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Exploring Society with COVID-19

22 June 2020

The Wellcome Centre for Environments and Cultures of Health and The Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis) have been leading a cross-college initiative from SSIS and HUMS to launch the platform “Society With COVID-19”. Drawing on longstanding expertise in the social study of science and in the medical humanities at the University of Exeter, this digital platform draws together cutting-edge work on those societal changes, while also providing a platform for collaboration, and for seeing connections across boundaries. This platform aims to engage members of the public in humanities and social science research, by offering routes to contact researchers, to participate in projects, and to offer their own research questions and priorities. For more information, to provide feedback and to engage with this work, please contact the organising team as indicated on the site:

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WCCEH announce a creative collaboration on LGBTQ+ loneliness and history with the Northcott Theatre and Natalie McGrath

12 June 2020

Following an initial seed phase in which three artists were granted funding to think about loneliness, theatre and performance alongside scholars at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, we are excited to announce the direction that this collaboration will take.

Working closely with the Centre and with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre, the acclaimed playwright and activist Natalie McGrath will create an original piece of work for production, drawing in part on creative exchanges with Centre researchers and LGBTQ+ people with lived experiences of loneliness and isolation.

Conceived before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, one aim of the work was to think critically about the loss of hard won social and emotional spaces which LGBTQ+ people have created to share with one another. Running deeper than this present, dislocating moment are stories and histories which reverberate through queer experiences of isolation, quarantine and distance in 2020.

Natalie McGrath

Natalie McGrath will work with WCCEH and the Northcott Theatre on LGBT+ loneliness and history.

As Natalie put it:

“Working with Drs Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones from the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health on the subject of loneliness, in partnership with Exeter Northcott Theatre, is an exciting new direction for my work as a playwright and socially engaged artist.  LGBTQ+ stories have historically been erased or silenced due to hatred, ignorance and prejudice, whilst structural legislation and lack of rights have caused harm to many lives.  This opportunity to explore some of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history through the lens of loneliness will enable an exciting new play to emerge for an ensemble of LGBTQ+ performers in the future life of the project.”

For Fred and Charlotte, this project goes much further than simply engaging new audiences with academic research that has already been done. Fred had the following to say about the importance of the project for his own work, and why Natalie’s ideas stood out:

“A significant aspect of what we want to do is to push back against ways of working which create artificial hierarchies between university academics and the people they collaborate with. Natalie is not here to ‘translate’ our research into something more accessible, she is here to determine an agenda, explore the questions that she knows are vital, and participate in a meaningful process of exchange which will alter and enrich our practice as academics. Natalie began the project with a clear idea of the direction she wanted our work together to take, and a keen sense of the historical and structural harms which are embedded in LGBTQ+ experiences of loneliness. We’re delighted to be working with such an accomplished and talented artist.”

Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Exeter Northcott Theatre added: “Artists such as Natalie have an extraordinary ability to pose questions, stretch our imaginations and create a space for considering new possibilities. Through projects such as this and the Northcott Futures programme which supports local theatre-makers, the Northcott aims to make meaningful exchanges between artists, audiences and practitioners across a number of disciplines and lived experiences. We’re delighted to take this project forward and excited to see how the play evolves.”


Natalie McGrath is a playwright, poet, occasional performer, producer of arts and heritage projects, and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West who curate the Rebellious Sounds Archive.

Natalie is currently Writer in Residence and Cultural Heritage Producer at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for Out and About: Queering the Museum, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project in collaboration with the University of Exeter’s Dr Jana Funke.

Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones are research fellows at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. Fred is a historian of medicine with particular interests in loneliness, estrangement, and solitude. Charlotte is a sociologist of gender, sexuality, disability and health.

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Participants needed for Beacon Healthy Relationships Research Project

15 April 2020

Research participants sought: if you have used child-inclusive mediation we would like to speak to you. We are conducting confidential telephone interviews with parents and young people aged 8 and over who have experienced child inclusive mediation. We give a £20 Amazon voucher to parents and a £15 Amazon voucher to the young people we interview. If you are interested and would like further details, please contact Jan Ewing:

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Postponement of External Advisory Board Events

13 March 2020

It is with regret that we have decided to cancel the talks and other activities that had been arranged to take place on 18-20 March, as part of WCCEH’s External Advisory Board.

Earlier this week, we made the decision to also cancel Professor Judith Green’s public lecture and the conference dinner that was planned. We have also cancelled the Speculative Methodologies workshop which was due to take place on Tuesday.

