Skip to main content

In Memoriam

Professor Anna Craft

10 December 1961 - 11 August 2014

Academic Lead for Creativity, the Arts and Educational Futures (2007-2014)

It is with great sadness that we write that Professor Anna Craft died on 11th August. Anna joined the University of Exeter Graduate School of Education in January 2007 and was both a highly valued colleague and friend to many of us. She has led on many research projects, and the group Creativity Research in Education AT Exeter (CREATE), which she convened, has become very influential both nationally and internationally in promoting the importance of placing creativity at the heart of the learning process.

Anna coined the term 'Possibility Thinking' around fifteen years ago and she herself was a possibility thinker of the best kind. She was always able to creatively find a way round problems to do what needed to be done, and beyond. Alongside this, Anna was an incredibly wise and kind colleague who provided unstinting support to her students and to the many colleagues that she worked with.

She began writing articles and books on creativity in education in the early 1990s and was sole or co-author of around 100 publications with her most recent book (Creativity and Education Futures: Learning in a digital age) being published in 2011. In particular, many doctoral students and early career researchers benefitted from her wisdom and the advice that she gave so generously. Through them and her colleagues, we hope that Anna’s work and ideas will continue to develop with new purpose.

Anna was passionate about agency and finding ways to empower others to make positive creative educational change happen. This included school students and teachers through collaborative projects like Aspire, and current work with Pearson. She touched the lives of many people in education, of all ages, and she will be sorely missed by all of us here at Exeter, by her friends and colleagues in many other parts of the world and, of course, her family.

Dr Nigel Skinner, Head of the Graduate School of Education
and Dr Kerry Chappell, 
GSE Lecturer and member of the CREATE research group
15 August 2014

Funeral Arrangements

Anna's family gathered to celebrate Anna's life and lay her to rest on Friday 22nd August 2014. All who knew Anna were warmly invited to join them. Funeral arrangements for Anna Craft

The Anna Craft Memorial Lecture

The Anna Craft Memorial Lecture is an annual event established in memory of Anna and jointly organised by the two universities in which she worked at the time of her death: The Open University and the University of Exeter. The lectures will help to sustain her legacy and thus to disseminate the best contemporary thinking about creativity and education, both in the UK and internationally.

The first lecture took place on 5th March 2015, and was given virtually from Los Angeles by Professor Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources.

You can see the lecture he gave, 'Educating for Creativity: From what it is to what it might be', at the Anna Craft Memorial Lecture website.

Obituaries and other webpages

Remembering Anna

We have created a space here for memories, reflections and tributes from anyone who knew Anna. If you would like to add a message, please email us and we will include your message on this page. You are welcome to write in the second or third person, in prose or in poetry - whichever you feel best expresses what you would like to say. Also, please don't feel that it's 'too late' to add a message - we are happy to do so at any time.

memorial fund webpage has also been set up to collect gifts in Anna's memory in support of the work of Hospiscare.

Memories, Reflections, Tributes and Messages of Condolence

The most recently added messages are presented first.

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Anna Craft. She will be very much missed. We both worked in the field of creativity research, education and development - Anna very much from an education perspective whereas mine was primarily from the psychology of education. We offer our sincere condolences to her family and all those who knew her.

Dr Marilyn Fryer
Chief Executive
The Creativity Centre Educational Trust


A message to celebrate all that Anna achieved in her university career and her insight into the importance of creativity in the classroom. As a school friend of mine at Blackheath High School her brilliance was already in evidence and her great value was being able to think 'outside the box'. I have many memories of her to cherish and it is so wonderful to think that she will be inspiring students and academics over the next decades to come!

Heather Fearfield
The Broadcast PR Business


Anna Craft lit up the lives of so many people.

For those of us who work in education, she was an inspiration: a constant and generous source of wisdom, advice and encouragement. She was a rare mixture among academics.

A gifted and accomplished scholar, she published groundbreaking works that skilfully moved the professional conversation forward with clear evidence and lucid thought.

An inspiring teacher, she was an outstanding example of the openness to new ideas and compassion for others that she campaigned with such vitality to have at the heart of education for everyone.

She was passionate about kindling creativity in people of all ages and pursued that passion through partnering with every sort of organisation that could benefit from her support. We are one of those. 5x5x5=creativity is a charity that helps children and young people develop creative skills for life. We were deeply fortunate to have Anna as a patron and mentor. Her own life was a shining example of all the qualities she championed for children.

Our own best tribute is to keep aloft her torch for creative education in the hope of enriching other lives as Anna has ours.

Sir Ken Robinson
Patron of 5x5x5=creativity
On behalf of all at 5x5x5=creativity


One year ago Anna was with us in the University of Zaragoza (Spain). It was a good time and it was lucky to meet her.

