Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Extreme Imagination - Inside the Mind's Eye

University of Exeter research fellow Dr Matthew MacKisack guides us through a RAMM exhibition that explores works by artists, writers and makers with widely varying visual imaginations.

Ramm   University of exeter  

Matthew MacKisack invites you to close your eyes, then to picture the Eiffel Tower. What can you see? Can you pick out the metal struts, follow the line of the tower’s elegant silhouette, grasp the way it stands proud against the Paris skyline? How vivid is the image in your mind’s eye?

An air of quiet concentration falls over the group gathered for a tour of RAMM’s Extreme Imagination exhibition. Standing back, my mind races through myriad images: memories of visits, recollections of photographs and film, Zazie playing with the laws of physics among its girders.

MacKisack interrupts my reverie. Who can see nothing at all? A few people raise their hands. It seems they have a little-known condition called aphantasia and possess no mind’s eye.

La descente vertigineuse de Charles from Zazie dans le métro

This “blindness of the mind” is not new: it was first described in the late 19th century. Following decades of disinterest, study of the phenomenon was revived in 2005 by the University of Exeter’s Professor Adam Zeman, and has identified wide variations in imaginative ability. New terms are now in use: aphantasia affects around two or three of every hundred people. Hyperphantasia, at the other end of the imaginative spectrum, is found in around 10 to 15 percent of the population. My manic internal Eiffel Tower memory movie appears to place me firmly in this latter group. Studies of the neural basis of visual imagination and its role in culture have now taken place - and provided the basis for this exhibition.

Curated by MacKisack and artist Susan Aldworth, Extreme Imagination surveys a selection of aphantasic artists, writers and makers. The work on display is varied and visually engaging but not, at first glance, distinct from what one might see at any other gallery or exhibition.

It was only as MacKisack steered us to specific pieces and relayed insights into their production processes that more intriguing questions arose. He told us people with aphantasia often report they can’t picture family members when away from them. Or can remember a holiday but are unable to conjure up specific scenes from it. So how might such a person, with little or no internal visual vision, approach producing creative work?

Extreme Imagination - inside the mind's eye exhibition at Exeter RAMM Extreme Imagination at Exeter RAMM

We are invited to consider a small, monochromatic oil on canvas by Dutch painter Daan Tweehuysen that beautifully renders a photoreal chunk of shrivelled ginger. Tweehuysen, MacKisack tells us, has developed production strategies that include copying from life or photographic images. There’s nothing unusual about the use of this technique in visual art, except that for Tweehuysen it is his only technique: he is constrained to observation alone.

Photographic sources also supply the basis for creative work by illustrator Stephanie Brown who says that, instead of relying on visual imagination, she methodically works through whatever the production of a particular image requires. The Fall of a King was created to accurately illustrate a specific scene from a supplied narrative. Depicting foxes in a graveyard at sunset, she employs insight into the way the brain processes colour to combine warm colours with cool yellow to create the illusion of vibrant green for a grassy foreground. Instead of relying on an image of sunset in her mind’s eye, she uses photographs to work out which colour tones are required.

In contrast with this methodical approach, Michael Chance instead relies on improvisation that emerges as he works, using the canvas to develop his ideas instead of his imagination. His painting Bacchus Walk depicts dozens of bodies in different degrees of undress, limbs variously entwined, in a surreal scene in which the different scales at which they appear deny the normal rules of physical reality. He describes his technique as stepping out into the unknown, where the work of painting or drawing becomes a process of visualisation. He bypasses conscious decision-making to allow images to emerge externally, rather than trying to realise inner vision.

Susan Baquie also makes work without an outcome in mind. She uses collage to play with materiality before contemplating the results. In The Prahan friend’s brother #4 and The Prahan friend’s brother #5 she responds to news of a suicide, allowing her emotions to guide how she tears and places scraps of paper. She says there were no images of the distressing events in her mind, but that a figurative representation of them seemed to emerge unintentionally in the action of making and from her subliminal awareness of the death of the young man.

