in spring 1689. Between them they travel from text to image, and often back again, creating an interwoven series of poems, translation, drawing and sculpture in the footsteps of the Japanese poet.

Chris commented: ‘I am thrilled that Sketches from the Poem Road has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. It is a great boost for Isao and my After Basho project! We hope it will encourage lots of people to come and see the multi-media multi-poetry show from 20 June to 15 July at the Glass Tank Gallery, sponsored by Oxford Brookes’ Poetry Centre, and also to participate in some of the exciting Haibun and Translation events that we are planning to accompany the show. Please have a look at the Glass Tank website and our project website for details.’

During the exhibition’s run at the Glass Tank, there will be a series of public events, including an evening about translation, an event celebrating the haiku and haibun, a poetry walk around Oxford designed to mimic Bas’s own walk, and a workshop at the Ashmolean Museum with students from Oxford Spires Academy. For more details, contact the Director of the Poetry Centre, Dr Niall Munro:

The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in new poetry. The Award acknowledges poetry that goes beyond just the page, highlighting exciting and outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life in 2015. This year the shaping and reshaping of themes ancient and modern converge into a shortlist of works in deep conversation with life and, thanks to their recognition here, with each other. This year’s winner will be announced in a ceremony in London on 31 March.

The full shortlist is: Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi and Sarah Maguire for He Tells Tales of Meroe; Chris Beckett for Sketches From the Poem Road; Elizabeth Burns for Clay; Kate Clanchy for We Are Writing a Poem about Home; David Morley for The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems; and Carole Satyamurti for Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling. You can read more about the award and the shortlist on the Poetry Society’s website.


Photography: Frank Dumbleton

Quick Fiction success for MA Creative Writing students

Last week, Kat Lund, Sophie Holland, and Vicki Lloyd of the Oxford Brookes MA in Creative Writing were selected to read at a literary reading event with a difference, with all the stories consisting of no more than 300 words.

“Success in literary competitions, great or small, is a fantastic way of a writer beefing up their CV before going out to look for an agent. It really does count. So we’re delighted that three of our current MA students were selected for this evening – no doubt against tough opposition from Oxford University’s own students.” Dr James Hawes, programme lead for MA Creative Writing

Authors of selected submissions were invited to read at the Quick Fictions event at Oxford University’s St Edmund Hall on 25 February at 8:00pm, and will soon have their work published on the Quick Fictions app. The app has been ranked in the top 10 of the Sunday Times app list of 2013, and ranked at #5 in the UK’s paid app chart.

Quick Fictions is the brainchild of Professor Nicholas Royle, beginning as a biannual short fiction event held at the University of Sussex. It grew out of his interest in experimental projects and new kinds of writing. In particular, he wanted to explore the question of how to write – inventively, thoughtfully, memorably – in the age of the short attention span. Quoted in Myriad, Royle describes Quick Fictions as “the writing of our time, quick means: alive, vigorous, sharp, agile, perceptive, swift, even impatient, but also sensitive and vulnerable… Quick fictions are funny, poignant, dark, sad, romantic, strange: they take us to the very quick of things.”

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Kat Lund’s piece is called Raisin Bread and Elephants, and it is a love story that never was, told as a memory flash. The piece was developed from something Kat wrote in a seminar exercise for the ‘Voice’ module in the Creative Writing MA course. She commented that she liked the idea of memory being triggered by the strangest of things, and that memory has a physicality of its own; “like elephants we return to the places that have a pull on us; our a memory is a journey, even if the rest of us never moves”.

Sophie Holland’s submission is entitled Bird Box Camera and it is the true story of watching a great tit make her nest and lay her eggs, before observing their various fates once she watched them hatch. It begins with:

‘She sits.  We watch.  She pecks and plucks, trims, bobs, sleeps.  We watch the twitch and pulse of her dreams.  She waits, we wait.  We name her Grace.’

Sophie writes that the bird box camera in question is actually installed in her 11 year old son, Luke’s, bedroom.  He is a keen ornithologist and saved up £154 to buy it. Her story relates to last years’ bird family, and now that Luke has set it up again they hope that Grace will return!

Vicki Lloyd’s submission is called The Doctrine of Signatures.  It is the tale of a bitter woman, thwarted in love and planning revenge. Vicki came up with the story through an interest in plant signatures – that is, how plants through their leaf shape, flower shape or colour indicate to us their medicinal virtues – or their poisonous nature. My character in this story aligns herself with the bitter and deadly sides of the plants that she sees around her.

If you’re feeling inspired about writing, why not take a look at our MA in Creative Writing?

