Dr Niamh Downing

Job title
Head of English & Writing
01326 370409 Ext: 5409

I'm Head of English & Writing, leading a team of over 25 lecturers and senior lecturers, associate professor, and associate lecturing staff to deliver an excellent student experience across Falmouth's undergraduate and postgraduate portfolio in English, Creative Writing, Professional Writing and Writing for Script & Screen. I manage our Writers in Residence programme, co-lead the Nick Darke Award with Terrie Fender, Director of the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts, and lead on external industry partnerships such as our collaboration with National Trust Publishing. I am currently academic representative on Academic Board, since October 2016. Prior to joining Falmouth in 2012, I taught on the English programme at University of Exeter, worked in heritage education for several years, and lectured ICT in FE. I completed my doctoral research at University of Exeter in 2013. My thesis examines models of excavation in contemporary poetry, specifically in the work of Geoffrey Hill, Ciaran Carson, Geraldine Monk, and Alice Oswald.

My research is in contemporary literature and its intersection with discourses of place, space, landscape, and ecology. I am Principal Investigator for Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time an AHRC Science in Culture project that investigates deep time and its relationship to landscape change. I'm also an external advisor to AHRC follow-on funded project Hacking the Bees which runs from February 2017 to January 2018. Between March 2015 and September 2016, I was co-Investigator on the AHRC Connected Communities project Telling the Bees

The following two papers were published from the Telling the Bees project:

  • Maxwell, Deborah, Liz Edwards, Toby Pillatt, and Niamh Downing. 2016. ‘Beebots-a-lula, where's my honey?: design fictions and beekeeping’ NordiCHI '16 Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. New York: ACM. 79.
  • Maxwell, Deborah, Liz Edwards, Toby Pillatt, and Niamh Downing. 2016. 'Stories in a Beespoon: Exploring Future Folklore through Design' in P. Lloyd and E. Bohemia (eds) Proceedings of DRS2016: Design + Research + Society – Future-Focussed Thinking, Vol. IX: 3485-3502.

In 2014 I was awarded internal funding to run the Cosmographies Conference, supported by the British Interplanetary Society, which brought together scholars in the arts, humanities and space science from around the globe, to explore the outer space as a rich source of cultural production. I also co-organised the Haunted Landscapes symposium in association with ASLE-UKI, with Dr Ruth Heholt, which led to the publication of an edited collection, Haunted Landscapes with Rowman and Littlefield.

My pedagogic research has focused on innovation in teaching and learning. In 2013-2014 I worked with learning technologists and a doctoral student at Falmouth University on a project that examined the effectiveness of virtual field trips for teaching and learning in the field of Creative Writing and English. In 2011, I was awarded a Learning and Teaching Enhancement Grant to investigate the value of using archives to enhance teaching and learning in the field of creative writing. The outputs of the project, Out of the Box, include conference papers, articles and a blog.


YearQualificationAwarding body
PhD in English
University of Exeter
Masters in English (Distinction & Dean's Commendation)
University of Exeter
BA(Hons) English with Media Studies (I)
Falmouth University

Research interests

Research interests and expertise

My research is in contemporary literature, particularly poetry and its relationship to space, place, landscape and ecological concerns. I have published on literary ecologies and geographies, design, literature and storytelling, fan cultures and place. I am currently supervising doctoral students in the following areas: pro-environmental business behaviour & storytelling, 19th century mining poetry (John Harris), game-based collaborative learning, games & narrative dissonance. I'd welcome enquiries from potential doctoral candidates in the environmental humanities with an emphasis on contemporary literature, archives, digital games & literature/storytelling, literature and ecology, regionalism & place.

Research topics

20th Century Poetry and Literature
Contemporary Poetry
Environmental Humanities
Digital Games theory

Research outputs

Publications and research outputs


Downing, Niamh and Otter Bickerdike, Jennifer (2017) Marc Bolan rock shrine: Pilgrimage, identity and ownership in a fan community. Journal of Fandom Studies, 5 (2). pp. 193-207. ISSN 20466692 Item availability may be restricted.

Downing, Niamh and Maxwell, Deborah and Edwards, Liz and Pillatt, Toby (2016) Stories in a Beespoon: Exploring Future Folklore through Design. Proceedings of DRS2016: Design + Research + Society - Future-Focused Thinking, 9. pp. 3485-3502. ISSN 2398-3132
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Book Chapter

Lloyd, Rebecca (2016) Haunting the Grown-Ups: The Borderlands of ParaNorman and Coraline. In: Haunted Landscapes Super-Nature and the Environment. Place, Memory, Affect . Rowman & Littlefield International, London, New York, pp. 199-214. ISBN 9781783488827 Item not available from this repository.

