Multi-award-winning author Eimear McBride is the inaugural Creative Fellow at the University of Reading’s Samuel Beckett Research Centre. This role allows her exclusive access to the University’s Beckett Archive and leading Beckett academics, and will see her produce a brand new piece of work inspired by the work of the Irish playwright. Here, in part one of her monthly journal, she talks about the daunting, and fascinating, task of following in Beckett’s footsteps.

Eimear will get to explore the University’s Beckett Archive

I have the good fortune to be in receipt of the inaugural Creative Fellowship at the University of Reading’s Beckett Research Centre.

From now until the summer I’ll be haunting their reading room and ordering as much material by, and about, Beckett from their archive as I can possibly read – having already cast an eye over the fascinating ‘German Diaries’ and seen Beckett’s handwriting up close, it’s fair to say, the reading itself may prove something of a challenge.

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Steven Matthews is professor of English Literature, University of Reading. His latest book of poetry, On Magnetism, was launched this week. It features poems about loss and remembrance, about the relation of the Renaissance and the Classical worlds to our own, and about locales within lives. 

The following poem is reproduced by kind permission of the publisher. It is followed by a reflection on the poem, and its place within the book, by Steven Matthews.

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By Dr Helen Dacre and Dr Andrew Prata, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Mount Agung is erupting in Bali

The volcanic ash being spewed out by Mount Agung in Bali has brought back memories of the 2010 eruption in Iceland, which caused chaos for holidaymakers in Europe. Airlines operating flights to and from Bali and its neighbouring Indonesian islands have again been hit this week, however research is being carried out to reduce the impact of eruptions in the future.

Mount Agung had been showing signs of increased seismic activity since mid-September, but last Tuesday it moved into a new phase and began releasing steam and volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Denpasar International Airport in Bali has reported ash at ground level accumulating on aircraft and satellite images show glimpses of an ash-rich plume, but it is often obscured by meteorological clouds.

Due to the damaging effect of volcanic ash on jet engines – molten ash blocks engine cooling holes causing engines to overheat and shutdown – air travel is restricted in ash contaminated airspace. A prolonged eruption, such as the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland that grounded flights across Europe, will lead to inevitable economic damage to Bali and the surrounding area due to lost tourism and productivity.

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By Dr Craig Steel, Deputy Director of the Charlie Waller Institute for Evidence Based Psychological Treatments

Last weekend (17-21 November 2017), Dr Dirk Corstens (a psychiatrist from the Netherlands and chair of intervoice www.intervoiceonline.org) and I hosted the first meeting of ‘Talking with Voices’ at the University of Reading which included invited colleagues from the U.K, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Norway, Serbia and Australia. We gathered with the aim to share ideas on clinical practice and future research in the area of hearing voices.

Hearing voices, or auditory hallucinations, are often associated with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia.However, recent decades have seen an increased awareness of the fact that voice hearing occurs within a significant percentage of the public, many of whom are not distressed by this experience, and do not seek psychiatric help. Those who do suffer distress associated with hearing voices are usually offered medication and encouraged to think of their voices as a symptom of a disease, e.g. schizophrenia.

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By Christian Pfrang, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading

 

Our new study found surprisingly complex arrangements of molecules inside droplets mimicking atmospheric aerosols.

These types of aerosols are typical of pollution emitted in large quantities by cooking processes in Greater London. This self-assembly is caused by molecules –such as fatty acids– containing both water-loving and water-hating parts.  While the general concept of self-assembly is well-known and surface films of these molecules have been studied before, complex three-dimensional arrangements inside water-based droplets found in the atmosphere have not previously been considered.

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Professor Rick Poynor reflects on a new exhibition of National Theatre posters and what they tell us about changing approaches to graphic design from mid-century to the modern day.

The exhibition of National Theatre posters I have curated for the theatre’s Wolfson Gallery spans more than five decades. Since the theatre’s founding in 1963, the posters’ design has been the responsibility of just five people, allowing for an exceptional degree of continuity. This makes the theatre’s output a particularly revealing case study. The posters are not only a record of how an institution central to British cultural life visualised the role of design, but they also provide an insight into changing approaches to graphic design over the decades.

National Theatre poster, Dance of Death, Old Vic Ken Briggs

The Dance of Death, Old Vic, 1967. Design: Ken Briggs. Photograph: Zoë Dominic (copyright National Theatre)

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By Dr Teresa Murjas, Department of Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading

Image from the Huntley and Palmer archive held at the Museum of English Rural Life

Over the last couple of months, I have been working with Reading Museum and The MERL to support and advise colleagues from The National Archives during the development of their Edible Archives theme. This is part of the national Explore your Archive campaign, which is aimed at raising awareness of, and increasing public engagement with, archives and collections. (see last month’s blog post)

This exciting collaboration arose from my ongoing creative work with the University of Reading’s Huntley & Palmers archive, which is entitled ‘The First World War in Biscuits’. A 100-year-old ration biscuit, put on display at Reading Museum as a result of the project, was modified by young Private George Mansfield during the war to hold his photograph.

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By Professor Tim Dixon, School of the Built Environment, University of Reading

Is this how Reading will look in 2050?

As the world’s urban population continues to grow, it will be increasingly important for the built environment sector to offer solutions that work for individual streets as well as whole cities.

Buildings already make up 20% of global emissions, and the world’s population will be 70% urban by 2050. So, understanding how we can join up our thinking and disciplinary understanding from individual building level to neighbourhood level and at the urban level will be essential to make the built environment work better for society and create more resilient and sustainable places.

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Doctors often prescribe drugs to treat people who are at risk of heart attacks or strokes. But as every patient is slightly different, which drugs are likely to work best?

Platelets under the microscope

It’s an important question. Now researchers need your help – and a small sample of your blood – to help provide an answer.

Can you help us to investigate what factors influence platelet function?

We are a group of researchers from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Reading and we are currently recruiting volunteers for a study (METPLAR) funded by the British Heart Foundation. This study is investigating how different levels of metabolic factors within the blood, such as hormones and fats, can affect platelet function.

Find out how you can volunteer…

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By Professor Roger Matthews and Dr Wendy Matthews

Bestansur site in Iraq

The transition of humankind from mobile hunters to settled farmers after the Ice Age is a period in history still shrouded in mystery. Very little evidence exists to shed light on what life was like in the world’s first villages in the Middle East 12,000 to 9,000 years ago.

But our archaeological research, carried out in collaboration with local communities in Iraq and Iran, is uncovering clues that will help us understand how ancient civilisations developed. We will be presenting our findings at a public lecture on Wednesday 22 November, as part of the national Being Human Festival.

Earlier this year, we conducted excavations and interdisciplinary research at the Neolithic site of Bestansur, in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is in the eastern Fertile Crescent – one of the areas of the Middle East where farming originated. Our aim is to learn more about how humans first started farming in this region, taking steps towards a more domesticated lifestyle.

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