UCL Festival of Culture


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Festival of Culture: Thursday 8 June

Browse and book onto free lunchtime and evening events taking place on and around our Bloomsbury campus on Thursday 8 June.

Morning sessions

A Sense of Belonging: Mosaics from a New Portrait of London | 10:00 - 21:00

This event explores some challenging, urgent connections between politics and performance. On one hand, we explore the exploitation of performance in politics, using the startling example of West Germany in 1968, which saw activists make politics theatrical in new, spectacular ways reminiscent of Brechtian theatre and avant-garde performance art. On the other hand, the event focuses on ‘activist performance’ through Theatre Reportage, a contemporary type of performance which brings politics into theatre, uses public spaces to combine journalism with the true stories of people denied a voice by war, torture or oppressive regimes. 

Dance Histories in Francophone West Africa | 11:30 - 12:15

Senegal and other parts of Francophone West Africa are known for their vibrant musical and dance scenes, and the region has produced some of the most successful artists in global performing circuits. But there is much more to this phenomenon than the existence of rich performing traditions in the region. This session will look at how the professional dance and music scenes in Francophone West Africa have emerged from the creativity and transnational activism of West African elites and youths from the 1930s onwards. It will also touch on the role of dance and music in anti-colonial movements in Senegal and Guinea, and later in postcolonial activism.Read more and book your place. 

Lunchtime sessions

World Film Collective: How Mobile Movies are Changing the World | 12:15 - 13:00 

World Film Collective was registered as a UK non-profit organisation in 2008, with a goal to give underrepresented youth in society a voice through the means of film. It had operational bases in Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, South Africa, Palestine, London and The West Bank for over seven years. The organisation has recently transitioned into an online resource for grassroots filmmakers around the world. This event invites you to view a selection of films which show how film can be used to tackle societal and global challenges.

Read more and book your place.

Trump in the Age of Captain America / Captain America in the Age of Trump

Nearly six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Professor Jason Dittmer will trace the outlines of Trump's populism, power, and pugnacious foreign policy in the pages of Captain America comics. The superhero provides a narrative of American power from which President Trump draws in his own political performance, while simultaneously offering a visual language of critique around which resistance can coalesce. The second part of the lecture turns to the fragmentation of any clear idea of American values within the pages of Captain America over the last 15 years, presaging the rise of the Twitter president.

Festival Book Club: On The Road | 12:30 - 13:30

Jack Kerouac’s quintessentially American novel about the youthful desire for adventure was published in 1957. On The Road is emblematic of the Beat Generation: a bold, expressive and bohemian new literary and cultural movement which rejected capitalism and the perceived prudery of post-war American society. Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s alter-ego, is a young writer who decides to travel America in search of inspiration for his novels. Join us to discuss this iconic novel’s representation of adventure, passionate friendship and the search for revelation.

Writing World-Leading Publications | 12:30 - 13:30

This session begins with an extraordinary story of the writing of words and music by one of the greatest composers of all time. It then reveals some patterns in the work of world-leading authors: we learn about how originality is stimulated, and the hard graft of the craft. Writing processes are explored from multidisciplinary perspectives including neuro-scientific and socio-cultural. The craft of expert writers is compared with a wide range of novice writers. We’ll concluded with some thoughts about how all writers can write better, by understanding how writing works.

Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom | 12:30 - 13:30

What is Artificial Intelligence? Will a robot take over your job or your life? How will it impact on you and your family? What do you need to know about Artificial Intelligence? If you are wondering about any of these questions, come along to this session. Ask your questions of the experts, and try out some Artificially Intelligent systems to see what you think of them. This will be a light-hearted, but informative session, aimed at helping people understand more about Artificial Intelligence and its potential impact on society.

Flashpoints: the Making and Melting of Gold in Art | 12:30 - 13:30 

From Byzantium to contemporary ‘bling’, gold appears in art as a measure of changing cultural and ethical values. While its material and financial value remain relatively stable, its significance and association are in flux over time, and are often contested. The embrace of gold in representation and gift-giving, or its renunciation and transformation, offer vivid insights into everything from changing religious beliefs to  technology, international markets and domestic economies.

Women and the Miners' Strike | 12:30 - 13:30

The miners’ strike of 1984–5 was able to continue for as long as it did because of a support network run by women in mining communities. They fundraised, fed miners and their families, went on picket lines and spoke in support of the strike. Find out about their politics, and their interactions with feminist supporters. Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite is a historian of twentieth century Britain. Her PhD examined political and popular ideas about class in England between c. 1969 and 2000.

Read more and book your place.

The Muslim Veil | 13:00 - 14:00

Earlier this year, airport staff in Rome were filmed telling a Muslim woman that she would not be permitted to board her flight to London unless she removed her hijab. The ensuing debate was one of many recent examples of how the Muslim veil has been politicised: a screen onto which Europe’s anxieties and political struggles are being projected. This session will consider the history and significance of the Muslim veil, and its perception as a visible, public marker that can be mobilised to emphasise various political and social agendas.

Image Management in Politics: Ancient and Modern  | 13:00 - 14:00

“Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory cannot make it acceptable.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-044 BC)

This event will showcase important and exciting speeches from classical antiquity, especially from the Greek orator Demosthenes and the Roman orator Cicero. Experts in ancient oratory will explore the tactics, techniques and topics employed by these speakers, especially in relation to their exploitation for image management. These insights will then be compared with examples of English speeches by present-day politicians. You may be surprised to see the results of this juxtaposition…

Zugunruhe: Exploring Migration Experiences through Sound | 13:00 - 17:00

Zugunruhe is an intimate, solo walking exploration of migration, through song. Migration is essential to the evolution of life; yet this is ignored within contemporary political/ media discourses on refugees. Come to UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology and begin a 45-minute sound-journey across African and Middle-Eastern migration routes, without leaving Bloomsbury. Zugunruhe is composed of Eritrean, Egyptian, Iranian and Sudanese songs shared by residents of the Calais ‘Jungle’, interwoven with calls from globally migrating birds.

Zugunruhe: Panel Discussion | 13:30 - 14:30

Migration is essential to the evolution of life; yet this is ignored within contemporary political/ media discourses on refugees. Zugunruhe is composed of Eritrean, Egyptian, Iranian and Sudanese songs shared by residents of the Calais ‘Jungle’, interwoven with calls from globally migrating birds.

Join members of the project team for a panel discussion about the making of the project. Speakers include Dr Carl Sayer, Dr Claire Dwyer, Tom Bailey and Baraa Halabieh, a Syrian refugee involved with the project’s development.

The 400 Year Old Shopping List | 14:00 - 15:00

In January 2017, archaeologists discovered a 400-year-old shopping list under the floorboards of a historic Tudor mansion in Kent. The shopping list and two other letters, dating from the first half of the 17th century, were discovered at the National Trust-owned Knole House in Sevenoaks, during its current £19.8 million restoration project. Jan Cutajar, a doctoral student at UCL Institute of Archaeology, was at the property working as an intern at the time, and was involved in the cleaning and conservation of the documents.

Evening sessions

Queering the Museum | 17:15 - 19:15

What role can museums play in challenging mainstream understandings of gender and sexuality? What would it mean to cast a queer eye over history and heritage? This panel session brings together researchers, authors and curators to reflect on recent exhibitions and displays in London that have taken LGBTQ identities, desires and histories as their focus.

Exploring Science in Everyday Life | 18:00 - 19:30

Are you curious about the natural world, but lacking in confidence about scientific concepts? Join this friendly and stimulating discussion about science, aimed at those with and interest but no background in the subject. Dr Andrew Morris has been running science discussion groups in informal settings in London since 2002. Discussions begin with everyday questions, or the observations that people bring, and are steered towards the underlying scientific concepts in play. From someone’s mention of a small cut on the knee, we talk about blood, haemoglobin and the chemistry of colour; from another’s observation about the tide at Blackpool, we discuss gravity and ultimately the curvature of space-time. Bring your curiosity!

Oslo, August 31st | 18:30 - 20:30

Oslo, August 31st premiered at the 2011 Cannes Festival, and won prizes for Best Film and Best Cinematography at the 2011 Stockholm International Film Festival. It was shortlisted for submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert described it as “quietly, profoundly, one of the most observant and sympathetic films I've seen.”

Quantum Love and Other Stories | 19:30 - 21:00

From a physicist talking to his daughter about the universality of love in any dimension and the need for scientists to talk about affection, tenderness and empathy to a woman who has devoted her life and home to the rescue cats she cares for, this selection of short documentary films explores the human need for connection, warmth and compassion. Quantum Love and Other Stories showcases some of the best work produced by students of UCL & Open City Docs School’s MA Ethnographic & Documentary Film by Practice.

Shakespeare Through the Seasons | 20:00 - 21:00

Shakespeare’s writing is full of references to the seasons. Join this session to hear vocal recitals and readings - with piano accompaniment -  of Shakespearian musings on winter, summer, spring and love, in settings from Thomas Arne (1710-1778), Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and Roger Quilter (1877-1953).

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