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UCL events to explore capital’s portrayal in writing from eastern Europe

Publication date: Oct 19, 2009 2:40:38 PM

People from eastern Europe have been coming to the UK and to London for centuries, and what's more many of them have written about their experiences. These form the theme of Destination London, a series of public events organised by the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, marking the completion of a ten-year research project, ‘East Looks West’, designed to highlight this previously uncharted area. Leading writers including Iain Sinclair, Vitali Vitaliev and Vesna Maric will be coming together at UCL to explore east European perspectives on London.

Events will include:

• ‘East Looks West' launch (Thursday 22 October) – A reception to launch the 'East Looks West' books edited by Wendy Bracewell and Alex Drace-Francis as part of the AHRC-funded project 'East Looks West: East European Travel Writing on Europe, 1550-2000'. An anthology, a bibliography, and two volumes of essays present four centuries of east European travel writing on Europe. Poet, critic and novelist Alan Brownjohn and critic and memoirist Vesna Goldsworthy will introduce the volumes.

• ‘Destination London: Writing cities from eastern Europe’ (Friday 23 October) – an evening of readings and discussion exploring east European perspectives on London and different approaches to writing about the city. Discover how writers from eastern Europe are continuing to engage with the contemporary city. Speakers include Kapka Kassabova, Vesna Marić, Borivoj Radaković, Vitali Vitaliev, Andrea Pisac and celebrated London author Iain Sinclair.

• ‘A Two-Day Writing Workshop for School Students’ (Saturday 24 October, Saturday 31 October) – students aged 14-16 have an opportunity to work with a real author to write about their experiences of Britain. Led by Bluebird (Granta, 2009) author Vesna Marić, students will put their thoughts, feelings and anecdotes together in a short story that could be published on UCL's website.

• ‘Balkanising Bloomsbury: short story workshop’ (Wednesday 21 October) – a creative writing workshop with author and SSEES writer in residence Tony White, exploring experimental writing techniques to create completely new works of fiction reflecting on relationships between the Balkans and London.

Destination London is the brainchild of SSEES's Dr Wendy Bracewell, and the School's Leverhulme Trust writer in residence, novelist Tony White. The project marks the completion of a major international research project which has brought together a team of more than 20 scholars in ten countries to collate and analyse an enormous body of travel writing, written in over 20 languages and published over a period of four and a half centuries.

Dr Wendy Bracewell, Director of ‘East Looks West’ and Reader in Southeast European History at UCL SSEES, says: “There’s been much critical attention in recent years to the construction and consequences of Western images of the world, including ‘Eastern Europe’. It’s sometimes forgotten that travellers and others from these regions have had their own perspective on destinations such as London, and have written about it at length. These events give us the chance to see London from a different perspective, including – depending, of course, on who you are – how ‘they’ have seen ‘us’.”

Tony White, author and SSEES's Leverhulme Trust writer in residence, says: “I'm really excited about this all too rare opportunity to explore eastern European perspectives on the city in the work of both historical and contemporary writers.”

Notes for Editors

1. ‘Destination London’ is a series of public events taking place in a number of locations around UCL between 22 October and 7 November. More information on the project and the individual events can be found at www.ssees.ac.uk/destinationlondon.htm. Destination London is supported under the Beacons for Public Engagement programme – a number of universities chosen to try out new ways of making research relevant to people outside academia – and funded by the UK funding councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

2. Background information on 'East Looks West' is at http://www.ssees.ucl.ac.uk/eastwest.htm

3. Speaker biographies for the Destination London panel discussion on 23 October 2009:

Kapka Kassabova is the author of the travel memoir Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (Portobello 2008) and two poetry collections. She was twice the recipient of the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year award in New Zealand for travel journalism. Kapka is the Royal Literary Fellow at Glasgow's Strathclyde University, and a contributor to the Guardian, Sunday Times, TLS and Vogue.

Vesna Marić was born in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1976. She arrived in Britain when she was sixteen and lived in Cumbria, Devon and Yorkshire, before moving to London to study Czech Literature at SSEES, UCL in 1997. Vesna went on to work for the BBC World Service and now writes Lonely Planet guides and journalism. Her memoir, Bluebird, about her early years as a refugee in the UK, was published by Granta in February 2009.

Andrea Pisac was born in Kutina, Croatia, 1975. In 2007 she published her second collection of short stories Until Death Do Us Part or I Kill You First. She is currently working on a novel (in English), for which she has received a mentoring award from Exiled Writers Ink in London. Andrea is the director of the Writers in Translation programme at English PEN, whose main aim is the promotion of world literature translated into English.

Borivoj Radaković was born in 1951 in Zemun, Serbia. A writer, translator and journalist in Zagreb, he was one of the founders of the influential Festival of Alternative Literature (FAK) in Croatia. His work includes the novel Sjaj epohe (The Brilliance of the Epoch), short story collections, plays and non-fiction, as well as Sredina naprijed! (Pass down inside the carriage!), a collection of essays and travelogues. He is co-editor with Matt Thorne and Tony White of the 2005 short story collection Croatian Nights (Serpent's Tail).

Iain Sinclair is the author of Downriver (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Award); Landor's Tower; White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings; Lights Out for the Territory; Lud Heat; Rodinsky's Room (with Rachel Lichtenstein); Radon Daughters; London Orbital and Dining on Stones. He is also the editor of the anthology London: City of Disappearances. He lives in Hackney, East London, the subject of his most recent book, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire.

Vitali Vitaliev was born in Ukraine and has lived in Russia, Britain and Australia. He is a prolific multi-award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. A columnist for a number of British and Australian national newspapers, he appears regularly on radio and television and is the author of 11 books (ten non-fiction, one fiction) including Life as a Literary Device (Beautiful Books, 2009).

4. Tony White is Leverhulme Trust writer in residence at UCL SSEES. He is the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber, 2003), and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans (Cadogan, 2006). He co-edited the short story collection Croatian Nights (Serpent's Tail/VBZ, 2005).

5. Wendy Bracewell is Director of the AHRC research project ‘East Looks West: East European Travel Writing on Europe’, and Reader in Southeast European History at UCL SSEES. She is author of a number of studies of the social and cultural history of the Balkans, including The Uskoks of Senj: Piracy, Banditry and Holy War in the Sixteenth-Century Adriatic (Cornell University Press, 1992), which has also been published in Croatian and Turkish translations. She has edited, together with Alex Drace-Francis, three volumes on travel writing under the joint title of East Looks West (Budapest: CEU Press, 2008-2009), and an additional volume, Balkan Departures: Travel Writing from Southeastern Europe (Oxford: Berghahn, 2009). She has just stepped down after a three-year stint as Deputy Director of SSEES, and has received a prestigious Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2009-2011 to write a monograph on east European travel writing about Europe.

6. Journalists who wish to attend an event or find out more should contact Dominique Fourniol at the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9728, mobile +44 (0)7881 833 274, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk. Images and hi-res j-pegs of book jackets are available from the UCL Media Relations office.