Shiny Happy People: The staff of the Department of History and Archaeology, University of Chester. Copyright: University of Chester

It’s exciting times for us in the Department of History and Archaeology with lots of shiny happy people dancing and clapping their way around the Binks Building and through the first weeks of lecturing undergraduates and masters students. Sadly I missed this year’s new collective photo shoot because of illness and I am missing out on the singing and dancing by being on research leave. Poor me.

Still, above you can see them all the shiny happy people (apart from Peter, who clearly missed the memo that stated clearly that smiling was now a contractual obligation in all University photographs). To draw a comparison with REM’s well-known video – if my department are the band (joined by a B-52), imagine I am an old man cycling furiously behind the scenes…. Alternatively, you don’t have to draw a comparison at all: it is completely up to you. Any resemblance to rock stars living or dead is purely coincidental.

In terms of Chester’s archaeologists, last year we welcomed as a permanent full-time staff member the burial archaeologist and bone boffin Dr Amy Gray Jones. Joining Amy, Meggen and myself, this year we greet two more archaeologists. Our fourth full-time member of staff joining us is arch-palaeoecologist and Mesolithicist extraordinaire, Dr Barry Taylor. And last, but not least, we are joined for this year only by the Pictish burial super-brain,  Dr Adrian Maldonado. Of course, not new, but nevertheless ever-young Dr James Pardoe, our heritage guru is this year expertly leading up our masters programmes.  It truly is an exciting time to be at Chester as an academic and I am sure the students are feeling the positive vibes.

We should also mention new historians. Hannah and Katherine joined last year and we now have a medieval historian who knows his archaeology inside out, the superb expert on early medieval angels, demons and all things in between: Dr Thomas Pickles.

There are plenty of days in academic life when teaching and researching feels a bit down. Strikes are on the way. Research can often feel like a perpetual bad day. Teaching can even feel like losing my religion. But when I’ve had enough of the department meeting, I hang on.

So I am pleased to broadcast a joyful noise. Because in this small part of the archaeological firmament exciting developments are afoot and a photo of shiny happy people is well deserved. Andy did you hear about this one?