International Poetry Competition awards celebration

Copy of International Poetry 38 smallAfter the success of its inaugural International Poetry Competition, which attracted nearly 900 entries from all over the world, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre hosted an awards evening on Friday 19 February. The celebration featured terrific readings from three of the winning poets (pictured below): Siobhan Campbell, winner of the Open category, Marie-Aline Roemer, winner of the English as a Second Language (ESL) category, and Hanne Busck-Nielsen, Special Commendation in the ESL category, as well as video recordings from the other winning poets, Claire Askew (Open) and Armel Dagorn (ESL). Competition judge, Hannah Lowe, was extremely impressed by the very high standard of the submissions. She said,

“All of the poems I shortlisted had a sense of real urgency about them, of needing to be written and a quality of testimony to experience.”

Copy of International Poetry 14 small The event was attended by an enthusiastic audience, who also very much enjoyed Hannah’s reading from her acclaimed first collection, Chick, and her upcoming collection Chan, which will be published by Bloodaxe in June of this year. There were also wonderful readings of their work by three local young poets mentored by Kate Clanchy at Oxford Spires Academy: Tarzina Khatun, Rukiya Khatun, and Asima Qayyum.

All of the winning poems are available to read on the Poetry Centre website, as well as additional photographs of the event. The awards ceremony was livestreamed and recorded, and can be viewed on the Brookes website (fast forward to 14:30 to view the opening).

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Dr Niall Munro, Director of the Poetry Centre, also announced the date of the next International Poetry Competition: it will be open for entries from Friday 29 April to Wednesday 31 August.

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To find out more about the opportunities that you can gain from studying English or Creative writing here at Oxford Brookes, follow the links to our undergraduate and postgraduate
course pages.


Photography: Frank Dumbleton

Applications for the Sasakawa postgraduate studentship in Japanese studies are now open!


The Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University is pleased to invite applications for the Sasakawa Postgraduate Studentship in Japanese studies, made possible through the generosity of The Nippon Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

The department can nominate candidates for the MPhil/PhD or Masters by Research for a studentship of £10,000. This studentship is initially for one year only, but may be renewable subject to satisfactory progress in subsequent years, up to a maximum of three years, beginning in September of the 2016/17 academic year. Please note that you will be required to reapply for the studentship each year, and that the GBSF will consider these applications on their merits. The GBSF cannot make a recurrent three year commitment to any one PhD candidate from year one.

For the successful MPhil/PhD candidates, Oxford Brookes is able to offer a further studentship of £7000, in addition to the Sasakawa studentship. This is also initially for one year, renewable subject to satisfactory progress, up to a maximum of three years. Please note that this does not apply to Masters by Research students.

 Please note that although you may use your studentship to help towards the cost of your fees, you will be responsible for paying your fees each year. International applicants should be aware that they will need to fund their fees at the international rate.

Candidate Criteria:

  • The research proposal must focus on Japan.
  • It is important that you and your referees comment on your skill in Japanese in the areas of reading, composition and speaking.
  • Interviews may partly be conducted in conversational Japanese.
  • Candidates must have submitted an application for admission by the Studentship application deadline.

MPhil/PhD candidates must have:

  • a good first degree (a good 2:1 or above) or are predicted to obtain one.
  • completed a degree with a substantive anthropology content or in Japanese studies and have a sufficient level of Japanese language ability to engage in fieldwork in Japan (normally this should be equivalent to JLPT level 2 or above).

A Masters is desirable, but we will consider candidates without a Masters who can demonstrate the ability to engage in substantial independent research.

Part-time programmes are not eligible.

Masters by Research candidates must have a good first degree (a good 2:1 or above) or are predicted to obtain one.

Applicants may be of any nationality, but Masters degree applicants must be either UK citizens (regardless of their current residency) or settled in the UK or have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately preceding the start of their MA course.

How to apply:

You will need to follow the standard university application procedure. Please contact the Research Administrator Terri Morris: for further details.

Deadline: The closing date for applications is 17:00 on Monday 29th February 2016

Student theatre company presents debut performance in aid of Oxford’s Terrence Higgins Trust


Olivia Stone is a current second year English Literature and Drama student who has set up her own theatre company alongside fellow English student, Rachael Head. Stones Theatre Company is currently presenting their debut production, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. They are the only company in the UK with the rights to perform Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens – a challenging piece which presents thought-provoking stories about how it was to live with HIV and die of AIDS in the 1980’s in America.

