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Birkbeck marks World AIDS Day 2016

Prof Cook's inaugural lecture and the display of the UK AIDS quilt on 1 December

On 1 December Birkbeck will mark World Aids Day with the inaugural lecture of Professor Matt Cook, entitled “Archives of Feeling”: the AIDS crisis in Britain c.1987 and the display of a panel of the UK AIDS quilt, a piece project commemorating lives lost to AIDS.

Archives of Feeling

In his sold out inaugural lecture, Prof Cook will trace the emotional landscape of Britain at a key turning point in the history of AIDS. Drawing chiefly on the astonishing testimonies of around 600 largely straight men and women, he describes feelings at stake in the epidemic, how they related to press and politics, how they shaped everyday lives, and how they played out for those dealing most directly with the escalating crisis. Prof Cook argues that such ‘archives of feeling’ are fundamental to our understanding of intersecting social and intimate lives - past and present.

AIDS quilt

The UK AIDS quilt tells the stories of 300 people who were lost to the early HIV AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. It comprises 48 twelve foot by twelve foot panels, each comprising up to eight smaller panels. Every individual panel commemorates someone who died of AIDS and has been lovingly made by friends, lovers or family. Lives remembered include those of the writer, Bruce Chatwin; the artist/film maker Derek Jarman; the actor, Ian Charleson, and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Many of the quilt panels are accompanied by emotive testimonials, photos, and personal documents that tell the story behind the panel.

The section of the quilt that is to be displayed at Birkbeck contains the panel commemorating the life of Mark Ashton, the gay rights activist who co-founded the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners movement, which raised funds to support striking Welsh miners in the 1980s. Prof Cook’s lecture pivots on the emotional impact of Mark’s death, so it is fitting that his panel of the quilt will be at the College this World AIDS Day.

The quilt will be displayed in the Dreyfus Room (28 Russell Square, WC1B 5DQ) on 1 December from 10am-4pm, and then in Clore Management lecture theatre 101 (Torrington Square) during the evening, where Professor Cook’s inaugural lecture will also take place.

Prof Cook said: “It is so important to remember that 103 000 people in the UK and more than 37 million worldwide are currently living with HIV. Thanks to medical advances many people with HIV can now live normal lives, but they still have to deal with the sometimes crippling effects of stigma, shame and fear. In many parts of the world treatment is not readily available. There is still a long way to go in our battle with this disease, but on World AIDS Day it is important that we pause to remember those living with the disease and those who have been lost to it. I am pleased that the College will be hosting the quilt this year, giving our staff and students an opportunity to pause to remember those living with the virus and those who have been lost to AIDS-related diseases.”