Spirited Stoke: Spiritualism in the Everyday Life of Stoke-on-Trent (SpELS)

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Health & Social Care

Abstract

'Spiritualism in the Everyday Life of Stoke-on-Trent' (SpELS) is a research project looking at how spirit and Spiritualism are acknowledged or hidden in the city of Stoke ('Stoke' is the popular collective name used for the six towns which make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent: Longton, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Stoke and Tunstall).

Spiritualism is a philosophy and religion based on the belief that the soul continues to live following the death of the physical body and that communication with spirit is possible through the channel of trained mediums. It has often been assumed that Spiritualism is a religion of the past, however, from the latest Census numbers and the on-going presence of Spiritualist churches in Britain, there is no doubt that Spiritualism is still being practised today.

As a city that has been attempting to renew its identity following industrial decline, Stoke has mainly focused on plans to regenerate its built environment and heighten its pottery heritage. However, the city has struggled to change the perception of its ultimate ordinariness. Yet, we feel that there is more that Stoke has to offer than its industrial past. For instance, few are aware that there are three very active Spiritualist churches within a seven mile radius, and one of them was the home to Gordon Higginson, the longest serving President of the Spiritualist National Union. As the city's industries were declining, Stoke was also the national hub of a thriving Spiritualist movement. We believe that this hidden legacy reveals a mysterious and enchanted side to Stoke that has been overshadowed by its industrial heritage.

The SpELS research project aims to uncover the hidden Spiritualist past of Stoke by bringing together the city, museums, and members of the Spiritualist churches in conversation. To do this, the project will feature an exhibition at the Gladstone Pottery Museum and link it with 'spirit trails' that will run to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery's permanent collection as well as through the city - highlighting places that feature spirit in their histories. Members of the public will also have the opportunity to attend events and mediumship demonstrations, and share their own spiritual experiences. We hope that this will encourage people to reflect upon the role of spirit in their lives and give visibility to experiences that are often considered taboo.

Planned Impact

The SpELS research project seeks to have an impact in the local community of Stoke-on-Trent, targeting local museums and the Spiritualist community in particular, as well as more broadly influencing debates on religion in society, curatorial practices and urban transformation. Its benefits will flow from four key impact activities:

1. Exhibitions, Trails and Events: We will engage with practicing Spiritualists, curators and artists to show how spiritual worlds can be reflected through the Gladstone Pottery Museum (GPM) exhibition. A series of trails will be developed that will link spiritual histories with everyday objects from the GPM and the Pottery Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG) permanent collections. These ways of exploring how to exhibit spirit would benefit both participants and also museum curators. We will expand the spirit trails to places in the city by highlight everyday places and spaces that have a spiritual connection. This will draw attention to ordinary buildings and houses to bring out a new layer of history that may be unknown to Stoke's citizens. The trails linking the city with the museums would give the impression that Stoke is an open-air museum unravelling a hidden heritage. In addition, we anticipate a series of events, such as mediumship demonstrations and open days at Spiritualist churches that would demystify Spiritualism and create a welcoming atmosphere for those who have always been curious to discuss it in a non-prejudiced environment.

2. Non-academic Dissemination: There will be a project launch in Stoke, as well as an exhibition and trails launch at the GPM where local press and radio will be invited to attend. The project seeks to reach out to spiritual practitioners within and beyond the Spiritualist community in Stoke, including the wider Spiritualist community and other end users with an interest in spirit. Information sheets summarising the findings will be produced and opportunities will be developed to engage with the Spiritualist National Union to share the project's findings with the national Spiritualist community. The project website will be used to present images and commentary, working papers and a blog written by team members and participants, with a facility for comment and feedback. A series of podcasts will document key stages in the research process, and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Storify accounts will be established to share findings and obtain comments from the wider spiritual community. We anticipate publishing an article on the project in the popular and respected spiritual magazine 'Kindred Spirit'.

3. Academic dissemination: The intention is to publish papers in a variety of academic journals. Papers will be given at relevant academic conferences, such as the Royal Geographical Society and the British Sociological Association and at a workshop hosted at The Open University towards the latter part of the project timetable. We envisage a book in the RGS/IBG book series: 'Spirited Stoke: Spiritualism and everyday encounters with spirit', which draws on materials gathered before, during and after the trails have taken place.

