York International Shakespeare Festival in an original collaboration with the Ivano-Frankivsk Theatre Company by Victoria Walpole

Victoria Walpole is one of our artist liaisons on the Literature at Work module. This week she has been working with our visiting performers from  the Ivano-Frankivsk Theatre Company in Ukraine. Victoria tells us more.

a young Ukrainian man lifts up his right hand. A group of people sit behind him.Saturday 20th April sees the world premiere of Working Title: a collaboration between York International Shakespeare Festival and the National Theatre of Ivano-Frankivsk (UKRAINE) in York St John University’s Creative Centre, at 2pm and 7.30pm This performance promises to be incredibly imaginative and powerful, so you will not want to miss it. The show will feature a blend of Ukrainian and English culture, creating a captivating and unique experience for all.

I hear that, despite the challenges of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ivano-Frankivsk Theatre Company has continued to showcase plays and even created a humanitarian logistics centre called “Movement of Resistance – Movement of Help” to support those displaced by the war and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Ivano-Frankivsk Theatre Company has a reputation for producing creative and innovative shows that have established its place in the Ukrainian cultural world, having always been acclaimed for its unprecedented creative “explosions”, highlighting its active artistic position in culture. 

This highly respected theatre company has an exceptional cast of star actors, including Ivan Blindar and Mariia Stopnyk, who have joined us this week on our campus. Ivan and Mariia  have been working closely with the York International Shakespeare Festival to create an original piece of work in collaboration with volunteer actors from and around York. These include Ukrainian performers who are currently living here.

For the past week, the actors have been hard at work in rehearsals, creating and practisingactors discuss their craft pieces to perform on the first weekend of the festival. The pieces they have created combine Shakespeare’s incredible plays with the contemporary. They blend Ukrainian and English culture to create compelling pieces that will astound audiences. Working alongside Ivan and Mariia has been a privilege and a fun experience for all involved. Their love and passion for their work is reflected in their performances, and it has been a pleasure to be alongside them during the creative process. Through the use of imaginative warm-up exercises and sonnet performances, Phillip Parr has been able to direct the creative process to mould a stunning performance that beautifully symbolises the collaboration between the Ivano-Frankivsk theatre and the festival. Part of this process is making sure everyone who volunteered has a voice in what they want to give and take from the final performance.

During the rehearsals, local artist Lynne O’Dowd has been diligently capturing the dedication and momentous efforts of everyone involved through her paintings. These paintings will be part of the final performance, highlighting the creativity and hard work that has gone into bringing this production to life.

This performance promises to be incredibly imaginative and powerful, so you will not want to miss this! Everyone involved has put their heart and soul into creating a beautiful piece to perform, making these performances even more special. Creating a performance in such a short amount of time is a real feat of skill and everyone involved worked incredibly hard to make this possible.

When and where?

The event will be performed on Saturday the 20th of April at 2 pm and 7.30pm in the York St John Creative Centre Auditorium as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival. Tickets are only £15 at full price, with students and concessions only paying £5.

When buying tickets also look out for and consider buying a Pass It On Ticket which we can offer to community members who may not otherwise be able to attend as we want to make it possible for as many members of the community to come to festival performances!

To buy tickets and or more information about the York International Shakespeare Festival you can go to its website.

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YISF 2024 Through the Eyes of our Literature at Work Placement Students 

Here at York St John University, we are extremely proud to announce our official sponsorship of the York International Shakespeare Festival for its 2024 edition. After the resounding success of last year’s festival, we continue to bring innovative, exciting Shakespeare/Shakespeare inspired productions to the main stage in our YSJ Creative Centre. Several of our students are taking part in work placements with the festival via the Literature at Work module. Here is their overview of the events they have been working on. The YISF 2024 edition runs from 18th-28th April. Student concessions are only £5! Some events are free to attend. Programme information can be found here (click through individual events to book). Pick up a copy of our beautiful brochure! And if you want to get involved, either now or in the future, please get in touch. If you want to review any events for our blogs, please email s.vickerswalkling@yorksj.ac.uk and info@yorkshakes.co.uk 

BECOMING OTHELLO by Debra-Ann Byrd introduced by Dulcie Welsh (Artist Liaison)  

African American actress plays OthelloCome see the UK premiere of Debra Ann Byrd’s critically acclaimed one woman show Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey, in which she combines Shakespeare’s verse with song and memoir to tell her story. Debra-Ann also founded the Harlem Shakespeare Festival in New York, which supports emerging and professional artists of colour in classical theatre. She will also be providing a performance for visiting schools.   

Purchase your tickets here for £15 or £5 for students and concessions. Join us on the 24th of April (7:30 p.m.) and the 25th of April (11:30 a.m.) at York St John Creative Centre Auditorium for an unforgettable experience.  

In addition, there is to be a talk by Debra Ann-Byrd in conversation in which she will discuss My Black Girl’s Journey. This event will give people the opportunity to reflect on Debra-Ann’s work and to ask any questions during the discussion afterwards, which is to be hosted by Dr Anne-Marie, Head of Humanities. This will be held in the YSJ Creative Centre Auditorium on Wednesday the 25th of April, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Book your free ticket here.  

TWELTH NIGHT by Footsbarn Theatre, introduced by Victoria Walpole (Artist Liaison)  

Footsbarn is coming to the York International Shakespeare Festival for their worldWoman dressed as a man stands near the sea premiere performance of Shakespeare Twelfth Night! Footsbarn is one of the world’s leading travelling theatre companies and specialises in performing in untraditional performance spaces – they usually travel with a circus big top!  Directed by Sadie Jemmett, this production promises to be a unique and vibrant interpretation of the play, exploring gender identity in a thought-provoking way. With spectacles of live music, original songs, and classic comedy clowning, this highly anticipated performance is not to be missed!    

Don’t wait, buy your tickets here for £15 or £5 for students and concessions. Join us on the 27th of April (7:30 p.m.) and 28th April (2:00 p.m.) at York St John Creative Centre Auditorium for an unforgettable experience. 

Conferences and Symposiums introduced by Esme Bainbridge (Events Organiser)   

Young female academicI’ve been liaising with visiting academics, speakers and panel participants as organiser of the Shakespeare and Identity Symposium which I am convening with Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling. This symposium will be held in The Creative Centre at York St John University on Saturday the 27th of April, 2:00 pm – 6 pm. There will be a wide range of guest speakers, including Dr Varsha Panjwani, discussing the theme of identity in the context of the Indian changling boy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and panels of artists from Ukraine to the UK discussing Shakespeare’s work. Book your free tickets here. There are opportunities for students and staff to speak on one of the panels. If you are interested do get in touch with Esme (esme.bainbridge@yorksj.ac.uk).  

 In addition to this event, we are also hosting a range of workshops, readings, talks, and displays. With content ranging from a Turkish Production of Macbeth to a celebration of Shakespeare in European Communities – a day of clebration and discovery with those who are making the work – this festival aligns closely with York St John University’s commitment to social justice, inclusion and diversity.  

Shakespeare Exhibitions introduced by Grace Tanner (Exhibition Curator with Emily Shaw)  

This year’s exhibitions focus on the different representations of Shakespeare.  At York StManga Hamlet John, there will be a Shakespeare and Manga exhibition running from Wednesday the 24th of April to Sunday the 28th of April. This will be in the Creative Centre Atrium. There will be a short informal opening of the exhibition at 6:30 pm on the 24th, with a chance to meet and talk with the artists. There will also be a talk on Manga: Shakespeare Illustrated featuring five distinguished artists and academics: Inko Ai Takita, Ryuta Minami, Yukari Yoshihara, Chie Kutsuwada, and Ronan Paterson. This event will take place on Thursday the 25th at 7:30 p.m. in Creative Centres Auditorium. Book here for the talk. There is also a chance to take part in a public workshop with the featured artists on Friday the 26th of April, from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm at St Olave’s Church Hall, York. Book here for workshop . The illustrated talk is £15 a ticket, or £5 for concessions. The workshop is £15 a ticket (contact Saffron about concessions/comps for this off campus event). 

At the York Explore library, there will be an Images of Othello exhibition running from the 13th of April to the 23rd of May.  Both of these exhibitions feature representations of Shakespeare from all over the world, and they’re free!   

Grace Ebberley (Volunteer Coordinator) has written about her work placement experience for the YSJ Life Blog. “My role in this year’s festival is volunteer liaison and recruitment – or, to put it simply, encouraging other YSJ students to get involved with the festival and make sure everything runs smoothly for them.   student volunteers

The festival so far has been a joy to volunteer for, and I’m super excited to get stuck in with all the upcoming events. Hopefully, by the end of this blog post, you’ll consider coming along to some of these events.” Read more from Grace here: https://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/ysjlife/2024/04/09/my-experience-volunteering-for-the-york-international-shakespeare-festival/   

Other Events and Opportunities   

Ukrainian actors arrive in YorkContinuing our support of Ukrainian artists, YISF have collaborated with the National Theatre of Ivano-Frankivsk from Ukraine and performers from the Ukrainian community in York to bring you an important and prompt new production Working Title: A Collaboration. Practitioners and academics from the YISF will be working with our students across Humanities and Arts. Please consider buying a Pass It on Ticket for a refugee or asylum seeker in York. You can book this for any paid event and it can be reallocated to a show of the recipient’s choice. 

Support us here See you there! 

LGBT History Month Events at YSJ

Non binary person in floral top looks at camera

Let’s celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month!

February is LGBTQ+ History Month!

We are very excited to celebrate and there’s a lot to get hyped about at YSJ:


Free Speech and Hate Speech: Analysing ‘anti-gender’ Discourse

7th February 2024, 4:30-5:30pm, Creative Centre Auditorium

This LGBTQ+ History Month talk focuses on what is commonly referred to as homophobic and transphobic ‘soft hate speech’ which (unlike ‘hard’ hate) operates within the limits of the law and may be perceived as ‘sayable’ in the public sphere. This makes it more difficult to recognize and challenge. This talk is being given by our very own Helen Sauntson (Professor of English Language and Linguistics) and is going to be a must-be-at event. Book your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lgbtqhm-free-speech-and-hate-speech-analysing-anti-gender-discourse-tickets-756706679047?aff=oddtdtcreator

In Conversation with Dom&Ink

Tuesday 13th February, 6-8pm, Creative Centre Auditorium

Come along and listen to illustrator and author Dom&Ink talk about their work, from illustrating RuPaul’s Drag Race for the BBC to writing their new graphic novel. Dom will be interviewed by Lali from York’s own The Portal Bookshop, and the event will be followed by a book signing and drinks reception. Book your ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lgbtqhm-2024-in-conversation-with-domink-tickets-780078825767?aff=oddtdtcreator 

Can you Adam and Eve It? Queering Heterosexuality in Genesis

Wednesday 21st February, 4-6pm, Creative Centre

Join us at York St John University for this hybrid event to mark LGBT History Month 2024. Hosted by the Centre for Religion in Society, hear Dr Chris Greenough’s talk, ‘Can you Adam and Eve it? Queering Heterosexuality in the Genesis Narrative’, followed by Q+A and a drinks reception. Book your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lgbtqhm-can-you-adam-and-eve-it-queering-heterosexuality-in-genesis-tickets-732646233607?aff=oddtdtcreator


“Thinking Big Thoughts: A Showcase of Trans and Non-binary Scholarship”- Call-out for participants!

Transgender flag in blue white pink and words Transgender Day of VisibilityOn Wednesday 13th March 2-4pm, in the run-up to Transgender Day of Visibility, the LGBTQ+ Staff Network and the Athena Swan Initiative are holding a hybrid event to celebrate trans and non-binary scholarship at York St John University. This will be an informal, supportive space where all members of staff and students who are trans, non-binary, gender-diverse or are creating work related to these communities are encouraged to take part and share their work. Whether you are a first-year undergrad with an essay you’d like to share or a seasoned academic, we want to hear from you!

We welcome our London staff and student scholars to join the event, as hybrid presentations are possible.

This is a supportive space for trans, non-binary or gender-diverse scholars and students to share their work. If you know of anyone (staff or students) at YSJ who would be interested in presenting their work, we want to celebrate your contribution to the YSJ community. For more information, please contact Naomi Orrell at LGBTQPlusStaff@yorksj.ac.uk.

Upcoming Event: Annual YSJ Words Matter Lecture, ‘Speculations on Embodiment’

Liesl King is a white woman with long red hair and a smileThis year’s YSJ Literature’s annual Words Matter Lecture  will be delivered by Dr Liesl King, speaking about ‘Speculations on Embodiment’ . This will take place on Thursday 7th December, starting at 6pm, with a drinks reception at 7pm. 