Dr Begoña Vigo Arrazola
University of Zaragoza


​Professor Anna Craft has been an inspiration for me. She was encouraging, supportive, kind and has inspired me in many ways. Her work in the field of creativity in education has been pioneering. Her positivity, generosity and open-mindedness have always touched me. I have fond memories of her ... a great supervisor and a wonderful person.

She will be deeply missed and remembered.

Pavithra Arvind
Anna's PhD Student - PhD Researcher
University of Exeter


We have lost prematurely a positive, generous and energetic pioneer in the much-needed field of creativity education. I had the privilege to work with Anna over the last three years as one of the UK partners in the European research project Creative Little Scientists. She played a central role in the project in the exciting challenges of applying insights from research in creativity education to our examination of opportunities for creativity in learning and teaching in early years mathematics and science. Our debates about how to identify and extend opportunities for creativity in science and mathematics in varied contexts have already informed and enlivened my work as a science educator with schools and teachers. Her influence will continue.

Dr Esme Glauert
Department of Early Years and Primary Education
Institute of Education, 
University of London


I was Anna's first Head of Department at The Open University - she was appointed (in 1991) to the Centre for Curriculum and Teaching Studies against a very strong shortlist indeed - how her career took off from there!

Many people will be familiar with her work and, in particular, the huge contribution she made, as an international scholar, in giving ideas about 'creativity' an academic place in the study of education. At this moment I would like to say something about the personal aspect of Anna's work. When I talked to Anna I knew I had to be tough and rigorous in any ideas or analysis I was advancing. If Anna saw any weakness she would go quiet, fix me with a quizzical gaze... a sort of worried look... and wait for you to extricate yourself from your predicament. It was not exactly judgemental but you knew you couldn't leave things 'in the air'. I admired this side of Anna immensely. She really 'worked away' at academic ideas and problems... no stones left unturned. This is why she was so respected and admired and why the corpus of her work will stand the test of time.

Anyone who worked with Anna also knew that she 'delighted' in ideas... and that engagement and debate could be just so much fun. There was the serious Anna but there was also her humorous, playful side. She could really laugh out loud... our paths became rather different in later years, although I was always flattered that she sought me out at critical career moments... but we would chat and laugh before getting down to the serious issues.

Anna was marvellous to have in a team... she was loyal in the very best sense of that word (and how loyal she has been to the OU and Exeter). I would sometimes rehearse an idea before talking to Anna. I will continue to do so.

Bob Moon
Emeritus Professor of Education
The Open University (UK)


We met Anna only a few years ago, she was one of the partners in the European research project Creative Little Scientists. As a WP leader she was one of the pillars of the project, very involved, always positive, open-minded and easy to reach. Our discussions about agency and involvement of children, about play, possibility thinking and creativity were very inspiring, as well as our debates about the methodology of the project. It was a great honour to work with her and it is with sadness in our hearts we say goodbye, our work together ends much too soon.

'I layed a stone in a river on earth
Now I know I'll never be forgotten
I gave proof of my existence
Because that stone 
Has changed the stream forever'
(translation of Bram Vermeulen)

The work of Anna will be integrated in our future activities in Flemish education.

Dr Hilde Van HouteKirsten Devlieger, and Dr Marijke De Smet
Research Center Quest
Artevelde University College


Anna was my friend.

She was kind, encouraging and generous.

As her illness progressed she seemed to spend increasingly less time talking about herself and more of it enquiring about others - my family, students and colleagues, nearly all of whom she never met. She was inquisitive, with a rabid attention for story and detail.

We would meet every two weeks or so on my soup-drop. There would be tea and a biscuit and then a thousand questions.

These meetings became more infrequent as Anna grew more ill. The irony of our situation - I seemed to have survived my cancer - was noted but never discussed. In the end we ditched academic guff altogether. It was just our kids; our partners. What we wanted to leave behind. Our dreams.

I miss her bitterly.

Chicken and Almond Soup

I skinned a finger of ginger,
grated it, set it to fry,
peeled a sweet potato,
two carrots, diced them
and added them to the pan
with a teaspoon of cumin,
a chicken thigh, and precisely
twenty twists of pepper,
a little stock to keep it
from sticking. I covered it,
let it sweat, and when the thigh
was brown, shredded it,
sending it back to the pan
with the stock, some coconut 
and a mound of ground almonds, 
with mustard to taste.
Bringing it to the boil
I pulverized it, let it cool, 
then poured it into the pots
I’d bought specially.
I set off around five
through the dusk and crowds
of head-bowed shoppers
and college students in T shirts
though it was winter,
oblivious to the cold.

Anthony Wilson
Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter


Anna was my academic lead at Exeter. I had known about her work for many years and it was a thrill to be able to meet and work more closely with her. She managed to keep the balance between being a critical friend, encouraging me to improve and being very enthusiastic about by work as a researcher and educator. Although we only had this professional relationship for a short time it was one I valued and felt valued by Anna. I will miss her.

