Earlier this year, at the 2020 Death and Dying conference, attendees came together to discuss how shared reading could explore the ‘telling’ of death. One of the goals of the workshop was to use art to capture a ‘live’ response that included something of the personal and transitory nature of the event.

Aimee Quickfall, Head of Programmes for Primary Education and Early Years at BGU, Dr Clare Lawrence, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Development, and Dr John Rimmer, Senior Lecturer PGCE secondary (art and design), share their feedback on the unique and engaging experience.

Using Shared Reading to explore the ‘telling’ of death

Academic and Creative Responses to Death and Dying Conference, BGU 2020

Dr Clare Lawrence, Aimee Quickfall, Dr John Rimmer

Shared Reading is an approach pioneered and developed by Jane Davis to use the read-aloud experience of literary texts to explore group participants’ reflections, thoughts and memories, where the text is presented as a live presence, not as something pre-read or an object of study. This Shared Reading workshop was part of a conference that had as its theme, How to tell the children, and as such used texts that explored the ‘telling’ of death, and the experience of parents’ death as understood by the (adult) child of those parents. The text chosen were Gertrude’s description of Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act IV sc. v and Charles Causley’s poem Eden Rock.

Throughout the workshop Aimee Quickfall took notes visually, sketching and drawing as the participants talked. These sketches sought to capture something of the perspectives and experiences of those who took part, less to create a factual record and more to produce a live response that included something of the personal and transitory nature of the event.

This method builds on the work of Heath and Chapman (2018), who believe that ‘a sketch does something different to, say, a photograph or a written field note’ (Heath and Chapman, 2018 p. 715). Back and Puwar (2012) suggest that the nature of data that is generated through sketching is different from that generated through other methods, not least because of what drawing, of necessity, leaves out. The artist must choose what to record, so that the record is always synthesised and personalised in a way that a mechanical record is not. Midgley (2011) believes that this means that drawing can capture passions and tensions in a way that other means of recording do not.

The discussions during the workshop were then further synthesised by John Rimmer, who worked what was discussed into a piece of highly abstract animated art, reflecting his interpretation of the themes that were explored.

These academic and Creative responses to the workshop will be shared in due course through published output.

If you’d like to explore a future as part of diverse learning community, speak to a member of our Enquiries Team, or book onto an Open Event to find out how to take your first steps.


Back, L., & Puwar, N. (2012). A manifesto for live methods: provocations and capacities. The sociological review, 60, 6-17.

Heath, S., Chapman, L., & Centre Sketchers, T. M. (2018). Observational sketching as method. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 21(6), 713-728.

Midgley, J. (2011). Drawing Lives-Reportage at Work. Studies in Material Thinking, (4). Retrieved, 5.

29th May 2020