4. Collaboration and Archival Repository: The project is based on collaboration with the museums, the churches and practitioners to uncover a 'spirited history' of Stoke. Establishing the history of the Spiritualist churches involves gathering existing documentation and conducting in-depth interviews with members. The aim is to help the three churches create a repository of their local history. Photo diaries will be used for participants to capture their encounters with the church and with spirit in their wider lives to build up a visual record of their everyday encounters with spirit. The process will capture both individual experiences, through the diaries and photographs, and also a collectively negotiated experience of Spiritualism constructed during a subsequent sharing and discussion of images and reflections.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title PMAG Photographic exhibition 
Description Exhibition of a selection of portraits from the project were invited to be inlcuded alongside The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Broadening the audience across Stoke-on-Trent. 
 
Title Photographic Exhibition 
Description A photographic exhibition was produced by artist Daniele Sambo that took place at the old Fenton Library in Stoke-on-Trent. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact While the exhibition drew visitors to the photographs, some visitors entered the premises simply to have the opportunity to see the interior of the old Fenton Library, a 1906 building that has been shut down by the Council since 2011. 
URL http://www.b-arts.org.uk/former-fenton-library-hosts-photographic-exhibition/
 
Title TWTD Exhibition (Stoke-on-Trent) 
Description The Talking With The Dead exhibition ran between 1 September and 14 November 2015 at the Gladstone Pottery Museum, Stoke-on-Trent. The exhibition was organised around the theme of the Living Room, but also involved a panel, a trail map and a catalogue, as well as interactive opportunities for people to get involved. Built around stories, objects and photographs from Spiritualist church attendees, the exhibition explored the question of what the world would look and feel like if we could communicate with loved ones who had passed on. Visitors were invited to reflect on their own spiritual beliefs and everyday experiences and a series of activities were hosted by the museum in conjunction with the exhibition. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Audience engagement report (produced by Gladstone Pottery Museum): The SpELS exhibition Talking with the Dead at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, was supported by a number of public events: two mediumship demonstrations, two healing demonstrations and two demonstrations of spirit art. There was also an opening to which local Spiritualists who had contributed towards the exhibition were invited. Several of these attended some or all of the public events. They were generally very supportive of the exhibition and associated events, publicising them among friends and fellow Spiritualists. The first mediumship demonstration, on Saturday 5th September, featured Gerard Smith, a well-known and highly respected medium from the Spiritualist church. More than forty people attended. Many of them were members of local Spiritualist churches and most had attended a mediumship demonstration before. They were all aware of Gerard and his reputation and some of them had seen him before. Gerard was a confident and convincing speaker. Audience members recognised most of the spirits communicating through him and felt that some of his messages were significant. They seemed to derive comfort and reassurance, not only from the messages but from Gerard's manner. The healing days were not so well attended even though they were held on Saturday afternoons. This might be because the healers, Hazel and Terry, offer free healing sessions locally anyway. About twenty people attended each session and most of those underwent healing. In fact there would not have been time to heal any more people so the figures are, relatively speaking, not particularly low. The healing seemed to produce feelings of intense relaxation rather than wildly dramatic cures. Some "patients" were regulars with chronic conditions or members of the local Spiritualist churches. At least three were casual visitors to the museum who had no previous experience of Spiritualism. Numbers were lower for the spirit art sessions, conducted by Ann Bridge Davies. About a dozen people attended each one; apparently the day of the week did not affect attendance. Not all of Ann's portraits were recognised but those audience members who did recognise portraits or messages found the experience quite emotional. The final major event was the demonstration of mediumship by Darren Brittain, a well-known commercial medium, held on the evening of Wednesday October 21st. This was the only event for which an attendance fee was charged (£3). 