This is the website for Dr Joanne Norcup.

I am a researcher, writer, educator, producer, and artist.


This website serves as a record of present and past areas of work spanning academia, education, and the arts.


  • I am currently an honorary research fellow in the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick (2019 – present), and have been an associate lecturer in the Geography Department of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University since 2022.
  • My interdisciplinary research bring critical intersectional historical, cultural, and geographical perspectives and approaches to a broad range of research, writing, educational projects and productions.
  • For biographical details see the interview I gave in the featured article How I became a Historical Geographer, published in the August 2022 issue of the HGRG Newsletter 
  • I am also a qualified yoga teacher and practitioner of hatha yoga. I am the founder of Leftfield Yoga Studios (Yoga Alliance Professionals Accredited). I am dedicated to lifelong learning for all and currently beginning my training to become a British Council of Psychotherapists holistic counsellor.


Research, writing, and education.



Historical Geographies of the Caribbean.

  • Decolonising the Learned Society (DLS) The life and afterlives of the 1998 British Council and Royal Geographical Society exhibition Photos and Phantasms: Harry Johnston’s Caribbean Photography (1908 – 1909)

My current research based in the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick has been long in gestation and inspired by revisiting a cultural repatriation project I was involved with 25 years ago. My successful British Academy research grant (2019/2020) entitled: Decolonising the Learned Society (DLS) The life and afterlives of the 1998 British Council and Royal Geographical Society exhibition Photos and Phantasms: Harry Johnston’s Caribbean Photography (1908 – 1909) is very much concerned with the historical and cultural geographies of the Caribbean, colonially-informed cultural institutions and learned societies, and the benefits and challenges this avant la lettre decolonising the archives cultural repatriation project reveals quarter of a century later. I have recently been speaking from a range of pertinent archival, historical and heritage perspectives concerning the findings from my initial research and grants to expand this research are currently in preparation.

Academic papers and a monograph are currently in production.


  • Historical Geographies of UK Centres for Caribbean Studies (working title).

This emerging research project has grown from the intersections of my doctoral studies and dovetails and develops my interests into the spaces, mobilities, places and communities through which UK populations have historically been able to access and connect with Caribbean intellectual and cultural histories and traditions. Alongside grassroots British Caribbean community spaces such as student societies, allotments, Caribbean social centres, supplementary schools, religious organisations, as well as  independent bookshops, book fairs, publishing collectives, sound systems, dancehalls, and celebratory events such as carnivals, this research attends specifically to how spaces for Caribbean studies in Higher Education institutions and Caribbean cultural archives in the UK  have developed since the 1980s to uplift voices, perspectives, and cultures from diasporic communities hailing from Britain’s Caribbean overseas and former colonial territories, and why such spaces continue to provide a vital role for ongoing UK-Caribbean knowledge and cultural exchanges.


Historical and Cultural Geographies of Public Libraries in the UK and its territories.

Between 2016 – 2021 I was an honorary researcher in the Department of Geography, University of Glasgow and assistant professor in the Department of Geography, University of Nottingham, and undertook research into the historical and cultural geographies of public libraries in England and Wales.  This research considered the evolution of the public library movement in England and Wales with particular attention paid to the grassroots movements and key individuals such as Thomas Greenwood FRGS (Manchester Central Library), Florence Boot and the Boots Book Lovers Circulating Library (Nottingham and across the UK 1898 – 1966), and Eileen Colwell (Hendon public library, NW London and children’s library pioneer) and why retelling their stories particularly matter given the compounding destruction of the public library network across the UK since 2010.


  • My research on the pioneering work of Eileen Colwell was enfolded into the Save Hendon Library campaign, and I have spoken about public libraries in various international conferences (RGS2016, Arnolfini (Bristol) / University of West England symposium on secular spaces in 2016, ICHG 2018).


  • How the 1964 public libraries and museums act has – or has not – been adhered to since 2010, and the wider historical and geographical landscapes of privatising of public archives, learning, and artefacts was reflected on in a presentation between myself and Dr Alice Corble (University of Sussex)  at the launch of the Rabbit Road Institute library – The Alternative School of Economics artistic endeavour to return a library to the building. Spirit of ‘64 in 2016: Public Libraries and Emancipatory Spaces (Rabbits Road Institute, formerly the Andrew Carnegie Manor Park Library, Newham, London).


  • I also published about the vitality of a pre-school parents’ book club – a book club for parents of pre-school children – in On Libraries a special issue of the journal Performance Review (2017).


Historical and Cultural Geographies of Anti-Racist Geography Education in and beyond the UK.

