Student Wellbeing: New and Established Services Update

group of people supporting each other
Even if we are physically isolated, we can still be there for each other. #WeAreYSJ

We’ve had an update from the Wellbeing team about the support available for you

The Wellbeing team have created a new service which allows them to meet with students on Teams, over the phone and via chats. Students can contact the Wellbeing Service via the wellbeing email or by filling in a simple form on the web.   

We have also introduced the UniWellBeing App which provides students with self help and advice.  

A 24/7 service, CareFirst is also available to students which is a confidential service providing information, advice and support on both emotional and practical issues. Counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If students are in isolation, students can get support and there is a Moodle site dedicated to supporting students in isolation:  

Please share this information widely among our YSJ student community.

See our previous post on wellbeing and welfare services here for further information about established services.

The Show Must Go ONLINE: An Interview with Rob Myles on Modern Day Theatre’s Perseverance Through a Global Pandemic, by Emma Brimelow

We went into the first lockdown the week that our Shakespeare: Perspectives students were due to go on their trip to see The Taming of the Shrew, and, as happened in Shakespeare’s times, the theatres closed, and many people found their livelihoods in jeopardy. Emma Brimelow reflects on the resilience of the theatre community during this pandemic, interviewing Robert Myles, who set the standard for Zoom Shakespeare with his The Show Must Go Online project. As her blog post reveals, innovation and creativity did not come to an end, and she got to review a unique production after all.

Emma Brimelow 

What a lot of people hoped would be ‘the best year of their lives’ has slowly turned into one for the books, and sadly not in the way we had hoped. Covid-19 arrived in late January for the UK, and no later than two months after this around a third of the world has been put into some form of lockdown, Great Britain being no exception. On the 23rd of March, Boris Johnson announced everyone who isn’t an essential worker must stay inside and isolate, and many businesses are currently suffering due to forced closure, the theatre being one of them. In the past I’ve enjoyed watching numerous productions, my last being Dick Whittington and His Cat at Romiley Forum, and so I found myself missing the theatre experience. Luckily, Robert Myles has a solution for those of us who are missing out!

Created in less than a week in response to covid-19, ‘The Show Must Go Online’ was thefirst platform to produce Shakespeare for an online audience using online actors. Created on zoom and streamed on YouTube, TSMGO has been named “the most prolific creator of online theatre” by various academics (Medium, 2020), and after watching their production of The Taming of The Shrew it’s clear to see why. The shows stay true to theZoom shakespeare nature of theatre, including adding intervals, pre- and post-show discussions and adding virtual applause to the Zoom productions on YouTube. The quick response to the pandemic amazed me, with the first show airing the first week of the official lockdown, however I was lucky enough to get in contact with Rob Myles, who shared an exclusive insight into the process of creating TSMGO so fast.

Rob stated that the idea came to him pre-lockdown and was simply an idea until his initial tweet about creating the platform blew up.  The first show The Two Gentlemen of Verona aired just six days after that tweet was made, and since then to this day eight more shows have been broadcasted. Rob stated, “We were able to move so quickly because myself and my producing partner Sarah Peachey both work in innovation when we’re not working in the arts, where fast deadlines and online conferencing are both commonplace,” meaning that he was surrounded by a strong support network to get TSMGO going as quick as possible. However, he also told me that “it would have been nothing without the response from actors and theatre makers” which he claims are still reaching out to him today about appearing in future productions. Rob has helped over 150 currently unemployed actors from all over the world, allowing countries to come together and rejoice in such difficult times.

Before I saw any of the live shows, I admit I was sceptical.  I’ve seen a couple of Shakespeare productions, including more recently Macbeth at The Royal Exchange Theatre, and wondered how a play would function without the scenery and the costumes, and even more important…the interaction between characters. After watching TSMGO’s rendition of The Taming of the Shrew, I was surprised to see just how well the production flowed. The core of the success of the plays are the actors, who week by week learn a new script off by heart in less than six days, yet still manage to perform with such fluency and enthusiasm!

In the productions, the actors try their hardest to DIY costumes and props, some even including their dogs in the readings! In the reading of The Taming of The Shrew, I particularly enjoyed the couple of stunt doubles (who were isolating together) performing the fight between Katherina and Petruchio. It was staged extremely well and brought an aspect of humour to the reading. To put it simply, Rob Myles and his cast are doing all they can to make the best out of a bad situation.

The first production, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, brought in nearly 35,000 views (Ludmon, 2020) and Rob tells me that “thankfully the interest remains just as strong.” They are currently working through every Shakespeare play in chronological order and anticipate that they should make it through every one of his works by late November. You can support Rob and his team of actors through their patreon, which I have linked below and become a theatre patron yourself:

Update: The Show Must Go Online are still going strong! Check out their latest production Cymbeline. All their productions are available online on YouTube.

Check out The Taming of The Shrew for yourself here:

And Estella Green’s review for us here.

Works cited:

Broadribb, Ben. Shakespearean Parody In Lockdown: The Show Must Go Online Presents William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Medium.  

Ludmon, Mark. The Show Must Go Online- Shakespeare’s Plays Read Live Online. British 30th March 2020.  

Myles, Rob. Personal Correspondence via Email. 9th May 2020. Used with permission.

Myles, Robert. “THE SHOW MUST GO ONLINE” 2020

Black History Month 2020 – An Evening With Jeffrey Boakye, 21 October 2020

There are a range of events taking place at York St John University this October for Black History Month 2020. And we’re really pleased that our very own Senior Lecturer in Literature, Dr Fraser Mann, will be talking to the writer and teacher Jeffrey Boakye about race and identity politics in the context of Black Lives Matter. Continue reading “Black History Month 2020 – An Evening With Jeffrey Boakye, 21 October 2020”

Wellbeing at YSJ

Students walking on campusWe sometimes hear of ‘wellness’ or ‘wellbeing’ spoken of as some kind of new-fangled concept, but actually, the idea of being mindful of our mental and emotional well-being, as well as our physical health, goes right back to the sixteenth century, and was first used in the English language by Thomas Hoby in his translation of Castiglione’s The Courtier. And in these new and unusual times we find ourselves in, it is more important than ever to look out for and to look after ourselves and our peers. 

I’m really happy to have been asked to lead on promoting wellbeing in our department, initially through a series of blog posts. Over the years, I’ve personally benefitted from the input and support of wellbeing professionals, and the best advice I can think of to give to you is not to wait until a crisis to seek guidance. Of course, if you are already in crisis, it is not too late, either.

So in this first post, I will do two things. I will point you in the direction of York St John University’s own wellbeing and welfare services and opportunities, and I am also asking you to email me with your well-being tips, your queries, the resources you have found helpful, or even your pitches for your own well-being blog posts. These can all cover a range of topics, from Covid 19, to LGBT, Disability, or BAME experiences, to mental health in general, and I hope to get more suggestions from you yourselves. This blog is your space, reflecting your community and your experiences. Email: and put Wellbeing in the subject line.

Our lovely wellbeing and welfare team have been working hard all summer to ensure that one to one chatthey can continue to support you safely during this pandemic. Check out their welcome video here. You can also book to have 1 – 1 online wellbeing chats or welfare chats. A wellbeing chat gives you a chance to talk about any mental wellbeing concerns you have. A welfare chat is an opportunity for you to talk about challenges you are facing.

Crisis information is highlighted at the top of the webpage, but if you scroll down you will find further information about Mindfulness sessions, about the YSJ well-being app, and about Together All, our 24/7 online support community, including professional support.

So as you can see, we’ve got lots to offer you. There is also chaplaincy support available. The chaplaincy team are there for people of all faiths and none.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you with your ideas.

Wishing you all the very best this semester, Saffron.

Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling, Senior Lecturer in English Literature. 

Departmental role: Wellbeing.


Event: Words Matter Lecture 2020 – Dr Alexander Beaumont

The School of Humanities and the English Literature programme are proud to present this year’s annual Words Matter lecture (5pm,  Thursday 15th October 2020). The event is free, all are welcome, and booking is open here. This year’s lecture will be delivered by Dr Alexander Beaumont and is titled:

The Matter of the North: Sarah Hall’s Uplandish Fiction 

Continue reading “Event: Words Matter Lecture 2020 – Dr Alexander Beaumont”

A Virtual Celebration for the Class of 2020

The staff on the YSJU English Literature Programme have put together a very special farewell video for the Class of 2020. The video is introduced below by Third Year Level Co-ordinator, Dr Jo Waugh. 

It is a truth almost universally not acknowledged that sometimes endings can feel a bit anticlimactic. This year, however, that feeling must be especially powerful: this was never how it was supposed to be.

We’d have liked to be doing this in person, but we’ve tried our best to express in this video how proud we are of you, how sorry we are to see you go, and how much we hope you’ll carry with you the things you’ve learnt during your time as a Literature student at YSJU.

So let us take you, just for 43 minutes, to a place of virtual celebration. If you want to recreate the atmosphere, you could place some pizza and chips nearby, but forbid yourself from queuing for them until the speeches are over. Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a bottle of beer, or whatever you might have been drinking. When you’ve finished watching, you could play some jungle music (Fraser’s playlist last year), and imagine you’re either hiding when the camera comes near you or posing for it with your arms round your friends. Endings are important, and you should mark this one while you also think about the new beginnings that are opening up in front of you.


Every day right now, something is happening that requires – demands – you to use the skills in critical thinking and analysis that we hope you’ve honed in the last three years. There are narratives circulating all around us, many with holes, gaps, and ambiguities that desperately need people like you to question and interrogate them.

This is what a degree in English Literature does for you, and this is why the world really does need you, a Literature graduate, so urgently. Recognize and embrace your power and your privilege here: as a critic, as someone who’s read about historical precedents for some of the dynamics we’re seeing unfold  right now (cough Sick Novels), who’s studied the ways in which forms of power and oppression intersect, and been invited and encouraged to question everything – and keep on questioning, arguing, thinking, critiquing, all your life.

Dr Jo Waugh, Level 6 Coordinator

Pride Month Sapphic Media Recommendations by Lucy Pettigrew

We kick off Pride Month with a great reading list with recommendations by Lucy Pettigrew. Do you have a Pride Month list you would like to share with us? If so, send it in.

In a world where sapphics (women who love women, named after the Ancient Greek poet Sappho) are still brushed under the carpet, I always find it difficult to find new media that discusses wlw relationships and feelings. So, I thought I’d compile my own short list of sapphic books, poetry, films and songs to encourage the consumption of more wlw media. Continue reading “Pride Month Sapphic Media Recommendations by Lucy Pettigrew”

Literature in Lockdown: Zooming Through The Taming of the Shrew (Estela Green)

Literature in Lockdown is a special blog series in which our students share what they’re doing whilst face-to-face teaching is suspended at YSJU. In our latest post, Shakespeare: Perspectives student Estela Green shares her review of The Show Must Go Online’s Zoom production of The Taming of the Shrew. She watched this in lieu of our cancelled trip due to the closure of theatres back in March. There are silver linings after all. 

(The Show Must Go Online Taming of the Shrew is available for free on YouTube here. Donations also welcome.)

Screenshot from: “The Show Must Go Online: The Taming Of The Shrew.” YouTube, streamed live by Rob Myles, 26 Mar. 2020

Continue reading “Literature in Lockdown: Zooming Through The Taming of the Shrew (Estela Green)”