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About Prof. Jon Fairburn

Professor of Sustainable Development.

A personal reflection on mental health

by Dr Bharati Singh

For my 4th blog in 5 years, I have decided to move away from writing about my learnings from the corporate sector and instead write a personal reflection on my encounter with mental health.

I have been on this planet for half a century now and have experienced highs and lows both in my personal and official life. Growing up in India, in school when we came across classmates who did not do well or did not understand simple things or failed – we just called them ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’. We did not have any awareness of learning disabilities or mental health. The first time I learnt about ‘dyslexia’ was from a Bollywood movie called ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (Stars on the ground, 2007).

Then, I met with a huge personal tragedy in 2011 which made me leave India and move to England. It was here that I learnt about various learning disabilities and about mental health. This was also the time when back home in India, there were discussions about mental health and some famous Bollywood stars started talking about their own personal experiences with depression.

This is when realisation dawned on me that I myself had experienced issues with mental health but not having any awareness and not knowing the symptoms, had just plodded on with my life. However, there were indications which I had overlooked like severe weight loss and alopecia leading up to my departure for England in 2012. I joined University of York to read for a PhD and forgot my troubles as there was a very strong collegiate life and a very strong social network. After 16 years of corporate life, it was difficult to get back to studying but the atmosphere was very conducive with the support from my college, colleagues, supervisory team and the friends I made.

In the last year of my PhD, I secured a full-time job and moved to Staffordshire University at Stoke. The first 5 months were consumed with the new job, understanding my role, impending PhD viva and subsequent corrections. Just after submitting my PhD corrections, post-PhD blues or depression hit me. While, I had great colleagues, they went home to their families after work, and I would come back to an empty flat. I lost 1.5 stones in the space of 2 months. Finally, after 4-5 months, I decided to seek professional help.

However, in all of this, I did not lose focus at work. I had literally restarted my career at age 46 in HE and gave it my all. Slowly, I made friends in Stoke and travelled quite a bit. Along with the professional help I received and the support of family and friends, old and new, I became mentally stronger.

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2022) has stated that depression is one of the main causes of disability. However, there are still many countries which still do not recognise mental health and people suffering from it may face different types of discrimination. Today, globally mental health ranks second in health concerns having overtaken cancer (Ipsos, 2022; ).

In UK alone, 1 in 6 adults suffers from depression (Pindar, 2022; ). NHS stats (July 2022) state that 1.61 million people have been in contact for mental health services.

NHS July 2022

While organisations have focussed on employee mental health, workplaces have seen an increase by 81% post pandemic (MHFA 2022; ). However, most of the action is reactive rather than being proactive. MFHA further states that UK employers spend almost £56billion per annum on mental health.

Just last month in October 2002, we celebrated World Mental Health Day.

However, just celebration alone will not help the cause. If you feel that someone may be suffering from any kind of mental health or you yourself may be feeling the blue, please remember:




Need help with your Digital Marketing in 2023?

We are now offering again the opportunity for a student placement to assist you with your digital marketing needs. This placement is credited as part of their course MSc in Digital Marketing Management

To get our Masters students ready for the industry we have two modules:

Digital Marketing Strategy in Practice (Jan to April 2023)

This module will prepare a tri-partite agreement between the student, the academic staff and the organisation as to the focus of the project. During this time the student and the organisation will develop the working relationship and the student will receive access to the data and systems needed to carry out the initial assessment

First, the student will assess the existing marketing practice (using analytics, comparison against four competitors, best practice in the sector and discussion with the organisation as to what they are trying to achieve).

From the evidence strategic options will be prepared and discussed with the organisation and the strategy agreed for the placement. Finally, consideration will be given as to how to make the project sustainable (so that it can continue after the student leaves).

Once there is agreement the tripartite form is completed and signed. This work carried out between January to April 2023.

The Digital Marketing Work Placement

A credited work experience (600 hours) to deliver the project with the organisation concerned. (April to August 2023).