Extreme Imagination - inside the mind's eye exhibition at Exeter RAMM Extreme Imagination at Exeter RAMM

Aphantasia also affects other creative endeavours. Writer Ben Hardy concentrates on action and plot in his narratives, rather than detailed visual description, and John Brinnels pieces together his novels using descriptive materials he finds in other writers’ work. MacKisack tells us that despite aphantasia’s apparent challenges, “creativity finds a way”.

However, Melissa English Campbell says her hyperphantasic imagination is the basis for her creativity. She can almost photographically visualise, manipulate and refine her work in her mind’s eye, spending hours composing and adjusting a piece before committing it to paper and then production. Honey, an immensely detailed linen weaving, is a typical outcome.

This impressive feat would have pleased the Romantics who, MacKisack tells us, extolled the Aristotelian notion that artists give external form to their inner thoughts. Joshua Reynolds, the 18th century Devon-born artist, believed the painter’s purpose was to directly realise their visions: “Whenever a story is related, every man forms a picture in his mind of the action and the expression of the persons employed. The power of representing this mental picture in canvas is what we call invention in a painter”. Yet the work of the artists in this exhibition defies this conviction: it is inventive, expressive and powerfully representational.

Nevertheless, important questions remain. For instance, what is the role of imagination in producing contemporary conceptual work which is often focussed more on ideas than the material, despite typically resulting in the presentation of objects? Tracey Emin says that she climbed out of her famous bed and, in hyperphantasic mode, clearly visualised it sitting in a gallery space. Did Simon Starling float a shed down the Rhine after seeing it in his mind’s eye?

My Bed by Tracey Emin at Tate Britain My Bed by Tracey Emin at Tate Britain. Photo: Andy Hay.

Perhaps such questions are beyond the scope of this exhibition. The work on display offers plenty to contemplate, especially when considered alongside the accounts of its production. Having discovered my own hyperphantasic visual sense, and become more aware of its advantages, I was all the more impressed by the strategies employed by these artists. I found myself wondering whether their aphantasia conveys advantages of its own. MacKisack concurs. “If you have it, you exploit it, and if you don’t, you develop other means”. In any case, it is clear that we need to reconsider the way we imagine imagination itself.


Extreme Imagination: Inside the Mind’s Eye is at RAMM in Exeter until 2 June. More information about the research project can be found at its dedicated University of Exeter website.


 is arts & culture editor of Exeter Observer and a member and director of its publisher Exeter Observer Ltd.

 


More Arts & Culture
Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

Read more ...

Photo of The Jambassadors by Gabe Riedlinger

Preview  ⁄  Arts & culture

Jambassadors feature in pop-up Jazz Toast at Barnfield Theatre

Musical director Roz Harding invites us to join an Exeter College Music Academy student collective in a one-night-only experimental exploration of in-the-moment improvisation.

Read more ...

Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Barnfield Theatre

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Playing with gender expectations at Barnfield Theatre

An Exeter College interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream transforms it into an enchanting contemporary gender-adapted tale.

Read more ...

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

Preview  ⁄  Arts & culture

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

A new collaboration between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought SW and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture by reimagining objects from the RAMM collections.

Read more ...

Kaleider Mikrofest Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter Princesshay

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Out of sight, out of mind

A performance of From The Light of The Fire, Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter for Kaleider Mikrofest appears to favour illusion over truth in a confused rendering of Plato's cave allegory that leaves both performers and audience in the dark.

Read more ...

Climate & Environment
Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Wonford NHS Trust parking sign

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Hospital creates parking for 200 cars despite city climate crisis goals

Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital says new parking "temporary" but no end-date given in planning application and no hard evidence of need provided.

Read more ...

Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan proposals vs Exeter territorial emissions vs Exeter carbon footprint bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is the "Net Zero" Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter's carbon footprint

Exeter City Futures' carbon reduction plan ignores over a million tonnes of carbon emissions and massively underestimates the challenges facing the city. First in a series examining its flaws by Fridays For Future youth climate activists.

Read more ...

Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter City Council accepts climate emergency plan to make city carbon neutral by 2030

Chief Executive warns that resourcing the plan is "problematic" given COVID-19 financial challenges and that lack of resources limits the council's capacity for immediate practical action.

Read more ...

Exeter City Futures Blueprint for a Carbon Neutral Exeter by 2030 graphic

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is Exeter finally responding to the climate emergency?

A surge of activity about action to combat climate change is taking place in Exeter, including the publication of a carbon neutral blueprint pending a "mobilisation summit", but detail and evidence is still missing and community engagement is falling short of debate.

Read more ...

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate banners on Western Way footbridge

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter climate strike anniversary march brings junction to standstill

Protestors form human chain around County Hall to highlight Devon County Council's role as key regional climate policy decision-maker after Exeter City Council confiscates banners promoting carbon neutral blueprint policies.

Read more ...

Exeter Global Climate Strike demonstrator holding placard

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter youth climate strikers launch Green New Deal for Devon

Fridays For Future Exeter have published a detailed vision of a more equitable future that calls on elected representatives across the county to recognise the climate crisis as a symptom of a dysfunctional political economy.

Read more ...

Exeter Global Climate Strike Bedford Street crowd

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Thousands march in Exeter for global climate strike as millions mobilise worldwide

Fridays for Future Exeter led 3500 people on a climate crisis demonstration through the city backed by dozens of organisations on the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Read more ...

Exeter Extinction Rebellion funeral march climate crisis High Street

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Mock funeral march brings Exeter city centre to a sombre standstill

Extinction Rebellion campaigners brought the gravity of the ecological emergency home to Exeter on Saturday in a funereal procession commemorating wildlife loss caused by climate change.

Read more ...

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate protestors with banner

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate - the floodgates are open

Exeter is one of the smallest cities in Britain, yet it has produced some of the country's biggest youth strikes. Climate activist Sophie Sleeman recounts the story so far and explains what it means to the young people who are creating a global wave of change.

Read more ...

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter Extinction Rebellion stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Read more ...

Community & Society
Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

Analysis  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

Read more ...

Night shelter for homeless and rough sleepers in Magdalen Street, Exeter (front)

News  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers night shelter to open all year round

Exeter City Council has approved plans to extend Magdalen Street night shelter opening from April to the end of September.

Read more ...

Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck

News  ⁄  Community & society

University of Exeter PRISM network champions queer STEMM pioneers

Exeter students celebrated the lives of polar explorer and botanist Elke Mackenzie, inventor, engineer and futurist Nikola Tesla and astronaut and children's author Sally Ride in winning LGBT+ network competition entries.

Read more ...

Jubilee Beauty - Exeter Central library chidren's area rocking horse

News  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter library children's horse to keep on rocking!

A crowdfunding appeal has successfully raised £1000 to repair Exeter Central library's popular rocking horse, Jubilee Beauty.

Read more ...

Democracy & Governance
St Sidwell's Point development site outline aerial view

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council executive members take direct control of city planning decisions

Council's executive now possesses majority on city planning committee, with council leader and planning portfolio holder also included despite national guidance, offering basis to challenge decisions and increasing democratic deficit.

Read more ...

Food retailers at Queen Street Dining in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Unelected Liveable Exeter Place Board created to oversee city from the shadows

Exeter City Council has convened an unelected board that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter's future.

Read more ...

Exeter Princesshay deserted under COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council announces £1.584m April budget shortfall caused by COVID-19 restrictions

Council revenues have fallen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a £6.357 million capital spending deferment. But financial support from government has so far been limited.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council accounts delayed by auditors Grant Thornton

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter & East Devon council accounts delayed by Grant Thornton's "lack of staff resources"

Annual accounts for local government, including Exeter City Council, have been delayed by private sector firms failing to complete their work on time after cost-cutting government auditing reforms.

