Professor Brendan Stone

School of English

Professor of Social Engagement and the Humanities, University of Sheffield Deputy Vice-President for Education

English Brendan Stone
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+44 114 222 8495

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Professor Brendan Stone
School of English
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I'm Professor of Social Engagement and the Humanities, and I also work as the University's Deputy Vice-President for Education. The latter entails working on the development and implementation of the strategy for all aspects of learning and teaching in the institution, and the leadership and oversight of various activities and priorities. Prior to this, I was the 'cross-cutting' Director of Learning and Teaching for the University, working on our 'Outward-Facing' agenda. This involves oversight of issues such as widening participation and engaged learning.

My academic interests centre on the relationship between narrative, identity, and trauma; mental distress and 'recovery'; and engaged pedagogies. I’m also very interested in dystopian fiction and film, and critical theory, particularly addressing ethics and narrative. The 'flavour' of my work tends to be highly engaged with 'real-world' projects and organisations.

I frequently work with people who live with severe and enduring mental distress (or mental illness), and with statutory and third-sector organisations which provide support. I have a longstanding strong working relationship with the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Trust (SHSC) which provides services for people who live with mental illness, learning disabilities, dementia, and other conditions.

I am currently a Non-Executive Director for SHSC, and over several years have been very involved in leading work on the engagement of service-users in developing policy and strategy.  At a national level, I am the Co-Chair of the NHS England Strategic Oversight Group for the programme on the Use of Restrictive Interventions in NHS Commissioned Health Care. I am also a Director of Sheffield Flourish, a mental health charity which frequently works with Universities and the NHS.

I was awarded a Chair in January 2013 for my work in the areas of social and civic engagement, teaching innovation and excellence, leadership in widening participation, and my work in equality and diversity particularly in the fields of disability and mental health.

I am the founder and co-director of the University's Storying Sheffield project and I'm a member of Medical Humanities Sheffield, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Mental Health, a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a Senate Fellowship Award winner at the University of Sheffield. In 2017 I was honoured to win the Academic and Health Science Network's Excellence in Patient Experience award for my work with people living with mental illness.

My route into working in academia has been a slightly unconventional one. I left school at 16 with few qualifications and returned to education in my mid-thirties on a university access course.

Research interests

Most of my work takes the form of 'research in practice' in which wide participation, 'co-production', and real-world outcomes are key drivers. The outputs include films, audio pieces, and exhibitions amongst others.

I have worked or am working on a number of research projects over the last few years. These include the current IWUN (Improving Wellbeing Through Urban Nature ) project which crosses disciplines and uses a variety of methods to understand the relationship between nature and mental wellbeing.

One of the study's four teams is using story-based interviews and arts workshops with Sheffield residents from diverse backgrounds to explore this relationship. Other projects include:

  • Stories of Change which investigated how public services can be better connected to the real needs of people who use them through the use of narrative methodologies.
  • 'Fulfilling Lives: supporting people with multiple and complex needs', a Big Lottery funded project exploring how to best improve the lives of individuals who have experienced at least two of: homelessness, reoffending, problematic substance use, and mental ill health.
  • The Sheffield Flourish digital hub for wellbeing; a project looking at the experiences of people with learning disabilities with regard to the Mental Capacity Act.
  • A Hefce Catalyst project on Group Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Projects.
  • A HEE funded narrative project on health inequalities in the Sheffield region.

My work for the University and for the NHS often involves me in working with and alongside people who live with mental distress (or mental illness). I am particularly keen to amplify the knowledge and insights of people with experience of distress/illness and of using mental health services in order to help shape strategy and practice in health and social care, and also in fields such as welfare rights and the criminal justice system.

I am always keen to hear from individuals, groups, or organisations who want to develop similar or related work.  I am a long-time mental health service-user myself, and have a strong commitment to the rights and empowerment of individuals using mental health services and/or living with mental distress.

I also run workshops for senior professionals in health and social care which utilise narrative methods to explore practice and identity in a range of fields including child protection.