In our view, in light of ongoing concerns with COVID-19, the situation calls for refraining from group activities that are not essential and are not time-sensitive. We hope to reschedule activity for later in the year.

Attendees of all sessions should have been notified of their session’s cancellation, but if you have any questions, please get in touch via email (, where one of the team will respond during our normal office hours.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused, and thank you for your understanding.

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Checking Out

17 February 2020

The Checking Out project will explore attitudes towards death and dying in low-income communities, and look at the relevance of current public health approaches to meet the needs of people affected by poor health, and their carers, in later life.

When:  Jan 2020 – Oct 2021

Where: Low-income areas in the South West

Why: In the UK the Department of Health adopted an End of Life Care Strategy in 2008 and there is a growing recognition of the need to address palliative care as a public health issue, encouraging early intervention to ‘reduce harms related to ignorance, fear, social distancing and isolation, stigma and prejudice’ (Kellehear 2013). At the same time research shows that people with a lower socio economic status are less likely to access palliative care services (Buck et al 2018), and that inequalities in access are actually increasing (Sleeman et al 2016).Given the UK’s ageing population, the crisis in health and social care and the recognition that inequalities accumulate across the life course, end-of-life care for people in lower socio-economic groups is a key issue.


The research aims to:

  • explore the notion of ‘a good death’, and how people talk about and view death and dying, within low-income communities,
  • explore possibilities for new ways of introducing and talking about death that are relevant to the needs and fears of people living on a low-income at different life stages
  • understand how fear, stigma and trust impact on communication and access to care


  • Working alongside local communities and using mixed qualitative methods
  • Focusing on the views and experiences of those living on a low-income
  • Two strands; less formal community activities, and more in-depth interviews and focus groups

Community activities

  • Informal visits to existing groups and community settings to start conversations about the research and find out which particular topics are important to people.
  • If people are interested, involve them in creating the topic guides for focus groups and interviews, to make sure they are relevant and accessible.
  • Use the ‘Departure Lounge’ pop-up installation to prompt conversations and discussion about death and dying in community settings e.g. community centres, community cafes, public spaces and events such Exeter Respect Festival and Pride. The Departure Lounge installation was created by the Academy for Medical Science, find more info here

6-8 Focus groups: (4-6 participants in each one) within low-income communities, in local settings where people feel comfortable e.g. community centres. Focus groups will look at materials such as the ‘Dying Matters’ campaign leaflets and discuss feelings, thoughts and reactions to these materials and the issues they raise. Topics may include people’s fears in relation to end-of-life, their perceptions of a good death, and their feelings about talking about and/or preparing for death within their own life context, but no-one has to discuss anything that they do not want to.

10 Interviews: For people who would prefer to discuss their views and experiences in a one-to-one setting, or for focus group participants who would like to discuss their personal experiences in more depth. The interviews will be informal conversations and the participants can choose what they would like to discuss, but this may include experiences of end-of-life with family members or friends, feelings in relation to considering their own end of life and their views on the value of preparing for death, either for themselves or family members.

Practicalities: Focus groups and interviews will take place at a time and venue to suit the people taking part. Participants will receive £25 as a thankyou for their time, and travel and/or childcare expenses will be paid.

Impact: By increasing our understanding of the barriers to considering and preparing for end-of-life, the research will help inform service-providers (within and beyond healthcare) about effective ways to address current inequalities in access to care.

June 2020 – Update in relation to Covid-19
Obviously some of the research activities that were planned as part of the ‘Checking Out’ project have had to be suspended due to the current Covid-19 situation (e.g. community activities, focus groups). However I have ethical approval to carry out some online / telephone interviews which will take place over the next 4 months:
  • 10 interviews with professionals involved in supporting individuals through end-of-life and bereavement in low-income communities. These may include, for example, funeral directors, funeral celebrants, policy officers at relevant charities supporting people in poverty, faith leaders working in communities that represent the most deprived quintile of the overall Index of Multiple Deprivation. I will explore their experiences of supporting individuals and families experiencing funeral poverty, both during and pre-pandemic.
  • 10 individuals with people who have lived experience of funeral poverty, or of supporting someone through end-of-life whilst living on  a low-income, within the last five years.
If you are interested in participating or would like to know more about this research please do get in touch


Contact: Please feel free to contact the researcher, Lorraine Hansford, with any queries, comments or suggestions. If you would like to suggest groups / contacts I could get in touch with to talk about the project I would love to hear from you.


