SIGN benefits from a committed team of staff across the broad spectrum of business development, admin and professional services, skills and training, and academic research, as well as industry partners and collaborators. The majority of the team are based at The University of York.

Duncan Petrie, Director

Professor Duncan Petrie is Head of the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York and is the acting Director of the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN).

He began his career at the British Film Institute and has worked at the Universities of Exeter, Auckland – where he ran the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, before coming to York in 2009, Duncan’s research has engaged with various aspects of the British, Scottish and New Zealand Film and Television industries.

Most recently, he was the PI on the AHRC funded research project ‘Transformation and Tradition in Sixties British Cinema: Production Cultures, Cross Media Relations and National Branding.’

Kate O’Connor, Industry Partnerships Co-Director

Kate is an experienced and senior consultant in creative industries, working with both private and public-sector clients in the UK and internationally. Since setting up her consultancy practice, Kate has specialised in providing expertise in areas of education and training policy and industry/education engagement at a strategic level.

In addition to running her consultancy practice, Kate is also currently Executive Chair of Animation UK, now part of the newly formed UK Screen Alliance the trade body for VFX, post-production and film studios. She represents the sector at senior government level, developing business, export and skills related policy to sup-port the growth of the industry. 

Kate is a Co-Director of XR Stories and SIGN, and Chair of the Partnership Steering Board, as well as chairing the BFI Screen Industries Research Advisory Group, and a Trustee of You Make IT-a London based charity providing support for women in the creative industries. 

Kate is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of BAFTA and a representative and advisor to the BAFTA Learning and New Talent Committee.

Emma Brown, Programme Manager

Emma has operational oversight for the day-to-day running of SIGN and the associated project, XR Stories. Emma leads planning, and oversees that SIGN meets defined goals on time and within budget. Emma has worked at the University for over a decade, and in her previous role supported academics to engage with industry, and to understand what external organisations need from academic research. She has supported the transfer of academics’ knowledge and research through spinning out, licencing, collaboration and networking. Emma has also worked with numerous academics to frame the benefits their research can bring and to figure out the best route to engage external organisations with this research.

Damian Murphy, Director of XR Stories

Damian is a leading researcher in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York, with his work on virtual acoustics, auralisation and audio signal processing placing him in over a hundred leading journals and conferences. His creative work has appeared in galleries and festivals of international reputation: these specialisms combine in his role as the University of York’s Research Theme Champion for Creativity. Damian is also the Director of XR Stories, which is closely aligned with SIGN.

Anna Einarsdóttir, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead

Anna is the academic lead for the equality, diversity and inclusion workstream for SIGN and a Senior Lecturer in Critical Diversity Management at the University of York. Her research concerns workplace experiences of LGBT+ employees and how employee networks can be mobilised to build a more inclusive working environment. With a longstanding commitment to EDI matters and substantial experience of working with public, private and third sector organisations on this topic, Anna now chairs a European COST Action network focusing on LGBTI+ social and economic (in)equalities and is a member of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Chartered Association of Business Schools.

Jon Swords, Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead

Jon is the lead for SIGN’s research work stream. In this role, Jon oversees the development and implementation of SIGN’s research strategy which will help inform both the other work streams and academic outputs from the project. The research work stream will help us to identify and understand screen industries in Yorkshire and the Humber, and to design interventions for developing them. 

Jon is an economic geographer with an expertise in cultural and creative industries, and local and regional development. He has worked on and researched various parts of the creative industries, predominantly film and TV, heritage, and immersive media and technology. Jon is also a research fellow on XR Stories, which is closely aligned with SIGN. 

During his time as a researcher, Jon has spent time examining processes of creativity, mapping the creative industries and looking into how creative industries develop through funding and policy regimes. He specialises in a range of research methods, from quantitative approaches such as social network analysis, to qualitative methods such as interviews, visual methodologies and participatory approaches.

Bethan Jones, Research Associate

Bethan was awarded her PhD by Published Works from Cardiff University in 2021, where her work focused on gender, anti-fandom and popular culture. She has been published in Sexualities, Intensities, and Transformative Works and Cultures, as well as edited collections for Routledge, Bloomsbury and NYU Press among others. She is also co-editor of Crowdfunding the Future: Media Industries, Ethics and Digital Society published by Peter Lang (2015). Before joining SIGN Bethan worked on the skills, higher education and lifelong learning portfolio for Welsh Government where her responsibilities included WorldSkills, the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales project and the Young Person’s Guarantee.

Jude Brereton, Skills and Training Lead

Jude is a Senior Lecturer in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York with research interests in interactive acoustic environments for musical performance. She is a strong advocate for gender equality, serving as UK Athena SWAN panel member and chair. She is dedicated to promoting inclusive engineering, through innovative, creative approaches to teaching, which are grounded in interdisciplinary research and sit at the boundary between arts and technology. Before beginning her academic career, she worked in arts and music administration, and is still active in promoting research-inspired music and theatre performance events combining art and science for public engagement and outreach.

Helen Claxton, Creativity Lab Project Manager

Helen is Project Manager for the newly-established Creativity Lab space in the University of York Library. She is responsible for operational management of the Lab, developing and implementing a wide range of academic, administrative and financial policies and processes.

Helen joins SIGN from the University of York’s Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Outreach department, having previously worked in UK/EU recruitment, access and outreach, where her focus was on activities related to the recruitment of postgraduate students and issues concerning widening access to postgraduate study for underrepresented groups. Having worked within these roles for a number of years, Helen brings a wealth of event operations, management and evaluation experience to the role of Project Manager.

Helen is passionate about continued professional development and is currently looking to undertake an Apprenticeship level 6 in Project Management.

Sam Hazeldine, Creativity Lab Technologist

Sam is the Creativity Lab Technologist for the newly-established lab space in the University of York Library building. He provides technical support and guidance for a range of creative and immersive technologies, along with delivering introductory creativity workshops and fascilitating other training opportunities.

He joins SIGN from the University of York Library, previously working in IT training and support, supporting with the delivery of digital skills training and support for everyone at the University. He is a trained primary school teacher and is passionate about digital accessibility for all.

Nicola Thomis, Communications Manager

Nicola is a digital marketing and communications specialist who has experience across both the public sector and higher education. She is responsible for developing and implementing the communications strategies for SIGN, and for the closely aligned XR Stories project. Nicola enjoys thinking creatively in order to deliver effective communications strategies.

Sue Edmunds, Communications Coordinator

Sue is a marketing and communications professional with experience working in the higher education and private sectors. As Communications Coordinator for XR Stories and SIGN, Sue is responsible for creating accessible and compelling communications across multiple channels. Sue enjoys collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to devise and deliver high-quality communications campaigns.

Billy Brooke, Evaluation Administrator

Billy is an evaluation administrator for the XR Stories and SIGN projects. He’s responsible for capturing and recording the outcomes and impact of these projects and managing systems for storing any evidence of impact. Impact relates to how these projects benefit and influence society, culture, environment, and the economy. His role includes evaluating the evidence of such impact from XR Stories and SIGN, identifying how they align with the key themes and goals of the projects.

Sophie Palmer, Administration Manager

Sophie is the Administration Manager for SIGN, and for the closely aligned XR Stories project. Sophie leads a team of four administrators in the support of the two projects. Applying skills and knowledge from six years of experience in University project support, her role at SIGN is to create, manage and review administrative systems for recording and maintaining project data, and to manage expenditure in line with University and funding body policies. She enjoys providing admin support to project stakeholders and using cloud-based technology to implement administrative systems which facilitate collaborative working by the project teams.