CD#18 – Talking, walking, living history

Dave Brown

The new term is now under way, and there are many new faces to welcome to the community. A more familiar face is our new Scholar in Residence, Dave Brown, who was around during the summer, but who has recently joined us in earnest for the coming year. So if you are wondering what Dave is up to at the Castle, read on, as Dave explains about his work and what it means for tourism and research at the Castle.

“It’s not unusual to see people wandering about on the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle peering intently into their smartphones” says Dave. “But you might notice me doing it a bit more frequently than most, accompanied by a chorus of dings, beeps, and disembodied voices.

Despite appearances, however, I’m not a tech addict; I’m a prof in the Dept. of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. My apparent obsession with digital devices stems from my work on Interpretours, a mobile digital interpretive platform that uses smartphones to automatically deliver multimedia information on many topics to users, based on their current physical location.

The diverse and storied Castle estate provides an ideal location to create content for the platform. Though there’s no substitute for a real-life, knowledgeable tour guide, the platform can enhance the experiences of visitors and Castle community members by providing wayfinding information, interpretive routes of the extensive grounds, and specialised thematic information about the history, architecture, natural history, and evolution of the Castle and its grounds.

Delivering site-specific, GPS-triggered multimedia content to your mobile.

Like Herstmonceux, many places have unique heritage features, rich histories, and wonderful stories – but it’s not always easy for visitors to fully appreciate what an area has to offer without doing a lot of research beforehand. Interpretours is designed to address this challenge – by being a kind of ‘knowledgeable GPS unit‘. Based on your interests and physical location, the app guides you to your chosen points of interest and back again – by car, bike, public transit, or on foot – with automatic turn-by-turn directions using one familiar, portable, and easy-to-use device – your smartphone. You can visit individual destinations, explore areas at random, or follow custom or prepared tour routes. But unlike a regular satnav, it also tells you thematically relevant stories along the way, and provides automatically-triggered interpretive information for each point of interest you visit when you get there. It also works in many different environments, from dense cityscapes to remote rural locations where the Google cameras have never visited. No street address or pre-existing mapped route is required.

The platform’s authoring tools also allow users to easily create and share their own geo-located interpretive blurbs for points of interest, as well as custom route itineraries keyed to their own needs and interests. As an educational tool, the platform uses a full spectrum of multimedia tools allowing instructors to create self-guided learning walks for field studies on any topic, and researchers to create specialized geo-located research utilities to share with their peers. And students can complete media-rich field assignments, the best of which can live on as interpretive resources for other students and the public.”

Dave will be working with BISC faculty and partner institutions on digital interpretive materials for locations in London and elsewhere in East Sussex. If your interest has been piqued, find out more about the Interpretours platform from the website or from Dave himself. And if you have your own ideas or opportunities for the platform, or just want to say ‘hello’, feel free to track Dave down in his office (209) or email him on He will happily tell you more about the project!

»Telling stories since January 2017«

CD#17 – Shakespeare al fresco

Here is an event for those of you who enjoy Shakespeare. Tomorrow evening (10th August) the touring company Illyria will be staging their version of The Comedy of Errors at the Castle – so if you are a fan of the Bard, this is literally right up your street!

Comedy of Errors – a Mexican version

Illyria has been round a number of years – 26 years in fact. Julie (in a previous role as an events organiser) booked them in their very first season all those years ago. The company have gone from strength to strength and now tour around the UK with a number of productions. If you would like to know what to expect from this Mexican version of the Bard’s shortest and funniest comedy, read this review from the company’s Penzance performance (click on the image to make it legible).

Tomorrow night’s performance will be staged in front of the Castle. It starts at 6pm and lasts 2hrs, including of a 20-minute interval. As a member of the Castle community you can buy tickets for a discounted rate of £10. Simply arrive and purchase your tickets ‘on the door’ (although that will actually be under the gazebo in the visitors’ car park – due to the absence of an actual door!)

