Humanities Day in York

This vibrant event brought tutors together from across the Humanities including history, family history, archaeology, art history, practical arts, creative writing, literature, languages and politics. Such diversity of tutors at the same event generated some interesting and lively conversations during the day.

The day provided an opportunity for tutors across the region to exchange ideas and find out what was happening elsewhere. There were also lots of interesting updates about what was happening in the region and how it might affect Humanities tutors including the ‘Out of the Box’ scheme, Voices of Conflict and the EmCett and SunCett research projects. Linda Croft introduced the ‘Out of the Box’ Scheme, explaining that it provided additional funding for class visits for groups that otherwise would be unable to participate in such activities. Liz McPherson then gave her experience as a WEA tutor who had used the funding to take her group of creative writers to the National Mining Museum near Wakefield. The group had produced a book of their creative writing inspired by the visit. Additionally, the group benefited in different ways including confidence and friendships. The scheme provides wonderful opportunities for all concerned and hopefully some more groups will be able to take advantage of it after the event. The Voices of Conflict project marks the centenary of World War One, and incorporates a wide range of course and activities. The report reflected on what had already happened in the region and the exciting prospects for the project on the horizon. Victoria Beauchamp and Nicola Thorpe gave an overview of their EmCett research about how do we effectively capture the impact that visits to cultural sites has on students; and Sarah Holland talked about the findings of her SunCett research into the impact of studying local history on mental health and wellbeing.

In addition, there were a series of workshops and short sessions engaging tutors with ideas and activities that related to the humanities. The morning sessions revolved around using the environment creatively, and included creative writing, line drawing, using maps and recording buildings. It was a great opportunity to try something new and think about how different curriculum areas could embrace the local environment in creative ways. In the afternoon, three short workshops explored ways in which to creatively record progress. Sarah Holland discussed how history, archaeology, writing and ESOL tutors and students had already effectively used the WEA Yorkshire and Humber Blog. Victoria and Nicola introduced a creative video that captured the thoughts and actions of groups of Digability students to showcase progress in a very visual format. Jackie Depelle combined family history and scrapbooking to demonstrate how this creative activity could be used to evidence progress.

A big thank you to everyone who organised the event, and especially to Linda Croft, Victoria Beauchamp and Nicola Thorpe for ensuring the day ran so smoothly.


“other ways to be doing archaeology”

My name is Hannah.
I studied Archaeology BSc at the University of Bradford, where I recently graduated. I first heard about WEA and the Inclusive Archaeology project at a community dig in Leeds, that was run by both WEA and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. The dig comprised of excavating an area of the front garden of the office of YAS in the Little Woodhouse area of Leeds. The dig ran over a weekend, and included different aspects of archaeological processing, such as the setting out of a grid square (for planning), two types of survey techniques (Earth Resistance and Magnetometer) and pre and post excavation workings (such as filling in context sheets and cleaning artefacts found). West Yorkshire Archaeological Service were also on hand to teach and explain. Bits of pot were found and the remains of an old garden path was found within one of the trenches. Students on the WEA Inclusive Archaeology Project took part in this dig.

On the last day of the dig I was told about the volunteering opportunities within WEA for helping teach Archaeology to adults, and that a new group was to be starting in a few months in Huddersfield if enough interest was shown. I was put into contact with the project officer who gave me details for the taster session where I met the tutor, Sarah Holland, and some of the people interested in taking the course.
The taster session went well and enough people showed an interest for the course to be able go ahead.

Since the course started I have supported the tutor and students both in the classroom and on visits. I have particularly enjoyed helping out in the activities and the discussions that were brought on by them – such as during an activity where cards with pictures of artefacts and other cards with pictures of their modern equivalents are shuffled around on a table. Pairs were then drawn, and comparisons/changes were discussed, and the question of ‘why’ came up and was then answered amongst themselves. I have also enjoyed meeting the learners, and being a learner myself learning about the history of Huddersfield.
The opportunity to volunteer on this WEA project has been beneficial because I had not thought of relating Archaeology with teaching. Being part of this project has given me a little experience with working with adults in a relaxed teaching environment, and has also made me realise that there are other ways to be doing ‘archaeology’.

The Story of Katie Purdy – volunteer on the Inclusive Archaeology Project

Volunteers are vital to the work the WEA does, and are involved in a variety of roles. This is the first post in a series that will introduce some of the many volunteers in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Katie Purdy tells her story of volunteering with the WEA:-

“I was in the first year of my Part Time Masters degree in European Prehistory at Sheffield University when Victoria Beauchamp and Nicola Thorpe came to the University to tell us about the project. I had studied Archaeology as my Undergraduate degree and have always wanted to train people and teach them about the subject. After the presentation I instantly knew the project was right for me and something I was eager to volunteer on. A few weeks later I went along to the taster session for the course at Burton Street and met the tutor, Sally who said she was happy for me to volunteer with the group. Over the next 10 weeks I came along and supported Sally’s teaching within the classroom as well as on a number of field trips. My most memorable and enjoyable of these was the one to Heeley City Farm in Sheffield where we got to build part of an Iron Age round house and really get muddy! The learners loved the experience and so did I! The best part of volunteering with the group was seeing the ways that the learners engaged with and enjoyed the different activities we did over the weeks. Despite having a  number of learning difficulties they all really seemed to understand and enjoy the course and learning about archaeology, which gave me a great sense of happiness and pride.