52 people booked places. All except one of the audience had been to a mediumship demonstration before. A few had been to previous events but most members of local congregations who had been to the other events did not attend. Darren's performance was most entertaining and lots of people received messages. All these events were well received by the audiences, and the demonstrators also felt they had been worthwhile. Local Spiritualists supported each other's events and many of the smaller events were attended by the same visitors. Two children's craft days were held, making spirit mobiles. On Saturday 17th October only two children took part. This extremely dismal tally was mainly because it was a very quiet day and few children were in the museum. Our original intention had been to offer a choice between making a spirit mobile and drawing a picture of a spirit guide. The spirit guide pictures were to be displayed, physically at Gladstone and also on social media, so that people could vote for their favourite whose artist would win a small prize. Unfortunately we only had one entrant (Josh's blue cat called Marmite). Some parents were unnerved by the expression "spirit guide", and even the less controversial "guardian angel" failed to inspire much enthusiasm. However the day was not a write-off as many adults came in for a sit-down or to watch videos about the pottery industry, and I was able to chat to them about the Talking to the Dead exhibition (or other museum displays). The session on Thursday 29th October, during half term, was a bit more successful: sixteen children made spirit mobiles. This meant there wasn't as much time to chat to visitors. Several factors affected these numbers. Firstly, the sessions weren't advertised in the museum service's What's On events guide, as they had not been planned or devised when it went to press. Parents and particularly grandparents use the guide to plan visits and activities, especially during school holidays. Secondly, good weather means fewer families visit museums. Thirdly, parents are mistrustful of anything with a religious subtext. One of the reasons there was more uptake in Halloween week is probably because the word "spirit" suddenly becomes synonymous with "ghost" and loses its religious connotations. The exhibition itself was very well received, not least by the local congregation members who had contributed towards it. They felt the centre-piece was an accurate representation of the sort of ordinary sitting-room Spiritualists might live in. Non-Spiritualists enjoyed reading the text panels. A lot of visitors had some family members or friends with a Spiritualist connection. Even museum visitors who did not know the exhibition was on or had no interest in Spiritualism enjoyed the display - possibly because of the through-the-keyhole appeal of exploring someone else's living space. All the silver labels were used to leave messages on the tree and lots of positive and enthusiastic messages were left in the visitors book. Even the more cynical messages left by local secondary school students show that they took the time to engage with the exhibition, perhaps just not in the way we were expecting. Saturday 12th September was a Heritage Open Day, when Gladstone does not charge for admission. I spent the day in the Talking with the Dead exhibition explaining the exhibition and chatting to visitors. There were 543 visitors to the museum that day and I estimate at least half of those visited the exhibition. Some were Spiritualists who had brought their friends to see the exhibition they had been involved in - they were obviously very proud. They admitted that they wouldn't have visited the museum otherwise. Non-Spiritualists were intrigued and asked lots of questions. Even children appreciated the novelty of a tree inside, or a sitting-room within a room, and enjoyed writing the silver labels. One great pleasure of the day was being able to spark conversations between groups of people who didn't know each other, either by asking Spiritualists to explain their beliefs or by simply asking a room full of people whether anyone had had any supernatural experiences and how these could be explained - a subject on which practically everyone has an opinion. I found I had a better response from visitors if I mentioned the connection with the Open University before I mentioned the connection with the Spiritualist church. Only one visitor reacted badly, seizing his little boys and running out of the exhibition shouting "Not for us! Not for us!" Possibly he feared contamination. From Gladstone's point of view it was interesting to see how a temporary exhibition could be accommodated in the museum. The design cleverly drew people into the exhibition, intriguing them and giving them the opportunity to contribute and to enjoy others' contributions. It was not possible to record exactly how many people visited the exhibition. We estimate that about half of all visitors during September and October saw Talking with the Dead. Overall Gladstone visitor numbers were 2758 in September (an increase of 18.2% on last year) and 3277 in October (up 36% from last year). The increase is unlikely to be entirely attributable to Talking with the Dead - the museum has had a lot of media publicity this year - but it certainly brought in people who would never have set foot in Gladstone otherwise. Estimated number of visitors to Talking with the Dead: 3018 Number of visitors to special events: 165 Children's activities: participants: 18 Daniele Sambo was also subsequently invited by the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to exhibit some of the portrait works from the exhibition at The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2016. 
URL http://www.talkingwiththedead.co.uk/home
 