Read more ...

2019 parliamentary elections - Devon Conservative vote share change bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Conservative vote share varies across Devon but still blocks an Independent MP in East Devon

Labour loses vote share in every constituency, but retains Exeter and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to leave the county position unchanged from 2017.

Read more ...

Exeter election polling station

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Conservatives hold Topsham in Exeter city council by-election

A by-election held on general election day produced an unusually high turnout but a lower Conservative vote share than at the May local elections.

Read more ...

East Devon Independent Claire Wright 2019 general election candidate

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest

Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.

Read more ...

2019 Devon County Council Heavitree & Whipton Barton by-election Exeter vote share swing bar chart

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter Labour support collapses in Heavitree & Whipton Barton county by-election

Greg Sheldon wins Devon County Council division by just 40 votes after Labour loses nearly a fifth of its previous vote share.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council cuts executive decision-making scrutiny

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council cuts scrutiny of executive decision-making

Constitutional changes proposed by Exeter City Council will make it more difficult to hold the ruling political group to account.

Read more ...

Exeter anti-government protest Devon for Europe speaker

Comment  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter protest misses its mark by mixing its messages

One of Exeter's biggest ever street demonstrations combined anti-Brexit and pro-democracy concerns to produce a confused protest against government policy.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closures Exeter Live Better hoarding

Comment  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter could do better - was there no alternative to closing so many public toilets?

Exeter City Council did not need to close thirteen public toilets to balance the books. The money to keep them open was available in reserves, but no mention of this option was made during public decision-making by councillors or officers.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closure notice

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Caught short - balancing the books in a hurry

Exeter City Council has unapologetically confirmed its decision to close 13 public toilets as a money-saving measure with full knowledge of its expected effect on residents and visitors. Can we expect other spending cuts to be handled the same way?

Read more ...

Molly Scott Cato at the European Parliament

Profile  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Is EU membership essential to our ability to deal with the climate emergency?

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, visited Exeter during her re-election campaign to explain why the EU and its Green Group is leading the way on a wide range of progressive policies.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council city centre wards map

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

Read more ...

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

Profile  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

Read more ...

Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?

Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.

Read more ...

Economy & Enterprise
Small retail businesses on Paris Street, Exeter

News  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Half of COVID-19 support grants unclaimed by Exeter businesses

Exeter City Council in bottom third of local authorities as only 45% of eligible local businesses claim government coronavirus support money.

Read more ...

Heart of the South West Local Industrial Strategy branding

Analysis  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Will a new South West industrial strategy deliver what it promises?

Our business-led Local Enterprise Partnership appears committed to a new approach to driving growth which its CEO describes as "game-changing".

Read more ...

Education & Skills
Exeter University & College Union strike third week rally at St David's Church - Billy Bragg concert

News  ⁄  Education & skills

University of Exeter strike ends third week with rally and concert at St David's Church

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in four weeks of national industrial action over pensions, equal pay for female and BAME staff, increasing workloads and the use of casual employment contracts.

Read more ...

Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark

News  ⁄  Education & skills

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

Read more ...

Rhian Keyse speaking at Exeter UCU's anti-casualisation campaign launch

News  ⁄  Education & skills

Education union challenges university to address widespread casualisation of teaching staff

Exeter University & College Union (UCU) launched an anti-casualisation campaign on Friday as a prelude to negotiation with the University of Exeter over academic staff contracts.

Read more ...

Planning & Place
Pulling Road Pinhoe Exeter zero carbon housing development site plan

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter's first "zero carbon" housing development includes 96 car parking spaces for 40 homes

Exeter City Council has approved plans to develop land at Pinhoe with a parking ratio of 2.4 cars per household as part of an "exemplar scheme for future residential development in the city" while accepting that zero carbon construction comes "at a cost to the provision of affordable housing".

