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Arts Week 2015

Missed an event at Birkbeck Arts Week 2015? Watch this short film, take a look at some of our blog posts or listen to podcasts to find out what happened.

Environmental Futures: Oil, Ecology, Petrocultures

In the 21st century, oil shapes our geopolitics and impacts upon the cost of day-to-day living. But what role does oil play within culture? This panel considered literature’s engagement with the oil economy and the opportunities for a participatory democratic citizenship that a cultural critique, and monitoring, of oil affords. Sami Salo, MA Cultural and Critical Studies student, writes about the event.

You can also listen to a podcast of Environmental Futures.

Realisms of Precariousness

Radical approaches to precariousness and violence in Latin American Cinema were showcased in a stunning quartet of contemporary films from Brazil and Colombia. Read more about the programme and details of the cinematic works.


Audience members enjoyed a script-in-hand performance of Steve Waters' Scribblers, a new radio play charting the stormy relationship between two real life characters: young playwright Henry Fielding and the First Minister Robert Walpole. Mixing high politics and low satire, the play explores the premature birth of political theatre through the madcap work of Fielding before its later stifling by the Stage Licensing Act of 1737. Waters - playwright for stage, radio and screen, and also senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia - offers some insights into the creative spark behind his latest theatrical work.

Coffee and Commonwealth

What do coffee, tea and rancid meat have in common? All are intimately tied to the politics, gender dynamics and social unrest of the 18th century. Read an overview of the event and find out more about the Enlightenment’s beverages of choice and disgusting diets.

Deborah Levy: Form and Content in the 21st-Century Novel

A packed auditorium was treated to a visit from Booker Prize nominated author Deborah Levy, who explored form and content in the 21st-century novel. Laura Garmeson, who recently completed a Masters in European Literature at the University of Cambridge, reviews Deborah's talk.

Blake's Dream: Vala or the Four Zoas

Created by MFA Theatre Directing students, Blake's Dream was an immersive sound-work responding to Night II of Blake's prophetic illuminated manuscript ‘Vala or the Death of Judgement of the Ancient Man: A Dream of Nine Nights’. Here, Luisa Calè, Senior Lecturer in Romantic Studies and the directors reflect on the process for Exeunt Magazine.

Renaissance Ways of Seeing

How did people ‘see’ in the Renaissance? To answer this question, four Renaissance specialists examined a fascinating selection of art works, theatre and poetry. Louise Horton PhD student in the School of Arts’ Department of English and Humanities reflects on the event.

You can also listen to a podcast of Renaissance Ways of Seeing.

Maria Zambrano amongst the Philosophers: A Reconsideration

The work, legacy, philosophical standpoints and impactful writing of the ‘invisible’ Spanish philosopher and essayist, Maria Zambrano, was explored in a two-day conference during Arts Week. Read on overview of the event on Birkbeck Events blog.

Talking Mr Turner

Mr Turner easel

Photograph: Courtesy of Thin Man Films/Simon Mein

Mike Leigh's acclaimed recent film Mr Turner (2014) was the subject of an evening of behind-the-scenes discussion in Birkbeck Cinema, featuring Jacqueline Riding, Historical Consultant, Sarah McBryde, Production Manager, and Tim Wright, who taught Timothy Spall to paint. Helen-Frances Pilkington, who is currently studying for an Arts and Humanities PhD, reflects on the event.

You can view a short film clip and listen to a podcast of the event, including a discussion and audience questions.

Material History: Henry VIII at Windsor Castle

What can the world of things tell us about life at Henry VIII’s court? In an event specially organised for Birkbeck alumni, Dr Richard Williams (The Royal Collection, Windsor) discussed what objects – from Holbein's drawings to paintings, prints, buildings and armour – disclose about the huge changes in church and state that Henry VIII brought about. Eva-Maria Lauenstein, PhD student in the Department of English and Humanities reviews the event.

Developing a Career in the Arts – Collaboration and Transferability

Worried about the type of employment opportunities available in the creative industries? At this event, graduates from Birkbeck’s School of Arts shared and reflected upon their experiences of work in the creative industries.

Listen to a podcast of Developing a career in the Arts and read an article in The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, contributed by organiser of the event Lorraine Lim.

Experimental Literature Today

What does experimental literature look like today? Is it still following the legacies of modernism? What are the most vital literary innovations currently emerging from from different languages and locations in Europe? A special event with international guests Professor Luis Armand and Dr David Vichnar, editors of the Prague-based journal VLAK, responded to these questions.

Madelaine Bowman, writer, and soon-to-be student on Birkbeck’s MA Modern and Contemporary Literature reviewed the event.

Séance and Seanceability: Magic Lantern

Billed as 'a rational entertainment in which the learned *Professor H..... * and his clever assistants offer a spirited account of that popular Gothic confection known as the phantasmagoria', showman and historian Mervyn Heard gave his demonstration of the wonders of the magic lantern to a sold-out Birkbeck Cinema. Helen-Frances Pilkington, who is currently studying for an Arts and Humanities PhD, describes the event.