Description The research contributed significantly to local knowledge about Spiritualism's past and present. A primary objective was to celebrate this hidden part of Stoke-on-Trent's cultural heritage, generating dialogue around the place of spirit in the modern city. This could not have been achieved without the enthusiastic participation of the church congregations, local media and museum staff. People came together who had never met, in spaces not previously visited, generating a real sense of ownership of the project for participants. Some had tears of gratitude in their eyes on seeing their stories and pictures become part of the exhibition. As well as providing a meaningful experience for the Spiritualist community, we also wanted to engage local publics. One exhibition visitor, discovering previously unknown family links to Spiritualism, contacted us to share her experiences, stating her intention to return to spend some time in quiet contemplation to say goodbye to her deceased grandfather. These examples encapsulate the power of the project to spark people's imagination and emotions. Though such impact may be considered small and insubstantial, for the local communities who were touched over the months of the project the effect was significant and lasting.

The project also left a lasting visual legacy. The information panels produced for the exhibition were donated to Fenton Church who now have them on display in their library. The Spiritualist National Union holds copies of the project books, and we are in contact with the Psychic News to produce another article for them. We were also contacted by Stoke-on-Trent's Heritage Environment Records Senior Planning Officer requesting the use of The Spirit Trail to add the 40 Spiritualist locations identified to their own records, which until then included only two relating to Spiritualism. The PI is also in contact with screenwriter Mark MacNicol who expressed an interest through the project website and is currently writing a screenplay based on a Spiritualist storyline. Such examples will ensure knowledge and insight gained from the award will continue to impact on future publics.
An unanticipated impact was the project facilitating a reimagining amongst museum staff of how they might use the space we exhibited in, contributing to changed practices for them. It also introduced the congregations of the Spiritualist churches to the museum, many of whom had not been before, but now regularly visit, particularly using the museum café. When the exhibition came down the museum gave a new and permanent home in its grounds to the Memory Tree, ensuring the spirit of the project will live on.

The project also highlighted the lack of coordinated knowledge around Spiritualism, even amongst the Spiritualist community itself. Contributions from the research to local mainstream and national specialist press, as well as social media engagement, ensures wider visibility of this little understood religion. It has also opened up new research questions around the regional, national and international networks of movement amongst Spiritualist mediums. This has prompted the development of a new line of enquiry for which the project team have obtained seed corn funding.
Exploitation Route Directly, the creation of The Spirit Trail allowed Stoke-on-Trent's HER to expand its records on Spiritualist locations in the city considerably.

Indirectly, in bringing together academics, artists and museum curators who had not worked collaboratively in such a way previously, the project developed the skills of those involved to work effectively across different needs and sectors, and this has been realised as invaluable experience for future partnerships.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Spiritualism remains a little understood religion overshadowed by Victorian séances and fraudulent mediums. As a result of the project the Spiritualist community of Stoke-on-Trent enjoyed a credible boost in visibility (as evidenced through the number of features in the local newspaper and radio interviews for local BBC radio), and the city council developed greater awareness of this hidden side to the city's heritage (as evidenced in the use of The Spirit Trail to enhance HER records). Meanwhile Stoke-on-Trent is blighted by a history of industrial decline and its reputation as 'Brexit capital', and this project links the city to another narrative. Gladstone Pottery Museum recorded a substantial number of visitors with no prior links to Spiritualism engaging with the exhibition and a local creative writing group used the exhibition as a springboard for a workshop hosted at the museum during the exhibition. Reflecting the potential reach of this new narrative, Stoke has recently been identified as a case study in international research on spirituality in holistic medicine. On a national level, engagement with publics through specialist magazine articles and social media brought Spiritualism to the attention of wider audiences. Although this does not always generate positive responses because of kneejerk reactions online especially, it does contribute to opening up wider dialogues about minority religions in contemporary society .There exists growing social concern about the need to improve understanding and tolerance around different religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. This project has begun to contribute new understanding about spirituality and wellbeing which will start to impact on quality of life by broadening creative approaches to spiritual care. Healing and the quest for wellbeing are central concepts in the everyday life of Spiritualists and form a fundamental part of their wider lifeworld. This project has enabled us to explore this lesser known side to Spiritualism which can only be a good thing when the root causes of so many of today's greatest challenges to wellbeing lie not only in physiological malfunctioning of flesh-and-bone-bodies, but in the social, cultural and spiritual dis-eases of their containing societies (one of the churches also noted a significant increase in numbers attending healing sessions following the healing workshops which were held alongside the exhibition).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description OpenSpace Research Centre (competitive funding allocation)
Amount £6,750 (GBP)
Organisation Open University 
Department Open Space Research Centre
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 07/2017
 