Don’t forget to bring a chair or rug, warm clothes and something to nibble on. The forecast is fine for tomorrow evening, so you may wish to be brave and leave the umbrella at home.

We hope you will join us to experience a laughter-filled evening of entertainment.

»Not quite the Bard, but trying hard, since January 2017«

CD#16 – Feeling the benefit…

Visit the Science Centre at a discounted rate

There are more rewards from working at the Castle than just pay and a pension. There is the community spirit, the chance to hang out with a great group of people, the beautiful location…and a number of hidden benefits which you may not even be aware of.

For example, did you know that, as a staff or faculty member, you can gain free or discounted entry to a range of places, events and activities? So, if you are wondering how to keep your family or friends entertained at the weekend, here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the Castle gardens and grounds with up to four family members or friends for free, during the open season.

    Explore the grounds with your family
  • Borrow the staff passes for Sussex Top Attractions, which will give you free entry to selected local attractions for two people.
  • Visit the Observatory Science Centre at a discounted price of £5 per person, for an unlimited family members or friends if you accompany them carrying your BISC/HCE ID card.
Attend the Medieval Festival
  • Take advantage of the 50 free tickets to the annual Medieval Festival in August – tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, limited to 2 per member of staff, so be quick with your requests!
  • Stay at Bader Hall for a reduced rate, if you fancy getting away from it all.

And don’t forget some of the perks for when you are at work. The challenge is finding the time to take advantage of them:

  • Join the Dining Hall meal scheme and experience great value at £2.40 per meal.

    Take afternoon tea at Chestnuts
  • Buy discounted hot drinks from Chestnuts Tea Room. Just mention that you work at the Castle at the counter and your discount will be applied.
  • Don’t pay a fortune for gym membership, use the Bader Hall gym for free. It has an open floor space for games (team mates not provided) and aerobics, free weights, exercise bikes, running machines and rowing machines (to make you into that mean machine).
  • Attend a range of interesting talks and activities organised as part of the BISC academic program.
  • Want a quiet night in? Borrow a movie from the Library’s DVD collection (many not available in Netflix!), or grab a book.
  • Always fancied learning photography or some other skill? Sign up for courses on

These are just some of the tangible rewards of working at the Castle. For a full list contact Nicola, Administration Manager.

»Benefiting the Castle Community  since January 2017«

CD#15 – The BISC – an inspirational setting

Steven Bednarski

The BISC, its location, and its history, have garnered international praise through an award recently made to Steven Bednarski for innovation in teaching, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award. The STLHE recognized Steven for his “collaborative, cross-disciplinary, hands-on” approach to teaching, as evidenced at Queen’s University’s UK campus of Herstmonceux Castle and at Waterloo, Ontario.

Many of you will know Steven as a former Scholar in Residence and faculty member, regular on-site researcher, and long-time partner of the BISC. In 2011, Steven began a formal partnership between the BISC and Queen’s University and his home institutions, the University of Waterloo and St. Jerome’s University. The purpose of this relationship is to research the relationship between East Sussex’s changing environment and climate, and the ways in which inhabitants of the Castle estate and surrounding medieval village lived and adapted to their landscape. In 2013, this research received generous funding through a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which included funding from Queen’s University.  The most visible part of this work happens each summer, when students from the partner institutions come to Herstmonceux to further work on the various archaeological sites across the grounds. A regular member of the archaeological team has been the recipient of Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship (USSRF) funding made available by Queen’s in recognition of the importance of the partnership.

Hands-on experience

Steven’s approach to teaching is inspired by a core principle of the BISC programming: learning by doing. Students who participate in the program and who study, live, and work at Herstmonceux have the opportunity to engage with the past by actively seeking evidence of it, both in the ground and in the archives. Finds from the digs have been cleaned, analysed, catalogued and are now archived on site. Primary sources from the archives have been catalogued and digitised. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project has enabled students to acquire knowledge, training and transferable skills in archaeology, history and archives.

