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    The Great Grant Knit-a-Thon

    By Siobhan Pipa, on 5 June 2015

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. Unfortunately a lack of hand-eye coordination and a short attention span mean that it’s a skill I’ve never quite mastered. I also really like quirky museums. So naturally the Grant Knit-a-Thon, organised by the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology as part of this year’s UCL Festival of the Arts, seemed like the perfect event to me.

    Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum  (C) Grant Museum

    Knitted armadillo on display at Grant Museum
    (C) Grant Museum

    Teaming up with East London yarning collective, Prick Your Finger, the Grant Museum offered novices and experts alike a day of knitting, crocheting and stitching – all whilst giving us the chance to explore the museum’s current exhibition ‘Strange Creatures: The art of unknown animals’.

    The knit-a-thon was inspired by one of the pieces currently on display in ‘Strange Creatures’ – Ruth Marshall’s knitted Tasmanian Tiger skin. The knitted pelt was chosen for inclusion in the exhibition by Sarah Wade (UCL History of Art), co-curator of ‘Strange Creatures’.

    As part of the knit-a-thon activities, Sarah gave a fascinating talk on how natural history museums use contemporary art and craft to engage with visitors.


    UCL Festival of the Arts: Queer Edwardians: E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence

    By James L Russell, on 28 May 2015

    As part of the UCL Festival of the Arts, which ran over five days last week, Dr Hugh Stevens from UCL English Language & Literature presented the lecture Queer Edwardians: E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence, on Tuesday 19th May. In this, he explored the representations of same-sex desire in the writings of these two authors in their work before World War One.

    Dr Stevens examined a range of short stories and novels by both authors, in particular Forster’s novel ‘Maurice’ and Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. He placed these works within context of the authors’ own sexualities and romantic lives, and within that of wider society during the time they were both alive.

    Forster’s novel ‘A Room with a View’, and the 1980s Merchant Ivory film of it starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis among other quintessential English actors, will forever remind me of studying for English Literature ‘A’ Level. With its tale of an upper class girl being encouraged to marry a repressed man she doesn’t love, the novel typifies Forster’s earlier writing and the age in which it was written, explained Dr Stevens. 

    Boys bathing, Henry Scott-Tuke

    Image by Henry Scott-Tuke

    ‘Maurice’ on the other hand, a novel that I myself later read (and only recently finally caught the film of starring a very young Hugh Grant), was apparently written after Forster had his first sexual experience with a man and was directly inspired by this; and as a result is much less typical of the time.

    As homosexuality was of course illegal until 1967, Forster did not allow ‘Maurice’ to be published until after he died in 1970. He did however write a footnote to the novel in 1960, following the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 which recommended that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence’. He wrote that a ‘happy ending was imperative’ for the novel, and that he was ‘determined, that in fiction anyway’ a love story between two men should end well.


    Find the mind’s construction in the face: an exhibition of life and death masks

    By Sophie E Pleterski, on 11 June 2014


    I have to admit that this was my first visit to the UCL Art Museum. After walking past it twice, I finally stumbled across the entrance to this carnivalesque little treasure trove and almost immediately part of me wished I hadn’t.

    Surrounded by rows of the plaster life and death masks of poets and murderers, professors and highwaymen, child prodigies and medics, it wasn’t very clear where in this bizarre spectacle you might want to begin.

    Thankfully, it was at this point that Dr Carole Reeves (UCL Science & Technology Studies) swooped in to put what felt like a macabre examination of someone’s final moments into its historical context.

    The masks were collected in mid 19th-century Dresden by amateur phrenologist Robert Nole to illustrate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of people.

    Donated to UCL as part of the Galton Collection in 1911, they exemplify the trend in 19th century aristocratic circles for pseudo-scientific hobbies. Nole’s particular predilection was phrenology: the study of head morphology and the belief that it is intrinsically linked to a person’s character.


    Flickering, lost, forgotten: London’s silent picture palaces

    By Sophie E Pleterski, on 10 June 2014

    Hale's_Tours_of_the_WorldWill you come with me to a talkie to-day?

    During my second film event of the UCL Festival of the Arts in two days, I was transported back to the origins of cinema in London’s ‘filmland’.  From the bright lights of Leicester Square to the back alleys of Soho, our group of fifteen retraced the steps of early twentieth-century film-goers through Bloomsbury and the West End.

    There were a few familiar faces from the previous night’s event Memories of 60s Cinema-Going, all equally curious to discover the hidden stories behind these hitherto innocuous buildings dotted around London.

    Led by Dr Chris O’Rourke (UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects) who is researching the social experience of cinema-going in the period of silent film, we began in front of the brutish façade of the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road.

    The birth of cinema in London, we were told, was Newman Street, 1894, where private demonstrations of peepshow kinetoscope machines showing a mixture of everyday and spectacular theatrical subjects were captivating 19th century audiences.

    From these flickering beginnings, 500 cinemas opened in the London area. Tottenham Court Road alone was home to six including The Majestic Picturedrome, Carlton Cinema and The Court (not the pub) where  The Dominion now stands. Somehow they were all commercially successful, just as today’s Starbucks and Costa manage inexplicably to sell enough Americanos to reside next to each other.