Dr Mike Chick's research is transforming the lives of refugees and forced migrants in Wales
English research at USW has longstanding and internationally-recognised expertise in creative writing, Welsh writing in English, women’s writing, contemporary poetry, genre fiction (particularly historical fiction and science fiction), and Gothic studies. Synergies between literary critics and creative writers in the team have led to the development of innovative research in critical-creative writing.
A keen interest in textuality and cultural spaces – on spatial politics, landscapes and literary geographies from Wales to Australia – is another element which links research and writing produced by members of the unit. Research in TESOL is an emerging area with innovative work on ESOL provision for migrants and refugees, and on the knowledge of or about grammar in relation to TESOL.
The high quality of our research was confirmed by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). Ninety per cent of USW English research was rated as being internationally excellent (3) with respect to impact, while just over half of English research submitted (51%) was judged to be world leading (4) or internationally excellent (3*).
Staff members’ research interests range from medieval literature to that of the present day, and recent critical publications include books and articles on Welsh writing in English, women’s writing, historical fiction, ghost stories, postcolonial literature, and the poetry of place.
Our creative writers have between them been awarded an impressive array of prizes and honours for poetry and fiction. Many of the graduates of the MPhil in Writing have also won literary awards. The English Research Unit also hosts conferences, research seminars and public lectures.
Working in collaboration with the Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) and Rhondda Cynon Taff local authority, Dr Mike Chick has been researching the provision of ESOL to forced migrants in south Wales and beyond.
Language skills are essential to the integration of refugees and asylum seekers. Speaking English is key to accessing work and educational opportunities as well as helping with social and cultural integration. And yet forced migrants often face long delays before they can access English classes.
Since 2014 Dr Chick has led an innovative collaboration with the Welsh Refugee Council which enables trainee language teachers from USW to offer classes to refugees. And since 2016, he has been working with officials and voluntary organisations in Rhondda Cynon Taff to advise on the provision of English classes for Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the area as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS). In these roles he has met and taught hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers.
Dr Chick’s current KESS-Funded research project looks at the barriers faced by refugees who look for educational and employment in south Wales. It aims to identify the ways in which language teaching can give refugees the skills which will help them to find work and integrate into their communities.
Dr Mike Chick is USW’s Refugee Champion
The play’s Director, Vic Mills, added: “Churches are incredibly theatrical spaces, and what goes on in them is theatrical, so they lend themselves to drama. It has been challenging to adapt our work to different performance spaces, as some of them are very small, but we’re excited to see the audience reaction.”
Professor Kevin Mills
This collaboration between Professor Alice Entwistle, photographer David Barnes, Gwynedd National Trust and Bardsey Trust produced an experimental critical/creative text-art response to changed character of Bardsey’s Victorian lighthouse, the tallest in the UK.
The work was exhibited at the end of May 2016 in the internationally known gallery Plas Glyn Y Weddw, in Abersoch, Pen Llyn, and again in ffotogallery (Turner House, Penarth) later in the year.
‘Interior Monologues’ is an exhibition and zine publication highlighting the work of seven artists and eight writers all working in response to artworks selected from the USW art collection.
The title of the exhibition is a play on words meaning both a person's inner voice and the personal truths revealed through choices of interior décor. As a literary device the Interior monologue creates a window into the mental processes of a character. Modernist writers such as May Sinclair, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf used interior monologues to challenge literary form and to convey the psychology of their protagonists.
The USW writers – Tony Curtis, Cathy Dreyer, Judith Goldsmith, Dale Frances Hay, Maria Lalić, Colum Sanson-Regan, Melanie Smith - were invited to contribute stream of consciousness writing in prose or poetry which was then displayed in the gallery alongside with the artworks and printed in the accompanying free zine.
As a prize-winning poet, novelist and teacher of Creative Writing, Emeritus Professor Philip Gross’s work is concerned with the development of individuals’ creative practice (both adults’ and children’s), outside the academy as well as inside it. His work has led to a wider awareness of the ways in which creative process can enhance our understanding of some of the most urgent challenges of contemporary society.
Since 1993, Professor Gross has published ten collections of poetry for adults, including the T.S. Eliot Prize-winning The Water Table (2009) and Deep Field (2011), as well as nine novels and three collections of poetry for young people, including the prize-winning Off Road to Everywhere (2010).
His work has enhanced consciousness of environmental issues and impacted on thinking about the disintegration of language and its implications for the personality.
Their impact on the reading public and on higher educational institutions in Wales has been considerable; far more Welsh women writers – the majority of them published in the series – are taught, researched and read today than in the mid-1990s.
Each edition includes a scholarly introduction setting the work in its historical context. Writers published in the series include Margiad Evans, Dorothy Edwards, Hilda Vaughan, Menna Gallie, Eiluned Lewis and Amy Dillwyn. Recent publications include Allen Raine’s A Welsh Witch (1902) edited by Jane Aaron, and Hilda Vaughan’s Harvest Home (1936) edited by Professor Diana Wallace.