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Gothic Networking Day at MMU: a Review(18 Jul 2014)
By Miss Shannon Rollins

A little later than anticipated, but better late than never!

Noel Fielding as Richmond (the Goth) from The IT Crowd
Image from:

This past Saturday – July 12 – Manchester Metropolitan University hosted a fabulous Gothic Networking Day.  After a slightly rocky morning adventure of ‘is this the right bus?’ with Rebecca Duncan (check out her amazing write-up here: we arrived on MMU’s campus.  What followed was an amazingly packed schedule, lovingly and painstakingly organised by hosts Dr Linnie Blake and Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes.   During a rigourous day, myself and other attendees had sent tens of tweets and taken copious notes. Dr Catherine Spooner, Co-President of the IGA and fabulous academic, gave a fascinating history of the IGA, and the importance of a body that offers support to the web of international scholars.  In the same vein, our organisers introduced their freshly inaugurated Centre for Gothic Studies, and the gravity of the Gothic’s potential with regards to public engagement.  We heard from Sarah Lewis at the University of Wales Press about the publication process, and how to successfully translate our highly technical thesis into a marketable book, whose audience is larger than our viva committee.  Editors from the Gothic Studies journal (Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn) and The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies (Drs Dara Downey and Jenny McDonell) explained their unique processes for selections and publications: Gothic Studies as a print journal and The Irish Journal as an online, open-access source.  We learned about the current public environment of the Gothic from Simeon Halligan (director of Grimmfest Horror Festival), David McWilliam (Editor, Event Coordinator, and CoFounder of Twisted Tales Events) and Kerry Gorrill (enhancing student engagement with the Gothic at Canon Slade School).  Throughout, we were exposed to the vast array of possibilities now available.  But for me personally, the shining moment of the day came if the form of social media awareness.

Before breaking for lunch, we were treated to presentations from Stirling’s Gothic Imagination web curator Dr Matt Foley and Social Media guru Helen Malarky, MMU’s HLSS Project Manager.  Dr Foley gave a brilliant talk on curating virtual space, the new clout lent to a formerly informal format, expressing validity with a slide titled ‘Blogging as a Scholarly Activity’ – something that I know resonated strongly with everyone in attendance, and everyone following the hashtag on twitter (#gothicmmuday).   In the same vein, Helen empowered the delegates to transform their virtual presence, with a presentation on different platforms that was both educational and engaging.  As academics, we tread a tricky path to keep our interaction with the virtual world and the University quad in a careful equilibrium.  But what I learned on Saturday was that social media should be used as an invaluable tool to keep in contact with other academics, float ideas, and begin discussions on public engagement/culture.  This is one of the greatest lessons we could have learned from the Networking Day – that we, as a new generation of scholars, should be cultivating our virtual selves in such a way as to not only promote our own research agendas, but also to increase the Impact (capital I!) of Gothic engagement, something necessary for the continued growth of the subject.  As a recent acolyte myself, it is so important that we continue to disseminate the power of the subject we all hold so dear.

The day ended on a high, with all adjourning to the pub for a much-needed relaxing beverage and animated conversation with presenters.  I can confidently say we all walked away that evening with a renewed love for our subject, and an anticipation to begin crafting our own, unique online selves.

Next week, I’ll return to my own Steampunk research, with a yet undecided theme.  If you have anything particular you’d like me to cover, tweet me @steampunkette and I’ll see what I can do!

If you’d like to check out the Storify of #gothicmmuday tweets, or additionally see any pictures as mine have decided not to upload properly: