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Archive for the 'Festival of Culture' Category

Greenlandic: Languages of the Arctic

JoHarris13 June 2017

Pat Lok, biosciences student, UCL, explores the Language of the Arctic

The largest island on earth yet inhabits one of the smallest group of Arctic language speakers – Greenland. Greenlandic is an Eskimo-Aleut language with neighbouring countries such as Siberia, Russia and Northern Canada speaking a language originated from the same language family. It is polysynthetic; where multiple words make up one complete word that could mean a sentence, this is due to Greenlandic being mostly an oral spoken rather than written only until recently. An example would be “Sukulaatitortarpugut” which means “we regularly eat chocolate” in Greenlandic. This is common in Germanic language where a long word is composed of small words altogether that means a sentence.

Flag of Greenland - the colour red symbolises the Sun and the colour white symbolises ice and snow.

Flag of Greenland – the colour red symbolises the Sun and the colour white symbolises ice and snow.

Greenland has a complicated political identity; Greenland is an autonomous state but its citizens possess Danish passports yet Greenland is not part of the European Union. Greenlandic became the official language of Greenland recently in 2009 but secondary education is still mainly taught in Danish. A lot of street signs entail both Greenlandic and Danish translations which emphasise the frequency of use of both languages.

Watch it back

This session was delivered as part of the Festival of the Culture. You can watch it back on YouTube.

Icy landscapes

Greenland is well known for its icy landscape which its name suggests otherwise. Greenland obtained its name as part of an advertising campaign from more than 1000 years ago; Erik the Red who was a Norwegian Viking went on exile from Norway and then Iceland and eventually discovered Greenland. He called it ‘the green land’ in order to attract potential settlers to Greenland but Greenland isn’t exactly green, ice covers approximately 80% of the surface of Greenland and since ice is prevalent across the country, there are different words to describe different types of ice. Some examples are listed below:

Greenlandic English
Sea/ lake ice Siku
Glacier/ steady ice Sermeq
Iceberg Iluliaq
Melted ice for fresh water Nilak

The Forgotten Slave Owners: Tracing British history before the abolition of slavery

NatashaDownes9 June 2017

Written by Natasha Downes, Media Relations Manager, UCL

Most British history has focused on the abolition of slavery, forgetting 200 years that preceded it where Britain played a lucrative role in the transatlantic slave trade.

But a team of researchers at the UCL Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership (UCL project) have been working to uncover a history that Britain has been quick to forget; the story of slave owners.

Curious to know more I attended the UCL Festival of Culture event entitled ‘Bloomsbury’s Forgotten Slave Owners’, to hear more about the UCL project and watch an excerpt of the BAFTA-winning documentary series, Britain’s Forgotten Slave-owners.

Why focus on slave owners?

Focusing on Britain’s slave owners may seem like an odd concept but as Dr Nick Draper (UCL History and Director of the project), points out it’s by “rethinking these aspects of British history that we can think about how wealth has been distributed economically, physically and socially.”

Over almost 10 years the UCL project team have been unravelling the vast records of information kept on British slave owners at The National Archive, Kew, which they have curated into an accessible online database. Here, there are the names of 46,000 slave owners that were recorded after the abolition of slavery in 1838.

Through the documentary we hear the uncomfortable story of how the abolition of slavery brought about the compensation of those 46,000 slave owners to the sum of £17 billion in today’s value, which Dr Draper highlights as “the biggest bailout since the banking bailout in 2009”.  Those that were enslaved were not rewarded compensation, and still to this day the contention over repatriations remains.

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Bringing Orwell to Life

JoHarris9 June 2017

Written by Catrin Harris, UCL student blogger

As part of UCL’s Festival of Culture, The Orwell Foundation staged a live start to finish reading of Orwell’s classic, 1984. Before the event, I caught up with the Foundation’s Director, Jean Sutton, as well as their Programmes Manager, Stephanie Le Lievre, to find out more.

CH: Firstly, what is the Orwell Foundation?