A number of students, having left the BISC, return to Waterloo to continue working on the project in new ways, for example, through the creation of a digital repository of information that ultimately could support research in similar areas of climate change. Just last year Steven established the D.R.A.G.E.N. (Digital Research Arts for Graphical and Environmental Networks) Lab to continue exploring the role of technology in helping us understand and visualise the past. By blending programming, Steven’s students acquire hands-on training, experiential learning, and internationalization at the BISC which they then bring back to Canada and put to work, for credit, in transferrable settings. In this way, the BISC and Queen’s helps provide high-quality research training to students who are at the forefront of emerging technologies and research approaches.

Engaging with the past

You can learn more about the project, including viewing an interactive map showing how the sea reached the Castle’s South Gate, by visiting the Herstmonceux Project Website.


As Steven says, “BISC programming is transformative for my students and junior research partners. It enables them to return to Canada with new skills and a real appreciation for collaboration, hands-on learning, and the creation of original research. The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award is affirmation that the partnership between Waterloo and the BISC is truly unique and beneficial. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of the Partners and delighted to know that what we are doing together is gaining recognition by our peers, nationally and internationally.”

»Inspirational since January 2017«

CD#14 – Summer visitors

A comma butterfly – one of our many summer visitors

Have you noticed that it has got a little hotter recently? If you haven’t, well done. You must be sitting in the shade somewhere. If you are a hardy individual and are tempted to brave the heat, now may be an excellent time to enjoy a trundle around the Castle estate.

Yellow rattle

Guy, the Castle’s Head of Grounds, recently got in touch with The Drum about some of the interesting visitors to the grounds we have been welcoming in recent weeks – and not of the human kind! Here’s Guy’s update on what you may be able to see on your estate travels.

“Thanks to the glorious weather the Estate Team have been busy mowing and strimming around the grounds. However, the summer is the best time to see the fruits of our labour from the previous winter’s work.


(Left to right: common spotted orchid, plant and flower, yellow rattle)

On a short walk with keen naturalist Ian Standivan, we identified a fantastic array of the wildlife that benefits from our work on the estate. These include dragonflies (broad bodied chasers); mammals (pygmy shrews); birds (goldfinches, whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs,great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tits, coal tits, reed warblers, garden warblers, mallards, moorhens, swallows); butterflies (common blues, meadow browns, small tortoiseshells, red admirals, white admirals, painted ladies; moths (silver Y).

(Left to right: ragged robin, knapweed and mallow)

The wild flower meadow is starting to show great signs of improvement and species diversity and, with ongoing work, we hope it will develop year on year.

Foxglove regeneration

Through the woodland thinning we are now seeing some fantastic signs of regeneration with elder hazel, honeysuckle, bluebell, wood anemone and foxglove making a strong appearance in the understorey.

Later in the summer we hope to start a barn owl ringing program to keep track and monitor breeding barn owls on the estate.”

Bumblebee feeding on common vetch


So now is your chance to grab your Spotter’s Guide to… and head off into the meadow and woodlands!

All photos in this post were taken by Guy.

»Publishing hot topics since January 2017«


CD#13 – Welcoming Hugh to the Castle Community

Hugh Horton
Hugh Horton, our new Vice Provost and Executive Director

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Hugh Horton to the Castle Community this month. On 12th June Hugh will be joining us as Vice Provost and Executive Director. Many of you will already know Hugh, as prior to being appointed our new VP&ED, he has for a number of years been our academic liaison with main campus and has made regular visits to the Castle.

You may have had a chance to meet Hugh when he last visited us briefly in April, and shared with us his vision of the future BISC. If you did not get the chance to chat to Hugh first time round, then now’s the time to brush up on your ‘elevator pitch’, as Hugh will no doubt be taking every opportunity to chat with his new colleagues and to find out how the organisation functions and what we all do! If you, in return, want to know a little more about Hugh and his journey to becoming VP&ED at the BISC, you can visit his current web page or, better still, ask him!