This year’s lecture will explore ways in which the word ‘embodiment’ has inspired Dr Liesl King’s teaching practice, university projects, and publications. She will consider the representation of embodied living in the fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin, the ‘tertium quid’ in Dr Angela Voss’ approach to classroom teaching, and the concept of ‘sensuous knowledge’ advanced by Minna Salami in her critical work of the same name published in 2020. The presentation will look at three ways in which Liesl, sometimes through hindsight, has drawn on the word ‘embodiment’ to inform her approach to academic practice: her online science fiction magazine, Terra Two: An Ark for Off World Survival, her upcoming co-written guidebook on Speculative Fiction (New Critical Idiom series, Routledge), and her nascent project on the ‘Embodied University’.

For more details and to sign up, please refer to the Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wordsmatter-dr-liesl-king-tickets-732688941347?aff=oddtdtcreator

One writer leads you to another – discovering Lemn Sissay’s ‘Let the Light Pour In’ by Anna Brizzolara

Anna Brizzolara is a student on the YSJ Creative Writing MA who has recently been focussing on Critical Approaches to Creative Writing. This is Anna’s review of Lemn Sissay’s recent poetry reading at Manchester Literature Festival. Sissay’s adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis is coming to York Theatre Royal 10th-14th October 2023.

a man in a yellow suit performs on a large stage
Lemn Sissay performing at Home, Manchester (c) Anna Brizzolara

I wanted tickets to see Zadie Smith.

That’s how I found Lemn Sissay.

He shared the programme for the Manchester Literature Festival alongside Zadie’s sold-out event.

Lemn hosted an evening at ‘Home’. Home, a theatre, gallery, independent film screen and all-round centre of creativity and culture that had a cosy, community feel. It opened in 2015 in the heart of Manchester; relaxed, no fancy wine list, plenty of craft beer and pots of pic ‘n’ mix. Volunteers in printed T-shirts smiled, ushered you along brushed concrete corridors and showed you to your multi-coloured upholstered seats.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Continue reading “One writer leads you to another – discovering Lemn Sissay’s ‘Let the Light Pour In’ by Anna Brizzolara”

ESEA Heritage Month 2023: Books to Read and Films to Watch

Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling introduces titles to look out for this ESEA Heritage Month and beyond.  Saffron lived and worked in China for five years, and their research area includes late twentieth century Chinese Shakespeare in performance.

September is East and South East Asian Heritage Month. Founded in 2021 by Britain’s East and South East Asian Network (besea.n), it commemorates “those who have contributed positively to British society” and celebrates “the richness of ESEA culture”, says Michelle Chan. 

In alphabetical order, East Asian and South East Asian countries include: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. 

Besea.n say that their “vision is one where our communities are seen and supported in all spaces”. This includes the sold out ESEA Lit Fest at Foyles Bookshop in London, which started on 23rd September 2023.    

Here are some highlights from their Reading List: 

A Lover's DiscourseA Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo tells of a Chinese woman’s life in London, reflecting on the nature of cross-cultural love and language. The title references Roland Barthes’ book of the same name, and its Cantonese film adaptation. Novelist and filmmaker Guo came to YSJ in 2008 as part of our China Week to speak about her debut English-language novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which our first years were studying on their Gender and Writing module. Although not a sequel, A Lover’s Discourse revisits and reframes many of the tropes of the earlier book. Her film She, A Chinese is also currently showing on Channel 4. 

Night Sky with Exit WoundsNight Sky with Exit Wounds is a collection of poetry by the Vietnamese-American writer and academic Ocean Vuong, reflecting on his refugee experience – both its horrors and its wonders.

Vuong’s novel On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous sustained us through the long holiday of 2021 as our Big Summer Read. See more here.


YellowfaceIf you want something that will shock and amuse you in equal measures, check out Yellowface by R. F. Kuang, a hilarious satire on the ultimate in literary cultural appropriation…

This bestseller combines big ideas with humour and is simultaneously thought-provoking and immensely readable! 



Never Let Me GoIf you’ve never read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, then now is the time to remedy this.

A firm A-level favourite for many years, Ishiguro’s novel about a group of young people at an English boarding school quickly reveals the dystopian side of its apparent idyllic setting. 



Ping Pong (1986 film) - WikipediaIf it’s film you are interested in, Channel 4 has a selection for ESEA, including the first ever British Chinese feature film, Ping Pong, which I’ve reviewed here. “Elaine Choi (Sheen), a trainee lawyer tasked with executing the will of local businessman Sam Wong, whose body has been found in a telephone box, receiver still in hand. The trouble is, she can’t read Chinese characters.”



You can find Film 4’s complete ESEA listings here:

#PRIDE2023: SHAKESPEARE? MORE LIKE SHAKESQUEER! RuPaul’s Drag Race by Roger Tomas Arques

Drag Queen RuPaul in Shakespeare inspired drag
Image via @RuPaulsDragRace

“To she, or not to she?” Spanish ERASMUS exchange student Roger Tomas Arques recently took our Shakespeare Perspectives module. For Pride Season 2023, he looks at the connections between Shakespeare’s theatre and Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Recently, I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 8’s new episode as I do every Friday and then I thought something. Did you know that when watching RuPaul’s Drag Race you are seeing a Shakespearean thing? 

Image from the British Library collection: Mark Rylance getting into costume as Olivia for Shakespeare’s Globe’s all male production of Twelfth Night.

“Drag may trace its roots to the age of William Shakespeare, when female roles were performed by men”. In Shakespeare’s times, women were not allowed to be on stage, so men were playing women’s roles. During those days acting was not considered a very refined work, so if a woman acted, she would be considered a sex worker. As Shakespeare’s contemporary said, “Our Players are not as the players beyond sea, a sort of squirting baudie Comedians.” (Thomas Nashe) However, it was not just a costumes thing. The writer had to find men that could perfectly represent a woman with their gestures, movements, and so on.

Now drag has changed and everyone can do it.   Continue reading “#PRIDE2023: SHAKESPEARE? MORE LIKE SHAKESQUEER! RuPaul’s Drag Race by Roger Tomas Arques”

York International Shakespeare Festival at York St John University, Week 9.

York International Shakespeare Festival runs between 21st April and 1st May 2023. 

A message from Dr Saffron Vickers Walking, York International Shakespeare Festival Advisor and Senior Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University.    

are delighted to continue working closely with the York International Shakespeare Festival (@YorkShakes) for its 2023 edition. This year, we have a number of exciting, award-winning productions coming to the main stage in our new Creative Centre, and we are honoured to be showcasing the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Ukraine. Alongside this we are hosting workshops, readings, talks, displays and our afternoon exploring Shakespeare (andSanctuary. This festival aligns closely with York St John University’s commitment to social justice, inclusion and diversity, and in these sometimes divisive times, we celebrate how Shakespeare can bring us together. So come and join us!  Booking information below. If you are on social media, please follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

York International Shakespeare Festival have ensured that the tickets for all events at York St John venues are affordable to encourage student and community engagement. We have a small number of complimentary tickets for any York St John student who is facing financial hardship in this cost of living crisis. We also have some complimentary tickets for volunteers. Please email Saffron as soon as possible. Scroll down for the email address and for information about volunteering opportunities.  The festival has also provided a number of work placements for students on the department’s employability module.

We also have a Pass It On ticket scheme to support refugees and asylum seekers finding sanctuary in Yorkshire to attend the productions at York St John University. In particular, we anticipate strong interest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so please consider getting a ticket to pass on, and sharing this scheme with your contacts. Further details here.

Productions here at York St John University’s Creative Centre

Macbeth and witches
Flabberghast Macbeth (c) Mike Lynch

Macbeth by Flabbergast Theatre, 8pm Wednesday 26th April, concessions £5. Information and ticket booking here. Playing to their strengths and background in puppetry, clown, mask, ensemble and physical theatre, Flabbergast have developed their first text-based production (with extensive R&D with Wilton’s Musical Hall London and Grotowski Institute Poland) to foster the bard’s original text accompanied by and supported with exhilarating live music to produce a provocative and enjoyably accessible show. In English.


Titania the fairy queen
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c) Molodyy

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theatre, 8pm Friday 28th April, concessions £5. Information and ticket booking here. How does the well-known romantic comedy by Shakespeare sound in the context of a Ukrainian traditional rite? In the global narrative, we locate the key to the national code and adapt it to the present. We establish parallels with our historical stories by changing the major characters from Greeks to Ukrainians.

A man in a VR mask with outspread arms
Truth’s A Dog Must to Kennel (c) Stuart Armitt

Other events include:

Molodyy Theatre Open Workshop for Actors and Theatre Makers (you can be an audience member for this), 10am Saturday 29th April. Pay what you can. Information and ticket booking here. Followed by Molodyy Theatre Making Theatre In Ukraine Today Q&A, 12 noon Saturday 29th April. Pay what you can. Information and ticket booking here.