SL: The Orwell Foundation is a charity best known for awarding the Orwell Prize (the UK’s most prestigious prize for political writing). But we do much more than that: we use Orwell’s work to celebrate honest writing and reporting, uncover hidden lives, confront uncomfortable truths and, in doing so, promote Orwell’s values of integrity, decency and fidelity to truth. We do this through the Prizes, and also through free public events, lectures and debates such as our Orwell Lecture (given by Ian Hislop in 2016) and of course 1984 Live! We moved to UCL in 2016.

1984 LIVECH: Where did the idea of a readthrough, and then immersive theatre, come from?

SL: Live readings have been done before in the US and Australia, but never in the UK. When we found out about the Festival of Culture we thought it would be the perfect event to celebrate arriving at UCL. Once we had the idea, we realised that it had the potential to be more exciting than just a few people reading from a book in a room. We wanted it to have some kind of Artistic Direction, so we found Hannah Price, a brilliant theatre director who had real vision for what it could look like, and it snowballed from there.

CH: Orwell wrote six novels, why do you think 1984, along with possibly Animal Farm, is the most well-known?

JS: Animal Farm and 1984 are the best-known of Orwell’s novels because they are the best. They are barely novels – but fables, mythic. They are the product of his tremendous output of essays, commentaries, reviews, so the voice comes from non-fiction. But they also come straight from his experience of fighting fascism, seeing communism, being on the side of poor people, understanding that preserving the power of language to describe reality is almost the most important freedom.

CH: This event marks the 68th anniversary of the publication of 1984. How do you think the book resonates with a contemporary audience?

JS: 1984 works now because its themes are all around us: surveillance, the capacity to have a private life, meaningful and true feelings – not soap opera postured pouting, the capacity of ideology to create perceptions, the shaping of ideas by the control of technology, the sense that people may live in a manipulated world. These all have contemporary twists – people now commodify their own private lives and display their ‘private’ feelings for everyone – and perhaps in doing so lose touch with their sense of themselves as they pursue fashionable identities. But the alarming sense of the slip and slide of small rights and proprieties that may lead to tyranny is also palpably in the air.

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Beyond the headlines and hyperbole: Young people and Brexit Britain

NatashaDownes6 June 2017

Written by Natasha Downes, Media Relations Manager, UCL

Young people have a complex relationship with politics, and they are often described as disengaged and apathetic.

With Brexit expected to hit young people the hardest, what would the outcome of the referendum mean for them? How would it affect their attitudes, aspirations and sense of identity?

These are the questions Dr Avril Keating (UCL Institute of Education) is seeking to answer through her research project, ‘Being young in Brexit Britain’. On Monday 5 June, Dr Keating presented the emerging results of her research in a talk entitled ‘Growing up Global’ as part of the UCL Festival of Culture.

“Most young people voted Remain, but what we wanted to do was look beyond the headlines and hyperbole, to find out if those results would inspire a youth revolution”, said Dr Keating.

In fact, what the emerging results of Dr Keating’s research has so far highlighted is that there are many diverse reasons why young people voted Remain, and that both the In and Out camps had two important things in common: a sense of uncertainty and a lack of information.   As a Millennial myself, I can really relate to this feeling of uncertainty.

An uncertain future

The results so far represent London and the South East, but they have covered a wide demographic of young people including elite students and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. While the vast majority of 15-29 year olds voted Remain, perhaps unsurprisingly, few were enthusiastic Europhiles.

Instead, many young people voted Remain because they thought it was in their best interests, while others voted Remain by default. These young Remainers-by-default felt ill-informed to make their own decision, and as their friends and family were voting this way, it seemed like the safe option to maintain the status quo. When young Leavers were asked about their decision, they also had varied reasons for doing so, including protecting Britain’s sovereignty, addressing immigration and the view that the EU is a costly burden to the UK.

One year on, the Remainers are largely resigned, albeit anxious, while the Leavers are a split between the nervous and the optimistic. But there is a consensus among both camps of having low knowledge about the specifics, and feeling uncertain about what all of this really means for the future of Britain.

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