I gained my PhD in historical and cultural geography from the University of Glasgow in 2015 , during which time I recovered the remaining correspondence archives for the Association for Curriculum Development in Geography and their anti-racist, anti-sexist education journal Contemporary Issues in Geography and Education (1983 – 1991). This publication was internationally subscribed and circulated, and produced by educators, artists, and activists to challenge social, racial, and environmental injustice through educational resources, critiques of curricula and assessment content and design, and each theme issue focused on universal geographical themes that remain prescient today (for example, racism, environmental crisis, war and peace). Having been taught by educators who used CIGE materials, my doctoral research endeavoured to critically interrogate how such an internationally subscribed and well-known publication could have apparently ‘disappeared’ from the recent past, and what the consequences are when considering the histories and geographies of anti-racist education and campaigns from the 19th and 20th centuries. My interests have grown from attending to specifics of geography education and histories of anti-racist geography education to consideration of the where, who, how, what and why geographical knowledge-making is made, mobilised, circulated, and received – of what is, and importantly, what isn’t included, and when and where certain geographical knowledges, methods and practices are amplified while others are dismissed, diminished, or omitted.

  • Public outreach for the work of CIGE has taken place in collaboration with the Alternative School of Economics through their 2015-2016 work based on an essay from CIGE (‘The Rich as a Minority group’) with school sociology students, public discussions and speakers.

I have published from my doctoral thesis in peer reviewed journals such as

I have also published solo and co-written book chapters reflecting on this research:


A monograph on the historical geographies of anti-racist geography education is in preparation (forthcoming).


Academic Roles



I have had a number of professional ‘lives’, all largely around education, communication, and research.

I have worked in corporate and commercial research, as accounts manager for telecommunications companies, in conservation education (Jersey Zoo 1999), and as a qualified as a secondary school geography and humanities teacher (PGCS Goldsmiths College, 2000) where I was employed largely in state schools in South London and for home-schooled students excluded from mainstream schooling (Greenwich and Lewisham Pupil Referral Unit). In 2004, I was awarded the UCL Department of Geography’s Fawcett Fellowship which proved generative, and discussions with colleagues in the Department of Geography grew into my application to the University of Glasgow for what became my thesis. Over the last two decades, I have mainly taught and researched across a range of temporary and permanent contracts in tertiary educational institutions in the UK (for example, University of Glasgow, Napier University Edinburgh, University College London, Kings College London). I devised and ran the University Preparatory Course in Humanities (UPCH) Geography module at the Centre for Languages and International Education (CLIE), University College London between 2007 – 2014.   I have also served as an external examiner and curricular content adviser for the University of the Highlands and Islands (2020-2021).

Since 2022, I have been an associate lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University where I tutor on and create module content with specific focus on humanities and social science Geography modules [currently DD213 (Environment and Society) and D225 (Changing geographies of the United Kingdom)].

I maintain a commitment to writing resources and articles accessible for life-long study, and my current role within the Open University demands the creation of accessible and differentiated resource materials to support life-long learners through printed and online materials. I continue to write student materials, an example of which can be found in the September 2023 issue of the A-Level history magazine Modern History Review entitled The Abolition Movement: An examination of the abolition movement across Britain and the Caribbean.



My commitment to connecting and communicating scholarly research and ideas with audiences across and beyond academic peer-review pieces remains integral to my broader work ethos. In addition to the aforementioned research projects and their specific academic writing outputs (papers, presentations, book chapters and books) I have written for a range of audiences and readers spanning diverse non-fiction writing formats.

Between 2003 and 2006, I worked as a freelance geography education advisor and content writer for BBC Bitesize (Pet Geographies, 2006), Sky (Teachers guide to using scheduled broadcasts in class resources) and advised on Penguin/Hodder student atlas and textbooks (Geotext 1). Since 2018, I have written a regular column for my local independent magazine The Beestonian, largely in communicating the historical, cultural and geographical significance of the notable trees in Beeston Nottingham, and have led walking tours on behalf of the Beeston and District Civic Society. My endeavours to experiment and stretch creatively written and conceptualised pieces has led to script writing and producing radio essays and conversations (Geography Workshop Productions for Resonance FM’s ‘Er Outdoors series in 2016/17, and with Michael Umney the BBC Radio 4 The Art of Now: Women Who Walk programme in 2018). I have run online and in-person workshops about broadcasting (radio) and narrowcasting (podcasts) (Department of Geography, University of Exeter, 2019), and have published a short practical guide in the 2023 RGS-IBG Communicating research beyond the academy e-book.

I continue to pursue a range of writing formats to enable broad engagements with my specific and broad research interests and have spoken about these at a range of national and international conferences, symposium and seminars. These can be further exemplified through the production and creative art work listed below.



Between 2015 and 2024, I was the founding director of the independent production company, Geography Workshop productions. The website now serves as an archive of its aims, ethos, ambitions and productions. It also contains the free to access online archive of every issue of Contemporary Issues in Geography and Education (CIGE). Through this company, I was able to evolve and develop a number of creative productions, online and in-person events and workshops and educational resources engaging with pertinent contemporary historical, cultural, and geographical themes. A full list of the productions completed can be found archived on its website.