Phone: 01392 722578

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Workshop on Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems in Dakar

4 February 2020

At the end of January I co-organised a workshop with Enda Santé on Partnership for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems (Àndadoo ngir lekk bu sel, in Wolof) financed by the Exeter GCRF facilitation fund. The workshop brought community health workers and people from Popenguine together with academic researchers in nutrition, pharmacy, public health, history and anthropology from three Senegalese universities to define a collaborative and engaged research agenda and future advocacy strategy on healthy and sustainable diets.

Community members had the opportunity to engage with presentations on food and traditional medicine, the history of the Senegambian diet, eating in a context of globalisation, and the impact of climate change on secure and sustainable diets in the region.

We heard from people from Popenguine who manage a community food hub where local food resources are held in common and distributed to households. The food hub has been highly effective in tackling malnutrition in the area and decreasing the community’s reliance on unpopular medical interventions for child stunting. We agreed to work in close collaboration with this highly successful, community led project to strengthen the capacity of the programme to respond to hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiency, and diet related Non Communicable Diseases, while advocating alongside the people of Popenguine for sustainable and people centred food systems.

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New Appointments at the Centre

13 January 2020

Professor Judith Green, Dr Des Fitzgerald and Dr Martin Moore will be joining the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health in 2020, following a rigorous and robust recruitment campaign in the latter part of last year.

The Centre spent much of 2019 involved in preparing a recruitment campaign to attract staff with interdisciplinary and engaged experience and with a variety of expertise. The campaign attracted nearly two hundred applications across the levels of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor, in line with WCCEH’s focus on the humanities and social sciences. The applicant pool was extremely strong, and competition for the three permanent posts was fierce.

Professor Judith Green joins the Centre as Professor of Sociology from King’s College London, where she has been a professor of Sociology of Health since 2016. Her career has seen her work to bridge the gap between medical research and sociological research, and lately she has been focusing on mobility, transport systems & health; questions of how evidence travels from one setting to another; methodological development; and health professions. Her work most recently has focused on how telematics are used to mitigate public health disadvantages of heavy car usage.

Professor Green joins the Centre on March 1st 2020, and has kindly agreed to give the Centre’s annual Public Lecture at our External Advisory Board event in the middle of March. Keep an eye out for more details nearer the time!

Dr Des Fitzgerald, a sociologist of science and medicine, will also join us on 1st March 2020, as Associate Professor of Sociology, having been at Cardiff University since 2015. His work has focused on space, environment and mental health; he won the Philip Leverhulme Prize for sociology in 2017, and the research from this focuses on the use of psychological and neurobiological knowledge in architecture and city planning.. His most recent publication was titled “Mental health, migration and the megacity” and examined ‘results and perspectives from an in-progress international and interdisciplinary collaboration investigating the mental health of rural–urban migrant communities in contemporary megacities’.

Dr Martin Moore will join us in September 2020, ready for the new academic year! Martin will be taking up a permanent post as Lecturer in History, after six years as a Research Fellow here at Exeter. His previous body of work has examined historical constructions of physical, mental and social health, and the way approaches to time, waiting and disease management have influenced approaches to health and disease. His work with the Centre will focus on Commuting Britain, and the connections between travel, health and wellbeing in post-war Britain.

Professor Mark Jackson, the Wellcome Centre’s Director, commented: “I am delighted that we have three new colleagues joining us this year: Professor Judy Green; Associate Professor Des Fitzgerald; and Dr Martin Moore.  Their expertise and experience will substantially expand our cross-disciplinary interests and research capacity in environment and health in particular.”

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Resting and Rushing

9 December 2019

Our research associate Dr Ayesha Nathoo was featured on a BBC radio programme, Resting and Rushing, alongside Claudia Hammond, Matthew Smith and Sarah Cook.

The full podcast can be downloaded or listened to online here:


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Sustainable food networks and the Devon Net Zero Task Force

5 December 2019

Network map sustainable food projectsOn Friday 29th November Rebecca Sandover was an expert witness in the Devon Net Zero Taskforce’s hearings to gather evidence towards creating a Devon Carbon Plan.

Rebecca focussed on measures to bring more, affordable local food to local markets and local food procurement, drawing on evidence from her recent research, including including her WCCEH-funded project Devon Sustainable Food Networks, which gathered data from partners on programme and policy initiatives to progress the production and consumption of sustainable, local food in Devon.

Read more here.

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Congratulations to colleagues at ECEHH

2 December 2019

ECEHH LogoWe’re delighted to share the news that the European Centre for Environment and Human Health has been designated as a Collaborating Centre on Natural Environments and Health by the World Health Organization.

This achievement recognises the Centre’s significant contribution to science and policy-making from a decade of interdisciplinary research.

