Skip to main content

Birkbeck outreach project explores young Londoners thoughts on brainwashing

Researchers from the Hidden Persuaders project, working in collaboration with artist Dr Lizzie Burns and filmmakers from Birkbeck’s Derek Jarman Lab, created an outreach project that gave young Londoners the opportunity to explore brainwashing by producing their own award-winning films.

Sketches of school children's ideas about brainwashing
A still from the 'Hidden Persuaders' Project film.

The Hidden Persuaders Project, led by Professor Daniel Pick from the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, is currently funded by the Wellcome Trust. The project group set out to investigate contemporary responses to Cold-War-era ideas about ‘brainwashing’ and mind control. As part of their research they organised an educational workshop series that engaged 80 Year 12 students from three secondary schools (Acland Burghley School, Camden School for Girls and Parliament Hill School).  

Professor Daniel Pick, Dr Sarah Marks and Mary-Clare Hallsworth, Public Engagement Consultant said:

“This was a project designed as an exchange of ideas about the nature of hidden persuasion; past and present. We wanted to introduce a set of ideas, but also to explore young people’s reactions to this cluster of themes. We welcomed the prospect that their perspectives might, in turn, enrich our own historical and cultural research, or challenge our own guiding assumptions about the legacies of history now.”

During the workshops, students were exposed to various visual and written sources to promote discussions around the themes of ‘brainwashing’ and mind control. The students were also invited to attend filmmaking and editing sessions created by Birkbeck’s Derek Jarman Lab. Students were given the opportunity to become producers and directors, and create their own videos.

Bartek Dziadosz, Director of the Derek Jarman Lab said:

“Our ambition was to help students develop the critical faculty enabling them to question advertising messages they are immersed in. Judging from the films they produced we did achieve that, which makes us very proud.”

The students created 27 videos that explored a plethora of themes including; advertising, political persuasion, conspiracy theories, peer pressure and body image. Subsequently, four of the students’ videos were featured at the British Film Institute’s (BFI)’s Young Voices Festival and the Hidden Persuaders outreach project has been shortlisted for the Best Online Education Resource at the Learning on Screen Awards. The Hidden Projects team were also the winners of the Collaboration category at Birkbeck’s Public Engagement Awards in 2019.

Further Information

More news about: