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.

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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. 

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Andrew Higson – Academic Partnerships and Skills Co-Director

Andrew is the Greg Dyke Professor of Film and Television at the University of York, and the Director of the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN), which is funded by Research England and closely aligned with XR Stories. He is also an Associate Director of the national Centre for Cultural Value, funded by the AHRC. From 2010 to 2017, he was Head of the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media, and from 2013 to 2016, Project Director of the HERA-funded Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screens (MeCETES). He has published widely on British cinema, European cinema and national/transnational cinema.

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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. 

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John Rose-Adams – R&D Project Manager

John supports our R&D projects to help them reach their full potential. He has worked in higher education for over 10 years, leading on strategic projects, research and development, research projects and programmes, and managing programmes of academic consultancy. John specialises in identifying and nurturing projects with commercial promise. 

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Caroline White – Creative R&D Partnerships

Caroline works closely with industry and academic partners to drive the growth and innovation of Yorkshire’s creative cluster. Her role is to identify businesses and work with them to shape projects that can enable the businesses to grow.

Caroline has significant experience in the creative industries, initially as a designer and then as part of several large economic projects supporting games, technology and screen businesses. Her achievements include securing investment, building projects and managing partnerships. For several years, she has helped support several immersive businesses across the North West and worked with larger partners such as CISCO, BT, BBC and City Football Group to shape their commercial immersive strategies.

Farah Khan – Monitoring Officer

Farah is a monitoring and compliance specialist. In her role, she is responsible for making sure XR Stories complies with the requirements of funding bodies and statutory regulations. Farah ensures that recording systems and procedures are maintained in accordance with all laid down requirements/provider guidance, and that a clear audit trail is maintained. Farah also undertakes regular checks of the records and systems of partners and beneficiary groups to ensure they remain effective and up to date.

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.

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Robyn Ranford – Communications Assistant

Robyn is the Communications Assistant for XR Stories, and for the closely aligned SIGN. She is responsible for assisting the Communications Manager with developing and implementing the communications strategies.

Robyn graduated from UCL with an MA in European Culture and Thought in 2019. Before this, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Exeter in 2018.

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.

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Wendy Sissons – Internships and Bursaries Manager

Wendy is an internship, bursary and employer engagement specialist. Her role at XR Stories is centered around working with partner universities, regional networks and SMEs to develop internship opportunities for those working in or wishing to break into the sector. She is responsible for designing and implementing the XR Stories internship and bursaries schemes in order to support the growth of new talent within the creative industries in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Jon Swords – Research Fellow

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.

Samuel Stockley-Patel – Research Associate

Sam earned his PhD at the University of Leeds where his research explored the geography of the creative and cultural industries, with particular focus on Yorkshire. Sam has lectured and supervised students on a range of topics, including arts entrepreneurship, cultural development, and the creative economy, and has worked across Pakistan with the British Council in these areas. 

Outside of academia, Sam ran his own design and marketing studio. At XR Stories, Sam’s commercial and practical experiences in the creative sector combine with his academic expertise, as he explores the many facets of XR media and technologies. 

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.

Sophie Caswell-Jones – Administrator

Sophie is an Administrator for XR Stories, and for the closely aligned SIGN project. Sophie is responsible for supporting the operational team and maintaining the operational plan, organising and supporting meetings between the XR Stories team and our external partners, and collaborating with the admin team to ensure the smooth running of XR Stories. 

Harriet Camp – Administrator

Harriet’s role as Administrator is to support the overall XR Stories project in providing assistance with the organisation of various meetings and daily administrative tasks. She is responsible for things like arranging travel, organising catering needs for the project team members, and handling internal and external enquiries.

David Cooke – Administrator

David is an Administrator for XR Stories and the closely aligned SIGN. His responsibilities include committee servicing, financial administration and supporting the R&D team in running the creative projects associated with XR Stories.

An avid gamer and cinephile, David enjoys supporting and learning about the research that shapes how stories will be told in the future and the platforms on which they’ll be delivered.