Our team

We are a group of UK researchers across multiple disciplines putting our heads together to collaborate on shared questions

Tom F. Wright

Principal Investigator

Tom is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Sussex.

He is a cultural historian of nineteenth century Britain and America. His research focuses on rhetoric and spoken communication and their role in politics, education and the history of ideas.

He is the author of Lecturing the Atlantic (2017) and editor of Transatlantic Rhetoric: Speeches from the American Revolution to the Suffragettes (2020) and The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe (2013)

For the Speaking Citizens project he is finding out what we can learn from the role of ideas about speech in Victorian-era progressive education, labour movements, 'elocution' and women's suffrage. 

You can read his introduction to the project here



Arlene Holmes-Henderson


Arlene is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, and a Research Fellow in Classics at the University of Oxford.

Educated at Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge, she is a language education specialist who conducts research, and provides training for schools and universities, in the UK and worldwide.

Arlene is the author of Forward with Classics (2018), and many other articles that have sought to understand the value of Classics for critical literacy.

For the Speaking Citizens project she is researching the history of 'oracy' in recent UK pedagogy, developing teaching resources, and leading the project's outreach activities across UK schools.


Stephen Coleman


Stephen is Professor of Political Communication at the University of Leeds.

He is the author or editor of ten books, most recently How People Talk About Politics: Brexit and After (Bloomsbury, 2020), Capturing the Mood of Democracy; the British general election of 2019 with Jim Brogden (Palgrave, 2020) and How Voters Feel (CUP, 2013). Since 2010, he has led independent evaluations of the UK televised election debates.

For the Speaking Citizens project, he will be using methods of political ethnography to explore contemporary practices of spoken interaction in non-formal contexts on the subject of politics.


Hester Barron


Hester Barron is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Sussex.

She specialises in twentieth-century British social history, focusing on themes of identity and community. Her recent work has converged around the broad themes of childhood, parenting and schooling.

Hester is the author of The 1926 Miners' Lockout: Meanings of Community in the Durham Coalfield (2009), the editor of Parenting and the State in Britain and Europe 1870-1950 (2018).

Her contribution to Speaking Citizens project relates to her current book project on the history of the interwar elementary school classroom, exploring how educators approached the reform of students' voices.


Stuart Dunmore

Postdoctoral Researcher

Stuart Dunmore is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sussex and also teaches at the University of Edinburgh.

Stuart’s research focuses on the sociolinguistics of minority language use, ideologies and cultural identities, with particular reference to Celtic language communities in the UK and North America. He completed masters degrees at Edinburgh and Oxford before earning his doctorate in 2015. Stuart’s British Academy postdoctoral fellowship assessed the role of 'new' speakers in language learning initiatives and policy interventions in Scotland and Nova Scotia, and his first book Language Revitalisation in Gaelic Scotland was published in 2019. He has published numerous articles on language, identity and ethnicity.

Stuart’s contribution to the Speaking Citizens project will build on this work to examine obstacles to the development of bilingual oracy within the Gaelic-medium education sector in Scotland. Stuart will also hold a Fulbright–Royal Society of Edinburgh scholarship at Harvard University in 2021.

Read more about his work here.  


Anna Liddle

Postdoctoral Researcher

Anna is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds and also teaches at the University of York.

Her research interests are based around citizenship education and how young people can be empowered to understand society and make a difference. She obtained her PhD in 2019 on the topic of how schools teach about peace and war. She has also worked on the Deliberative Classroom project, looking at how school students engage with controversial issues through classroom talk.

For the Speaking Citizens project, she will be contributing to the strand led by Stephen Coleman, working ethnographically with groups of young adults to better understand how they use language relating to political and civic issues.



Christian Ilbury

Research Associate

Christian Ilbury is a Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Suffolk.  

As a sociolinguist, his research examines patterns of youth language across face-to-face and digital contexts of communication. His doctoral research was a year-long sociolinguistic ethnography of an East London youth group where he examined the linguistic and social media practices of a group of adolescents. He holds degrees from the University of Sussex (BA) and Queen Mary University of London (MA, PhD). Christian has published in leading journals including Journal of Sociolinguistics and Language in Society.

Prior to working on the Speaking Citizens project, Christian was a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the ESRC funded ‘Accent Bias in Britain’ project (Queen Mary University of London & the University of York). The project explored contemporary attitudes to accents in Britain and investigated the effects of unconscious accent bias on perceptions of professional competence.

Christian’s contribution to the Speaking Citizens project will be to develop the digital communications and outreach materials of the project.

You can read more about his work here.


Richard Willis

Research Associate

Richard is Honorary Research Professor at the University of Sussex.

He is an educational historian, specialising in teacher professionalism in Victorian Britain.

He is the author of eight books, including The Life and Career of Frances Mary Buss, (Nova Science, 2020), Testing Times: A History of Vocational, Civil Service and Secondary Examinations in England since 1850 (Sense Publishers, 2013), The Development of Primary, Secondary and Teacher Education in England (Edwin Mellen Press, 2012), and The Struggle for the General Teaching Council (Routledge/Falmer, 2005).

Richard’s research for the Speaking Citizens project evaluates how oracy, speech, and rhetoric have contributed to educational status and opportunity, particularly against a backdrop of Victorian pioneering work and policy.