It’s Competition Time!


The School of Arts and Creative Industries at Teesside University opens its doors once again on 30th March, with workshops and activities to encourage creative thinking and possibly sow the seeds for some new entries to our MIMA Great Create competition. Register here if you want to come along and join us.

With 6 weeks to go until the deadline for entries Elinor Morgan, Artistic Director of MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and judge for the competition, invites entrants to surprise her with their entries. Here’s what she has to say…

Elinor Morgan talks about the MIMA Great Create competition

Find out about our courses at the School of Arts & Creative Industries:

Art & Design

Media & Journalism

Music Technology

Performing Arts

Studying a Practice-Based PhD

Alyson Agar, a part time Practice-Based PhD Student in her second year of studies, talks about studying at the School of Arts & Creative Industries

My name is Alyson Agar, and I am a second-year PhD student at the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University. My PhD is practice-based and is situated between fine art and photographic and moving-image practices. My area of research is focused on the experience of landscape, and how we experience our surroundings through photography, specifically the spaces between the photograph and the photographic image.

Alyson Agar, Visual Poems of Place, 2022

As a PhD student at the School of Arts & Creative Industries, I have been able to access some amazing opportunities as part of my studies. I started my PhD in 2020 and joined a wonderful cohort of fellow artists, designers and researchers who are active in the school, as well as working nationally and internationally. We meet regularly to share ideas, experiences and support one another (often over a cup of coffee and the best cakes in town at MIMA café!)

Making connections

As PhD students, we also meet for regular PGR seminars and research study days, led by our fabulous MIMA Professor. In the last year, we have held joint seminars with staff and students at the University of Westminster and the University of Sunderland, where we’ve had the opportunity to share ideas, discuss our work and make connections with other PhD students working in similar fields.

MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art)

As PhD Researchers, we have taken part in Praxis seminars where we have shown our work in MIMA for discussion and critique from MIMA curators, and we’ve also taken part in specialist art theory seminars with invited scholars and writers in our fields. These seminars have inspired events such as research exhibitions and reading groups.

We’re also very lucky to have access to the MIMA collections. I have spent much of this year exploring the MIMA collections as part of my PhD research, in particular, MIMA’s incredible collection of photography and moving image works, which includes photographers who have documented Teesside including Robin Dale and Ian MacDonald, as well the work of John Akromfrah, Sonia Boyce, and Kader Attia, who have been huge influences in the development of my work.


One of the most wonderful aspects of studying for a PhD at the School of Arts & Creative Industries is the ethos of collaboration is at the very heart of the school. Although my practice is rooted in photography, I have been able to access other mediums with ease – from the wonderful printmaking facilities at Parkside to immersive media and technology at Aurora House. I am also incredibly lucky to be able to access such specialist technical support from technicians right across the school, from the initial stages of experimentation to the technical support regarding exhibition installation.

Events for students

The School of Arts & Creative Industries is unique, it is progressive and interdisciplinary and so very welcoming. The ways in which the MIMA gallery, the collection, and the teaching intersect is a constant source of inspiration. This year, postgraduate students in the school have enjoyed a magnificent performance piece in the Collections gallery by artist and theatre-maker, Duncan Evennou, we’ve attended the Championing Creative Education Conference with Professor Simon James, and we’ve been guests at the openings of the Chemical City exhibition, and the inaugural Art + Social No.1 event.

Art + Social is a space for students from the School of Arts & Creative Industries to connect, test ideas, curate pop-up shows, screen experimental film works and showcase new performance pieces within the MIMA gallery spaces, Art + Social is a wonderful way to celebrate the wonderful community we’re part of at the School of Arts & Creative Industries.

Studying here

To sum up, I’ve found the School of Arts & Creative Industries to be a wonderful place to study for a PhD. Experimental, innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving, and developing practice through contemporary critical, conceptual and technical approaches, are at the centre of learning and teaching. Professionally, the school has offered valuable research training, with regular training and CPD opportunities offered university-wide, and perhaps most importantly, I feel part of an inspiring, inclusive, supportive community in which discussion, collaboration, and togetherness drives positive and innovative contributions to contemporary arts practice in the region and further afield. Thanks, School of Arts & Creative Industries!

For any further inquiries regarding studying a PhD at the School of Arts & Creative Industries, please do feel free to reach out to me on:

Alyson Agar

Instagram  @alyson_agar_visualartist


Top tips for written assessments

By Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, School of Arts and Creative Industries, Teesside University

As university assessment submission deadlines approach and students are challenged with finding time and headspace to write, here are some tips to help you to make best use of your time to produce a quality piece of written work, and hopefully get the highest mark possible.

Disruption everywhere

Increasingly our lives are being challenged with the disruption of technology. Television is no longer limited to the living room but pervades every corner of our homes on streaming devices and there is no end to the choice of content to distract us from sitting down and writing. When I say writing of course I mean typing – the principle is the same, we are putting words onto a document, transferring thoughts from our minds into the written word. Therein lies the challenge – how can we do this when we are surrounded by the continuous distraction of Sky, Netflix, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like?

