Juggling work, practice and research at the times of Covid-19.

By Mattia Cobianchi, PhD in Music, Goldsmiths University of London, Chase Student Committee Rep

My name is Mattia, and I`m a permanent resident of the UK since 2013, but I`m originally from Italy, and since we Italians were the first in Europe to be hit by the pandemic, I started to worry about the impact of Covid-19 on my friends and family there first, and about myself only a month later. It was a little bit like seeing a catastrophe in slow-motion. You see it coming, you brace for it, still you can`t do anything about it. The first personal hit for me came on the second week of March, when I had to cancel a trip abroad to attend the VIVA of an interesting researcher that works in the field or urban planning and soundscape research. Then, a couple of weeks later, came the second. I am a part time PhD student, but also a part time employee in a large audio company, and I was put on furlough, together with a lot of colleagues, starting from April (I was finally recalled back at work in July).

I`ve been working in the audio sector no-stop since 2004 (oh yes, sorry, I forgot to mention that I`m quite a senior student 😊) and being told to stand down and stop working, was quite a shock. I didn`t know how to do it at the beginning! Even if of course I was aware that I was one of the lucky ones able to keep my job and that I could dedicate more time to research while on furlough, it had been the first time for years that I had to completely stop working. What I ended up doing, although by a fortunate coincidence, was to write some technical articles for a magazine about what I design and research at work – loudspeakers, and that helped me feeling not as isolated from my job.

Figure 1 – A measurement session at work – lasers and speakers, what else could I wish for?

On the academic side, my research is practice based and deals with the issue of improving the urban soundscape through adaptive and dynamic compositions to mask or at least steer away city-dwellers’ attention from annoying noises such as that produced by traffic and construction works.

An exciting part of my research has been attending hands-on workshops and events organized in London both at Goldsmiths University and in other venues with fellow scholars or musicians: this of course has stopped completely and has not been replaced by any online surrogate unfortunately. Total disruption.

A second aspect of the practice that has been instead only partially disrupted, is the chance of spending time outdoor with all the senses alert, especially my hearing, both in the built environment as well as in nature reserves and parks, often bringing along a portable audio recorder for field recording.

Figure 2 – Capturing the sound of pebbles rolling up and down the shore along Hove beach

Once the lockdown was in place (or an edulcorated version of it, since here in the UK it`s been very “permissive”), the daily walk to exercise constituted a useful although limited chance to appreciate how the soundscape of my city, Hove, had changed. New faint sounds, both natural and artificial, started to be audible: sparrows’ calls in the streets, faint ventilation and air conditioning units breathing sounds, car or house alarms ringing from far, far away…

Figure 3 – A woodland patch near my flat has been a regular lockdown escape for a walk

When at home, I started to register to the myriad of webinars that popped out like mushrooms, and to some conferences that had been ported online, hoping to keep myself engaged and active, but found just a few useful or interesting. I realized that it was much harder to focus, the temptation to do something else, in the privacy of my flat and with the webcam off, was high. The ones that I enjoyed the most were the ones where either by nature of the workshop or by personal commitment, I kept the webcam on and tried to focus on the speaker face, as if in trying to establish a personal connection. With a lack of stimuli from a real environment, it`s easy to seek new stimuli while on an online meeting by browsing the web or checking your emails: well, at least for me, it causes both a predictable deficiency of engagement and retention, as well as increased mental fatigue. Human beings are not meant to multitask. Trying comes at a price.

I also noticed a new pattern: while I`m not usually checking social media or emails more than a couple of times per day, the lack of physical interaction with my colleagues at work and fellow students at college, kept me going back over and over again, waiting for signs of life from the outside world… I`ve not yet mastered a strategy to overcome this, but I`m trying to use the Pomodoro technique and check Whatsapp or emails only during breaks. Plus I`ve started to plan in advance at least one online catchup with friends living far away every week, so that I always have a virtual meeting to look forward to.

Making the most of Encounters

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

The 15th and 16th November will bring about the next Encounters conference, which we as a Committee hope that you are all registered to attend! It is a fantastic opportunity to get the cohort together and facilitate crucial interdisciplinary networks which go on to gain a life of their own.

But if you’re a new CHASE student, how do you make the most of Encounters? It may seem overwhelming, being new and suddenly being in a room with all of these other funded students and wondering what to say. There’s often so many activities, how do you navigate those? And if you’re not a new student, how can you make sure you’re maximising the benefits you can reap from Encounters?

Volunteer to speak!

The time for this in terms of being on the programme may have passed, but talking about your research in the Encounters showcase is a great way to get your research out there, maybe practice a paper you’re working on to a friendly audience or to give insight to your research process as a whole. By presenting at Encounters, the attendees can see what you’re working on and how it overlaps with theirs. It makes for great break discussions as people will come up to you and start chats about your research and ask you insightful questions. But also you can volunteer to speak in the form of asking a question to a speaker, whether it’s a student or a keynote is a fantastic way to engage.

Don’t always think about choosing sessions relevant to your research!

Encounters is all about bringing the cohort together and seeing your research in a different way. So you don’t have to attend sessions because of your research topic, you can attend for interest, curiosity or even just fun with some of the social activities! There is no pressure to choose certain things or even to justify your choices. You may find the most productive conversations come from slightly outside your discipline, geographical area, methodology or chronological period.

Start new conversations and talk to new people!

Not everyone is a natural networker, but this is a crucial skill that Encounters can help you to nurture. Chat to the person sitting next to you, volunteer for sessions your friends might not be going to if that’s what you’re interested in and if you hear a conversation that sounds interesting going along next to you, feel free to join in! CHASE have been doing a Phriend scheme at Encounters since July, so if you’re signed up to that make the most of it. But even informally, everyone is friendly and happy to chat about their research, experiences and general perspectives.
Don’t panic, it will be fine!

The above may seem a little self-explanatory, but at my first Encounters I was worried so much about talking to new people and making a good impression and networking that I think in places I forgot to be myself. Remember why you love your research and are passionate about it, remember everyone is at different stages and works at their own pace. So try to leave the imposter syndrome at the door and enter Encounters a researcher who is passionate about their work, ready to engage with other students, the programme and the CHASE team.

Creating a Student-Led Group for CHASE: A Reflection

Jack Rutherford, PhD Film Studies, Student Committee Representative, University of Essex, jr18977@essex.ac.uk

This post will offer a review of the project of the CHASE Diversity group, from its early inception to its current nascent state. Last Autumn, I noted the varied CHASE Networks, such as the Feminist Network and SAVANT, that offered groups for those interested in feminist dialogues, or American visual art and text. However, there was an absence of network or group specifically for disabled students, which I felt could be addressed.

This post will offer an outline of the process that was undertaken to organise the Diversity group and will reflect on the last six months or so; from initial idea to the recent Diversity in Body and Mind workshop at the last CHASE Encounters, held at the University of Kent, Canterbury. In addition, this post will hope to promote discussion and feedback, a point of reference for those interested in the Diversity group, or for those setting up their own network within the CHASE consortium.

The Diversity group came to fruition from a proposal to the CHASE management team, at the University of Sussex. This meant emailing Rob Witts and Steve Colburn, who were very keen to promote a student-led group of this design. Also, I had recently received feedback from CHASE students, in my capacity as Student Committee representative for the University of Essex, with regard the introductory Encounters for CHASE’s 2018/19 intake. It was felt there were moves CHASE could make to be more inclusive and accessible for those with visible and invisible disabilities. I was given a slot to announce the formation of the Diversity in Body and Mind group at the next Encounters at the Barbican, London, in November 2018.

Partially due to getting lost (I still blame Google), and my own stage fright, the announcement was moved to the monthly CHASE Bulletin: this was an extremely useful platform for exposure, and two CHASE students, got back in touch. I had spoken to Effie Makepeace and Kate Meakin during the Barbican Encounters’ breakout sessions, who were keen for such a group and were vocal in support; both would lend their ideas over the coming months, and the Diversity group is as much theirs as my own. In fact, this is something I am keen to do: remove the notion of ‘ownership’ and democratise the group.

Effie and Kate’s feedback, as well as support from Ellis Spicer, Kate Docking and Matthew Jones from the Student Committee, was instrumental in getting over my own limitations to see the group come in to being. The first Diversity roundtable took place on the second day of the recent Encounters conference, at the University of Kent, on 12th and 13th July 2019.

I was initially dismayed at the low attendance to the workshop, but I was held in place by the presence of co-conspirator, Effie, and Steve had come along from the CHASE management team lending his support. We persevered and the talk progressed naturally.

The result was an extremely positive and fruitful discussion regards the purpose and direction of the Diversity group. We now have a plan in place to act in mediation between CHASE and the student cohort; to be fully trained coordinators, acting as a point of reference and guidance for CHASE students between and during Encounters’ conferences. This will take further work, training and engagement on the members of the Diversity group, but CHASE are committed to student development, and are constantly hoping to evolve and stretch the parameters of inclusivity within the consortium.

CfP: The New Museum Paradigm: Shifting Representations of Empire at Museums and Art Galleries in the UK

Abstract Deadline: 21st June 2019

Provisional Date of Symposium: September 20-21st 2019

Location: University of Sussex

Please E-mail abstracts to postcolonialheritage2019@gmail.com 

Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words. Please include a short bio of no more than 150 words, along with your university affiliation.

It is widely held that the chronological development of ‘universal’ museums and their collections imitate the contours of imperial history. In recent years, this claim has led many museums in Europe and across the world to reconfigure their focus, appearing as places more inclusive of cultural diversity, in an open desire to move away from their colonial roots.
In Britain, the beginnings of this phenomenon can be traced back to the late 1980s, when, fuelled by the discourse of multiculturalism, museums began to re-engage with histories and legacies of Empire, not least because communities that had come to Britain as citizens of Empire in large numbers in the late-1940s and 1950s, and their descendants, began to make demands for better representation both politically and culturally. More recently, the commemoration of the bi-centenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 2007, which occurred in a milieu of memory and museum booms, marked a turning point in how museums use memory to engage and negotiate the imperial past.

In this context, collections and their interpretative methodologies are being redefined, leading to re-readings of historical narratives and to the normalisation of curatorial settings appealing to emotions, which sometimes make use of artistic methodologies. Exhibition projects thereby become sites of formation of utopian narratives in which knowledge of the past can be used to shape better presents and futures. In this, museums have become increasingly reliant on external sources – such as artists or communities – to provide the critical work necessary to redefine narratives, interpretations and methodologies. This introduction of multiple perspectives through a collaborative process leads to museums incorporating memory and personal testimony to interpret the history and legacies of the empire from a subjective perspective. While the application of these new strategies have had mixed success, this represents an important epistemic shift away from the primacy of the curatorial voice and the object in creating visual, textual and aural representations of colonial history towards the opening up of the museological process which can be seen as part of decolonsing the museum and the art gallery.

We welcome papers concerned with this new museum paradigm as it relates to representations of empire, colonialism, and slavery; principally, when, how, and why have these shifts taken places across museums and art galleries in the UK? Additionally we are interested in themes on the politics of display and repatriation, museums and migration in a postcolonial age, innovative museum practices towards decolonial futures, museums and public ‘postcolonial’ discourse, Visitors and the postcolonial museum, exhibition and collection histories, museums, art and politics, the role of art in memory-oriented exhibitions, decolonizing collections, city/local museums and representations of Empire & colonialism and more.

For more information and details please see: https://phrg2019.home.blog/2019/05/09/cfp-the-new-museum-paradigm-shifting-representations-of-empire-at-museums-and-art-galleries-in-the-uk/


It gives me great pleasure to launch the CHASE Student Committee for Action and Communication’s Blog.

For more information about our Committee members and how to get involved, please see the ‘About Us’ Tabs. We are always seeking new members and ways to interact with CHASE funded students.

Our aims are to showcase the experiences of all CHASE students and present their views written in their own words on issues that matter to them. As well as the academic networking side of academia, we’re all doing a PhD and there’s lots we can learn from each other. We want the blog to be a dynamic display of the diversity of experiences and talent within CHASE, and to showcase all of the exciting happenings across the Consortium. The blog will be hosted on the CHASE website and will publish one post on the last Tuesday of each calendar month.

We are seeking CHASE-funded contributors who would be interested in getting involved in the following:


  • ‘A day in the life’ – a Q+A style post designed to represent the day to day experiences of PhD candidates across CHASE and how there is no ‘one size fits all’
  • ‘Getting to know you’ – in a similar style to above but a chance to introduce yourself and your research interests to the cohort and forge new links and networks.
  • Alumni/post viva and graduation Q+A – a chance to reflect on your PhD experience
  • Posts dealing with diversity in its most intersectional sense – this can revolve around events such as Black History Month, LGBT Month etc (but this is not essential).
  • Updates from the different CHASE groups that have been set up such as the Feminist Network, in order to foster a collaborative relationship.
  • Informal reviews of theatre shows, exhibitions or ‘things to do’ which might be of broad interest to students across CHASE.


It must be noted that the above is not a prescriptive list and we welcome submissions on a wide topic of themes, providing they meet with our style guide [link].

There is no fixed deadline for submissions. Please send your draft posts to chasesc233@gmail.com. If you are interested in our ‘getting to know you’, alumni Q+A or ‘a day in the life’ feature, please email us for the pre-set questions.