We know Hugh’s first few days with us are going to be busy, so if you don’t have a chance to deliver your carefully prepared pitch on day 1 (or 2 or 3), don’t despair. There will be opportunities aplenty in the six weeks Hugh will be on campus this summer. From 22nd July Hugh will return to main campus for a brief spell, and then will be back with us at the end of August to take up permanent residence before the start of Fall term.

I’m sure you will be happy to echo the The Drum when we say, ‘Welcome, Hugh! We look forward to working with you.’”

»Drumming in the changes since January 2017«

CD#12 – The shop finds new purpose

You are no doubt familiar with ‘The Shop’ behind Chestnuts tea room. It has been there for a number of years, and has taken on several guises – originally a gift shop for tourists, it was then transformed into a book store for students. Since April 2016 it has had a sad existence, acting as a storeroom for secondhand books or standing empty. But no longer!

The shop has been transformed into an art gallery, Castle Arts, offering for sale the work of local artists, including some from the Society of Eastbourne Artists. The artists, both amateur and semi-professional, have come together to create a wide range of paintings and craft items which will appeal to many different tastes. Landscapes, abstracts, glass work and paper crafts are all available at affordable prices.

This weekend the Gallery will be open for the first time as part of Castle Connections, when we celebrate the Castle at the heart of the community. Do visit and have a look around – you may even be tempted to buy something. As you can see from the photographs, you may not recognise the place!

As mentioned, Castle Connections is this weekend. Don’t forget, entry to this event is free to you as a member of the Castle Community. Come and discover the ways in which the Castle is involved with its community and take this opportunity to find out more about the roles of the many organisations that work alongside us.


»A work of art since January 2017«


CD#11 – Library opening 24/7 from Summer term

From the beginning of next term the Library will be extending its opening hours to 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And no, they are not recruiting a small army of librarians to staff the desk around the clock. Instead they are buying just one machine – a self-issue machine (SIM). The new machine will sit in the corridor between the two Library rooms, and will be awake and willing to issue a book whenever it is called upon to do so.

Practically there will be a few changes to how the Library operates once the SIM is installed. The most obvious will be the change to the Library’s staffed hours. From Monday 8th May regular staffed hours will be 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Thursday, 10.00am to 5.00pm Friday, and unstaffed at the weekends. There will be a staff presence in the Library the weekend before the start of classes each term, as this is a busy book-buying period, and as you know, our campus bookstore The Book Stack runs out of the Library.

The other significant change will be that you will no longer need a key to get into the Lending Library ‘out of hours’. This is because, firstly, there will no longer be such a thing as ‘out of hours’ and, secondly, both Library rooms will simply require a code to enter (and it will be the same code for both doors). The books and DVDs in both areas will be available to borrow 24 hours a day, with a few exceptions. ‘But what’s stopping the books just disappearing off the shelves without being issued, if both rooms are essentially unlocked?’ we hear you ask. Along with the SIM comes a new set of security gates and CCTV. If anyone inadvertently tries to leave the Library with an item they’ve not formally borrowed, the gates will alert the Library team, and they’ll be able to track the book down using the gate record and the CCTV. All very hi tech.

‘So, if you have a new machine, why do we need librarians any longer?’ you may well also be asking. While the new machine will be very good at issuing books, and even accepting them back (assuming you press the right buttons and can remember your PIN!), it’s not so good at ordering books, cataloguing them, making sure they are available on the shelves, answering student queries, explaining search skills and directing students to information online, checking reading lists, scanning items for onQ, running a bookstore selling books and stationery, and restructuring and cataloguing the Archive – in fact there are quite a few tasks that, put simply, the SIM is rubbish at. And for this reason, the Library team of Sarah, Louise and Jean will continue to be part of the Castle community for some time to come.