The project can be in any type of organisation e.g. private sector, public sector, charity or a university. It is not essential for the work project activity to take place at the premises – many of the projects have been remotely delivered due to COVID.

Here’s a blog with examples of previous projects our students have completed.

Here is the link to profiles of this year’s students. Please contact them direct to start a conversation. If you have any other issues please contact either Prof Jon Fairburn or Dr Muddasar Khwaja (emails below with other documents)

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  1. We’re not sure what we’re doing with our marketing can you help? You are very suited to a placement. The student will first review your activity and then in discussion with you provide you with options depending on what your needs are.
  2. What is digital marketing? Digital marketing covers a very wide rage of techniques to both get your messages out and to get customers to engage with you. From website design , SEO optimisation, content creation (including podcasts, films and blogs), email marketing, social media, PPC campaigns and more – digital marketing is so much more than just social media. In fact we have found that in general in recent years social media has been quite a way down the list of effective strategic approaches that organisations can take to develop thier digital marketing.
  3. We need someone to set up and run some social media accounts? This has been a common request but so often it is based on very little. What are you trying to achieve? Which social media channel matches the personas of your customers? What is the size of your marketing budget for paid adverts on these channels? Most social media channels have been tightened so organic growth can be very small without a budget.
  4. We’re a B2B business can you help? Yes, B2B often requires a different approach to a B2C organisation. B2B organisations are often sitting on unused assets.
  5. What resources will the placement need? A line manager who can respond to updates and proposed work to give feedback. To provide a recommendation on Linkedin at the end of a satisfactorily completed project.
  6. Will we need to pay for the placement? We have had paid and unpaid placements on the course (the workplacement is credited). Placements that are paid are likely to have access to a wider range of possible students. Some companies have paid a stiped for satisfactory completion of the project. We would expect any organisation to pay for any transport costs and meal allowance if working on site.


Module descriptor for Digital Marketing Strategy in Practice (this prepares the placement)

Module descriptor for the Digital Market Work Placement

New member of staff – Amanda Payne

Amanda has joined as the course leader for the BA Hons Events Management and the FdA Visitor Attraction and Resort Management programmes in the Department of Business and Law, School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom. She is working towards A PhD and is currently researching poverty alleviation through art and cultural tourism specifically in Cambodia, South East Asia.

Amanda Payne - new member of staff
Amanda Payne

Before joining Staffordshire University she served as a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire teaching on a variety of, research, subject specific (tourism, hospitality and events industry based), enterprise and management modules to a range of students undertaking their foundation, undergraduate and post graduate qualifications.

Amanda has also lectured in the field of tourism, hospitality and events management in several international destinations including Cambodia and Poland and has also been a visiting scholar and block taught in China at Chongxing University and Xiamen University

Amanda has an extensive commercial background and has experience of the operational side of the industry. Amanda first graduated with an art degree and was an artist for several years, progressing from this she became a client manager helping to build and maintain relationships, and then as an event organiser – planning, organising and delivering numerous art events both nationally and internationally. Amanda firmly believes that we need to preserve the best of our culture and nature for generations to come.

Separate to lecturing, Amanda is a joint CEO and major shareholder of a building environmental controls company that specialises in reducing carbon footprints via environmentally friendly energy management systems in commercial buildings.

Email amanda.payne@staffs.ac.uk and tweets https://twitter.com/AmandaPayne333

A cost of living and poverty catastrophe in Stoke on Trent: the Government’s role in its making

By Professor David Etherington

In the last few years I have been working with colleagues in the University and Citizens Advice North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent (CANSS) on the causes, experiences and actions against poverty in Stoke on Trent. Early 2022 we produced a study[1] on the cost-of-living crisis and we found that austerity through benefit and public services cuts has been a major cause of increasing poverty. Before the COVID-19 crisis, Stoke-on-Trent was the 14th most deprived district in England (out of 317 districts) and possessed one of the highest rates of people on low pay and with low skills. In 2016, the Money Advice Service ranked Stoke-on-Trent as the 12th in terms of numbers of people in excessive debt.[2] We found that food banks in the district have been overwhelmed with people unable to meet basic living costs.[3]

Food banks now commonly used in Stoke

The recent changes (September 2022) to the fiscal policies involving tax cuts will do little to help, and will in fact intensify poverty. Government cost of living support for benefit claimants (around £650 for UC and ESA claimants)[4] will be nowhere near what is required even to ‘make ends meet.’[5] It seems that the Government are hell bent in punishing the poor as Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is promising more benefit cuts.[6] Work is not a route out of poverty as the Government claims as two-thirds (68%) of working-age adults in poverty live in a household where at least one adult is in work.”

