Three staff in line for national awards

Creating an app to explain a historic London monument, launching reading groups in prisons and helping people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease to dance has secured three University of Roehampton staff a place in the finals of a national awards.

Posted: 9 June 2014

image for news story Three staff in line for national awards
John Price at the memorial in Postman's Park

John Price, Jenny Hartley and Sara Houston will find out later this month whether they have won in their respective categories in the Engage Awards run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Roehampton’s success in gaining three places in the finals is against a backdrop of more than 230 entries from universities around the country. As well as potentially winning in their individual categories, the three will also compete to be named overall winner.

The winners will be announced at an event at the Natural History Museum and will receive funding and the opportunity to showcase their project at events such as the national Engage conference in December.

Dr Price has spent a decade researching the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman’s Park in the City of London. The Victorian monument is a display of 54 ceramic tablets commemorating 62 individuals who died attempting to save another. Each tablet tells the story of the incident, but are very brief and the full stories of those involved has almost been lost.

His app, The Everyday Heroes of Postman’s Park, uses image recognition technology, so visitors to the park, which is on many tour guide routes, can download it, open the app and point the camera at a tablet to access information including maps, photos and genealogical information.

The Prison Reading Groups project led by Professor Hartley and colleague Sarah Turvey has set up and supported more than 40 groups in 30 prisons across the UK over the last decade. It works with prison librarians and volunteers to run them and encourages prisoners to enjoy reading and discussing books.  Each group is tailor-made to suit its circumstances and, thanks to funding from the charity Give A Book and other sponsorship, prisoners can keep books they read. It also works in community centres and mental health facilities.”

The on-going nationwide Dance for Parkinson’s research project led by Dr Houston has spread the message of the benefits of dancing to sufferers, as a way of putting aside their illness and encouraging them to move their bodies in different ways. A pilot project found physical, social and mental improvements among sufferers, and gave them chance to meet others with the disease. Individual dance sessions are led by the English National Ballet, with Dr Houston providing the research and expert background work.

The Engage awards were launched to inspire a culture shift in how universities connect with the public, to share the activity and benefits of higher education and research with people from all walks of life.

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