A very engaging summer: public engagement in east London
By Briony Fleming, on 31 July 2018
We have had a hugely busy summer in east London.
£100m secured for UCL East as part of East Bank
On the 5th June the Mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, hosted an event to launch of East Bank (formally the Cultural Education District) where we received final confirmation of the commitment of £100m capital funding towards our new east London campus. Speaking at the event Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, said: “As one of the world’s leading universities, we address many of the most pressing global challenges of our time. UCL East will take this one step further…Our new campus will bring together seven UCL faculties to generate radical and innovative research and teaching programmes. These will range from robotics, artificial intelligence and media, to innovative finance, global health leadership, advanced propulsion and sustainable cities.” You can read more about the launch on the UCL East website.
Great Get Together
On the 24th June, under the blazing sun in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a dazzling array of kaleidoscopes were about to be made. This all came about as part of our work with UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering, where we have been thinking about ways in which we can open up the word leading research in the department to people outside of the university, creating a culture of two-way engagement between researchers and the public.
First on our agenda was thinking about how we can create opportunities for researchers to try out engagement and have meaningful conversations about their work with different public audiences. The Great Get Together presented the perfect opportunity. We joined forces with artist Emilie Giles to come up with a making activity which researchers from the department could use to start conversations about their research (much of which has a link to light). After consultations with the Public Engagement Unit and researchers from Electronic and Electrical Engineering, a kaleidoscope making activity was finalised, and our team of amazing researchers (Dan, Sherif and Zahra), along with the East Engagement team, headed to the Olympic Park where hundreds of families and young people were congregating. Local families made and decorated kaleidoscopes, using coloured beads and material to diffract the light, while having conversations around research within Electronic and Electrical Engineering. The activity proved extremely popular, and an estimated 450 kids and parents alike participated over the course of the day. So, it was a really busy afternoon, expertly delivered by Dan, Sherif, Zahra and our East Engagement team. Well done to all!
Humans Make Plastic
Ahead of Open Doors: Vote 100 (a partnership showcase event between East Bank organisations) UCL’s Engagement Team, together with Bow Arts Trust, brought together UCL researchers, local artists and zero waste activists in an event to discuss plastics,
sustainability and women-led activism. The 20th June event, later named Humans Make Plastics by participants, was led and designed by London artist Camilla Brendon. It used plastic pollution (much of it sourced from the River Lea with the support of the Canal and River Trust) to design and build a collaborative sculpture which acted as a tool to talk about the research being undertaken into plastics at UCL. Catherine Conway of Unpackaged also gave a talk about her role in trying to remove plastic from the food and retail supply chain. The final sculpture from the workshop, will also be shown at the Bloomsbury Festival in October.
Open Doors: Vote 100
Open Doors: Vote 100 was the first time all East Bank partners (Sadler’s Wells, Smithsonian Institute, London College of Fashion, UCL and V&A) came together to deliver a collaborative event. The event, on the 22nd July, included dance, music and poetry, displays, debates, workshops and screenings, and was suitable for all ages. Highlights included excerpts from Suffraggedon, an in-production hip-hop feminist musical written by Guilty Feminist contributors, an exhibition showing the works of 20 artists inspired by an image embroidered by incarcerated suffragettes in 1912, and dance performances & workshops from Company Wayne Macgregor and Myself UK Company.
In addition to re-delivering both its Textile 100 and Humans Make Plastics workshops, UCL was also represented by a number of academics who took part in an item called the long conversation. This format brought together artists, film makers, scientists and activist to discuss the question ‘What makes you optimistic about the future’. The conversation acted as a relay with each person being first interviewed and then becoming the interviewer. You can read the full programme on the Olympic Park website.
It has been a great summer so far and we are looking ahead to our autumn term activities. First up is Harvest Stomp, an event on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with live music, dancing, food stalls, arts and craft stalls as well as a programme of workshops, demonstrations and entertainment. We will be hosting a stall in partnership with Biochemical Engineering and their micro-brewery (yes, UCL has a micro brewery!). If you are interested in taking part in this event or finding out what more UCL is doing in east London please send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org