Conference stories: Art of Management and Organisation (AoMO)

By Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas

At the beginning of September 2016, I travelled with three other members of BCU staff: Dr Geof Hill, Tracey Cutler and Dr Martin Eley, to the IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia, to attend the 8th Art of Management and Organisation conference. The conference describes itself as a vibrant global community of praxis – including both scholars and practitioners and the 2016 conference theme “Empowering the intangible” required delegates to seek out novel ways of exploring, feeling and expressing aspects of management, leadership and daily organisational life through the arts.  Dr Geof Hill (HELS) was co-convenor with Dr Cathryn Lloyd of one of seven conference streams (Making the Intangible Tangible, focusing on stories as a process of organisational and management enquiry.

This is my story of AoMO … (with contributions from Geof, Tracey and Martin).


A full day of travel, from Sheffield to Bled (via a three hour wait in Vienna) gives me plenty of time to anticipate what’s ahead.  I’m an educational/social geography researcher, a stranger to the academic disciplines of business and management.  I’m also a poet, but I have little experience of using arts-based methodologies in academic research.  So I’m intrigued by the prospect of being among those whose identities as artists are inextricably bound up in their academic enquiry.  I’m looking forward to a rare opportunity to talk to other practitioners of dérive, a ‘walking methodology’ that I adapted and used in my own doctoral research.



A day for acclimatising: – to late summer temperatures in the unexpectedly high twenties; to a conference venue with a view – IEDC looks out to the stunning Lake Bled and surrounding mountains; to the culture of AoMO – international, multi-disciplinary, creative.  AoMO 2016 is a conference, but not as I know it!  There is an AoMO artist in residence – Emmanuel Guy, a French Canadian management academic – and woodworker.  Emmanuel will create a chair from locally sourced wood (ash) during the conference.  Instead of conference packs, packets of coloured plasticine are placed on every chair and delegates encouraged to create something with it while listening to the opening keynotes.  On Thursday afternoon Geof and Tracey participate in a Dance and Leadership workshop– sadly no photos are available!  Geof is getting ready for running his conference stream tomorrow.  He tells me: ‘This is a big stream, it’s been a struggle to put it all together.  The thing about conferences is that people are usually there for themselves, not really caring about others, but if a stream is strong enough, you can win them over to “the conversation” and they’ll see the value of being part of something more communal.’

On Thursday evening, the 140 delegates are driven to Radovljica, a Slovenian town with a medieval core, six km from Bled.  Our seats are interspersed with the orchestra’s to experience Beethoven’s Violin Concerto Op 61 through virtuoso violinist Miha Pognačik’s technique of ‘performance disruption’.  A thunderstorm rumbles overhead and it briefly pours with rain.  We emerge, hungry,  into the town square two hours later!


The Story stream starts promptly at 9am – Geof proves to be a demon timekeeper!   I present mid-morning, on Organisational Cartographies, based on my doctoral research.  The air of creativity and experimentation with method must be starting to rub off on me – I experiment with moving around the room as I tell my research story and I’m more aware of the visual and tactile nature of my research materials.  I’m pleased with how it goes and the questions afterwards.  Later sessions in the stream tackle body maps, different kinds of narratives, blues and jazz …!  It’s a full day – I catch a brief glimpse of the lake through the trees during a coffee break!  It’s refreshing that participants in all the sessions I attend are fully engaged.  No one has a laptop or phone on their desk, no one is tweeting, Googling or checking their mail, which tends to happen at most of the conferences I attend.

My own adventure with practice continues in the evening when I drag myself away from a pleasant supper with my BCU colleagues to brave the AoMO 2016 Poetry Slam where I perform a couple of my poems.  It’s an initially terrifying but ultimately rewarding experience won by an astonishing performance poet from the US.  Somehow I come a distant second and am delighted (even more so when I learn I’ve won a T-shirt!).



Tracey and Martin’s turn to present today.  Tracey presents her early doctoral research on stories within CPD using the PechaKucha method – the art of concise presentation.  She shows twenty images, each for twenty seconds, talking along to the images as they advance automatically.  ‘It was a brain rush!  I’d use it again as a presentation method, but I’d do it differently,’ she says afterwards, pleased with how her work was received.  ‘People are really into the stream, willing to share experiences and ideas.’  Martin’s conducts live research on whether and how stories catalyse changes in management practice.  Afterwards he is delighted.  ‘Brilliant!  People wanted to get involved.’  I ask him how he’s finding the conference.  ‘It’s different!  I’m from a traditional management background, a scientific approach to management.  To have that intermixed with the art of management is … really dynamic.’  His favourite moment of the conference so far has been the blues and jazz session.  ‘It is meaningful in an organisational context, it made me think again, it jolted my mindset.’