Read more ...

Cranbrook town centre development site empty plots

News  ⁄  Planning & place

Cranbrook town centre community building application submitted

Devon County Council is to develop new town centre facilities including a children's centre with public health nursing provision, youth centre with indoor and outdoor recreational spaces and library with small café.

Read more ...

Exeter Paris Street construction site on which Roman remains were found

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Echoes of Exeter's Roman past reveal risks to city's future vision

The unexpected discovery of Roman remains on Exeter's bus station redevelopment site suggests significant risks may also exist for the adjacent Citypoint regeneration scheme.

Read more ...

Exeter net zero carbon housing pilot project in Chestnut Avenue in Wonford

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter net zero housing revolution takes root in Chestnut Avenue

Exeter City Council is taking exploratory steps from talking about a zero carbon future to delivering one with a pilot housing project in Wonford.

Read more ...

Front elevations of proposed development at Mount Radford Lawn

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Mount Radford Lawn development proposals conflict with St Leonards community vision

Exeter Deaf Academy hopes to sell a school playing field to developers who plan to build luxury homes. Local residents have other ideas about how best to use the land. A dispute is looming over an historic green space driven by prospective profit from planning gain.

Read more ...

Exeter Clifton Hill sports centre

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Clifton Hill sports centre – the background

Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and dumped a huge amount of snow on the roof of Exeter's Clifton Hill sports centre, setting off a chain reaction which has ignited two campaigns and put Exeter City Council's approaches to competence and openness into sharp focus.

Read more ...

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan banner

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan GESPing for air?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan has been a long time in gestation. When it finally arrives, will it deliver?

Read more ...

Exeter St James period housing stock

Comment  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

Read more ...

Transport & Mobility
Pedestrians and people waiting at bus stop on Exeter Cowick Street

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Council abandons temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety plans in Exeter city centre

Devon County Council cites "pushback" from traders as schemes on North Street, South Street, Fore Street and Cowick Street are scrapped. Meanwhile temporary changes in Topsham are dropped after "snap poll".

Read more ...

Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

Read more ...

Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.

Read more ...

Exeter Cathedral and Quay car park top deck

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus halts decision to spend £3.9 million on car park repairs and upgrade

Exeter City Council spending plans will be revisited in June at same time as Net Zero Exeter carbon reduction plan is discussed by Executive.

Read more ...

Country Bus G service to Exeter Quay

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

An integrated public transport service for Devon remains a distant aspiration

A change to Exeter's G bus service operator has revealed the limits of Devon County Council's approach to transport system integration.

Read more ...

Dutch living streets woonerf sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

We already know what to do about the climate crisis. We must get on with doing it as fast as we can.

Exeter and Devon council leaders must begin rapid regional decarbonisation now. The quickest, cheapest way to cut emissions in Exeter is to deter combustion engines from entering the city. Clean air legislation offers a basis for action.

Read more ...

Historic Exe Bridge traffic

Comment  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

Read more ...

Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

Analysis  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

Read more ...

Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter City Council accepts climate emergency plan to make city carbon neutral by 2030

Chief Executive warns that resourcing the plan is "problematic" given COVID-19 financial challenges and that lack of resources limits the council's capacity for immediate practical action.

Read more ...

Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

Read more ...

Exeter Cathedral and Quay car park top deck

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus halts decision to spend £3.9 million on car park repairs and upgrade

Exeter City Council spending plans will be revisited in June at same time as Net Zero Exeter carbon reduction plan is discussed by Executive.

Read more ...

Night shelter for homeless and rough sleepers in Magdalen Street, Exeter (front)

News  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter rough sleepers night shelter to open all year round

Exeter City Council has approved plans to extend Magdalen Street night shelter opening from April to the end of September.

Read more ...

