Funded by the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme and ran from February – November 2012


Team: Community Partners: Marcus Hurcombe, Rotherham Youth Service, Deborah Bullivant Inspire Rotherham, High Greave Junior School and Thorogate Junior School, Rotherham


Creative Partners: Steve Pool, Cassie Limb and Andrew McMillan


University Partners, School of English: Jane Hodson, Hugh Escott, Richard Steadman-Jones, Department of Education: Kate Pahl, David Hyatt


Language as Talisman involved young people from youth centres and schools together with practitioners, artists, poets and film makers, working alongside academics, from the English and Education departments at the University of Sheffield. The project was based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and had a focus on language as a source of protection and resilience for young people. The project team worked in schools and youth centres to co-produce materials with young people about language and its power. We were interested in how young people can shape language practices in the classroom and how their understandings of language can be supported and developed. We looked at how local dialect can be drawn on in young people’s written language. We wanted to explore ways in which young people could gain insights into their use of language and link this to the literature.


The phrase ‘language as talisman’ emerged from a shared interest in the ways in which language can operate as a source of resilience. It was a way to raise questions about the uses and meanings of language and literacy that did not draw entirely on an academic discourse and to provide a more open space for discussion across University and Community contexts. The project team created talismans, films, poems, oral stories, written texts, precious words and art work with young people in schools and community contexts. In the course of the project young people reflected with academics on their use of dialect in particular contexts, and created short films about why language was important.