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Sri Lanka Peace Vigil

Thursday 25 April, 6.30pm  - St Mary’s Church, Bridge Street, Sunderland

At least 321 people were killed on Easter Sunday in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. We will gather to express our solidarity with all victims of terrorism, and to say that violence and extremism will never stop the task of all faith communities to come together for peace.

Organised by Sunderland Interfaith Forum and the University Chaplaincy Team.

https://www.facebook.com/events/434179917339713/

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Students are searching for solutions to the rising tide of inequalities locally, nationally and globally as part of the very first Masters programme of its kind launched in the North East.

With welfare reforms and the rising cost of living since the recession in 2008 pushing vulnerable families into poverty, coupled with the concerning rise of hate crime and the Far Right as well as the impact of Brexit, a team of social scientists at Sunderland felt the time was ripe to introduce a research-based course to focus on inequality, why it exists and how can we tackle it?

The Inequality and Society MSc offers an understanding of the major causes of inequality in our world, why some groups face unique forms of disadvantage in areas such as health, sexualities, gender, age, domestic abuse, childhood and socio-economic issues.

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Aimed at post-graduate students as well as a wide range of professionals who want to upskill, from health and social care, teaching to psychology criminology to community and community work, the course explores strategies for change, through research.

Drew Dalton, Programme Leader for the course and a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, said: “Never has it been more important that we look at this area with a theoretical research-based Master’s degree. We are certainly seeing a rise in race and religious crime which is up by 400 per cent, hate crime against the LGBTQ community is up 147 per cent, we are also seeing inequality on a socio-economic level since the introduction of the austerity cuts.

“The impact of inequality we are seeing is happening at every level of society and it seems to be deepening at the moment. But this is not just naval gazing at the UK, we’ll consider the impact on a global scale.”

He added: “It is our intention that this course can become a movement for change and get students thinking how they can influence change on a bigger scale.”

One of the first to sign up for the programme is Izzy Finch, a Learning and Participation Officer at the Customs House in South Shields.

She said: “Challenging and working to eliminate the impact of inequality is something I feel passionately about. In my current role at The Customs House and as a freelance music practitioner I have worked with diverse communities to engage people in artistic and creative experiences.

“Working with marginalised and hard to reach communities has helped me to recognise that working in the arts to promote social change is where my ambitions to be a part of a fair society can be realised.”

She added: “In a pluralistic, diverse society and during a time of austerity and division, I feel it is more important than ever to research and find ways to address the inequalities that affect us all. I am excited and optimistic about the MSc. It offers a great opportunity to explore and contribute to research about the burning issues that affect every community.”

There is also an opportunity to present dissertation research findings at an MSc conference at the end of the course, adding to each students’ professional development.

The course begins in October 2019, one year full-time and two years part-time, for more information and to register your interest click here.

The MSc Inequality and Society team includes award-winning staff in the areas of equality and diversity and teaching and learning, including Dr Bruce MarjoribanksDr Nicola RobertsDr Ian SpencerDr Sheila Quaid  and Matt Drury.

Suspected money laundering

We have recently been advised that  the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) froze the bank accounts of 95 British university students.  The accounts were suspected of being used in significant money laundering operations.  It is believed that the students were unaware of this, and had been targeted by organized crime groups.

It is important that you remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual.  You should:

  • Never give your sort code or bank details to anyone, especially over the telephone, even if the caller claims to be from the UK Home Office or UKCISA.
  • Inform your bank immediately if you ever notice money being deposited and then removed from your account.

If you have any suspicions you should contact the University's Deputy Money Laundering Reporting Officer.  Student Financial Guidance can also offer support at studentfinancialguidance@sunderland.ac.uk

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Two Sunderland students are in the national spotlight after being invited to speak at the UK’s biggest conference for paramedicine.

Adrian Langford and Claire McGahan are both in the final year of their Diploma of Higher Education Paramedic Practice at the University of Sunderland, and next month will take to the stage at the College of Paramedics annual national conference.

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Adrian, 51, will present on ‘Cerebral Trauma in the Elderly – The Impact of Ageing’, speaking about an illness which is increasing in frequency, particularly among the elderly.

“I’d like to help equip paramedics with knowledge that will enable them to identify potential chronic subdural haemorrhage more readily and follow an appropriate care plan for patients’ treatment,” says Adrian. “I’d given this presentation at university as part of my second year, and was asked to submit it to the College of Paramedics for selection for their annual conference.

“While I was preparing my presentation I learned a lot about the risks of subdural haemorrhage, and appreciate the opportunity to share what I've found with a wider audience

“I feel really honoured that a student should be asked to speak at a national conference, and attending the rest of the conference will give me the opportunity to meet new people, develop my practice, and hopefully inspire me keep learning after I qualify this summer.”

Claire McGahan, 29, from Newcastle is presenting a poster on 'Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Elderly'. 

“I did a presentation on the subject as part of my course and was encouraged to apply to present a poster on it by my tutors.

“I am a researcher by background and love to take the opportunity to apply that to my current career.  Being able to not only attend the conference but also present a poster there will provide an invaluable experience.”

Victoria Duffy RN, Senior Lecturer: Clinical Skills and Programme Leader, Paramedic Practice, at the University of Sunderland, says: “It is a huge accolade for the students, the University and the North East Ambulance Service to have the work of our students recognised nationally.

 “We are very proud of all our students, they study full time alongside doing a physically and emotionally demanding job which requires them to work a 24 hour shift pattern. To see their hard work recognised in such a prestigious way is something to really be celebrated.”

The College of Paramedics annual conference takes place on May 14 in Taunton.

North East ink

The multi-faceted role of the tattoo artist is taking centre stage for one PhD student who is turning his passion into a career.

Student Adam McDade is combining working in a North East tattoo studio with research into the production and design of the art he creates on people’s bodies.

Adam, 29, is himself no stranger to tattoos, having much of his own body covered with ink.

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“I think I was 14 when I got my first one,” recalls Adam, from Barnes in Sunderland. “It was a Scorpio sign on my bicep – I got it covered up when I was 18.”

“I’ve now got tattoos on my feet, ankles, legs, calves, thighs, chest, arms, hands and fingers.

“I have always been interested in all types of visual medium; I used to draw quite a lot. It just so happens that tattooing is the form I am now working on.”

Adam himself has been tattooing other people professionally for the past 14 months at Triplesix studios in Fawcett Street, Sunderland; experience which he is now using as research for his PhD.

He said: “I really enjoy the physical process of the work and I get to utilise it as part of my research.

“I also like the fact that it’s not just me who gets something out of this – it’s a collaborative process with someone else. You can see instant reactions to your work, the response they give is automatic.”

Adam, a former pupil of St Aidan’s School in Sunderland, is currently in his second year of his six year PhD, which has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF).

The practice-based PhD means Adam is able to work in his area of research, although this can be quite demanding.

He said: “I’m working seven days a week and it’s quite hard to support yourself financially through all of this research.

“But I have always been very creative, whether it be through music or literature or tattooing.

“I like the way every tattooing job is different, the way each individual comes with a separate set of requirements, different budgets, and different skin types. It’s all fascinating.

“The brief is dictated by the client and the requirements change from person to person.

“My research is about enriching both academic understanding and professional practice of contemporary western tattooing. While tattooing has been studied within an academic context from a social sciences and historical perspective, very little is understood of the discipline from the perspective of design.”

Adam did a Foundation year in Art and Design at the University of Sunderland before going on to successfully complete both a BA and MA in Illustration and Design

Cameron is on a roll

Computer Science graduate Cameron Hunter is applying his software skills to help expand production at a leading North-East textiles specialist.

When Washington-based Griffith Textile Machines (GTM), an innovator of fabric forming machinery and creator of Axminster carpets for prestigious venues worldwide, was looking to develop new software systems, the company turned to the University of Sunderland’s bespoke recruitment service Uni4Talent.

The University service launched over a year ago and connects employers with emerging student and graduate talent, by providing a bespoke and effective support process.

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Cameron graduated in 2017 with a First Class degree, the first in his family to go to University, and was placed with GTM through Uni4Talent as a software developer. 

Tony Campbell, Software Development Engineer at GTM, said the company turned to their local university as they wanted to recruit a “talented and educated developer”.

“Cameron is now a valued member of the software development team playing a key part in the production of new software systems,” said Tony.

“He is currently involved in the new loom control software project. This is a key project for the company and Cameron’s flare for user interface design is a great help. He is a great asset and we are grateful to Uni4Talent for sending him our way.”

Cameron, 24, from Country Durham, said: “I was brought in as a software developer in the R&D team and it’s been a great experience working for GTM.  Being on an R&D team is the perfect role as it allows for creative ideas, producing various software systems and products to show management and inspire new ideas for the teams and it helps greatly in bringing the manufacturing into the future where data capture and analysis, manageability and reliability are paramount.  

“I have recently been branching out to fully understand every team’s role in the company to get a picture of the possibilities in producing other systems that can assist in creating new workflows that reduce time wastage, and improve employee satisfaction.” 

Cameron added: “Achieving my ideal job through Uni4Talent would not have been possible without all of the practical work experience I was able to access during my time at university and helped me understand how valuable my skills are to an employer in the IT and software industry.”

Cameron secured an internship, first with the University’s Computing Department on a ‘Big Data’ Project in his second year, then with KP Snacks in County Durham in his final year, working on an app development project. In 2018, having gained extensive work experience he landed a graduate level job as a PHP developer with Inspired Agency.

He said: “The Uni4Talent team understand what you want, what your capabilities are and what your end goal is. They will do everything to show you relevant roles with their clients that suit your needs, set up the interviews, help you all the way through to the interview, it’s as simple as that, and is a must for any student that wants a step up on everyone else.”

Uni4Talent is the University’s recruitment agency and provides everything from temporary projects, part time roles, permanent positions and internships, as well as customised graduate development programmes. Businesses looking to recruit in a cost-effective way are supported through the entire process.

Duncan McDonald, said: “It’s great to see Cameron go on to achieve a fantastic graduate position with a local business. We have worked with Cameron throughout the course of his degree at Sunderland and so it’s encouraging to see that Uni4Talent is helping to keep emerging IT talent in the region”. 

“Finding the right fit candidate for a business takes time and energy. Uni4Talent can provide access to thousands of registered candidates, from our own students and graduates through to professionals with years of industry experience”.

Uni4Talent provides a range of professional services, such as detailed candidate searches, targeted email campaigns, first-stage interviews, flexible employment and account management.

For more information about Uni4Talent click here.

Student profile: Cameron Hunter

At college, Cameron studied a BTEC in Media Production, building a portfolio in film, video and print media. However, once he had completed the course, he felt he wanted to do something different.

He explains: “Because I had been programming in PHP and building basic websites from the age of 12, I felt that doing a Computer Science degree was my best option. After doing research on various universities it was clear Sunderland had the best all-round course for programming and preparing me for the industry.” 

Asked how the University helped with developing his practical skills that would lead to a career in computing, Cameron said: “Professor Yonghong Peng was my supervisor during my dissertation, he noticed that my skills could help another professor in prototyping an API driven data capture and analysis system, tracking runners around Sunderland, and producing socially influenced art based on feedback from runners in the area.

“This was my first introduction to Duncan McDonald, Uni4Talent Team Leader, who would become an instrumental part in the start of my career. As soon after my internship with the Professor came to an end he introduced me to one of the managers at KP Snacks. After that I worked for KP for nine months, with meetings, and conversations at KP, I played a key role in creating a new data capture system”.

“This system is still used 12 months after I finished the project.”

Cameron says he thoroughly enjoyed his University experience.

“University opened my eyes to the wide range of career opportunities that are available, from creating robotics to creating software packages and websites. The University was very enjoyable as after learning three or so programming languages and developing with them, it was clear by the end I could find a job that I was happy doing.”

So what advice does Cameron have for students beginning their own university journey?

“Take in the full experience from the social aspects to the course, don’t stress about not getting the grade you wanted; go back to the drawing board, find out what went wrong and what went right, fix your weak links and you will get a First Class degree without doubt.”

About Griffith Textile Machines:

Griffith Textile Machines designs and builds bespoke textile weaving machines including looms and spare parts for the Harris Tweed Industry. They are market leaders and have a cutting-edge R&D department specialising in electro-mechanical and state-of-the-art software systems.

The company is also involved in manufacturing specialising in creating Axminster carpets for prestigious environments. From hotels, museums and golf courses, to restaurants and public houses. For more information, click here

A pilot scheme to improve oral health through pharmacies proved so successful that it is being rolled out across the North East in a bid to save the NHS money.

Poor oral health is a significant public health concern, costing the NHS in England £3.4bn annually, with tooth decay becoming the most common reason for hospital admissions among children aged five to nine.

But a project between the University of Sunderland and the Public Health Team at Durham County Council has harnessed the accessibility of community pharmacies, frequently visited by patients, by offering a venue to deliver vital oral health advice and information.

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Five pharmacies in deprived areas of County Durham took part in the pilot in 2016 and introduced a five-minute oral health intervention to patients as they waited for prescriptions or had just popped in for advice and medications.

More than 1,000 patients took part in the intervention, which included advising patients on how to brush their teeth properly, checking they were using the right products and providing key information on how to look after teeth and gums. The results were impressive with 72 per cent of participants reporting that their knowledge of oral health was much better and 66 per cent saying that they would definitely makes changes to their oral health habits. Meanwhile, 64 per cent definitely thought a pharmacy was the right place to receive oral health advice.

Andrew Sturrock, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader for the Master of Pharmacy programme in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Sunderland, worked with Durham County Council’s Public Health team to develop the project based on his previous research assessing the impact of community pharmacies.

He explained: “This started as a simple idea, based on my research looking at the role of community pharmacies, who are well trained healthcare professionals, easily accessible and frequently visited by patients, and required to provide healthy living advice to patients - therefore offering a little explored avenue for the delivery of oral health interventions.

“We already know there are lots of people who don’t have a dentist, have phobias about dental treatment or avoid regular check-ups, especially in deprived areas. The pharmacy is certainly not taking over the dentists’ role – this is just about giving some really basic healthcare advice and signposting patients in the right direction.

“It’s also about trying to prevent people from needing dental treatment later on, potentially saving millions on NHS treatment. We know that poor oral health can have a big impact on patients and improving oral health can even have positive benefits in other systemic health conditions, such as diabetes.”

He added: “The study provides evidence that a community pharmacy is perceived by patients as an acceptable provider of oral health interventions and has the potential to provide positive changes to the oral health of the population.”

Claire Jones, Public Health Pharmacy Adviser, Durham County Council said: “The success of this scheme did help to keep oral health training on the agenda for community pharmacies through regional pharmacy training sessions that were subsequently run by the regional oral health team at Health Education England in 2018. In addition, oral health became one of the local targets for HLPs in County Durham in the 2018/19 Award. And lastly, of course, oral health in children is now a focus in the current national quality payment scheme for pharmacies.”

Rachel Lish, Clinical Lead for Multi-Disciplinary Oral Health, Health Education England North East, commented: “We are delighted to have been able to provide educational input into this pilot.

“The Directorate is committed to promoting the importance of good oral health, including its relevance to general health. It currently delivers a comprehensive oral health training programme for community pharmacists which aims to provide a greater understanding of the importance of oral health in general health, including, particularly in relation to diabetes control, dementia and mental health. This supports the objectives set out in ‘The NHS Long Term Plan’ of joined up care at the right time, strengthening prevention and addressing health inequalities.”

The evaluation was performed using a patient evaluation questionnaire and interviews with pharmacy staff. The research has been published in the British Dental Journal: https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2017.784

To find out more about Pharmacy courses at the University of Sunderland, click here

For four years he lived the life of a Benedictine monk before heading to adrenaline-driven Silicon Valley just as technology began to take over the world.

So it seems ironic that Ewan Clayton is today playing a pivotal role in keeping alive the important values of handwriting at a time when digital is threatening to engulf us all.

Ewan, a Professor in Design at the University of Sunderland, has just played a key role in the creation of a new Manifesto for Handwriting which outlines why putting pen to paper remains a vital part of our day-to-day lives.

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In the Manifesto, Ewan, and his fellow contributors, urge education bosses “to choose handwriting policies, to establish standards and curricula, to train teachers, to invest in books, materials and support to favour learning and practice of handwriting”.

Ewan’s passion for the written word stems back to his childhood in Ditchling, Sussex; the same village which was home to the man deemed the ‘father of modern calligraphy’, Edward Johnston.

He said: “I was surrounded by writing influences in Ditchling but when I was 12 years old my handwriting was so bad I was moved back to junior school to learn how to write all over again.

“I was given Johnston’s biography and started to realise just how interesting a subject handwriting was.

In the Manifesto for Handwriting, Ewan, along with his contributors, outlines ‘eight good reasons to recognise and extend the role of handwriting’.

1. Handwriting is a personal, direct and accessible tool.

Given its simplicity, sustainability and low-tech requirements, handwriting is indispensable in countless aspects of daily life — also our digital daily life: handwriting is now moving into new technologies by means of digital pens, digital papers, touch screens, stylus-based smart phones and many other new interfaces.

2. Handwriting and digital skills are both important, but handwriting comes first.

In the educational process, keyboarding should be introduced when a child’s brain development is able to support efficient bimanual coordination. Conversely, handwriting is a physical process requiring fine motor skills that need to be trained from the early years. As the last fine motor skill commonly taught in most schools, handwriting plays an important part in the development of hand-eye coordination.

3. School, university, the workplace and daily life: handwriting is here to stay.

Though IT today often uses voice recognition software, not everything can be said with the spoken word. Indeed, writing (and/or typing) is virtually always required for organising all but the simplest information. Writing notes by hand puts the process of visualizing information into the hand of the writer, rather than the designers of software.

Scientific studies clearly show that the typing of information creates fewer neural links and weaker mind-maps than handwriting. This means that handwriting as a form of note-taking serves as a strong tool for the organising of information, first on the page and then in the brain.

4. Handwriting is an aesthetic process.

Learning principles of balance, harmony, regularity, clarity, elegance and indeed beauty, should be an essential part of any child’s education. These skills may translate in later life into calmness, confidence, better observational skills and a more profound sense of the meaning of education.

A technologically-based educational programme does not adequately address these aesthetic tasks and needs.

5. Handwriting is part of our culture, as well as those cultures that do not use the Latin alphabet.

Handwriting is a socialising activity. It is an essential part of the social contract that ties citizen to citizen: the writer must understand how another person will read and understand what he/she writes.

China reintroduced calligraphy into all schools in 2015 for both cultural and educational reasons.

6. Research shows that handwriting can be an essential and efficient educational tool.

Research in this area clearly shows that handwriting influences reading, writing, language, and critical thinking.

Handwriting has also been shown to impact neurological processes: research suggests that children who struggle with handwriting are less efficient in engaging their brains when learning to write new letters of the alphabet. Conversely, studies have shown that handwriting single letterforms stimulates neural activity in areas required for reading, and in older children, the physical connectivity between pen and page seems to enhance quality of written content.

7. While handwriting can be a challenge for some children, it can teach others self-mastery.

Handwriting provides a calming influence for children subjected to the many distractions of modern life, and it can be an important form of self-expression.

Handwriting is a way of enjoying the benefits of a focused attention, experiencing aesthetic principles, having fun and pride in one’s abilities to communicate.

A page of clear, legible and well-formed writing can bring a sense of personal achievement for both adults and children that is quite different to that of a typed text.

8. Contemporary handwriting needs clear teaching and functional models.

Handwriting needs clear teaching based on informed research, and an up-skilled and inspiring workforce of teachers who take pride in their knowledge of this simple yet empowering practice.

Any handwriting models to be taught at school need to feature a coherent ductus, should be as simple and logical as possible, and – since we live in the digital age – they have to be adaptable to the new technologies.

For all these reasons we urge the governments, particularly the education ministries, to choose handwriting policies, to establish standards and curricula, to train teachers, to invest in books, materials and supports to favour learning and practice of handwriting.

After leaving the monastery where he lived between the ages of 28 and 32, Ewan headed for Silicon Valley in the US where he worked as a consultant to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Laboratory in California.

Xerox PARC is the research lab that developed the concept of Windows, the look and feel of the interactive graphical user interface, the Ethernet and the laser printer amongst many other key aspects of our digital environment.

Ewan decided to take up his post at the University of Sunderland after feeling a connection to the region, not least because it was home to St Peter’s Church at Monkwearmouth, the Anglo-Saxon monastery once home to Venerable Bede.

Ewan Clayton is a calligrapher, teacher and writer as well as a certified Somatic coach and body-worker. In the mid-1980s Ewan lived as a Benedictine monk at Worth Abbey in Sussex.

After leaving the monastery he was hired as a consultant to Xerox's Palo Alto Research Laboratory (PARC). Today Ewan is Professor in Design at the University of Sunderland. He is a core member of staff at The Royal Drawing School.

In 2013 he published The Golden Thread. The Story Of Writing. He was awarded an MBE [Member of the Order of the British Empire] in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

The Manifesto for Handwriting’s eight points also includes contributions from James Clough, Monica Dengo, Brody Neuenschwander and Nadine Le Bacq, Anna Ronchi, and Angela Webb.

Run Sunderland is back on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May

The 2019 Siglion Sunderland City Runs Weekend returns with a BRAND NEW 5K event on the evening of Saturday 11 May, with a course that includes running across the new  Northern Spire! 

Entry to the 5K run is free for the first ten students who email their name, programme details and telephone number to usonline@sunderland.ac.uk

Your details will only be used to contact you about the Siglion Sunderland City Runs.

The 10K and Half Marathon will be taking place on the morning of Sunday 12 May. With spectacular coastal views and a brilliant atmosphere, a superbly organised event is guaranteed, with plenty of support on the route and an army of enthusiastic volunteers to make it a great day for all taking part. All participants will receive a t-shirt, medal and goody bag. There is ample city centre parking, baggage services and plenty of fun activities for those not taking part.

Sunderland students can take advantage of an exclusive 10% discount on the 10K.

Discount code:

10UNI19

(Please note the code will only work when entering as unaffiliated).

Enter now and be InSPIREd in 2019

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No more heroes

Game of Thrones returns to our screens for its eighth and final series next Monday (15 April). Perhaps the most anticipated show of the decade, the popularity of the show in which virtually every character lies, cheats and commits murder, is a fascinating phenomenon.

A global research group of university academics, which includes the University of Sunderland’s Professor Clarissa Smith, have taken a journey into the fantasy world of Game of Thrones, speaking to 10,000 people worldwide to discover what makes this ground-breaking television series so culturally significant and important.

The research has taken place over the past two years, and, says Professor Smith who is now working on book based on the project, some fascinating findings have come out of the research particularly with regard to how viewers feel about the characters, none of who are straightforwardly heroes or villains. 

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She says: “We wanted to get a sense of which characters were favourites, but then also why viewers liked them. And what we got wasn’t just a top ten of the popular characters.

“The notion of people identifying with characters that they admire or would like to be like, that notion goes completely out of the window with Game of Thrones. Viewers’ feelings about a character are really complex. No one is uniformly nice and no one is uniformly horrible. So, for many of our respondents their choices of favourite are about the ways in which that character has gone on a journey, what has shaped them, what have they learned?

“And we found that there was real appreciation for the complexities of a character, it’s not just a case of liking someone because they are good or pretty or embody some virtue – because every one has to behave badly at some point in this drama!”

Game of Thrones is often compared to The Lord of the Rings, but, the research argues both are very much products of their time. In The Lord of the Rings, characters such as Frodo and Sam are relatively simple.  Frodo, for instance embodies suffering and self-sacrifice, while Sam embodies loyalty and friendship. In Tolkien’s world there is true evil, embodied by Sauron – but Game of Thrones is a very different beast – there is no single truly ‘good’ character and equally no villain is completely ‘evil’.

Asking viewers who was their favourite character and who their favourite survivor gave some fascinating insight to the ways people relate to characters and their place in the storyline.

“Tyrion Lannister comes out on top for both of those answers. Very consistently he’s seen as a mix of intelligence and humour. He’s smart and wise, funny and cheeky, and for many viewers he offers light relief. They also like his courage, and endurance, and his self-awareness.  He’s a fully rounded character, a very contemporary man in this ancient world.

“The second favourite character is Jon Snow – but he’s the fifth favourite survivor. And viewer’s feelings about him are very complicated. For many, Jon’s the most obvious hero of the series, but people don’t find him particularly interesting. They say he’s a teenage choice of hero and not very complex compared to other characters such as Jaime Lannister.”

And when it comes to some of the villains there were interesting contradictions too.

“Characters such as Ramsey Bolton is a sadist but also has this creepy obsequious relation to his dad. And the story of his birth tempts viewers to feel sorry for him. People talked about liking him precisely because he was so vile and that his nastiness meant it wasn’t easy to predict what he would do next! Petyr Baelish was both a favourite character for many people and a favourite survivor, they love the way he manipulated the action throughout the last seven series and even though they hated him, they also loved his skill at playing the game!”

Professor Smith says that one of the most surprising outcomes of the research is that there seems to be no real opposition to the very idea of monarchy, though viewers expressed considerable insight into the complexity of the political manoeuvring in the show, and commented on how it reflects the real world, this didn’t suggest any anti-monarchist sentiment.

“People talk about the battle for the iron throne of Westeros is like elements of Trump’s presidency, or even that it’s akin to Brexit. But they don’t then say that we need to really smash the wheel. Monarchy is still an important political dimension in this world. Its intriguing when the series offers us such a very clear picture of how little ordinary people matter in these games of strategy, revenge and death played by royal households!”

Professor Smith says she is looking forward to the final season of Game of Thrones, and discovering who will survive and who won’t.

“Without a doubt Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon. It has spawned so many theories, and people will be talking about it for a long time to come.

“The idea that people are interested in “dark television” and are immersed in a world of misery, death and destruction for pleasure, is really fascinating.”

Watching Game of Thrones: How Audiences Live with Dark Television is a research project conducted worldwide by Martin Barker (Aberystwyth University), Feona Attwood (Middlesex University), Sarah Ralph (Northumbria University), Maria Ruotsalainen (University of Jyväskylä), Clarissa Smith (University of Sunderland) and Liza Tsaliki (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens).

Professor Clarissa Smith is Director of the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies and teaches on topics such as media consumption and everyday life, film and feminism, and representing sexualities. Her research focuses on sexually explicit media and includes examining identities and pleasures, censorship, class, race, gender and sexual orientation, and the development of porn studies. Clarissa is a founding co-editor of the Routledge journal Porn Studies and is a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Gender StudiesParticipations and Sexualities.

For more information go to: http://experts.sunderland.ac.uk/portfolio/prof-clarissa-smith/

Toxic TV?

An academic who studied for her PhD at the University of Sunderland has accused popular drama series Peaky Blinders of “unashamedly glorifying criminality”.

Dr George S Larke-Walsh examined the male brutality within the TV series as part of a paper published in the Journal of Popular Television.

The paper: ‘The King’s shilling’: How Peaky Blinders uses the experience of war to justify and celebrate toxic masculinity argues that the programme legitimises destructive behavior by presenting the protagonists as romantic outlaws who only oppress others because of a desire to succeed in a corrupt world.

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According to the paper, the drama effectively excuses the gang’s brutality by presenting them as damaged by The Great War.

Dr Larke-Walsh, who says she comes back to visit the North East every year from her current home in Texas, states: “It utilises nostalgia for nationalism, enacted within displays of extreme aggressions as well as promoting regressive masculine ideals, specifically British ‘lad-culture’.

“In the current socio-political environment, and associated concerns about the prevalence of toxic masculinity, such presentations no longer feel safely confined to fantasy.”

Dr Larke-Walsh, who obtained her PhD in Film Studies from Sunderland before moving to America, has also explored connections between The Godfather and The Sopranos in past research.

The academic, originally from Leicestershire, also accuses the show of eliciting homosexual desire with images of actor Cillian Murphy’s naked body, as well as clips of men at work, while at the same time rejecting this desire by asserting the heterosexuality of the characters.

Despite this Dr Larke-Walsh is a fan of the programme but says she wanted to highlight the complex nature of its depiction of violent masculinity.

The show won best drama at last year’s Bafta TV awards.

Speaking about her time at the University of Sunderland, Dr Larke-Walsh, who now works at the University of North Texas, said: “I still retain friendly ties with the Media and Cultural Studies department through faculty.

“I studied and worked at the University when we were housed on Chester Road.  I remember the department as a very vibrant group of researchers, who were very friendly and supportive. 

“My early training at the University of Sunderland taught me to be an open-minded and supportive teacher.  The principles of HE pedagogy I learned at Sunderland are ones I practice to this day.

“While I'm originally from Leicestershire, I lived for quite a while in the North East of England.  I miss it very much and take time to visit every summer when I am in the UK.”  

To find out more about media and cultural studies at the University of Sunderland, click here

The Dovre Fund will award up to two annual scholarships of £1,000 per student.

Students must be full time, undergraduate level and studying an engineering subject discipline, and graduating in 2020. The award is non-means tested, and non-repayable.

The Dovre Alumni Community are an active alumni group based in Norway and continue to meet and support each other as a professional networking body. Formerly engineering students of Sunderland Polytechnic, the group continue to advocate their passion for Sunderland by providing financial support to this programme.

Apply by Friday 3 May

sunderland.ac.uk/dosh

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Is your mate great? Have they gone the extra miles to help you? Are they dealing with family, work and Uni, and still smashing it? 

 Rate Your Mate aims to shine a light on hard working students who go above and beyond in their studies, life and work while studying at the University of Sunderland.

The scheme is unique, as nominations are made by you the student – so Rate Your Mate is for and by students.

If you would like to nominate a your mate you can nominate using this form and email it to rate@sunderland.ac.uk  

You can also nominate by filling in a form at the Studio and Riverside cafes - look out for the Rate Your Mate nomination boxes.

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University graduates who benefited from a multimillion-pound North East growth fund are repaying the favour with their filmmaking talents.

Hope Street Xchange, the University of Sunderland’s £10m centre for enterprise and innovation, received £4.9m from the Local Growth Fund – which is investing more than £270m in major capital projects across the North East LEP region.

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The centre is designed to encourage entrepreneurial growth in the city by supporting fledgling start-ups. Start-ups just like video production company Second Draft.

Comprising of Mark Stuart Bell and business partner Glen Colledge, Second Draft were commissioned to produce a film showcasing the impact of the £270m Local Growth Fund; using their storytelling talents to illustrate how the fund has benefited its many recipients.

Winning the contract was a major step for the fledgling business, which recently moved from the Enterprise Place at Hope Street Xchange into new offices at Sunderland’s Business and Innovation Centre (BIC).

Providing funding to major capital projects in all seven local authority areas, the Local Growth Fund aims to create jobs, boost the economy and improve the quality of life for people living and working in North East England.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “More than 50 individual projects have received funding through the Local Growth Fund.

“Funding was awarded to projects that helped achieve the objectives set of out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to support economic growth, improve productivity and increase the number of people employed in high quality jobs.

“All the projects make the North East a better place to live and work, and the improvements will be felt for generations to come. It’s not just about improving our economy, it’s also about improving quality of life for everyone that lives here.”

With help from the Enterprise Place at Hope Street Xchange, Mark and Glen were able to launch and build Second Draft. Mark, who studied for an MA in Journalism at the University, first met Glen when they connected 8,000 miles away on the Falkland Islands.

Mark was researching a documentary and needed a collaborator and a guide. Glen, at the time, was a cameraman and editor on the Island’s TV station.

Six months later the filmmakers were working together back in the UK, before taking the big step into starting up their new business.

Mark said: “It’s a big responsibility to showcase the North East, particularly when the aim is to attract investment and create jobs.”

You can watch Second Draft’s four-minute feature video for the North East LEP here

In Sunderland, projects supported by the Local Growth Fund include:

  • Business growth: Hope Street Xchange
  • City renewal: The Beam, Vaux
  • Social enterprise: Beacon of Light
  • Strategic employment site infrastructure: IAMP

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “We are investing in the future of communities across the Northern Powerhouse and the whole country through the Local Growth Fund.

“The projects already delivered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership with their share of the fund are changing lives by building the infrastructure, skills, jobs and confidence people need to thrive.”

The £270m Local Growth Fund - secured as part of the North East Growth Deal and delivered in partnership with the Northern Powerhouse - supports major capital projects across the North East LEP region (Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland) that help achieve the objectives set out in the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.

Projects and schemes supported by the Local Growth Fund are helping to boost the local economy, create more and better jobs and improve the quality of life for people living and working in the North East.

Sport & Exercise Sciences student Cameron Park was delighted with his top ten finish at last week’s Taekwondo Europe European Poomsae Championships in Turkey.

The competition took place in Antalya from 2-4 Apri and saw Cameron gain his second Great Britain representative honours.

Competing in the Team Poomsae, Cameron and his teammates were judged on their technique and synchronicity.

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The 21 year old said of the experience: “I knew what to expect having represented Great Britain in the last European Chapionships, I knew there was going to be a lot of big countries there with big names and you recognise people from previous competitions.

“I said before that I wanted to make the top 10 but I didn’t know how it would pan out as there’s a lot of good competitors there.”

Park was competing in the Under 30 category and at just 21 has many years to work his way up the leaderboard.

He said: “Under 30s is probably the toughest category as you have people from 18 to 30 and I’m only 21 so competing against 28 and 29 year olds who have so much experience is tough.”

Cameron and his teammates progressed through three rounds before eventually falling short of the final but they were pleased with their efforts.

“To finish in 10th is great, a medal would’ve been fantastic but I’m still young in this sport so top 10 is definitely something to be proud of.”

Great Britain had a fantastic Championships and picked up the 2nd place Overall Best Male Team Trophy.

Cameron, who is on the university’s Elite Athlete Scheme praised the support he has received from the university going into the championships.

“The support from the university has been huge, the initial support has helped me qualify for these Championships and since my selection was announced they have helped with the finances for getting there.

“I also use the strength & conditioning room almost every day and having access to these facilities is a massive benefit.”

His next big championship isn’t until the end of 2019 but he has plenty of competitions between then to get himself in the best possible shape.

“The National championships are in December and we’re hoping to host an international in Britain or travel to a competition in the summer. Then we’ll have quite a few domestic competitions to keep me ticking over.”

Team Sunderland’s Elite Athlete Scheme helps support numerous high performing athletes at the University every year.