Fashion at Speed: Spectacular histories of fashion, flying and motorsport from the twentieth century collections of Brooklands Museum

Brooklands museumTECHNE AHRC PhD Project Studentship in collaboration with Brooklands Museum and Kingston School of Art, Kingston University London

Kingston School of Art and Brooklands Museum welcome applications for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship: Fashion at Speed: Spectacular histories of fashion, flying and motorsport from the twentieth century collections of Brooklands Museum. This is offered under the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership Scheme, to begin in October 2020. 

Deadline for Expressions of Interest: Monday 2 December 2019: 4.00pm (GMT)

Interviews: Week beginning the 9 December 2019

Project supervisors:

Dr Chris Horrocks and Dr Helen Wickstead, in collaboration with Virginia Smith, Director of Education and Participation, Brooklands Museum

Project vision

Motor-racing and aviation made a significant contribution to the history of fashion in Britain and its empire throughout the twentieth century. This research project explores the spectacle of racing on land and in the air using previously understudied documentary, film and photographic archives. Based at one of the world's most important locations in racing history - Brooklands race track and aerodrome - the research situates items of costume from museum collections within wider histories of fashion, technology and international media spectacle.

Drawing on methodologies from visual and material culture studies the research will:

1. Make use of Brooklands Museum's archive of documents, ephemera, posters, photographs and film making links between objects and documentary sources.

2. Identify items from the collections which illustrate stories of wider significance in the international histories of modern fashion, media and technology.

3. Take an interdisciplinary approach incorporating costumes, vehicles and architecture.

4. Improve documentation and enhance museum interpretation and educational experiences for visitors.

5. Use fashion and/or design history scholarship and methodologies to connect Brooklands collections with wider audiences.

Brooklands Museum preserves the world's first purpose-built motor-racing circuit, one of Britain's first air fields and its earliest flying school. Brooklands collections span over a century of design for bodies encountering extremes of speed and altitude, including replica jockey silks and caps from early motor racing, through original protective coats, googles, gloves and helmets, many of which represent the cutting-edge of available technologies in their period. The museum collections integrate costume with vehicle technology and the historic architecture of racing spectatorship. Media spectacle attracted huge crowds to "the Ascot of Motorsport", creating modern celebrities including Hilda Hewlett (first British woman to own a pilot's license), Malcolm Campbell (breaker of land and water-speed records), Tim Birkin and the Bentley Boys, (still used in the promotion of a high-profile motoring brand). Three land-speed records were achieved at Brooklands and numerous firsts in flight and aviation engineering. High-speed fashion propelled bodies across far-flung territories becoming part of the armoury of modern war.

While the Brooklands archive and collections have supported much previous research into histories of transport, engineering and science, very few studies have examined fashion, design history and fashion media. Existing research has been dominated by textual and technical approaches, but the large body of visual media and ephemera at Brooklands would benefit from visual methodologies creating interdisciplinary connections between archives, objects, vehicles and architecture. Building on the long-standing partnership between Brooklands and Kingston University, the student will collaborate with the museum education team to produce educational events. Working closely with curatorial staff they will contribute to new exhibitions which will engage new audiences with fashion collections.

The studentship will be based in The Visual and Material Culture Research Centre at Kingston University. During the research process, the student will divide their time between Brooklands Museum and Kingston University, where a full academic training and development programme is provided. Visits to other archives and institutions will also be required from time to time based on the developing research focus.

For informal enquires about the project contact Dr Helen Wickstead ( and Dr Chris Horrocks (

Award Details

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the studentship covers tuition fees and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. AHRC studentship rates for 2020-21 are yet to be announced - the doctoral stipend for 2019-20 was £17,009 (three years full-time or part-time equivalent for six years); levels are likely to rise slightly for 2020-21. Collaborative Doctoral Students also receive an additional stipend of £550. Students can apply for an additional six months stipend to engage in extended development activities such as work placements. See AHRC funding and training for full details.

As a TECHNE student, the selected applicant will have full access to the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership development activities and networking opportunities, joining a cohort of almost 60 students per year from across ten universities in London and the south-east.


Student Eligibility

Applicants will have a Master's degree in fashion history, art and design history, visual culture, or cultural history. They should have advanced knowledge of material culture studies methodologies and an interest in media, sport, celebrity and event culture. Experience of working with archives and collections is desirable. During the project the student will gain in-depth knowledge of motorsport and aviation and the local, national and international networks that developed around technological and sporting challenges. They will also acquire practical and analytical skills through working with archives and collections, exhibition curating, and organizing and contributing to public events that will enhance their employability.

Applicants must satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements and terms and conditions: International (overseas) students are not eligible to apply for AHRC studentships and EU students may be eligible for fees and maintenance, or fees only.

The proposed studentship (subject to selection by the TECHNE Panel in spring 2020) will fund a full-time PhD studentship for three years or part time study for up to six years (50% FTE and above).

Application Process

Please send your expression of interest for this project by email to:

Emily Bowles:

Please title your email 'CDA: Brooklands'.

Applications should comprise of the following:

1. 1-2 page statement outlining your research plan for this project

2. A copy of your first degree and postgraduate qualifications

3. A current CV (no more than 2 pages)

4. A sample of your academic work

Applications must be received by Kingston University no later than Monday 2 December 2019: 4.00pm (GMT)

Interviews for shortlisted candidates will be in the week beginning the 9 December 2018.

The selected candidate will then be supported by supervisors and partners to complete a TECHNE application for final submission to TECHNE by Thursday 20 February 2020.

Results of this second stage competition will be known by April 2020.


Please contact us for more research funding information.