Downing, Niamh (2016) 'Tender Bodies': Embracing the Ecological Uncanny in Jim Crace’s Being Dead. In: Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment. Place, Memory, Affect . Roman & Littlefield, London. ISBN 9781783488810 (In Press)

Downing, Niamh and Maxwell, Deborah and Edwards, Liz and Pillatt, Toby (2016) Beebots-a-lula, Where's My Honey?: Design Fictions and Beekeeping. In: NordiCHI '16 Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction. ACM, New York. ISBN 978-1-4503-4763-1

Downing, N. (2013) "Fritillary Fever": Cultivating the self and gardening the world in the writing of Clara Coltman Vyvyan. In: Women in Transit through Literary Liminal Spaces. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK, pp. 166-179. ISBN 978-1137330468 Item not available from this repository.


Heholt, Ruth and Downing, Niamh, eds. (2016) Haunted Landscapes. Place, Memory, Affect . Roman & Littlefield, London. ISBN 9781783488810


Downing, Niamh and Krus, Anthony and Fearnley, Carina and Irvine, Richard and Lopez-Merino, Lourdes (2016) Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time. [Project]


Downing, Niamh and Llinares, Dario and Arnold, Sarah (2014) Cosmographies. [Conference]

Heholt, Ruth and Lockley, Elfrea and Douglas, Mark and Downing, Niamh and North, Laurence (2014) Haunted Landscapes: Nature, Supernature and the Environment. [Conference]



Invited Lecture. MSc Space Studies, International Space University, Strasbourg, France. November 2016.


Conference Organisation: Cosmographies (with Dr Dario Llinares and Dr Sarah Arnold). International Conference supported by The British Interplanetary Society, 24-25 July 2014


Conference Paper. Towards a Literary Geography of Outer Space. Cosmographies Conference. Falmouth University, UK.


Symposium. Co-convener (with Dr Ruth Heholt, Lead Academic) of 'Haunted Landscapes: Nature, Super-Nature and the Environment', an ASLE-UKI symposium to be hosted at Falmouth University in March 2014.


Conference Paper. Mary Butts: From Tebel Vos. Haunted Landscapes Symposium, Falmouth University, UK.


Research Bites 2011-14. Convener of staff and postgraduate research forum.


Conference Paper. 'Lens grinders in space': Literary Geographies of the Extra-Terrestrial. Biannual British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference. Manchester University, UK.


Talk. Collaborating with the Dead: Spectres of Lyric Landscape in the Poetry of Geraldine Monk. Research Bites 2012-13.


Conference Paper. Out of the Box: Using Archives to Enhance Teaching and Learning in the Field of Creative Writing. Education in a Changing Environment Conference. University of Salford, UK.


Conference Paper. Ton Kairon Exagorazomenoi: Redeeming Time in the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill. Biannual British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference. Queens University Belfast, UK.


Conference Paper. Critical Anaemia: The Supplement of Irony in Iain Sinclair’s Edge of the Orison. New Grounds Conference. University of Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Externally funded research grants information

Year startingYear endingProject titleFunderValueCollaboratorsHESA Category
Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time

Dr. Carina Fearnley (Co-I, UCL), Dr. Lourdes Lopez Merino (Co-I, Brunel), Dr. Richard Irvine (Co-I, Cambridge), Dr. Tony Krus (Co-I, Glasgow)

1 DIUS Research Councils
Telling the Bees

Dr. Deborah Maxwell (PI, Edinburgh College of Art); Dr. Toby Pillatt (Co-I, University of East Anglia)

1 DIUS Research Councils
European Social Fund

University of Exeter

6 EU government bodies

Research students

Current research students

  • Richard Knight – Ludonarrative Practice and Theory (3D3 funded)
  • Duncan Yeates – John Harris’s Visions from Carn Brea: Romanticism and Industrialisation in the Poetry of John
  • Steph Comley – Game-based techniques and collaborative learning between arts students in Higher Education
  • Carolyn Arnold – Storytelling to promote pro-environmental behaviour in Cornish businesses

Research degrees examined

Sam Bleakley, Surfing Haïti, and a New Wave of Travel Writing. PhD candidate. Falmouth University. Examined September 2016. Completed November 2016.

Number of research degree examinations: 1


Areas of teaching

20th & 21st Century Literature
Renaissance Literature
Literature and Environment
Digital Games Cultures
Cultural Theory
Conflict in Literature
Utopian Writing
Research Methods

Courses taught

BA(Hons) English
BA(Hons) English with Creative Writing
BA(Hons) Creative Writing
Doctoral Training Programme

Policy engagement within Cornwall

2017 - working with KEAP to deliver CPD for teachers in English & Creative Writing
2014 - Developing academic working relationships with Goonhilly Earth Station (GES) following Cosmographies Conference visit in summer 2014.
2011 - I worked on an internally funded pedagogic research project with Cornwall Record Office, which investigated the value of using archives in creative writing practice (teaching and learning).

Business engagement

Business engagement case studies

2016-17: National Trust Publishing Project. Working with National Trust to deliver a collaborative student-led publishing project, to be launched at the NT South West Outdoor Festival.
2016: North Cornwall Book Festival: providing student team to work on festival blog.

Professional engagement