One significant development through Geography Workshop evolved exploring the capacity to draw out the geographical and historical significances in the popular BBC TV comedy drama Detectorists (2014 – 2022). This experiment to write academically and creatively evolved into the 2020 publication Landscapes of Detectorists (Uniformbooks), co-edited by myself and Professor Innes M Keighren. In part, this publication intended to create space and capacity for connecting with the significance of popular comedy and cultural productions in shaping the geographical imaginations of its audiences and with geographical themes held within the series. Landscapes of Detectorists has proved globally popular with global online streaming, and the book has been internationally acclaimed in academic journals and across social media. It was reprinted three times between 2020 and 2022.

In 2023, a complementary piece to works in Landscapes of Detectorists was published, entitled “All the minorities covered”: Landscapes, Englishnesses, and hopefulness in the TV work of Mackenzie Crook for the fourth issue of  Temporary Boundary Press publication Waiting For You: A Detectorists Zine.


My production work along with my work developing collegial networks for global historical geography scholars through online and in-person writing retreats and writing for wider audiences was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society in their annual RGS Medals and Awards in 2022. I was awarded a lifetime honorary fellowship (Hon FRGS) for services to Geography with regard to equality, diversity and inclusion, and for my work with the historical geography research community.




I have a life-long love of creative arts, including writing, performance, theatre, film, photography. As a teenager, I trained at the Anna Scher Theatre School in Islington, London. The training I gained instilled an appreciation of  autodidactic learning, curiosity for listening to and connecting with peoples stories, and the vitality of creative expressive arts necessary across human lives: for the integral functions of humanity, humility, and humour to transform the way we make sense of ourselves and the lives of others on the planet. I am a passionate for everyone to be able to access careers in the arts and humanities for the capacities that afford humans to be seen, heard, and connected. Geography Workshop productions always had additional community support and we were very pleased to have uplifted and generated support for initiatives such as Arts EmergencyThe Black Curriculum and Surviving Society Podcast.

I returned to practicing the act of making art during my thesis. Between 2016 and 2017, I took the opportunity to study short art foundation courses at Nottingham Trent University, during which time I was able to explore a range of life drawing classes, painting, photography, mixed-media, textiles, installation, and performance work.  I have slowly built a portfolio of photography, paintings, and mixed-media pieces to which I can now add my unique /abstract pottery, thanks to the ongoing tutelage of international ceramic artists Rebecca Fox and Christine Stevens at Clay Studio and the inspiration of other artists based at the fantastic community arts initiative Primary in Nottingham. Working with clay affords the potential to be a deeply zen and philosophical practise: there are no guarantees – every stage of the making process offers the potential to create, but also the potential for destruction – there are risks and experiments. There is a need to let go of outcomes, to work towards a goal with no attachment that the goal will be achieved. That the process and the practice is the thing. There are questions that need asking about where the raw extracted minerals being worked come from, how they have been sourced, and how they transform under the pressures of force and temperature. It is – like geography – science, arts and practise. There is a delicate balance and deep connection between maker and material, and an alchemy within the maker and the product being made – simultaneous and yet distinct. You have to be present making a pot on a wheel. You have to be mindful and intentional: a split-second loss of concentration, and you can lose the work. For someone who can over-think or have numerous thoughts fizzing away, pottery demands I hyper-focus to zen calm. I love it. I doubt very much my ancestors working as journeymen brickmakers and pottery girls in Stoke had the luxury to privilege such reflections, so this art practise demands and enables larger historical and geographical questions to be asked about pots, pottery and global clay materialities that connect with cultural archaeologies, deep ecologies, trade, gender, class, race and the art and heritage worlds – and who, how, and where ceramic art practice is enabled and facilitated – or not.

I am equally passionate about corporeal arts – in particular the way yoga and martial art disciplines connect somatically to transform the body-mind-spirit of practitioners, and how in conjunction with the evolutions, esoteric, and philosophical traditions across histories and geographies, these corporeal arts are able to transform inner and outer worlds and offer up possibilities for both individual and collective growth across a lifetime.

I qualified as a yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance professionals) in 2022 focusing on the practise of Hatha Yoga, breathwork and meditation, and have completed short-course training in menopausal yoga support with Petra Coveney (Menopause Yoga). This work through Leftfield Yoga Studio continues to evolves and I am privileged to work with a range of private students across a range of life stages and community contexts. Complementary to this is my dedicated practise of Pilates and my life-long love of martial arts. I have practised Capoeria and Wing Chun Kung Fu, and currently work towards my black belt in Taekwondo (TAGB).