Dr Fran Martin
Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter


Anna was my mentor, colleague, collaborator and friend. She will forever, be with me.

Bob Jeffrey
Ethnography and Education


My deepest sorrow to missing my dearest supervisor and family in the UK, Anna. Thank you for opening up my possibilities and inspiring me in research. I also thank you for taking care of my family while we were in England, and afterwards while we moved back to Taiwan. You are such a warm and supportive person! You will be missed and long remembered by all of us.

With all my love

Melanie xxx


Professor Anna Craft was a first researcher in the field of creativity in education who visited the National Institute of Education Singapore, some years back. I was inspired by her sharing to Singapore's teachers and teacher educators. Anna saw possibilities in all children. She advocated creative transformation in children's lives. Anna was a leading creativity editor who has taken a new, international journal of creativity to a recognizable platform. Her excellence in creativity research, publication, and education has been a guide to us who have created possibilities in nurturing children's creativity in everyday classroom. I miss Anna's charms and positive energies. I keep her warm smiles and friendly hugs in my heart. Anna's wisdom and compassion in creativity in education will continue to be an inspiration in all dialogues that creatively synthesize lives.

Ai-Girl Tan
Department of Early Childhood and Special Education
National Institute of Education
Nanyang Technological University


I feel immensely privileged to have known and worked with Anna. We have lost an amazing and talented colleague who was the ultimate team player. Anna oozed kindness and compassion and was brilliantly supportive and encouraging. She will be sorely missed by everyone here in the faculty but remembered with deep affection and respect.

Professor Mary Kellett
Dean and Director of Studies
Faculty of Education and Language Studies
The Open University


I was lucky enough to work on several occasions with Anna and from the first occasion felt I had met a friend as well as a colleague. Her determination to achieve so much with and for those she worked with is only matched by her own achievements and the huge impact her work has had on me and many others.

I often smile and think of Anna whenever I use her much loved post-it notes; a bright and cheerful invitation to share a thought, to imagine or to ask 'what if'?

A true teacher and a friend.

David McCormick
Snakeoil Media


My heart is filled with love and sorrow to hear about your passing dear Anna. I am so very grateful for getting to know you and your work. You inspired me with your knowledge, wisdom and kindness. You welcomed me, a stranger from a foreign country, in Exeter in autumn 2008 as a colleague and equal and created a space for me to learn and work at the University of Exeter School of Education and Lifelong Learning, one example of your kindness and creative thinking.

I learned so much from you and your colleagues and I saw the respect you showed students and colleagues alike and I realized the respect you held within the University. You were a great supervisor and your support in writing my thesis was priceless. Your legacy of knowledge and wisdom is great and I know that I and so many others will continue to cultivate the seeds of creativity and collaboration you have sown with us for years to come.

Thank you Anna for everything and thank you Anna's family for sharing her with others. I send my deepest condolences to Anna's family, especially Ella, Hugo and Simon.

Svanborg R. Jónsdóttir PhD
Honorary Research Assistant, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of Exeter, 2008.
Assistant Professor
School of Education
University of Iceland


I was deeply saddened by the news of Professor Craft passing. Words cannot express my sorrow. The world of Education won't be the same without you. The word "creativity" is undeniably linked to your name. Your absence will cost us this is the only certainty. You were and you will be my exemplar! Besides your outstanding work in the field of research in education you were a great and a kind person. That made ​​you even more special in my eyes. I'll always remember you. I will miss you.

My prayers are with you and your family.

Anastasia Nerouppou
MEd Creative Arts student


Anna brought me into the team on the Aspire project at Exeter, introduced me personally to inspirational educators, and gave me further opportunities for work and learning.

Above all, Anna was incredibly kind. She worked so hard, and yet always found the time to ask after me, understood the pressures of having young children and never became impatient when I fell below the standards she set for herself.

In truth, I played a very small role in her life and work. But when I left Exeter she undertook to organise a lovely leaving party for me, cooking most of the food herself. When I completed my PhD, having by then been away from Exeter for two years, she laid on another celebration at her house - again, with delicious food she had prepared. It was breathtakingly generous.

Anna had far more heart to share than time, and freely gave all she could of both. It was my privilege to know her.

Rupert Higham
Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge


BERA conference in Manchester, my first exposure to BERA as a PhD student. I get on the charterbus that takes us to the conference dinner, and I sit down next to a friendly-looking stranger. After a day of networking and full-on academic discourse, we both welcome the possibility to talk about life. She is absolutely charming, so I convince her to come and stay for the conference dinner (she says she wants to sneak away quickly to catch up on work).

Everybody seems to know her. Our dinner table has representatives from publishers, who can't stop praising her. Yet, the conversation remains refreshingly personal, almost intimate. This is Anna Craft. A new friend, and a very important colleague/mentor in the years to come.

