Ellie is a PhD student in the Centre for Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University where she has designed a Vocabulary Development Programme focusing on the transition from primary to secondary school. She also works as a tutor on Cardiff University’s English language degree programme and as a writing support tutor for the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. In 2021, she was appointed a Cumberland Lodge Fellow and she also works part-time as an Education Policy Research Assistant for the Welsh Government, supporting the development of the National Strategy for Education Research and Enquiry in Wales. It was while undertaking research for her PhD that she came across the work of the ESU and joined as a young member. Here she tells us a little bit about herself.
How did you come to be involved in the ESU?
Having discovered the ESU through my research, I knew instantly I wanted to get involved and support the charity in any way I could. I originally joined as a volunteer to help with school workshops and public speaking competitions in schools in South Wales. I met other volunteers and the branch Chair, Stephen Purcell, and discussed the possibility of expanding the number of young volunteers involved with the charity. These conversations led to the development of the Young Person’s Committee in South Wales, of which I am Chair, which has been a fantastic experience (watch this space… we’ll be launching updates on our work soon). I’ve met people from all walks of life, learnt so much about communication skills and young people’s oracy development, and have seen the power of working with other people to create community-based movements within a brilliant charity.
How else do you seek to engage young people with the ESU?
I also sit as the Young Person’s Representative on the main South Wales Committee and as the representative for Wales on the National Young Members’ Committee. In these roles, as with the Young Person’s Committee in South Wales, my primary aim is to represent the views of young members and volunteers from South Wales, and to support the development of outreach programmes and young people’s engagement with the charity. I also help to organise opportunities for young people to network with experienced ESU members and arrange oracy skills-based workshops for students who are looking to apply for university, apprenticeships, and/or jobs. It is really important to me that young people from all backgrounds and life experiences have opportunities to develop confidence in their oracy and communication skills.
What words of advice do you have for other alumni/young members?
Do the things that scare you! It can feel really daunting to try something new, speak about something you’re passionate about, share your thoughts on complex topics, or know how to present yourself in new or different situations. But wherever you come from, whatever background you have, believe in yourself – you have very important things to say!
Whom do you admire and why?
I greatly admire para-swimmer Ellie Simmonds. Not only are her sporting achievements incredible, she also has phenomenal grit and determination, inspires people to be brave and try new things, and makes the voices of underrepresented people feel heard. My great aunt was born with spina bifida (a physical disability) and despite the 50 (ish!)-year age gap, it was Ellie Simmonds’ 2008 Paralympic debut that made my auntie feel like her voice and experiences were truly represented.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Aside from spreading Nutella on the top of digestives (try it… it’s like making an instant cheesecake!), my guiltiest pleasure has to be a super cheesy karaoke night. I’m a 90s kid, so anything that has a hint of girl-power pop, boy bands with questionable dip-dyed curtain hair, an epic ballad… or to be honest anything that was released in the 80s, 00s (personally, I think 2008 was a particularly excellent year), 10s as well Disney or musicals will do! Who doesn’t love a good sing-along?
Tell us something surprising about you.
Rather than following a literature and linguistics route, I very nearly did a music degree. I played jazz trombone to a high level and it is the experiences that I had in music and performance that really built my confidence in trying new things and learning how to communicate with new people. Is there a better album than Miles Davies’ Kind of Blue? I argue no! My brother, Joe, did follow this route and is a professional jazz musician in London (the Bristow household is a fairly noisy one!). If you’re looking for some music for your next party or event, please do get in touch!
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
Be kind to everyone you meet and don’t be afraid to be yourself. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. You never know the stories people have to tell – we just have to give one another time and listen.