Stir13 is the 2013 Stirring Seminar and is called:  ‘Learning from a sense of place.’ The main event took place on 4th April.

A seminar with a local, national and international favour where we explored what Sense of Place means to us all and how it has inspired others.


Event report
This is available in hard copy from Stirring Learning £5.00 or to download LearningSenseofPlace21JanWEBPrintable

Based at the iconic Derbyshire Eco Centre, our  indoor discussions in the mornings sowed seeds for conversations during the  ’walking and talking sessions’ in the surrounding Derbyshire Dales countryside.  Discussions on the Twitter hash tag #stir13 were active with contributions from  remote participants as well as those present.


This idea of sense of place pops up in lots of contexts. The poets W H Auden and  John Betjeman are said  to have been early users of the term Topophilia (literally love of place) but more recently the Chinese America geographer Yi-Fu Tuan set out an academic approach to the subject in his book Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values.  We drew on some of these ideas but also had a very practical hands-on approach to expressing our own reactions to places we know and places we visit during the day.  Stir 13 Pre event document

Who were the contributors?
In planning the event we set out to invite people with a  wide variety of backgrounds and interests. We hope to hear the voices of musicians, walkers, painters, students of literature, architects, adult educators, school teachers and those who fight to protect the countryside.

 The Pecha Kuchas
The seminar included 6 short presentations which followed the Pecha Kucha format of 6 mins 40 seconds

  • Music evokes a truly personal sense of place (Terry Loane)
  • Audio anthropology: catching the essence of a place with electroacoustic music and sound art. (Digital presentation by Tullis Rennie, Queens University, Belfast)
  • Architects respond to, and also create a sense of place (Nicky Ward – from Derek Trowell Architects).
  • How literature reflects and reveals responses to place over the centuries. From Beowulf to the nineteenth century (Professor Bill Jones)
  • The deeper we know a place the more we cherish it – A Key theme for Sustainable Tourism (Claudia Brözel, Eberswald University)

Place in Film
The seminar also watched a shortened version of a fil mmade by local video artist Gavin Repton. Where the Sand meets the Sea – captures the atmosphere of Sprun Head on the East Coast on England.  The trailer can be seen at


  1. group

STIR14-social_media_logo_500pxThe Geography of the SensesSTIR14-social_media_logo_500px


5 September 2014 – Derbyshire Eco Centre

Final report  available to download now.

Participants  discussed and explored the ways that all senses influence the way in which we perceive places – especially those in the natural world. This image shows some of the participants on a practical exercise on Gritstone near Black Rocks. Other contributors to the day explored a Limestone landscape.


We started with a bit of theory and some artistic responses and followed this with a practical exercise in nearby countryside.

This is just a brief summary of the ground (literally and metaphorically) that the event covered.


Tullis Rennie started us off with a stimulating pre-recorded piece on the importance of sound in our perceptions of place. Many participants especially focussed on the idea that often on listening to a sound we are also re-hearing a similar sound fro  our past and thus making associations.

Livvy Punnett spoke up for light and gave everyone an exercise where we all had to imagine the same scene in different conditions and thus consider the significance of changes in light to our perception.

Tasting, smelling and touching
Nikki Wright made her strongest  strong case for the olfactory senses and she demonstrated this will ‘smell boxes’ passed round so that participants could identify associations between the smells and familiar places.

The Sixth Sense
Merrill Findaly joined us with a  Skype link from her home in rural New South Wales. She had also pre-prepared this presentation which considers the notion of 6th sense and gives an insight to ways that other cultures identify our senses differently .

The Artistic response 

Prof Bill Jones offered a thought provoking presentation about the way that literature reflects the senses.  He drew on a number of short extracts which are shown in his presentation.    Presentation Bill Jones


Terry Loane challenged participants to listen to film music and identify the places it intended to represent. This produced some lively discussion about why and how the music succeeded.

Painting, Perception, Paradoxes and Place
David Ainley introduced this sections with

Painting, like photography, is referred to as a visual art. Understandably the sense most associated with it is sight. I aim to show how that together with a much wider range of sensory experience of place can inform a visual artist.

David Ainley’s presentation


After all this food for the mind it was time to feed the body!

Practical exercise
Do we use all our senses

Still aiming to test the idea that all 5 (or 6?)  senses play a part in our perception of the natural world we set off in two groups to visit nearby sites. We each had a ‘communications budget’ with which to record or reactions to all or any of our senses.


Comms Budget

 The Aide Memoire – a short montage of what we did and the responses that we created. 

Terry Loane produced this ‘Quarry in Wirksworth’

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