Cranbrook town centre development site empty plots

News  ⁄  Planning & place

Cranbrook town centre community building application submitted

Devon County Council is to develop new town centre facilities including a children's centre with public health nursing provision, youth centre with indoor and outdoor recreational spaces and library with small café.

Read more ...

Exeter Princesshay deserted under COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council announces £1.584m April budget shortfall caused by COVID-19 restrictions

Council revenues have fallen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a £6.357 million capital spending deferment. But financial support from government has so far been limited.

Read more ...

Small retail businesses on Paris Street, Exeter

News  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Half of COVID-19 support grants unclaimed by Exeter businesses

Exeter City Council in bottom third of local authorities as only 45% of eligible local businesses claim government coronavirus support money.

Read more ...

Exeter University & College Union strike third week rally at St David's Church - Billy Bragg concert

News  ⁄  Education & skills

University of Exeter strike ends third week with rally and concert at St David's Church

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in four weeks of national industrial action over pensions, equal pay for female and BAME staff, increasing workloads and the use of casual employment contracts.

Read more ...

Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck

News  ⁄  Community & society

University of Exeter PRISM network champions queer STEMM pioneers

Exeter students celebrated the lives of polar explorer and botanist Elke Mackenzie, inventor, engineer and futurist Nikola Tesla and astronaut and children's author Sally Ride in winning LGBT+ network competition entries.

Read more ...

Jubilee Beauty - Exeter Central library chidren's area rocking horse

News  ⁄  Community & society

Exeter library children's horse to keep on rocking!

A crowdfunding appeal has successfully raised £1000 to repair Exeter Central library's popular rocking horse, Jubilee Beauty.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council accounts delayed by auditors Grant Thornton

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter & East Devon council accounts delayed by Grant Thornton's "lack of staff resources"

Annual accounts for local government, including Exeter City Council, have been delayed by private sector firms failing to complete their work on time after cost-cutting government auditing reforms.

Read more ...

2019 parliamentary elections - Devon Conservative vote share change bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Conservative vote share varies across Devon but still blocks an Independent MP in East Devon

Labour loses vote share in every constituency, but retains Exeter and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to leave the county position unchanged from 2017.

Read more ...

Exeter election polling station

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Conservatives hold Topsham in Exeter city council by-election

A by-election held on general election day produced an unusually high turnout but a lower Conservative vote share than at the May local elections.

Read more ...

East Devon Independent Claire Wright 2019 general election candidate

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest

Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.

Read more ...

Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark

News  ⁄  Education & skills

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

Read more ...

Heart of the South West Local Industrial Strategy branding

Analysis  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Will a new South West industrial strategy deliver what it promises?

Our business-led Local Enterprise Partnership appears committed to a new approach to driving growth which its CEO describes as "game-changing".

Read more ...

2019 Devon County Council Heavitree & Whipton Barton by-election Exeter vote share swing bar chart

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter Labour support collapses in Heavitree & Whipton Barton county by-election

Greg Sheldon wins Devon County Council division by just 40 votes after Labour loses nearly a fifth of its previous vote share.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council cuts executive decision-making scrutiny

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council cuts scrutiny of executive decision-making

Constitutional changes proposed by Exeter City Council will make it more difficult to hold the ruling political group to account.

Read more ...

Exeter Global Climate Strike demonstrator holding placard

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter youth climate strikers launch Green New Deal for Devon

Fridays For Future Exeter have published a detailed vision of a more equitable future that calls on elected representatives across the county to recognise the climate crisis as a symptom of a dysfunctional political economy.

Read more ...

Exeter Global Climate Strike Bedford Street crowd

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Thousands march in Exeter for global climate strike as millions mobilise worldwide

Fridays for Future Exeter led 3500 people on a climate crisis demonstration through the city backed by dozens of organisations on the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Read more ...

Rhian Keyse speaking at Exeter UCU's anti-casualisation campaign launch

News  ⁄  Education & skills

Education union challenges university to address widespread casualisation of teaching staff

Exeter University & College Union (UCU) launched an anti-casualisation campaign on Friday as a prelude to negotiation with the University of Exeter over academic staff contracts.

Read more ...

Exeter anti-government protest Devon for Europe speaker

Comment  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter protest misses its mark by mixing its messages

One of Exeter's biggest ever street demonstrations combined anti-Brexit and pro-democracy concerns to produce a confused protest against government policy.

Read more ...

Exeter Extinction Rebellion funeral march climate crisis High Street

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Mock funeral march brings Exeter city centre to a sombre standstill

Extinction Rebellion campaigners brought the gravity of the ecological emergency home to Exeter on Saturday in a funereal procession commemorating wildlife loss caused by climate change.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closures Exeter Live Better hoarding

Comment  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter could do better - was there no alternative to closing so many public toilets?

Exeter City Council did not need to close thirteen public toilets to balance the books. The money to keep them open was available in reserves, but no mention of this option was made during public decision-making by councillors or officers.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council public toilet closure notice

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Caught short - balancing the books in a hurry

Exeter City Council has unapologetically confirmed its decision to close 13 public toilets as a money-saving measure with full knowledge of its expected effect on residents and visitors. Can we expect other spending cuts to be handled the same way?

Read more ...

Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

Read more ...

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate protestors with banner

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter Youth Strike 4 Climate - the floodgates are open

Exeter is one of the smallest cities in Britain, yet it has produced some of the country's biggest youth strikes. Climate activist Sophie Sleeman recounts the story so far and explains what it means to the young people who are creating a global wave of change.

Read more ...

Photo of The Jambassadors by Gabe Riedlinger

Preview  ⁄  Arts & culture

Jambassadors feature in pop-up Jazz Toast at Barnfield Theatre

Musical director Roz Harding invites us to join an Exeter College Music Academy student collective in a one-night-only experimental exploration of in-the-moment improvisation.

Read more ...

Molly Scott Cato at the European Parliament

Profile  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Is EU membership essential to our ability to deal with the climate emergency?

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, visited Exeter during her re-election campaign to explain why the EU and its Green Group is leading the way on a wide range of progressive policies.

Read more ...

Exeter College students in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Barnfield Theatre

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Playing with gender expectations at Barnfield Theatre

An Exeter College interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream transforms it into an enchanting contemporary gender-adapted tale.

Read more ...

Front elevations of proposed development at Mount Radford Lawn

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Mount Radford Lawn development proposals conflict with St Leonards community vision

Exeter Deaf Academy hopes to sell a school playing field to developers who plan to build luxury homes. Local residents have other ideas about how best to use the land. A dispute is looming over an historic green space driven by prospective profit from planning gain.

Read more ...

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

Preview  ⁄  Arts & culture

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

A new collaboration between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought SW and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture by reimagining objects from the RAMM collections.

Read more ...

Exeter City Council city centre wards map

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

Read more ...

Exeter Clifton Hill sports centre

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Clifton Hill sports centre – the background

Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and dumped a huge amount of snow on the roof of Exeter's Clifton Hill sports centre, setting off a chain reaction which has ignited two campaigns and put Exeter City Council's approaches to competence and openness into sharp focus.

Read more ...

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

Profile  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

Read more ...

Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?

Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.

Read more ...

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan banner

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan GESPing for air?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan has been a long time in gestation. When it finally arrives, will it deliver?

Read more ...

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter Extinction Rebellion stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Read more ...

Kaleider Mikrofest Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter Princesshay

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Out of sight, out of mind

A performance of From The Light of The Fire, Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter for Kaleider Mikrofest appears to favour illusion over truth in a confused rendering of Plato's cave allegory that leaves both performers and audience in the dark.

Read more ...

Exeter St James period housing stock

Comment  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

Read more ...

Historic Exe Bridge traffic

Comment  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

Read more ...