UCL Festival of Culture


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Festival Picks

With a diverse range of over 70 events, the UCL Festival of Culture offers something for everyone. Our staff and students pick out the events they are most looking forward to. 

Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost

1984: Live

George Orwell is never far from our discussions around politics - we can barely read an article in a newspaper or go a day without seeing his name or hearing a phrase he coined: "big brother", "Orwellian", "thought police".  We're proud to hold the Orwell Archive here at UCL in our Special Collections, and last year we were delighted to welcome the Orwell Foundation to our Institute of Advanced Studies. 1984: Live will showcase Orwell's most famous novel in an exciting and innovative way, with a really impressive and diverse list of readers. Orwell's works are continually relevant - and what better time (it is election week after all) to take a fresh look at Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Clare Bowerman, Head of Communications, UCL


A Wolf in Tiger's Clothing

Having sat through two stage performances and undertaken countless read-throughs of Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea with my children, I can confirm that the tiger certainly left me scratching my head – so I’ll be interested to hear about the Wolf in Tiger’s Clothing.I’ve just started reading Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s classic 1950 detective novel Der Richter und Sein Henker (the judge and his hangman) in which the terminally ill Inspector Bärlach crosses the Swiss federal city of Bern in his hunt for the murderer of a fellow policeman. So I’m intrigued by Metropolis, a talk which promises to ‘present major cities in the German-speaking world from surprising angles and in engaging forms’. I imagine that Berlin will feature in there somewhere, but which other cities will feature – through which form of representation?

Finally, I’ve never been able to resist Dickens – the novels, the journalism – and of course his peerless descriptions of London. So what better way to remind what a fantastic city we all live in than to go on a Dickens Night Walk.

Professor Mary Fulbrook, Dean of Social & Historical Sciences

German Responses to Violence

There is such a range of interesting events that it is hard to choose just one to highlight; I could enjoy and learn a lot from so many of the offerings. But I am going to pick simply the one that I cannot under any circumstances miss German Responses to Violence. While the records of violence in twentieth-century Germany present an extreme and unusual case, the fact that Germany today stands out as a moral bastion in a troubled world is worthy of wider reflection. This multi-disciplinary panel of literary and historical scholars will discuss issues that are of deep historical importance and remain of profound contemporary significance. Their engagement exemplifies the capacity of the humanities and social sciences to illuminate both the world in which we live and the ways in which we see and respond to it.

Professor Stella Bruzzi, Dean of Arts & Humanities

Greenlandic: Language of the Arctic

Language in all its forms (words, gestures, sounds) is an essential part of identity. One of last year’s most memorable films, Denis Villeneuve’s moving and beautiful science fiction fantasy Arrival, asked how we might go about deciphering the language of alien visitors from a starting point of pretty much nothing. Known and unknown language, old and new ways of using words promise to meet in this intriguing session about Greenlandic and how Europe’s only Eskimo language might adapt to our contemporary world. 

Katie Canada-Chwieroth, Faculty Manager, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Zugunruhe: Exploring Migration Experiences Through Sound

Tree Sunset cropped

As a professionally trained musician I have always been drawn to the raw emotion and symbolism generated through sound, the ability for music to tell a detailed narrative without a single word.  From ballades of enduring love and protest marches in the human world, to the mating calls and mourning songs of the animal kingdom, the premise is the same: complex emotional expressions exhibited through sound are an innate and essential part of life.  Telling of human and animal migration through sound conjures up my own experiences of being a displaced foreigner who did not speak the language, but could always communicate through music.  And what better place to explore music of the Calais ‘Jungle’ than in the Grant Museum of Zoology, under the watchful gaze of the great apes.

Catherine Thomson, Festival Director

Festival Book Club

As a bookworm, I’m excited to be launching the Festival of Culture daily book club this year – and what better location could there be for it than Waterstones’s Gower Street: one of London’s largest and most enchanting bookshops? We’ve selected a diverse set of ‘anniversary’ novels, all published between 1817 and 1997.  I’m especially looking forward to revisiting Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (Friday): having spent much of my childhood in Australia, this evocative novel takes me back to its sun-drenched landscapes, and the fresh scent of eucalyptus in the morning breeze.

Dr Karen Edge – Pro Vice Provost (International) 

Growing Up Global

I am excited to attend Growing Up Global. This event brings together two amazing research projects on youth attitudes on Brexit and friendships in diverse London schools. Both projects highlight how the global and local interact to influence the lives of young people. During these incredible times of change, this event will inspire a dynamic discussion!

Lori Houlihan – Vice Provost (Development)

Exploring the Past & Present of the Olympic Park / UCL in East London: Culture Lab


UCL’s expansion to the Olympic Park marks a tremendously exciting phase in UCL’s history.  Our Bloomsbury campus has been developed to its full capacity and an expansion to Stratford allows us to breathe and develop in a whole new way.  UCL was founded on philanthropy in 1826 and the potential of philanthropy to enhance our provision in Stratford is a truly exciting prospect.  I look forward to learning about the Culture Lab, particularly how we engage with communities outside UCL in our ongoing development. I am also fascinated to learn about Stratford’s past, particularly as UCL will soon be contributing to Stratford’s future!

Both these events take place on 10 June, which is when we will be celebrating our It’s All Academic Festival. This is a fun and free Festival with activities and interests for all ages, showcasing the exceptionally diverse and ground-breaking work and research of UCL.

John Bilton - Third Year Classical Archaeology student 

Heritage on the Move

As an archaeology student, I’m very excited to mess about with my favourite archaeological equipment without having to camp out in a muddy field or outrun a boulder. The tools we use to excavate and protect the past – from Ground Penetrating Radar to pollution monitors to aerial drones – are fascinating. As more and more people in the public eye call on their vision of the past to support their point of view, it’s more important than ever that we explore and understand our heritage. This event is an excellent introduction to this. It’s also a lot of fun.