Every year, students studying on LJMU English’s Masters by Research Programme spend a couple of days at the wonderful Gladstone’s Library in North Wales, to read, discuss and reflect upon their work. Here, Andreas Theodorou reflects upon the trip on 13th – 14th February 2017. 

As one of LJMU’s English MRes students, I was offered the opportunity to participate on a residential trip to Gladstone’s library in Hawarden. This picturesque building houses the collection of William Gladstone, who amassed over 20,000 books. During a guided tour around the library I saw a multitude of books on theology, and even some books about places I frequented myself. The building left me absolutely speechless, and the vast quantity of books was enough to leave me awestruck. We were shown the annotations that Gladstone would make in the books which he read, his personal collections, and, of course, his axe… because every great reader needs a good axe…

We started the trip with a discussion on a number of Library themed texts, analysing and joking about the insanity that would come hand-in-hand with an infinite library. We started as we meant to go on – relaxed, but well aware of the reason why we were there. This trip was an opportunity for us to focus on our work, whilst providing us with a place to retreat from the everyday humdrum of life.

After spending 90 minutes discussing the library-themed reading, we embarked on a brief tour of the Library and the archives. Following this, we had a short stretch of time within which we could do whatever we pleased. Vikki and I took it upon ourselves to explore the grounds of the library.

Come dinner time, the group was given a lovely table by the rear window and were absolutely amazed by the service the staff provided. Conversations split into a number of tangents and branches – starting with research interests and, somehow, reaching a conversation wherein we discussed our likeness to Bernard Black of the sitcom Black Books. We ended the day with poetry (as any truly great day should end), and a few of our group chose to follow up with a trip to the pub.

Morning came, and we breakfasted with a resident who was finishing a two-week stay at the library. The warm and joyful atmosphere of the library just seemed to naturally incline everyone to come together. We started our day with presentations from the PhD students who discussed their research trajectories, and provided a massively beneficial opportunity for us to learn about where our Masters studies might lead. After a quick cup of coffee, I presented my own work. Though it may be terrifying to present your work to a room full of people much more qualified than you, it offered me the chance to critique my own project and look for ways to improve it. Everyone was friendly, encouraging, and supportive. I couldn’t have asked for a better group.

We finished the trip with lunch and headed home after what had felt like but a brief moment. The residential was a truly amazing experience and I wish only that we had more time to spend there. Being surrounded by a group of lecturers and post-graduate students in such a relaxed environment offers a brilliant sort of stimulus – you don’t even realise the massive leaps that you are making. The Gladstones Residential was a trip I will never forget, and, hopefully, I will get the opportunity to go once again. That time can’t come soon enough!

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