The cast are predominantly formed from Oxford Brookes students, with many from the drama department – although some actors who have attended drama school and some who are primarily based within the film industry are taking part. Olivia says that “it has always been my ambition to pursue becoming a theatre director and decided there’s no time like the present! Using the Oxford Brookes ‘black box’ rehearsal space has been a fantastic help as it is on campus and the facilities have added a real professionalism to our process”.

I am an extremely proud director and I feel we’ve created a dynamic, important piece of theatre with actors who were a joy to work alongside and the audiences have loved it so far! I look forward to seeing you there!

Olivia Stone

Stones Theatre Company will be donating 75% of their profits to Oxford’s Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), who provide invaluable support and information to the community about HIV and AIDS, a disease which is still ever present in our society. Olivia comments that “we found out last week that government funding for THT in the new financial year will be cut which is devastating. It makes our production that much more poignant and important, with its evidence that stigma is certainly still present over 30 years after the epidemic”.

Stones Theatre Company have prepared a polished and engaging production which additionally highlights important issues. I’m delighted to see so many Brookes Drama students involved, led by Olivia Stone and Rachael Head

Senior lecturer in Drama, Dr Eleanor Lowe

Tuesday 1 December is National AIDS Day, so Olivia and Stones Theatre company are encouraging everyone to wear a red ribbon to stand up against the stigma of AIDS. The cast will also be wearing these ribbons throughout tonight’s performance.

Stones Theatre Company will be performing Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at Modern Art Oxford at 7.30, Tuesday 3 December, and on Thursday 3 December there will be a gala performance at Oxford Town Hall. Tickets can be bought here:

Oxford Brookes creative writing student debuts her first novel on innovative publishing platform


Klara Piechocki-Brown, an MA Creative Writing student at Brookes, is crowdfunding her debut novel, The Death of Poppy Kusch, on innovative publishing platform Unbound.

Klara has been working as a writer and illustrator for 10 years. From gathering a large online following as a teenage author, to working as a screenwriter in the US and writing a weekly column for LA Cityzine, she is now halfway through a Creative Writing MA at Oxford Brookes University.

Her writing and art is preoccupied with how deliciously diverse we all are, while celebrating what makes us the same. Playful, thoughtful and sometimes dark, she shines light into murkier places with a reassuring tone. Klara identifies as both genderqueer and bisexual and is passionate about LGBT activism, especially encouraging accurate portrayals of bisexual and transgender characters in the media. Endlessly curious, Klara loves to know how things work; she particularly loves non-fiction science, psychology and history books.

It was at the start of second year of her MA when she decided to pitch her novel about a broody time traveller to Unbound. Now she’s sharing a platform with authors such as Julie Burchill, Stephen Fry, Steven Gerard and Tamsin Day-Lewis. Klara’s writing has often been compared to Angela Carter and David Lynch; rich with imagery and sometimes unsettling.

Poppy Kusch, a time travelling immigrant from the 1920s escaping scandal, lives quietly in modern day Oxford as a neonatal nurse with her family; three lovers who are also time travellers. After watching her future self die childless, Poppy pays to take part in a controversial study to artificially raise her luck in order to conceive a baby. When her family die as a result she must evade the Corporation as they try to stop her rewriting history to save them.

Unbound is both a funding platform and a publisher: the author pitches an idea and if enough readers support it, the book goes ahead. The reader helps great ideas get published, and in return receives an insight into the writing process and has their name printed as a patron in that and every subsequent edition.

“I’m equally thrilled and terrified to be doing this”, says Klara. “It feels incredibly vulnerable putting my writing out there, especially campaigning to get it funded! I designed a character who is very unlike me, but you still worry that you’ll accidentally show people too much of yourself, like not realising that your skirt is tucked into your knickers. My book explores themes of grief, nostalgia and faith. It’s a look at how irresistible the past can be- especially if you had the power to step back into it instead of moving on. In my novel’s world, time travellers apply for visas to stay in the modern day, so my protagonist Poppy is a time travelling immigrant. I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from current events in the UK, and I’ve really had fun mimicking the headlines that a certain newspaper would write if time travellers really were landing here!”

“While planning the book I was worried that with the state of the publishing industry these days that my book might be too high a risk (as it features an LGBT ethically non-monogamous heroine) but Unbound is enabling me to reach potential readers who want to read books that feature less traditional plots. The celebrity authors on the site have come to it for the same reason, to write the books they want to write.”

Klara also works as an illustrator, and her writing shed (her blog only available to patrons of the book) promises to be full of drawings of her characters and settings.

To become a patron of Klara’s book and help it become fully published, you can head to the book’s funding page.

MA English alumni Highly Commended for the Bridport prize 2015!


