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Empathy conference – Bath Spa University

This conference was a platform to share research and insight into using creativity to explore and foster empathy in creative practice, education, media and scholarship.


The Empathy and Writing Group’s first conference took place at the Pound Arts Centre in Corsham on 16 November 2018.

Engaging Empathy Through Creativity was conceived by Dr Tanvir Bush, novelist and Bath Spa research fellow, Professor Maggie Gee, novelist and founder of the Empathy and Writing Group, and other key members from our Steering Group, including Dr Emma Geen, Dr Alison Lee, Dr Agata Vitale and Linda Blair. The conference was co-convened by the Empathy Group’s Co-Chairs, Dr Tanvir Bush and novelist Dr Kylie Fitzpatrick. 

On the day

The nine presenters were poets and poetry filmmakers, documentary photographers, PhD students, novelists, research fellows and, in the case of our celebrated keynote speaker Stephen Bush, a political editor of the New Statesman magazine.

The papers explored grief, vulnerability, abuse, trauma, neuropsychology, the power of story, and interventions relating to empathy and mental health.

Because of the deeply personal nature of some of the presentations, the day had a feeling of intimacy and confidentiality. When we share stories of trauma, or of something that matters and which to us has meaning, we make ourselves vulnerable. To take a conference room full of people into your confidence is an act of courage and of trust and, in sharing one’s own story, permission is given to others reflect on their experiences. In this way the Engaging Empathy Through Creativity conference has started a conversation.

Feedback and response

Some of those who attended the conference have shared their experience of the day and their response to the presentations. We received the following feedback. 

  • Attendees were deeply moved to hear writers and artists speak about their work and about issues of representation
  • Personal experiences were articulated in an accessible way and with courage
  • That it was a rich and fascinating day, and they might like two days in future
  • Moving forward, there is scope for workshops and for a more expansive program in a future conference which would allow for more than one panel to run at the same time.

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