Space to write

Personally, my best writing is done when I take myself away from home. Three or four times a year I indulge in a 3-day writing retreat. This has been instrumental in ensuring that I manage to complete the professional Doctorate in Education that I am now just months away from completing after over four years of study. In those three writing retreat days I indulge in 3 or 4 blocks of writing per day, ranging from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours of time per block. Whilst in our writing rooms there is no internet access and phones are not allowed, so there is no distraction. We are asked to write in silence, so that we don’t disturb others that share the writing room with us. We set goals for each day of writing. The writing blocks are interspersed with breaks during which we eat healthy, nutritious food and take walks in the fresh air where we discuss progress towards the goals that we have set ourselves. It may not be for everyone, but it absolutely works for me. Each time I return from a writing retreat I tell myself that I could just do this at home, but the reality is that without someone monitoring and enforcing the writing blocks, inevitably the structured approach breaks down.

Love of Libraries

I often take myself to the library to write, even if just for 3 or 4 hours – I love libraries. I find that in a library I am able to focus, purely because I am away from the comfort of my home. For me though, I must commit to being in a writing space for at least 3 hours, an hour here or there doesn’t work – it doesn’t give me enough time to get my thoughts “into the writing zone” and to find my focus. Every now and then I arrange to meet at the library with a friend who also wants to do some focused writing. We meet, share a coffee, then agree a time to sit quietly and write, uninterrupted for a period of time, with phones on silent and in our bags. We agree a time to stop for our next break and chat.

An author’s tips

One of my favourite authors is Clare Mackintosh, a former police officer who left the force in 2011 to write full-time. Her first novel, I Let You Go (2014) was an immediate best seller and is still one of my favourite books. Clare is just a normal working mum, and she often shares her tips for writing on her social accounts @claremackwrites. With her permission (thank you Clare), I’d like to share a few of these, because it’s likely that one or more of these will work for you

Keeping focused

These are Clare’s three ways to maintain focus when you write

1.The pomodoro technique. Set a timer: write for 25 mins, take a 5-min break. Repeat

2.Buddy up with someone. See how many words you can each write in the agreed time

3.Switch off the internet! Rewards yourself with Twitter/Rightmove/Wordle once you’ve written

I have tried all these methods and yes, they work for me. By far the most important one in my opinion, is number 3 – it’s quite simple, just don’t run the risk of social media downgrading your degree!


Having dedicated time to complete your assessment, you owe it to yourself to make sure that your work is presented in its best format. When marking student assessments, I continually get frustrated when the good work that they have done is let down by sloppy spelling and grammar. My frustration is compounded when students haven’t performed even the simplest of spelling checks offered by the software that we use.

Clare offers three intriguing  ways to proof-read your work

1.Change the font – it helps you see the document with fresh eyes

2.Print it out. Extra wide margins are useful for making corrections

3.Read backwards, one page at a time. This helps you read slowly and carefully, without getting engrossed in the story

My favourite here is number 1 and it’s surprising how you see things quite differently by just changing the font style that you write in – give it a go!

Time and tide wait for no man

The poet Geoffrey Chaucer is quoted as saying “time and tide wait for no man” and this brings me to my final point. Don’t miss your deadline! Give yourself time to complete your best piece of work. Work backwards from the hand in deadline and identify chunks of time that you can devote firstly to your research, and then to your writing. I block out days that I will focus on researching and writing months ahead, I book writing retreats six months ahead and I always devote at least one day of every one-week-holiday to either reading or writing.

Be disciplined about it. It’s tough, I know, but the reward comes when you receive your best mark possible and then you, and only you, KNOW that YOU deserve it!


Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Mima


Angela Lawrence is an Associate Dean in the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Teesside University.

Truth is the first casualty of war

Paul Bailey, Course Leader for Journalism awards in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, discusses the role of journalism in times of conflict

“Truth,” it has been said, “is the first casualty of war.” When hostilities break out the one object of each belligerent nation is victory. “All is fair in war,” and to secure and maintain national unity in support of the war every means are taken by the respective governments to suppress criticism.

Little did we all think that in 2022 we would be witnessing the horrors now unfolding in the Ukraine. We have seen the images of war on our television screens, the bombed out buildings and the streams of thousands of refugees fleeing to safety. But what is the truth? How authentic are the things we are seeing and hearing? What is false and what is not?

It’s been reported that Russia has closed down social media sites like Facebook; Instagram and Twitter to stop the flow of information. Russian state media journalists have also been told to tow the party line, to obey authority so as not to cause trouble, or face severe punishment. George Orwell’s statement that “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations” has never seemed so apt.

Honest truthful journalism is the backbone of any country that wants to give a voice to its population. In peacetime it can hold Government to account – How did we know Boris Johnson allegedly attended some parties during the Covid lockdown? Would we have found out without journalists asking questions?

In wartime we rely on honest truthful journalists to tell us what is happening on the frontline. It does not go without its dangers. Already we have seen US journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud killed in Ukraine as he reported on the conflict.

Here in the UK we have a tradition of having journalists that are professionally trained and understand that ethical unbiased reporting is what is important.  Anyone can go on social media and comment about the war in Ukraine but comment is not reporting.

That is why in times of crisis we can turn to the BBC; Sky; ITN and watch television reports and listen to radio broadcasts we know have been produced by professionally trained ethically unbiased reporters. We can read accounts of the Ukraine war in national newspapers because we have confidence in the journalists bringing those stories to us.

That confidence comes because of the training those journalists have received. If you think you have what it takes to become a professionally trained ethically sound and unbiased journalist then click on the links below.

BA (Hons) Journalism

BA (Hons) Sport Journalism


Paul Bailey is a Senior Lecturer (Media) in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University He is the Course Leader for our Journalism Degrees