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In Memory of Dr Stephen Colclough

The late Dr Stephen Colclough (University of Wales, Bangor) was the first dedicated research fellow on the UK RED project, where he worked under the supervision of Professor Simon Eliot and Professor Bob Owens. Stephen was responsible for much of the early data gathering for the project. Professor Simon Eliot has written the following note in his memory, on behalf of all the colleagues who have worked on the project. 

"I first got to know Stephen Colclough when Bob Owens and I appointed him as our postdoctoral fellow to work on the Reading Experience Database (RED) at the Open University. These were pioneering days when a hypothesis and a rough model for a database were all we had. Stephen turned these things into a usable and accessible system. He did this not by just sorting out the software, but by serious scholarly spadework in the archives. This meant that we had a substantial amount of evidence on which we could try out the database and its ability to deliver useful results. His use of commonplace books and diaries was to have an important influence on the way we now study reading in the past. At first it was very hard graft, but Stephen's good-humoured stoicism and his impressive capacity for sustained hard work overcame everything."

"Stephen soon developed his own, very distinctive and influential take on reading experience. He did pioneering work on ‘ordinary’, that is, non-literary readers whose tastes and responses were a more accurate reflection of how most readers read in the past. It was difficult work for the sources were often obscure and scattered but Stephen managed to create vivid pictures of common readers. Such work encouraged him to look not just at individuals, but at what he called ‘communities of readers’. This was salutary: it reminded us that readers in the past, as now, were not always solitary but sometimes created networks in which reading could be in part communal and collective. From this it was but a single step for Stephen to become interested in the physical environment – not always a favourable one – in which reading took place, and the effect their surroundings had on readers. In all this Stephen displayed both his scholarship and his enthusiasm as a teacher. Even his most learned articles had a clarity and a lightness of touch which made them, very appropriately, a pleasure to read."

"Stephen was a quiet but confident and very able scholar. He was not someone who needed to shout or to show off. His excellent and widely-published research and his good teaching spoke loudly enough for him."

26 October 2015

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Shafquat Towheed
Edmund King