I loved volunteering on the first course and couldn’t wait to volunteer with the next Sheffield group. In March 2013 I began volunteering with an Occupational Therapy group based in Sheffield on another Introduction to Archaeology course. This course was structured slightly differently, with the first 7 week course being classroom based in the local library and the second 7 weeks course being spent in the field surveying a local area for potential archaeology. I loved being able to have discussions with the learners from this group about local heritage as a number of them had grown up in the local area and were surprised at the amount of archaeology right on their doorstep. Many of them enjoyed the initial course so much they are looking to volunteer on some local projects during summer 2013. Helping them to understand and explore their local history and archaeology in the area and seeing the enjoyment and satisfaction the learners took from the course gives me a great sense of pride and happiness to share my passion for Archaeology with them!

I also recently had the opportunity to help plan and deliver a workshop for volunteers and members of the public for the WEA Volunteers Day in York. I loved planning the activities and being able to share my passion for Archaeology and experiences of volunteering with other volunteers from the WEA as well as members of the local community. I designed a timeline of York and asked people to place pictures of objects and places from in and around York where in time they thought they dated from. This was a great experience because I was able to discuss the archaeology of York with people, many of whom didn’t know objects had come from York! Again I really enjoyed the experience of being able to share my knowledge and passion for a subject so many people are interested in.

I have loved every minute of volunteering with the Digability project and I am hoping to continue volunteering with the WEA in the future. I am also hoping to complete my PTTLs qualification in the autumn and go on to tutor either on the project or with the WEA in the future.  Volunteering with the WEA on the Digability project has allowed me to develop myself professionally and gain valuable skills I hope to develop further in the future and begin teaching my own lessons. The project has allowed me not only to use the skills and knowledge I gained during my degree but also give something back to groups in my local community. Archaeology is such a public and social subject that evokes interest and emotion from almost everyone I speak with about it. The Inclusive Archaeology Education project allows for people who perhaps would have more limited access to the subject to learn, participate in and ultimately enjoy archaeology!”

Volunteering with the WEA has certainly had a positive impact on Katie, who has able to contribute to and benefit from the experiences she has had so far.

If you are interested in reading more about the WEA Inclusive Archaeology Project then visit the website (, where you can find out what different groups of budding archaeologists have been doing on the course throughout the region.

It would be great to hear from other volunteers, and from tutors and students, about the role of volunteering in the WEA.

A Day in the Life…Sarah Holland

The whole concept of a blog for WEA tutors in the Yorkshire and Humber region originated from an idea I had about tutors sharing their experiences in a day in the life style blog. After all, a day in the life of a WEA tutor is rich and varied, and certainly never boring! After sharing the initial idea with Sheila Smith, organiser for the Doncaster area, the seeds were sown for what is already an engaging forum for tutors and students. I hope this ‘A Day in the Life….’ post is the first of many to reflect the diversity of opportunities and experiences of teaching with the WEA.

Choosing a day is of course the difficult part. In a week that saw the final meeting of the Rural Rides course based around my doctoral research, the Milton Court Place Detective group visiting places and ‘blogging’ about their experiences, and much much more including visiting the Chelsea Flower Show in its 100th year, the day in question was one that celebrated achievements.

Thursday 23 May 2013 was the culmination of the WEA Digability archaeological project with the Milton Court group (mental health service users) in Doncaster. After 40 hours of archaeological engagement, the students were able to celebrate their achievements with friends and family at Doncaster Museum. They were thrilled to receive their certificates from the new Deputy Mayor, Councillor Glyn Jones, and have all their hard work and achievements recognised.

Some of the Milton Court archaeologists with their certificates and the Deputy Mayor

Some of the Milton Court archaeologists with their certificates and the Deputy Mayor

Teaching this course has been interesting and rewarding. It was wonderful to hear the students recalling their experiences and sharing the knowledge they had acquired. The course was not just about archaeology, it had been about increasing confidence, broadening horizons and engaging with the local community. The WEA archaeology project enriches lives, and has had a positive effect on the health and well being of these students.

The celebration had been enjoyed by everyone and was a wonderful way to end the course. Hot on the heals of the project drawing to a close at Milton Court, I will be embarking upon the archaeology project with a new group in Huddersfield. The WEA will be working with S2R, a mental health charity in Kirklees, and investigating the archaeology of the Huddersfield area. Through my connections with the charity, I was invited by S2R’s art gallery to attend the Huddersfield Examiner’s Community Awards that evening. The Packhorse Art Gallery was nominated and shortlisted for its commitment to reducing the stigma and isolation often experienced by people suffering mental health problems.

The event was an opportunity to build upon the connections being forged between the two organisations. Amidst the excitement of the evening, there were many poignant reminders of how important strong communities are. As a WEA tutor I have many experiences of how the WEA has developed and strengthened communities through educational opportunities that in turn have impacted upon people and places in far reaching ways. Education with a social purpose, a notion that the WEA promotes throughout its educational provision including the archaeology project has many parallels with the ethos of the evening’s awards. The gallery won the category they had been nominated for, which was a wonderful way for me to round off a day of achievements and to look forward to working with the new intake of budding archaeologists from S2R.

To read more about the WEA archaeology project, visit