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Buddhas of Suburbia: faith, migration and suburban change in London

zclfg5811 March 2014

If there’s one thing to take home from American film culture, from The Virgin Suicides to American Beauty, it’s that the suburbs are a place to be avoided at all costs. Replete with murderous instincts and repressed sexual desires, they are to be treated with scorn by urbanites and the few suburban refugees who manage to escape.

Hindu goddess in gold at the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple

Hindu goddess

Perhaps this unfair reputation stems from the suburban aesthetic: when the soul is furnished by identikit architecture that presumably houses conservative cultural habits, it is unsurprising that we see the suburban subject as living a boring life, unworthy of academic reflection or investigation.

In her Lunch Hour Lecture, Dr. Claire Dwyer (UCL Geography) rescued suburbia from this prejudicial inertia, demonstrating through an architectural, geographical and cultural comparative analysis of faith loci in Greater London that the suburbs can be a place of dynamic modernity where space is contested, deconstructed and re-mapped.

The first half of Dr. Dwyer’s lecture focused on newly developed or proposed institutions such as the Jain Temple in Potter’s Bar, Hertfordshire and the Salaam Centre in Harrow, which show how the suburbs are on the forefront of cultural innovation. (more…)

“History is important because the results of history are still with us”

news editor3 July 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Ashley Cowburn, UCL History 2013

How did you react to Baroness Thatcher’s funeral? Were you present among the hundreds of people who gathered in Goldthorpe to witness an effigy of Thatcher set alight, accompanied with chants of ‘scHackney peace muralum!’?

Or were you mourning at the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, paying tribute to one of Britain’s longest serving prime ministers?

The point to this juxtaposition, as Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL Information Studies) proposed in his Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘Hidden No Longer: Community history-making’ on 25 June, was not a question of ‘respect’. Rather, Thatcher’s funeral unearthed emotional histories of community remembrance.

In Nottinghamshire, former mine workers gathered for a minute’s silence to mark the demise of their community. In Grantham – the birthplace of the former PM – a rose was unveiled in her memory, celebrating Thatcher’s intrinsic involvement in the community history.

Only by exhuming hidden community histories, Dr Flinn argues, can we fully appreciate the incredibly diverse – and ‘inevitable’ – nature of the reaction to the funeral. (more…)

Creating Connections 2

news editor8 June 2012

John Braime, Volunteering Services Unit

What happens when you put a roomful of academics, postgrad students and other UCL staff together with people from London’s community and charity organisations?

In the spirit of curiosity, this is exactly what we did on 30 May at Creating Connections 2, held in the Roberts Building Foyer at UCL. The idea was to find new and unexpected areas for collaboration between UCL and local communities.

In a way, it was a bit like speed dating – with all of the uncertainty that that format entails. Could we find a happy match between a mathematician and a youth group, an archaeologist and a refugee charity, a librarian and staff at a nature reserve? We were determined to find out.

The event itself was the product of some creative connecting – between UCL’s Public Engagement Unit, the Volunteering Services Unit and local resource swapping network Camden Shares.

(more…)

What does the future hold for London beyond the 2012 Games?

news editor20 March 2012

By PhD Planning Studies students Gabriel Silvestre & Lucy Natarajan

Many Londoners are wondering what will happen after the Olympic Games in London this summer, especially those studying planning at UCL. At the time of writing, the university is in talks with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the body tasked with managing the development of the Olympic 2012 venues after the Games are over. They are discussing a potential additional campus in Newham, next to the Olympic Park. Lessons from the Bartlett School of Planning’s latest London Planning Seminar demonstrate that there is a wide range of factors that can help shape the future of London’s East End.

Kathryn Firth, Chief of Design at the OPLC and Professor John Gold from Oxford Brookes University spoke at a double-bill seminar on the evening of 15th March. The event, entitled ‘Olympic Planning: London Beyond 2012’, focused on evaluating the developmental trajectories of Olympic host cities, including London and others. These distinguished speakers shared their experiences and knowledge, and explored post-Olympic scenarios for London. They asked: What does the history of the Olympics tells us about the urban outcomes? How will the planned Olympic spaces integrate with the wider area? How does London’s post-Olympic work compare with the experiences of previous urban regeneration programmes?

(more…)