Shakespeare (and) Sanctuary curated by Saffron Vickers Walkling and Nicoleta Cinpoes. 2pm Saturday 29th April. Free. Information and booking here. An afternoon of talks, presentations and discussion exploring elements of Shakespeare and Social Justice, presented by York St John University, the European Shakespeare Research Association and the York International Shakespeare Festival.

If you are interested in global work inspired by Shakespeare, then you can attend the free introduction to and staged reading of Marin Sorecu’s play Cousin Shakespeare, translated from Romanian into English. 4.30 and 6pm, Wednesday 26th April. Information and booking here.

York St John’s library will also have a display to reflect the York International Shakespeare Festival and showcase our resources.

There are many other wonderful events across the city of York – click here for the full York International Shakespeare Festival programme and here for the York International Shakespeare Festival Brochure . There is an all-day sonnet marathon, Shakespeare stand-up, community theatre, Shakespeare’s Fool, Riding Light’s production of Richard III, book launches, European plays in translation, symposium, Shakespeare storytelling for children, theatre workshops, exhibitions and more – so something for everyone. 

YSJ Volunteering Opportunities: 

We have a number of exciting volunteer opportunities for you and would love to hear from you as soon as possible!

Be a part of our FOCUS GROUP: go to between 4 and 8 events across the festival, including some of the productions at YSJ, and we will follow up with a couple of meetings with you to discuss your feedback (and some simple forms for you to fill in to help us get an idea of the impact of the festival). We have some complimentary tickets available.  

Write a blog post for either the English Literature blog, Words Matter, or the YorkShakes blog. Let us know which play or event you would like to review. We have some complimentary tickets available.  

Please email Saffron for either of these options: s.vickerswalkling@yorksj.ac.uk  

YISF Volunteering Opportunities:

There are many and varied volunteer opportunities festival wide, including festival preparation in the run up to the festival and front of house during the festival. Email Artistic Director Philip Parr for further details: philip@parrabbola.co.uk  

YSJ Lit Interview: Departmental Prizewinner Adam Kirkbride

Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling interviews Adam Kirkbride (he/they). Adam was the 2021 York St John Literature English Literature Undergraduate Dissertation Prize Winner AND the English Literature Undergraduate Programme Prize for achieving the highest degree classification marks in both categories on their programme. Adam has gone on to study on our MA in Contemporary Literature and is completing their second year of part-time study.

Graduates in their robes celebrate outside York Minster
Adam and his friends celebrate graduating with their BA degrees outside York Minster

Adam, tell us a bit about yourself, what you are studying with us and why?

I’ve been at York St John since 2018 when I started my BA in English Literature. Finishing my degree during the pandemic and a lot of personal turbulence meant that I was unsure about what the future would bring. I’d thought about doing an MA for a while and several of the YSJ literature staff encouraged me to do one here, so I applied, and the rest is history! Now I’m in my final year of my MA in Contemporary Literature and I cannot believe that it’s been nearly five years since I arrived here.

Can you tell us about your awards and what they mean to you?

The awards I received on graduation meant more to me than I can express. My final year of undergraduate study was incredibly difficult due to a range of personal circumstances and knowing that I still managed to do well was an amazing feeling.

You are doing your MA as a part-time student. What have been the challenges of part-time study? What have been the benefits?

Truly, the main challenge and benefit has been the same: I get to work full-time in a job that I love alongside my studies. Working for a charity is very demanding, and so is post-graduate study! I don’t think I anticipated how difficult juggling full-time work and part-time study would be in reality, especially around deadlines. Avoiding burn-out has been a challenge. On the other hand, the MA here at YSJ is timetabled so classes are later in the evenings, meaning I can be flexible in my study and get to commit my 9-5 hours to my job working for Foundation UK in their +Choices (Positive Choices) service, and my evenings and weekends to my study. Continue reading “YSJ Lit Interview: Departmental Prizewinner Adam Kirkbride”

Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh: Reflection on Black History Month and the Ones We Leave Out, Part 2

A display of books by Afro Caribbean writers with a picture and a Rasta Mouse toy
Caribbean Writing #BlackHistoryMonth Image (c) Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh

In the second of two blog posts looking back at Black History Month, Dr. Sarah Lawson Welsh discusses the importance of the representation of Caribbean writers and artists. She is an Associate Professor and Reader in English and Postcolonial Literature in the School of Humanities, and has written widely on this topic. You can read her first blog post here.

I think it is fair to say that the nationalist agendas of Caribbean writing and the role of black writers and thinkers in mid-twentieth century independence movements are much less well known than the American civil rights movement of the same era, even though there are some parallels between the two. Even such intellectual giants of the Anglophone Caribbean tradition, writers and thinkers such as Guyanese Wilson Harris (1921-2018) and Trinidadian C.L.R. James (1901-1989), are little known outside of specialist academic circles. Yet Harris, a former land surveyor who had worked in the Amazonian rainforest was writing about environmental issues and conceptualizing new ways of thinking about space, time and memory in relation to pre- and post-Columbian contexts as early as the 1960s. Even earlier in the century, in the 1930s Continue reading “Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh: Reflection on Black History Month and the Ones We Leave Out, Part 2”

Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh: Reflection on Black History Month and the Ones We Leave Out, Part 1

a white woman with long blonde hair smiles at the camera
Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh

In the first of two blog posts looking back at Black History Month, Dr. Sarah Lawson Welsh introduces her choices for the display in the York St John library foyer. She is an Associate Professor & Reader in English and Postcolonial Literature in the School of Humanities, and has written widely on this topic. Read her second blog post here.

Every year the Library and the Learning services team put on a black history month (BHM) display with a new topic every week. This year, Marcia Sanderson, a former BA English and MA in Contemporary Literature student who works in the library, contacted me to ask if I had any black British and Caribbean book or film suggestions, based on my teaching and research specialisms in these areas. The topics the library and learning services had chosen were: hidden black historical figures, black authors speaking back to literature and film, staff picks – our favourite texts by black authors and black people in cinema and horror films. Continue reading “Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh: Reflection on Black History Month and the Ones We Leave Out, Part 1”

Words Matter Prize Winner 2022 Announced

This year’s Words Matter Prize has been awarded to BA English Literature &a student's hands flicking through papers and books Film Student Liam Durbin. The prize recognises outstanding academic achievement by students completing the first year of their degree.

Level Four co-ordinator Dr Fraser Mann says that:

“Liam’s dedication to his studies and his participation in university life are admirable. He has made rapid and remarkable progress in his studies and deserves real recognition for this success.”

On receiving news of the award, Liam said:

“Receiving the Words Matter Prize genuinely means the world to me. A few years ago, just being able to study at university was something that felt beyond me entirely, so to receive this now is simply incredible. I feel endlessly grateful to every lecturer, tutor, friend and family member that have helped get me through university so far. Thank you so much.”

Liam will receive his award during this year’s Words Matter Lecture. We would like to congratulate him on his success and wish him all the best for the rest of his degree

The Tempest completes the York Shakespeare Project with YSJ student as Miranda

3 white people dressed in white, one young, one middle-aged and one older person hold a bush of rosemary corresponding with their age.
Publicity image for The Tempest by the York Shakespeare Project.

York Shakespeare Project’s The Tempest is touring around North and East Yorkshire between Sept 23rd and Oct 1st 2022, culminating with a special performance at The York Theatre Royal. Book your tickets here.

20 years after YSP began its mission to put on all of Shakespeare’s plays “within the boundaries of the City of York”  it marks the end of this ambitious project with its final production, The Tempest. Directed by Philip Parr, who is also artistic director of the York International Shakespeare Festival, it draws on the talents of “local amateur actors, stage managers, technicians, costume and prop makers”, including our very own Effie Warboys in a leading role as Miranda, Prospero’s daughter. Effie, a third year Creative Writing student, took our Shakespeare: Perspectives module last year. Now she is about to make her stage debut on the mainstage of the York Theatre Royal.

“Taking part in the York Shakespeare Project has been beyond a dream,” she said.  “Playing

a white girl looks up at an old white man. She is seated, he is standing. Actors sit on chairs behind them holding scripts
In rehearsal: Effie warboys (right) and Paul French (left

Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, has meant more to me than I could have ever imagined it would, especially with such a strong and talented cast around me.” 

Philip Parr explains how important it had been to get the casting of Miranda right: “The York Shakespeare Project had a desire for the actor who plays Miranda to be younger than the project – so, like Effie, to be born after the year 2000.”