Instead, they are implementing a tougher claimant regime through the plans to impose benefit sanctions as part of the ‘Way to Work’ initiative to move people quicker off benefits into work.

The time allowed for jobseekers to move to their preferred job is being reduced. Anyone deemed non-compliant will face sanctions and reduced income[8]. Already there has been a quadrupling in the rate of benefit sanctions in Stoke since before the pandemic.[9]

Furthermore there is no guarantee that benefit increases will be in line with inflation leading increasing housing and health poverty. The health of people in Stoke-on-Trent is generally worse than the England average. According to Public Health England, Stoke-on-Trent is one of the 20% most deprived districts/unitary authorities in England and about 24% (12,660) children live in low-income families. Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England average.[10]

Victoria Canning from Bristol University and Steve Toombs (Open University) claim that the Government’s policies are the equivalent of social murder. This is due to the excess deaths caused by poverty. They define social murder as “the outcome of deliberate policies that facilitate social, economic and political oppression, and which lead to untimely and ultimately avoidable and preventable deaths. While corporations and wealthy elites will benefit substantively from the decisions made in the mini-budget, some at the bottom of the increasingly disparate economy in Britain will lose their lives as a result.”[11]

David Etherington is Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development in the School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, Staffordshire University. David has been researching welfare reform, poverty and employment relations, including a comparative study of the UK and Danish welfare models. Some of his research has been published in a book in 2020 Austerity, Welfare and Work: Exploring Politics, Geographies and Inequalities, Bristol, Policy Press

[1] Etherington D Telford L and Jones M and Harris S and Hubbard S (2022) The Pending Poverty Catastrophe in Stoke on Trent: How benefit cuts and the cost of living crisis impacts on the poor, Staffs University/(Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent), (March 2022)

[2] Financial Inclusion Group North Staffordshire (2019) Financial Inclusion Group North Staffordshire Business Development Plan 2019 – 2025. 

[3] https://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/7270/3/The_Pending_Poverty_Catastrophe_in_Stoke-on-Trent.pdf

4] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cost-of-living-payment#low-income-benefits-and-tax-credits

[5] https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/chancellor-must-strengthen-measures-help-cost-living

[6] https://metro.co.uk/2022/09/30/kwasi-kwarteng-and-liz-truss-eyeing-benefits-cut-to-pay-for-tax-plans-17478448/

[7] Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2022) UK Poverty 2022: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK. York: JRF.

[8] https://cpag.org.uk/news-blogs/news-listings/it-wont-work-why-way-work-scheme-undermines-efforts-help-people-get

[9] https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/cost-of-living/hundreds-stoke-trent-benefit-claimants-7191218

[10] https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/static-reports/health-profiles/2019/E06000021.html?area-name=Stoke-on-Trent

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/02/mini-budget-will-result-in-social-this-winter

Awareness, Engagement and Co-creation: the three steps to improve the city branding of Stoke-on-Trent using social media channels

During the last two decades, social media and review sites have provided opportunities to city councils, heritage, and tourism destinations to co-create value with citizens and tourists. The online channels facilitate the sharing of information and experiences using different types of content such as texts, photos, videos.

The high level of interactivity and reach of social media platforms may play a critical role in the city branding of Stoke-on-Trent taking into consideration the extensive increase in 1) number of users, (2) content generation and (3) content consumption during the last few years.

The city’s destinations and citizens generated content on social media platforms may influence the city branding which may have a positive impact on the long term societal and economic indicators. As residents of Stoke-on-Trent, we can influence visitors or investors attitude toward the city by collectively engage with social media accounts of its destinations, heritage places, visitor attractions, city centre, businesses, and many others.

The participation and involvement in Stoke-on-Trent city branding may seem complex, and as citizens, we might think that we need to be experts in content creation, photo shooting or video editing to support the city brand image. In fact, we can play a valuable role without being social media or technology experts by following the three steps formula (1) Awareness, (2) Engagement and (3) Co-creation.

First, we need to be aware about the events and activities taking place in the city. This may be achieved by searching and following social media accounts that relate to Stoke-on-Trent city branding. For example, Table 1 highlights that the percentage of the population of Stoke following the official tourism account ‘’ Visit Stoke ‘’ @VisitStoke is 4.75%. This is representing an opportunity for more residents to join and engage with city branding when this percentage is compared to other similar cities or to the national Visit Britain social media accounts. Other destinations and attractions in the city to follow are @EmmaBridgewater, @TrenthamEstate, @Monkey_Forest, @regandVic, @WorldofWedgwood, @Middleport_Pot, @PotteriesMuseum, @LoveClay_, @SpodeWorks, @GladstoneMuseum, @NewVicTheatre, @barewall, @SmithfieldST1, @TheartbayG, @PotteriesCentre, @EtruriaMuseum, @Mitchell_Arts, @WaterWorldStoke, @sotculturaldest, @appetitestoke, @StokeCreates, @StokeontrentBID, @MadeinStokeonT, @MakeItSoTStaffs, @Stokecity, @OfficialPVFC

Table 1. Percentage of the city population following the official visit the city social media accounts

City NameEstimated PopulationTotal number of followers on the official visit the city account on Twitter, Facebook, and InstagramPercentage of followers  from the total population

The second step is to engage with the content of these accounts. Engagement behaviors include liking, commenting, and sharing the content. Previous studies have shown that engagement will increase visibility including reach and views that enhance awareness, and most importantly Stoke-on-Trent brand equity, image, word of mouth and loyalty. Further, this step may include rating and reviewing the destinations’ pages on Google or other review sites such as tripadvisor.co.uk. Much research highlighted the importance of these reviews during visitors search for information and before decision-making.

Table 2 highlights that the official visitor’s website of Stoke-on-Trent ‘Visit Stoke’ is effectively performing for the number of organic traffic per month. Further, the number of searches for Stoke on Trent on TripAdvisor is higher than other cities. However, the number of Stoke-on-Trent hashtags on social media platforms is an area for development, and this can be improved by following the third step for city branding.

Table 2 – Comparing similar cities

City NameNumber of # InstagramNumber of # FacebookNumber of # followers on LinkedInEstimated monthly organic traffic to official tourism siteEstimated search traffic on TripAdvisor per month

The third step is to co-create content with the destinations, heritage, museums, and visitor attractions at Stoke-on-Trent. This step includes visiting these places and creating content such as images, videos or texts highlighting your experience and feelings, followed by sharing the content on your personal social media platforms while tagging the place and mentioning the related hashtags such as #stokeontrent #stoke #MyStokeStory #wearestoke #visitMAC #Smithfieldtoke #potteriesmuseum #LoveStoke #WhatsOnStoke #PoweringUpStoke #StokeIsOnTheUp #welovestoke. Further, you can develop a specific social media page or blog dedicated to showcase the best places to visit in Stoke-on-Trent including all the news, events and activities that may happen during the year. A good example is the Instagram named @welovestoke or the news and media page named @Babababoon.

During the last week of September, and during the welcome week at Staffordshire University, we have used the #stokeontrent along other Hashtags on Twitter. The photo below of the word frequency explains how we have influenced the #stokeontrent including the activities happening around the city and the Twitter accounts that they are using or re-tweeting with the #stokeontrent. For example, words such as students, amazing, appealing and Hashtags such as #staffsexperience and #proudtobestaffs were combined frequently with #stokeontrent. This is an example of a strategic use of Hashtags and how it may be beneficial for the city branding when it is searched online.

