Matt J Coward was born in Barrow in Furness, from the age of 14 he produced theatre, first as a drama coach before taking on the role of Artistic Director of Furness Youth Theatre. As well as this Matt worked in conjunction with the Barrow Youth Re:Action Team and REAP at Lancaster University.
Matt moved to York in 2011 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies at York St John University. This was awarded first class honours in 2014.
During Matt’s time as an undergraduate, he worked closely with several charities including Upstage Centre Youth Theatre and the Tibet Support Group York. He further developed his research skills working for Babcock International Engineering’s social research division as well as for the York St John University’s faculties of Arts and Education & Theology.
In 2013 Matt was co-opted onto the board of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies, a role which he held until 2015.
In 2014 Matt commensed his Masters of Arts by research in religious studies which was awarded by the University of Leeds in 2015 (Viva voce pass date). His thesis explored the way in which communal theatre was being used as methods of conflict resolution in contemporary Sri Lanka, and its parallels in Sinhala Exorcism rites (Mahasona Samayana and Sanni Yakka Tovil) and early folk drama (Kolam and Sokari).
Since graduating Matt has published in the fields of Pagan studies, East Asian shamanic praxis, Mortuary Buddhism and Religious Education. He has presented on topics including transsexuality in Buddhist canonical literature, contemporary Witchcraft, Voodoo in popular culture, supernatural powers and suicide in Japanese manga, and religious syncretism and the performing arts. His current research focuses on the intersections between religion, ritual and popular culture.
Since 2015 Matt has been the administrator of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust, the largest independent inquiry into the condition and future of primary education since the Plowden report.
In October 2016, Matt commenced his PhD in Sociology (part-time) at the University of York. His thesis combines sociology, ritual studies, and cultural studies and explores the formation, expansion, and continuation of the UK tabletop gaming community.