Language and Belonging


Emma Dawson Varughese (chair)

Emma Dawson Varughese is a Staffordshire Moorlands artist. She grew up surrounded by fire-making, woodworkers and a couple of generations of ‘makers’. Her creative practice ‘Aag’ (Hindi: fire) uses pyrography and decorative metalware on tree sections or on wood pieces. With a PhD in literary studies (Nottingham, 2007), her work often explores the interface of text and image. ‘Aag’ is driven by concept but this is developed in equal measure with Emma’s creative responses to the unique physical attributes each piece of wood presents – shading of heartwood and sapwood, ring formation, cracks or knots, as examples.  

Recent work includes an Arts Council England-funded project: ‘And The World Changed’ and an installation for Blackburn’s ‘Creative Spaces’ (see for details of both). Emma is currently completing another Arts Council England project entitled which explores contemporary Staffordshire Moorlands identities through a variety of art media workshops at nine locations in the Moorlands. 

Berendsje Westra

Berendsje Westra is an exophonic writer from the Netherlands who was raised bilingually (Dutch and Frisian). She studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School and for an MA in Literary Studies at Groningen University. Her first novel, Coffee Spills & Songs, has been sold in eight countries. Her second novel, The Martyr & the Butterfly, is a work-in-progress and set in the Netherlands. She works as a commercial translator.

Sue Allan

Sue Allan is an independent cultural historian who researches the vernacular music, customs, speech and literature of Cumbria. Recent published work includes papers/chapters on ‘staged authenticity’ in folk song performance; nineteenth century ballad singers; vernacular social life as represented by early visitors to the Lakes, and a book on dialect poet Robert Anderson. In addition to her academic work, Sue writes arts features for Cumbria Life magazine, regularly chairs author events at festivals and makes occasional, tentative forays into creative writing. Previous roles include work in local radio and TV and in arts development, including managing the New Writing Cumbria project 2003-2010. Her MA research explored sense of place from a phenomenological perspective and this, along with later research into dialect, and lived experience of it, inform this current paper.


Marginalised Language

How does being a speaker of a marginalised language feed into fictional writing about place? Westra explores how themes such as identity, belonging and attitude have developed from her interest in minority languages and cultures, such as the Sami, the Welsh, and her own Frisian roots. 

Sense of Place and Vernacular Speech

Phenomenology can offer useful insights in discussions of place – for example Heidegger’s theories of ‘dwelling’ and geographer Doreen Massey’s ‘event of place.’ These concepts underpin an exploration of place through text in the landscape: poetry, placenames and the use of dialect speech to enrich place-centred writing.

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