Journal articles


  • Stone B (2010) An anti-discriminatory approach to therapy with seriously distressed clients In Lago C & Smith B (Ed.), Anti-Discriminatory Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice (pp. 75-85). London: Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stone B (2008) Why Fiction Matters to Madness In Robinson D (Ed.), Narrative and Fiction: An Interdisciplinary Approach (pp. 71-78). University of Huddersfield Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stone B (2006) Knowing, Not-knowing, Fiction: Remembering Ross David Burke In Roberts B (Ed.), Narrative, Memory and Knowledge: Representations, Easthetics and Contexts (pp. 91-101). University of Huddersfield Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stone B (2005) Speaking of the Everyday: Psychosis and writing In Roberts B (Ed.), Narrative, Memory and Everyday Life (pp. 169-177). University of Huddersfield Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stone B (2004) How can I speak of madness? Narrative and identity in memoirs of mental illness In Roberts B (Ed.), Narrative, Memory and Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Issues (pp. 49-59). University of Huddersfield Press RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

I am always interested in supervising PhDs. Some of my supervision experience includes the following:

  • Vicky Grant, 'Knowing as Healing: A narrative investigation into how patients with IBS can use information gain autonomy in their care' (interdisciplinary PhD co-located between School of English and School of Medicine Dentistry and Health)
  • Gregg Rawlings, 'A randomised controlled trial to investigate if Focused Expressive Writing reduced symptoms in patients with epilepsy and Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder' (interdisciplinary PhD co-located between School of English and School of Medicine Dentistry and Health)
  • Solange Ayache, 'Theatres of the Mental Space: Women and Trauma in Sarah Kane's and Martin Crimp's writings (1993-present) towards a Psychopoetics of the Voice'. (PhD co-located between School of English, TUOS and Université Paris IV-Sorbonne.) (successfully completed in 2016)
  • Matthew Colbeck, 'The Struggle for Identity in Coma Literature' (successfully completed 2015)
  • Jack Windle, 'Class, Culture and Colonialism: Working-Class Writing in Postwar Britain'. (successfully completed in 2014)
  • Deirdre McConnell, 'An appreciative inquiry approach to school-based art therapy: Making a difference'.
  • Bina Hartwell, 'Can art therapy contribute to rehabilitation by helping offenders understand their histories and interrupt patterns of self-harm?'
  • Joy Gravestock, 'Exploration of the contribution that music therapy can make to the contemporary process and lived experiences of adoption'.
  • Adrian Scott, 'The Poetry of Place: a poetic investigation of the current state of Sheffield in South Yorkshire'.
  • Ben Dorey, '"The danger to be Sane": subjectification and 'mad' cartography in Post-Romantic poetry'.
  • Hannah Pinnock, 'Lost Stories of the 'Insane': Narrating Mental Illness in the Nineteenth-Century'.
Teaching activities

I have developed and taught on a wide range of courses in various disciplines, including English Literature, Medicine, Psychology, and Social Work. I am particularly interested in developing 'engaged learning' activities and led the development of the University's Engaged Learning Network.

I define engaged learning as combining academic rigour and disciplinary knowledge with opportunities for students to learn with and from external partners, 'realworld' challenges, and experiences outside the University. Projects frequently focus on engaging with, learning from, and addressing issues of local, national, or international public concern.

I am the leader of the Storying Sheffield course (a part of the wider Storying Sheffield project) in which School of English undergraduates work in various city and regional contexts, in order to co-produce narrative representations of life in the city, often with a focus on marginalised groups and individuals. You can read more about Storying Sheffield at the project website.

Students on this and other courses I run have often exhibited their work in public fora, including at exhibitions, film screenings, publications and performances. The Storying Sheffield model has been used in the School of Medicine where it is led by people living with mental health difficulties with students who are interested in psychiatry; there are also Storying courses and workshops which are run by NHS mental health services.

I lead an interdisciplinary module on trauma and narrative, which utilises approaches from the arts, medicine, psychology and philosophy to understand the intersections, dependencies, and relationships between culture, narrative, identity, psychological distress, and trauma.

I have also designed and led courses in dystopian literature; medicine and narrative ethics; user perspectives in social work; and the novella and the uncanny.

In 2012, I was awarded a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship for excellence in learning and teaching. I have also been awarded a University of Sheffield Senate Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.