Stoke word cloud

During the same week, the Twitter accounts in the figure below have used the #stokeontrent frequently. This represents an opportunity for other citizens to join and use the #stokeontrent strategically enhancing the reputation and supporting the vision of the City Council to transform the city into one of the region’s most important cultural destinations.

Dr Joe Hazzam @joe_hazzam teaches on the MSc in Digital Marketing Management and the BA in Digital and Social Media Marketing

New member of staff Khaoula Omhand

Khaoula Omhand has joined as a Lecturer in Business Management and Leadership in the Department of Business and Law, School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom.

Khaoula Omhand

She is currently undertaking her PhD in business and management at the University of Wolverhampton, focusing on the use of critical diversity management studies to understand inequalities in leadership positions.

Her research was recognized by the European Academy of Management (EURAM) Doctoral Colloquium 2022 in Switzerland as her PhD project was shortlisted for the responsible research award and for the best paper award. Similarly, her work on the power of business elites in UK biomedical firms was accepted at the European Group of Organisation Studies (EGOS) in Vienna in 2022. She is a published co-author on subjects associated with sustainability, leadership, and entrepreneurship in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Sustainability.

She holds an MBA with distinction and PGCert in academic practice from the University of Wolverhampton and she is a member of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). She is recognised as Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and possesses three years of teaching experience in further and higher education in the UK. Prior to starting her career in academia, she was an environmental engineer with more than four years’ experience in leading environmental consultancy projects in the public and private sector.

Her specialist knowledge has enabled her to participate in a consultancy project to understand businesses in Walsall and their approach to Diversity and Inclusion practices in the workplace from employee and employer’s perspectives. Working as a research assistant, the project was commissioned by Walsall for All and DWP and is managed by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with its partner the University of Wolverhampton. Further to that, she has also helped in developing a grant proposal that was submitted to the Newton fund titled ‘Green Recovery of the Women Workforce in Tourism After Covid-19 Outbreak: The Case of Turkey’.

Khaoula teaches on a range of courses in the Business School including the MSc in International Business Management and the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship.

Email Khaoula at khaoula.omhand@staffs.ac.uk

New member of staff Dr. Itoro Ekpo

Dr. Itoro Ekpo has joined as a Lecturer in Business Management in the Department of Business and Law, School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom.

Dr Itoro Ekpo

She holds Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in International Business from the University of Bradford, United Kingdom. She possesses five years of corporate experience and extensive experience teaching Business and Management modules. She is working with the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education, Nigeria to design Ibibio language teaching materials for Schools.

Before joining Staffordshire University, she has served in an academic position at Global Banking School, University of Law, Nottingham Trent University and University of Bradford. She is a member of British Academy of Management (BAM) and Academy of International Business (AIB).

She has presented her research in international and national conferences. She is a proficient user of NVIVO. Her interdisciplinary research interests are internalisation strategy, cross-cultural studies, knowledge transfer, alliances, and joint venture in the African context and emerging market.

Dr Itoro will be teaching on the MSc in International Business Management, BA in Digital and Social Media Marketing.

Email Dr Itoro Ekpo at itoro.ekpo@staffs.ac.uk

Events for Autumn 2022 in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire

Here’s a pick of some of the great events available if you are joining us at Staffordshire University this Autumn, places still available. There’s also a list of venues and other information sources at the end for more events


1st to 4th Trentham Live including Steps, Craig David, McFly and Secret Symphony

9-11th Lunar Cinema under the stars at Trentham Gardens

16th Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart at Foxlowe Centre, Leek

17th Lost in music – One Night at the Disco in the Victoria Hall

18th Dawn French at the Victoria Hall

23rd Comedy – Russell Kane at the Victoria Hall

26th Black Umfolosi – music and dance from southern Africa at the New Vic

29th Sept Tim Peake – my journey into space at the Victoria Hall

Trentham Live – four nights of music in September


3rd Music – The Daisy Chains at the New Vic

6th Simon Parker – Cycling 3,500 miles round pandemic Britain Stafford Gatehouse

7-9th, 14 – 31st Scarefest at Alton Towers

31st Henry Blofeld: My dear old things at New Vic


1st-2nd The Tiger who came to tea at the Regent Theatre, Hanley

3rd Comedy – Dom Joly’s Holiday snaps at the Mitchell Arts Centre

4th Music – Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the Victoria Hall

