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]

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. [email protected]

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.

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.

Suzy Harrison – Creative Media Labs Administrator

Suzy provides administration support to the XR Stories Creative Media Lab project. Suzy has worked across a range of Departments at the University of York in administration and communications roles. Outside of work, Suzy is a freelance photographer and plays the trumpet and piano. [email protected]

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]

Sarah Mitchell – Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Sarah is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN. She is responsible for supporting the marketing and communication activities for both of the projects. Sarah delivers website content, email marketing and manages social media.  Prior to this role, Sarah has worked in marketing roles in higher education and retail. Sarah graduated from Northumbria University with a Business with Marketing degree in 2016. [email protected]

James Wilson – Network and Events Coordinator

James is the Network and Events Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN. He is responsible for generating interest and engagement in the projects, by the organisation and delivery of high-profile events, and by building networks. Previously, James managed commercial events, graduation ceremonies and Sounds Like THIS festival for Leeds Conservatoire. He is also an interdisciplinary musician and in 2020, starred in Quantaform, a short film based on music of the same name by Ambrose Field and produced by Screen Yorkshire. James is a trustee of Bradford intercultural arts hub, Kala Sangam. [email protected]

Livy Potter – Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Livy is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN, delivering communication campaigns for both projects through email marketing, social media and website content. Previously, she has held communication roles in arts and cultural organisations across the Yorkshire region, including York Theatre Royal and the Geraldine Connor Foundation. [email protected]

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]

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.

Lauren Ward – Research Fellow

Lauren is an audio engineer and researcher. Her fellowship with XR Stories explores how new media formats can be used to make media more accessible to diverse audiences. She also leads the SIGN funded project ‘A3i – Accessible Audio for Autistic Individuals’ with the Sheffield Autism Research Lab.

Lauren has worked for a variety of broadcasters and research organisations in the UK and Australia. She completed her PhD as a General Sir John Monash Scholar at the University of Salford in 2020 and also holds a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Philosophy from the University of Tasmania.

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.

Jenn Chubb – Research Fellow

Jenn is a researcher with expertise in ethics, AI, narratives, public perception, the impact of science and science policy. She has researched responsibility in science, integrity and ethics across a range of domains such as education, health, music and the creative industries. Jenn recently researched the ethics of conversational AI for children's storytelling for XR Stories. Jenn's fellowship primarily focuses on the ethical and responsible development of AI technologies in the creative industries and storytelling as sense-making AI. Her background is in philosophy and social science. She also has over 12 years’ teaching and training experience in Higher Education and is currently supervising a PhD on the impact of live music venues.

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.

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.

Conor Harrigan – Finance Officer

Conor supports both projects with any financial matters and is part of the Administration team at XR Stories and SIGN. Conor's responsibilities involve forecasting and budgeting the project expenditure as well as dealing with any financial queries or tasks that arise. Previously Conor has worked across various Arts and Humanities departments providing financial admin support.

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.