Our team

The majority of the XR Stories team is based at the University of York. The team includes staff across the broad spectrum of research and development, admin and professional services, creative technology and academic research. 

Damian Murphy – Director

Damian is a leading researcher in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York, with his work on virtual acoustics, auralisation and audio signal processing placing him in over a hundred leading journals and conferences. His creative work has appeared in galleries and festivals of international reputation: these specialisms combine in his role as the University of York’s Research Theme Champion for Creativity. [email protected]

Marian Ursu – Research and Development Lead Co-Director

Marian leads multi and interdisciplinary research in computer sciences and artificial intelligence within creative industries, including film, television, theatre, art and design. He began working on the development of creative computing as a new area of research at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is now Head of Interactive Media in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York, and Director of DC Labs where major projects include developing tools for object-based media broadcasting.  [email protected]

Duncan Petrie – Co-investigator

Professor Duncan Petrie is Head of the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York and is the acting Director of the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN). He began his career at the British Film Institute and has worked at the University of Exeter and University of Auckland - where he ran the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies - before coming to York in 2009. Duncan's research has engaged with various aspects of the British, Scottish and New Zealand film and television industries. Most recently, he was the PI on the AHRC funded research project 'Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema: Production Cultures, Cross Media Relations and National Branding'.

Caroline Cooper Charles – Co-Director for National Sector Strategy

Caroline is our Co-Director for National Sector Strategy. At Screen Yorkshire, Caroline is a member of the senior management team where she is responsible for the company’s talent development programmes and managing the Yorkshire Content Fund. Caroline is the first port of call for producers wanting to access the fund, she negotiates the terms of the funding deals and has creative oversight of the projects Screen Yorkshire invests in. She also oversees the work of the Film Office team. During her career she has spent time as Talent Development Executive for Scottish Film Talent Network, Head of Film at Creative England, Head of Creative Development at Warp X, managed the UK Film Council’s nationwide short film programme and been the Director of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival. Caroline has particular expertise in identifying and cultivating new and evolving voices and is passionate about championing talent based outside of London.

Kate O’Connor – Industry Partnerships Co-Director

Kate is Chair of the BFI Research Committee and member of the BAFTA Learning and New Talent Committee. In January 2015 Kate established a successful consultancy practice which specialises in education, training and skills in the creative industries, and works with a range of clients in the UK and internationally. In November 2016 she was appointed Executive Chair of the newly formed Animation Council, now officially part of the UK Screen Alliance, representing key screen industry areas including animation, VFX, studios, post production and facilities.

Harriet Finney – Co-Director for National Sector Strategy

Harriet is Director of External Affairs and sits on the British Film Institute's executive board to guide policies, strategies and public affairs aims set out by the organisation’s five-year film plan, BFI2022. She previously held the position of Deputy CEO at the Creative Industries Federation. Harriet’s priorities include delivering the BFI’s new skills strategy, promoting the BFI Diversity Standards initiative to the wider industry, and devolving more funding across the UK’s regions.

Emma Brown – Programme Manager

Emma has operational oversight for the day-to-day running of XR Stories and the associated project, SIGN. Emma leads planning, and oversees that XR Stories meets defined goals on time and within budget. Emma has worked at the University for over a decade, and in her previous role supported academics to engage with industry, and to understand what external organisations need from academic research. She has supported the transfer of academics’ knowledge and research through spinning out, licencing, collaboration and networking. Emma has also worked with numerous academics to frame the benefits their research can bring and to figure out the best route to engage external organisations with this research.  [email protected]

John Rose-Adams – Creative Producer

John leads the R&D team and works closely with industry and academic partners to drive the growth and innovation of Yorkshire’s creative cluster. He has worked in higher education for over 10 years, leading strategic projects, research and development, research projects and programmes, and managing programmes of academic consultancy. [email protected]

Melodie Ash – Creative Producer

Melodie works alongside John Rose-Adams as part of the XR Stories production team. As a creative producer, a key part of her role is engaging with our regional industry partners and SMEs to offer support and guidance across the Creative Media Labs funding programmes. With a background in the creative sector, Melodie brings a wealth of industry experience to the team. As an accomplished creative producer, Melodie has worked with prestigious clients to deliver engaging digital experiences to audiences for over 8 years. She has a passion for supporting creative businesses to drive growth and harness the potential of immersive technologies to create compelling digital storytelling experiences.

