I lead a community reading group in which members from a wide range of backgrounds meet to discuss poems, short stories and novels in a therapeutic context; responsibilities involve selecting texts, facilitating discussion, and co-ordinating feedback from members. (This reading group is funded by the University of Leeds Arts Engaged Project.)
I co-run another reading group, 'Reading the Fantastic', with two other researchers from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Leeds. Our mutual interest in fantasy, folktale and fairy tale has led us to co-ordinate a reading group which aims to explore how these tales and concepts can act as a cross-cultural meeting point. Each month, we organize short stories around a different theme (eg. Fantastic Journeys, Spiders, Abnormal (?) Love) and we have been very encouraged to discover that this methodology has brought forth contributors from a range of educational levels and backgrounds. More information and tales can be found at our tumblr. We are also organizing an upcoming conference, 'Tales Beyond Borders', scheduled for April 2015. More information here: www.readingthefantastic.wordpress.com
I have also planned and presented widening participation workshops for secondary school students from schools in London and in Leeds, in conjunction with the University of Leeds Access and Engagement Team. These drew on my research into Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens.
Finally, I co-ordinate a digital storytelling project 'Subverting Laughter' which re-imagines George MacDonald's 1864 fairy tale novella 'The Light Princess' through mixed-media blogging, illustration and collaboration with MacDonald researchers from six different countries. For more information about this project, see www.subvertinglaughter.wordpress.com.
On the Dickens Bicentenary in February, 2012, I co-presented at a special Charles Dickens Anniversary Talk, hosted by the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery and the Brotherton Library Special Collections. My presentation combined archival material from the Brother Library’s Special Collections with illustration and research to discuss Charles Dickens in the light of Victorian media culture. (For a review of this event, please see: https://elgg.leeds.ac.uk/burton/weblog/21091.html)
My work for the Leeds Centre for Canadian Studies has honed my public engagement skills in an organizational capacity as I have been co-ordinating events and publicity to enhance the Centre and to promote the profile of Canadian Studies through social media, public seminars, and community projects. One such project was the ‘Challenging Myths of Disability’ film event, which, highlighting the expertise of academics, community workers, students and members of the disabled community, made use of international cinema to raise awareness of disability issues. I and my colleagues Andrew Bailey and Jessica Ballantine also worked with Leeds City Museum to present an event for Leeds Light Night (a community arts festival), 'Leeds in the Light of Canada'. This event (funded by a grant from Leeds City Council) provided visitors with a chance to discover the surprising connections between Canada and Leeds, including the Leeds children who migrated to Canada, and the history of Canadian street names in Leeds, which were inspired by a Montreal heiress who married into the local gentry.