Description AirSpace Gallery 
Organisation AirSpace Gallery
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Employed local artist and art technician in the creation of the SpELS exhibition. This enabled new local connections to emerge between AirSpace Gallery and Gladstone Pottery Museum that will endure long after the exhibition. We also included AirSpace Gallery in all our promotional outputs, such as leaflets, posters and the exhibition booklet.
Collaborator Contribution The artist and art technician provided advice, expertise, materials and local knowledge in the construction of the living room which was essential in 'placing' the exhibition within the context of the museum's dedicated space.
Impact The 'Talking with the Dead: Spiritualism in Stoke-on-Trent' exhibition at Gladstone Pottery Museum (Sept-Oct 2015)
Start Year 2015
 
Description ArtCity 
Organisation ArtCity
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The photographic exhibition and book launch from the SpELS project was located at the old Fenton Library, expressly opened to house the 2-week long exhibition (31 March-17 April 2016)
Collaborator Contribution ArtCity is a five-year arts programme (funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, EU Lifelong Learning Programme and Arts Council England) in Stoke-on-Trent that aims to make the city a more interesting place to live and work. The programme is achieved by a consortium of local arts organisations banding together to hold events in spaces that are otherwise left un-occupied and unloved. They enabled the SpELS team to re-open the old Fenton Library -- opened in 1906 and shut down in 2011 due to City Council cuts -- for the duration of the exhibition.
Impact A photographic exhibition and book launch
Start Year 2015
 
Description Gladstone Pottery Museum 
Organisation Gladstone Pottery Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution - developing new outreach subject areas for the museum - enabling the museum to reach new audiences - drawing the public to new spiritual experiences in a public setting (activities) - enabling new local collaborations and partnerships to emerge (such as AirSpace and the local graphic designer) - creating new spaces in the museum - combining new methods of exhibiting and public engagement for the museum (with audio-visual material and through the incorporation of the 'live' tree)
Collaborator Contribution - providing access to the premises - providing local knowledge and assistance - helping to promote the exhibition amidst local, regional and national networks
Impact A public exhibition. Multi-disciplinary collaboration involving geography, health and wellbeing, religion studies, sociology, art, museum studies
Start Year 2014
 
Description 'Talking with the Dead' exhibition website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This website was developed to enable participants and other communities of Spiritualists to have access to the materials presented during the exhibition at Gladstone Pottery Museum (Sept-Nov 2015). Other communities, such as scholars studying religion in society and museum collections, have since been accessing the site.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.talkingwiththedead.co.uk/
 
Description @SpELSProject on Twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The @SpELSProject Twitter account was set up to reach a wider audience with news about the project and associated activities. With 83 followers the audience reach was not large, however it was through the twitter account that The Sentinel and BBC Radio Stoke contacted the project team for interviews. It was also through the Twitter account that The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 contacted the team to appear on their programme, but unfortunately this was dropped at the last minute due to another national breaking news story dominating the schedule that morning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL https://twitter.com/SpELSProject?lang=en
 
Description AAG presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Steve Pile and Nadia Bartolini presented 'The "Talking with the Dead" exhibition: Spiritualism in Stoke-on-Trent' in the session 'Creative Approaches to Researching Religion in the City 2: Exploring Faith through Participatory Public-Engagement Art (Sponsored by Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Specialty Group)' at the American Association of Geographers' annual meeting on 29 March 2016 in San Francisco, USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.aag.org/galleries/conference-files/AAG2016_Printed_Program_Full.pdf
 
Description Beyond Belief BBC Radio 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The show focused on the 'real or fake' aspects of Spiritualism over the years. The Panel included the researcher on the SpELS project, the President of the Spiritualist national Union, an Anglican priest and an interview with a behavioural psychologist
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04tj37t
 