Nikki Stearman – Creative Producer

Nikki is a Creative Producer in the R&D team and works with industry and academic partners to support and develop immersive storytelling projects in the region. She has worked in digital media for over 16 years; first specialising in e-learning and then later in games as a Producer at CBBC and digital agency Dubit. She is a proud owner of a BAFTA and a Kidscreen Award for her work. Nikki is a volunteer member of the Children’s Media Foundation Executive Group – with responsibility for the organisation’s events programme.

Joe Rees-Jones – Creative Technologist

As Creative Technologist, Joe offers research and technical support to XR Stories-funded projects, as well as providing expertise on state-of-the-art immersive technology at the King's Manor creative lab. Joe graduated from the University of York Music Technology BSc and PhD in Music Technology, investigating the implementation of spatial audio in video games. Joe joined the Audio Lab at the University of York as a PhD student to develop his research, including an award-winning investigation into the impact virtual reality could have on community singing and mental wellbeing. [email protected]

Emma Willingham – Creative Media Labs Project Manager

Emma is a proactive Project Manager working within XR Stories and is the lead of the ERDF funded Creative Media Labs project. She is responsible for the operational management of the project, integrating robust processes, and developing budget and output forecasts in line with project risks. With her background in academic publishing, Emma has implemented agile workflows and new training while actively managing a team to achieve daily targets across a portfolio of over 50 journals. She brings an understanding of prioritising at short notice and adapting for effective problem-solving. Emma is keen to encourage strong team support and communication and aims to deliver a project that is pivotal for screen storytelling experiences.

Dan Norman – Creative Media Labs Administrator

Dan has a background in film and TV, and comes to XR Stories after working with the University of York's Research Theme Champions. He is a part of the Creative Media Labs team, assisting supported businesses, tracking outputs and preparing progress reports. He is responsible for compiling financial claims and procuring lab equipment.

Nicola Thomis – Communications Manager

Nicola is a digital marketing and communications specialist who has experience across both the public sector and higher education. At XR Stories she is responsible for developing and implementing the communications strategies of both XR Stories and the SIGN projects. Nicola enjoys thinking creatively in order to deliver effective communications strategies and enjoys the challenge that working with XR technologies brings. [email protected]

Alex Blundell-Joyce – Comms and Events Coordinator

Alex is the Communications and Events Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN, delivering events for both projects as well as communication campaigns through website content, social media and email marketing. Alex has a degree in Film and Television. Previously, she has held communication roles in other areas of the University of York and creative roles in the private and retail sectors. [email protected]

Sue Edmunds – Communications Coordinator

Sue is a marketing and communications professional with experience working in the higher education and private sectors. As Communications Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN, Sue is responsible for creating accessible and compelling communications across multiple channels. Sue enjoys collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to devise and deliver high-quality communications campaigns.

Jon Swords – Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead

Jon is an economic geographer with an expertise in cultural and creative industries, and local and regional development. He has worked on and researched various parts of the creative industries, predominantly film and TV, heritage, and immersive media and technology. Jon is also the research work stream lead for the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN) which is funded by Research England and closely aligned with XR Stories.  During his time as a researcher, Jon has spent time examining processes of creativity, mapping the creative industries and looking into how creative industries develop through funding and policy regimes. He specialises in a range of research methods, from quantitative approaches such as social network analysis, to qualitative methods such as interviews, visual methodologies and participatory approaches.

Nick Bax – Research Fellow

For over 30 years Nick's career has spanned the fields of graphic design, creative direction and art. He is currently an XR Stories Research Fellow at the University of York, following his PhD study at the University of Sheffield. His research explores mixed reality storytelling, nonlinear narratives and the recreation of memory and individuals via immersive technology. Nick was part of the eminent creative collective The Designers Republic for 15 years before launching the multi-disciplinary creative agency Human in 2007. The studio has exhibited work in galleries and venues in Europe, Japan, Brazil and the United States. Nick is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and serves on the Partnership Advisory Board for WRoCAH (White Rose College of Arts & Humanities) and Industry Advisory Board for the School of Design, University of Leeds.