»Written by a human since January 2017«

CD#10 – Celebrate with the Musicians in Residence

Diana and Shelley with the Symphonova in 2016
Diana and Shelley with the Symphonova in 2016

You may have heard already the exciting news that Diana and Shelley have been awarded a significant grant from Bader Philanthropies. This is also the year in which our Musicians in Residence are celebrating 20 years at the Castle. The Castle Drum caught up with Diana, and asked her to tell us more about some of their many achievements in the past two decades…”

20 years ago this fresh-faced young Canadian couple arrived at Herstmonceux Castle with their two little boys. Opera singer Diana Gilchrist and pianist and conductor Dr. Shelley Katz thought that Queen’s University at the Castle would be an excellent platform to engage in musical activities with students and the local community. They were looking for some balance to their busy international careers and Herstmonceux seemed the perfect family base. So it proved to be. They are still here, celebrating their 20th anniversary with a grant from Bader Philanthropies to continue bringing musical enrichment to the BISC and wider community.

Diana performing at the 'Prom'
Diana performing at the ‘Prom’

The Musicians in Residence have offered a variety of musical events and experiences over the years, for students and community. One of the most exciting early concerts was an open air ‘Prom’ with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – complete with fireworks. Shelley led the lucky Summer Term students and the audience singing, while Diana featured as soloist providing her own vocal pyrotechnics!

Ladies Chamber Choir rehearsal in the ballroom (2012)
Shelley and the Ladies Chamber Choir rehearse in the ballroom (2012)

For several years, top international performers joined Shelley and Diana in their Castle Concert series. The concerts were hugely supported by the local community and often played to wonderfully appreciative, sold-out audiences. The new Bader Philanthropies grant will facilitate a welcome re-launch of the Castle Concert series.

A highlight of each term is the chance for students, staff and faculty to sing in a choir. Choir and various other ensembles perform at the Castle, in the community and further afield, sometimes partnering with other institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford. Over the years, concerts have included major works, such as the Mozart, Brahms and Fauré Requiems.

A visit to the Symphonova research facility (2013)
A visit to the Symphonova research facility (2013)

Shelley, who holds a PhD in Music Technology, develops cutting edge inventions which he uses in research, demos, concerts and recordings. When students visited his lab at the University of Surrey they got to try their hands at conducting, using a digital wand. One especially talented violin student was able to trial a concerto with Shelley’s digital orchestra technology.

Glyndebourne Opera House

As well as providing students with opportunities to participate in exciting UK cultural events, Diana and Shelley also take students and staff to off-site performances. Over the years, the Glyndebourne Opera Festival has generously given tickets to summer dress rehearsals. Diana’s opera trips to this iconic venue typically include prep lectures and ‘posh picnics’. Other favorite cultural highlights each year include going to London to see operas, ballets and concerts.

The Musicians in Residence are delighted that the very generous Bader Philanthropies grant will enable them to continue offering concerts, lecture-recitals, masterclasses, choir trips and a wide variety of musical events designed to enrich the Herstmonceux Castle experience.

Celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (2012)
Celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (2012)

Watch out for the re-launch of Castle Concerts this coming autumn –  Saturday, October 14th in the ballroom!

»Celebrating successes since January 2017«

CD#9 – BISC tips

If you could offer new students one piece of advice for their time with us, what would it be?

Isabelle Brent, Student Success Coordinator, is compiling a list of ‘BISC tips’ for inclusion in a new academic planner which will be provided to all incoming students in September. The tips will be used as page headers and are intended to support students throughout the year.

Your tips for the students don’t necessarily have to be practical. They can also be inspirational, supportive, or motivational. All tips should be relevant to the students’ experience at the BISC though for example their life at Bader Hall, travelling in the UK or Europe, or getting the most out of their studies.

To submit a tip, please email Isabelle on

»Sharing words of wisdom since January 2017«