I asked Effie what The Tempest was about for her.

 She explained that “The Tempest as a show is one about mystery and about family, both loving and dysfunctional, and really about community as a whole – which is what the York Shakespeare Project has also always been about.”

The director, Philip, has a long relationship with community theatre, both in the UK and in continental Europe, which was why he was the ideal choice to direct this “last play”.

“Inclusivity is really important to me and to the York Shakespeare Project,” he said. “Anyone who has previously been in a YSP project was able to be in this final project”. There are many familiar faces for local people, but also new talent, on stage and behind the scenes.
“This production of The Tempest  is celebratory,” he continued “It asks important political questions such as who has the right to own land, but it also explores themes of reconciliation and our own self-awareness which is at the heart of Shakespeare’s work.”

The production will be going on tour across North and East Yorkshire prior to a final performance at York Theatre Royal on Saturday 1st October. 

Friday 23rd September – Thorganby Village Hall – Tickets on sale now

Saturday 24th September (matinee) – Strensall and Towthorpe Village Hall – Tickets on sale now

Saturday 24th September (evening) – Strensall and Towthorpe Village Hall – Tickets on sale now

Tuesday 27th September – Helmsley Arts Centre – Tickets on sale now

Wednesday 28th September – Selby Town Hall  – Tickets on sale now

Thursday 29th September – The Junction, Goole – Tickets on sale now

Friday 30th September – Acomb Parish Church Hall – Tickets on sale now

Saturday 1st October – York Theatre Royal – Tickets on sale now

Cast and crew

David Denbigh, Sonia Di Lorenzo, Henry Fairnington, Jodie Fletcher, Nell Frampton, Paul French, Tony Froud, Emily Hansen, David Harrison, Bronte Hobson, Judith Ireland, Andrew Isherwood, Helen Jarvis, Nick Jones, Stuart Lindsay, Aran Macrae, Michael Maybridge, Sally Maybridge, Sally Mitcham, Andrea Mitchell, Fiona Mozley, Harold Mozley, Janice Newton, Megan Ollerhead, Tracy Rea, Eleanor Royse, Emma Scott, Phyl Smith, Sadie Sorensen, Julie Speedie, Lara Stafford, Harry Summers, Lisa Valentine, Sam Valentine, Effie Warboys, Jacob Ward

Director: Philip Parr   Associate Director: Terry Ram

Stage Managers: Janice Newton, David Harrison

Musical Director: Nick Jones


Northern Broadsides’ As You Like It: A Depiction of Trans-Queer Feminism Through the Casting of Rosalind, by Blythe Roberts

In March this year, students on the Shakespeare: Perspectives module went to see The Northern Broadsides production of As You Like It, directed by Laurie Sansom.  Second year student Blythe Roberts reflects on how this production speaks to 21st century ideas of gender and sexuality.

York Theatre Royal, 24th March 2022, Main Stage.

Two women embrace, one dressed in a feminine fasion, one in a masculine fashion
Image 1: Rosalind’s enforced female identity as a form of oppression (Billington, “Rosalind and Celia”)

Through casting a non-binary actor, E M Williams, to play Rosalind, Laurie Sansom’s As You Like It rejects patriarchal constructions of gender and sexuality. A trans-queer interpretation of the play is depicted through Rosalind’s journey of self-discovery, exploring possibilities beyond the female identity enforced upon them, concluding the play with Rosalind’s identification as non-binary. This interpretation creates a radical opposition to the patriarchy, as Rosalind’s rejection of gender constructs creates a liberating queer space where they are no longer confined within patriarchal structures.

Sansom, together with trans-disciplinary artist and designer E M Parry, conveys this trans-queer interpretation through costumes and performance of gender, depicting Rosalind’s trans-journey. In the rigid patriarchal structures of the court, Rosalind’s identity as a woman is presented as a form of oppression (see Image 1). Once Rosalind is alone with Celia, they abruptly conclude their performance of ‘femininity’, using the act of disrobing as a rejection of the identity of an oppressed woman. Sansom uses this refusal to become oppressed within a patriarchal society as the incentive behind Rosalind’s fleeing into the woods and disguising as a man. Continue reading “Northern Broadsides’ As You Like It: A Depiction of Trans-Queer Feminism Through the Casting of Rosalind, by Blythe Roberts”