Description Contemporary Religion Publics and Performances 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact At a time when the public role of the University is under increasing scrutiny, how can we ensure that research and teaching about religions reaches new publics? What can we do to enhance religious literacy both within and beyond religious and non-religious communities? How is ritual and performance involved in communication between religious communities, the academy, policy makers and the broader public? Are there ways in which we can learn from the past in better understanding such channels of communication? Bringing historical perspective to the contemporary role of religion in the public sphere, this conference includes contributions from practitioners and third-sector organisations, who bring their perspectives to the academy to consider the public impact of Religious Studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/religious-studies/?p=461
 
Description Derby Spirituality and wellbeing Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Compassionate Wellbeing's first conference explored the relationship between spirituality and wellbeing. Featuring a fresh range of contemporary academic research alongside personal and practitioner accounts, this conference sought to illuminate how spiritual experience and practise can facilitate healing and enhance wellbeing. Panels featured looked at mindfulness, meditation and compassion practise; extraordinary experiences; life difficulties and spiritual experience; religious experience and ritual; and spiritual life journeys and transformative experience. A range of spiritual and academic positions were discussed with a view to creating an interdisciplinary and interfaith dialogue.

Based on findings from the project, this particular presentation aimed to contribute to this dialogue by adding insight to growing moves within health and social care practice over recent years to pay more attention to the diversity of cultural and religious backgrounds which patients and service users may have. The intention behind this has been to approach each case from the individual's perspective rather than a medical or practitioner-based framing. As a result, most practitioners in health and social care today will have some degree of confidence in acknowledging and understanding the experiences of mainstream religious groups. But less commonly understood spiritual frameworks might be less easily accommodated. Spiritualism was presented as worthy of interest, as it was reported to be the UK's fastest growing religion in the 2011 Census. Several NHS hospitals now offer 'spiritual healing' to alleviate the pain and symptoms of some chronically ill patients, and many of those healers will have come from training in a Spiritualist context. Whilst person-focused and directed healing in this way is perhaps the most obvious manifestation, for Spiritualists, healing is about more than the 'laying on of hands' in a one-to-one consultation. Healing and the quest for wellbeing are central concepts in the everyday life of Spiritualists and form a fundamental part of their wider lifeworld. The paper explored this lesser known side to Spiritualism and healing, raising questions about what wellbeing might look like through the lens of spirit, and what the implications of that might be for health and social care practice.

Discussion led to networking and subsequent invitations to present at the 2017 conference and for the PI to be an external examiner on a PhD thesis at Northampton University exploring anomolous experiences during bereavement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.compassionatewellbeing.co.uk/conference/spirituality-and-wellbeing-2015/
 
Description Exploring the Extraordinary 7th Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 'Encountering the other' is something social scientists have increasingly embraced, working carefully to ensure academic representations are sensitive and faithful to the participants involved and their relationship with them. In researching alternative spiritualities, encounters with 'the other' often involve discarnate entities and inexplicable relations. This paper reflected on how the sociological imagination might accommodate that, exploring the implications of extraordinary encounters whose impacts are perceived as 'real' but are difficult to measure, together with the challenges of re-presenting such things to an academic audience largely convinced they are 'not real'. The conference audience consisted of academics, researchers, health practitioners and those with a general interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://etenetwork.weebly.com/ete7-conference-2015.html
 
Description Nourishing the Spirit LOROS Hospice 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact End-of-life carers came together to explore supporting the spiritual needs of patients, carers and families. Presenting research on Spiritualism provided an opportunity for practitioners to share and discuss openly paranormal spiritual experiences in their work. Beareaved individuals were also keen to explore their own experiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.loros.co.uk/media/uploads/files/education/a353_loros_spirituality_conference_programme_v...
 
Description OpenLearn Interactive 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Developing an Open University OpenLearn Interactive around spiritual wellbeing in end-of-life care. Exploring a patient with interests in Spiritualism and the implications for nurses, doctors, university chaplains and carers. Currently in production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Psychic news feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research team were contacted by the Psychic News twice during the project. Initially they ran a small feature explaining that a research project was taking place with Spiritualists to lead to an exhibition (February 2015). We were then contacted again to conduct a full interview following the exhibition, which formed the basis of this article. The Editor has also invited the research team to author their own future article for the magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.psychicnews.org.uk/articles/Stokes-hidden-Spiritualist-past
 
Description Religion in Museum blog post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact After meeting a renowned scholar and museum curator who has published widely on exhibiting religion in museums, the researcher on the SpELS project was asked to write a blog post on the Spiritualism exhibition which focused on creative ways to exhibit Spiritualist practices. The blog has been shared through social media amongst heritage practitioners, university scholars and museum curators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://religioninmuseums.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/spiritualism-in-everyday-life/
 
Description Sentinel Interview (Sara MacKian) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was an interview with the Education Reporter for the Stoke for a feature on the SpELS project and the Talking With The Dead exhibition.
The Sentinel has an average daily circulation of about 30,000 in addition to a comprehensive website and the Reporter also makes use of social media to increase reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/spiritualists-answer/story-28049917-detail/story.html
 
Description Sentinel Photography Exhibition promotion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Follow-on piece in The Sentinel keeping readers informed about the project, this time advertising the photographic exhibition at Fenton Old Library.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/exhibition-stoke-trent-s-spiritualist-past/story-28920570-detail/stor...
 
Description Sentinel interview (Nadia Bartolini) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Sentinel contacted the team for an interview about the forthcoming exhibition at Gladstone Pottery Museum. The paper has an average daily circulation of about 30,000 in addition to a comprehensive website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description SpELS Facebook Page 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Spirited Stoke Facebook page was set up to allow us to advertise forthcoming events, publicise developments in the project and engage an international audience that would expand our reach beyond the Stoke-on-Trent area. The page itself attracted 96 followers, with individual posts reaching an average audience size of 110, some reaching into several 100s and a maximum reach of 883 for one post. All the churches and many of the project participants engaged with the site, liking and sharing posts, and occasionally posting their own material. It also generated some local media interest with Red Shift Radio in Nantwich featuring the project on a show in October 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/SpiritedStoke/
 
Description Twitter Q & A 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Open University holds regular question and answer sessions on Twitter for its researchers to answer questions about their projects; the project team were invited to take part in one on 31 October 2015. Although total numbers reached cannot be known, the OU Twitter account has 138,000 followers. Sometimes they get a lot of people taking part, sometimes very few; but the aim is always to open a conversation about areas of research that are ongoing amongst the research community at the university. As might be anticipated the session invited some ridicule that serious research was being conducted into what was considered a nonsense topic (stemming from confusion between psychic charlatans and Spiritualism as a religion) but there were also genuine questions of interest posed by some which we hope provided an opportunity for insight and enlightenment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://twitter.com/hashtag/ou_spels?f=tweets&vertical=default&src=hash&lang=en
 
Description York Wellbeing and Spirituality Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This conference, organised by Compassionate Wellbeing, was the second annual meeting exploring Spirituality and Wellbeing. The theme was around how practice, experience and involvement in spiritual communities can influence wellbeing. Subjects discussed included spirituality in education; integrating spirituality into healthcare; secularity and mindfulness; building and maintaining spiritual communities; cross cultural approaches to mental health; and the psychological impact of ritual.

The paper explored some of the ways in which a narrative of healing is written through Spiritualism as a religion and philosophy, illustrating how spirit's healing presence weaves a coherence around the ups and downs of life because it offers connections, continuity and collective experiences which help to maintain, manifest, and manage a shared sense of community. It encouraged audience members to reflect on how acknowledging and attending to the intangible and otherworldly draws attention to more than the machinery of the ailing body inhabiting the here-and-now; relocating that body in the moments, places and relationships which make our lives worth living. The paper closed with some reflections on what we can usefully take from that broader understanding of healing in a spiritual and nonspiritual context.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.compassionatewellbeing.co.uk/conference/spirituality-and-wellbeing-2017/
 
Description presentation at 2017 Royal Geographical Society-IBG (Bartolini N) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact N Bartolini to take part in a presentation and panel discussion on Emerging Geographies of Religions, Faith and Spiritualities at the 2017 RGS-IBG with a presentation titled ''Your grandmother's here': positionality and reflexivity in researching Spirit communication'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017