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Archive for the 'Arts and Humanities' Category

Bringing Orwell to Life

ucqajha9 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

ucypndo6 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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UCL’s Festival of Culture

ucqajha31 May 2017

Written by John Bilton, Third Year Archaeology Student

In under a weeks’ time, UCL’s Festival of Culture will be in full swing. The Festival is a week-long extravaganza running from June 5 – 10, showcasing the best of UCL’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

There’s a great spread, from lectures on Women and the 1984-‘5 miner’s strike and Dance in West Africa to film screenings and tours of the Olympic Park, the site for UCL East. The festival is open to students, staff and members of the public, and all the events are entirely free – though make sure you book tickets, because they get snapped up quickly.

I’m a third year Archaeology student, and I’m helping to organise the festival. It’s certainly been interesting so far: I’ve recorded a passage from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (keep an ear out, it’ll be revealed shortly). I’m working closely with the Dickens Museum to prepare the Dickens Night Walks, a fascinating event exploring nocturnal London through Charles Dickens’ eyes, complete with readings, insights and performances from some of UCL’s best-known Dickens experts. And I’m working with the wonderful Joint Faculty communications team who are based in the Andrew Huxley building, a few feet away from the Print Room Café and all the coffee anyone could want to keep them running for a festival with more than 80 events!

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Education Select Committee Brexit hearing session at UCL

Melissa Bradshaw9 February 2017

On 25 January, the Education Select Committee held the second Oral Evidence Session of its inquiry on the effect of Brexit on higher education (HE) at UCL.

The committee heard evidence from UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) Sorana Vieru and representatives of University and College Union, Erasmus Student Network UK, Universities UK, the British Council and London Economics.

There was a strong consensus on the potentially damaging effects of Brexit on HE, and an urgent call for the government to do more to address them.

Professor Michael Arthur

Professor Michael Arthur

The hearing took place just over a week after Theresa May’s historic speech on the UK’s strategy for exiting the European Union, and evidence was heard in two panels.

The Chair of the Education Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, began each session by asking the panellists for their reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech.

Every one of the panellists welcomed the tone of the speech and its emphasis on a “global Britain”, but called for immediate action and more specific detail – particularly in regard to the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s expressed wish to guarantee the rights of EU citizens, Professor Arthur said: “I’d like to challenge the Prime Minister to go one step further and take the initiative to make the guarantee and challenge the rest of the EU to follow”, arguing that this would give Britain the moral high-ground and provide the negotiations a foundation of good will.

The committee heard evidence of the significant contribution of the higher education sector to the British economy, including the contributions EU staff and students make to the wider economy when they are residing here.

Dr Gavan Conlon (London Economics) also argued that, with education the UK’s fifth largest services export, the HE sector can generate revenue that could contribute to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The panellists spoke of the positive contributions that EU staff and students make in terms of diversity and ‘soft power’, contributing to Britain’s prestigious academic profile and giving their British peers invaluable experience in international engagement, leadership and collective problem solving. “For a global Britain we need global graduates”, said Rosie Birchard (Erasmus Student Network UK).

The committee also heard evidence that currently UK HE “punches well above its weight” globally – thanks, in part, to our membership of the EU. Jo Beall (British Council) pointed to statistics showing that the UK leads the world in research quality (by field-weighted citation impact) and 1 in 10 world leaders were educated here.

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