10th The Psychology of Serial Killers at the Victoria Hall

11th Comedy – Kathryn Ryan Missus at the Victoria Hall

23rd Comedy – Mark Steel at the New Vic

Useful entertainment links

Clearing at Staffordshire University
Clearing open – 0800 590 830

Clearing events available or call the Clearing team on 0800 590 830

Do we really need to wait another generation for Clean Air?

By Jon Fairburn, Professor of Sustainable Development

Poor air quality is responsible for over 35,000 deaths in the UK every year and hundreds of thousands of ill-health episodes.

Last Autumn the World Health Organization (WHO) released new standards for air quality as a result of research showing that air pollution causes problems in every part of the body. Furthuremore, air pollution is worst in the most deprived areas across Europe and these are also often populations that are more vulnerable as well.  

WHO have set an annual mean target of 5 ugm3 for Particulates (PM2.5) and WHO states “Exceedance of the air quality guideline levels is associated with important risks to public health”.

What has been the government’s response? As it happens the Environment Bill is going through Parliament and they are currently out to consultation on what the targets should be – their suggestion a target of 10 ugm3 by 2040! Note the consultation closes 27th June

So, they propose a target that is twice the WHO standard to be met in a generation. Why does air pollution have such a low priority in Britain? In part because there has been a marked political reluctance to change policy and behaviours – failures include:

a. Deregulation of buses outside London which led to a steep fall in bus use.

b. The lack of cheap, reliable and extensive mass transport in most cities outside London.

c. A failure to develop active transport including dedicated integrated cycle lanes in towns and cities

d. Failure to regulate or ban wood burning stoves which now account for 40% of PM2.5 emissions and which continue to grow in use.

e. A virtual complete lack of air quality enforcement by local authorities. (The Guardian report in 2021 there had only been 19 penalities in 6 years by local authorities).

If you want to find out your local level of pollution have a look a this site https://www.addresspollution.org/

The University is a partner in #CleanAirDay

I maintain an air quality list on twitter here

The House of Commoms Public Affairs Committee is currently calling for evidence to tackle local air quality breaches – closing deadline 20th June

New Tourism paper from Dr Muddasar G Khwaja and colleagues

Linking Regenerative Travel and Residents’ Support for Tourism Development in Kaua’i Island (Hawaii): Moderating-Mediating Effects of Travel-Shaming and Foreign Tourist
Attractiveness in Journal of Travel Research

by U Zaman, M Aktan, J Agrusa & M G Khwaja


“Leaving the place behind, better than before” is the regenerative state-of-mind approach to reset, rethink and move forward, beyond sustainable tourism. Despite growing global attention, empirical evidence supporting tourism developments through regenerative travel remains extremely rare. Moreover, rampant incidents of travel-shaming across tourism destinations undermine foreign tourist attractiveness, ultimately affecting residents’ support for tourism developments. To address this overlooked and potential research gap, the present study develops and tests a holistic moderated-mediation model of resident’s support for tourism development, involving regenerative travel, travel-shaming and foreign tourist attractiveness.
Drawing on study data from 463 islanders in Kauai (Hawaii) and the use of structural equation modeling via Mplus, the study provides pioneering evidence on the effects of regenerative travel on residents’ support for tourism development, under moderating-mediating influence of travel-shaming and foreign tourist attractiveness. The present study implications extend to the development and validation of a new scale for regenerative travel. The study findings offer strategic insights and directions for imagining new business models, resources, and relationships within regenerative tourism in the post-pandemic world.


Congratulations on this publication in a prestigious Q1 journal!

Muddasar teaches on a range of courses in the Business School including the MBA and the MSc in Digital Marketing Management