Spotlight on Kim Townsend
23 January 2014
This week the spotlight is on Kim Townsend, Public Engagement Coordinator (East), Museums & Public Engagement.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I work in UCL's Public Engagement Unit and am responsible for developing our work with communities in Newham, East London, through public engagement with our research, student volunteering and widening participation work.
I have a desk in Newham with a charity there, so for half of the week I'm in Newham and half of the week I'm at UCL. This gives me a great overview of what both Newham's communities and UCL's communities want and it is my job to match the two up and find mutually beneficial ways of working together.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been here for five months now. Before this I was working at a charity called Media Trust where my job was to support communities across the UK to develop their own media projects, helping them to get their voices heard about issues of importance to them.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Well, I've only been here a short amount of time, but it has been great getting to know people and communities in Newham, and really rewarding to see the ways in which UCL can make a difference to them.
We have already been able to start some meaningful public engagement work around UCL's research, and have launched a bursary to cover travel costs for students who want to volunteer in Newham.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I have been conducting a survey amongst residents and the community and voluntary sector in Newham, and it was surprising to find out that of the 91 people I asked, only three of them had ever engaged with UCL before. Despite this, 86% of respondents (81 people) would like to engage with us. The main barrier they said they faced was that they didn't know what was on offer to them, or how to find out what was being offered.
A big task for me now is to figure out how we break down that barrier and help people in Newham to benefit from the university's skills, experience and resources.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
I just read Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth and it instantly became my favourite novel. Amazing book with a brilliant ending - you have to read it!
My favourite album is Snow Patrol's Eyes Open, because it brings back good memories of my time living at Goodenough College when I was a student.
Favourite film has to be Singing in the Rain - it's such a happy film.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloumi.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
What advice would you give your younger self?
I'm from a tiny, one street town in the middle of nowhere in Shropshire, which is surrounded by fields and sheep. The advice I would give to my younger self is: don't worry, there is life beyond Shropshire, and you will find it.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I worked as a teacher in Brixton Prison for two years, teaching prisoners to make radio programmes for the prison radio station.
What is your favourite place?
Crystal Palace Triangle - it has managed to stay remarkably free of chain shops and franchises and has lots of nice unique places to eat and shop. Being the highest point in the city, it also has amazing views across London.
East Ham - since I started working for UCL in Newham I have become aware that the best curry in London, if not the UK (controversial), can be found in East Ham. This makes me very happy.