By the end of Saturday, Geof is delighted with how the stream has gone.  ‘We’ve had seven strong streams at the conference, but the Story stream seems to have drawn people in.  It’s gone even better than I imagined.  And coming as a group with BCU colleagues has been a new step for me.  I feel a sense of pride because we’re delivering in a way that says: this is BCU, we’re creative, we’re out there … I think we’re excellent ambassadors for BCU here.  Then there are the personal relationships with colleagues – so I feel both a professional and personal pride.  I celebrate what each of you – my colleagues – are doing, so that’s exciting!’


The last day of the conference.  Workshops continue through the morning and I participate in a lively discussion of dérive as a methodology and assessment tool and share ideas and references with academics from Iceland, France and Australia.   At the final plenary Emmanuel Guy’s ‘chair’ is unveiled – unfinished but clearly a chair!  The conference host, IEDC Director Danica Purg, thanks the organisers, the administrators, the caterers as well as the delegates.  We are treated to the Bled speciality cream cake (kremsnita) and Slovenian wine before all we go our separate ways.


I repeat the long journey across Europe in reverse, travelling from Ljubliana’s tiny airport with its flights to Moscow and Warsaw, via the vast transportation hub of Frankfurt airport, to Heathrow.  Again, I have plenty of time to think.  I reflect that there are real benefits in following one conference stream throughout, becoming involved in ‘the conversation’.  And I’ve really enjoyed   attending AoMO with BCU colleagues from across the university, getting to know people outside of our usual environment and providing mutual support.   Most of all, conferences provide thinking time, too rare in our daily routines but always enriching for our work at BCU.

CEBE Research Spotlight – 13 September

CEBE research spotlight returns!

Tuesday 13 September, 1pm-2pm, MP490

Presentation by Louis Durrant (Centre for Resilient Environments)

These sessions are informal meetings of postgraduate research students where a presenter will discuss their experiences as a research student, their current research, challenges they are currently facing, and give away some tips as to how to succeed as a research student. There will be lots of opportunities to ask questions, discuss etc. – these are informal sessions which give you the chance to share experiences. For those who are less confident, these sessions are great opportunities to practice speaking in front of an audience.

Please contact Ian McDonald for further information.

CEBE research seminar – 28 September

CEBE Faculty new staff research seminar

Wednesday 28 September, 12.00-1.30pm, MP203, Millennium Point

With Dr Franco Cheung (Centre for Integrated Design & Construction)

Dr Franco Cheung’s seminar will explain the work he has done in the recently completed research project, Collaborative BIM-enabled learning platform for low impact schools, funded by InnovateUK. He will explain the background of pre-designed school market and how the application of BIM in pre-designed schools improves the model development process, the services and products including the development of an energy usage comparator tool to give feedback for actual energy use.

For more information and to book your place please contact Ian McDonald.

Call for papers: Cine-excess 10th annual conference at Birmingham City University

The 10th International Conference and Festival on Global Cult Film Traditions: Cine Excess X

Cult Genres, Traditions and Bodies: A Decade of Excess

The Big Screen (Birmingham City University)

10th-12th November 2016

Call for Papers

Over the last 10 years, the Cine-Excess International Film Conference and Festival has brought together leading scholars and critics with global cult filmmakers for an event comprising a themed academic conference with plenary talks, filmmaker interviews and UK theatrical premieres of up and coming film releases.

Previous guests of honour attending Cine-Excess have included Catherine Breillat (Romance, Sex is Comedy), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers), Roger Corman (The Masque of the Red Death, The Wild Angels), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, King of the Ants), Brian Yuzna (Society, The Dentist), Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria) Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins), Franco Nero (Django, Keoma, Die Hard II), Vanessa Redgrave (Blow Up, The Devils), Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) Enzo G. Castellari (Keoma, The Inglorious Bast***s), Sergio Martino (Torso, All the Colours of the Dark), Jeff Lieberman (Squirm, Blue Sunshine) and Pat Mills (Action Magazine, 2000 AD).

Cine-Excess X is hosted by the Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University, and will feature a three day academic conference alongside film industry panels and a season of related UK premieres and retrospectives taking place at screening venues across the region.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the conference Cult Genres, Traditions and Bodies: A Decade of Excess reconsiders some of the key debates around cult film genres, traditions and modes of representation that have influenced the development of the annual Cine-Excess event over the past decade. At the same time, the event looks forward to the future development of cult film studies by dissecting new perspectives that are now dominating this area of study.

In their early influential studies of ‘outlaw’ film formats such as the slasher cycle, melodrama narrative and ‘skin flick’, theorists such as Carol J. Clover and Linda Williams identified a cinematic and sensory response to excess, which linked unwieldy film genres to unruly representations of the human body and even more unconventional reactions from their subcultural audiences.  While such studies proved pivotal in identifying the potentially subversive features of key cult film cycles, more recent accounts have expanded this scope of analysis to consider a far wider range of global film formats, whilst also assessing the stylistic, performative and representational strategies that come to dominate such startling visions. The explosion of interest in graphic comics, transmedia and online platforms has further extended the theoretical interest in cult genres, traditions and bodies, by widening the scope of enquiry beyond the cinematic medium to other areas of activity which warrant further investigation.

In order to explore these themes further, Cine-Excess X will consider a wide variety of cult media creations including key case-studies of cult activity from film, television, literature, comics and digital media.  A number of international filmmakers associated with key cult genres will be in attendance at Cine-Excess X to discuss their work and interact with academic speakers.

Proposals are now invited for papers on a wide range of cult film genres, traditions and strategies of representation. However, we would particularly welcome contributions focusing on:

  • Cult visionaries: contemporary creativity at cinema’s extreme edge
  • Grossed-out and top grossing: cult comedies of excess
  • New case-studies of classic cult and ‘exploitation’ auteurs
  • High art and low taste: case-studies in extreme experimentation
  • From national borders to new territories: global traditions of the cult image
  • From AIP to The Asylum: case-studies of cult production studios
  • I know what you starred in last summer: the cult of bad acting
  • Realm of the senses: cult renditions of sensory affect
  • Revered and ruined: case-studies of the cult biography
  • Small screen scares: Netflix, Amazon and new platforms for terror 
  • From the burlesque to the brutal: cult interpretations of exotic performance
  • Consuming excess: new perspectives on cult audiences
  • The good, the bad and the forbidden: cult representations of taboo
  • Transmedia excess: cult narratives and contemporary platforms
  • Scored: soundtracks and compositions to the cult film canon 
  • Subcultures on two wheels: from Hells Angels flicks to the Sons of Anarchy series
  • From slasher and sexploitation to cult noir: transgressive femininities on screen
  • Crash and burn cults: Hollywood flops reborn
  • The men and women from Hong Kong: new studies of kung fu performativity
  • Superheroes, sidekicks and subversives: the graphic face of the cult comic book
  • Corporeal excess: new readings of the cult body

Please send a 300-word abstract and a short (one page) C.V. by Friday 9th September 2016 to:

Xavier Mendik, Birmingham City University

Fran Pheasant-Kelly, University of Wolverhampton,

Glenn Ward, University of Brighton,

A final listing of accepted presentations will be released on Friday 16th September 2016.


A selection of conference papers from the event are scheduled to be published in the Cine-Excess peer reviewed e-Journal.  For further information and regular updates on the event (including information on guests, keynotes and screenings) please visit

CEBE Research Seminars – presentations by visitors from Kazan Federal University

From Tuesday 23 August our CEBE faculty are hosting four research seminars in four days featuring speakers from Kazan Federal University. The topics are as follows:

Tuesday 23 August, Dr Max Talanov: Affective Computation Part 1

Wednesday 24 August, Dr Alexander Toschev: Marvin Minsky approach in Artificial Intelligence and its application in the IT Software Maintenance Domain.

Thursday 25 August, Dr Max Talanov: Affective Computation Part 2

Friday 26 August, Dr Alexander Toschev: Advances in Key Enterprise Systems Design.

For more information contact Ian McDonald.

Two Exchange Collaborative Projects awarded to researchers

The round two recipients of The Culture Capital Exchange’s Collaborative Research Awards have been announced, and there are two winners from Birmingham City University.

Jacqueline Taylor and Jacob Salder have each won funding of £5000 to pursue a research project in collaboration with industry partners.

If you are interesting in applying for Round 3 visit the Exchange Website.

Project details

Project name: Rearrangements

Director: Caroline Horton

Academic partner: Dr Jacqueline Taylor, Birmingham City University

Caroline Horton is a theatre maker, writer and performer, an associate at Birmingham Rep and BBC Birmingham Writer in Residence.

Caroline’s research partner is Dr Jacqueline Taylor, Birmingham City University, whose research critically examines relations between visual art, poetics and philosophy with a particular focus on the textual concept and practice of l’écriture féminine.

Their collaborative research project ‘is a critical, practical and creative interrogation of narrative, form and structure and how this affects meaning-making when encountering/interpreting artistic practice. ‘Rearrangements’ opens up a site of exchange between Caroline’s expertise as a theatre-maker who experiments with form in her work and Jacqueline’s academic specialism of l’écriture féminine, which proposes alternative linguistic structures, narratives and forms to create ‘other’ languages.

Project name: The creative business – enhancing business practices in arts-based creative industries

Director: Antonia Beck

Academic Partner: Jacob Salder, Birmingham City University

Antonia Beck is an independent artist and creative producer specialising in performance-based work that spans theatre, live literature, outdoor arts, live art and other interdisciplinary performance practices.

Antonia’s research partner, Jacob Salder, Birmingham City University, is an economic geographer and economic development specialist through qualification and experience. He has spent a number of years researching different sectors, including the Creative Industries, in various Economic Development roles for local and regional government.

Their collaborative research project ‘The Creative Business – Enhancing business practice in the arts-based creative industries’ will look at business practice in this sector, focusing on arts / performance-based creative industries (ABCIs) and examine this against orthodox understandings. They will consider how applicable these understandings are to ABCIs and how they can be refined to support business development in this sector. The project will produce key outputs in the shape of intensive guidance for a set of ABCIs alongside creating an analysis and support framework specific to this sub-sector, enabling creatives to develop their businesses.

Full STEAM Ahead? The Creative Economy and Higher Education – 13 July

Parkside lecture theatre, 7pm-9pm, Wednesday 13 July. Drinks at 6.30pm

Register on Eventbrite

Supported by Creative Advantage Fund and Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research

Full STEAM Ahead?  The Creative Economy and Higher Education

What are relations like between the creative economy and universities in the Midlands? What expectations do businesses, creatives, educators and students have of each other for innovation, work and reward in exchanges between them and their collaborations? What are the opportunities or impediments for exchange and for sustaining and growing the creative sector?

This symposium brings together a range of individuals representing experience in the creative sector and HE to discuss some of these questions in light of current issues and challenges for the economy, society and culture of the Midlands.

Discussants include: Thomas Dillon (CAF); Professor David Roberts (Pro Vice Chancellor Executive Dean of Art, Design and Media); Rebbecca Hemmings (Strawberry Words); Suriya Roberts-Grey (cultural entrepreneur); Matt Davidson (CAF Prizewinner); Amahra Spence (founder of MAIA Creatives). Chair: Professor Paul Long, BCMCR.

This event is supported by the Creative Advantage Fund (CAF).

The founding of CAF in 2000 was the first step in the UK’s experiment with venture capital as a funding mechanism for cultural production, reflecting a new approach in government to what became known as the “creative industries”, defined as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS, 1998). Despite success stories, the conditions under which policy goals can be achieved through the interaction of cultural practitioners and commercially-oriented finance remain uncertain.

The event will also see the announcement of the winner of the 2016 CAF-BCU Prize. 

The CAF-BCU Prize of £500 is awarded for the best dissertation on the creative industries submitted for degree purposes by a student at BCU.

All welcome. Register on Eventbrite.

Conservatoire researcher’s grant win featured in Times Higher

Professor Deborah Mawer of Birmingham Conservatoire has been featured in the Grant Winners section of the Times Higher Education for her successful bid for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant.

The grant, worth £461,583, is to lead a three-year project: ‘Accenting the Classics: Durand’s Édition classique (c. 1915-25) as a French Prism on the Musical Past’, in collaboration with Graham Sadler (Birmingham Conservatoire), Barbara L. Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music) and Rachel Moore (University of Oxford). This project will blend analytical, cultural and historical musicology with music performance to investigate the nature of the varying ‘French accent’ (Ravel’s ‘accent singulier’) given to earlier European piano music (the ‘Classics’) within Durand’s multi-volume edition, on the occasion of its centenary. The repertoire comprises music by well-known and since-forgotten composers, which was edited by well- and lesser-known early twentieth-century French composers, together with musicologists and teachers at the Paris Conservatoire.

Investigation will start with detailed analytical case studies of edited music. An initial group will include Ravel (editing Mendelssohn) and Debussy (Chopin); Emmanuel, Garban and Roger-Ducasse (Bach and Burgundian folksongs); balanced by music of the eighteenth-century French harpsichordists, including Couperin (edited by Tiersot) and Rameau (Diémer). Secondly, using blended archival, historical and interpretative skills, assessment of the role and wider cultural network of the Édition classique will offer new insights into early twentieth-century French cultural identity (for example, incipient neoclassicism); relations with twentieth-century French composers’ own music; canonic issues; Conservatoire pedagogy; wartime publishing, in the context of editions by Henry Expert, Saint-Saëns and Heugel. The project will also embrace how today’s users – students, scholars, musicians and the wider public – can benefit from (test out and inflect) this knowledge, including alternative interpretations for pianists and the promotion of ‘lost’ repertoire. ‘Accenting the Classics’ will run from summer 2016-2019.

BCU Network for Research on Gender – 19 May

Thursday 19 May, 3pm-5pm, C003 (Curzon Building)

The first seminar by the BCU Network for Research on Gender features a paper by Dr Annette Naudin and Karen Patel, both from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. Their paper is titled: 

Entangled expertise: Women’s use of social media in entrepreneurial work.

If you wish to attend, please register here.


This paper addresses issues of identity and professionalism for female cultural entrepreneurs by drawing on the online activities of a small group of women. We investigate the construction of professional identities as expressed through social media activities, in this case, we focus on twitter as a key platform for cultural workers. Our key question is: How do women cultural entrepreneurs use online platforms to perform expertise? We draw on contemporary feminist debates (Gill, 2002, 2007; McRobbie, 2004, 2015) to evaluate the presentation of women’s expertise in public spaces such as Twitter. Social media platforms are important to self-employed cultural workers as a means of reaching markets and promoting the entrepreneur’s brand identity, but beyond self-enhancement, how are notions of expertise negotiated by individual cultural entrepreneurs and how does this relate to gender and work? Given the well documented gender and ethnic inequalities in cultural and creative industry work (Oakley, 2014; Gill, 2002), what does the social media content generated by individual women tell us about the nature of professional female identities within neoliberal economies?

Speaker bios

Dr Annette Naudin

Annette Naudin is senior lecturer in media and cultural entrepreneurship and is an Enterprise Education fellow of the National Centre for Graduate Entrepreneurship. She has run creative enterprise conferences, published and presented on the subject. Annette is a member of the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. Annette completed her PhD (2015) at the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, at the University of Warwick, exploring the cultural and media worker’s experience of entrepreneurship.

Karen Patel

Karen Patel is a second year postgraduate researcher in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. Her PhD is funded by the AHRC Midlands 3 Cities scheme and her supervisors are Professor Paul Long (BCU) and Professor Mark Banks (Leicester). For her PhD she is looking at the social media use of artists, particularly how artists perform expertise on social media, and the role of social media in cultural labour.

BCU researcher to reveal secrets of songwriting in BBC World Service documentary

On Saturday May 7th, Dr Simon Barber, a research fellow in the School of Media, will present an hour-long BBC World Service radio documentary called The Secrets of Songwriting along with his colleague Brian O’Connor. Together, the pair make up the Liverpool-based songwriting team Sodajerker.

Dr Simon Barber (left) and

Dr Simon Barber (left) and Brian O’Connor

The BBC programme derives from the duo’s hugely popular podcast, Sodajerker On Songwriting, featuring some of the world’s most renowned songwriters talking about their working processes and sharing the stories behind their biggest hits.

The show will include contributions from a range of guests heard on the Sodajerker podcast such as Motown legend Lamont Dozier, Brill Building-era hitmakers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Andy Partridge of XTC and singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading.

Dr Simon Barber said, “We were thrilled when the BBC approached us to create this programme. The documentary is a fantastic opportunity for us to share our insights into songwriting with their worldwide audience.”

The Secrets of Songwriting is scheduled for broadcast in most parts of the world via digital radio on Saturday May 7, 2016 at 13.06 (14.06 in the UK because of daylight saving) and streaming online via the BBC website. It will also be made available thereafter as a BBC World Service podcast.