It is hard to believe that our conversations will not continue. Anna's inspirational companionship, her unique fusion of sensitivity and sensibility will be truly missed.

Eva Vass
University of Western Sydney,


I had the privilege of knowing Mrs. Anna in 2009 during the course of Creative Arts in Education. She wasn't only a visionary and inspiring professor but she was also a very kind and generous person. I have no words to describe her kindness. I will only say an event where after a class, I wasn't feeling well and she was so caring and worried that she offered to take me home! I will always cherish her kindness, her brilliant thinking and ideas!!!

My deepest condolences to her husband and children,

With Kind Regards

Anthia Michaelides
University of Cyprus


Anna, you were a friend to us all.

You were also

A supervisor
A collaborator
A mentor
A model team player
An inspirer
A reformer
A transformer.

You located. Removed us from finite.
Folded a fixed map inside a bottle,
gave us this paper-boat world as birthright
its birds, streams, skies and salience mottle.

You said there're many ways to ask What if
an amber wheeze, a blood organ, can be
a flapping accordion? A motif.
Cradled from shoulder to wrist your ink-key

will feed a child: wisdom in a glass bowl.
your 4 p's of creativity, art,
virtual space is something you'll still haul
to our doors, in writing, we hear the heart

of unalphabetised hope. Like lighthouse
your precious life stands amidst our dark house.

Pam Burnard and Afrodita Niolova
University of Cambridge


Dear Anna, thank you for being so generous with your time to be a friend to me and my family. I will never understand how you managed to juggle all and everything with such an apparent effortless grace. You will be missed.


Dr Monica Perez


Anna was one of the most amazing and generous individuals I have ever met. She generously shared her passion for learning, wisdom, creativity and possibility thinking with me.

As a colleague she continuously encouraged me to foster my own 'little c creativity' and ask 'what if' and 'as if' questions so I could use my imagination to strive for other possibilities, ones I didn't yet know about.

As a friend, she was always fiercely supportive and nurturing and often went out of her way to do incredibly kind and generous acts.

Through her personal agency, Anna embodies a wise, humanising creativity that will guide many of us as we engage in possibility thinking to address those personal, local and global challenges that urgently demand our creative potential and wisdom.

Christopher Walsh
Associate Professor of Education
Torrens University Australia


In everlasting memory for a kind and loving soul. I am very thankful for getting the chance to know you, Anna. You inspired me in so many ways.

Dear Anna,

Thank you and your family so much for the amazing gift! Good choice, Ella! :) It was a perfect timing, because little Sanamis "shadow" came down 2 days ago. Now she focuses with her eyes and she can follow the toy with both her eyes and her head moves toward it :)) As if the brain connected with her senses just now or like Negar and the persians would say: the soul needs 40 days to enter the body :) Please find some snap shots attached!!

:)) Thanks you so much and all best wishes to you and your family!

All the strength and energy from sunny vienna
Negar & Sanam & Alex


Alex Schmoelz
University of Vienna


Anna was someone for whom the distinction between friend and colleague was insignificant.

She was an inspirational, challenging and supportive person with whom to work - and when working with her on our lovely, daft, Bridging the Gaps project, I always felt that she was compelling us to think anew about creativity - and to do so creatively, of course!

This image is of one of the sessions during a two day retreat in Torquay, funded through the Bridging the Gaps project on creativity, on which we were collaborating along with colleagues from Maths, Biology, Law, Health, Business - a truly interdisciplinary team, as befitted Anna's work!

In this session, she had worked with Kerry to get colleagues to engage in a series of creative exercises, to enable us to begin to synthesise our new learning from the preceding day and a half.

Anna was also a warm, caring, joyful person. The more I got to know Anna, the more privileged I felt to spend time in her company, just as I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to work together with her.

Dr Robin Durie
Department of Politics, University of Exeter


A very lovely person who will be much missed. She was always very willing and keen to give considerable advice and help without a moment's hesitation.

Dr James Griffin
Law School, University of Exeter


Anna, I told you you were a 'shooting star' for me . A bright light flashing by all too briefly touching my life, brightening my horizons with your wit, extraordinary intellect and enormous generosity. From you I gained confidence in my abilities to embody the role of researcher - as one who is curious to search out, describe and promote understanding. You were always treble busy, always involved in so much. I will miss your late night work missives ending 'in haste, A'. I will miss your light which was around all too short a time. Sending warmth and thankfulness to Simon, Hugo and Ella for sharing you with so many.

Penelope Best
Honorary Research Fellow, 
Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter


Many of us strive for creativity for the sake of being creative.

Anna mastered creativity and put it to use in the service of knowledge.

We all learned from her!

Dory Scaltsas
Professor Theodore Scaltsas
Chair of Ancient Philosophy
University of Edinburgh