“Word of warning – event organising is a paid profession…” said Chris, my Cultural Events Management MSc lecturer, colleague and friend, when I told him that I was planning a Creative Research Methods Symposium! And boy, did it take some planning…but, what an event it turned out to be…

CRMS Flyer.png

…I’ve received so many positive comments via Twitter & email, and of course through postcards, post-its & long-table doodles (I’ll explain shortly)!

Getting started…

So, when the University of Derby told me there was a bit of funding available, I thought, what kind of event would I like to attend? It didn’t take me long to come up with an event which would be fun and creative, but get down to the nitty-gritty and help me learn! That’s where the seed for #CreativeMethods18 was sown!

I’d recently attended a Visual Research Methods training day with Dr Dawn Mannay, at the University of Surrey, been inspired by the down to earth approach of Dr Helen Kara, intrigued and inspired by Professor Pam Burnard, and explored Professor Susan Hogan‘s ‘Birth Project‘ through my role as Susan’s Research Assistant (Susan is also my Director of Studies).

Here were four women who had entered my life over the past few years, and hey, I thought, they’re all interested in creative / visual / arts-based research methods…key note speakers – check!

Save the Date!


Programme planning

With a super line up for the keynotes (ready with delights to share), I was delighted by the interest from PhD students across the country, with an array of abstracts falling through my ‘virtual’ letterbox! With some serious playing around with themes and concepts I was able to concoct a delightful combination of workshops and presentations to satisfy all tastes throughout the afternoon.

Sneak preview #CreativeMethods18

And we’re off!

A mosaic of presentations and workshops throughout the day, starting off with a long drive to Derby from Cambridge (including a most unwanted traffic jam on the A14) – help, I can’t be late to my own event! With delegate packs at the ready, all that was needed was people to turn up! Which they did…phew!

From exploring misconceptions of creative methods & using pipe cleaners to model our relationship to our research (Helen Kara), using arts to explore the transition to motherhood (Susan Hogan), performance poetry accompanied by Brian Eno music from a phone app (Pam Burnard) through to making the familiar strange (Dawn Mannay)…the key note speakers didn’t disappoint!


Getting our hands dirty!

After lunch, it was all about getting some hands on experience – kicking off with exploring our identities as researchers (Pam Burnard). We then broke out into parallel sessions exploring sandboxing (Dawn Mannay), creative critical writing (Gemma Collard-Stokes) and creative data (Catt Turney)… check out #CreativeMethods18 to see some of the comments from people in the sessions.


Exploring creative methods

Subjects across the presentations spanned – lego & comics (Jon Rainford); visual narrative inquiry (Sophia D’Angelo); twitter (Ian Guest); criminological research (Tom Dodsley); dealing with the unexpected (Louise Folkes); photo elicitation (Zoe Clegg); stitch journals (Clare Danek) & cubist poetic & collage portraiture (Afrodita Nikolava). What an eclectic mix, yet so complimentary, inter-related and most importantly – creative!

The Long Table

We rounded off the day with a Long Table discussion. I’d seen this done at a previous conference, and thought it would be a creative way to end the day. Removing the hierarchy of traditional plenary session, the long table encourages anyone who wants to comment / reflect to come to the table…oh, and write, doodle or draw on the paper ‘table cloth’. It was the perfect end to a great day!


And how could I forget the postcards & post-its?!

Being that this was a creative research methods symposium, I was keen to steer clear of any formal feedback forms (boring!!!)….so, instead, I raided my postcard collection and stash of post-its and invited people to write their take-away comment, reflection or insight on a postcard and/or post-it.

Wow! What a great insight into people’s experiences of the day – the postcards said so much more than the usual ‘how did you rate the venue?’ or ‘did you enjoy the day on a scale of 1-5?’…

…much more insightful was comments such as INSPIRING, ENERGISING , doing data differently, new perspectives, TRANSFORMATIVE…I especially loved the reflection that was written in the format of a postcard, addressed to ‘all creative folk everywhere…particularly those in Derby on 2nd July’ (hand-drawn stamp included)!

And I’ll leave you with a little written feedback from Clare Danek (the lovely stitch journalist):

“My comment on Creative Methods (which I’d love to see happen again next year!): did a great job of unseating my thinking, illustrating how the use of creative methods throughout the research journey can ‘make the familiar strange’ and lead to new insights. A very rich event!”

Thank you everyone!

Please do check out #CreativeMethods18 – and I look forward to someone volunteering to organise #CreativeMethods19!

All the best & stay creative, Emily 🙂



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