Artists, writers and performers tackle political issues at Birkbeck Arts Week 2017

This week Birkbeck is celebrating Arts Week 2017, where the School of Arts will be opening its doors to the public, to give them a chance to experience some of the vibrancy and creativity in research and teaching at the College.

Following the political turbulence of the last 12 months, Birkbeck’s 2017 Arts Week programme tackles some of the most topical issues facing society today through theatre, literature, poetry, photography, cinema and debate.

Running from Monday 15 to Friday 19 May, the annual celebration of arts and culture features more than 50 free events for the public to attend. The programme comprises a packed schedule of lectures, performances, screenings, book launches, workshops and discussions. It features contributions from Birkbeck's own academics and guest artists and scholars from all over the world. All events are free to attend, and are open to anyone with an interest in arts and culture.

Highlights of the Birkbeck Arts Week programme for 2017 include:

  • Political Shakespeare in the classroom
    Tuesday 16 May, 6-7.25pm, 43 Gordon Square
    What’s political about Shakespeare? What are the challenges of addressing the early modern and modern political questions raised by Shakespeare’s works in the classroom? Tackling the subversive and violent content of Shakespeare’s drama, Professor Catherine Belsey (Swansea University) and Tom Barnes (Kingsmead School) will lead a discussion about engaging students with controversial material. Chaired by Birkbeck’s Dr Gillian Woods.
  • Will 2017 be 1984? Rethinking Orwell’s dystopia
    Wed 17 May, 6-7.30pm, 43 Gordon Square
    1984 was conceived as a warning, not a prophecy. But are we now in Orwell’s dystopia? Decide with our panel of experts from Birkbeck’s Departments of Politics and English & Humanities, who will re-examine Orwell’s novel and its meaning in the world in which we find ourselves in 2017.
  • He doesn’t talk politics anymore: the role of politics in contemporary US fiction
    Thursday 18 May, 6-7.30pm, 43 Gordon Square
    In recent years, the power of politics in fiction seems to have been on the wane. How does fiction imagine worlds different from the one we know? Can works of fiction foster political change in the world beyond the book? Birkbeck’s Professor Martin Paul Eve explores these issues in a special lecture, followed by Q&A and responses from Dr Joseph Brooker and Dr Catherine Flay.
  • Speaking in brogues
    Thursday 18 May, 7.40-9pmpm, 43 Gordon Square
    Universities tend to be multilingual communities, and for the most part, we teach and study in English. What does it feel like to speak in another language? Do the sounds, rhythms and locutions of our mother tongue, echoing through our speech, help us – and help others who are coming here – to feel at home? In a period of increasing tensions over immigration and Europe, what role can language play? Dr Maria Aristodemou (Birkbeck) Mattia Gallotti (Royal College of Art), and Rut Blees Luxemburg (UCL) will go for a ramble through these topics with Birkbeck’s Professor Marina Warner.
  • Landscape and Power
    Thursday 18 May, 6-7.30pm, 43 Gordon Square
    There’s more to landscape design than flower beds. Scholars from Birkbeck, University of Kent and University of California will share new research on the politics of landscape in colonial Bengal, Nazi Germany and post 9/11 America. Short presentations followed by lively discussion.

Arts Week will be primarily hosted in and around 43-47 Gordon Square – once home to several members of the Bloomsbury set and now home to Birkbeck’s School of Arts.

Professor Hilary Fraser, Dean of Arts, said: “Our theme in these times of seismic political upheaval is Art and Politics. Our programme includes debates about Brexit and Donald Trump, of course, and a number of the events focus on the creative engagement of contemporary writers, artists, film-makers, theatre practitioners and critics with political issues that matter to us especially urgently in the current climate. We look forward to welcoming you and sharing what we do in the Arts at Birkbeck, and why it matters.”

Birkbeck Arts Week 2017 runs from runs from 15 to 19 May. To see the full programme of free public events visit the website, or follow the School of Arts on Facebook or on Twitter. While attendance at all events is free, booking is essential.