Anna Bramwell-Dicks – Research Fellow

Anna is a Research Fellow with XR Stories on secondment from a Lectureship in Interactive Media in the University of York’s School of Arts and Creative Technologies.  Anna has an interdisciplinary background and focused initially on Electronics and Music Technology before taking a sideways move to the field of Human-Computer Interaction research. She now combines her underlying interest in all things technology with a passion for research around disability representation and accessibility. Anna likes to combine her interest in sound and music with applied psychology and creativity. She is primarily interested in research involving multimodal interaction (e.g. using audio, haptics, smell and/or proprioception as well as visuals within interfaces) particularly where audio is used to affect user’s behaviour or experiences or improve accessibility. Anna also works in research relating to mental health and mental illness. As a lecturer/research fellow in Interactive Media, Anna is always interested in work that involves designing and evaluating novel and interesting user experiences, particularly where that leads to the option to create fun, engaging, accessible experiences. She likes to work across a range of application areas ranging from learning environments to e-commerce to escape rooms and cultural exhibits.

David Gochfeld – Research Fellow

David is an award-winning XR creator. He crafts interactive narrative experiences at the intersection of the real and virtual, merging traditional theatrical techniques and cutting edge XR technology. His pioneering work with live performance in virtual reality has appeared at festivals and conferences worldwide, including Tribeca, Siggraph, SXSW and the Venice Biennale Cinema. In 2017, he directed To Be With Hamlet -- the first live, immersive theatrical performance in room-scale VR with a remote audience. He holds an Emmy for his work on Zero Days VR.

An experienced theatre actor and director, David has devised and performed works internationally. He trained at the prestigious Jacques LeCoq school in Paris and is a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. He holds a Master's from New York University’s ITP program, where he studied user experience and game design, and his thesis research explored comedy in VR. Before joining XR Stories, he taught computer science courses and a cross-departmental course on technology for performance at NYU.

As a research fellow at XR Stories David has continued his practice-based research into storytelling in shared virtual environments, and the use of XR and real-time technologies for live performance and theatre. He is part of Play On, a €2 million cultural project, which supports theatre companies across Europe to integrate new tech into their creative practice. David also gives workshops on VR, performance capture and immersive storytelling to university colleagues and students, as well as artists and SMEs in the region.

Constantin Popp – Research Associate

As a composer and researcher, Constantin examines how 3D audio can supercharge storytelling in XR. He graduated with a PhD in music from the University of Manchester, investigating and composing spatial audio using large, immersive loudspeaker arrays. Before joining us at XR Stories, Constantin spent time researching live-interactive music technology for instrumental composers and taught electroacoustic composition to students at the Liverpool Hope University, the University of Manchester and the Academy of Music Franz Liszt Weimar.

Nina Willment – Research Associate

Nina is an economic and cultural geographer with expertise in digital labour and work in the cultural and creative industries. She graduated with a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London, where her thesis examined the working lives and workspaces of freelancers within the creative economy. Nina has also worked on various research projects including work on VR concerts, just transitions to decarbonisation and creative responses to industry resilience post-COVID-19. She specialises in a range of research methods, including online research methods such as netnography and qualitative methods such as interviews, visual methodologies and participatory approaches.

Sophie Palmer – Administration Manager

Sophie is the Administration Manager for XR Stories, and for the closely aligned SIGN project. Sophie leads a team of four administrators in the support of the two projects. Applying skills and knowledge from six years of experience in University project support, her role at XR Stories is to create, manage and review administrative systems for recording and maintaining project data, and to manage expenditure in line with University and funding body policies. She enjoys providing admin support to project stakeholders and using cloud-based technology to implement administrative systems which facilitate collaborative working by the project teams.

Billy Brooke – Evaluation Administrator

Billy is an evaluation administrator for the XR Stories and SIGN projects. He's responsible for capturing and recording the outcomes and impact of these projects and managing systems for storing any evidence of impact. Impact relates to how these projects benefit and influence society, culture, environment, and the economy. His role includes evaluating the evidence of such impact from XR Stories and SIGN, identifying how they align with the key themes and goals of the projects.