Sarah Taylor has been Highly Commended for the 2015 Bridport Prize, Flash Fiction category for a piece called Good at Crisps. The category imposes a limit of 250 words, leading author Patrick Gale, 2012 Bridport Prize judge, to describe Flash Fiction as the “love child’ of poetry and the short story. Sarah was also shortlisted for another piece of Flash Fiction entered in the same competition. A total of 2141 stories were received this year of which 50 were shortlisted and an anthology of the winning entries produced.

The award ceremony was held on Saturday 17 October during Bridport Open Book week, with established and widely published authors such as Roger McGough, Jane Feaver and Jane Rogers handing out the prizes. The Open Book week included a reading with the three judges and various other events and workshops.

Following her first degree in French Literature from the University of Kent, Sarah studied for an Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Oxford University. In that time she wrote a one-act play called ‘Death on the Turnpike’ which is open to performance for Drama students looking for a gory, bloodthirsty play packed with villains, murder and gibbets – do email Sarah if you’re an interested student! Sarah then completed a full-time MA in English at Oxford Brookes University where she studied between 2013 and 2014.

Studying at Brookes was amazing, truly a life-changing experience. That sounds really dramatic but it’s how I feel. I loved engaging with critical theory and it was exciting to look at literature through so many different lenses. Although certainly a steep learning curve, I felt constantly stimulated and left our amazing seminars each week with my head spinning with new ideas and new ways of looking at not just literature but at the world! Working on my dissertation was a curious mixture of total agony and incredible breakthroughs that made me feel wow, I can do this! The Brookes tutors were brilliant – so passionate about their subjects and an absolute inspiration.

Sarah’s MA dissertation was entitled ‘Post-war Masculinity and the Imaginative Annihilation of Motherhood’, and her interests lie in post-war fiction and drama – Northern writing in particular. Sarah currently lives near Thame, but her roots – and much of the inspiration for her writing – are back in her native Nottingham, as reflected by her story written in a Nottingham dialect entitled Popping Your Cherry; itself highly commended in the Flash Fiction category of the Bridport Prize in 2012. Sarah describes Flash Fiction as perfect to fit around a busy life with three children, including working at Oxford Brookes as an Academic Support Worker for two days a week. Around this, her biggest goal in the coming year is to finish her first novel.
Contact Sarah:

Published in – Bridport Prize 2012 Anthology – Highly Commended with Popping your Cherry in Flash Fiction category.

Published in – Bus Pass Britain Rides Again with a chapter Love on the 159, a poignant look back at Sarah’s daily commute from Streatham to the West End of London on the 159 routemaster bus.

Published in Bridport Prize 2015 Anthology  – Highly Commended with Good at Crisps in Flash Fiction category.

PhD studentships of up to £14,000 a year available now for January 2016 start


To mark its 150th Anniversary, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, is pleased to offer a number of full-time PhD Studentships across a range of subject areas in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, starting in January 2016.

Each Studentship award will include an annual maintenance payment of £14,000 (with no inflation increase) for a maximum of three years, subject to the candidate making satisfactory progress. Students will be required to pay the annual fees at the Home/EU rate, currently £4,152 for 2015/2016 academic year.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences spans a diverse range of disciplines that include social sciences, history, philosophy, religion, education, law, English and modern languages.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has a long tradition of producing world-class research. The REF 2014 results confirm our ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ research status in a range of subjects, and serve as official recognition of the expertise, dedication and passion of our academic community.

We welcome applications with proposals for PhD research projects in distinct and multidisciplinary areas related to the Faculty’s wider research themes.

Some examples of our research strengths are, but not limited to:

  • Leadership and management within education, special educational needs (SEN), pedagogic practice, and school subjects and curricula
  • Early modern drama, nineteenth-century poetry, modernism and post-colonial literature
  • History of medicine, social and public health, eugenics and biopolitics, as well as the history of welfare and governance
  • Human rights, equality, international security, migration, law and religion
  • European politics and social change, gender, and critical international studies.
  • Cultural anthropology, Human origins and palaeo-environments, primates and wildlife conservation


Japanese Society welcome party a resounding success!

IMG_2673Oxford Brookes Japanese Society held a mingling event on Friday 25 September in Union Hall to celebrate the start of a new semester and welcome new and returning students to the university.

Over 150 students and staff attended, preparing sushi and pizza (which reportedly disappeared in under 5 seconds) to share. The Japanese Society successfully recruited a lot of new members including non-Japanese studies students and exchange students, with the festivities continuing at the White Horse pub afterwards.


Enquire about joining the Japanese Society:


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Learn more about Japanese studies and the English and Modern Languages department: