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Creative Research

Research Placements

Every year we host research placements as part of the TECHNE scheme. Techne supports outstanding students pursuing the ‘craft’ of research through innovative, interdisciplinary and creative approaches across the range of the arts and humanities.

Our Stories Are Woven

Rachel Holmes’ research is about the experience of exclusion. She compares the feeling of exclusion to dreaming, when we are between consciousness and unconsciousness but excluded from both. This dream state of being “in between” also describes our place in the natural environment. In society we develop fixed identities, in the natural environment we find that these identities no longer function and we become something else, something in between. The natural environment is the terrain of beings and events which are excluded from society: werewolves, fairies, elves, witches – ways of being and relating to others. By stepping into the wilderness, we step out of identity. 

The ‘Stories are Woven’ project aimed to map phenomena we don’t usually notice. Rachel engaged under represented groups on regular walks and then worked with them to create embroideries from the natural elements they particularly noticed. She worked with women from the Mubarak mosque in Tilford exploring Bourne Woods. Their completed hanging is currently on exhibition at Farnham Museum. Rachel repeated this activity with adults with learning disabilities at the Grange Centre exploring the beautiful surroundings in Bookham.


Jon Mason, professional storyteller investigated and retold stories of the Surrey landscape drawing on myth & folklore and working in collaboration with a community archaeologist. The stories reflect on how human activity has shaped and continues to shape the landscape, uncovering layers of Surrey’s history from as far back as the Stone Age, and looking to the future. Combining his research and performance skills, Jon is led ‘story walks’ and created a series of podcasts to enhance visitor’s experiences of the hills. 

‘We make sense of the experiences we have of the world around us by creating stories about it and sharing those with other people. Stories are all around us and a vital part of our culture. Through this placement I aim to give an insight into the relationship between human society, landscape and climate, with the potential for making positive changes to future behaviour.

Forest Listening

Liz K Miller explored the essential relationship between humans and trees in her Forest Listening project. She carried out two three month long placements. Liz recorded the sound of rain beneath the sandy forest floor at Blackheath Forest, and from this sonic data created a visualisation of this sound. Her interest is Green Water, the moisture that cycles through plants, and this art installation highlights the complexity and fragility of these essential ecosystems, re-connecting humans with our non-human companion species – the trees.

Her second residency was in the Limnerslease woodland at Watts Gallery where she created a journey through the trees with her sonic banners. Liz successfully engaged with audience here with an online Q&A in lockdown.

The Travelling Reading Room

Artist Amie Rai travelled across the Surrey Hills through 2018-19 communicating with visitors on their thoughts, memories and ideas about their local landscapes. As part of her research, she took tree root readings in each location she visited intrigued by the communication between trees. Her pop-up book structure created content as it moved location and ended at the Guildford Book Festival bearing the stories of people in the different sites.

Surrey Soundscapes

Writer Neal Cahoon explored a 5-mile section of the North Downs Way, between Chantry Woods, Guildford, and ‘Silent Pool’. He made regular walks and recordings along this beautiful stretch whilst developing the Surrey Soundscapes project.

Eight “listening posts” were installed along the trail bearing Neal’s intriguing writings inspired by each location. These wooden boards linked viewers to a website containing the site specific sound tracks that brought those captured sounds collected through different seasons to the forefront of the experience.  From the humming of thousands of wasps on Holmbury Hill to the underwater recordings at Silent Pool, they created a new way to experience the North Downs Way in the Surrey Hills.  


The Techne consortium comprises nine universities in London and the South-East (plus the RCA which is joining another DTP from 2019/20) and has almost 60 AHRC studentships to award each year across a range of arts and humanities disciplines.

For students Techne provides: 

  • An environment for students who wish to be intellectually innovative and experimental
  • Varied disciplinary and interdisciplinary training and networking opportunities
  • Collaborative engagement with Partners in the cultural and other sectors
  • Rigorous scholarly training and opportunities to develop skills in innovation, critical thinking, risk taking, creativity and communication that are valued in academic and work contexts