We congratulate our colleagues Lora Fleming and Karyn Morrissey, and all their colleagues in the ECEHH.

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New study identifies problems with mental health self-referral system

20 November 2019

People with anxiety or depression who go to see the GP are often given a leaflet with numbers for psychological services and advised to give them a call. This system of “self-referral” for common mental health problems has been in place for more than 10 years. In sheer numbers terms, it appears to have been a great success. But a new study has identified a problem.

Felicity Thomas spoke to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about problems some people, particularly those on low incomes, experience with self-referral.

Listen to the programme here. Felicity’s segment starts at 12:24.


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DE-STRESS Project shortlisted for Mind Media Award

13 November 2019

Congratulations to Centre members Felicity Thomas and Lorraine Hansford!

A series of items about antidepressant use on Radio 4’s PM programme, which featured De-Stress, a collaborative project between the universities of Exeter and Plymouth (funded by Economic and Social Research Council and supported by PenARC), has been shortlisted for an award at the Mind Mental Health awards. Held annually, the awards recognise and celebrate the best possible representations of mental health on television, radio, print and online media.

More information here


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Making the most of waiting

8 November 2019

Ray Earwicker, a WCCEH friend, writes …

If time is a great healer, is waiting the problem?

Florence Nightingale (1859) certainly thought so. She saw it as bad for health – “apprehension, uncertainty, waiting (my italics), fear of surprise…do a patient more harm than any exertion.” It’s tiresome too, as the Kinks noted in 1965 and in the meantime, we’re all Waiting for Godot (who never comes). For health systems, waiting is a mark of inefficiency that undermines ‘customer’ confidence. It is a focus for targets and management expedients in a culture which expects action, now.

Read more on the Waiting Times blog

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WCCEH celebrates Exeter – UNESCO City of Literature

4 November 2019

We’re thrilled to learn that Exeter has been awarded ‘City of Literature’ status by UNESCO – the only new place in the UK to gain this prestigious status. Exeter will join 65 cities around the world as a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Centre members have been closely involved in the development of the bid, which was led by Exeter City Council and brought together people and organisations from across the city.

Exeter can lay claim to a thousand years of unbroken connection with literature, from the Exeter Book to the archives of the former poet laureate, Ted Hughes but the success of this award also lies in its recognition of the vital importance of reading, writing and storytelling in supporting and sustaining health and well-being throughout our lives. This closely resonates with our core vision: that to address today’s tough health challenges, we must engage with diverse communities to create multiple ways of sustaining health and well-being across the life course.

Mark Jackson, the Centre Director, said:

Obtaining UNESCO City of Literature status has been a wonderful process of cross-sectoral working. The steering group included members from Exeter City Council, Literature Works and Exeter Culture – among others – working alongside the Wellcome Centre. The outcome will enable us to promote literature and literacy as key pathways to improved health and well-being across the city and region, and to link creatively with overseas partners. As a Centre committed to enabling health through partnership and collaboration, we are delighted to be involved in this exciting venture‘.

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Fictional Representations of Self-Harm

30 October 2019

PhD Project: Interview Study


Do you have experience of self-harm? Would you consider being interviewed about your views on fictional representations of self-harm?

This project takes as its starting point the possibility that fictional representations in some way may impact the conversations that it is possible to have around self-harm. It works from the belief that the way we talk about self-harm matters, because such conversations can influence, positively or negatively, the experience and lives of people who self-harm.


About the Project

Despite efforts to reduce stigma around self-harm, people who self-harm rarely seek help or support. Research into young people who self-harm suggests that they are more likely to initially approach informal contacts rather than to disclose to a medical practitioner. Talking about self-harming to friends, parents, teachers, colleagues, or partners can be an important step in the process of accessing support or help. But it is possible that this could be made more difficult by the lack of available representations of self-harm.

The project aims to examine existing fictional representations of self-harm and to explore how these might or might not impact disclosure and help-seeking, and if so in what ways. The results from the project will form the basis for a PhD thesis, and also for papers, presentations, and other work on the topic of representations of self-harm. This work may contribute to public policy and advocacy in a number of areas.

This project was originally designed as a result of the primary researcher’s own experiences of self-harm, and the design has been further refined in consultation with an advisory group made up of individuals with experience of self-harm.

What would taking part involve?

Taking part in the research involves participating in an interview on the topic of fictional representations of self-harm. The interview will be conducted by Veronica, whose own experiences of self-harm provided the original idea for the research. The interview will probably last between 1-2 hours. The interview would take place in a location of your choosing, such as in a café, a library, an office, or in your home; if you would like the researcher to arrange a space or a room for the interview then this will be arranged. As far as possible the researcher will travel to you, to ensure that you are not inconvenienced.

If you prefer not to be interviewed in person, then it will be possible to conduct the interview via skype or via the telephone. If you find verbal communication difficult then you may request to submit written responses, to ensure that your perspectives can still be included in the research.

The interview will probably involve discussion of:

  • What fictional representations you are aware of or have consumed
  • Whether they were important to you and if so in what ways
  • Whether you enjoyed them or not
  • Whether they had any impact on your experiences or understandings of self-harm
  • How you think existing fictional representations might be improved

Will participants receive any payment for taking part?

All participants will be compensated for their time, as a reflection of their expertise and your vital role as co-creators of research knowledge. As an indication of the equal value placed upon the time of all contributors in the research process, participants will be compensated in line with the primary researcher’s most recent paid employment (as a Research Assistant). Therefore, all participants will be offered compensation for their time at the rate of £15.25 per hour. Payment will be made in cash or in the form of a voucher; participants can choose whichever form is more convenient.

Participants will also be compensated for all expenses incurred by participating in this study: this includes travel expenses (which can be booked on participants’ behalf in advance, rather than claimed back subsequently), childcare expenses, and the expenses for an accompanying adult if this would be helpful for travel purposes.

How to find out more?

If you are interested in being interviewed as part of this project and would like to find out some more about the project, and what the interview might involve, you can read the information sheet below.

Participant Information Sheet – Detailed

Participant Information Sheet – Easy Read

Alternatively if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to set up an interview please do contact Veronica Heney either by email ( or on twitter (@VeronicaHeney).

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Rats and the Global History of Maritime Fumigation Seminar

18 October 2019

The Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies warmly invite you to a joint seminar:

Dr Christos Lynteris: Rats and the Global History of Maritime Fumigation

5pm Wednesday, October 23

University of Exeter, Amory 106 (Building 29 on the university map)

Christos Lynteris (University of St. Andrews) is a medical anthropologist. His research focuses on the anthropological and historical examination of infectious disease epidemics, animal to human infection (zoonosis), medical visual culture, epidemiological epistemology, colonial medicine, global health, and epidemics as events posing an existential risk to humanity.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust with an Investigator Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Lynteris’ new project (2019-2024) ‘The Global War Against the Rat and the Epistemic Emergence of Zoonosis’ will examine the global history of a foundational but historically neglected process in the development of scientific approaches of zoonosis: the global war against the rat (1898-1948). The project will explore the synergies between knowledge acquired through medical studies of the rat, in the wake of understanding its role in the transmission of infectious diseases (plague, leptospirosis, murine typhus), with knowledge acquired during the development and application of public health measures of vector-control: rat-proofing, rat-catching and rat-poisoning. By examining the epistemological, architectural, social, and chemical histories of rat control from a global, comparative perspective, the project will show how new forms of epidemiological reasoning about key zoonotic mechanisms (the epizootic, the disease reservoir, and species invasiveness) arose around the epistemic object of the rat.

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Centre seminar: A good death? The cultural contexts of palliative care

9 October 2019

Poster for seminar: A good death?The latest in the series of seminars run in partnership with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Culture and Health considered the question of a ‘good death’ and the cultural contexts of palliative care.

End of life care aims to help people live and die with dignity. Cultural norms, beliefs and expectations heavily influence how this can be achieved and what constitutes a ‘good death.’ This seminar considered the diverse relationships that exist between cultural contexts and palliative care practices.

The seminar was hosted by Dr Robin Durie, the Centre’s Deputy Director for Research. The speakers were Dr Samir Guglani, a poet, novelist and clinical oncologist, Dr Michael Flexer, Publicly Engaged Research Fellow with the Wellcome-funded Waiting Times project and Kelechi Anucha, a PhD student with the Waiting Times project.

Watch the video of the seminar.

Information about future seminars in the series can be found on the WHO Europe website.

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The Department of Ultimology

7 October 2019

The Department of Ultimology

Ultimology is the study of endings, and the essay ranges across multiple disciplines; history of art, communications technologies, linguistics, the climate emergency, the history of disease and personal stories.

Centre academics Dora Vargha and Luna Dolezal contributed to this RTE radio essay written by Fiona Hallinan and Kate Strain.


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New podcast – Robin Durie

16 September 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the third of this podcast series, the Centre’s Deputy Director for Research, Robin Durie, discusses engaged research and his pathway to it.

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Academic wins prestigious book award

11 September 2019

Dóra receives her prize.

Dr Dóra Vargha celebrated last month as her book Polio Across The Iron Curtain was announced as the winner of the prestigious European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Book Award 2019.

The prize is awarded to the best book on the history of medicine from the preceding two years, and is presented at the biannual EAHMH conference which took place this year in Birmingham. Prof. Jonathan Reinarz, president of the EAHMH, presented the award to Dóra during the conference (photo).

The book is Open Access with the support of the Wellcome Trust, and was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press in the Global Health Histories series.

Congratulations, Dóra!!

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New podcast – Alex Smalley

2 September 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the second of this podcast series, PhD student Alex Smalley discusses his research and his links with the BBC Sounds podcast series, Forest 404.

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Exeter Loneliness Network

12 August 2019

The Exeter Loneliness network was founded by Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones in 2019. It connects academics, students, university staff, community organisations, charities, public health experts, and people with lived experience of loneliness. It provides networking and knowledge exchange opportunities through discussions, meetings, and seminars, and works to foster transdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships.

For biographies of some of our members, see here. For more information on WCCEH’s work on loneliness, see our Beacon page.

We have a rolling call for events and contributions, so please get in touch with Fred or Charlotte (via the links above) if you have any ideas or questions. If you would like to be added to the Network mailing list, please email Lucy Hodges.

Other projects of interest:

The UCL Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health Network run frequent digital workshops and events, mostly from a psychiatric perspective.

Solitudes: Past and Present, a Wellcome-funded project at Queen Mary. This project runs thoughtful events and has an excellent and wide-ranging blog.

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New Centre podcast series

6 August 2019

Explain it to me …

Pete Hodges, the Centre’s Comms Assistant, invited researchers around the Centre to talk about their work. In the first of this podcast series, Fred Cooper talks about his work on the Centre’s Beacon Project ‘Loneliness and Community‘.

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5 July 2019

Research Initiation Awards

This scheme is only open to people or organisations from outside the university.

These small awards (£300 – £500) are not for research activities as such; our aim is to support individual applicants, or community organisations, to build the relationships that initiate engaged research and generate the conditions for future engaged research.

We welcome creative and imaginative proposals for how this award could be used: hosting a workshop, making a creative intervention that opens up engagement around cultures and environments of health, working with a professional researcher to develop a research idea, setting up a small social media campaign to draw people to an issue or topic … we are open to suggestions.

More information here: Research Initiation Awards.

(NB: we have recently revised this information in the light of experience and feedback, so even if you’ve applied before, we recommend having another look.)

Apply for the award here


Support for engaged research

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Mental Health Awareness Weekend

2 July 2019

With the first Exeter Mental Health Awareness Weekend taking place at Exeter Phoenix this year, we thought that the opportunity was ripe to get the word out about what we do. So much research at WCCEH relates to mental health, whether directly or indirectly, that this seemed like a fantastic event to get involved in; to raise awareness of the Centre and the people within it, and to deepen relationships with the city – and with the Phoenix – at the same time.

To begin with, centre research fellows and PhD students – and Ann – organised a panel and workshop for the Saturday, in which attendees were invited to hear more about WCCEH, our engaged research ethos and strategy, opportunities to collaborate with the Centre, and the individual projects of the scholars there. This was well-attended, and resulted in a lively and fascinating discussion on mental health, community, and collective responses to shared experiences and challenges. These conversations continued across the next two days at WCCEH’s stall, prominently positioned in the theatre foyer. Our stock of business cards for the Centre was seriously depleted, and Phoenix users were eager to hear more about our work.

Hopefully, the legacy of this event will be some lasting relationships and conversations. As a direct result of WCCEH’s presence at the weekend, we have been invited to share a stall with a grass-roots mental health organisation at Exeter Respect Festival; WCCEH scholars have been asked to put a panel together for Exeter Literary Festival; one researcher was invited to collaborate by Wellbeing Exeter; and we are already planning the Mental Health Awareness Weekend for next year!

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Librarians vs Loneliness

2 July 2019

Librarians vs Loneliness, a collaborative day conference jointly organised between WCCEH, Egenis, and Libraries Unlimited, took place on Thursday 27th June. Funded by an Engaged Research Exploratory Award, the workshop was loosely structured around four thematic sessions, followed by an expert panel of library staff. The guiding principle was to draw academics and practising librarians together to build connections and share knowledge about loneliness and the psycho-social importance of libraries and reading.

The first session was led by Katie Snow, a PhD researcher in the English department. This part of the day centred on maternal loneliness and the need for libraries to engage with isolated mothers, using scenario work in small groups. Issues such as neurodiversity and social anxiety were brought to the fore, as well as the difficulty of getting mothers to the library in the first place and the importance of activities that are mother- rather than baby-focused.

Dr Fred Cooper

The second session began with a discussion on student and youth loneliness initiated by WCCEH’s Fred Cooper, and took a historical look at the specific needs and challenges of younger library users. This resulted in some really constructive thoughts about making Exeter students aware of the library – and other non-university institutions – as infrastructures of belonging and community during their time in the city. It also sparked the beginning of a conversation on harnessing the University Library as an asset in student well-being, with the three University of Exeter librarians in attendance. The intention is that this re-imagining the library will be a vital part of the Centre’s Beacon Project on campus loneliness.

Capitalising on the donation to Devon Libraries of a touring collection of 51 books, the third session revolved around the impact of reading on loneliness, as opposed to the importance of library use. With a philosophical perspective on the goods of reading, led by Tom Roberts of Egenis, conversation turned on how books make us feel, how we identify with fictional characters, and how authors can craft fulfilling and familiar worlds in their work. There was a clamour to be the first library to take the collection. Dawlish scraped through narrowly, with Exmouth, Cullompton, and South Molton forced to form an orderly queue.

Finally, Harry West, an anthropologist, and Paul Cleave, a sociologist, spoke about their work on loneliness, memory, and food at Crediton library. This was followed by a panel of librarians, reflecting on the day and drawing out important themes which had gone unexplored – not least the issue of loneliness among librarians in small rural libraries.

The day had excellent feedback, and many attendees resolved to take action in their own libraries. It perhaps functioned best as a means of bringing librarians together and giving them space to think seriously about loneliness in a number of contexts and what they might do to alleviate it, and subsequently as a knowledge exchange for best practice and innovation. We are getting our heads together very soon to think about how we can build on this work in a lasting way.

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Research Fellows’ and PhD Students’ Success

30 April 2019

The Wellcome Centre is incredibly proud of everyone who works with us but we want to highlight a few people who’s work has been in the spotlight.

Congratulations to ‘Waiting Times’, Michael Flexer and Kelechi Anucha

Michael Flexer, Publicly Engaged Research Fellow on the ‘Waiting Times’ project has won the 2019 Public Engagement Award from Birkbeck, University of London.

‘Waiting Times’ is funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Prof. Laura Salisbury (Exeter) and Prof. Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck).

Michael designed a series of storytelling workshops, ‘Messages in a Bottle’, in which users of the day hospice in Honiton shared stories of their experiences of time.

Michael delivered the workshops with Kelechi Anucha (PhD student on Waiting Times) and Hospicecare staff. Michael and Kelechi have offered the prize money (£150) back to the hospice, to be used to fund something that the users of the day hospice who collaborated in the research can enjoy.

The Birkbeck award committee particularly commended how the relationship with Hospicecare was carefully developed throughout the research process, making it an excellent example of engaged research. Dr Elliot Kendall, Director of Research (English and Film) congratulated Michael and Kelechi on this recognition of their impressive engaged research practice.

Engage Researchers Academy

Dr Charlotte Jones and Dr Michael Flexer have both won a place in the Engage Researchers Academy.

This is a year-long professional development programme that supports participants to develop their skills and experience in engagement and enhance the impact and relevance of their research.

We look forward to hearing more about the programme over the year, and benefiting from Charlotte and Michael’s experiences.

PhD Student collaborates on BBC ecodrama podcast

Our very own Alex Smalley has been working with the BBC’s ecodrama Forest 404 to understand how the sounds of nature might affect wellbeing. To take part in the study you can visit here, and to listen to Alex talk about it on BBC Radio Devon recently follow the link here

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Another successful External Advisory Board meeting

29 April 2019

The External Advisory Board plays a crucial part in how the Centre functions. Academics and practitioners from the international community were invited to join the board at the start of the grant in 2017. Board members were chosen based on their knowledge and experience, as they link to the Centre’s themes and vision, and therefore are perfectly placed to be a sounding board for our members. In the three-day meeting, which takes place annually, Centre members participate in workshops and present their work to the board, obtaining vital feedback  which will help us move forward for the next twelve months.


The first event of the EAB was a lecture – Apprehending Environmental Change – given by the medical anthropologist, and member of the EAB, Professor Lenore Manderson (pictured above). For the past five years, Professor Manderson has curated and produced an art/science programme at Brown University in the US, and at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. The programmes brought together scholars and practising artists and are structured using early understandings of earth systems and bodies, across cultures, time and place. Professor Manderson showed some of the art produced for and shown at Earth, Itself (Brown University) and Watershed (Witwatersrand) to illustrate how artists contribute to identifying practical steps forward while celebrating the environment, and how this work provokes us to think of ways forward to protect both the environment and health.

You can watch a recording of Prof. Manderson’s lecture on the Centre YouTube channel.

The second event was a workshop collaboration between The Wellcome Centre and Libraries Unlimited: ‘Transforming publicly engaged research‘. The workshop gave participants a chance to hear directly from the leaders (Fred Cooper, Georgie Tarling &  Kath Ford and Roop Johnstone) of three pieces of publicly engaged research that have taken place in Exeter Library over the past two years. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to discuss and explore the particular issues that arise when publics, researchers, artists and librarians work together to develop new approaches to publicly engaged research. The workshop was led by Ms Ciara Eastell OBE, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited and member of the EAB.

The final event was an interactive workshop run by EAB member Dr Tom Wakeford: Sharing experiences of democratising research: From public engagement to citizens’ assemblies. During the workshop, we shared diverse perspectives on participatory action research and other approaches to democratising inquiry and discussed how we have worked in the past and could work in the future. Dr Wakeford shared stories from collaborations in which he had been involved, in the UK and abroad, particularly involving people whose voices have been marginalised in the past.


Some of the Centre’s research fellows gave presentations to the Board.

Looking to the future, the Wellcome Trust will be offering awards to fund the formation of international research networks. Branwyn Poleykett, together with Dora Vargha and Felicity Thomas, is leading the Centre’s work on this. This strongly  complements Branwyn’s own work on non-communicable diseases in Dakar, Senegal, where she is examining the impact of what the Dakarois call “new diseases” on the ways that people shop, eat, cook, care for and nourish their families.

Lorraine Hansford is one of the newest members of the Centre, having joined in January after working for 17 years with young people and on community projects. Lorraine is leading research into understanding inequalities in end of life care and is currently setting up workshops at hospices in Plymouth and Exeter. She is hoping to also start working with ‘The Departure Lounge’ a project designed to enable people to talk more openly about death, dying and the ageing population.

Another research fellow who joined us in January is Charlotte Jones, who is developing a new project that will explore ways of understanding infertility when this is made evident ‘early’ in the life course. Charlotte’s new project at The Wellcome Centre will draw on her previous research on intersex/variations of sex characteristics.

Lara Choksey joined the Centre in September 2018. She will focus her energies on “Postgenomic Environments”: a project which will bring literary and cultural studies approaches to questions of health, care, community, and environment in the genomic and postgenomic eras. Lara will also be looking at uses of precision genomic medicine locally, nationally, and globally while at the centre.

The Centre thanks the board members for their invaluable feedback and ideas regarding the projects currently being undertaken. We are excited and invigorated about the future of the Centre and our members.

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The Wellcome Centre funding schemes

28 April 2019

After two rounds of our Research Support Funding scheme, we have reflected on the feedback from applicants (both successful and unsuccessful) and mentors and have refreshed the funding routes the Centre offers. Our new schemes were launched in January 2019. We welcome your questions, feedback or thoughts on these ideas. Please send any comments to

Research Initiator Awards

Research Initiator Awards are only for people and groups from outside the university. These are small awards that can to be used to develop a project idea, formulate a research question or identify issues for further work or subsequent research. The awards are not for research activities as such, but rather to support activities that generate the conditions for future research.

All kinds of creative and imaginative proposals are welcome: for example, hosting a workshop to bring together a group to start the development of research ideas, initiating a small artwork or other creative intervention that opens up engagement around cultures and environments of health, reviewing existing literature on particular topics or approaches to researching an issue, working with an academic or other researcher to develop a research idea, generating a small social media campaign to draw people to an issue or topic … we are open to suggestions.

Enhanced Research Awards

ERAs are exclusively for Centre PhD students, Research Fellows and other Centre members. These awards may be used to enhance research in existing projects, for example to pay for travel or periods of field or archival work, to develop new research opportunities or collaborations, to enhance engagement practice or to generate new opportunities for engaged research.

Transformative Research Awards

This is a discretionary award that will support leading-edge transformative research. Research proposals can be generated by researchers working in the Centre or from the wider university, although we would expect Centre members to be involved at some point in the research process. Proposals should be interdisciplinary and, where appropriate, transdisciplinary, pursuing research in an engaged fashion.


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